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Best Cuttlebone for tortoises

Best Cuttlebone for tortoises

The best cuttlebone for tortoises has to be natural. While Cuttlefish bone may not be a requirement, it is the best source of calcium you can use to supplement your tortoise’s diet.

This material is natural and rich in calcium. In addition to its nutritional benefits, it also helps keep the tortoises’ beaks in shape.

Regardless, cuttlebones that aren’t all-natural are also excellent choices as they help protect the wild cuttlefish populations.

If I had to choose the best cuttlebone for tortoises, I’d choose Zoo Med turtle bones.

These are 100% natural and are relatively affordable. Even if you are having a hard time finding the natural thing, the synthetic ones also work well.

The Penn Plax E2 may not be 100% natural but it is an excellent product. It’s tough, less brittle, and doesn’t have a hard backing.

1. Zoo Med Turtle Bone

These are probably the best brand for turtles. The Zoo Med brand a trustworthy one, and it comes as no surprise that these are excellent cuttlebones.

It isn’t flavored like some of the other products we will have a look at. The turtle bones are natural. Having one in the tortoise’s enclosure at all times is the way to go.

The chelonian can chew on them as needed and the rough surface will trim the beaks. Turtle bones also help curb bad chewing habits.

Tortoises are known to chew on objects in their enclosures such as decorations, and rocks.

Cuttlebones give them something to chew on. And best of all, they are an excellent source of calcium. 

Turtle bones are beautifully packaged in a yellow box. However, the bones don’t come with hard backing removed. To be on the safe side, you may want to remove them before giving them to your pet tortoise.

Pros

  • Turtle bones are beautifully packaged.
  • The cuttlebones you get are all-natural/real.
  • The bones are quite sizable.

Cons

  • These are slightly more expensive.

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2. A&E Cage Cuttlebone

This is a box of cuttlebones. Each box contains about 44 pieces and in all weighs about 5 lbs. The price is also quite affordable. However, these aren’t very clean and do smell like fish.

You would need to boil and sterilize them before offering them to your tortoises. Most of the pieces are 4 to 6 inches in size.

These are natural cuttlebones and come with all the advantages of cuttlebones. The price is also quite affordable as compared to Zoo Med turtle bones. However, the packaging isn’t the best and you have a bit of extra work.

Pros

  • The cuttlebones you get are all-natural/real.
  • The bones are quite sizable (large).
  • They are very affordable.

Cons

  • These are poorly packaged. Although they are poorly packaged, the cuttlebones are real. You will want to boil them before giving them to your turtle as they have a fishy smell.

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3. Living World Cuttlebone

This is another great choice. The cuttlebone itself is huge (6 to 7 inches). And the price is affordable. As such, you can try it out and see if your tortoise enjoys it before ordering more.

Similar to most commercially packaged cuttlebones, it has a holder attached to it. This is for bird cages.

Since tortoises don’t need them, remember to remove the holder before offering the cuttlebone to your pet. You don’t want your tortoise to harm itself on this metallic holder.

Pros

  • The cuttlebones you get are all-natural/real.
  • The bones are large.
  • They are very affordable.
  • They are nicely packaged.

Cons

  • None.

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Alternatives to cuttlebone for tortoises

There are several commercially produced supplements that offer the same benefits as cuttlebone – trimming the turtle’s beak and providing calcium. One of these is the tortoise block.

1. Zoo Med Tortoise Block

This is a block-shaped calcium supplement. To apply to tortoises it contains cactus and vegetables. It also provides calcium. Just like cuttlebone, this tortoise block is chalky and hard.

The hardness and texture also help keep the tortoise’s beak in shape. This is a great source for tortoises that refuse cuttlebone.

Since this tastes and smells more like vegetables, it is bound to attract the attention of your pet tortoises. 

Pros

  • These contain real plant matter. This may attract the tortoise to it.
  • They are well-packaged.

Cons

  • They just aren’t real cuttlebones. If your tortoise refuses cuttlebones, this may just be the right option for you.

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2. Penn Plax E2

This isn’t an all-natural cuttlebone. It is made up of just 40% cuttlebone. The cuttlebone is pressed calcium powder. It is however rock hard, and you don’t need to worry about it crumbling.

In fact, Penn Plax E2 is less brittle than actual cuttlebone. This product will definitely give your tortoise’s beak a proper workout.

The packaging is great and it’s easy to use. You also don’t need to worry about removing any hard backing or boiling it.

It is also enriched with minerals. Since it isn’t real cuttlebone, it’s also generally more affordable.

Pros

  • These are enriched with minerals and vitamins such as vitamin B.
  • They are well-packaged.
  • They are very affordable.
  • They are less brittle than actual cuttlebones.

Cons

  • They just aren’t real cuttlebones. This may be a deal-breaker to some. However, tortoises don’t seem to know the difference and they enjoy it all the same.

Buy it on Amazon

Cuttlebone Buying Guide for Tortoises

Humans have been feeding cuttlebones to their pets since the times of the Ancient Romans. There are several ways to find cuttlebones. One of the easiest is to buy them online.

We have mentioned several brands including Zoo Med’s turtle bone. This comes in a variety of sizes and quantities and is relatively easy to find. You can also find other brands such as Penn Plax E2 and A&E Cage, both discussed in this article, online. 

