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Nutrient Analysis of Replacement Turtle and Tortoise Foods - Darrell M. Senneke

(updated 06/02/2004)

 

Copyright 2003, 2004 World Chelonian Trust. All rights reserved


The following material has been abstracted from the excellent information provided by the:

(link will open in new window) 

Not all listings on plant content agree. Nutrient content in plants can vary according to local conditions.  These data are from the sources indicated above, other sources may offer different totals. 

The tables following the text are offered as a tool to help you formulate a good dietary program for your turtle or tortoise. The keynotes to remember are that you want to provide a high fiber, low protein diet that also has the highest possible Calcium / Phosphorus ratio. 

Oxalic Acid:

Exceptions to the high calcium, low phosphorus rule are members of the Chenopodiacea family, which includes beet greens, spinach and chard.  The oxalic acid content of these greens bind calcium into calcium oxalate, which is an insoluble compound unavailable for metabolism. Lambsquarters (Purslane) also contains an unacceptable amount of oxalic acid and should only be fed sparingly.  Oxalic acid warnings tend to be somewhat overdone. It is true that one should avoid foods that are high in oxalic acid but as a part of a varied diet, small amounts of this are not a danger. What SHOULD be avoided are diets based heavily on plants containing high concentrations of this acid.   I have included a second table after the main nutrition section of this piece showing some of the plants with what can be considered high oxalic acid contents.   It should also be noted that young plants have a lower oxalic acid content than mature samplings. In addition to this one must look at both the amount of oxalic acid AND the amount of calcium. A plant can be fairly high in oxalic acid but have this offset by being exceptionally high in calcium.    Further confusing this issue is that reptiles make their own vitamin C, and vitamin C can be oxidized to oxalic acid. This oxidation is inhibited by vitamin B6 which is one of many good reasons to provide  vitamin and mineral supplementation as well as a varied diet.  

 

Goitrogenic Compounds:

Goitrogenic compounds inhibit the uptake of iodine by the body, and poisoning is indicated by an increase in the size of the thyroid gland, which is clinically recognized as a goiter. There has also been some indication that members of the Brassica family, which includes cabbage, collards, kale and broccoli can cause goiter if fed in excess amounts, but the feeding of a varied diet that is not heavily based on these plants should offset this tendency. If in doubt about this a small amount of dried or powdered kelp can be added to offset this by increasing the amount of iodine in the diet. Many keepers make use of Brassica with no ill effect.

 

Useless Plants:

I wish to draw attention to one plant that is included in the first table in particular:  Iceberg lettuce has often been used as a base food for tortoises.  As can be seen in the table it at best can be considered an empty food. It is low in fiber and has a bad Calcium to Phosphorous ratio as well.  In addition to this tortoises often become addicted to it causing massive long term damage and much difficulty in breaking the "habit".

 

Vitamins and Minerals:

It must be remembered that in addition to any dietary program that regular use of a calcium based supplement with vitamin D3 if the animal is maintained indoors and Calcium without D3 if maintained outdoors is strongly advised. Vitamin complexes or supplementation of the diet with a commercial food enriched with vitamins and minerals is also suggested.

I have highlighted the foods that incorporate the above criteria, that being the combination of high fiber, low protein, a high Calcium to Phosphorus ratio and a lack of high oxalic acid content. Not all of the plants listed are recommended, many are included simply because they are often fed. Plants that are recommended are highlighted in bold. The use of these foods as a base for your tortoise's dietary management will go a long way to promoting NATURAL GROWTH.  As mentioned elsewhere on this site naturally occurring foods are in the main superior to anything that can be purchased from a store and should be heavily relied upon when available.

Food Item

Size 
1 lb = 
453gms

Calories

Protein

 grams

Carb. gms.

