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Ela's avatar

Can you over feed a turtle?

Asked by Ela (6503points) December 22nd, 2012

My son brought home the turtle from his science class on Friday to care for over Christmas break. He (the turtle) had one bowl of food and no water dish. I panicked. I know nothing about turtles but I figured all animals need water, right? And how was one dish of food going to last two weeks?!

I called the school and luckily was able to reach his science teacher before she left. She told me this particular turtle was native to the desert and he gets his water from his food so there is no need for a water dish. She also told me he only eats and goes to the bathroom like twice a month. I asked her if there was anything else we needed to know in regards to his care and she assured me there wasn’t. We could let him crawl around and he wouldn’t mess on the floor, he likes dark places, he hides under his paper (in his pen) a lot, and that he loves Roman lettuce.

Well… one day later he has ate over half of his food and an entire lettuce leaf (which he scarfed right down!) and is working on another. He sure seems to be eating a lot…

Like I said, I know absolutely nothing about turtles. Can you over feed them or is this just one of his eating cycles? Do they even have eating cycles? I don’t want him to be hungry but I also don’t want to make him sick.

Any info would be greatly appreciated.

(I’m not sure if the teacher told me what kind of turtle he was. If she did I don’t remember and my son doesn’t know.)

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32 Answers

Unbroken's avatar

I have a friend who has had a turtle forever. I have seem him the thing and it can eat quite a bit. Not sure as to feeding cycles.

But I am fairly certain that you can’t make a turtle do anything and they have been feeding themselves quite well. I will text him to be sure but he may have gone to bed.

Ela's avatar

Thanks : ) Yeah I’ve heard they live forever. He’s eaten even more of his food and more lettuce and is now hiding in his log looking pissed off at me… LoL : (

He’s actually kinda cute. I never knew a turtle could be so entertaining.

Sunny2's avatar

Be glad it wasn’t a rabbit your child got to take home. They bite, defecate where ever they want to, and the one we were privileged to have, would fall asleep sitting up and fall over, clunk, on its side. We failed to find it at all endearing.

Ela's avatar

The falling over asleep would be hilarious, imo! LoL
I’m glad it’s not the rats. For some reason he really wants to bring them home and I can’t stand rodents. I shut myself in my bedroom when our gerbil busted out of his ball! I just sat on my bed a freaked out for like 10 minutes until I finally recouped and caught it in a laundry basket. geesh…

Unbroken's avatar

Ok well he’s not responding tonight. He’ll probably contact me tomorrow.

They are cute, but since they apparently never stop growing I would not like that nightmare. Living forever and needing an ever expanding play area.

I have to wonder how many just become turtle soup.

@Sunny2 I hate rabbits for pets. Imagine forcing one on a child and not asking the parents ahead of time. Scandalous.

Ok same applies for turtles too. But they require so little attention. For the immune compromised or very young or old one should be aware that they carry soumanella (sp) and all members handling it should wash their hands thoroughly after.

zensky's avatar

Turtles are usually opportunistic feeders. In other words, they grab it when they can because they really aren’t sure when they might get the chance to eat again. Do not be fooled——turtles will learn to recognize you and any food containers you have. They will quickly have you trained! Overfeeding is one of the most common mistakes in captive care. Keep in mind that they are not always hungry…but they are always looking for a meal because it’s how they survive in the wild. They don’t know that you are going to feed them routinely, so keep a regular schedule and try not to veer from it.

More here from Turtle Care

Ela's avatar

@zensky He came with one dish of food for two weeks and it’s already almost gone…
I really hope I don’t kill this thing : (

zensky's avatar

@Ela A dish can be many sizes, amount of foods vary as does the type and size of turtle. Please read up on it and you make the correct decision. I don’t ‘t have a turtle. Haven’t had one in 40 years. But I decided to look it up for you. Now it’s up to you.


Ela's avatar

@zensky Thanks for the link. I read it through and now am confused why the teacher would fill a 5” saucer type dish with food and send him out for two weeks. It seems they need some regulation as far as meals is concerned.
I’ll shred up some carrots for him and feed him that and lettuce until I can get buy some turtle food. No way in hell am I feeding him worms or slugs.

The teacher basically said toss him some lettuce and clean paper and he’ll be fine. Don’t poke him in the head hole or hold him upside down.
Now I gotta worry about his diet and my kids getting salmonella

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

I had a turtle a few years back..I wasn’t very good at it. I ended up giving it to my daughters classroom for something for them to look forward to. :/

Don’t fret. I don’t actually think you can make a turtle sick, but don’t quote me on that. If it doesn’t want to eat it won’t. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I don’t know if I would suggest buying turtle pellets, cuz what if you get the wrong kind? :/ If you truly think he’s hungry you can give him an abundance of lettuce and stuff, that’s what I’d do.

