10 Best Desert Tortoises Facts, What do desert tortoises eat? - Zoological World (2023)

Table of Contents

In this article, I am going to describe to you an amazing species of tortoise which are “desert tortoises” “What do desert tortoises eat?” and their specific diet and what you should care about. So, guys, this article is basically about what do desert tortoises eat? This article is totally based on the diet and food of tortoises and what they should eat or not.

These tortoises are found in the driest and harsh environments where water is lacking to a great extent so their diet mainly contains plant content containing moist leaves, grasses, herbs, shrubs, etc.

(Video) What do desert tortoises eat,What do desert tortoises eat apples,What desert tortoises eat aloe vera

So you can make daily a very simple salad even with the basic things available, which you can also grow in your backyard. For your baby tortoise to provide it the healthiest food which you can easily monitor and can keep a check on it. The first thing that you need to understand is that plant content you buy from the markets is full of insecticides and fungicides, which the tortoises don’t need at all. So, you have to make sure that they don’t eat any such food that contains harmful toxins, and to make this sure you can leave them in your garden to graze and eat grass and other materials but making sure that they don’t make your yard escape free. If you don’t properly know what amount of food should be given you are actually risking your pet’s life. Therefore, to know the right quantities and which quantity it is essential to that you carefully read the following. All these points will tell you what do desert tortoises eat?. Do you want to know about all the types of tortoises.

  • Most major content in the tortoise diet is grasses, weeds, and leaves making up almost 85% of the whole diet.
  • Some tortoises like to eat dead leaves instead of the fresh ones, leave it upon them what they would like to eat.
  • Green leaves should not be given in more quantity. It should be half of the diet.
  • Vegetables are also one of the main components in the tortoise’s diet. They should make 15% of the diet. For example, bell peppers, carrots, corn squash, lentils, peas, turnips, and sweet potatoes are among the basic veggies. Vegetables are important in their diet and this also gives us a clear image of what do desert tortoises eat?
  • Fruits are among those foods which should be given in rare amounts and on rare occasions. Just to maintain the level of a good nutrient. It should not be included in the daily diet.
  • Sunlight is also a superfood for tortoises as they ectothermic animals they obtain energy by absorbing the UVA/B rays and get vitamin D as well.
  • To maintain water content is also essential. You can use a bowl that is not too deep but make sure they don’t drown in it while drinking it from it because there are several cases reported in which the tortoises get drowned easily and die due to suffocation.

Generally, desert tortoises survive best in their natural habitat but when you pet them, they completely rely on you for their proper diet and nutrition. Also, they are very good eaters and you may have to stop them from eating that stuff as well which they are not supposed to eat. They basically need a which is fiber-rich and should contain low-fat content because their bodies are adaptive to dry environments.

Residential plants for desert tortoises:

Grasses made 80% of the tortoise diet. So you should actively put this in their diet. The grass is as important for them as other nutrients thus, it tells us that what do desert tortoises should eat?. The famous and healthy grasses are alfalfa, deer, or Bermuda grasses which the tortoises will love to eat in both fresh and dry situations. Some plants include noble and plantain etc., they just don’t eat grasses or leaves but eat roots and shrubs as well.

Feeding them veggies:

These make 20% of the tortoise diet. Vegetables with green leaves are strongly recommended because they are high in nutrients and vitamins. Among vegetables, the best are turnips, peas, carrots, and other beans, etc.

(Video) 10 Things You Need to Know About gopher tortoises Updated Video

Essential fruits for desert tortoises::

Foods don’t make as much of a tortoise diet. They may be beneficial for you but that does not mean the same goes for them as well. Fruits contain very high sugar content which is harmful to the tortoise’s gut. Fruits that can be fed include apple, pear, and some strawberries. Make sure to remove the hard content of the fruit like seeds etc.

Don’t feed them these:

Vegetables that are rich in oxalic acid should not be given to them frequently or in their daily diet. Also, some green vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and mustard greens are also in the avoidance list as they inhibit the absorption of iodine.

The above-given points are very essential for your pet tortoise especially if it is a desert tortoise. I hope these are clearing your concept about what do desert tortoises eat?.

Some people don’t know that desert tortoises are among the endangered species along with the other. Due to the destruction of their natural habitat, their number is decreasing drastically. But to talk for the captive ones they are somehow populated but not in the natural setting. Also to release the captives into the wild environment is riskier because they are hybrid and can transfer diseases to the wild tortoises.