Fiber gms

Cal. mg

Phos. mg

Vitamin A IU

Vitamin C mg

Water %

ALFALFA-SPROUTS

1 lb

131.54

18.14

17.24

11.34

145.15

317.51

703.06

37.19

91.1

AMARANTH

1 lb

104.19

11.14

18.26

N/A

973.00

276.00

13214.01

196.15

91.7

APPLE-RAW-W/SKIN

1 lb

267.62

0.91

69.4

12.25

31.75

31.75

240.40

25.85

83.9

BROCCOLI - RAW

1 lb

126.84

13.49

23.78

13.59

217.4

298.9

6985

422.2

90.69

CABBAGE - RAW

1 lb

113.4

6.35

24.49

10.43

213.19

104.33

603.27

146.06

92.2

CANTALOPE

1 lb

158.76

4.08

38.10

3.63

49.89

77.11

14623.74

191.41

89.8

CARROTS-BABY

1 lb

172.36

3.63

37.19

N/A

104.33

172.36

8944.79

38.10

89.8

CHARD-SWISS

1 lb

86.18

8.16

16.78

7.26

231.33

208.65

14968.47

136.08

92.7

CHICORY

1 lb

104.33

7.71

21.32

18.14

453.59

213.19

18143.6

108.86

92.0

COLLARDS - RAW

1 lb

140.61

7.26

32.20

16.78

131.54

45.36

15104.55

105.69

90.6

CORN-SWEET

1 lb

390.09

14.51

86.18

12.25

9.07

403.7

1274.59

30.84

76.0

DANDELION

1 lb

204.12

12.25

41.73

15.88

848.21

299.37

63502.6

158.76

85.6

DAY LILY

1 lb

190.26

9.0

N/A

N/A

394.11

797.28

13590

398.64

N/A

DAY LILY FLOWERS

1 lb

190.26

9.0

N/A

N/A

394.11

797.28

13590

398.64

N/A

DUCKWEED

1 lb

81.54

9.51

N/A

N/A

643.26

18.12

2536

22.65

N/A

ENDIVE

1 lb

77.11

5.9

15.42

14.06

235.87

127.01

9298

29.48

93.8

FIGS

1 lb

335.2

3.39

86.88

14.95

158.55

63.42

643.2

9.06

79.1

GRAPE LEAVES

1 lb

421.3

25.37

78.37

49.83

1644.39

412.23

122278

50.28

73.3

GRAPES-AMERICAN

1 lb

285.76

2.72

78.02

4.54

63.50

45.36

453.59

18.14

81.3

GRAPES-EUROPEAN

1 lb

322.05

3.18

80.74

4.54

49.89

58.97

331.12

48.99

80.6

JICAMA

1lb

172.14

3.26

39.95

22.19

54.36

81.54

95.13

91.56

97.0

KALE

1 lb

226.8

14.97

45.36

9.07

612.35

254.01

40369.51

544.31

84.5

KELP

1 lb

194.79

7.61

43.35

5.88

761.04

190.26

525.48

13.59

81.6

LAMBSQUARTERS

1 lb

194.79

19.02

33.07

18.12

1399.79

326.16

52548

362..4

84.3

LETTUCE-ICEBERG

1 lb

58.97

4.54

9.53

6.35

86.18

90.72

1496

17.69

95.9

LETTUCE-LOOSELEAF

1 lb

81.65

5.9

15.88

8.62

308.44

113.4

8618.21

81.65

94

LETTUCE-ROMAINE

1 lb

72.57

7.26

10.89

10.89

163.29

204.12

11793.34

108.86

94.9

MANGO

1 lb

294.45

2.31

77.01

8.14

45.3

49.83

17639

125.48

81.7

MUSTARD-GREENS

1 lb

117.93

12.25

22.23

9.07

467.2

195.04

24040.27

317.51

90.8

PRICKLYPEAR-FRUIT

1 lb

185.97

3.18

43.54

16.33

254.01

108.86

231.33

63.50

87.6

PRICKLYPEAR-PADS

1 lb

72.48

5.79

15.35

10.41

738.39

77.01

1879

60.70

93.9

PUMPKIN

1 lb

117.78

4.53

29.44

2.26

95.13

199.32

7248

40.77

91.6

PUMPKIN LEAVES

1 lb

86.07

14.27

10.55

N/A

176.67

471.12

8797

49.83

92.9

PUMPKIN FLOWERS

1 lb

67.95

4.66

14.86

N/A

176.67

221.97

8819

126.84

95.1

SPINACH

1 lb

99.79

13.15

15.88

12.25

449.05

222.26

30458.57

127.46

91.6

 SPINACH; NEW ZEALAND

1 lb

63.50

6.80

0.91

N/A

263.08

127.01

19957.9

136.08

94.0

STRAWBERRIES

1 lb

136.08

2.72

31.75

10.43

63.50

86.18

122.47

257.19

91.6

TOMATO-RIPE

1 lb

95.25

4.08

20.87

4.99

22.68

108.86

2825.87

86.64

93.8

TURNIP GREENS

1lb

122.47

6.80

25.85

N/A

861.82

190.51

34472

272.15

91.1

YAM

1 lb

535.24

6.80

126.55

18.6

77.11

249.47

N/A

77.56

69.6

WATERCRESS

1 lb

49.89

10.43

5.9

10.43

544.31

272.15

21318.73

195.04

95.1

ZUCCHINI

1 lb

63.42

5.25

13.13

5.44

67.95

144.96

1540.2

40.77

95.3

Food Item

Size 
1 lb = 453gms

Calories

Protein
grams

Carb.
gms.


Fiber 
gms

Cal. mg

Phos. mg

Vitamin A IU

Vitamin C mg

Water
%

 

Vegetable

Oxalic acid (g/100 g)

Calcium (g/100g)
     
Parsley 1.70 0.138
Purslane 1.31 0.065
Amaranth 1.09 0.215
Spinach .97 0.099
Beet leaves .61 0.119
Carrot .50 0.027
Collards .45 0.029
Brussels sprouts .36 0.042
Watercress .31 0.120

 


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