Tortoises are generally herbivorous and it is recommended you try as much as possible to replicate their wild diet when in captivity. While most veggies and plant material they would not get in the wild can be offered in captivity. I did some research to find out whether carrots are safe for torts.
Can tortoises eat carrots?
Tortoises can eat raw carrots roots and tops. However, tortoises should have carrots tops sparingly due to high levels of protein, and potassium. Additionally, carrot tops have oxalic acid that can interfere with calcium absorption and cause kidney and bladder stones if carrot tops are fed excessively.
Vegetables, greens, and other plant materials such as flowers and weeds should only be part of a tortoise diet.
Feeds with high fiber content such as various hays like alfalfa hay should make up the largest part of the tortoise diets. You can also feed high-quality tortoises pellets such as these options from Amazon as part of a balanced daily diet.
Can tortoises eat raw carrots?
Raw carrots are much better to feed to tortoises compared to cooked carrots which will have lost their nutrient content due to cooking.
Tortoises are divided into three groups depending on their diet in the wild, which as we have stated above should be replicated in captivity.
The main point of contention is the fruits, while not all torts should be given fruits. All torts can comfortably eat veggies and other plant material in moderation especially when it comes to plant materials that they cannot get in the wild.
As a rule of thumb, always avoid veggies that are nutritionally poor but water and fiber-rich such as lettuce and celery. These veggies tend to have a light green color, compared to the nutritionally loaded dark leafy veggies.
The tables below shows a list of various categories of tortoises and foods that are okay to feed them.
Most experts do not recommend feeding fruits to these tortoises, and if you have to feed fruits to them make sure to consult a vet accordingly.
Mediterranean tortoises do not encounter fruits in their natural environment hence their digestive system is not adapted to dealing with fruits.
This category of tortoises is also not a good fruit eater, therefore feeding fruits should be kept at a minimum. However, they can eat veggies moderately.
Now, this is a group of tortoises that can comfortably eat fruits, they can also eat veggies such as carrots moderately.
The rain forest tortoises are some of the best pet tortoises for beginners since they can eat a variety of food items.
Now that we have established the different categories of torts and that all categories can comfortably eat carrots and other veggies. Let us understand the nutritional content of carrots.
Are Carrots healthy for Tortoises
The table below shows the nutritional value of about 100 grams of carrots. Source.
|Vitamin B4 (Choline)
|Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Benefits of Feeding Carrots to Tortoises
Keeping your tortoise hydrated is very important to maintain and keep its body systems healthy.
You should always ensure your pet tort has access to a bowl of clean and fresh water on daily basis.
In the wild especially desert torts, they get most of their water from foods that they eat.
In the same way, you can also ensure your tort is fully hydrated by feeding them veggies, most veggies have high water content and carrots just happen to have about 87% water content.
Feeding tortoises carrots as part of their diet mixed with other veggies will contribute to its hydration.
However, do not substitute veggies as the primary source of water and forget to provide them with a bowl of water.
Fiber, protein and Fats
Tortoise being a herbivor requires a substantial amount of fiber in their diet so as produce energy.
The main source of energy in tortoises is a carbohydrate which is derived from fiber breakdown. Generally, tortoise utilizes fermentative digestion.
This form of digestion produces short chain fatty acids that are used for energy.
It is recommended that about 10% to 40% of a tortoise dry matter should be made of fiber, with 18% to 28% being the optimal fiber content of the dry matter.
Fats and proteins also serve as an alternative source of energy and should amount to about less than 10% for fats and 15% to35% for proteins.
Too much fat can impair calcium absorption and cause obesity especially among tortoises that do not get enough exercise.
Minerals form a very important part in the growth and development of tortoises and all reptiles for that matter.
Given that the shell of a tortoise is made of minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. You should always ensure that your tort gets enough of these minerals in its diet to avoid distorted shell and skeleton structure.
Calcium makes up the highest composition in the body of a tortoise, and when combined with phosphorus they make up about three-fourths of the elements in a tortoise.
As a matter of fact, these two minerals affect their absorption in the body of all animals.
When phosphorus is high than calcium in the diet it can impair the absorption calcium.
