After watching tortoises eating a piece of a banana in the zoo. I got curious about what other fruits are safe for tortoises to eat. During my break after work, I did some digging on this topic. Below I share my findings on whether they can be fed blueberries.
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Can tortoises eat blueberries?
Fruit-eating tortoises can eat blueberries but not the blueberries leave since they have tannins and diuretic properties harmful to tortoises. Grazing and Mediterranean tortoises should have blueberries sparingly or none at all since the high sugar in blueberries can cause health issues when fed in excess.
If you have a pet tortoise or you are planning on getting one, you should always aim to provide a diet similar to the one they get in their natural environment.
There are some pellets in the market that have been made with the nutritional requirements of tortoises in mind such as these ones from Amazon.
Read on to learn more about different types of tortoises plus what they should and should not eat.
The tables below show the different types of tortoises including the fruit-eating tortoises and what they should eat.
|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|
|Grazing Tortoises||Preferred diets|
|African Sulcata Tortoises||70% mixed grass and Hay|
|Leopard Tortoises||20-30% flowering plants, succulents and weeds.|
|Indian Tortoises||Limit or Avoid: Fruits, vegetables, and salads|
|Mediterranean Tortoises||Preferred 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)|
Can you feed a tortoise blueberries?
If your tortoises belong to the fruit-eating tortoises shown in the table above you can comfortably feed blueberries to them.
Part of these tortoise’s diets is composed of fruits in their natural habitat. Therefore, their digestion system is adapted to digest the high sugar content of fruits.
However, the Mediterranean and grazing tortoises, rarely come across fruits in their natural environment. While eating a small number of fruits will not harm them their digestive system is not adapted to digesting a high amount of sugars in fruits.
Overfeeding fruits to these groups of tortoises will lead to adverse health issues that may even lead to death.
The high content of sugar in fruits can create the right environment for the growth of disease-causing bacteria in the gut of grazing and Mediterranean tortoises since their ability to digest high sugar is limited.
What fruit can tortoises eat?
Fruits eating tortoises can eat the following fruits grapes, watermelon, apples, pineapples, oranges all types of berries as part of a balanced diet.
You should know that fruits should just be part of a balanced diet but not the staple diet, vegetables, hay such as alfalfa hay, and commercially made high-quality tortoise pellets should be part of a tortoise’s diet with attention being paid to the level of fiber in the diet.
Tortoise needs a high percentage of fiber in their diet to aid in digestion and as a source of energy.
Nutritional Benefits of Blueberries
The table below shows the nutritional content of 148 grams of blueberries. sources
|Dietary Fiber||3.6 g|
|Vitamin A||79.9 IU|
|Vitamin C||14.4 mg|
|Vitamin K||28.6 mcg|
Benefits of feeding blueberries to Tortoises
Like all animals tortoises too need proteins in their diet. However, tortoises do not need a lot of protein in their diet compared to most other herbivorous and omnivorous animals.
According to this source, the protein content of herbivorous tortoises should range between 14%-35% of the dry matter, with the higher percentage mostly preferred for growing tortoises and tortoises under stress.
Blueberries have a small protein content which when combined with other fruits and vegetables such as spinach, romaine lettuce, alfalfa sprout dandelion, and clover can help with providing protein to tortoises.
Proteins serve as one of the sources of energy in tortoises especially when they are hibernating. Therefore, ensuring that they get enough protein in their diet is very important to provide them with a source of energy.
High protein content on the other hand can increase the excretion of nitrogenous waste and led to dehydration in case the tortoise does not have access to enough water.
Being a herbivorous tortoise requires a considerable amount of fiber in its diet. When fiber is fermented in the intestine of tortoises it produces fatty acids that are also used in energy generation.
Fiber also helps with the movement of the guts content, however, when taken in excess, fiber can limit the intake of calories and therefore interfere with the absorption of trace minerals that are needed by tortoises for growth and reproduction.
Based on this source most commercially made tortoise foods such as pellets contain about 4-40% fiber of the dry matter. But they recommend buying pellets that have a crude fiber of about 16% or crude protein of 18%.
Tortoises that eat fiber less than 12% of the dry matter will normally suffer from loose feces, bloat, diarrhea due to rapid carbohydrate fermentation.
Keeping your pet tortoises is very important to prevent health complications such as renal diseases. This applies to all tortoises including grazing or desert-dwelling tortoises.
While tortoises will get a considerable amount of water from the foods they eat such as fruits such as blueberries whose water content is quite high.
