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Nervous About Diet

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 20:18
by LittlePenBigHeart
So, I've been told conflicting things and I'm no longer sure what to do!!

The tortoise I'll be getting is a Hermann's tortoise. I was initially told their diet should be 90% leaves and 10% fruit and veg. However, now I keep coming across comments (elsewhere) that they should never have ANY fruit or veg!? I don't know who to listen to!!

Either way, I am also nervous about making sure my tortoise will have enough variety in its diet. I've ordered seeds for plants that the database lists as safe, and I'll see if I can nip to the garden centre and get some african violets and a spider plant. I have a huge aloe plant in the bathroom and we have quite a few dandelion-type flowers in the garden. I have lemon balm it can have, sparingly, and I have a basil plant already on my window sill. But what else can I do to make sure s/he gets enough of the right plants?

Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 20:32
by lin
The number one thing you must NOT do is panic.
Unless a tortoise is say a Redfoot or Yellowfoot or any other fruit eatinf species then it should not eat friot or veg and that is because their gut isnt designed to cope with the sugars in fruits and vegetables. It will upset the gut flora and cause smelly diarrhea that will take an age to get back on track from.
If you go to the database in the menu at the top of this page you will be able to view all the plants that are good if you enter one of the categories and only tick the green checkbox.
If you look at the fruit and veg category very few will have a green (meaning a good feed) traffic light colour but if you click on the entry so that you see the whole page it might say that the leaves of a fruit or veg plant will be fine but not the actual fruit.

So, again, dont panic and if you need any more help we will always be here.


Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 29 Oct 2017, 22:24
by Nina
I agree with LIn -- we all panic and the thing is to resist the urge to do that. It can be a bit more difficult to find a good variety of food in the winter, but you can buy mixtures seeds specifically meant for tortoises, and we can point you in that direction. It's amazing how much is still around outside in the winter too. Plantain stays green all winter, and the low growing campanuala that a lot of people have in their gardens stays green. You can give a little Kale if necessary (in general we don't recommend members of the Brassica family, but Kale is one of the better ones).

There is also a dried, pellet food that is the only one we would recommend for tortoises, and it is the only one recommended by The Tortoise Trust. It's called Pre Alpin Testudo and it is pelleted dried grasses and weeds from Bavarian meadows and is low in protein and high in fibre. You soak the pellets and rehydrate them and they are actually very good for tortoises. If you look on this page you can see that you can get a small trial pack for as little as £1.80 or £1.90, so you could try one of those and it won't cost you a lot ... -261-c.asp (but only use the Pre-Alpin ones, not Mazuri or any of the others). They have Herbs, Fibre, Original and Baby (but you can't get Baby in a small size). The Herbs or Fibre should both be fine for a baby though (I think I've used Herbs in the past but can't remember now).

Re our Website, and producing a list of good plants -- it's not just a matter of ticking the green box: you have to untick the other boxes, so here are precise instructions to help you to come up with a list of edible plants for your tortoise:
1. First go to our website at
2. Then go to any one of the categories in the plant database – for example the Wildflower section: ... aaiFdGQyM8
3. At the top of the page you will see our ‘traffic light’ boxes all ticked. If you untick the ‘amber-red’ and ‘red’ boxes, leaving only the green and amber green boxes, then the only entries you will see from then on are the entries for plants that you can feed. Or you can just leave the 'green' box ticked. This will stay the same for any of the other categories you go into during that particular session on the computer. So you will then have a list of all the plants you can safely feed. And if you leave only the red box ticked you will see only unsafe plants, etc.
4. In the list of entries that are now showing, click on ‘See more’ on any entry to view the longer entry for that plant, and the longer entry will show you which parts of the plant that you can feed – leaves or flowers -- as well as providing you with a selection of photos to help with ID.

If you have a question about a particular plant, you can also type its name into the search box that is at the top of every page, and that should bring the entry up. If you have a plant that you don’t know the name of, you can send us photos of it (a photo of the whole plant, plus close-ups of leaves, flowers, any seed heads, etc.) and we will do our best to ID it for you.


Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 25 Feb 2018, 17:36
by asecca
What a pity that the pre alpin can not import it to my country

Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 25 Feb 2018, 17:52
by Nina
That is a shame. Have you checked with the manufacturers to see if there is a company in Chile who sell Pre Alpin on their behalf? The product comes from Germany, and this is the website of the company that makes it: ... ?card=1414 It might be worth contacting them to ask. The Tortoise Trust say it is the only commercial food they would recommend.

I give it to my tortoises, in addition to their natural diet. At first they hated it, but I cut up fresh leaves and flowers into teeny tiny pieces and mixed it with the wet Pre Alpin so that when they went for the leaves and flowers they also got some Pre Alpin, and then I gradually reduced the amount of fresh stuff and then they developed a liking for the Pre Alpin on its own. I don't feed it that often, as I have plenty of fresh stuff, but it makes a nice addition to their diet, and is very useful if you have to keep a tortoise awake in the winter.


Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 25 Feb 2018, 19:40
by asecca
I'm looking for ebay, what is the difference between herbs, fibre and original?

Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 25 Feb 2018, 22:27
by Nina
I'm trying to remember, but I don't think there is a huge amount of difference between them. I think all are a selection of grasses and alpine plants, bu not sure. If you click on each individual product on the page i gave a link to, there is a section for the product called Composition, and you can see the amount of protein, fibre, etc. in each one. They differ slightly, I think, but not by a lot. I have a feeling though that they take different forms. I have mainly had the Herbs (no particular reason), and they come in the form of what they call 'cobs' -- which are large pellets. You soak them in warm water for a few minutes and they rehydrate and expand a lot. I've also had one of the others (can't remember which now), and that came in a loose form.