10 Best Desert Tortoises Facts, What do desert tortoises eat? - Zoological World (1)

(Video) Tortoise Facts,Size, Appearance and Behavior,Reproduction, Babies & Lifespan


We recommend keeping the tortoises outdoors to provide them in a natural setting. The enclosure should be of nature the tortoise can walk easily and it should be shallow enough so that tortoises don’t dig. For an adult tortoise, the cage should be of 19 square feet. As they go into hibernation as well the substrate should be natural organic soil. Avoid putting sharp objects like barks in the cage as they can engulf them unintentionally and can develop wounds. Provide them optimal temperature during the day, night, and basking times using heat lamps for the indoor tortoises. If it is indoor you have to artificially provide UVA/B radiations for basking.

Diet for desert tortoises:

As they are adapted to dry environments they need that diet which is high in water content that means plants making them herbivores and also informs us about their food and clears the most asked question that what do desert tortoises eat? The easiest way to feed them is to let them roam or graze in the grassy lands to fulfill their hunger needs or you can make them a simple salad as well. You can make their diet versatile on different days by incorporating leaves, vegetables, fruits along with grass.

Temperature of desert tortoises:

The temperature required in the day time ranges from 80-86 F whereas in the night time it ranges between 75-80 F while during basking they need the optimal temperature of 95-100 F OF temperature.

Desert tortoises Hibernation:

As the species make them buried in the winter season so therefore you have to make sure the burrowing substrate is enough and in optimal condition so that they can easily bury themselves for a peaceful sleep.

What do desert tortoises eat? 10 facts about the desert tortoise

All of these facts and figures are going to tell you what is the basic need of your pet and what type they belong to. What are suitable temperatures for them and many more to go including what do desert tortoises eat?

(Video) Sulcata Tortoise Facts,Tortoise Predators and Threats, Reproduction and Life Cycle

  • At the maximum desert, tortoises can reach a maximum of 9-15 inches in length and can weigh up to 15 pounds.
  • Young baby tortoises are in lighter tan yellow than adults which are in a darker shade.
  • Their scales are quite bumpy and their shell is dome-like.
  • Desert tortoise is an herbivore and eats plant content only like vegetables, beans, grasses, etc.
  • They can endure 60 degrees Celsius.
  • They can be easily identified from their heavy scaled legs.
  • They spent the winter season from November to February in hibernation.
  • They release urine when they get scared or stressed.
  • Their main predators are Gila monsters, foxes, desert mountain lions.
  • The mating season continues from summer to autumn.

10 Best Desert Tortoises Facts, What do desert tortoises eat? - Zoological World (2)

10 best foods for the desert tortoise

Below we have given you the 10 best foods for desert tortoises and made the purpose of this article clear that “what do desert tortoises eat?”

  • Alfalfa
  • Bermuda and deer grasses
  • Dandelion
  • Globes mellow
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Green beans
  • Endive
  • Kale
  • Apples, pears, and strawberries
  • By providing them food indoors
  • By letting them graze in the field themselves
  • By planting specific vegetables in your yard
  • By making them a basic salad
  • By making a versatile diet by incorporating specific food like fruits and vegetables along with the grass.

What do desert tortoises eat in the wild?

In this article as I have talked about the desert tortoise, therefore they require a diet that is high in water content. That means desert tortoises are herbivorous. Their diet in the wild mainly includes wildflowers, grasses, leaves, cacti, and moist leaves.

What do desert tortoises eat in captivity?

As they are herbivores animals and they grow best when provided the plant diet. Thus as well as in captivity, the best diet will be the mixture of grass, leaves, veggies, and fruits.

What do baby tortoises eat?

Bay tortoises eat small leaflings and those plant contents which are easily chewable.

(Video) How tortoises sleep, How do tortoises sleep, How tortoises sleep a lot, How tortoises sleep at night

What plants do desert tortoises eat?

Alfalfa Bermuda and deer grasses, Dandelion, Globes mellow, Carrots, Turnips, and Green beans are among the common plants which desert tortoises eat.

Do desert tortoises eat insects?

As they are herbivores they only rely on plant content for their survival and need a diet that is high in fiber and low in fat.

We love to know your reviews about this article. Moreover, if you want to know furthermore about pets and related animals then go to TheZoologicalWorld.com and visit our other categories. Don’t forget to comment, because this will help us in improving our quality of information. Not only this but also you can ask us about any kind of problem that you are facing related to your pet.


What do desert tortoises eat? ›

Desert tortoises are completely herbivorous, eating on a wide variety of plants in the wild. Likewise, in captivity, the best diet is one that provides a variety of foods to meet its nutritional needs. Ideally a captive tortoise should be allowed to graze on grasses, leafy plants and flowers.

Do desert tortoises eat meat? ›

Diet. Desert tortoises are herbivores, meaning they eat plants.

Do desert tortoises eat bugs? ›

Their diet consists of insects (grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, caterpillars) and other invertebrates such as earthworms; reptile eggs; carrion (dead animals); berries, melons, cactus fruits and pads, tender shoots, and leaves.

