After watching tortoises eat some watermelon in our local zoo during one of my visits, I got curious whether they can eat other fruits as well especially when our guide mentioned that some tortoises should not eat fruits. Below is a research I did about which types of torts should eat tomatoes and ones that should not.
Can tortoises eat tomatoes?
Fruit-eating tortoises can eat ripe tomatoes sparingly. Mediterranean and Grazing tortoises should be fed tomatoes sparingly or none at all. Tortoises should not eat unripe tomatoes, leaves, or tomatoes’ vines since they are toxic. Tomatoes are a good way to offer medication to tortoises by hiding it inside.
When overfed tomatoes can cause health issues since they are high in acid, citric and malic acid plus sugar. Tomatoes should therefore be fed in moderation, especially to Mediterranean and Grazing tortoises since their digestion system is not designed to digest the high sugar content of fruits such as tomatoes.
A tortoises daily balanced diet should be composed of a variety of food items such as fruits, vegetables, greens, weeds, and flowers plus a high source of fiber such as hay, like alfalfa hay that should make up a large part of the diet. A good high quality commercially made tortoise diet like these options from Amazon can also be offered.
Read on to find out which tortoise can comfortably eat tomatoes and some that should be fed tomatoes with a lot of care.
Are tomatoes safe for tortoises?
Tomatoes are only safe for fruit-eating tortoises or rainforest tortoises, for other groups of tortoises such as grazing and Mediterranean tortoises tomatoes may not be safe especially when fed in excess.
The tables below show the different types of Tortoises and what they eat in the wild
|Mediterranean TortoisesPreferred dietGreek Tortoises, Spur Thighed (Testudo Graeca)100% variety of weeds and flowering plantsHermanns tortoise (Testudo Hermanni)Limit or avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and saladsMarginated Tortoise (Testudo Marginata) and theRussian / Horsefield (Testudo Horsefieldi)Egyptian Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni)|
Note this does not mean you can not feed veggies, salads, or fruits it only means you should only do so moderately, with some experts recommending avoiding fruits altogether for Mediterranean tortoises.
|Grazing Tortoises||Preferred diets|
|African Sulcata Tortoises||70% mixed grass and Hay|
|Leopard Tortoises||20-30% flowering plants, succulents and weeds.|
|Indian TortoisesLimit or Avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and saladsAldabra Tortoises|
Again this does not mean that grazing tortoises cannot eat fruits and veggies, it only means if you decided to feed them fruits and veggies do so moderately.
Some leafy greens such as arugulas and dandelions are loaded with beneficial nutrients for herbivory reptiles in general.
When fed correctly, fruits and veggies can collectively form a part of a well-balanced diet.
|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|
As you can tell, Rain forest tortoises are the best pet tortoises for beginners, since they can have a wide range of food. Most of which are easy to grow on one’s own.
If you have been looking for fruit-eating tortoises then the rain forest species is your best bet.
Nutritional Value of Tomatoes
The table below shows the nutritional value of 100 grams of uncooked tomatoes. According to FoodData Central.
Benefits of Feeding Tomatoes to Tortoises
Keeping your tortoise hydrated is very important so as to maintain its body health.
You should always ensure that tortoise have access to clean fresh water on daily basis.
However, feeding your tort fruits high in water is another great way of ensuring that they are hydrated.
Be wary however, that grazers and mediterranean species of tortoises should be fed fruits in moderation.
Rainforest tortoise will readily accept fruits and 30% of their diet should include fruits.
The highest percentage of tomatoes is made of water, this means that a piece of tomato treat for your tort will go a long way towards its hydration.
Fiber, Proteins and Fats
Fiber forms a very crucial part of a tortoise diet and any other herbivorous reptile diet for that matter.
The tortoise digestive system utilizes fermentation as a technique to digest its food. This means that a full stomach tortoise can go for days without food as its stomach content is being digested.
The main source of energy in tortoise is carbohydrates which is synthesized from fiber.
The process of fermentation produces short-chain fatty acids used for energy, feeding torts a diet that has a low fiber content will lead to loose feces.
It is recommended that the dry matter of a tortoise diet should be made of about 10% to 40% fiber with 18% to 28% considered as the optimal percentage.
Fats and proteins also serve as a good source of energy in tortoises and should be limited to 15% to35% respectively.
Vitamins are very important in the body of torts, vitamins interact with each other and with minerals to ensure all the systems in the body of a tort are operating well.
Defieciency of any single vitamins can result to life threatening health effects.
Vitamins are divided into two categories, namely, water and fat-soluble vitamins.
The disadvantage of fat-soluble vitamins is the fact that when they are in excess they are stored in the body as compared to water-soluble vitamins that are excreted from the body when they are in excess.
Fat soluble vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, C, and K. Vitamin A is abundantly found in tomatoes.
Vitamin A is very important towards the development of a strong immune system, vision, and maintenance of the health of the eyes, skin plus growth and development.
Vitamin A deficiency include
- Inflammation and swelling of the eyelids
- limbs swelling
- horny layers of the skin become thick
- weak immune system
Feeding a balanced diet can prevent deficiency of vitamin A, however, care should be taken since overfeeding vitamin A can lead to vitamin A toxicity that can affect the function of the liver and kidneys.
Feeding foods rich in beta carotene is much better since the excess beta carotene will be excreted once the body converts enough betacarotene to vitamin A.
