Tortoises are drawn to a banana’s bright and vibrant yellow color. So, we know that most tortoises like bananas, but that doesn’t mean all species of tortoises should eat tropical fruit.
It’s okay for tortoises to eat bananas if they’re a fruit-eating species, like Russian, red-footed, and yellow-footed tortoises. If your tortoise isn’t a fruit-eater, like a Hermann’s or sulcata tortoise, it won’t have evolved to process the natural sugars, leading to digestive problems like diarrhea.
Banana peels are safe and healthy for tortoise consumption when organic.
Can I Give My Tortoise Banana?
Bananas are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. However, the amount you offer and whether bananas should be offered depends on the tortoise species.
Regardless of the type of tortoise, feed bananas sparingly. Fruits contain essential nutrients for fruit-eating species, but bananas aren’t always a good choice for these reasons:
High in Sugar
According to Harvard, one medium-sized banana contains 15 grams of sugar.
Some species of tortoises can handle more sugar than others. Grazing species, like the sulcata, can’t digest much sugar, leading to digestive issues.
Fruit-eating tortoise species, like the red-footed tortoise and yellow-footed tortoise, will be less affected by the high sugar content. However, it’s better to choose fruits that are low in sugar.
Good low-sugar alternatives include strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
High In Potassium
Bananas are a rich source of potassium. While this is healthy for humans, it’s not ideal for tortoises. High levels of potassium are linked to kidney disease in reptiles.
Bananas contain too much phosphorus and too little calcium. Specifically, 100 grams of banana contains 5 mg of calcium and 22 mg of phosphorus, which is the opposite of what’s required.
According to the British Chelonia Group, wild tortoises have a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of at least 4:1.
Phosphorus is an important mineral for healthy shell and bone development. However, tortoises need far more calcium than phosphorus, and since the two are closely intertwined, bananas create an imbalance.
Phosphorus and calcium levels are inversely linked. As calcium levels in the blood rise, phosphate levels fall. If too much phosphate is in the body, calcium will be removed from the bones.
The wrong calcium-to-phosphorus ratio can lead to kidney disease. According to The Veterinary Record, an imbalance can lead to deformed and permanently damaged shells.
Is Banana Good for Tortoises?
Fruit-eating tortoises can enjoy the following health benefits:
Bananas are a good source of the following vitamins:
|Vitamin A:||64 IU|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamin):||0.032 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin):||0.072 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (niacin):||0.664 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid):||0.333 mg|
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine):||0.366 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (folates):||20 mcg|
|Vitamin C:||8.7 mg|
|Vitamin E:||0.11 mg|
|Vitamin K:||0.5 mcg|
Vitamin A (also known as retinol) is needed for eye health and defense against illnesses.
Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) is utilized for protein metabolization, nerve health, and hemoglobin and antibody production.
The antioxidant, Vitamin C, is essential for iron absorption and for forming new tissues and bones.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that fights against infection and prevents blood clotting.
Bananas contain little protein. Tortoises that consume too much protein, especially juveniles, can be vulnerable to pyramiding, an irreversible condition.
Banana doesn’t contain any vitamin D, so a tortoise will need to get it from other foods or sun exposure.
Bananas are rich in the following minerals:
Copper is essential for red blood cell formation while keeping blood vessels, nerves, and bones healthy.
Manganese plays an important role in the metabolism of amino acids, glucose, and cholesterol. In conjunction with vitamin K, it helps with blood clotting and hemostasis.
Magnesium assists enzymes in producing chemical reactions in the body, such as blood sugar regulation and muscle and nerve functions.
As we’ve discussed, the calcium and potassium balance isn’t optimal.
Bananas contain two kinds of fiber: pectin and resistant starch. Pectin is a natural fiber found in plants, while resistant starches are molecules that aren’t digested.
Both compounds won’t be digested in the gut. Instead, they’re used as food for the gut microbiome, which efficiently breaks down food and absorbs nutrients.
Bananas are rich in antioxidants. These compounds fight free radicals, which are molecules that lead to cell damage. Free radicals cause oxidative stress, which has been linked to health issues like:
- Age-related illnesses
- Heart diseases
- Neurodegenerative diseases
Bananas contain different antioxidants like dopamine and catechins.
According to CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets, polyphenols like catechins can lead to faster healing times and greater resilience against infections.
Can Sulcata Tortoise Eat Bananas?
Sulcata tortoises (also known as African tortoises) are herbivorous grazers that live in dry, arid, and sandy regions. Here, sulcatas feed on grass, hay, weeds, and cacti.
Sulcatas haven’t evolved to digest the high sugar content in bananas. Excessive fruit consumption leads to diarrhea, limiting how many nutrients can be absorbed.
According to PLOS One, desert tortoises can adapt to eating fruit, but their digestive systems can only tolerate small amounts. So, fruit is best avoided.
Can Red-Footed Tortoise Eat Bananas?
Red-footed tortoises (and their close relative, yellow-footed tortoises) can be found in tropical regions. They’re omnivores, meaning they can eat animal and plant proteins.
Since tortoises are scavengers, you’ll find them feeding on fallen fruit.
Fruits like bananas compose a larger part of the red-footed tortoise’s diet. Aside from fruit, they also vegetables and some animal protein from insects.
Their digestive tract has naturally evolved to process higher amounts of sugar.
Bananas are still best fed in moderation. Other fruits that contain less sugar and have a more favorable phosphorus-to-calcium ratio are ideal.
Many owners prefer tropical fruits like mangoes, honeydew, and papaya—notably, red-footed tortoises like eating strawberries due to their bright red color.
Can Leopard Tortoises Eat Bananas?
Leopard tortoises are native to dry, arid regions, specifically South Africa, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
Like the sulcata, this tortoise is a herbivore, so its diet should be 50-80% grasses and greens. Leopard tortoises should also be given veggies to supplement their meals.
However, leopard tortoises don’t need fruit in their diet. In the wild, they rarely encounter fruit and haven’t evolved to digest it properly.
While leopard tortoises can sample some banana without harm, too much can lead to digestive issues.
Are Banana Leaves Safe For Tortoises?
Banana leaves aren’t poisonous, so they’re safe to feed tortoises in moderation.
Banana leaves are also inexpensive and common to find in bulk. You can search at your local supermarket, although you’ll have better luck in Asian supermarkets.
When feeding your tortoise banana leaves, there is little worry about pesticides. These leaves are prepared for use in cooking, so they have edibility in mind.
A quick rinse removes any dirt, dust, or debris. To store, wrap in plastic and keep in the freezer.
Banana leaves are healthy for tortoises. They contain many nutrients, notably the antioxidant Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which gives green tea its antioxidant properties.
Can Tortoise Eat Banana Peel?
Tortoises eat banana peels due to their color and texture. On its own, a banana peel doesn’t contain any harmful toxins to tortoises.
Unfortunately, banana peels are often coated in pesticides and insecticides, which are dangerous. Buying organic bananas and washing or boiling the skin will negate this problem.
Banana peels are a good source of disease-fighting antioxidants like polyphenols and carotenoids. The peel is also a good source of fiber, polyunsaturated fats, amino acids, and potassium.
Interestingly, green or unripe bananas are more nutritious than ripe bananas.
You can feed banana to a tortoise, as most will enjoy the rich flavor and texture. However, you should limit the amount of banana you offer tortoises since they’re very high in sugar.