After visiting my local zoo and hearing our guide say that while tortoises can eat most vegetables some of them have toxins that in high levels can be dangerous to tortoises. I decided to do some digging into whether celery is in that category.
Can tortoises eat celery?
Tortoises can eat celery leaves. However, tortoises should have celery sparingly due to high oxalate levels that are toxic to tortoises. Oxalate in celery can interfere with calcium absorption and can also cause kidney stones. Additionally, celery has very little to offer to tortoises in terms of nutrition.
The diet of a tortoise should be composed of a variety of food items such as fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, weeds, and flowers. Hay and grass that have high fiber content should also make up the bulky part of a tortoise diet.
A good high quality commercially made tortoise pellets can also be included in the diet of tortoises. You can take a look at these tortoise pellets at Amazon.
Can I feed my tortoise celery?
Tortoise will gladly munch on most greens offered to them, the more dark a veggie is the more nutritious it is. Let take a look at some of the nutrients that are found in celery, plus how often to feed.
The tables below shows the three categories of tortoises based on their diet from the natural world.
|Greek Tortoises, Spur Thighed (Testudo Graeca)
|100% variety of weeds and flowering plants
Examples: hibiscus leaves and flowers and Mulberry leaves
|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)
Mediterranean tortoises should not be fed fruits as per recommendations from most experts. However, they can be fed leafy greens in moderation especially those that have a high phosphorus content compared to calcium.
High phosphorus compared to caclium can interfere with calcium absorption that can affect tortoises negatively.
|African Sulcata Tortoises
|70% mixed grass and Hay
|20-30% flowering plants, succulents and weeds.
|Indian TortoisesLimit or Avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and saladsAldabra Tortoises
Grazing tortoises should also be fed leafy greens in moderation especially ones that have a high phosphorus content compared to calcium.
|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
Rainforest tortoise can also eat celery but only in moderation, the highest percentage of celery is just water.
Nutritional content of Celery
The table below will give you an idea of nutrients found in celery about 100 grams by weight.
|Total lipid (fat)
|Carbohydrate, by difference
|Fiber, total dietary
|Sugars, total including NLEA
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid
|Vitamin A, RAE
|Lutein + zeaxanthin
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
Benefits of Feeding Celery to Tortoise
Tortoise needs several minerals in their diet for proper development with calcium being very important as it helps in the growth of the shell. Below is a number of minerals that tortoise gets from celery though in very small amounts.
Calcium is very important to all reptiles and birds alike. It is one of the building blocks of their bones and shells, especially for tortoises.
If you have young or juvenile tortoises ensure they are getting enough calcium in their diet.
There are two methods that you can give calcium to your tortoise, the first is through supplementation and the other is via feeding it food rich in calcium.
However, you must be very cautious of the food that you give your tortoise. Foods containing high levels of oxalates such as avocado and spinach should either be avoided or fed sparingly, with avocado being avoided altogether.
High oxalate levels prevent calcium from being absorbed into the bodies of tortoises by binding into them and forming calcium oxalate.
Another mineral to be wary of is phosphorus, calcium can bind with phosphorus to form calcium phosphates that prevent calcium from being absorbed into the tortoise body.
However, the tortoise can be fed veggies with phosphorus, but moderately. As a guide, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be 1:1 or 2:1 respectively.
Again veggies with a ratio high than that with respect to phosphorus can also be fed but sparingly.
Celery has good calcium to phosphorus ratio, the problem is the mineral content is very little. This is why it should only be fed moderately.
Magnesium is important in the body of a tortoise to facilitate the absorption of calcium.
Magnesium facilitates production of the parathyroid hormone that regulates the metabolism of calcium.
While in higher amounts than calcium it can lead to a deadly disease called metabolic bone disease.
In the right amount, phosphorus facilitates the growth of bones and shells in tortoise, in fact after calcium phosphorus is the next most abundant mineral in the bones.
You just have to make sure it does not exceed calcium by dusting your veggies before feeding them with calcium supplements.
Other minerals found in celery that are beneficial to tortoise include selenium, copper, sodium, and zinc.
Tortoise needs vitamins to maintain their bodily functions. Vitamins play the role of co-enzymes and play part in reproduction, digestion, and the functioning of the muscular and nervous systems.
Vitamin A/Beta carotene
Like most reptiles, tortoises need vitamin A in their bodies. Vitamin A maintains the skin and the mucous membrane promotes the eyesight and reproductive system.
Like all leafy green plants, celery is loaded with both vitamin A and beta carotene.
Too much vitamin A can be poisonous and cause vitamin A toxicity, therefore the best form of vitamin A should be its precursor beta carotene.
Tortoise body will convert beta carotene into the vitamin A that they require and get rid of excess beta carotene.
Vitamin B complex
Vitamin B complex is a group of several vitamins that are water-soluble. The good thing with these vitamins is that in case they are in excess they will be excreted.
The table below shows the use of each vitamin B complex found in celery.
|Vitamin B1, thiamine
|Regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates.
|Vitamin B2, riboflavin
|Acts as a coenzyme for realising energy
|Vitamin B3, niacin
|Vitamin B6, pyridoxine,
|energy conversion from glycogen and in synthesis of haemoglobin
Other vitamins present in celery that are important to tortoise include vitamin k and vitamin E which is an antioxidant and helps prevent oxidative damage.
For herbivorous reptiles like tortoise food rich in fiber is very important. Tortoise obtains energy through the fermentation of fiber in their lower bowel, the carbohydrate that is broken down from fiber acts as the main energy source.
Feeding your tortoise diet low in fiber will result in loose feces, In fact, it is recommended that the fiber intake of tortoise should be about 10-40% of the total dry matter that the tortoise takes per day.
While celery, does not provide a lot of fiber, when fed it can contribute to some amount of fiber for your tortoise.
But due to the fact that celery is nutritionally poor and only composed of high water content, it should only be fed sparingly.
Keeping Tortoises hydrated
Like all animals tortoise also needs water, Feeding foods high in water content is a great way to keep your tortoise hydrated. Water is the highest component of celery.
Can Russian Tortoises eat Celery?
Russian tortoises can eat celery in moderation since celery has high toxic levels of oxalate that can cause kidney stones and also affect the absorption of calcium. Additionally, nutrition-wise celery offers very little to Russian tortoises.
Can sulcata tortoises eat celery?
The Sulcata tortoises are grazers that can also eat celery in moderation. Due to high levels of oxalates in celery and low nutrition, the Sulcata tortoises should have it sparingly to avoid calcium deficiencies. High fiber feeds should make up a high percentage of the Sulcata tortoises diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I feed my tortoise celery? You can feed celery to your tortoise but in moderation since celery is nutritionally poor. It should only serve as part of the treat, high fiber plant material should form a higher percentage of your tortoise diet.
Can desert tortoises eat celery? Desert tortoises can also eat celery, but again they should be fed sparingly as it is high water content and poor nutrition value. Celery should not be an everyday tortoise food.
Can tortoise eat iceberg lettuce? You should not feed your tortoise iceberg lettuce as it offers little to no nutritional value to your tortoise. However, the tortoise can eat romaine lettuce, it is more nutrient-loaded compared to iceberg lettuce that contains mainly water. Even then romaine lettuce should be fed sparingly.
Celery is safe for tortoises to eat especially when combined with other more nutritious veggies. However, it should only be fed sparingly, aim for food that is high in fiber. Tortoise gets their energy from carbohydrates derived from the fiber.
For 100 grams of celery about 95% is made of water, the remaining portion is the one made of other nutrients which is a very small percentage considering that torts need several minerals and vitamins in their bodies.