Calcium deficiency can take a heavy toll on the tortoises, and supplements are the only way out of this misery. But which calcium source is suitable for pets? Is cuttlefish good? Or should you look for other calcium supplements for the tortoises?
Cuttlefish bones are a safe option for tortoises as a calcium source. You can directly feed this bone to the pets or sprinkle the crushed powder on their meals. Tortoises may resent cuttlebones due to the smell. Mineral blocks, calcium blocks, crushed egg shells, etc., are good alternatives.
Why should you feed your tortoises the cuttlefish? What are the pros and cons? Find out in the below article.
What Cuttlefish Really Is For Tortoises?
Cuttlefish is a marine mollusk, small in size, and looks similar to a squid. But these fishes are not directly fed to the reptiles, birds, and other pets. Instead, the internal structure of these fishes, aka the cuttlebone, is useful.
Apparently, cuttlebone is not a bone at all. It is the main posture, filled with gases, which help the fish balance in the water. After the fish dies, the flesh gets dissolved, but not the cuttlebone. In fact, cuttlebones are found all over the ocean as the remains of the dead cuttlefish.
As mentioned, cuttlebones are useful for tortoises, birds, and other pets. These oblong, white, chalky textured bones are rich in calcium carbonate (85%). Of course, you will also find other minerals like sodium, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. But the amount is negligible.
Because of the high percentage of calcium, cuttlebones are a favorite supplement for pets. But yes, you can not feed your tortoises the ocean-retrieved cuttlebones as they may contain germs or bacteria. You have to process them by proper sanitization.
Well, the easiest option will be to buy cuttlebones at the pet stores. They are more than available.
Do Tortoises Need The Cuttlefish Bones? If Yes, Why?
Some vitamins and minerals are mandatory for the growth of the tortoises. Calcium is one of those. You will find several calcium sources suitable for your pets, but nothing can beat the cuttlebones.
Here is why you should use cuttlebones as a calcium supplement for your tortoises,
1. For Healthy Bone Growth
A recent experiment has clarified the significance of calcium in the bone and shell growth of tortoises. The intricate bones require external calcium to grow stronger. Lack of this mineral will deplete the existing calcium, causing weak or deformed bones.
Cuttlebones can be the calcium source for tortoises, promoting solid bone growth.
2. Strong & Solid Shell Development
Tortoise shells are supposed to be hard. But the lack of calcium in the diet can lead to shell softening and abnormal scute growth. Remember, the deformed shell growth can not go back to normal.
Shell softening is a grave issue for tortoises. It is because these creatures use shells for multi-purposes. For example, whenever tortoises meet a predator or danger, they use shells as a shield. Again, retracting to the shell is also a way of stress relief for them.
With sufficient calcium in the meals, tortoises do not have to face such problems. Feeding the pets cuttlebones will ensure the healthy growth of the carapace and plastron.
Besides, calcium also influences the keratin growth on the shells of the tortoises. With calcium in the system, these pets enjoy a keratin layer thick enough to protect them from wear and scratch.
3. Perfect Eggs
It is important that the gravid tortoises get sufficient calcium in their meals. See, the egg shells are made of keratin and calcium. Mineral deficiency of the mother tortoise can affect egg development.
Too brittle egg shells and low nutrition in the yolk are two impacts of calcium deficiency. Again, the gravid tortoises may suffer from egg binding because of mineral sufficiency.
In short, the lack of calcium can be life-threatening for the mother tortoises and the unborn babies. Offering the gravid pets calcium daily via cuttlebones or other sources will ensure smooth nesting.
4. An Indirect Role In Immunity
Apparently, insufficient calcium can make the tortoise’s immunity system collapse. As a result, the pet will suffer from unexpected diseases. Therefore, you have to ensure that the tortoise meals contain cuttlebones or other sources of calcium.
5. Prevent Beak Overgrowth
Tortoises may experience overgrown beaks from time to time. Because of such development, the pets struggle to open their mouths and perform routine tasks. Rubbing the beaks against a rough texture like a rock can grind away the extras.
Cuttlefish bones can serve the same purpose because of their chalky texture. It means the bones will serve as a source of calcium and prevent beak overgrowth at the same time.
No Cuttlebones In The Meal? Here Is The Danger
What if you decide to avoid cuttlebones in the tortoise’s meal? What happens then?
Well, cuttlebones are not a mandatory diet for the tortoises. Instead, adding any calcium source to the pet meals is important. Thus, avoiding cuttlebones will have no effect on the creatures as long as you fulfil the calcium requirements.