Cuttlefish bones can also be found in pet shops. If you live in a place where cuttles are scarce, the prices can be quite steep. However, for most people around the world, the prices are usually meager.

You can even find cuttlefish bones on beaches. This is if you live where they are common. They generally litter the shores in large numbers. Once you have collected these, I recommend boiling them for about 5 mins before offering them to the tortoise.

Cuttlebones can withstand heat very well, so they should be just fine after the whole boiling process. Tortoises seem very fond of cuttlebones and as such is an excellent solution.

I don’t recommend buying in bulk your first time. Not all tortoises enjoy cuttlebones. Some may even take a while to warm up to it. Try just one with your tortoise, if it enjoys it, then you can get more.

When buying cuttlebones online, I recommend that you go for one which is well-packaged. The shipping process can sometimes be brutal. You don’t want to end up with many broken pieces of cuttlebones. 

Where do cuttlebones come from?

Cuttlebone, also known as cuttlefish bone, is actually not a bone but rather a shell. This shell comes from the cuttlefish which is a mollusk.

Also known as cuttles, cuttlefish are mollusks that belong to the class Cephalopoda and the order Sepiida.

Naitolises, octopuses, and squids all belong to the class Cephalopoda. The shell of the cuttlefish is internal and helps keep the cephalopod afloat.

The shell is filled with gases and control buoyancy. Cuttlebone is made of aragonite which is a type of calcium carbonate.

While uncommon in the Americas (as they aren’t found there), cuttlefish is quite common in the English Channel and many other coastal waters around the world.

These fish are harvested for many different purposes including jewelry making (cuttlefish casting), lime production, as calcium-rich dietary supplements for pets including tortoises, and for medicinal purposes.

Interestingly enough, cuttlebone is usually a byproduct and not the main reason for harvesting cuttlefish. Cuttlefish is usually harvested for food with cuttlebone being collected as a byproduct.

Additionally, cuttlebones usually wash up on beaches since it floats and is the last part of the cuttlefish to disintegrate after death. These shells are harvested and sold to pet shops all over the world.

The most common source of cuttlebone is the common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis). Some other cuttlefishes include the pharaoh cuttlefish (S. pharaonis), elegant cuttlefish (S. elegans), giant cuttlefish (S. apama), broadclub cuttlefish (S. latimanus), and hooded cuttlefish (S. prashadi).

Why should you give your tortoises a cuttlebone?

cuttle bone for tortoises
Cuttle bone on white background

Cuttlebones are popular among birdkeepers, not so much among tortoise keepers although tortoises generally find them tasty. So why should you even consider offering your chelonians cuttlebones?

They are high in calcium

Interestingly, cuttlebones are so high in calcium that they are even used in commercial calcium supplements for reptiles. 

Feeding your pet tortoise enough calcium can be easy or difficult. Some tortoises will avoid foods sprinkled with calcium powder.

Some too may avoid foods high in calcium such as dandelion leaves, hibiscus flowers and leaves, and grape leaves.

This can make meeting their recommended calcium intake difficult and chelonians have to eat enough calcium.

If you want to prevent nutritional metabolic bone disease and shell deformities like pyramidng, one of the best ways to offer your tortoise more calcium is through cuttlebones. Chelonians in general seem to love cuttlebone. 

They help prevent overgrown beaks

Wild tortoises wear down their beaks and claws with use. Captive tortoises however tend to have overgrown beaks and claws. Providing the turtle with a cuttlebone is one way to help wear down the beaks.

Cuttlebone is quite tough and rough. The chewing process helps keep the beaks trimmed. Overgrown beaks can be a huge issue and even prevent the tortoise from eating.

Trimming a turtle’s beak isn’t always easy as the tortoise won’t always stay still.

Check out our guide for more about beaks and trimming.

They help keep tortoise occupied

In the wild, tortoises don’t do much. They usually spend most of their time foraging for suitable food. They can cover large distances looking for food. In captivity, they don’t need to do this as we provide them with food.

With little to do, the tortoise may be bored. Tortoise is food motivated, and having cuttlebone available is a way to keep them occupied as they chew on it.

How to prepare cuttlebone for your tortoise

If you buy cuttlebone from a store, these are usually packaged and clean.  The cuttlebone may even come with the hardshell removed.

However, not all cuttlebones come packaged. Generally, cuttlebones picked from a beach need to be cleaned. Even some that are purchased from stores need to be cleaned.

It’s good practice to clean them before giving them to your tortoise.

Start by boiling the cuttlebone. Once you have picked up the cuttlebone from the beach, you may want to boil it for a few minutes. About 5 to 10 mins. After that, air dry them.

You may want to remove the hard shell before offering it to your chelonian. This shell has a plasticky feel to it and can cut the tortoise. Remove this hardback with a pair of scissors or even a knife.

Conclusion

So what is a cuttlebone? Although called a bone, this material is actually the internal shell of cuttlefish which is actually a mollusk.

Regardless, this shell is high in calcium and is the perfect way to increase the calcium content of your tortoise’s diet.

Cuttlebones are an excellent source of calcium and should be on the diet of all captive tortoises.

Our top two recommendations are Zoo Med turtle bones which are natural and the alternative Penn Plax E2 which is not 100% natural but is more durable.

It can take anywhere between a week to a month before the tortoise can finish the bone.

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