If you own a pet tortoise, then you may have some questions about what you can and cannot feed them. Its common to see carrots being fed to tortoises by their owners, but does this mean you should too and is there anything you need to be aware of and consider? I decided to do some research, taking the opinions of reptile nutritionists, tortoise owners as well as looking at official nutritional data to give you all the information you need.
So, can tortoises eat carrots? Tortoises can eat carrots, although should do so in limited quantities in moderation. A small serving once per week is advised. This is because carrots are naturally high in carbohydrates which need to be controlled to prevent weight gain. Equally, carrots are contain a compound called oxalic acid which can cause issues with mineral absorption, specifically calcium which is very important for tortoises and their shells. Therefore, carrots are best served as a infrequently, and more of a treat.
Not all tortoises will enjoy eating carrots, so you may find that they are left or ignored if you were to provide them. For other tortoises, they may be consumed liberally so you need to be careful with how much you offer and provide. Offering them as a treat once per week in usually a good rule of thumb to follow.
Let us now take a closer look at this root vegetable, including the nutrition it can provide along with some other dietary considerations.
- 1 Nutritional Content of Carrots
- 2 Should You Feed Carrots To Tortoises?
- 3 How Often Should Carrots Be Fed To Tortoises?
- 4 How To Feed Carrots To Your Tortoise
- 5 Better Foods For Your Tortoise
- 6 Mediterranean Tortoise
- 7 Finally
Nutritional Content of Carrots
Here is the nutritional breakdown of 1 raw baby carrot (10g), which would be an appropriate serving size for a tortoise:
|Vitamin C||0.59 mg|
|Vitamin A||83.5 IU|
|Vitamin K||1.32 µg|
As you can see from the table above, carrot roots consists primarily of carbohydrates, water, fiber and pectin primarily. The more orange the carrot is, the more it contains a compound known as beta-carotene (pigment).
Beta-carotene is one of the most health-promoting compounds found in carrots. Its actually an anti-oxidant that coverts to vitamin A.
It is known to protect against free radicals, which are known to accelerate the aging process. Equally, beta-carotene helps to strengthen the immune system, protect the lining of the digestive tract and protect the respiratory tract against infections.
While there is a decent amount of Calcium within a carrot; consider that they contain a higher amount of Phosphorous. The ratio of Calcium to Phosphorous is not favorable.
Tortoise experts and specialists, suggest that you try to provide your tortoise with a higher calcium to phosphorous ratio, or 1:1 as a minimum. Something that wild tortoises achieve subconsciously.
While this should not be an issue when carrots are provided in limited servings, you can see why this may become an issue if they were offered more frequently. Of course, providing a calcium supplement as is often recommended, is a great way to counteract and balance things out. This supplement is excellent from Amazon.
One other thing to note is that carrot tops (the leaves), are very beneficial and nutritious. In fact, these could be considered to be more optimal than the roots themselves.
Eating carrot tops (leaves) has been found to improve digestion and strengthen the nervous system. This is because it provided additional trace elements including:
Being low in calories, high in fiber and with an excellent vitamin and mineral composition speaks in favor of providing carrot roots and their leaves (tops) in your tortoises diet. But we will explore why you may need to think again in the following section.
Should You Feed Carrots To Tortoises?
Most species of tortoise, do best on a diet of 80% plant-based foods. As an owner, it is important that you offer a wide variety of safe leaves, flowers and of course specific vegetables.
Some of the best to offer include dandelions and collard greens. Occasionally some bell peppers, sweet potato, and different types of squash are good to feed.
But back to carrots, and with this information in mind, should you even be looking to add these to your tortoises diet?
Well, first, its important to note that not all tortoises will want to eat carrots if you provide them. Some tortoise owners report that their tortoises completely ignore all types of carrot, however prepared, when offer. This is because all tortoises have their own unique tastes and dislikes, so it could very well be the case that they are not enjoyed by your tortoise.
As owners, we should look to pick up on any cues that may suggest they do not like, nor want to eat a specific food. For the most part and for most foods, we should never force them upon our pets – irregardless of how healthy they are.