Phosphorous will react with calcium to form calcium phosphates hence reducing calcium absorption.
Therefore for veggies that form a staple diet for tortoise the recommended calcium to phosphorus ratio should be either 1:1 or 2:1.
Carrots have an approximate 1:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio making them a good veggie for the torts when fed moderately with other veggies.
Apart from phosphorus other factors that affect calcium absorption include oxalic acid, phytic acid, and high fat. That why you should also feed spinach moderately and never feed avocado.
Additionally, the amount of calcium in the food and the body’s calcium requirement will also affect calcium absorption.
The importance of calcium in tortiose body include
- Formation of the shell and overall skeleton structure
- Heartbeat regulation
- Acid alkaline balance
- muscle growth, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission
- Transmission of nutrients
- Helps in blood clotting
Importance of phosphorus in tortoise body include
- Controls chemical reactions
- processing of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates
- Transfer of hereditary traits
- Promotes proper skeleton growth
Carrots are also loaded with other trace minerals that are beneficial to tortoises as indicated in the table above, such as chlorine, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium.
Vitamins also form a very important part in the healthy growth and development of tortoises.
A diet void of enough vitamins can lead to life threatening health implications.
Generally, vitamins are divided into two major categories namely water and fat soluble.
The main difference between the two is the fact that when in excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted from the body while fat-soluble vitamins get stored in the body when in excess.
When stored in the body, fat soluble vitamins can cause negative health implications, vitamin A toxicity is caused by excess vitamin A stored in the liver.
Tortoises and turtles alike need vitamin A in their diet for proper eye health and immune system.
Deficiency of vitamin A are
- Swelling and inflammation of the eyes
- Poor development of the tortoise beak
- Thickening of the horny layers of the skin
- weak immune system
- limb swelling
Feeding foods high in beta carotene such as carrots is much better compared to vitamin A rich food since the tort body can convert beta carotene to vitamin A in amounts that the body needs and get rid of excess beta carotene.
As opposed to vitamin A where the excess gets stored in the liver and can cause Hypervitaminosis A whose side effects include liver enlargement, sloughing of the skin, and poor bone development.
Vitamin E is another fat-soluble vitamin found in carrots, Vitamin E is a great antioxidant that helps with reversing oxidative stress.
The other category of vitamins is the water soluble vitamins which are collectivey known as B vitamins.
The table above shows a list of vitamins both water and fat-soluble that are found in carrots.
How to feed Carrots to Tortoises
The first step is to make sure you feed organically grown carrots, best veggies are ones that you have grown in your garden since you can be sure they do not have chemicals.
Follow these steps when feeding carrots to tortoise
- Wash carrots thoroughly
- Tortoise can eat both carrot stems and carrots tops
- Cut them into pieces and mix them up with other veggies for a balanced diet
- Never feed veggies on a sand background, use a tortoise slab
- Remove any uneaten veggies at the end of the day
Can Russian tortoises eat carrots?
Russian tortoises can eat carrot roots and tops just like all other Mediterranean tortoises. However, experts advise feeding carrot tops sparingly due to the high oxalic acid levels that can interfere with calcium absorption and cause kidney and bladder stones if carrot tops are fed in excess.
can sulcata tortoises eat carrots?
Sulcata tortoises can eat both carrot roots and tops. However, sulcata tortoises should eat carrot tops sparingly since they have a high oxalic acid that inhibits the absorption of calcium in high levels and can cause kidney and bladder stones. Sulcata tortoises diet should have a high fiber content.
Can Greek tortoises eat carrots? Yes, the greek tortoise can also eat carrots just like other tortoises. Just do not feed carrots exclusively mix it up with other veggies to form a balanced diet.
Can tortoises eat baby carrots? Yes, the tortoise can also eat baby carrots. Baby carrots are washed with chlorine to eliminate bacteria. However, they are also washed in clean water removing chlorine making baby carrots safe for tortoise.
While carrots are safe for all tortoises, they should be fed in moderation. The best way is to make sure you offer different veggies rather than offering a single veggie. Secondly, growing your own homegrown veggie is much better rather than store-bought since store veggies may have pesticides.