What is the best food for a tortoise? ›

What can tortoises eat?
  • Common plants and leaves most tortoises eat include: dandelion leaves, clover, alfalfa, collard. ...
  • Common vegetables most tortoises eat include: carrots, curly kale, red cabbage, celery, cucumber and bell peppers.
Aug 19, 2022

What eats a desert tortoise? ›

WHAT PREYS ON DESERT TORTOISES? THERE ARE MANY PREDATORS THAT EAT BABY DESERT TORTOISES, INCLUDING THE COMMON RAVEN! Roadrunners, snakes, kit foxes and coyotes are a few examples of tortoise predators. But there is another predator that is having a major impact on survival of desert tortoise – the common raven.

What kills a desert tortoise? ›

Several factors contribute to the loss in numbers, to include the loss of their natural habitat through urban development, flu like disease that is often fatal, being preyed upon by natural predators such as ravens and loss of forage plants as a result of competition from livestock and pet collecting.

Can a tortoise eat banana? ›

Bananas can be eaten, and cherries, in strict moderation. Always remember to remove the cherry stone beforehand. These fruits should only be offered in moderation as part of a mixed diet to rainforest species such as the Red footed tortoise and Yellow footed tortoise. Any excess can easily result in diarrhoea.

Do mosquitoes bite tortoises? ›

Mosquitos can bite tortoises through their shells, even if there is no injury. The shell completely encloses all the vital organs of the turtle and in some cases even the head.

Can desert tortoises get sick? ›

Desert tortoises are subject to various diseases that often result from opportunistic pathogens or parasites that target animals weakened by stress, malnutrition or an improper physical environment. Prevention of disease is best accomplished by providing the recommended physical environment, shelter features and diet.

Can tortoises drink milk? ›

Tortoise are vegetarian and should not be fed any meat or dairy products. They should not be fed any processed human foods- for example - bread, jam, pasta etc. The tortoise should be provided water, although they will get most of their water from the food.

How long can tortoise starve? ›

He said: "They are particularly resilient and can survive for two to three years without food. In the wild they eat fruit, leaves, dead animals, even faeces."

Can tortoise starve? ›

Your tortoise will need to be not only fit and healthy, but also have put on enough weight to see them through the winter. Sufficient fat reserves are essential, and without them, your tortoise could simply die of dehydration and starvation during hibernation. August is a good time to start monitoring this.

Can desert tortoises eat bread? ›

You should NEVER feed your tortoise any of the following:

Cat or dog food. Processed food. Bread/cakes/biscuits.

Can desert tortoises eat fruit? ›

For captive desert tortoises, the basic diet should be 80-90 percent grasses and forbs (weeds) and the only fruit they should be given is the tuna (apple) from Opuntia (prickly pear) cactus.

Can tortoises eat apples? ›

Not all species of tortoises and turtles are fruit eaters, so only offer it as a small part of the diet once you have confirmed that your tortoise or turtle is a fruit eater.

Why do desert tortoises fight? ›

Desert tortoises are usually solitary, but sometimes they share burrows. When males come across each other, they might fight for dominance by trying to flip one another over. Males are larger than females and can be identified by curved horns on the lower shell, beneath the neck.

Can tortoises eat onions? ›

Onions are known to be toxic to cattle, horses, birds, cats and dogs, and several sources say that they are toxic to tortoises and turtles as well, causing digestive problems if eaten in small amounts and more serious illness if eaten in quantity.

Can a tortoise freeze to death? ›

If the temperature drops too low for too long, whether or not the tortoise is in hibernation, she can freeze to death. Approximately 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit / 7 to 12 degrees Celsius can be considered cold for tortoises. Anything below is very cold and can become dangerous.

Are tortoises deaf? ›

Hearing. Numerous publications have tried to give the impression that tortoises are virtually deaf, although it is fair to say that their hearing is significantly different to ours and perhaps less sensitive to high frequency sounds, but they are no means deaf.

How hot is too hot for a desert tortoise? ›

If a tortoise is out above 95 F ground temperature, it is close to dangerous conditions. Tortoises need to find adequate shade, although they can survive these temperatures for a short time. Dangerous- 103-113° F is critical maximum body temperature.

Can tortoises eat watermelon? ›

These sweet-fruited relatives of squashes and gourds should not be fed to most species of tortoise, as their digestives systems are not designed to cope with the sugar in the fruit, although they can be given to fruit-eating species. The leaves and flowers of melons can be nibbled, but should be fed sparingly.

Can tortoises eat cucumbers? ›

Cucumber can be offered to help with hydration, or prescribed medication can be hidden within it and offered to the tortoise as a tasty treat. The leaves and flowers of the Cucumber plant may be fed in small amounts to all species. Tortoises easily become addicted to store-bought diets so avoid long term use.