And don’t worry about the salmonella, remember this turtle is in your kids classroom, right? So I’m sure the teacher has taught them the rule about always washing their after handling the turtle and you just have to be vigilant at home about that now and make it a rule. Write it on a piece of paper and post it near the turtle if you have to as a reminder for you and the family.

Happy turtle holidays!

“BTW, do you remember exactly what kind of turtle it is?”: I thought desert turtles were endangered

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Ela's avatar

@nofurbelowsbatgirl The teacher just told me he was native to the desert, therefore he didn’t need any water.
Thanks for your reply and the link!

ucme's avatar

Maybe you can, this would be a shell-fish act however.

Dutchess_III's avatar

(This made me laugh out loud!)

Dutchess_III's avatar

BTW, are they meat eaters? I know owls get their water from their food too, and liver has a LOT of water in it.

Ela's avatar

I’m not sure @Dutchess_III. The teacher only mentioned lettuce.
He just keeps mowin’ down the lettuce like the poor little fella is starvin’ : (

glacial's avatar

I don’t know anything about turtles, but after reading this thread, I’m beginning to wonder if the teacher actually knows how to properly care for the turtle.

Ela's avatar

@glacial Cha, me too!
Yesterday he had some white powdery stuff in his tub. No idea where that can from. <thud>
The rats are starting to look pretty darn good…

Dutchess_III's avatar

Lettuce is good….and there is a lot of water in lettuce. What kid of turtle is it?
(I like this part “Never ever feed your turtle hamburger, hot dogs and other junk food that you may love to munch on. After all, your turtle’s health comes first.” Yeah…save the crap for the kids! :) )

Ela's avatar

@Dutchess_III No idea what kind he is. Here are a couple of pics of him.

We’ve made it through week one. Yay! He’s eating 1–2 lettuce leafs a day (he goes to town after ‘em like he’s starving). I shredded up some carrots for him, which he also ate. He has pooped and peed all over his tub by the last two mornings (so much for not going to the bathroom often!)

glacial's avatar

He’s a tortoise, not a turtle. :/

I’m glad to hear he’s doing better!

Ela's avatar

@glacial LoL no wonder he’s always lookin’ pissed off at me!
Thanks for the link!!

glacial's avatar

Haha! Sounds like he indeed has an “appealing, pugnacious temperament”!

Ela's avatar

Yuppers, that’s him! And it’s tail is tucked so it is a him (which I will have to tell my son ‘cuz he said it was a her). I don’t know about the mating bump since I refuse to touch him. LoL : (
Omg he’s just as ugly cute as the one in the pic there!

“usually lives in dry areas with sparse vegetation.” probably why he eats the lettuce like a little turtle-pig

glacial's avatar

You’ll be able to give a presentation in your son’s class when he goes back. :)

Ela's avatar

Oooooo… he just gived me a dirty look : (
It’s funny to see him look over his shell at me <hee hee>

Maybe in my public speaking class next term. Assuming I survive the first day : \

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

He’s eating 1–2 lettuce leafs a day (he goes to town after ‘em like he’s starving).

Maybe the teacher doesn’t really know the TORTOISE at all, and was actually starving the poor thing :(

glacial's avatar

There’s a lot of information to be found – google “russian tortoise care sheet”, and you’ll find a lot of brief explanations (and also YouTube videos) of how to care for them. I notice that a few of them warn against overfeeding, e.g. ”... if kept in an indoor pen they get less exercise than in the wild. These 2 factors can lead to rapid growth and a shortened life span. For this reason their diet should be restricted.” (Source), but I haven’t yet seen one that specifies a quantity. The sheet I just linked says this: “I prefer to feed them as much as they will eat in twenty minutes….daily. I have also fed them as much as they would eat in an hour… every other day. Both methods work.”

I also noticed this: “If you see a white discharge when your tortoise poops this is urates. Urates are excess proteins being excreted. As long as they are coming out looking more like slime they are okay, this means your tortoise is hydrated. If they begin to get pasty or gritty the tortoise is dehydrated and should be soaked more often and also check your substrate to make sure it’s not drying out.” (Source), which reminded me of something you said earlier about “white stuff”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, did he survive the holidays?? Don’t tortoises get REALLY huge?

Ela's avatar

@Dutchess_III He did! And he is happily back at school. I miss him! The little wrinkly prehistoric, so homely he is adorable bugger! I never knew tortoises could be so entertaining!! Omgosh he was so funny!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Cool, Ela!!

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