Leopard Tortoise Diet | What Do Leopard Tortoises Eat?

What do leopard tortoises eat?

Understanding what a healthy leopard tortoise diet looks like is essential for the long-term health of your pet tortoise. The typical leopard tortoise diet is pretty simple to understand but sourcing all the various foods they enjoy can be a little more complicated. That said, what exactly should leopard tortoises eat? 

The leopard tortoise is an herbivore whose diet is consistent throughout its lifetime and should contain a variety of prepared foods and supplements, in addition to wild grasses they can graze on between feedings. They need plenty of fresh water available daily.

 While they can be relatively easy to care for if you have space, they have some peculiarities. They can grow to about 30-60 pounds, and they will attach to human companionship. A tortoise is a lifetime commitment and can live exceptionally long lives if given the proper diet. 

 Their diets are relatively high-maintenance in comparison to other pet tortoises due to the many diseases that maladies they are prone to, so venture forth with caution. 

Leopard Tortoise Diet: What Do They Eat In The Wild

Native to grassland regions of southern and eastern Africa, leopard tortoises have a regular diet consisting of weeds, succulents, bushes, shrubs (they prefer young leaves), and wild grasses.

Tortoises graze throughout the day. They will also sometimes snack on the dung of lions and hyenas; it is hypothesized they do this to make up for missing minerals from their food.

You should provide your leopard tortoise with enough space and natural habitat that grows fast enough to support their daily browsing in captivity. In addition to regular grasses, you can include the following type of plants:

  • Filaree (storksbill or cranesbill)
  • Dandelion
  • Mulberry
  • Dichondra
  • Spurge
  • Various wildflowers

Although it is impossible to emulate the African savannah identically in North America, you can create a close facsimile. Just make sure that you are not using pesticides on adding any chemicals to your lawn. 

Leopard Tortoise Diet In Captivity

For leopard tortoises in captivity, their diet should include pre-made tortoise feed, natural foods, and grasses. While many prepared foods are available at your local pet stores, you can also find them at online outlets. You should only serve foods designated for leopard tortoises.

You may need to supplement your tortoise’s diet with calcium and vitamin D3. Because indoor tortoises get less sunlight, they need these extra nutrients to maintain healthy shells.

A cuttlebone can also add calcium. Chewing on the cuttlebone also strengthens your tortoise’s beak.

They are herbivorous grazers, so roughly 50 to 80 percent of their diet should be grasses and other high-fiber greens.

Timothy grass and hay are good choices, in addition to dandelion greens, carrots, collard greens, and watercress. These are also high in vitamins A and C, which are necessary for your tortoise’s health and bone structure. 

Unique Foods To Feed Your Leopard Tortoise 

Your leopard tortoise also enjoys succulents. Prickly pear (entire plant)

  • Hibiscus and mulberry leaves
  • Hens and chicks (the succulent kind, not the poultry kind)
  • Honeysuckle leaves and flowers
  • Spider plant leaves and flowers

Tortoises also love fruits, such as apples, tomatoes, mangoes, and many more! Only give fruit to your leopard tortoise as a treat because their diet should only be about 5% fruit because too much fruit can give them diarrhea.

Your tortoise will develop favorites. Try different types of greens that are good for them and offer a variety each day. That said, you should avoid feeding them vegetables and leafy greens that are high in oxalates. 

This would include things such as spinach, swiss chard, raspberries, beets, and much more. We will talk more about this later in the article. 

Feeding Frequency and Habits for Leopard Tortoises

You want to make sure that not only your leopard tortoise is eating the right foods, but that they are also eating the correct amount and at a steady frequency to maintain optimal health.

Where To Feed Your Leopard Tortoise

Your tortoise should have an area they can roam in. Many people recommend at least a six-by-six-foot enclosure outdoors with available places to hide for them to feel safe.

Allowing for natural growth so your tortoise can graze throughout the day is best. Make sure your climate is suitable for your tortoise. 

If your outdoor climate is too cold or damp, you should build an enclosure indoors or use a small pool that is the same size as an outdoor one, filled with a substrate such as grass clippings or potting soil.

Make sure to clean the substrate weekly and its enclosure each month.

Feeding Frequency and Amount

You should be feeding your tortoise daily around the same time. Also, maintain live growth in your tortoise’s enclosure since tortoises prefer to graze than eat a meal in one sitting. 

For their daily feeding, supply an adult leopard tortoise with an amount of food roughly the size of its shell, or what your pet can eat within 15 to 30 minutes. 

Younger leopard tortoises can have the same foods as adult tortoises; however, their food should be chopped into small pieces to prevent choking and aid with digestion. More problematic foods, such as carrots, should be grated.

Because they are grazers, remove any leftover food you feed your leopard tortoise to prevent them from eating spoiled food. When you remove their food dish, also make sure to check the substrate for any leftover scraps.

Foods To Avoid In A Leopard Tortoise Diet

Although it may not seem like it, leopard tortoises have a reasonably complex but delicate digestive system. To promote good health, you should avoid including greens that have high oxalate levels in a leopard tortoise diet. 

Some of these include beet greens, spinach, and swiss chard. These foods can interfere with calcium absorption from their regular diet. 

They may cause diarrhea and other digestive problems. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which is not healthy for your tortoise.

You should also avoid iceberg lettuce in a leopard tortoise diet because it has little nutritional value. Other foods to avoid in a leopard tortoise diet are pet foods containing animal proteins. These include dog food and cat food.

The animal proteins can damage your tortoise’s kidneys.  Part of understanding the leopard tortoise diet is knowing what foods to avoid. 

Watering Your Leopard Tortoise

Always keep fresh water in the enclosure for your tortoise. It would be best if you had a shallow bowl for your leopard tortoise water that is big enough to allow them to go into the bowl to soak and drink, but not big enough for them to get stuck in it.

Filtered or purified water is the best choice for your pet. Baby leopard tortoises need to be soaked in warm water two to three times a week for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

Younger tortoises are known to use their water bowls as bathrooms when they are soaked, but regardless of age, you should change the water and clean the water bowl or pan daily or notice they have used their water bowl as a bathroom. 

Supplementing Your Leopard Tortoise’s Diet

Even if you supply an excellent and varied diet for your tortoise, you should still add calcium and vitamin D3 supplements. Calcium carbonate is the preferred supplement and is readily available in powdered form. 

Your calcium powder should be carbonite-based and phosphorous-free. There are a wide variety of supplements on the market.

Read the ingredients. Many of these products have unique formulations to meet the needs of your captive tortoise. 

You should also supplement their diet with vitamin D3 if your tortoise especially if your tortoise is indoors. Vitamin D3 assists a tortoise in processing calcium, allowing its body to absorb the calcium more efficiently. 

Final Thoughts

Raising a leopard tortoise is a long-time commitment. To provide your tortoise with the best chance for survival, you will need to be diligent about maintaining a proper diet.

The proper leopard tortoise diet is a combination of fresh grasses and plants, prepared tortoise “nuggets,” and supplements, you will keep your pet healthy. 

Remember that tortoises are susceptible to intestinal parasites. If you notice any change in their eating habits or feces production, please take them to a reptile veterinarian.

Your tortoise can also be a carrier of Salmonella. Be sure to practice proper hygiene after handling your tortoise. This includes touching their feed and water bowls.

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