Vitamin C is the next fat soluble vitamin that is ubundantly available in tomataoes.
The synethesis of vitamin C takes place in the kidneys, and the gatsrointestinal tract by microflora.
Lack of vitamin C in the diet will result into stomatitis and poor wound healing.
Including tomatoes with other fruits such as bananas, apples, and melons among others can serve as a great way to provide these nutrients while maintaining a balanced diet.
Vitamin K is another fat-soluble vitamin that is found in tomatoes. The synthesis of vitamin K also takes place in the guts of most reptiles including torts.
The deficiency of vitamin K is most commonly found in torts that are under probiotics medication. Lack of enough vitamin K can lead to spontaneous bleeding.
The next category of vitamins is the water soluble vitamins collectively known as B vitamins.
Water solube vitamins found in tomatoes include niacin, thiamin and riboflavin.
Tomatoes are loaded with various minerals that are beneficial to torts growth and developments.
Calcium and phosphorus are some of the minerals that are needed in considerable high amounts in the torts body.
Calcium is most highly concentrated in a trots body more than any other mineral.
Combined with phosphorus, calcium makes about three fourths of the elements in tortoises body.
Calcium deficiency is very common among young torts that need it for developing their shells and their skeleton, especially among torts that are not fed a balanced diet.
The absorption of calcium in the body is controlled by two factors. The calcium availability in the diet and the body’s calcium needs.
Excess calcium is excreted in the urine, Other factors that affect calcium absorption are phosphorus levels, oxalic acid levels, phytic acid levels, and fats.
Phosphorus interacts with calcium to form calcium phosphates that prevents its absorption into the body.
Additionally, calcium reacts with oxalic acid to form calcium oxaltes that prevents its absorption in the body so does phytic acids and fats.
The recommended calcium to phosphorus ratio is either 1:1 or 2:1 for a proper diet.
Any plant material or fruits that you wish to make a staple diet for your tort should have the above-named calcium-phosphorus ratio, and little to no oxalic acids, zero oxalic acid veggies and fruits are better.
Veggies and fruits with a skewed calcium to phosphorus ratio can also be fed but moderately since they will interfere with calcium absorption and lead to poor growth and development.
Functions of calcium in torts body are
- Build up of strong bones and skeleton in general
- formation of the shell
- heartbeat regulation
- acid-base balancing
- controls blood clotting
- promotes muscle growth, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission.
- energy transmission
Compared to calcium, phosphorus is easily absorbed in the body which is why its availability in foods fed to torts should always be considered.
Importance of phosphorus in torrs body include
- Controls chemical reactions
- promotes the production of energy
- Transfer of genetical materials
- promotes proper skeletal growth
Other minerals that are required in trace amounts but are found in tomatoes include chlorine, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, iron, and zinc.
Risks of Overfeeding Tomatoes to Tortoises
Tortoise just like all other fruits are high in sugar, feeding too many of them to torts will result into weight gain.
Compared to wild torts captive torts do not exercise as much, therefore, they do not get enough exercise to burn the excess sugar converted into fats.
Excess sugar will also lead to diarrhea, therefore keep tomatoes feeding at a minimum only once in a while.
Excess sugar can also harm the tortoise beak, due to decay as a result of bacteria processing the excess sugar deposited in the beak.
Other acids that are available in tomatoes that are harmful to torts when they are ingested in large amounts include citric and malic acid.
How to feed tomatoes to tortoises
When feeding tomatoes to tortoises always make sure that the tomatoes are organically grown free from chemicals.
In fact the best way is to feed tomatoes from your own garden.
- Clean the tomatoes thoroughly
- Cut them into two for big tortoises or in smaller pieces for younger tortoises
- Never place tomatoes on the ground or on sand tortoise may pick up the dirt
- Place any food you feed your tortoise on a slab
- Remove any uneaten fruits at the end of the day to avoid contamination
Can Russian tortoises eat tomatoes?
Russian tortoises can eat tomatoes in moderation, however, experts recommend against feeding fruits such as tomatoes to Mediterranean tortoises such as Hermann, Horsefield, and Russian tortoises since their digestion system is not designed to digest the high sugar content of fruits.
Can tortoise eat unripe tomatoes and tomato leaves and vines? No, the tortoise can not eat unripe tomatoes plus tomato leaves and vines, they contain some harmful chemicals known as tomatin. That can lead to adverse health effects when they accumulate in the tortoise body.
Can a sulcata tortoise eat tomatoes? Sulcata tortoise can eat tomatoes in moderation. African Sulcata tortoises are classified as grazers, their main diet should be composed of 70-80% of grasses and hay and 20-30% flowering plants, succulents, and weeds. Tomatoes should be avoided or fed in moderation.
Can desert tortoises eat tomatoes? Yes, the desert tortoise can also eat tomatoes but in moderation. Most of the desert tortoise diet should be composed of grasses and hays and succulent plants. Tomatoes can be fed but in moderation.
While tomatoes are okay for tortoises, they should not be fed to all types of torts. I would recommend only feeding them to the rain forest tortoises and avoid feeding them to grazers and the Mediterranean tortoise.
Rain forest tortoise diet in the wild is composed of fruits, therefore they are adapted to digesting fruits as compared to other tortoises that do not encounter these fruits in the wild.
Always consult, your vet before feeding your tort any fruits or veggie.
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