If you own a pet tortoise, naturally you are going to have some questions on what they can and cannot eat. What are the best vegetables to serve can be a little confusing – especially when there are foods that we eat that can be toxic to our torts. But what about asparagus? Where does this fit in and can we offer it? Having spent some time researching around, I’d like to share with you my findings here today.
So, can tortoises eat asparagus? Most tortoise species can and enjoy eating asparagus. It is however, recommended to offer it in small servings and in moderation. While asparagus can provide some important nutrients and offer dietary variety – it can have a diuretic effect and lead to dehydration if eaten in excess.
Its important to consider that there are many different tortoise species; each having their own unique dietary requirements and nutritional needs.
Therefore, as a tortoise owner, its crucial to be aware of the species you currently, or are looking to own. It is only from there in which you can accurately decide what foods are going to be best in their diet.
Most tortoises species do best eating mostly plants, but it is true that the diet of each species is dependent on their native environments and what they have evolved to eat. For this reason, it can be observed that in some species, more fruits may be eaten than in others. It all depends o what is available in their native ecosystem.
As an owner, you must ensure your tortoises diet is close to the diet that they would eat in the wild.
Tortoises will eat most of the vegetables you offer, so you do need to be careful to avoid toxic plants.
Let us now take a closer look at asparagus in particular; what species do best consuming it, how much and the benefits and risks to be aware of.
Do Tortoises Eat Asparagus?
Tortoises are known to generally enjoy eating asparagus when it is provided. Many owners report that there seems to be additional enthusiasm, if it has been prepared and cut up first. This makes it easier for a tort to eat.
That being said, not all tortoises will eat asparagus, regardless of how it is provided. This is something you will need to find out for yourself.
Either way, the best time to introduce new foods to the diet is when they are very young, and before they have developed preferences.
So, if you can, this would be the ideal time to introduce asparagus. Just be sure to do so in very small amounts at first. You can always increase the serving size as they get used to the food, grow, and provide you with feedback as to whether or not they enjoy consuming it.
Now, the reason why there appears to be such a fondness for asparagus is for the same reason as why they appear to like all other vegetables.
Tortoises generally eat whatever is available to them, even if it’s harmful. This is what they have evolved to do. In the wild, we can observe this behavior. Tortoises browse and eat whatever is available.
They slowly make their way over quite a large area and along the way, graze and take small quantities of a very wide variety of seasonally available food.
By doing this, they obtain a well-balanced diet with a healthy supply of vitamins and minerals. These all work to support their health; whether this be supporting reproduction, healthy bone development or shell strength.
Therefore, its natural for a tortoise to eat a variety; especially of plants and vegetation.
And as you can imagine, tortoises come from a variety of different natural environments and habitats. The plants and vegetation available to them differs by what is able to grow.
This is why the different species we keep as pets differ in terms of dietary needs and preferences.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of us as owners to ensure we feed the best foods for our tortoise species. Speaking with a veterinarian to understand the optimal diet for your specific species is one of the best things that you can do.
Having said this, for most tortoise species that we keep as pets, vegetables and plant matter should make up a large part of the diet. It is mainly with fruits and protein that there can be a larger variance.
Should Tortoises Eat Asparagus?
Let us now take a closer look at whether we should look to offer asparagus. We know they will likely want to eat some if provided, but does this mean they should? Taking the health benefits and risks into account can help us come to a more rounded decision.
Asparagus in small amounts, is considered safe for tortoises to consume.
While, asparagus should not be the only vegetable you offer your tortoise, it does deserve its place.
The following table outlines the nutrition available, per asparagus spear (~20 grams):
|of which sugars||0.37 g|
|Vitamin C||1.12 mg|
|Vitamin K||8.32 µg|
First and foremost, asparagus is low calorie, low carbohydrate and low fat. From a purely energy perspective, this is beneficial for your tortoise.
From there, asparagus contains small amounts of micro-nutrients including, zinc, riboflavin, and iron.
It’s rich in vitamin K, a vital nutrient involved in bone health and blood clotting. This vegetable is high in folates, an essential nutrient in the process of DNA formation and cell growth.
Asparagus is also a rich source of antioxidants that protects cells from the adverse effects of oxidative stress and free radicals.
Asparagus is high in both types of fiber, which is necessary for good digestive health. It is exceptionally high in insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to stool and supports regular bowel movements. It also contains some soluble fiber, which feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut.
