There is limited information available on which tortoises should be fed fruits. Experts say that some tortoises cannot digest fruits properly since naturally their digestion system is not meant to digest fruits. This got me curious and I decided to dig deeper into the subject, paying more attention to whether torts should be fed apples.
Can tortoises eat apples?
Fruit-eating tortoises such as tropical or rainforest tortoises can eat apples but cannot eat apple seeds since they are toxic. However, Mediterranean tortoises and Grazing tortoises should eat apples moderately or none at all. Tortoises can also eat the young leaves and flowers of the apple tree. Older leaves contain cyanic compounds toxic to tortoises.
While apples are fine for the rainforest tortoise species since they encounter fruits in their natural environment. Some species of tortoise such as the grasslands and desert tortoise are not used to apples.
For such tortoises, you should feed apples moderately since their digestive system is not used to digesting starch. Secondly, remember to remove apple seeds as they contain cyanide that is poisonous to a tortoise.
Is Apple good for tortoises?
Being herbivores tortoises need a lot of fiber in their diet so as to survive, therefore foods that do not provide lots of fiber into the tortoise should only be used as a treat rather than as a staple food.
The following table shows different species of tortoises and their preferred type of food.
The Rainforest/Tropical tortoises
|Rainforest Tortoises||Preferred Diet|
|Red-footed tortoises||70% weeds, flowering plants, and other greens|
|Yellow-footed tortoises [Geochelone denticulata]||30% Fruits and a small amount of animal protein|
|Burmese Brown Tortoises|
|Kinixys homeana (Home’s Hingeback tortoise|
|Grazing Tortoises||Preferred diets|
|African Sulcata Tortoises||70% mixed grass and Hay|
|Leopard Tortoises||20-30% flowering plants, succulents, and weeds.|
|Indian Tortoises||Limit or Avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and salads|
The Mediterranean Tortoises
|Mediterranean Tortoises||Preferred Diets|
|Greek Tortoises, Spur Thighed (Testudo Graeca)||100% variety of weeds and flowering plants|
|Hermanns tortoise (Testudo Hermanni)||Limit or avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and salads|
|Marginated Tortoise (Testudo Marginata) and the|
|Russian / Horsefield (Testudo Horsefieldi)|
|Egyptian Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni)|
Some experts recommend avoiding fruits for the Mediterranean tortoise and grazing tortoise, however, pet owners of these tortoises have reported having no issues when feeding fruits to these tortoises, especially when fed in moderation.
There is scanty information about keeping tortoises as pets, research is, however, is done to provide this scarce information.
Nutritional value of apples
The nutritional value of 100 grams of apples
|Vitamin A||3.00 mcg|
|Beta carotene||27.00 mcg|
|Vitamin B6||0.041 mg|
|Vitamin C||4.6 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.18 mg|
|Vitamin K||2.2 mcg|
Benefits of feeding Apples to a Tortoise
As we have mentioned in almost all tortoise food-related articles in this blog, keeping your tortoise hydrated is very important in maintaining its optimal health.
Contrary to what many people believe that given tortoise comes from an environment that does not have easy accessibility to water. Hence they should not drink water, tortoise actually needs water on a daily basis.
One of the ways of ensuring that your tort is hydrated besides offering water in a bowl is feeding them food that has high water content.
However, water content should not serve as the basis for selecting the types of feeds for your tortoise.
Apples have a high water content just like most fruits when offered with other fruits such as watermelon they will contribute to the overall hydration of the tortoise.
Fiber and protein
Fiber is very important in the diet of any herbivorous animal, in the case of tortoise fiber serves as a source of energy when it is converted into carbohydrates.
The recommended fiber content in relation to tortoise dry matter feeds is 10% to 40% of dry matter with 18% to 28% considered as the optimal amount.
Apple is a good source of fiber and when combined with other fiber-rich fruits it will play part in replenishing a tortoise fiber level.
Proteins, on the other hand, should not be a major ingredient in the food of a tortoise, a tortoise is not well adapted to digest proteins, too much protein will result in high urea and uric acid production which require a lot of water to excrete from the body.
However, tortoise still needs some percentage of its dry matter food to have some proteins. The recommended protein levels should be about 15% to 35% of the dry matter.
Starch is not commonly found in most grazing and Mediterranean tortoise foods in the wild and should, therefore, be avoided or food rich in starch should be fed in moderation.
Given that rainforest tortoises are used to having some fruits in their diet, they can digest starch much better as compared to other species of tortoises.
This means that apples should be fed moderately to these tortoises since they have starch.
Minerals are very important especially in the growth and development of the juvenile tortoises.
The shell of a tortoise is primarily made up of minerals, therefore, without these minerals, the growth and development of the tortoise would be stunted or they would suffer from poor shell development.
Calcium and phosphorus are the two most important minerals in the growth and development of a tortoise.
However, the two minerals affect each negatively as far as absorption into the tortoise body is concerned.
When the concentration of phosphorus is higher than calcium in the food, phosphorus will hinder the absorption of calcium through two methods.
First, compared to calcium phosphorus is readily absorbed into the tortoise body.
