If you are looking, or have recently adopted a Hermann tortoise as a pet, then naturally, you are going to want to know how to feed it. And not just what you can, but what you should. Here is everything you will need to know.
So, what do you feed a Hermann’s Tortoise? Hermann’s tortoises are strict herbivores, so they only need hay, certain plants, flowers, and weeds to stay healthy. You can sometimes incorporate vegetables and very rarely fruits as treats, but these should be limited to no more than 5% of total dietary intake.
Understanding what diet Hermann’s tortoises need to stay healthy can be a little tricky at first.
Even though they are herbivores, that doesn’t mean everything considered as plant matter is safe or beneficial.
It’s essential to know which kinds of plants, weeds, and hay they need. And which ones need to be limited or avoided.
So let’s now do that.
Optimal Diet For A Hermann’s Tortoise
Around 80-85% of their diet should be plant-based, including weeds, hay, and plant stems. 15-20% of their diet can be made up of certain vegetables and supplemental foods. The remaining 5% can be used for occasional fruit treats.
Hermann’s tortoises are a Mediterranean herbivorous species, so their diet should consist of low protein, calcium-rich, and high fiber foods.
Hays And Grasses
If your Hermann’s tortoise is kept indoors, it’s important to provide them with grazing food such as timothy hay.
If your tortoise is kept outdoors, they can graze on the grass with added hay so they’re don’t run out.
It’s important to feed your Hermann’s tortoise a mixed plant diet, so they get a healthy balance of nutrients.
The best plants you can feed your tortoise include dandelion, chicory, plantain, clover, hedge mustard, and shepherd’s purse. If you’re buying your plants in a store, make sure they’re free of chemicals.
Sometimes, the choice of plants may be limited, like during the winter; for example, you can include cabbage plants in your pet’s meal on occasion to keep that variety.
Where vegetables are involved, incorporate some grated carrot and brussels sprouts to help liven in their meal every so often.
Kale and bell peppers are good options, too, and provide a nice crunch for your tortoise.
Again, make sure that whatever vegetables you pick are organic or chemically free, as they can be potentially fatal to your Hermann’s tortoise.
To help ensure that your tortoise is getting enough calcium in their diet, incorporate supplemental foods such as calcium-rich cuttlefish bones.
You can also buy calcium powder and sprinkle some on your tortoise’s meals.
Without enough calcium, your Hermann’s tortoise can develop weakened bones and limb deformities (known as metabolic bone disease – MBD).
Be Careful With Leafy Greens
Other notes of caution to keep in mind are to avoid giving too much lettuce and too many soft leaves to your tortoise.
Lettuce (unless it’s a red variety) is nutritionally poor.
Depending on the type, lettuce is 96% water. However, it can be a great addition if you notice your pet is dehydrated.
Another advantage to ensuring your tortoise gets a variety in their food is that their beak will stay worn down at a healthy length because of the different textures.
Giving your Hermann’s tortoise only soft leaves will result in an overgrown beak and a visit to an exotic vet.
When you’re choosing what fruit to give as a treat, remember it contains too much sugar for your tortoise to digest to have on a regular basis.
So, it’s important that you keep fruit to a minimal amount and only give it once a month, at most. Too much sugar causes mayhem to your Hermann’s tortoise’s gut flora.
There’s a delicate balance of good bacteria in their digestive tract, which can be easily disrupted with too much sugar.
Sugar kills these bacteria and, if too many die, can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome.
When you do decide to treat your Hermann’s tortoise to some fruit, you can pick from a wide variety, including raspberries, grapes, strawberries, and apples.
If you’re choosing stoned or pitted fruits like peaches, make sure to remove the stone and pits before giving them to your tortoise.
When it comes to water, the practice of how to keep a Hermann’s tortoise hydrated differs amongst keepers.
You can provide a shallow bowl in their enclosure all the time.
Or choose to bathe them outside of their pen once or twice a week for 20 minutes at a time.
Although giving 24/7 access to water may seem the easier option, tortoises tend to defecate while they’re bathing, so you’ll have to regularly check and replace the water in the bowl.
Bathing your pet outside of their enclosure might be the better choice for you and your tortoise.
Ensure that the water is luke-warm and doesn’t rise above their chin before placing your tortoise in the bowl.
