Your tortoises diet should be high in fresh vegetables, weeds, flowers and leaves. Feeding tortoises can be quite complex but it needs to be done right as they are vulnerable animals and a sub-optimal diet could have drastic effects on your reptile. Vegetables should make up around 20% of their diet but are all vegetables safe for them to eat, what about spinach? Let’s find out.
Can tortoises eat spinach? Yes tortoises can eat spinach as long as it’s given in moderation as part of a varied diet. Spinach is considered a super-food and for good reason, it’s full of vitamins and nutrients like vitamin A, C, K, iron, calcium and fiber. However spinach contains a high amount of oxalic acid which can prevent them from absorbing calcium which is why it shouldn’t be given too regularly.
In this article we are going to explain the health benefits of spinach, possible downsides and some other things you should know before feeding spinach to your tortoise.
Spinach Health Benefits For Tortoises
1 cup of spinach contains the following nutrients :
Good Source Of Fiber
Spinach contains fiber. particular insoluble fiber and as tortoises need a high fiber diet spinach is a great way to achieve it.
Insoluble fiber is useful for your tortoises digestive system as it helps them to pass stools more effectively. It does this by softening them as well as increasing the size to reduce constipation.
Spinach also contains fiber, tortoises need this vitamin for resistance against infection and to protect their eyes and skin. It does this by creating white blood cells that destroy the bacteria that goes on to cause infection.
Carrots, chicory, kale, plantain (the weed), collards and dandelions are all safe alternatives to feed your tortoise.
Tortoises don’t necessarily need vitamin C substituted through their diet as they can synthesize it themselves using their kidneys.
Vitamin C is needed for tortoises as it protects and strengthens the immune system preventing the risk of infections and diseases.
It’s also an antioxidant that works to reduce oxidative stress in the body, oxidative stress in cells has been known to cause chronic illness like cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
High In Vitamin K
Tortoises need vitamin K as it’s essential for keeping your tortoises bone strong thus protecting their shell. It also has blood clotting properties meaning it’s needed for healing wounds and preventing your tortoise from bleeding too much from a minor cut.
Being a tortoise owner you likely know the importance calcium has in your tortoises body. They need it to maintain a strong skeletal structure, bone health and the growth of their shell.
If tortoises don’t get enough calcium through their diet they start to take some from bone marrow, which can lead to deficiencies and metabolic bone disorder.
Potential Downsides Of Spinach For Tortoises
Some tortoise owners won’t give their reptile any spinach due to the high oxalic acid content in the vegetable.
Large amounts of oxalic acid is a problem for tortoises because it binds to calcium in the body, therefore disable tortoises from making good use of it.
This can lead to a calcium deficiency which is a big problem for tortoises because it’s one of the more important minerals they need to survive.
If you are particularly worried about oxalates in spinach then you could cook it as cooked spinach contains around 40% less oxalates.
However if you feed spinach to your tortoise in moderation as part of a varied diet with plenty of calcium then it won’t be a problem for them to have.
Spinach is full of goodness but it’s also been studied as produce with one of the highest pesticide content.
Pesticides are chemicals sprayed on fruits and vegetables to keep away harmful bacteria and other organisms while the food is being grown. Some tortoise owners don’t give any foods with pesticides on them and others don’t worry about it too much.
Before giving spinach to your tortoise I would recommend to wash it first under some cold water, to remove or limit the amount of pesticides your tortoise consumes.
Can Tortoises Eat Raw Spinach?
Many vegetables contain a lot more nutrients while they are raw, however spinach is one that is actually better nutritionally when it’s cooked. Although raw spinach contains more potassium, folate, riboflavin and niacin.
It comes down to your tortoises preference and if they prefer to eat it raw however feeding it to them raw and cooked creates more variety which is preferred.
Can Tortoises Eat Cooked Spinach?
Remember those oxalates we spoke about that can interfere with your tortoises ability to absorb calcium? Well cooking spinach actually reduces the amount of oxalates by up to 40%. This among the fact cooked spinach contains more vitamin A, fiber, zinc, thiamin and protein making cooked spinach more preferable to raw spinach.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Sulcata Tortoises Eat Spinach?
Sulcata tortoises should mainly eat vegetation like watercress, kale, rocket, carrots and peppers. The main source of their diet should be leafy greens which makes spinach a perfect addition to your Sulcata tortoises diet.
They also need fiber in their diet which spinach is a great source of, other alternatives are grasses and weeds like chickweed, goats beard, nipplewort and white nettle.
Can Russian Tortoises Eat Spinach?
Russian tortoises need a high fiber low protein diet filled with herbaceous foods like grasses, flowers and the occasional low sugar fruit.
Because Russian tortoises require a low protein diet spinach isn’t the best for them as it contains a decent amount of protein. It won’t harm them if given on occasion but you shouldn’t make spinach a staple in your Russian tortoises diet.
Can Hermann Tortoises Eat Spinach?
Hermann tortoises are mainly herbivores and you wan’t to replicate foods that they would find out in the wild. Foods like dandelions, collard greens, mustard greens, endive and carrots are all encouraged to feed them.
This means spinach is a healthy alternative that can be given to Hermann tortoises but it’s not the best food they can have as there are healthier alternatives listed above. However when given in moderation spinach won’t cause any problems for your Hermann tortoise!
Can Red-Footed Tortoises Eat Spinach?
Also primarily herbivores, Red-footed tortoises can be easily identified by the colorful markings on their leg.
Red-footed tortoises eat insects, flowers, vegetation and are one of the only tortoise species who can handle the high sugar most fruits contain.
Red-footed tortoises can eat spinach as it’s a good source of fiber for them among a list of many other nutrients they can reap the rewards from.
Spinach For Tortoises – Summary
Spinach makes a good addition to your tortoises diet as it’s a super-food packed with a number of nutrients that can benefit them. It’s safe for them in moderation as it contains no toxins but it’s recommended they don’t have too much of it due to the high number of oxalates present in spinach.
Remember to wash spinach before giving it to your tortoise as it may contain pesticides which can harm your tortoise if they ingest them often.