Tortoises make for very interesting pets; with a variety of colors, markings, and temperaments, they appeal to fanciers who like the unexpected from what is often mistaken for a plodding, “boring” pet.

By Zik Ferrer

One of the most important things any beginner or intermediate keeper needs to know about their pets is how to feed it, and Philippine Tortoise Enthusiasts’ ZIK FERRER shares his extensive experience with us regarding that matter.

The first thing that we need to know about tortoises is that there are species that are herbivorous and omnivorous. The herbivorous tortoises will only consume a wide variety of grass, plants, flowers, and vegetation, while omnivorous tortoises will consume the same but can and will feed on carrion, snails, and insects as well.

In general, the ideal diet for a healthy tortoise should be high-fiber, high-calcium, low-fat, low-protein, and low-phosphorous. Therefore, the proper knowledge and offering a variety of ideal food choices is the key priority in order to maintain a food selection that will be healthy and beneficial to the tortoise.

A tortoise keeper should not only rely on and offer food that is available at their local market, but must also make sure that the food that is to be offered has vitamins and minerals that are nutritious to their tortoise while being free of substances that could possibly harm them.

Another thing that a tortoise keeper must know is that the saying “Too much of anything is bad” also applies when it comes to a tortoise’s food selection. This should not be taken lightly as some vegetation is high in nutrition but contains substances that can cause certain health problems in the long run if given in excessive amounts. So the proper knowledge about the food and its nutritional values is very essential in order to manage a variety of good food choices.

DIET TIPS:

Philippine Tortoise Enthusiasts has been doing research and has obtained substantial knowledge about different plants and vegetables and their nutritional contents from reliable sources in order to create a list of plants and vegetables that are safe to feed to tortoises. These are also locally available in our country’s marketplaces. We have adapted the categorization of Tortoise Table Diet (TTT) and there are three food categories under it: Staple diet (can be fed daily), Feed sparingly (can be fed 2-3 times a week), and Feed occasionally (can be fed once or every other week as treats/snacks).

STAPLE DIET (FEED DAILY):

• Saluyot (jute leaves)

• Kangkong (river spinach)

• Kamote (sweet potato) leaves

• Gumamela (hibiscus) leaves and flowers

• Alugbati

• Grass (Carabao and Bermuda grass are fine as long as they don’t any fertilizers).

FEED SPARINGLY (2-3 TIMES A WEEK):

• Mazuri Tortoise Diet

• Sera Raffy Vital

• Boiled okra (ladies finger)

• Pechay

• Squash

FEED OCCASIONALLY (ONCE OR EVERY OTHER WEEK AS SNACKS):

•Apple

• Strawberry

• Shredded carrots

• Diced cucumbers

• Opuntia cactus pads

• Tomatoes.

HOW SHOULD WE FEED OUR TORTOISES?

You can leave them a few vegetable leaves in the morning or early afternoon. If you noticed that your tortoise(s) has already consumed all of it but it is still wandering around for more food, you may add a few more; they can be fed once or twice a day.

Do not feed them during nighttime to avoid causing indigestion due to lack of heat. Always offer food while the sun is still up. All untouched and uneaten food should be removed from their enclosure at the end of the day to maintain proper cleanliness. Never leave food overnight. Food must be offered fresh daily.

Tortoises are just like humans who not only need food but also liquids to maintain the right amount of body fluids. Make sure that a water dish is always available and accessible for your tortoises. The water dish should be big enough for the tortoise to fit inside if they want to soak themselves, hydrate, or even just to cool off due to the hot weather. The ideal water level should not exceed their chin level. (With editing and additional text by CFB)

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s July 2016 issue.