There are many different breeds of tortoises. Some strictly prefer plants and flowers, while others prefer a little fruit in their diet. With that said, you may be wondering if your pet tortoise can eat watermelon. Watermelon is a sweet and refreshing fruit that many people love and offers numerous health benefits, but is it safe for your tort? The short answer is yes; most tortoises can eat watermelon, however, it ultimately depends on the species.
Did you know there are around 49 different species of tortoises? You read that right—49. Most tortoises are herbivores, meaning they eat mostly plants and flowers. Since there are many different species, we’ll focus on three that eat fruit. But first, let’s answer this question for clarity:
Watermelon and Turtles vs. Tortoises
Before we get any further, it’s important to understand the difference between turtles and tortoises. Tortoises live on land and have elephant-like feet, whereas turtles are equipped with webbed feet for swimming and can live in water. If you own a box turtle, then you do not own a tortoise.
The yellow-footed tortoise hails from rain forests in southern Colombia. The vibrant yellow colors on the face, shell, and legs help distinguish this species from the others. They can grow up to 20 pounds with proper care. This omnivorous tortoise will appreciate the occasional watermelon, along with other fruits and greens.
The red-footed tortoise comes from South Africa and makes for a popular pet here in the U.S. The colors on their legs consist of orange, yellow, and red. They have curious personalities and have a long lifespan of around 50 years or more. They can grow anywhere from 11 to 14 inches and are easy to care for. They are omnivores and love to eat, so giving watermelon to your pet red-footed tort will be quite the welcomed occasional treat.
These tortoises, also known as the yellow-headed tortoise, have a dark-yellow shell and hail from Southeast Asia. Their life span is anywhere from 40 to 50 years, and they weigh up to 7 pounds. They are happiest in warm, tropical weather and love to relax buried under leaves. Their gentle disposition makes for an ideal pet. They also are omnivores, so small pieces of watermelon can be added to their diet.
The Benefits of Feeding Watermelon to Tortoises
Watermelon contains vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin C. A single watermelon contains 92% water, making this refreshing fruit a great way to hydrate your tortoise. The high percentage of water also helps keep tortoises’ skin moist. Watermelon is low in calories and contains antioxidants, such as lycopene.
How to Feed Watermelon to Your Tortoise
The first time you introduce watermelon to your tortoise, you’ll want to make sure your tortoise will not have any digestive issues consuming the fruit. It’s best to feed a little piece and then monitor afterward for diarrhea. While most fruit-eating tortoises can eat watermelon, there may be a particular tort that doesn’t digest the fruit as well. If no issues arise, you’re good to go.
How Often Can I Feed My Tortoise Watermelon?
While watermelon is safe for the fruit-eating tortoise, there are limits to how often you should feed it to them. Some experts recommended giving watermelon about once a month as a special treat mixed with greens and other acceptable fruits for a balanced diet. Others agree that giving watermelon once every couple of weeks is alright, as long as it’s in small amounts. Watermelon is high in sugar, so keeping it to the occasional treat and small pieces is beneficial for your tort.
Are Fruits Bad for Tortoises?
Fruits are not bad for tortoises as long as you feed them sparingly because of their sugar content. Watermelon isn’t the only fruit tortoises can consume; strawberries, mangos, peaches, apples, blackberries, raspberries, and grapes are all safe fruits in moderation.
Can I Feed Watermelon to Mediterranean Tortoises?
The short answer here is: very sparingly or none at all. The Mediterranean tortoise’s digestive system is not designed for foods that contain high sugars, such as watermelon, so it’s best to avoid them. Mediterranean tortoises, like the Hermann’s tortoise, eat primarily plants and flowers. Feeding watermelon or any other fruit to this species can lead to digestive issues.
The Bottom Line About Watermelon and Tortoises
As mentioned, there are many different species of tortoises, so it’s imperative to know what species you have so you can provide watermelon safely. Watermelon contains many nutrients, but it’s important not to overfeed it to your tortoise. As long as your tortoise can eat fruit, go ahead and give this sweet and delicious fruit as a special treat!
Featured Image Credit: Fotografie – Schmidt, Shutterstock