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Can Sulcata Tortoises Eat Bananas? Vet Approved Nutrition Facts & FAQ

Jordyn Alger

By Jordyn Alger

sliced bananas in a ceramic bowl

Vet approved

Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Tortoises must stick to a proper diet to remain healthy, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be fed a treat occasionally. Fruits are good treats for tortoises, so you may be wondering if your Sulcata tortoise can eat bananas. While a Sulcata tortoise can eat a bite of banana without issues, that doesn’t mean that bananas should be a regular part of your tortoise’s diet. To learn more about why bananas are not the best for Sulcata tortoises, keep reading below.

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What Is in a Banana?

Several vitamins and minerals are packed into a banana, such as potassium, zinc, and vitamin A. Calcium is a vital part of your tortoise’s healthy diet, and an imbalance between the calcium and phosphorous ratio can cause significant health issues. Foods with much higher amounts of phosphorous can be unhealthy for your tortoise.

A banana is one of these foods. To show how low the calcium levels in a banana are compared to the phosphorous levels, we have a chart with the amounts of each mineral.

Mineral Amount in a Banana
Calcium 5 mg
Phosphorus 22 mg

As you can see, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is heavily skewed towards phosphorus. As mentioned before, this is dangerous for turtles. But why?

peeled banana
Image Credit: t_watanabe, Pixabay

Understanding Metabolic Bone Disease

When a tortoise’s calcium drops significantly, it may develop a condition known as metabolic bone disease. This condition primarily occurs when a tortoise’s diet is not well-balanced, causing the calcium and phosphorus levels to become skewed. In minor cases, your tortoise can recover with some dietary adjustments. However, your tortoise may need injections, oral supplements, nutritional support, and even fluid therapy in more severe instances.

The best way to avoid metabolic bone disease in your Sulcata tortoise is to feed it a calcium-rich diet. While bananas have calcium, they have more phosphorus, which can contribute to metabolic bone disease.

Signs of Metabolic Bone Disease

If you suspect that your Sulcata tortoise may be suffering from metabolic bone disease, there are a few signs that you can watch out for. Typical signs include:

  • Bow-legged stance
  • Limping or difficulty walking
  • Struggling to lift the body from the ground
  • Lack of appetite
  • Strange softness or flexibility of the jaw
  • Hard bumps on the jaw, legs, and spine

When your tortoise’s calcium levels drop staggeringly low, you may notice more worrying signs, such as:

  • Twitching
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Weakness of the hind legs
  • Seizures

In the most severe instances, your pet could die. Therefore, if you suspect that metabolic bone disease is something your Sulcata tortoise is dealing with, you must reach out to your vet right away.

sulcata tortoise in a vet clinic
Image Credit: thirawatana phaisalratana, Shutterstock

Common Dietary Issues Among Sulcata Tortoises

Some of the most common dietary issues that Sulcata tortoises suffer from include a lack of fiber, too much protein, too many sugary fruits, and a poor calcium-to-phosphorous ratio. As you can see, sugary fruits and an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous are some of Sulcata tortoises’ biggest issues. Since bananas are sugary fruits with an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus, you are not advised to feed your Sulcata tortoise many bananas, if at all.

How to Keep Your Sulcata Tortoise Healthy

To keep your Sulcata tortoise healthy, it is best to avoid bananas unless they’re served in minimal amounts. In terms of diet, there are some tortoise species that will consume a higher proportion of fruit, such as the red-footed or yellow-footed tortoise. Others, like the Sulcata, feed primarily on plant leaves and stems, so fruit, in general, ought to be avoided. A healthy diet should consist primarily of Timothy hay and grasses, which should make up 90% of your pet’s diet; this is absolutely essential. Grasses and hay that are good for your Sulcata tortoise include:

  • Grass
  • Grass cuttings
  • Cheatgrass
  • Clover
  • Geraniums
  • Hibiscus

Greens and veggies should make up the second largest part of your tortoise’s diet, which should mostly include greens such as:

  • Kale
  • Turnip greens
  • Mustard greens
  • greens

Other veggies that you can feed your tortoise in small amounts include:

By focusing on appropriate foods for your Sulcata tortoise, you can help promote a healthy lifestyle for your pet.

Final Thoughts

Bananas are not toxic to your Sulcata tortoise, but in this species, are best avoided. However, if you do want to include a little fruit as a treat for bonding, you should be aware of the health concerns, such as metabolic bone disease, associated with feeding your Sulcata tortoise fruit, and make sure you select one that is higher in calcium than phosphorus.

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Featured Image Credit: Nanette Dreyer, Shutterstock

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