Can Tortoises Eat Basil?

Owning a pet tortoise can be a difficult but rewarding task. Your tortoise’s diet is extremely important and needs to fill all the nutritional requirements that they have. As a tortoise owner, I’m always looking for new foods I can add to my reptile’s daily diet to give him different vitamins and minerals that he’s not getting already. One food I was curious about when I got my tortoise was basil.

Can tortoises eat basil? Yes tortoises can eat basil it’s safe for them to have and it’s actually very nutrient-dense. Basil contains vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin K along with important antioxidants that help your tortoises cells. It shouldn’t be a staple in their diet so only give it in moderation, some tortoises may not even like it due to the strong smell and taste basil has.

In this post, we’re going to explain why basil is good for tortoises, what other herbs are safe for them, and some other things you should know before you give basil to your tort.

Basil Benefits For Tortoises

As per the USDA, 100 grams of basil contains the following nutrition:


Vitamin A

There is some vitamin A contained inside basil. This vitamin is important for many functions that go on inside your torts body, with the main one supporting the immune system. If your tortoise gets a disease or infection it’s because its immune system couldn’t fight it, vitamin A is needed to make the immune system stronger and be able to deal with bacteria.

Other health benefits of vitamin A include:

  • Supports eye health
  • Needed for bone growth
  • Reproductive system benefits
  • Supports the urinary, respiratory, and intestinal tracts

Carrots, dandelion, plantain (the weed), kale and spinach are all great alternatives of vitamin A you can add to your torts diet.

High In Vitamin K

Basil is particularly high in vitamin K, a vitamin needed for helping your tortoise with blood clotting. If your tort gets a cut vitamin K is responsible for healing it. Without enough of this in their diet, they might get a wound and bleed excessively.

Vitamin K is also important for helping with bone strength to reduce the risk of breaks and fractures.

Great Source of Calcium

Perhaps the most important mineral in your tortoise’s body is calcium, luckily there’s some packed inside basil.

Calcium is needed for your tortoise’s skeletal growth, promotes healthy shells, keeps their bones healthy and it’s needed for the nervous system to function properly.

Your tortoise needs enough calcium in its diet to prevent them from becoming deficient, which can cause an array of problems like metabolic bone disease. This can cause softening of their shell, weakened bones, paralysis and if it’s left untreated for some time can even lead to death.


Iron is also inside basil, a mineral needed for creating hemoglobin in your tortoise’s body. Hemoglobin is a protein in the body needed to create red blood cells, which transport oxygen into the blood.

It’s also important in your tortoise’s body for :

  • Giving them energy and focus
  • Abdominal processes
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Regulating body temperature

A deficiency in iron may be present itself as tiredness and lack of energy, shortness of breath, and an irregular heartbeat.


One of the main benefits of manganese in tortoises is that it helps them absorb calcium more efficiently. This is needed for them to get all those health benefits of calcium we just explained above, without it the calcium consumed by your tortoise wouldn’t be put to good use.

Manganese is also vital for :

  • Carbohydrate and fat metabolism
  • Blood sugar level regulation
  • Its blood-clotting properties
  • Needed for bone health

How Much Basil Should You Give To Your Tortoise?

The portion size will depend on the size and age of your tortoise. In the wild tortoises are used to traveling miles and miles for little amounts of food, so when they are domesticated some owners tend to overfeed them. This can lead to problems with their shell and other health problems.

As a general rule of thumb give them some basil leaves that equates to the size of their shell, so for smaller tortoises, you would obviously give them less than a fully grown adult tort.

What Other Herbs Can Tortoises Eat?

Basil isn’t the only herb safe for your tortoise to have in their diet. Tortoises can also have:

  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary (given rarely)
  • Sage
  • Thyme

While these herbs are completely safe for your tortoise to eat, you may have a problem getting your tortoise to like them due to the strong aroma that comes from them.

Basil For Tortoises – Summary

Overall basil is a safe herb you can feed to your tortoise. It contains no immediate toxins that will harm your tort and provide some well-needed health benefits. The problem with herbs is that the strong taste and smell they have are often not very appealing to tortoises, however, you can still try your tort might love them.

I hope you found this article useful and your tortoise enjoys a new addition to its diet!