It is very common in classrooms across America for there to be a class pet. If such a pet exists in your son’s or daughter’s class then chances are the pet is going to be a turtle. They are interesting creatures and seem very easy to take care of. The story of the tortoise, however, is much bigger than a mere classroom pet can show us, and it is a complex animal that a pet store guide can’t explain to us. One of the most puzzling things for most people interested in the tortoise is the feeding habits of these strange animals.
Tortoise eating lettuce. © Peter Pearson.
They are plant eaters
The tortoise is a plant eater, and this holds true no matter where the tortoise is from. The range of these animals can stretch from forests to deserts and from the tropics to the sea, but they are always plant eaters. The types of plants they are going to eat varies, however. So you may be wondering what plants these creatures are eating if they live in such different places. After all, the same plants don’t grow in the same locations around the world. This is true, and for the most part, the tortoise will eat those things which are indigenous to the area.
In the desert
For instance, in the desert there are cactus plants, and the tortoises that live there, like the desert tortoise, will often eat the new shoots on these cacti. Where fruit is plentiful you will see local tortoises eat these. It is less about the plant itself and more about what is available locally.
Gopher tortoise snacking on Opuntia (Nopales) cactus. © Andrea Westmoreland.
Depends on the season as well
Just when you thought you were starting to understand the tortoise, a new wrinkly is thrown in. Not only is the tortoise going to eat plants that are local, it is going to eat different local plants in different times of the year. Where there are rainy and dry spells, for instance, the tortoise will vary its diet depending on the amount of water available to it, the types of foods still around, and the season itself.
Dried plants and wet plants
Dried plants, for instance, can only be readily consumed when there is ample water nearby. Those plants with more water content are more easily assimilated. The types of plants for some of these tortoises vary so considerably that they eat more than 200 different plants over the course of a year! The water content in these plants is important because the tortoise can hold and recycle the water it has within itself, so if there is not plenty of water around, then it is important to ensure that they don’t eat too many dried plants as they can’t process them well enough.
List of plants that tortoise loves
You can try a variety of plants, including vegetables for the tortoise to consume daily. Some of these includes tropical hibiscus, Bermuda grass, aloe vera, ornamental strawberry, jade plant, spineless prickly pear cactus, water hyacinth, yucca, edible fig and others as well.
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