It’s widely known that turtles eat fruit and vegetables – it’s the staple of their diet, despite some of these vegetables and fruits that they can eat not being available in their natural habitat.
Unfortunately, not all of these fruits and vegetables are good for your turtle, and in fact – some are simply down right toxic! The question is, are tomatoes okay to feed your turtle?
The short answer is – yes! Tomatoes are okay to feed to your turtle, but there are strict guidelines for this.
A ripe tomato is fine to give to your shelled friend as an occasional treat, but they can’t eat a non-ripe tomato, the tomato vines or the leaves.
These are all toxic to turtles, so it’s best to leave them until they’re ripe and then only as the infrequent treat. This is because tomatoes have a high sugar content and this can lead to serious digestive problems for turtles.
However, this is only a partial answer – as there is far more to this than just that. This guide is going to explore all the ins and outs of tomatoes and turtles and aim to answer some of your most burning questions.
So, let’s dive in!
Can Tomatoes Be Good For Turtles?
Sometimes, people can get confused or conflate the terms non-toxic with good for you.
It is important that we know that although a turtle can eat a ripe tomato, they’re not good for turtles. It’s the same as “bad food” to us, although it may not be toxic – it’s not good for us!
That’s not to say that you can’t treat yourself to your favorite “bad foods” though and the same applies to your turtle. As long as ripe tomatoes are an occasional treat, there’s nothing wrong with your turtle consuming them.
Having said that, tomatoes do have some nutritional benefits for turtles, but they do not outweigh the discomfort and poor health that your turtle can get from eating too many ripe tomatoes.
These nutritional benefits are related to the high level of vitamin A and calcium, which are incredibly important for a turtle’s normal bodily and mental function.
Experts believe that most reptiles commonly have deficiency in vitamin A and calcium, so the occasional ripe tomato is great!
However, we know that too many ripe tomatoes aren’t good for turtles.
Turtles, Tomatoes And Digestion
Like with many animals, turtles can’t process every foodstuff available to them.
Luckily for turtles, tomatoes can be digested relatively easily by them, and therefore they can absorb all the helpful nutrients that come with tomatoes.
Additionally, the tomato skin does not need to be removed for a turtle to digest it, and they’re not too high in fiber that they will pass through a turtle without extracting their benefits.
The problem mainly arises from the high sugar content. If turtles eat too many ripe tomatoes, they might struggle to process them and will end up with diarrhea and loose stool.
This means they will not be able to absorb the nutrients in time before they are expelled.
Additionally, along with bearing this point in mind – there are certain parts of tomato plants and specific ripeness of tomatoes that make them toxic to turtles, and you’ll need to consider this before feeding a turtle a tomato.
The Pros And Cons Of Feeding Tomatoes To Turtles
There are many facets to this, so it’s best that we break this down and make it easier for you to see at a glance.
We’ll start by answering why feeding tomatoes to turtles can be good:
- Tomatoes are a source of vitamin A and calcium – highly needed by reptiles
- Turtles love the taste of tomatoes
However, there are plenty of reasons why feeding tomatoes to turtles isn’t always a great idea:
- Depending on the source of the tomato, they may have pesticides on them, and they can be deadly to turtles
- Raw and unripe tomatoes are toxic to turtles and eating them can make a turtle really sick
- Other parts of the tomato plant and vines are also toxic to turtles
- Because tomatoes are fruits, they’re high in sugar which can cause digestive problems and other health concerns to turtles
- Tomatoes can cause inflammation, which can make some illnesses and pain worse to turtles
- Too many tomatoes can also be toxic to turtles
This is why it’s critical that turtles should only be fed tomatoes when they are ripe enough, sourced from an organic and non-toxic area, and only as an occasional treat.
What Exactly Makes Tomatoes Toxic To Turtles?
It’s probably a good idea to consider why exactly tomatoes are toxic to turtles so that we fully understand.
What many might not know is that the tomato plant is part of the nightshade family – which is a toxic plant.
The family name is known as solanaceae and this is referencing the solanine within the plants (a toxic alkaloid compound).
One of the variations of this compound is known as tomatine which is found in tomatoes.
Tomatine levels are smaller on riper tomatoes, which is why a turtle is okay to eat the occasional ripe tomato but not unripe tomatoes or other areas of the plant.
You may be wondering if this is a toxic compound – how come humans and other animals can consume them with no problem?
Well, that’s a good question. Technically, tomatoes are toxic to humans, but we can handle them and are in very little danger of consuming enough to be deadly or dangerous to us.
The same applies to many other animals, and tomatoes can also be non-toxic to certain animals. However, a large human is much different to a small turtle – so what might be fine for us to consume might be deadly to them.
It’s also important to note that this applies to other types of tomato too, such as cherry tomatoes.
Unripe cherry tomatoes are toxic and ripe ones are okay as a treat for your turtle.
Other Turtles And Tomatoes
There are many types of turtles, so it’s a good idea that we explore the other types of turtles and see how they fare with tomatoes.
Can Box Turtles Have Tomatoes?
Box turtles can enjoy an occasional ripe tomato, but they cannot have unripe tomatoes, vines, stems or leaves.
What About Aquatic Turtles?
The likelihood of an aquatic turtle coming across a tomato in the wild is extremely low and as a result, it’s probably best to avoid giving these types of turtles a tomato.
However, they might be okay with a ripe tomato as a treat at the very most.
This advice applies to yellow-bellied sliders, red-earned sliders and musk turtles.
Can Snapping Turtles Enjoy A Tomato?
Snapping turtles are a type of aquatic turtle that we often find in freshwater areas, so the same advice applies from the previous section – if you have to feed them a tomato, make sure it’s only on occasion and ripe.
Can Baby Turtles Eat Tomatoes?
Due to their size, it would be unwise to feed baby turtles, regardless of what type of turtle they are, any tomatoes at all.
They may not be able to process tomatoes properly, and they are still developing, so eating a tomato might be fatal to them. You’d be better off feeding them their staple diet advised by a vet.
Safely Feeding Turtles
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid feeding your turtle with any tomato, in order to avoid any potential problems.
However, if you really want to treat your turtle from time to time, here’s the best advice you can follow.
Speak With An Expert
Before feeding your turtle anything, always ask an expert like a vet, if this is okay for them to have.
Get Your Tomatoes Safely
You want to be sure that your tomatoes have no pesticides or anything else that might be harmful to your turtle, so knowing where your tomatoes came from and how they were treated is critical.
Tomatoes Are A Treat – Keep It That Way!
Turtles might be able to enjoy a ripe tomato on infrequent occasions, but you have to be sure that this is it!
Eating too many ripe tomatoes can be toxic and cause digestive issues to turtles, so it’s best advised that you’re careful when feeding your turtle tomatoes.
Keep Turtles Away From Tomato Plants
If you’re growing tomato plants in your yard, it’s really important that you keep your turtle away from it.
The vines, leaves, stems and unripe tomato fruits can be deadly to turtles but they might eat them anyway if they’re nearby.
Your tomato plants might also have pesticides or harmful critters on them – so always keep this in mind!
The Bottom Line
Turtles can eat tomatoes, but they have to be ripe, and they have to only be enjoyed as an occasional treat. Other than this, keep them away from the tomato plant!