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Why wont my tortoise eat?
Posted: 11/08/2008 by carly

Please can someone help me?

I am a new tortoise owner and have onlly had my horsfield since Saturday but i already have a problem! i have all the right equipment and i am sure that the temperatures are correct (30-32 decgrees C under heat lamp and 22-24 degrees up the other end of his house) but my tortoise wont eat on his own.

I have been told that he is about 2 years old and was fed on carrots and peas at the shop (i dont think this is nutritious enough) and so i have been offering him, carrot, peas, dandelion, clover, tomato and cress so that he has a choice but he isn't interested. I am really worried about him and cannot understand why he could be doing this...does he need time to settle in to his new home or is there a medical problem behind it? I have hand fed him on a few occations but i dont want to stress him out more and do more damage making him scared to eat.

I did notice that his poo has not been normal and instead of being like the usual "pellet" some of his poo has consisted of undigested carrot and pea ( i can only presume this is the food he was given at the shop where i got him) should i worm him?

Generally he is very active and seems to be a good weight as he doesn't look skinny.


Re: Why wont my tortoise eat?
Posted: 11/08/2008 by tpgNina

Hi Carly,

Well done for trying to get your tortoise on the right track!

First of all, tortoises do take some time to settle in to a new home, so don't get worried if he doesn't eat straight away (and tortoises can go for a long time without eating).

Let's make sure you've got the right set-up and the right diet. I'll give some advice in this message, but if you go to the section called The Tortoise on this website, and click on Care Sheets, you'll find a care sheet for your horsfield, which should give you lots of good advice on diet, housing, etc.

The diet your horsfield was on was a bad one, and that might be why you are seeing funny poos. Horsfields need a diet that is high in fibre and low in protein, so peas (which are high in protein) are not good. A little carrot can be given once in a while, but it should not be a part of your tort's regular diet. And he also shouldn't be having any fruit (and tomato counts as a frui), as his digestive system isn't designed to cope with fruit. What he should be having is weeds and flowers (dandelion, plantain, sothistle, cat's ears, hibiscus, pansies, campanula, evening primrose) - check out the diet recommended in our care sheets and also on this excellent site: (sorry, you'll have to cut and paste it as my browser won't let me post live links on this site).

Your temperatures are pretty much OK (the ideal temps are said to be around 30C at the hot end and 20C at the cool end (and no heat at night). What are you keeping him in? As you will see from the care sheet, vivariums are a no-no (he should be in a 'tortoise table', which has plenty of ventilation so that humidity cannot build up), and your tortoise should also be getting as much natural sunlight, outside, as possible at this time of year. If he is indoors then you need a good source of UVB light (either a fluorescent tube, or one of the combined heat and UVB mercury vapour lamps).

Where did you get the tort from? If it was from a pet shop or other commercial site, then he will have been imported, and will therefore almost certainly have a load of parasites. You can take a fresh sample of his poo to any vet and ask for it to be tested for worms and protozoa (but for anything other than testing, you will need to speak to a vet who specialises in tortoises, so it's a good idea to find one in your area (we have a list of recommended vets on this site, but if you are having problems just let us know and we'll find one near you). Worms are relatively easy to treat, but it must be done properly.

Final question -- you say that he is two years old. Can you measure and weigh him? To measure him put him on a sheet of paper on the floor, with one end of the paper up against the skirting board. Gently push the front of the tortoise up against the wall until his head is retracted and his shell is touching the wall. With a pen, make a mark at the other end (tail end) of the shell on the paper, and then measure that in mm or cm. To weigh him, you can use ordinary kitchen scales. I just ask because it is possible that he is older than two years.

If you can post a photo of him, that would be nice, as it is always lovely to see people's tortoises.

As I said at the beginning (and sorry this has been so long) it is great that you are trying to find out how to give your tortoise the best possible life, and you'll find lots of friendly people with lots of experience and good advice on this site. Horsfields are great tortoises with lots of personality, and I'm sure once he gets settled in, and with the right conditions, you'll find him a changed individual.


Re: Why wont my tortoise eat?
Posted: 11/08/2008 by carly

Hi Nina,

Thank you for getting back to me you have lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders!

Haymish is being kept in a wooden tortoise table with a florescent uvb strip light and a uv heat lamp as i had read that this is the best way to house them.

I got him from Shirley reptile and pet store, i didnt intend to buy a tortoise from them on Saturday i was just finishing buying the bits i needed to keep a tortoise and then i saw Haymish, he was the last tortoise and when i saw the vivarium he was in it made me sad, especially when i saw the food he was eating. In hind site, i shouldn't have got him but i couldn't help it when i saw how miserable he looked.

I have a sachet of wormer for tortoises which you can sprinkle on food or put in water that you bathe them in, i think i will give a it a go this evening and see if that works first?

To be honest, when they told me that he was 2 years old i was not convinced, in my opinion he is quite big for a 2 year old but then i havent had a young tortoise to compare him with. When i get home from wotk this evening i will weigh him and measure him for you, perhaps you could age him more accurately for me? I would say that he is about 3-3 1/2 inches long. My only other concern is with his shell, it is not deformed or anything like that but it seems to be a bit scuffed on top and i am not sure whether this is how it should look?

I probably sound like the worst tortoise owner in the world with all these questions and problems but i really want to get it right for him and make him happy.

Thank you so much for your help, i really appreciate it!

I will load a picture of him shortly

Carly & Haymish

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