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Can Tortoises Eat Potatoes? Vet-Reviewed Nutrition Facts & FAQ

Kit Copson

By Kit Copson

tortoise-potatoes

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, which are predominantly herbivorous, can safely enjoy a huge variety of vegetables, and are especially fond of fibrous and leafy greens, which make up a large percentage of their diet. However, potatoes are not a good choice for tortoises for several reasons, but fortunately there are plenty of vegetables you can feed instead that are much safer and more nutritious.

Let’s take a look at why this is the case.

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Are Potatoes Good for Tortoises?

Potatoes are not good for tortoises. Whilst eating a tiny piece on occasion is unlikely to cause any problems, the potato tuber, leaves and stems can cause moderate to severe illness if ingested in large enough quantities.

This is because potatoes contain compounds called solanine and chaconine. These have the potential to cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in severe cases of toxicity, the organs could be seriously affected. For this reason, it’s safest not to feed any part of a potato plant to tortoises. There are plenty of far safer vegetables to feed your tortoise that don’t come with any risk attached.

hermann's tortoise walking on the rock
Image Credit: Lukas Zdrazil, Shutterstock

Can Tortoises Eat Sweet Potatoes?

Tortoises can eat shredded or gently cooked sweet potatoes occasionally and in small amounts. You might be surprised to learn that sweet potatoes don’t come from the same family as regular potatoes, but they are still very starchy, which is why they can’t be fed regularly. Furthermore, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in sweet potato leaves cannot be considered healthy for tortoises to consume. It is important that reptiles like tortoises mostly eat foods with twice as much calcium as phosphorus, and in sweet potatoes, it is the other way around. Sweet potatoes are okay in small amounts, but there are others that are safer.

Tortoises are built to derive nutrients from a lot of leafy, fibrous greens, with some species benefiting from more variety, such as fleshy vegetables and fruit.

Safe Vegetables for Tortoises

Instead of feeding potatoes to your tortoise, it’s best to go for a range of nutritious greens and vegetables, rotated regularly to offer the most nutritional benefit and variety, which is the key to a healthy tortoise diet.

Because there is a lot of variation in nutritional requirements among tortoise species, it is important to know what type of tortoise you have in order to know what their natural habitat and natural dietary preferences are.

Broadly speaking, there are two main classifications of tortoise to be aware of when selecting foods:
  • Tortoises from arid, desert areas, such as the Sulcata, Hermanns or Leopard tortoises:
    These species are adapted to eating the leaves, flowers and stems of plants, and their diets need to contain fewer fruits and fleshy veg, and more hay (eg. Timothy hay) and leafy greens
  • Tortoises from tropical, rainforest regions, such as the red- and yellow-footed tortoise:
    In the wild, these species will naturally encounter a wider variety of foods on the forest floor, like berries, fruits, and even some insects

Below are some safe greens and vegetables to feed your tortoise.

Fresh Greens

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Collard greens (high in oxalates—feed in moderation)
  • Endive
  • Chard
  • Turnip greens
  • Dandelion greens
  • Arugula
  • Watercress
  • Carrot tops
turnip greens on a white bowl
Image Credit: Natalia Mylova, Shutterstock

Vegetables

Note that these vegetables should be offered in smaller amounts than the fresh greens listed above. Around 10-20% of the daily amount can be made up of vegetables other than fresh greens.

Sucata tortoise eating vegetables
Image Credit: suriyachan,Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Because there are so many healthier greens and other vegetables for tortoises to eat, it’s best to keep potatoes out of your tortoise’s food bowl, especially since potatoes have the potential to make tortoises unwell.

If you’re finding figuring out the right balance of greens, vegetables, and fruits for your tortoise difficult, we recommend speaking to a vet or reptile specialist experienced in tortoise care and nutrition for advice. Ideally, you’ll want to do this before you bring your tortoise home to make sure you’re clued up on all the facts.


Featured Image Credit: Nutricao em casa, Shutterstock

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