During one of my visits to the local zoo, I watched tortoises being fed some fruits. Our guide however insisted that some tortoises should not eat fruits. This got me curious and I decided to learn more by doing research on which tortoises should eat fruit. Below I share my research on whether they can all eat watermelon.
Table of Contents
Can tortoises eat watermelon?
Fruit-eating tortoises can eat watermelon including the watermelon rind. However, for the Mediterranean tortoises, grazing or desert tortoises they should either eat watermelon moderately or none at all since their digestion system is not designed to digest high sugars.
Watermelon can be a good source of hydration for tortoises, especially during summer.
Fruits, greens, and vegetables should make about 10% of your tortoise diet. While most experts recommend against feeding fruits to the Mediterranean and Desert or grazing tortoises. When fed in moderation they are completely safe for these tortoises.
Anecdotal evidence shows that you can offer fruits to these tortoises moderately while giving them commercially made tortoise-specific pellets.
Can you feed a tortoise watermelon?
Yes, you can feed watermelons and other fruits to tortoises. However, you should always consider the category of your tortoise before feeding the fruits. Some tortoises can eat fruits without issues while others can have health issues when they eat fruits.
In the wild, some tortoise’s diet is composed of fruits while others do not encounter fruits while foraging for food.
For tortoises that eat fruits in their natural world, they can digest and cope with the high sugars of fruits while the tortoises that do not have fruits as part of their diet in the wild may not be able to digest the high sugars of the fruits.
To understand different types of tortoises and what their diet should be composed of we made the following tables after extensive literature research.
Categories of tortoises AND THEIR PREFERRED DIET
|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)|
Russian tortoises can eat watermelon when offered, however, experts, advise against feeding fruits such as watermelon to Mediterranean tortoises such as Russian tortoises since their digestion system is not accustomed to digesting the high sugar content of fruits.
When fed in moderation, however, the Mediterranean tortoises that include the Russian tortoises can eat watermelon and other fruits.
|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|
Nutrition of Watermelon in the diet of the Tortoise
As mentioned earlier watermelon is a nutritionally poor fruit but has a lot of water content. Feeding tortoises fruits high in water content will lead to diarrhea. However, when fed moderately, watermelon will offer the following nutrients.
Benefits of feeding watermelon to Tortoise
I know we have just stated that one of the reasons watermelon should be fed moderately is due to the high water content. Which can easily cause diarrhea in tortoises.
Well, keeping your tortoise well hydrated is very important. We have written a detailed article explaining the importance of making sure your tort takes enough water and signs to look out for to identify a dehydrated tort. [Do tortoise drink water]
But how do you feed watermelon to your tortoise without causing diarrhea issues.
If you have a tortoise that is severely dehydrated and hungry at the same time, feeding them fruits that have a high water content is oneway to make sure they are hydrated.
This scenario can happen when a tort is rescued from the wild and happens to have been incapacitated limiting its mobility. Mixing watermelon with other high nutritional fruits such as papaya, apples, bananas, pineapples, mango, and so on.
Fats and proteins
Fats and proteins provide energy and also facilitate the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Proteins are not required in large amounts since they require a high amount of water to excrete.
Given the limited availability of water in the tortoise environment, these animals have adapted to low protein requirements. About 15% to35% of the protein content of the total food should be offered to the tortoise daily.
Fat should be maintained at 10% of the total diet. Besides providing energy, fats help in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Given that tortoises are herbivores fiber plays a very important role in their digestion and nutrient requirements. Tortoise derives their energy from the fermentation of fiber in their diet.
However, you should not rely on fruits to provide fiber to your tort since fruits have a very poor fiber content. While feeding watermelon to your tort will provide it with some small fiber content there are better sources of fiber for your tortoise.
Calcium and phosphorus
Calcium is one of the most important minerals that should always be in the diet of all tortoises.
Especially for a young tortoise that is still in its growth and development stage, calcium is needed in the making of the shell and tortoise bones and the skeleton as a whole.
Combined with phosphorus these two minerals form a very important part of the everyday diet of torts.
However, the two minerals are antagonists of each other when being absorbed in the body. High levels of phosphorous normally reduce the absorption of calcium in the body.
The recommended ratio of calcium to phosphorus is 2:1 for adults. Higher for young torts and laying tortoises.
High phosphorus content in the diet will bind with calcium forming calcium phosphates which prevent calcium from being absorbed in the body.