Good luck with eBay, and let us know how you get on. You could always write to the company and tell them the species of tortoise that you have and ask which one they think is best.


Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 20 May 2018, 09:06
by Kean
Hello, I'd like to add to this post...trying not to panic...just acquired a 4-year-old Hermann's tortoise, and like so many others, I'm just bewildered by the conflicting information on the internet.

Having nothing else to go on, I have to take a punt and believe in summat...and I am impressed by the setup of this website. But would be very grateful if some kind person could help me "not to panic".

I get the fact that sugars and protein are not great for "Susina" (the name our 4-year-old has given to our tortoise), but what should I make of the fact that when I put a strawberry in front of her, she devours it so eagerly. So is the general message that tortoises are not acually very good at deciding what is, and what is not, healthy for them...?

On a similar note, I live in Italy, and Purslane grows spontaneously here. I eat it in salads's great! The enclosure
set aside for "Susina" will very shortly have Purslane springing up all over the place as summer gets going. So if tortoises are actually not that good at deciding what they should and shouldn't eat, should I be pulling up all this Purslane?? (and to add confusion to confusion, I've read the thread on Oxalic acid, and so am not even clear if Purslane is or isn't OK for her?!?)

Also, upon looking at your very impressive and very thorough database, I see that the general principle" of "green leafy vegetables" doesn't hold true, as I see that Brassicas are also no-no.

It almost seems that practically everything we eat (I'm vegetarian) is not actually great for a Hermann's tortoise: Broccoli, cucumber, carrot, fruit, aubergine, bean sprouts...

Fortunately, I can get hold of Mulberry leaves...they're everywhere, as this area used to have a thriving silk industry and everybody used to grow Mulberry trees for the silkworms...

Anyway, sorry for the rambling post & thanks in advance to any kind soul who'd like to give me some pointers.

Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 20 May 2018, 11:24
by Nina
Hi Kean and welcome to The Tortoise Table (and welcome to Susina too)!

One of the reasons we set up this website was because there is so much conflicting information on the internet.

Sometimes tortoises know what isn't good for them and avoid it, but often they don't. We certainly know if a tortoise who died from eating a foxglove, and another one who ate a pieris and died.

Many of the plants that have a 'red' traffic light will not actually kill your tortoise, but they have anti-nutritional properties. Oxalic acid is a good example. Oxalic acid binds with calcium in the diet and prevents the tortoise from absorbing and utilising that calcium. If you think about it, tortoises are mainly bone and shell, so they need a huge amount of calcium and you don't want them prevented from getting that calcium from something in their diet. So I would pull up the purslane, but don't worry if your tortoise happens to nibble a leaf or two.

Regarding the strawberry. Tortoises love fruit, and in the wild they would sometimes encounter fallen fruit on the ground, but the fact is that their digestive systems just don't cope well with the natural sugars in fruit -- and that includes tomatoes -- and it can upset their gut flora. So fruit won't kill them, but it is best avoided. Re the strawberry -- they can be good for administering medicine, as tortoises do like them, but think of it in the same way as giving chocolate to a new baby. The baby would love the chocolate, but it's not actually that great for them to have it.

Yes, I know what you mean about the surprise at the number of foods that are healthy for us but not for tortoises. They really do best on weeds and flowers -- high fibre and low protein -- and if you can find dandelions, plantain, etc. they will love it. You could use our filter system on the website to just filter out the bad plants and only see good plants (you untick the red and amber-red 'traffic light' coloured boxes at the top of the page in any category, leaving only the green and amber-green ones ticked, and thereafter during that session you will only see plants that are safe to feed). So if you do that you might see some plants that grow near you that you hadn't thought of feeding.

I need to go out now, but Lin will probably come on and fill in any gaps I've missed (and if my instructions on using the filter system haven't been clear, then I'm happy to send you more detailed ones).


Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 20 May 2018, 12:29
by Kean
Hi Nina, many thanks for the extremely swift and thorough reply. I've just prepared my own diet sheet using the DB. Incidentally, it's so good, l actually managed to ID a few plants I have, but didn't know the name of!

I've just been watching Susina eating soil ravenously...we have very limestone soil...calcium deficiency? I've read about cuttlefish bones so I'll get one tomorrow...

Re: Nervous About Diet

Posted: 20 May 2018, 17:58
by Nina
Hi Kean and thanks so much for the compliments!

ortoises will sample soil -- especially in a new area -- but it could also be that Susina does feel a need for calcium. Cuttlefish bones are a good source, but some tortoises won't eat them when they are fresh, and you might need to let it sit outside in the rain and other elements until it is beginning to look green and horrible, and then she will devour it! Other torts are fine with it.

It's also good to have a good calcium supplement to sprinkle on her food. I don't know what is available in Italy, but here we use Nutrobal or Reptavite, but there are others as well. If she is outdoors a lot of the time in Italy then she might not need a Vitamin D3 supplement (which is present in Nutrobal, as well as the calcium), but in England our UVB isn't the greatest quality and we do have to supplement. Here is a link to our Mineral and Supplements page. You can also buy pure calcium carbonate powder on the internet and that should work well too. ... wGoaiAh2M8