Other fruits that are high in water content that can help in quenching tortoises include watermelons, cantaloupe, pineapples, strawberries, oranges, and vegetables.
Tortoises will also need access to fresh, clean, and chlorine-free water to drink and bathe in.
When offering water to tortoises you should always ensure that you provide it in a bowl or dish that they can easily access without struggling.
Most tortoises have suffered dehydration simply because they were given water in watering bowls or sources that they could not easily access. You can check these tortoise watering bowls where they can also swim from Amazon.
You can also click here to read about a post we have written explaining the signs of dehydration in tortoises.
The precise vitamin requirements in pet tortoises are yet to be established. Given that people did not start keeping tortoises as pets long ago, research into the nutritional requirements of tortoises is still underway.
In the wild tortoises can get vitamins from the varied sources of food they eat on daily basis. However, in captivity, it is easy for tortoises to suffer from vitamin deficiencies especially when they are poorly fed.
For instance, a tortoise fed an all-fruit or vegetable diet will suffer from nutrient deficiencies. While tortoises fed a well-balanced diet made of various food items together with a commercially made tortoise pellet will rarely suffer from nutritional deficiencies.
Blueberries together with other fruits will provide the following fruits to tortoises.
Deficiency of vitamin A leads to several health issues such as swollen and inflamed eyelids, wheezing and difficulty in breathing, abnormal and poor development horny part of the mouth, weak immune system, limbs swelling, and the horny part of the skin thickens.
Offering a variety of fruits such as blueberries, greens and vegetables can help cure vitamin A deficiencies. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of vitamins that tortoises need.
However, remember to offer fruits sparingly to the Grazing and Mediterranean tortoises.
Blueberries are also a good source of vitamin K, this vitamin is produced by bacteria found in the intestinal tract of the tortoise.
If a tortoise is under medication for a long time, the meds may end up killing the bacteria that process vitamin K and cause its deficiency. One of the symptoms of vitamin K is bleeding excessively.
Blueberries also contain vitamin C, in tortoises just like vitamin K, vitamin C is also synthesized from the gastrointestinal tract and the kidneys.
Its deficiency is very rare, however, when tortoises are offered food items that have diuretic properties such as blueberry leaves they may end suffering from vitamin C deficiencies.
Minerals like vitamins should also form an important part of your tortoise’s nutrient requirements. Young, laying, and injured tortoises need a considerable amount of minerals such as potassium, calcium, and phosphorous in their diet.
Most fruits blueberries included are not a good source of these minerals, however, there are a few fruits such as figs that are a good source of calcium.
The fact that high phosphorus levels affect the absorption of calcium negatively dictates that you should a diet where the concentration of calcium exceeds that of phosphorus.
However, food items whose phosphorus concentration exceeds that of calcium, they should be fed moderately. Fruits should never be offered as a source of minerals.
Can tortoises eat blueberry leaves?
Tortoises should not eat blueberry leaves, this is because they have diuretic properties that will lead to increased loss of water from the body of tortoises. Diuretic properties can lead to dehydration especially when they are offered in excess.
Therefore, avoid offering blueberry leaves to all tortoises to avoid side effects such as dehydration.
How to feed blueberries to Tortoises
The best type of blueberries or any other fruit is one that has been grown organically free from chemicals.
When feeding blueberries to tortoises you may not know if they were organically grown especially if you bought them from a supermarket.
Follow the following steps when feeding blueberries to tortoises
- The first step is to wash them thoroughly
- You do not have to cut blueberries into pieces you can just offer them as whole
- Mix blueberries with other berries such as strawberries or other fruits
- Remember to remove uneaten fruits at the end of the day to avoid infections
Can Russian Tortoises eat Blueberries?
Russian tortoises can eat blueberries when fed in moderation, however, Experts recommend against feeding fruits such as blueberries to Mediterranean tortoises such as Horsefield, Hermann, or Russian tortoises since their digestion system is not adapted to digesting the high sugar content of fruits.
Blueberries can be a good source of vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and K for fruit-eating tortoises. However, they should not be fed to Grazing and Mediterranean tortoises and if they have to be fed they should be fed in moderation since these tortoises’ digestive system is not designed to digest high sugars found in fruits such as blueberries.
Offering a variety of food items such as fruits and vegetables plus grass, hay and weeds and flowers will ensure that your tortoises have all the nutrients it needs. Another sure way of ensuring that your tortoise is receiving all the nutrients it needs is by feeding it high-quality commercially made pellets like the ones found in Amazon.