Just like all animals in the world, tortoises have specific dietary requirements that enable them to lead healthy lives.
If you have a pet tortoise or you are looking after one from the wild, you may be feeling quite overwhelmed when it comes to working out what you can feed to them. This gets even more overwhelming when you consider that some foods are toxic to tortoises!
Something we often get asked about is whether tortoises can eat broccoli. As such, we thought we should dedicate a whole article to the question!
In this article, we will be exploring whether broccoli is safe for tortoises and the toxins and nutrition it may possess.
Can my tortoise eat broccoli?
Tortoises should not be fed broccoli very often. The reason for this is because it can cause damage to the tortoise if fed in large amounts.
Whilst broccoli is a very healthy dietary staple for us humans, as well as many other animals, it does not have those same health benefits for our hard-shelled pals.
You should make sure to only feed your tortoise broccoli in very small amounts. It should not make up any of its regular diet but instead, be fed as a rare treat.
You should also avoid feeding it to your tortoise if they have already had kale or spinach, as both of these have similar effects on a tortoise (more on this later!).
Whilst broccoli is super high in fiber, it is not the best fiber source for your tortoise. Instead, they should be given fiber from sources such as grass and hay.
Can tortoises eat raw broccoli?
Yes! If you plan to give your tortoise any broccoli then you should give them raw broccoli rather than cooked broccoli. This is because raw broccoli contains the most nutrients and will be easier for the tortoise to gain benefits from.
Make sure the raw broccoli is fresh and cut into manageable pieces for your tortoise. Remember, only a very small amount should be given to your tortoise.
You should also take care to ensure the broccoli was grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and other growth hormones.
Organic broccoli is best! Wash it thoroughly before feeding it to your tortoise, and ensure to swiftly remove any broccoli that the tortoise doesn’t eat to stop it from going bad.
Can tortoises eat cooked broccoli?
No. It is important to note that it is not recommended that you feed your tortoise broccoli that has been cooked. The reason for this is because broccoli can lose some of its important nutrients when it is cooked.
You may also be more inclined to overfeed broccoli to your tortoise if it is cooked as it may decrease in size a little. This should, of course, be avoided, and only fed in small amounts.
Are there any toxins in broccoli for tortoises?
Yes. We are sorry to report that whilst small amounts of broccoli are fine for a tortoise, the vegetable does contain a compound called goitrogens. Goitrogens are toxic to the liver, kidney, and thyroid glands of a tortoise.
Broccoli contains pretty high levels of goitrogens, and so only small amounts should be fed to your tortoise.
It can be very easy to overdose on goitrogens if broccoli is fed to the tortoise in large quantities and may result in illness, failure of the liver or kidneys, and even death in very extreme amounts.
As well as this, goitrogens also feature in spinach and kale. Remember when we mentioned earlier that broccoli should not be fed alongside kale and spinach? Well, this is the reason why!
Feeding a combination of these foods can easily lead to an overdose of goitrogens which can be lethal for your tortoise. As well as this, bear in mind the advice we gave in the previous section about cooked versus raw broccoli.
It is far easier to overfeed your tortoise on cooked broccoli than raw broccoli. With this in mind, only give them very small amounts of raw broccoli to ensure they do not eat too much.
Does broccoli have the nutrition a tortoise needs?
Broccoli certainly contains some of the nutritious aspects that a tortoise needs to live a healthy life. For example, it is packed full of fiber.
Fiber is an essential nutritional element needed by tortoises as it can help to give them energy as well as assist with digestion and bowel movements.
That being said, the best source of fiber for tortoises is not broccoli! It is far better to feed them a diet of grass and hay to get their fiber requirements.
As well as fiber, broccoli is packed full of essential vitamins and minerals that they need to survive.
For example, you can find vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K which all help to contribute to better eyesight, help to stop inflammation, boost their immune system, and promote overall health.
The minerals in broccoli include calcium and phosphorus, both of which are helpful for their bones and shells.
Even though broccoli contains these wonderful nutrients, because you can only feed your tortoise small amounts of broccoli, they will also need to have a balanced diet that provides all of these benefits. Keep on reading to find some excellent broccoli alternatives.
What are some alternatives to broccoli for tortoises?
Whilst broccoli is beneficial as an occasional treat fed in small amounts, it should not be relied upon as a substitute for a good diet. Sure, it has some benefits, but in large quantities and when fed often, it can be detrimental and even lethal.
Instead, why not check out some of the alternatives below to make sure your tortoise has a healthy, balanced diet? Here are some of the best alternatives for broccoli:
- Commercial tortoise food that has been specifically designed with their health needs in mind
- Fresh veggies such as dandelions and collard greens
- Alfalfa hay
- A small amount of fruit like melon every fourth feeding
- Lots of fresh water