Therefore it is advisable to feed foods that have inverse calcium to phosphorus moderately to avoid offsetting the absorption balance.
Given that most fruits apart from papaya have an inverse calcium to phosphorus ratio, they should always be fed sparingly and not as the sole source of nutrients.
Mix these fruits accordingly to make a balanced diet, in case your tortoise prefers one fruit over others tries limiting that fruit to avoid overreliance on just one fruit.
Dangers of calcium deficiency include metabolic bone disease which will lead to deformed shells in the case of young torts and weak bones for mature torts.
For tortoises that are laying eggs, lack of enough calcium will lead to poor production.
Calcium regulates heartbeat plus the health of the blood, it also controls acid-base balance, blood clotting, muscle growth, contraction, and nerve transmission. Calcium facilitates the absorption of zinc and activation of several enzymes.
Phosphorus on the other hand facilitates chemical reactions in the body, utilization of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Transfer of hereditary traits, kidney function, and nerve impulse transfer.
Keep in mind that for proper absorption of calcium, there must be enough vitamin D in the body of the tortoise. Ensuring that your tort gets enough sunlight will help in processing vitamin D via the sun. Alternatively, you can feed your tortoise with calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Like minerals, vitamins play a very important role in the well-being of a tortoise. Some vitamins play more important roles than others.
Vitamins are divided into two categories namely water-soluble and fat-soluble.
Fat-soluble vitamins include Vitamins A, C, E, and K. Vitamin A facilitates the health of the eyes, mucous membrane, reproduction, and biochemical functions. Its deficiency will highly impair the functions of these organs.
The tortoise that is fed with occasional fruits and vegetables will rarely suffer from vitamin A deficiency since vegetables and fruits have a high concentration of beta carotene which is converted into vitamin A.
Water soluble vitamins includes
|Vitamin B1, thiamine||regulator in the carbohydrate metabolism|
|Vitamin B2, riboflavin||is a co-enzyme in energy release|
|Vitamin B3, niacin,||also crucial to the energy metabolism|
|Vitamin B6, pyridoxine||involved in energy conversion from glycogen and in the synthesis of haemoglobin and antibodies|
How to feed Watermelon to tortoises
- Wash the watermelon thoroughly
- Cut it into pieces small enough to fit in the tortoise mouth
- Mix it with other fruits and veggies and remember not to overfeed
- Remove uneaten fruits and veggies at the end of the day
Risks of overfeeding watermelon to the tortoise
While watermelon is a safe fruit for the tortoise when fed in moderation, overfeeding it or feeding it frequently will cause health problems such as diarrhea.
This is due to the high water and sugar content of the watermelon. Moreso, for tortoises that are not accustomed to fruits in their natural environment such as the grazing and Mediterranean tortoise.
How many times should you feed watermelon to your tortoise? You can feed watermelon to your tortoise about once a week mixed with other fruits and veggies to create a balanced diet. A small piece of watermelon is enough to feed your tortoise.
Can a red-footed tortoise eat watermelon? Red-foot tortoise belongs to fruit-eating tortoises that can comfortably eat watermelon when fed moderately. Red-footed tortoises eat fruits as part of their diet in the wild. Therefore, mixing watermelon with other fruits will offer more variety to the red-footed torts.
What fruits can my tortoise eat? Fruit-eating tortoises can eat the following fruits as part of a balanced diet Berries, melon, kiwi, bananas, watermelon, figs, mangoes, papaya, apples, blackberries, strawberries, plums, apricot, blueberries, raspberries, and peaches.
can tortoises eat honeydew melon/ Yes, the tortoise can eat all types of melon including Cantaloupe, Muskmelon, Watermelon, Ogen Melon, Honeydew, Galia? But these melons must be fed moderately and as part of a balanced diet.
Can sulcata tortoises eat watermelon? Like other grazing tortoises, sulcata tortoises should either eat watermelon moderately or none at all. Sulcata tortoises’ digestive system is not designed to digest the high sugars of watermelon.
While all types of melons such as Cantaloupe, Muskmelon, Watermelon, Ogen Melon, Honeydew, Galia are safe for the tortoise to eat. Care should be taken not to overfeed as this could lead to adverse health conditions. Avoid feeding melons frequently, despite being safe they have a lot of water and very little nutritional value. Mix them with other fruits as mentioned above to create variety and provide a balanced diet. Make sure to clean the melons fully before offering them to your tort to avoid infections. You should also cut them into small pieces that are easy for your tort to eat.