Providing water this way will give the necessary amount of water they need to stay hydrated without the constant need to refresh their bowl.
Plus, you can use this time to watch for their bowel movement, so you’re confident in their good health.
What Foods Should You Not Feed Your Hermann’s Tortoise?
Avoid giving your tortoise foods high in protein. These foods include dog and cat food and human food. Avoid grains and certain harmful types of plants, fruit, and salad leaves. Pellet foods should be kept to a minimum, where possible.
Since Hermann’s tortoises are herbivorous, they don’t require protein-rich foods to thrive.
The amount of protein in plants is all they need.
Dog and cat food are high in protein which is detrimental to a Hermann’s tortoise health.
Too much protein will wreak havoc on their organs, especially their kidneys, as they overwork to process this protein.
This can lead to painful kidney stones and kidney damage.
Excess protein will result in pyramiding in tortoises as well.
Pyramiding happens when the scutes on the shell increase disproportionally during active growth periods, which can result in lung function problems, difficulty in females laying eggs, and weakened limbs.
Human food is another high protein source that should be avoided.
Additionally, the composition of nutrients and minerals of human food is different, which can cause health problems for your tortoise.
Tortoises cannot digest grains (including bread and pasta). Grains interfere with Hermann’s tortoise’s ability to absorb vitamin D.
This vitamin is essential in absorbing calcium for strong bones and good health.
Including any plant and salad, you see can be an easy mistake to make. However, there are some types that you need to avoid.
If your Hermann’s tortoise is kept outside, they will naturally avoid any harmful wild plants in your yard.
If they’re kept indoors, they are reliant on their provided meals to be harmless.
Plants to avoid include (but aren’t limited to) daffodil, foxglove, bean sprouts, iris, avocado, and buttercup.
Avoid giving your Hermann’s tortoise any citrus plant or fruit.
Along with the high sugar content, these fruits contain citric acid, which contributes to disrupting their gut bacteria.
Salads including a high amount of spinach, swiss chard, or mustard greens are high in oxalic acid.
Too much of this acid will contribute to kidney disease and damage.
Inappropriate Pellet Foods
If you’re using pellet foods, watch for ones that contain grains like rice and cereal. A lot of pellet foods use grains to bulk up the food.
Pellet foods can be a great way to help supplement your Hermann’s tortoise’s diet as they tend to contain added calcium and vitamin D, but it’s important to look for any inclusion of grains.
How Much Should I Feed My Hermann’s Tortoise?
As with most tortoise species, the guideline on how much to feed your Hermann’s tortoise is to mirror how big their shell is. This amount may fluctuate depending on their age, health, and activity level.
Judging exactly how much food to give can take a bit of trial and error as each tortoise can be different.
Starting off, it’s best to follow the guideline of feeding them the same amount as their shell size.
If you notice your tortoise is gobbling up their food quickly, you might need to make their meal bigger.
If they’re regularly leaving lots of food behind, try cutting back on the amount.
A handy tip for figuring out the best portion size for your tortoise is to regularly check their appearance.
- If they’re overweight, they’ll look as if they’re bulging out of their shell, or they’ll have problems retracting into their shell.
- If they’re underweight, their shell will look too big in comparison to the size of their head and limbs.
How Often Do You Need To Feed Your Hermann’s Tortoise?
Again, how often you feed your tortoise depends on your tortoise and its individual needs. You can choose to feed your tortoise daily or every other day. However, don’t extend the feeding gap more than that.
Figuring out how often you feed your Hermann’s tortoise will take some experimenting to see what suits best.
Some owners choose to feed their pets every day, while others decide to feed theirs every other day.
Hermann’s tortoises have slow metabolisms, so they aren’t quick at digesting their food, which is why feeding every other day is a safe option too.
So long as your tortoise has easy access to plenty of hay to graze on, you can test out the frequency that your Hermann’s tortoise likes best without too much worry of under-or over-feeding.
Make sure to monitor their appearance as you figure it out to be certain they stay in good health no matter which option you go for.
Hermann’s tortoises are fun to have as pets.
They’re small and hardy but tend to have easy-going and friendly personalities.
To keep them happy, getting their diet right is crucial.
How much and how often to feed your Hermann’s tortoise will take a little testing to get right but so long as you feed them the right foods, you’ll have a happy and bright pet for life.
And I really do mean for life.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.