Animal Information

Tortoise Poop And Healthy Gut Flora

Call it Poop, Feces or a word we should not say... Do you wonder what tortoise poop should look like?

The normal feces of a tortoise consists of fecal material. This usually appears as an odiferous formed mass consisting of the end products of digestion. The color, consistency, and volume of the feces will vary depending on what the tortoise is ingesting.

But for the most part, the feces will be brown or greenish-brown. A healthy turtle/tortoise produces quite firm, well-formed feces. If they contain undigested food or are runny, then the possibility of parasites should be ruled out by analysis of a stool sample by your vet. If this isn’t the case, then a low fiber diet is the likely culprit.

Tortoises also produce urine and urates. Urine is the liquid portion stored in the urinary bladder. Urine contains waste products and toxins that are filtered from the bloodstream. Reptiles also have one more type of excretion product, called urates or uric acid.

This is the end product of protein digestion and is also stored in the urinary bladder as a creamy, off-white pasty semi-solid. In reptiles, uric acid is cleared from the bloodstream by the kidneys.

When the tortoise urinates, it will pass the liquid urine and the semi-solid urates at the same time. A tortoise may urinate and defecate at the same time, which may leave urate deposits on the fecal material. This will make the feces appear as if it is white or off-white.

Gut Flora… Sounds Like A Bouqette For Your Tummy?

Many turtles and tortoises evolved a rather remarkable gut flora and fauna (bacteria, protozoans, worms). Purging often destroys both good and bad gut flora and fauna that are needed to assist the breakdown of plant material.

animal zoo reptile wild
Photo by Miriam Fischer on

New studies are showing Specifically, turtles and tortoises that are close kin have more similar gut microbiota, which could be due to vertical transfer from mother to offspring or through sibling association.

Biologists are noticing that juvenile tortoises are much more selective in their foraging and that juveniles are born with simple gut microbial communities. Most importantly they have to “diversify” as they grow up.

What makes a good gut? The ingestion of bone, stones, and soil has been observed in a variety of domestic and wild tortoises. As long as you provide a huge variety in the diet, the animal will normally know what to eat and when.

Tortoise Poop Is Important???

There is no doubt that what comes out the working end of a tortoise is rich, fertile, natural fertilizer.

In new research, Dr. Cynthia Froyd of Swansea University took samples of soils throughout the Galapagos and tested them for the types of environments recorded and the species present.

They found that prior to 500 years ago; they found “dung-affiliated” fungi, suggesting a large, plant-eating organism dominated the area. Since there aren’t other options for living in the Galapagos wetlands, the only option was the tortoises.

closeup photo of galapagos tortoise
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Prior to the arrival of man, tortoises roamed freely across the islands but starting in the 16th century, their numbers declined from 250,000 to 14,000 by 1970, and 5 of the original 14 subspecies have gone extinct.

At the same time, wetlands began drying up, a change recorded by the soil samples. About 500 years ago, the tortoise feces vanish, and at the same time, the plants change.

The freshwater wetlands that once populated large areas of the Galapagos dried and the plants supported by those wetlands began dying, disappearing, and even going extinct.

The plants which supported those wetlands relied on the tortoises in several ways, including fertilization and churning up the ground as they walked through. In fact, spreading seeds during the process.

The tortoises were a keystone species. Once they began dying, the entire ecosystem surrounding them died with them.

How You Identify What Kind Of Animal Is Pooping?

Of course, you will see lots of roughage like grass in your tortoise poop. But what about other species of animal?

The first step to identifying pests by droppings is understanding what kind of food the pooper is eating. This can be insects, fruit, grass, rodents, etc.

There are many general categories of animal poop:

  • Small to medium-sized rodents: mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, etc.
  • Larger animals: raccoons, possums, skunks, groundhogs, woodchucks, etc.
  • Insects: cockroaches, termites, and bed bugs
    • Bats: Many different species of bats
    • Reptiles: snakes and lizards

There is a wonderful article full of information. Click here to read…


    1. Sounded great but the dry and liquid part confuses me. There should be liquid because they urinate and poop at the same time. But runny poop is bad in tortoises so be watchful and ask you vet if you have more questions.

      One thing you can do is provide a little Papaya as it is dieretic.

      Thank you for the question.

    2. HELP! My three year old 10 to 12 pound Sulcata just ate 12 or so Croton leaves. Within an hour, an unconsolidated grey or off white feces was emitted, in two hours when we noticed Croton missing he ate half pound of turnip greens, but did not eat all as he usually does. In seven hours appeared normal, and when removed from his house, he returned the 7′ feet and set under heat lamp. Outside ambient temp is 64° with 94% humidity. In his house temp 80 to 85F.
      He appears okay, but I am concerned. What are next steps???

      1. This is a difficult question to answer as I am not able to see your tortoise. For us, we would not be too worried about a few leaves of Codiaeum variegatum plant being digested.

        NOT ideal for the diet, the Croton should just cause minor issues with most animals and tortoises seem to be less affected.

        I would watch for any behavior changes and contact your vet if you are concerned. If there are no signs in a few days, then your sulcata should be just fine. However, I would go through the yard to ensure no poisonous plants are there.

        We have a list of bad plants here at this link…

        Have the best day possible!

  1. In nicer weather (I live in rural western NY)
    I let my 2 year old salcuta tortoise outside in a safe enclosure which my free range chickens also have access to.i have caught Penny eating chicken poop! So I do my best to remove all the poop that I can, when I can. What do you think about that? Could it be fatal? I haven’t found any information on this subject. Looking forward to hearing back from you. I just got her last summer so this is new to me.

    1. Hi Leah,

      That is a great question. We had purchased Rhea birds to raise with the South American tortoises and have noticed both eating each others poo.

      I think these animals know what they need in their diet and there is lots of nutrients in that poop.

      No I think fatality is not an issue. Especially if all are healthy individuals.

      We had recently gotten a chicken that is fighting e-coli so I know that I would not want my torts eating his poop so there are times that it is not a good idea.

      Most turtle people will tell you to allow the tortoise to eat what it wants and the same for the chicken.

      I think this is a system that will work out to be the best for you as they both work together. However, it only works if there is lots of diet choices to eat for them each.

      Raising animals together can be challenging but rewarding also. I think there is a name for it… Collective behavior or something like that?

      Thank you for askin! Good luck! Have the best night!

  2. Help my tortoise i don’t know if she threw it up or it was pooed but he made a meat like substance the size of a penny

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