Archive for July 2015

How to Get Picky Turtles and Tortoises to Eat

tortoise food

I see a lot of posts on social media about how picky their turtle is. I just wanted to share some info from my perspective. My husband and I have been doing reptile, insect, bird and small furred animal rescue for 25 years. We hand make every diet using no commercial pet store items. We see no reason to patron pet stores when they are one of the reasons we take in so many animals.  We take in animals from police departments and private people and specialize in special needs and animals with long term previous poor care, especially for turtles where we are taking in up to 100 a year.

Sulcata tortoise eating

When we take them in, we worm them, trim nails and  beaks and get them started on a proper diet in a proper setup. No glass tank where they can spend their lives trying claw out and their health can fail because of it. No gravel or bark chip bedding as turtles and tortoises need high humidity depending species and love to dig. No dried insects where the nutritional value is compromised. We use planted enclosures with humidity hides, plastic shoeboxes with a hole cut in it with wet substrate, deep water bowls like plastic shoeboxes, 6 to 12 inch deep peat moss substrate and outside enclosures as well planted with grasses such as what is found on Tortoise Supply.

tortoise eating flowers

When we make our foods, we place kale, dandelion, radish, blueberries, mushrooms, apple, carrots and other veggies and fruit in a food processor until the pieces are about the size of a pea, we then mix in calcium and a probiotic vitamin such as what is on with it. We never ever sprinkle it on top. We do however, sprinkle live mealworms on top and they wiggle down into the food forcing the turtle to dig through the food. This diet can also be frozen in baggies and thawed out when needed.

When done this way it takes a maximum of a month for even the most difficult turtles to come around to eating each and every bite.

How to Get Picky Turtles and Tortoises to Eat

We can’t afford to allow any of the animals in our care to be picky. They need every bite of nutrition they can get.  Eventually, they will eat larger pieces of anything we put in their enclosures with no hesitation. We can place a halved Apple in there or a zucchini whole and they accept it well. I like the Tortoise Library for ideas on enrichment for feeding.   We feed the bearded dragons and turtles and tortoises this way. Too many animals are being fed daily in a bowl and have behavior issues because of it. Enclosures are clean and boring day after day. Mixing things up, enrichment, using them in classrooms for an educational presentation, switching enclosures around daily, putting rocks in there for them to climb and much much more.  When we feed new parrots we feed the same way minus the vitamin and just add sprouts. We feed the rodents the same way minus the calcium. Just wanted to share my experience and say your turtles should not be picky and there are many ways to get around that.


Kim Theurer runs the Pipe Dreams Aviary rescue in Oregon.  She is always available for questions or comments on Facebook or you can visit her rescue’s website, Pipe Dreams Aviary. Please take a look at their supplies needed page and see if you’re able to help out in some way. 

What to Get for Pet #ReptileCare

This post is sponsored by petMD Reptile Center, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Reptile Ownership, but HerpetoBotanical only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. petMD and PetSmart are not responsible for the content of this article.

reptile care petMD
If you’re brand new to reptiles or have only had one or two, getting a new reptile may be overwhelming. But the basics are pretty similar for most reptiles. What you need for proper pet reptile care can easily be found online at places like the Reptile Purchase Center online or in pet stores.

The basics can be broken down into these categories: housing, substrate, heating and lighting, water and humidity, and food. You will need to research the specifics of whatever species you’re interested in getting to determine exactly what they will need, but I’ll outline the basics below, and help you understand what factors to consider for each item.


A lot of people think you can stick every reptile in an aquarium and it’ll be suitable. While a lot of species do great in an adequately sized tank, some animals need different enclosures. Chameleons, for example, will do better in screen enclosures, and tortoises do better in enclosures that they can’t see out of, like a tortoise table.

Size is also important. Frequently “bigger is better” will apply to your new pet, but it doesn’t apply to all of them. Some animals get overwhelmed by too much space or have difficulty finding food if it’s spread out too wide. Ambush hunters, such as Pacman frogs, may have trouble eating if there’s enough room for their prey to avoid them.

Also, consider security. Some tanks and lids will need additional latches.

tomato frog #reptilecare


Choosing the right substrate is very important to the health of your reptile. The type of substrate you choose will also tie into the humidity factors. Some species will do best with moss or coconut coir. Others may do better on rock or tile. Sometimes a combination of the two will be ideal. If you’re going for more utilitarian, some reptiles may do well on aspen shavings or other man-made bedding.

More advanced methods of reptile substrate are available. Bioactive substrate is what I aim for in my frog enclosures.


Heating and Lighting

Heating and lighting is crucial to maintaining proper body temperature and health. Heat lamps and under tank heaters are great ways to raise the ambient temperature of an enclosure. You’ll need a reliable thermometer to be sure the temperature remains in the right range.

In addition to providing heat, bulbs can provide UVB rays, which is important for many reptiles. Not all bulbs provide UVB, so if it’s required for the species you’re considering, make sure you look for a bulb that provides it. If you’re planting live foliage, you’ll need to consider the plants’ requirements as well.

pet reptile care

Water and Humidity

Consider the natural habitat of the animal you’re getting. Water may be a large requirement. Some animals do great with just a bowl of water, but others will need much larger water sources, possibly even fully aquatic. Some will need higher humidity. You can buy automatic misters to help with this.



Make sure you’re familiar with the specific diet of the species you’re thinking about getting. Some may require diets that you’re not comfortable with, such as feeding mice to snakes or insects to frogs or lizards. The reptile care center at petMD® has an infographic about reptile diet and nutrition that can start your research.


Whatever reptile you decide to go with, these factors will all play a part in their health. Researching reptile care and preparing ahead of time will help you start out on the right foot and keep your new reptile healthy.