So assuming your tortoise likes carrots, which you will only truly be able to know by serving some, is it a good idea?
As I did my research, I found that many experts considered carrots to be a vegetable that only should be offered rarely to tortoises. They should not become a staple.
While carrots do contain a number of health promoting vitamins, minerals and fiber (which you can see from the table above), due to a compound known as Oxalic Acid, we need to be careful.
Oxalic Acid, also known as oxalates, has been observed to bind to calcium and other important minerals. This essentially means that the calcium/minerals become inaccessible and they cannot be absorbed and utilized by the tort.
So, if oxalates are consumed in excess, your tortoise can suffer with nutritional deficiencies.
In regards to a lack of calcium – this can mean a number of issues, like a lack of growth and strength in their bones and shell.
In fact, the humble carrot ranked in eight place in comparison to some other common vegetables.
This leads us on to the next consideration. It is not only carrots that contain this compound.
So, while carrots may be okay in small amounts – you need to be careful of what they are fed with or of other vegetables in diet. For example, it would not be a good idea to offer five different plants – all high in oxalic acid, in the same meal.
So, be sure not to pair carrots with:
- Beet Leaves
- Brussel Sprouts
Another consideration is the high amount of readily digestible carbohydrates. For this reason, you need to be very careful with serving sizes, as these can lead to weight issues if not portion controlled.
How Often Should Carrots Be Fed To Tortoises?
If you decide to offer carrots, a small serving once per week is generally recommended.
Tortoise owners will often vary how regularly they offer carrots, but the consensus is that they should never become a staple, or a daily addition to the diet.
Some owners even decide to not feed carrots altogether; whether this be because their tortoises have no preference or taste for it, or that the oxalic acid and calcium/phosphorous ratio means there are better foods available.
Either way, offering carrots can be offered to your tortoise – and there can be benefits in doing so (such as providing vitamins/beta-carotene) but you need to consider the context, and of course, other foods offered in their diet.
How To Feed Carrots To Your Tortoise
Feeding carrots to your tortoise is unfortunately, not as simple as just dropping one or two in their enclosure.
For the most part, you should offer small, cut up chunks of carrot to your tortoise if you do decide to feed it.
It is best to seek out baby carrots, or smaller carrots if possible. Look for those that are more orange and colorful.
Seek organic carrots, with the leaves still on if possible, and wash them thoroughly. Only do so with clean water, and be sure to remove any dirt present.
It is generally advised not to cook the carrots; as this will mean they leech some of the important nutrients and make them less appetizing to tortoises.
However, some people have been known to boil carrots to serve to their tortoise if they are sick. Serving this way has a re-hydrating effect but the normal diet should be resumed once strength in the tort returns.
Better Foods For Your Tortoise
So carrots can be fed on occasion. But what other vegetables can you offer to your tortoise instead?
Of course, its important for you to educate yourself on the species of tortoise you have. Each species has different needs and requirements.
Below, we outline some of the best foods and staples, for some of the most common tortoise species:
- Mulberry Leaves
- Hibiscus Leaves
- Opuntia cactus pads
- Second-cut Grasses and Hays
- Fresh-lawn grasses
- Big Bluestem grass
- Blue Grama grass
- Buffalo grass
- Couch grass
- Dallas grass
- Darnel Rye grass
- Kikuyu grass
- Wintergrass or Bluegrass
- Western Wheatgrass
Indian Star Tortoise
- Hibiscus leaves and flowers
- Mulberry leaves
- Fresh lawn grasses (this is a grazing species)
- Petunia leaves and flowers
Redfoot, Yellowfoot and African Hinge-back Tortoises
- Dark leafy greens,
- Tortoise food
- High in Fiber
- Promotes a healthy gut
- Item Package Weight: 2.1
Tortoises can eat carrots; whether they should or not will depend on their personal preferences for it, and is ultimately up to you as an owner.
If you are willing to carefully control portion sizes and monitor all of the other vegetables that you are offering in the diet, then carrots can look to be fed.
Rest assured, that in small and occasional feedings, carrots can be a nice treat for tortoises. Just ensure you wash them thoroughly, seek organic and cut them up appropriately prior to serving.