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What to Do When Your Picky Tortoise Won't Eat Pellet Food

Tortoises eating greens

Have you ever had a pet that just wouldn’t eat what you gave it? We had that experience recently at our house. My daughter brought home a new Russian tortoise. And our new little chelonian would not eat the pellets we’d been recommended by the friendly staff at The Tye-Dyed Iguana.

So like dutiful pet owners we marched ourselves back to the store (okay, so actually we drove there; we didn’t march), and we asked an employee who knew more about tortoise care than I do what we can do.

The employee I talked to was Dylan, and he had plenty of advice for what to do when your picky tortoise won’t eat pellet food. Here’s what I found out, and how we got our tortoise to eat her pellets through a combination of this advice, and trial and error.

Why your tortoise needs pellet food

Pellets are not just calories for your tortoise. They are full of vitamins and minerals. The thing is, in the wild a tortoise can eat a varied diet that includes many different plants.

But in a domestic setting, tortoises simply don’t get the same variety in their diet. They also don’t get as much calcium and vitamin D as they would in the wild. Because of that, they need a high-quality pellet food that provides them with both the right balance of macronutrients and a variety of micronutrients that they may miss out on.

Why your tortoise may not want pellet food

The thing is though, just because the pellets are good for your tortoise doesn’t mean they’ll eat it. Pellets are not a natural food source for tortoises. And your exotic pet may turn up its nose at what seems like a bland food. That’s exactly what ours did.

What Dylan told me is that tortoises, even more so than other reptiles, are like small children. They want to eat the tasty food, not the healthy food. But like small children, they need the healthy food too. So you have to get them to learn to eat pellets.

What you can do to encourage them to eat it anyway

Here are the suggestions Dylan has for you if you also have a picky eater on your hands:

  • Make sure the food is moistened and soft, especially for juvenile tortoises. You can accomplish this by misting the food with water.

  • If your tortoise is eating other foods but ignoring the pellets, try mashing a watery fruit, like blueberries, into the pellets to make them smell and taste more enticing. Just remember that fruit should only make up about 10% of your tortoise’s diet.

  • Consider offering a different brand of pellets to your exotic pet. Dylan suggested Mazuri Grassland tortoise blend.

  • Continue offering fresh pellets every day, even if your tortoise is ignoring them. Eventually, they will get used to them and eat them.

And here she is, our picky eater enjoying mouthfuls of pellets:

Stop in at The Tye-Dyed Iguana whenever you need expert advice for your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate.

Diedra Blackmill is head copywriter and content marketer at Telepath Writing Services. She specializes in writing blog articles, newsletters, and scripts that generate more revenue for businesses. Hire Diedra for your online content.