Understanding Tortoise Diets

Please note that the material on this website is simply a guide to helping you go some way towards understanding which foods are suitable and which are unsuitable for your tortoise.

Feeding tortoises in captivity with an appropriate diet is not always easy to achieve.  The exact nutritional requirements are often unknown, as there is very little published scientific material on tortoises available; so most keepers rely on what is published in books or on the Internet and this could, in many cases, be inaccurate.  It is a fact that despite all attempts by keepers to provide a nutritious diet and to replicate what a tortoise eats in its natural environment, there are still many accounts of captive tortoises with nutrition-related problems.

When aiming to provide a good diet for your tortoise, it is important to consider that plants which are grown in different soil types and climates will have different levels of nutrients and toxicity.  For example, many plant species have the ability to absorb nitrogen or heavy metals that are present in the soil, and eating large quantities of these plants will not be good for your tortoise's health.  See our section on Harmful Properties for further information.  Plants growing wild in a tortoise's natural habitat often struggle (except during the rainy season) to survive in hot and dry conditions and grow in soils of little nutrient value which have no added fertiliser.

Good digestion and adequate absorption of food are dependent on the tortoise being allowed to bask at the correct temperatures.  In addition, the skin of the tortoise needs to be exposed to natural sunlight or artificial lighting which emits UVB.  This is to ensure that the tortoise is able to synthesize the vitamin D3 contained in the UVB component of the sunlight or bulb, as this will enable it to absorb and utilise the calcium in its diet.


It is important to try and provide your tortoise with the right food, complete with the right mineral and vitamin supplements for more information.

Disclaimer: The Tortoise Table disclaims all warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information in any of the content on this website. No liability exists against The Tortoise Table or any member of The Tortoise Table, nor can they be held responsible for any allergy, illness or injurious effect that any tortoise may suffer as a result of information on this website or through using any of the plants mentioned by The Tortoise Table. 

© The Tortoise Table, 2017