Secondly, calcium and phosphorus react to form calcium phosphate which is insoluble and reduces the amounts of calcium available for absorption.
As a matter of fact the recommended ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 2:1 or 1:1 respectively.
However, you can still moderately feed vegetables and fruits that have a high phosphorus level than calcium.
Importance of calcium in tortoise includes
- Formation of shell and bone structure
- Help regulate heartbeat and blood health
- Acid-base balance
- Promotes muscle growth and contraction, nerve transmission.
- Aids iron utilization
- Enzyme activation
Importance of phosphorus to tortoise
- Plays part in a chemical reaction
- promotes energy production
- Transfer of genetic materials
- promotes skeletal growth and development
- promotes nerve impulses and kidney function
Phosphorus is readily available in most foods that tortoise eat and does not need to be supplemented, however, calcium needs to be supplemented.
There are several calcium supplements available online that can be supplemented in the diet through dusting.
Calcium absorbability is also affected by vitamin D available in the tortoise body. For proper calcium absorption, the body of the tortoise must have enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D can be readily sourced by exposing your tortoise to the sun, or to a high-quality UVB light in its enclosure.
Other minerals are considered as miscellaneous as they are needed in trace amounts. The table above shows these minerals.
Just like minerals vitamins play a very important role in the growth and development of tortoise.
Deficiencies of some of these minerals can lead to life-threatening health complications. Apples are a great source of some of these vitamins.
Vitamins are generally divided into two, water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins are made of vitamins that require fats so as to absorb into the body they include vitamins A and K.
Vitamin A is very crucial for the growth and development of the tortoise as it is involved in several bodily functions.
Importance of vitamin A in tortoise includes
- Promotes skin and mucous membrane health
- Promotes the health of the eye
- Promotes reproduction system health
However, when absorbed in excess vitamin A can cause life-threatening health implications such as hypervitaminosis.
However, beta carotene a precursor of vitamin A is much better since the body will only convert it into vitamin A in the amounts it needs and then excrete the excess.
Tortoise that are fed a balnced diet have near zero chances of suffering from these complications.
Another fat-soluble vitamin found in apples is vitamin K, vitamin K plays a very important role in the blood coagulation process.
The second category of vitamins is water-soluble vitamins. The advantage of these vitamins over fat-soluble vitamins is the fact that they can never cause health complications when in excess since they get excreted via urine.
Water-soluble is collectively represented by the vitamin B complex. The table below shows a list of the vitamins and their importance in the body of a tortoise.
|Vitamin B1, thiamine||regulator in the carbohydrate metabolism|
|Vitamin B2, riboflavin||is a co-enzyme in energy release|
|Vitamin B3, niacin,||also crucial to the energy metabolism|
|Vitamin B6, pyridoxine||involved in energy conversion from glycogen and in the synthesis of hemoglobin and antibodies|
How to prepare and feed apples to the tortoise
- The first step is to look for organically grown apples
- Clean them thoroughly
- Cut it into pieces and remove the apple core
- Apple seeds contain cyanide which is poisonous to tortoises
- You can mix apple with other fruits and veggies
- Remove any uneaten food at the end of the day to avoid contamination
Risks of overfeeding apples to tortoises
Apples have a high sugar content just like most other fruits, Given that a tortoise digestive system is not adapted to digesting starch excluding the rainforest tortoise. You should avoid overfeeding apples to your tortoise.
Secondly, the high sugar content of apples can end up disrupting the microflora in the gut of the tortoise that will lead to poor synthesis and absorption of some of the vitamins like Vitamin C that is absorbed in the gut.
can russian tortoises eat apples?
Russian tortoises can eat apples without the apple seeds sparingly, however, experts recommend against feeding apples to Mediterranean tortoises like Russian tortoises since they do not the have the capacity to digest the high sugars of apples and other fruits. They can also eat young apple leaves and flowers.
Frequently Asked Questions
can tortoise eat apple skin? Yes, a tortoise can eat apple skin as long as it is pesticide-free. Apples should, however, be fed in moderation as they have a high sugar content that will affect the tortoise’s health negatively if fed in excess.
Can sulcata tortoises eat apples? Yes, sulcata tortoise can also eat apples. However, apples should be offered in moderation to sulcata tortoise as they are grassland tortoises and naturally do not eat apples. Too many apples can lead to health implications especially due to the high sugar content of apples.
Can red foot tortoise eat apples? Yes, the red-footed tortoise can eat apples. Red-footed tortoise belongs to the rainforest tortoise whose 30% of their diet should be fruits. However, apples should only be a part of a red-footed tortoise balanced diet.
What fruits can a red-footed tortoise eat? A red foot tortoise belongs to the rainforest tortoises and can comfortably eat a variety of fruits such as bananas, strawberries, apples, kiwi, figs, and much more.
While the rainforest tortoise can comfortably eat fruits such as apples. Care should be taken when feeding fruits to grassland and Mediterranean tortoise. Rainforest eats fruits in their natural environment and is used to digesting the high sugar content as opposed to the other torts.
Make sure to feed organically grown apples, remove the apple core as seeds contain cyanide that is harmful to tortoises.
Apples should serve as part of a balanced diet rather than being fed entirely.
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