Diet Tips?

Flanman

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I currently have a single female Testudo (russian) tortoise and I am wondering if she is eating good. She is a juvenile (unknown exact age) and I’ve had her for 2 weeks now. As a new tortoise owner I just want to make sure she’s safe.

Looking for any tips, should I remove some foods, add some?

I currently feed her a “salad” of

Tortoise Pellets (although she rarely eats them)
Kale
Peeled Brussel Sprouts
Green bean pods
Very small slice of strawberry once a week as a treat.

Her defecation is liquid-like but can vary between balls and different shapes.
 
Last edited:

TechnoCheese

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Flanman

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Your tortoise should be eating mostly weeds from outside, and very few grocery store foods. Fruit should be fed once a month or less, if that. What kind of pellets are you feeding?
Read through this, but skip the stuff about the grass-
For Those Who Have a Young Sulcata... https://tortoiseforum.org/index.php?threads/For-Those-Who-Have-a-Young-Sulcata....76744/

The land around my house is either covered in dog poop or sprayed with chemicals. What are some other alternatives?
 

Flanman

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Your tortoise should be eating mostly weeds from outside, and very few grocery store foods. Fruit should be fed once a month or less, if that. What kind of pellets are you feeding?
Read through this, but skip the stuff about the grass-
For Those Who Have a Young Sulcata... https://tortoiseforum.org/index.php?threads/For-Those-Who-Have-a-Young-Sulcata....76744/
Update: Switched to some PetSmart veggie mix, going to mix it in with her Brüssel sprouts (home grown) so she still gets some good fiber.
 

Kapidolo Farms

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Simple carbohydrate like fructose (strawberries) change the composition of the microbes in the gut, which means all the nutrients that microbes make available to your tortoise become out of balance. One small Russian could probably tolerate a coin thin slice of a small strawberry one a week. I don't have quantitative data to back up the 'tolerate' amount. But that simple sugars alter the gut microbes is a well studied matter, even for reptiles (tortoises). Odds are that at least some populations of Russians in the wild share habitat with large hoofed animals that did eat a bunch of berries, and the tortoise ate some of those animals' feces. It is a very fine distinction too sort out.

Same with beans for a slightly different 'balance' issue. If it is just the pod, and not the bean in the pod, that's good, as it is a high fiber food.

Russians eat mostly broad leaf annuals. perennials, and shrub tree leaves. Grass to some extent as well. The do eat clovers and alfalfa in the wild and many other mineral and protein rich foods, but also consider in the wild they have a very different pattern over the course of a year. They spend about half their life burrowed in to escape extremes of temperature.

There are many acceptable grocery stores greens with year-round availability. Domestic chicories (escarole, radicchio, endive) are all good. There are many others, most spring mixes, romaine, green and red leaf lettuce can round it out. The dark kales (red, black, tuscan) as well as 'green' are okay too. Dandelion and other not-so-usual greens are in many grocery stores too.

I try to always buy organic for my tortoises, and that is several cases a week, as they are long lived animals and bio-accumulation is real.

The prepared foods like what ZooMed has - work as a small frequent addition. I soak them overnight in cool water (so as not to cook nutrients) and them crumble them up fine and mix them in (not as a topper, but a mixer).

If all other parameters are in check (light, heat, humidity, shelter) no tortoise will starve itself if there is no underlying health issue. Always try new things as a very small proportion of the established foods. A one day to the next 100% change-over rarely works.

I have a blog, mostly about foods and feeding on the webpage listing with my name.
 

TechnoCheese

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Simple carbohydrate like fructose (strawberries) change the composition of the microbes in the gut, which means all the nutrients that microbes make available to your tortoise become out of balance. One small Russian could probably tolerate a coin thin slice of a small strawberry one a week. I don't have quantitative data to back up the 'tolerate' amount. But that simple sugars alter the gut microbes is a well studied matter, even for reptiles (tortoises). Odds are that at least some populations of Russians in the wild share habitat with large hoofed animals that did eat a bunch of berries, and the tortoise ate some of those animals' feces. It is a very fine distinction too sort out.

Same with beans for a slightly different 'balance' issue. If it is just the pod, and not the bean in the pod, that's good, as it is a high fiber food.

Russians eat mostly broad leaf annuals. perennials, and shrub tree leaves. Grass to some extent as well. The do eat clovers and alfalfa in the wild and many other mineral and protein rich foods, but also consider in the wild they have a very different pattern over the course of a year. They spend about half their life burrowed in to escape extremes of temperature.

There are many acceptable grocery stores greens with year-round availability. Domestic chicories (escarole, radicchio, endive) are all good. There are many others, most spring mixes, romaine, green and red leaf lettuce can round it out. The dark kales (red, black, tuscan) as well as 'green' are okay too. Dandelion and other not-so-usual greens are in many grocery stores too.

I try to always buy organic for my tortoises, and that is several cases a week, as they are long lived animals and bio-accumulation is real.

The prepared foods like what ZooMed has - work as a small frequent addition. I soak them overnight in cool water (so as not to cook nutrients) and them crumble them up fine and mix them in (not as a topper, but a mixer).

If all other parameters are in check (light, heat, humidity, shelter) no tortoise will starve itself if there is no underlying health issue. Always try new things as a very small proportion of the established foods. A one day to the next 100% change-over rarely works.

I have a blog, mostly about foods and feeding on the webpage listing with my name.
Very nice post! I’ll have to save this for later.
 

