Can Tortoises Eat Tomatoes? (Is It Safe for Them?)

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if you’re considering spoiling your tortoise with a tasty treat, you’ve probably thought about tomatoes. But you might be uncertain whether they are safe for your beloved pet.

Key Takeaways
  • Most tortoise species can safely consume ripe tomatoes, but some need to be cautious of oxalic acid and calcium depletion.
  • Feed your tortoise tomatoes once or twice a week, limiting it to 5-10% of their total food intake.
  • Cherry tomatoes are preferred; avoid green tomatoes. There’s no need to remove seeds or skin.
  • Balance the diet with various fruits and vegetables for optimal nutrition.

Can All Tortoise Species Eat Tomatoes?

a tortoise is eating cherry tomatoes

To begin, ripe tomatoes are generally safe for most tortoise species.

However, not all tortoise species handle the acidity and sugar content of tomatoes the same way.

For example, Russian tortoises, Red-footed, and Yellow-footed can devour tomatoes without a second thought. These robust species can handle the acidity and sugar content of tomatoes with ease, making these fruits a delightful addition to their diet.

However, desert tortoises like sulcata tortoises, and Hermann’s need to exercise caution when it comes to tomato treats. Why?

It’s all about the oxalic acid and calcium depletion factor. These species are sensitive to the effects of these, which makes tomatoes less suitable for their diet.

Tortoise SpeciesCan Eat Tomatoes?Notes
Sulcata TortoiseYesIn small amounts, Their digestive tract doesn’t tolerate fruits well. They eat primarily grasses and other plants.
Hermann’s TortoiseYesIn small amounts, their digestive system doesn’t tolerate fruits well.
Yellow-footed TortoiseYesThey can eat tomatoes occasionally as treats. They come from tropical environments and sometimes eat fruit as part of their natural diet.
Russian TortoiseYesThey can eat tomatoes occasionally as treats.
Red-footed TortoiseYesThey can eat tomatoes occasionally as treats. They are omnivorous and can eat a variety of foods.

How much and How often Can tortoises Have Tomatoes? 

The answer depends on a variety of factors – the species, size, and age of your tortoise, and your tortoise’s overall diet and health status.

Here are some general rules of thumb to follow:

  • Amount: Think of two cherry tomato sizes or a few slices from a larger tomato (for small tortoises). Tomatoes should make up about 5-10% of your tortoise’s total food intake.
  • Frequency: Offer your tortoise tomatoes once or twice a week. Daily servings can lead to digestive complications, kidney stones, or calcium deficiency
cherry tomatoes next to sliced tomatoes

Don’t forget that diet diversity is key to your tortoise’s health and happiness.

Leafy greens, weeds, and other vegetables should make up the bulk of your tortoise’s meals. Tomatoes should be the occasional treat, not the main course.

What is the safest type of Tomatoes for Tortoises?

Just as in the supermarket, there’s a vast array of tomato varieties available. But which ones do tortoises like? Here’s the lowdown:

different types of tomatoes
  • Cherry Tomatoes: A clear favorite among tortoises, cherry tomatoes are small, sweet, and less acidic than other varieties. Their bite-sized dimensions are just right for a tortoise’s tiny mouth. Personally, I offer these to my tortoises, and they seem to really enjoy the burst of flavor they provide.
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes: While they might be a favorite for your sandwiches, most tortoises turn their nose up at them but they are safe for tortoises to eat.
  • Green Tomatoes: A big no-no! All tortoises tend to dislike these. They contain solanine, a toxic compound that can harm your pet. Let’s keep these off the menu, shall we?
  • Yellow or Orange Tomatoes: These are a bit of a mixed bag. Some tortoises love them for their lower acidity and richer flavor, while others aren’t fans.

Are Tomato Seeds and Skin Safe for Tortoises? Should They Be Removed?

Now, you might be wondering, “What about the skin and seeds do I need to remove them”

The short answer is – No.

There is a common belief among some pet owners that the seeds in tomatoes could potentially harm tortoises.

They worry that the seeds may lead to impaction, a blockage in the digestive system. Accordingly, they recommend removing the seeds.

However, in my many years of caring for tortoises, I’ve never found this to be an issue.

In fact, in the wild, tortoises eat a variety of foods that include seeds. The digestive system of tortoises is designed to handle seeds. What’s more, tomato seeds, like the fruit itself, are packed with beneficial nutrients.

How to Prepare and Offer Tomatoes to Tortoises

So, how should you offer these treats to your tortoise?

cherry tomatoes on grass
  1. Choose fresh, ripe, and organic tomatoes that are free from pesticides, mold, or any signs of damage. My tortoises have a particular fondness for cherry tomatoes – maybe yours will too!
  2. Give the tomatoes a good rinse under running water to remove any dirt or possible pesticides.
  3. Slice the tomatoes into small, bite-size pieces. Make sure to remove any stems.
  4. Place the tomato pieces in a shallow dish inside your tortoise’s enclosure.
  5. Keep an eye on your tortoise while it’s eating. Once done, remove any leftovers to maintain a clean enclosure.
a tortoise is eating cherry tomatoes

Benefits of Tomatoes for tortoises

Tomatoes are packed with vitamin C, which bolsters your tortoise’s immune system. But that’s not where the benefits end.

Tomatoes also contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that combats harmful free radicals in your tortoise’s body. Imagine it like an invisible shield protecting your tortoise’s cells – pretty cool, right?

Plus, tomatoes are a natural, tasty hydration source helping your tortoise fend off dehydration.

Risks of Feeding Tomatoes to Your Tortoise

Tomatoes are high in sugar, and overconsumption could lead to obesity and diabetes in your tortoise.

Notably, tomatoes can be acidic, and too many could result in mouth ulcers, stomach ulcers, and kidney stones – health complications you’d undoubtedly want to avoid.

Also, green tomatoes, tomato stems, and leaves contain solanine, a toxic compound that can cause poisoning and, in severe cases, death.

What are Some Alternatives to Tomatoes for Tortoises?

The tortoise diet is diverse and extends beyond tomatoes.

Many other fruits and vegetables are more suitable and offer superior nutritional value for your tortoise, such as:

  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Dandelions
  • Cabbage
  • Mustard leaves
  • Clover

These foods provide fiber, water, and vitamins, and have a low phosphorus content, ensuring your tortoise stays healthy and content.

Conclusion

While ripe tomatoes can be an exciting addition to your tortoise’s diet, remember to serve them in moderation a few slices once or twice a week.

Balance them with a variety of other fruits and veggies to ensure your shelled companion enjoys a diverse, nutritious diet.

About the Author
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Chafik Abderrahman is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SmallPetsHQ.com.

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