But yes. Eliminating calcium altogether from meals will pose a greater danger. Such as,
1. Soft Shells:
As mentioned before, insufficient calcium will soften the scutes on the plastron and carapace. It raises the risk of infectious diseases on the spots and scratches or impact injuries. Besides, soft shells can not protect the tortoises from predatory attacks.
2. Metabolic Bone Disease:
Captive tortoises mostly suffer from MBD or metabolic bone disease due to calcium deficiency. Experts often use MBD as an umbrella term which includes severe illnesses like osteoporosis, pyramiding, Paget’s disease, osteomalacia, etc.
MBD has a serious effect on tortoises of any age and health condition. For starters, the gravid tortoises may experience egg binding because of this disease. It can even threaten their life.
A report claims that baby tortoises with metabolic bone disease may not make it to life. Even if they survive, the hatchlings grow up with a deformed body and experience premature death.
Some signs of metabolic bone diseases are soft or bent bones, weakness, tremors, deformed lumps, limping, etc. Providing calcium and vitamin D3, along with a quality UV source, will cure this condition.
How To Offer Cuttlebones To Your Tortoises?
I have seen beginners getting confused about how to offer cuttlebones to their tortoises. Of course, this is no rocket science. In fact, there are several ways to feed your pets the cuttlefish.
Each technique has its pros and cons. Let’s go through them all, one by one.
1. Hand Feed:
Just break a small portion of the cuttlebone and feed your tortoise directly from your hands. Well, there is a risk of getting bitten. But at least you ensure that the pet is not overfeeding or underfeeding on the calcium. Wear latex gloves as protection.
It is the safest and most recommended method. Crush the cuttlebones into powders and sprinkle them on the meals. This way, you can trick the tortoises into eating the calcium in the right amount.
3. Place It There:
Many owners prefer to leave the cuttlebones in the enclosure. It definitely allows the tortoises to nibble on the calcium at their own pace. But sometimes, the pets may end up overeating calcium or not touching the bones at all. Again, the pen moisture can ruin the integrity of the cuttlefish entirely.
Which method to choose? Well, it is up to you. But in any case, scrap dull white portions from the bone surface. Otherwise, your tortoises may resent the cuttlebones and suffer from calcium deficiency.
How To Prepare The Beach Cuttlebones?
As mentioned, you can collect cuttlebones from your nearest beach for free. If you do so, you must go through an extensive process to prepare the cuttlebones ready-to-eat for the pets. The steps look like this,
- Rinse & Boil: The first step will be to rinse off the cuttlebones with fresh water. It will wash away any debris. Next, boil the bones for at least 5 minutes.
- Extra Salt: Many keepers add extra salt to the cuttlebones. This is an optional step. If you want the cuttlebones to be salty, just add a few tablespoons of salt to the water. Let the bones soak in for 30 – 40 minutes.
- Dry The Bones: Drain water from the bowl and pat the bones dry with a paper towel. Leave the cuttlebones to air dry for hours.
- Scraping: The shell of the cuttlebones are not edible. So, take a sharp knife and scrap away the hard surface.
What If Your Tortoises Do Not Like Cuttlefish Bones? The Alternatives
Honestly, cuttlebones have a stale smell, and not every tortoise can stand it. As a result, you may notice your tortoises avoiding this calcium source. In such scenarios, you have to look for alternatives.
Some viable calcium sources for tortoises are,
1. Calcium Powder:
Put the tortoise food in a plastic bag and pour a few drops of water. Next, add calcium powder in the right amount and give the whole meal a good shake. Now, it is time to serve the feast to your pet.
2. Calcium Blocks:
You can buy these blocks at a discounted rate in pet stores. Just put the block in the water bowl and watch it dissolve over time. Next time your tortoise goes for a drink, it will absorb the calcium too. This alternative is more suitable for turtles.
Mineral blocks, manu blocks, plaster blocks, crushed oyster shells, crushed egg shells, boiled chicken bones, etc.
How Many Cuttlebones To Feed The Tortoises?
Feeding the tortoises excessive calcium brings no good. In fact, overfeeding can backfire, causing a deformed shell.
Instead, offer the tortoises calcium twice or thrice a week. Also, make sure the supplemented calcium is at a safe ratio with phosphorus (1:1).
Before You Go…
Calcium is crucial for turtles too. But these pets may resent the taste of calcium and avoid eating this mineral. I have come up with excellent tips to provide the turtles with calcium. You will find the hacks in the attached article.