In the wild, tortoises and turtles alike eat a complex diet rich in vegetation and protein. These food sources are loaded with all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow healthy and strong. One of the most important minerals for tortoises is calcium.
Why do tortoises need calcium?
Tortoises need calcium because their shell requires high levels of the mineral to grow and remain strong.
While a healthy balanced diet for a pet tortoise can offer enough phosphorous, calcium will need to be supplemented. There are many options available at pet shops that will be suited for tortoises, but which is the best?
The Best Calcium Supplement For Tortoises
The best calcium supplement for a tortoise is Emours Natural Cuttlefish Bone. It is a great source of calcium and only costs $8.
If your turtle is hesitant to bite the block, you can cut off a piece and put it into their food. If they still don’t like it, you can grind up the block and sprinkle the powder on their food.
Calcium powder for tortoises
Another great way to ensure your tortoise gets enough calcium is to give them calcium powder. A great option for this is calcium carbonate.
This is cheap and readily available, not to mention super easy to use. Just do a light dusting of the powder over their food 2 to 3 times per week. Aside from calcium, it is also high in vitamin D3.
If you are not 100% comfortable using standard calcium carbonate, you can opt for a reptile specific kind found in most pet stores. It will cost more but removes any concerns or guess work.
Sadly, the most common issue in captive bred and kept tortoises is a calcium deficiency. If not treated, it can cause a life of pain and suffering.
Calcium deficiency in tortoises
Aside from general minor health complications, prolonged deficiency in calcium for tortoises can lead to metabolic bone disease (MBD) which causes the bones and shell to become soft, increasing risk of injury and severe pain.
MBD will not only greatly shorten a tortoise’s life but can cause damage that is irreversible even if the deficiency is later corrected.
How To Ensure Your Tortoise Gets Enough Calcium
Feeding a tortoise a diet rich in calcium and phosphorous is important, especially in the earlier life of a tortoise.
Calcium food for tortoise
The best calcium food for tortoises include collard greens, kale, and turnip greens. Some good fruit options include kiwi, berries, and papaya.
You should know that as your tortoise ages, it will require larger amounts that likely cannot be obtained through diet alone.
How do tortoises get their calcium in the wild?
Wild tortoises eat vegetation that is not only loaded with calcium but comes from calcium rich soils. Not only that, they will often obtain calcium from things like snail shells, bird eggs, and chalk that occurs naturally in the wild.
It is rare to find a tortoise in the wild with a calcium deficiency unless they are far from their natural habitat. However, some tortoise breeds are more susceptible than others. Even when given a diet rich in high calcium vegetables like kale, a growing tortoise will likely be faced with a calcium deficiency later in life.