If you’ve got a pet tortoise to care for, finding a healthy diet can be tricky! Some owners feed their tortoises commercially prepared food, but many go with a mix of fresh foods, and tortoises seem to enjoy that as well. Tortoises are generally vegetarian or close to it, so you might be tempted to raid the salad drawer to supplement their diets. And if you’re a regular carrot eater, you might wonder if it’s okay to share!
The short answer is yes; a few carrots make a great healthy snack for tortoises. However, because of their low calcium content, it’s best to keep them as an occasional snack, not the main course.
We recommend discussing the diet of your particular tortoise species with your veterinarian as their needs can vary.
Pros and Cons of Carrots for Tortoises
Most tortoises eat a diet heavy in leafy greens, but carrots can be a great way to add some crunch and flavor to their diets. Many tortoises love the extra variety, and carrots have become a favorite snack. There are also some great health benefits to carrots. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and full of vitamins, including potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
Despite this, there are a few drawbacks to feeding carrots to tortoises. Tortoises need a higher balance of calcium to phosphorus, which helps them to build strong bones and healthy shells. Usually between 2:1 calcium to phosphorus and 4:1. Carrots have a 1:1 ratio or less and they also contain oxalic acid, which binds to calcium. This makes the calcium less digestible. Because of this, eating too many carrots can make your tortoise malnourished because of the lack of calcium. That’s why it’s advised to give your tortoise only a small serving here and there.
Can Tortoises Eat Carrot Tops?
Like the roots, carrot tops or leaves shouldn’t be a staple in your tortoise’s diet. Carrot leaves have similar levels of calcium and oxalic acid as carrot roots. However, carrot tops do have some nutrients that the roots don’t, including higher levels of zinc, iron, iodine, and potassium. This means that carrot tops are an even healthier snack as long as you don’t overfeed.
How to Prepare Carrots for Tortoises
If you want to feed carrots to your tortoise, start by washing them to make sure they are free from any dirt or other contamination. Most tortoises prefer raw carrots and are happy to crunch through them. Cut the carrots up into bite-sized pieces. Depending on the size and age of your tortoise, “bite-sized” can be a big range. If you see your tortoise struggling, the pieces are probably too big.
If you feed your tortoise carrot tops, make sure that they’re washed thoroughly and feed them to your tortoise the same way you feed other leafy greens.
Do All Tortoises Eat Similar Diets?
If you’re a tortoise owner, you know that there are lots of different types out there, from tiny Egyptian tortoises to huge Sulcatas. It’s not surprising that the ideal diet varies a little from species to species. However, all tortoises are happiest on a diet of 80–100% vegetation. Giant tortoises, such as Sulcata, Aldabra, Leopard, and Galapagos, eat mainly grasses. They’ll happily graze on lawns and hay, with some supplemented weeds and mixed greens. Sulcata tortoises are even nicknamed “lawnmower tortoises” because they are so happy to slowly graze over a grassy lawn without much other food.
Other breeds of tortoises don’t eat nearly as much grass, preferring a mix of mostly leafy greens and vegetation. And if you have a tropical tortoise, you might supplement it with more fruits and berries along with some non-plant food like slugs, earthworms, and snails. Whatever tortoise species you own, it’s important to do specific research to find the best food for them.
If you have a new pet tortoise, finding the best snacks to share isn’t too tricky. Foods like carrots make great snacks if you feed them here and there, even if they aren’t a good staple food. There are lots of other veggies that make delicious foods for your tortoise as well. Many breeds also eat unconventional foods like dandelions—just make sure to source them from somewhere without weed killer! Look up your tortoise’s breed for the best treats to add to its diet.
Featured Image Credit: Kerstin Riemer, Pixabay