Flanman

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Simple carbohydrate like fructose (strawberries) change the composition of the microbes in the gut, which means all the nutrients that microbes make available to your tortoise become out of balance. One small Russian could probably tolerate a coin thin slice of a small strawberry one a week. I don't have quantitative data to back up the 'tolerate' amount. But that simple sugars alter the gut microbes is a well studied matter, even for reptiles (tortoises). Odds are that at least some populations of Russians in the wild share habitat with large hoofed animals that did eat a bunch of berries, and the tortoise ate some of those animals' feces. It is a very fine distinction too sort out.

Same with beans for a slightly different 'balance' issue. If it is just the pod, and not the bean in the pod, that's good, as it is a high fiber food.

Russians eat mostly broad leaf annuals. perennials, and shrub tree leaves. Grass to some extent as well. The do eat clovers and alfalfa in the wild and many other mineral and protein rich foods, but also consider in the wild they have a very different pattern over the course of a year. They spend about half their life burrowed in to escape extremes of temperature.

There are many acceptable grocery stores greens with year-round availability. Domestic chicories (escarole, radicchio, endive) are all good. There are many others, most spring mixes, romaine, green and red leaf lettuce can round it out. The dark kales (red, black, tuscan) as well as 'green' are okay too. Dandelion and other not-so-usual greens are in many grocery stores too.

I try to always buy organic for my tortoises, and that is several cases a week, as they are long lived animals and bio-accumulation is real.

The prepared foods like what ZooMed has - work as a small frequent addition. I soak them overnight in cool water (so as not to cook nutrients) and them crumble them up fine and mix them in (not as a topper, but a mixer).

If all other parameters are in check (light, heat, humidity, shelter) no tortoise will starve itself if there is no underlying health issue. Always try new things as a very small proportion of the established foods. A one day to the next 100% change-over rarely works.

I have a blog, mostly about foods and feeding on the webpage listing with my name.

Thanks for the post! What’s your blog link?
 

RosemaryDW

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@Flanman, are there any ethnic markets around you? Hispanic, Persian, Asian? You can find foods there that many of us think of as weeds or at least not very exciting.
 

Flanman

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@Flanman, are there any ethnic markets around you? Hispanic, Persian, Asian? You can find foods there that many of us think of as weeds or at least not very exciting.

There are 30+ farmer markets near me, and I think there may be some herbal shops there. Never thought of this.
 

RosemaryDW

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Okay, this is a ton of info, don’t worry about memorizing it all at once and definitely don’t try to find them all at once. The goal is variety over time.

In the wild, Russians focus on a type of dandelion much of the year; dandelions are in the chicory family. Chicories include the bitter lettuces like the escarole, endive, and frisee mentioned above, radicchio. These have less sugar and more fiber than the softer lettuces most humans prefer. So you want that to be the focus of your tortoise’s diet.

The kale and brussels sprouts you are feeding are from a plant family know as brassicas. Tons of plants in this family: broccoli, collars, mustard, radishes, turnips and more. These are typically high in fiber and some protein but you should be feeding less of them than you are, maybe 20% of the diet. Rotate them in and out.

The bean pods you are feeding are in the legume family, another family high in protein. All the beans and peas are in this family, so are clovers and methi (fenugreek). Definitely something you don’t want to overdo. They are fairly high in plant protein. Some protein is good; a lot is not. I give mine something in this family maybe once a month, more after hibernation.

Okay, so for a farmers’ market in Indiana, I’m not sure what you’ll find. There are high Indian and Asian populations where I am, so I can get things like all kinds of melon and squash vines; methi; unusual lettuces with a bit more fiber; pea shoots (high in protein so not often); a plant called ong choi that isn’t like a bok choi; something sold as yam leaves which are actually sweet potato leaves; moringa leaves; very small heads of mustard; Taiwan spinach and more.

At a U.S. focused market the options will be slimmer. You’ll probably find something marketed as dandelion, which aren’t the ones you and I are used to but close enough. Turnip and radish leaves will be easier to find there, as they are usually found still attached to the vegetable; sometimes you can get them for free, as some customers ask to have them removed when they buy them. You’ll find different kinds of bok choI; these are another kind of brassica but it’s nice to switch things up for a change. Some vendors will sell squash flowers, which are pretty high in fiber. If you can find any Mexican vendor (or grocery store), they will have cactus, which is a really good food. Okra, which are good to feed on occasion; you just need one, sliced up. My lettuce vendor sells a “spicy” mix with all kinds of good things in it, as well as a “special mix” which has some flower petals mixed in. A few bites of any kind of squash: zucchini, the round summer squashes, pumpkin and acorn squash, are good on occasion.

Tortoises don’t tend to eat herbs, as they have such strong tastes. Some will eat cilantro (not mine); she’ll taste a tiny bit of dill if I have it around. My herb guy always has dandelions for some reason and occasionally nettles. You might find nasturtium flowers there.

Don’t buy flowers at the market other than edible ones, they are treated with pesticides (poison).

What I like about all farmers markets is I can buy really small portions, rather than a whole bag of something. A single okra feels odd to purchase at first; I just say it’s for my tortoise if people look surprised.

If you have a neighbor with a pesticide-free mulberry tree, rose bush, hibiscus, grape vine, okra plant you can feed all the leaves to a tortoIse. Roses and grape leaves may take a while for them to get used to. I cut up grape leaves for my tortoise, as she doesn’t tend to eat them on their own. The rose, okra and hibiscus flowers are also okay to feed. If you have nasturtium growing around you in a clean place, the leaves are great food. Morning glory leaves will cause some debate here but they are okay in moderation (truly).

I usually suggest buying a cheap squash or melon plant at the nursery or grocery store. The leaves have great fiber. When it dies, you can get another one for $1.99.

Happy hunting!
 

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