Asparagus plays a role in strengthening your tortoise’s immune system.
While these are all great benefits; you do need to exercise caution. There are risks that come with over consumption of this particular vegetable.
If your tortoise was to eat a little more asparagus than they should, there should not be any significant long-term health complications. These only occur with frequent, consistent overfeeding.
However, overeating asparagus may cause your tortoise to urinate more than usual. This is known a diuretic effect (loss of water). Losing too much water, especially too quickly, can lead to dehydration which we must look to avoid.
Additionally, eating too much asparagus can lead to your tortoise feeling gassy and bloated (due to the high fiber content), making them uncomfortable.
The key here is not to allow your tortoise to overdo it with asparagus. In the following section we will help to ensure you do not do so!
How Much Asparagus Can Tortoises Eat?
How much asparagus your tortoise can eat depends on their size. A small tortoise may only manage to eat a few leaves from the bulb. Larger tortoises might handle one un-sliced asparagus spears quite well.
Asparagus is suitable as a treat, but it’s not for every day, not to mention it’s quite an expensive vegetable to buy.
One of the main benefits of asparagus is that it comes in a bunch of ‘spears’. This makes it automatically easier for portion control. Generally, an adult tortoise can look to eat about a spear a week.
As I’ve been keen to emphasize throughout this article, you must study up on your specific tortoise species to ensure you are including asparagus as part of a proper diet for them.
Most tortoises consume vegetables and leafy greens, but the ratios in which they consume these foods will differ. Most tortoise species require supplements as getting these right through foods alone is too much of a challenge if not impossible. When doing so, make sure you offer the right supplement.
Other Vegetables For Tortoises
Tortoises naturally and instinctively want to eat a wide variety of plants and vegetable matter. They enjoy munching on green leafy vegetables.
In the wild, it is predicted that many tortoise species (outside of the Leopard and Sulcata species, whom are essentially grass eaters) feed on up to 200 different types of plant each year!
So, not particular plant will ever make up the majority of their diet.
In captivity, this is of course almost impossible for us to replicate, but we should do our best to ensure we do all we can to try and provide as much access to vegetables and plant matter as possible.
Tortoises enjoy munching on vegetables including dandelions, collard greens and green beans. Small amounts of peas, bell peppers and sweet potatoes can be fed.
Above are some of the more basic and common vegetables, but you should consider the fact that tortoises like to forage in green spaces, consuming grass and wild flowers like dandelions.
You may wish to grow an edible garden for your tortoise and plant things like:
- Oat grass,
- Sweet potato,
You can control the food your tortoise eats by making a dedicated living space. Sow edible plants in the living space and supplement them pieces of vegetables.
Containing your tortoise, allows you to avoid plants poisonous to these reptiles, putting the control in your hands.
Toxic Plant Matter For Tortoises
You should be aware of the plants that are outright toxic to tortoises, exposure to any of the plants mentioned below requires immediate treatment.
Be sure you can identify the plant and speak to a vet quickly to treat your tortoise. Unsafe plants include the following:
- Sweet peas
Toxic plants may cause your tortoise immediate sickness and death in worst cases scenarios.
Do not ignore abnormal behavior in your tortoise; monitor it, and if you suspect your pet has eaten a toxic plant, contact your vet immediately.
We must also be careful not to routinely offer kale, cabbage, spinach, chard, bok choy, or any similarly related vegetable, as these are known to inhibit calcium absorption and can lead to several adverse health problems.
It’s reassuring to know that asparagus is one of the safe vegetables you can offer your pet tortoise, especially when they are so easily accessible.
Of course, you should not allow your tortoise to consume too much asparagus (either head or stalk) either in one sitting or across the diet in general.
There are of course many species of tortoise, but only a small number of these species are common household pets. That being said, it is vital to carry out some research on your particular tortoise to learn what they should eat and in how much quantity. This will ensure they thrive.
Be sure to learn about the toxic and poisonous foods, as some of these can appear harmless and you can inadvertently give them to your tortoise assuming they are safe.
Many of the toxic plants can make your tortoise unwell or may cause death in severe cases. If you suspect your tortoise has consumed something he should not have, be sure to see your vet immediately.
Thankfully, we now know, that asparagus, is not one of them.