Can tortoises eat lettuce? ›

Dark, leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, kale, collard, mustard and dandelion greens should make up the bulk of the diet. Other greens to try include: bok choy, red leaf or green leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, water cress, escarole, parsley, turnip greens and green onions.

Will my tortoise bite me? ›

The simple answer is yes. In captivity it normally happens by accident. Usually, it happens during hand feeding or when they are hungry and “test bite” to see if something they see is edible.

Do tortoises attract roaches? ›

So, do tortoises attract bugs? Tortoises themselves don't attract bugs. But their poop, their bedding, their food, and their water supply may attract bugs particularly if you keep them inside.

Can tortoises get lice? ›

There are no reports of the common mammalian ectoparasitic insects, such as fleas and lice, in reptiles, along with clinical symptoms.

Is tortoise poop toxic? ›

When a reptile, including tortoises, excrete feces, it's often infected with salmonella. Even if you never touch your tortoise and never come in contact with tortoise feces, you can still become infected.

What causes death in tortoises? ›

Tortoises can die for a number of reasons including insufficient food, poor quality diet, unsanitary conditions, stress, and untreated infections and injuries. All these can cause your pet tortoise to die.

Can desert tortoises get wet? ›

While tortoises do enjoy a little bit of rain, a sudden drop in temperature can be very harmful. It is also harmful if the rain is heavy or prolonged as this might flood the enclosure.

Do tortoises drink dirty water? ›

It is very important, however, that your tortoise has access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times. They may not need it very often but when they do need it – they need it and you should make absolutely certain that there's water on hand.

What is poisonous to tortoises? ›

Many common plants are toxic, and keepers must make sure that their herbivorous chelonians are kept away from them.
Common NameBotanical NameToxicity
AmaryllisAmaryllis belladonna2
Asparagus FernAsparagus sprengerii2, 3
Arrowhead VineSyngonium podophyllum1
Avocado (leaves, seeds)Persea americana2
56 more rows

Do tortoises drink tap water? ›

The best care for turtles and tortoises would be to use tap water directly, and to not worry about the presence of chlorine. Dechlorinators are absolutely unnecessary anyways, because chlorine will evaporate completely within 24 hours, and the majority evaporates if left to sit overnight.

Can tortoises live 1000 years? ›

According to Pet Keen, the average life expectancy of tortoises is anywhere from 80 to 150 years. Some species are known to live even longer, up to 250 years. In January of 2022, Guinness World Records identified the oldest land-living animal, Jonathan, a 190-year-old tortoise, making him the oldest tortoise ever.

Can I leave my tortoise outside all day? ›

All tortoises can and should be out in the open air during the warmer months. They all require the UV rays of the sun for their general growth and metabolic development. Even very young hatchlings should be outside, as long as they are safe and secure.

How can I make my tortoise happy? ›

No matter what they're called, tortoises do need a variety of interactive objects to stay healthy and happy. Logs, rocks, bathing dishes, moist hides, and dirt mounds are good choices for toys and enrichment.

Do desert tortoises need to eat everyday? ›

How much and how often should I feed my tortoise? As a general rule, you should offer an amount of food equivalent to the size of your tortoise's shell. They should be fed once a day, 5 days a week. The 2 starve days can be implemented at any time, in any order.

How long can desert tortoises go without food? ›

He said: "They are particularly resilient and can survive for two to three years without food. In the wild they eat fruit, leaves, dead animals, even faeces."

Can you keep a desert tortoise as a pet? ›

Desert tortoises have been kept in captivity for many years. While captive maintenance of pet desert tortoises is legal, there are laws and guidelines for keeping them in captivity. In most areas, it is illegal to collect wild desert tortoises for pets.


1. Top 10 facts about Sulcata Tortoise That Will Blow Your Mind
(Known Pets)
2. DEMYSTIFIED: What’s the Difference Between a Turtle and a Tortoise? | Encyclopaedia Britannica
(Encyclopaedia Britannica)
3. Weird Animals In The World - The Dr. Binocs Show | Best Learning Videos For Kids | Dr Binocs
(Peekaboo Kidz)
4. How to Feed a Sulcata Tortoise
(Happy Tails)
5. The Sacred Sahara Desert Relaxing Sleep Story Soothing Music & Nature Sounds - Planet Sleep #6
(Planet Sleep Podcast)
6. How tortoise breath, How tortoise breathe in water, How to breathe like tortoise
(The Zoological World)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Last Updated: 11/20/2022

Views: 5369

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Clemencia Bogisich Ret

Birthday: 2001-07-17

Address: Suite 794 53887 Geri Spring, West Cristentown, KY 54855

Phone: +5934435460663

Job: Central Hospitality Director

Hobby: Yoga, Electronics, Rafting, Lockpicking, Inline skating, Puzzles, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Clemencia Bogisich Ret, I am a super, outstanding, graceful, friendly, vast, comfortable, agreeable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.