Can Tortoises Eat Watermelon? (Refreshing But Not Ideal)

Yes, generally speaking, tortoises can eat watermelon as it’s not toxic or harmful. However, fruit is not recommended for tortoises as they struggle to process the sugars. Some species eat more fruits in the wild than others as I’ll explain in this article.

Can Tortoises Eat Watermelon

Can You Feed a Tortoise Watermelon?

There are two things to keep in mind when questioning whether or not you should give your tortoise some watermelon or any fruits for that matter;

The first is what species of tortoise you have. Some tortoises do eat a small amount of fruit in the wild, and these species are better at digesting fruits than tortoises with native diets that do not include fruit.

The second thing to consider is how much and how often you are giving your tort fruit. No matter what species you have, the right answer is to always give your tort fruit in small amounts and not very often.

Fruit is pretty much seen as the equivalent of junk food for tortoises. There is no doubt that tortoises love eating different foods, at least in my experience – which might confirm that it really is junk food!

So, the bottom line; a little watermelon as a treat is fine, but there is no real benefit to feeding watermelon to your tortoise so I wouldn’t go out of your way to do so.

Can Fruits Be Bad for Tortoises?

Fruit-eating tortoises eat fruits in the wild without any ill effects. It’s best if you look up which fruits the species of tortoise you have would eat in their natural habitat and try to stick to those fruits.

Even so, it’s estimated that fruits make up just 5-10% of a tortoise’s overall diet, so feed it to them sparingly.

In the case of tortoises that would not be any fruit in the wild, it’s best you stick to the foods that they would eat in the wild and not offer them fruit.

Either way, the main issue with fruits and tortoises is the sugar content. Tortoise’s digestive systems are not designed to process sugars.

They require plenty of fibrous plant matter, calcium, and some other key vitamins and minerals – most of which are not found in fruits.

Author Comment: Fruit is basically junk food to tortoises, keep it to a minimum, and don’t be surprised if they have an upset stomach!

What Should You Feed Your Tortoise?

Ideally, you want to try and replicate what your tortoise would eat in the wild as closely as possible.

This usually isn’t very difficult as tortoises roam around eating bits of plants, weeds, and fruits.

There are also some good commercial feeds that provide a good range of nutrition tortoises need, this makes feeding them and ensuring they’re getting the right nutrients a little easier.

I use the combination of commercial pallets and bits of fresh plants daily for my Horsefield, as well as little bits of fresh fruits and vegetables that add some variation when I have them.

To help you know what the best foods for your tortoise are, you need to know what species you have and what kind of food they would have eaten in the wild.

Generally speaking, tortoises are split into two groups; those that live on terrains that provide plenty of plants, weeds, flowers, etc., and those that would have access to more fresh fruits.

Some of the common species of tortoise that are commonly kept as pets that need a lot of plants in their diets are:

  • African Sulcata
  • Hermann’s tortoise
  • Horsfield’s (Russian) tortoise
  • Indian Star tortoise
  • Leopard tortoise

Tortoises that would eat some fruits in the wild and benefit from fruits in captivity include:

  • Yellow-Footed tortoise 
  • Red-Footed tortoise
  • Elongated tortoises

This isn’t a complete list, so if you have a species that you don’t see above, my best advice is to look at what they would eat in the wild (or ask a local reptile seller).

Plants That Tortoises Can Eat

Plants make a huge part of the tortoise’s diet in the wild. Tortoises are known to be grazers and will travel pretty far (at a nice slow pace, of course) munching on literally hundreds of different plants if available.

Here are some of the plants you might be able to get a hold of that is listed as safe for tortoises to eat:

  • Forget-me-nots
  • MulberryChicory
  • Chickweed
  • Clover
  • Hibiscus
  • Dandelions
  • Plantain
  • Dock leaves
  • Aloe vera
  • Brambles (remove thorns!)
  • Mustard leaves
  • Evening primrose

Vegetables That Tortoises Can Eat

If you want to know what vegetables tortoises can eat, here’s a list of some of the more common ones that are known to be safe:

Fruits That Some Tortoises Can Eat

As mentioned above, if you have a species of tortoise that would eat fruits in the wild like the yellow and red-footed tortoise, you can add some fruits into their diet.

Here are some tort favorites:

  • Watermelon
  • Peaches
  • Kiwi
  • AppleStrawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pear
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Grapes
  • Banana
  • Figs
  • Papaya

Things to Keep In Mind When Feeding Tortoises

Not every weed, plant, and vegetable is safe for tortoises to eat. Before feeding your tortoise something for the first time, you should always check it’s safe for them.

This isn’t a complete list, but here are some of the common things that are known to be potentially dangerous or toxic:

Plants That Are Toxic to Tortoises

  • Azalea
  • Holly
  • Morning glories
  • Hemlock
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Yew
  • Foxglove
  • Buttercups
  • Tiger Lily
  • Hydrangea
  • Ivy/Poison Ivy
  • Mistletoe
  • Rhododendron

Other Foods That Are Toxic to Tortoises

  • Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Rhubarb
  • Bread
  • Citrus fruits
  • Parts of nightshade plants
  • Chili Peppers
  • Avocado

Author Tip: Variety is the key, the more different foods you can offer the better. Make a list of what your tortoise enjoys, and you can narrow down the foods you offer.

Can My Hermann Tortoise Eat Watermelon?

Hermann tortoises are native to some of the eastern and southern countries in Europe. In the wild, their diets consist almost entirely of fibrous plants, like grasses and weeds, and very few – if any – fruits.

Therefore, although a small amount of watermelon should not cause them any issues, I wouldn’t give watermelon to your Hermann.

Can a Leopard Tortoise Eat Watermelon?

Leopard tortoises are native to parts of Africa, and they’re actually one of the few species of tortoise that are known to eat watermelon in their natural habitat.

It’s still not recommended that you feed them much fruit overall, but a little watermelon here and there will not do any harm.

Can Russian Tortoises Eat Watermelon?

Native to China, southeastern Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, Russian tortoises are not fruit-eating species of tortoises so you should not feed them fruits very often, if at all.

Don’t worry if you have given your Horsefield watermelon on occasion, it’s not going to cause him/her any issues.

Summary

Watermelon is not toxic or harmful to tortoises, but feeding your tortoise fruit is not recommended so it’s something you can pass on.

I do give my tortoise a little bit of fruit here and there is a treat, so don’t worry if you’ve been feeding yours a little watermelon as it shouldn’t cause any health issues.

Resources

Image credits – Taken by author; copyright PetAdviceHub.com

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