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Can Tortoises Eat Oranges? [3 BENEFITS]

Can Tortoises Eat Oranges? [3 BENEFITS]

After a guide told us that not all tortoises should eat fruits, I got curious about which tortoises should eat fruits and ones that should not and why. Below are the results of research I did to find out which tortoises can be fed Oranges.

Can tortoises eat oranges?

Most experts recommend against tortoises eating oranges and other citrus fruits. Oranges and other citrus fruits have high sugar and citric acid that may harm the natural gut flora of tortoises and cause health issues such as poor digestion when tortoises eat them in excess or frequently.

When fed in moderation and in little amounts tortoises can eat oranges without adverse effects.

All species of tortoises diet should contain fiber-rich food items such as hay, like alfalfa hay and grass plus vegetables, leafy greens, weeds, flowers, and fruits [fed moderately].

You can also include high-quality commercially made pellets such as these ones from Amazon that are loaded with nutrients such as calcium and fiber that tortoises need in their diet.

While there is no adequate research that shows how oranges will affect tortoises, oranges and other citrus fruits have been found to cause diarrhea and vomiting among animals such as cats, horses, and dogs.

While fruit-eating tortoises can cope with the high sugar content of oranges, citrus acid can harm the digestion system of tortoises in ways that we will discuss shortly.

Should Tortoises eat Oranges?

When fed in moderation oranges can be a good source of vitamins such as vitamin A that is essential for the growth and development of all species of tortoises.

However, you should avoid feeding citrus acid fruits to tortoises since there are other fruits that are less risky to tortoises such as apples, pineapples, and watermelon.

The tables below show the different species of tortoises and what they eat in the wild.

Mediterranean Tortoises

Mediterranean TortoisesPreferred 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)
Grazing TortoisesPreferred diets
African Sulcata Tortoises70% mixed grass and Hay
Leopard Tortoises20-30% flowering plants, succulents and weeds.
Indian TortoisesLimit or Avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and salads
Aldabra Tortoises

Are Oranges healthy To Tortoises?

Oranges can be a good source when fed in moderation with other fruits and vegetables. Below is a table showing the nutrients found in 180 grams of oranges. source

Nutrients Value
Dietary Fiber4.3g
Vitamin A405 IU
Vitamin C95.8mg

Benefits of Feeding Oranges to Tortoises

Keeping tortoises hydrated

All species of tortoises need fresh, clean, and chlorine-free water in their closure on daily basis. Tortoises drink water as opposed to a popular opinion that tortoises do not need to drink water.

While they can go for close to a week without drinking water, water plays an important part in keeping tortoises healthy and helps with the elimination of waste products such as oxalates and nitrogenous waste.

Fruits and vegetables plus other plant matter are some of the sources of water for captive tortoises besides their normal watering containers.

Fruits such as oranges whose water content is high are a good source of hydration, however, as pointed earlier always make sure that you feed oranges sparingly.

Other fruits such as watermelon, mango, and papaya are a good source of hydration for tortoises.

Tortoises like bathing in water, so ensure you provide them with a watering source big enough for them to bath in and also ensure they cannot drown in them. These tortoises watering dishes with a ramp from Amazon can be a good option for your tortoise.

You can also read this post that we wrote on symptoms of dehydration in tortoises and how to encourage them to drink water.


Tortoises need vitamins in their bodies for optimal growth, development, and reproduction. Vitamin deficiencies in tortoises can lead to adverse health effects that can even lead to death.

Like all fruits and vegetables, oranges are a good source of vitamin A and its precursor beta carotene.

Vitamin A deficiency is very common among tortoises or turtles that are fed a poor and unbalanced diet, such as one that involves just one or a few food items.

Symptoms of the deficiency of vitamin A in tortoises include

  • Swelling and inflammation of the tortoise eyelids
  • Difficulty breathing results in wheezing
  • the horny part of the mouth develops abnormally
  • the horny part of the skin thickens
  • weak immune system
  • liver failure leads to limbs swelling

Offering the right diet such as vegetables and fruits with a high concentration of vitamin A such as carrots and berries can help treat some of these symptoms or injections with vitamin A by a qualified veterinarian.

Though it is rare, excessive supply of vitamin A can lead to a condition known as hypervitaminosis that can lead to liver failure and abnormal development of the bones.

Vitamin C

Oranges are also a good source of vitamin C. In the body of tortoises, Vitamin C is synthesized from the kidneys and the guts by the microflora found there.

However, when the kidneys are damaged such as when food items with high goitrogen and oxalates are being offered, tortoises may suffer from deficiency of Vitamin C, stomatitis, poor wound healing are some of the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency.


While fruits and most vegetables cannot be used as a source of minerals when offered together they can contribute to the mineral requirements of tortoises. Vegetables such as arugula have a good calcium content beneficial to tortoises.

Oranges have a small concentration of calcium and phosphorus the two minerals that are required in high levels among injured, laying, or young tortoises.

While both calcium and phosphorus minerals are important in the body of tortoises, you should also be aware that excess of one mineral affects the other one negatively.

For instance, based on this source when phosphorous concentration is high and calcium levels are low, bones become dimineralized due to increase in the production of the parathyroid hormone a condition known as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism.

Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism can lead to fractured bones and deformed tortoises plus limited or no mobility.

Most experts recommend feeding that the calcium to phosphorus ratio of either 2:1 or 1:1 respectively. Always ensuring that calcium is more than phosphorus. The reverse can have life-threatening side effects.

For fruits and vegetables that do not have a 2:1 or 1:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio, they should be fed sparingly and dusted with calcium supplements especially for young , injured or laying tortoises about twice or thrice a week.

Are oranges bad for tortoises?

When fed frequently, oranges can be very toxic to tortoises due to the high sugar and acidity. The high sugars and acid may end up killing the tortoises’ microflora found in the gut that aids in the digestion of foods eaten by tortoises.

Some of the vitamins such as vitamin K and C are digested by the microflora in the tortoises’ intestines and without these microflorae, the tortoises are likely to suffer from deficiencies of these vitamins.

Therefore, if you have to feed oranges to tortoises especially the non-fruit-eating tortoises such as Mediterranean and Desert or grazing tortoises always make sure you do so moderately.

How to feed oranges to tortoises

  • You should always ensure that all food items being fed to tortoises are thoroughly cleaned.
  • You can also use oranges to medicate your tortoise by hiding the meds inside the oranges.
  • You can offer the oranges as a whole mixed with other fruits, tortoises are very responsive to color, and providing them with a variety of fruits can be a good way to spice their diets.

Can desert tortoises eat oranges?

While desert tortoises are not fruit eating tortoises they can still eat oranges in moderation. Feeding oranges to desert tortoises frequently can lead to life threatening issues such as loss of gut microflora and excess sugar can lead to diarrhea.

Most experts advise avoiding feeding oranges to Mediterranean and Grazing tortoises, however, when fed in moderation oranges are safe for tortoises.

Can tortoises eat orange peel?

Tortoises can eat orange or mandarin orange peels if they have been thoroughly washed to get rid of any pesticides. Orange peels have a high concentration of vitamins A and C that is needed by tortoises.

can Russian tortoises eat oranges?

Russian tortoises should not eat oranges, while they can eat other fruits moderately, the high sugar and acidity of oranges may end up destroying the Russian tortoises microflora in their gut that is important for digestion.


While oranges can be toxic to tortoises if fed excessively, they can also be very safe for all tortoises if fed moderately. They can also be a good option for offering medicine to your tortoises by hiding the medication inside. Make sure the oranges are washed thoroughly before feeding.