If you have a tortoise, it’s important to know what foods they can and cannot eat. In today’s article, I will review if tortoises can eat prickly pear cactus.
Can tortoises eat prickly pear cactus fruit?
Yes, tortoises can eat prickly pear cactus. You can feed them both the pad and the fruit that grows on top.
Most tortoise species come from warm, dry environments where cactus is prevalent. Therefore, many tortoises eat prickly pear cactus in the wild.
Most tortoises love the sweet taste of fruit, especially when it comes to prickly pears.
Best prickly pear for tortoises
If you are looking to buy some prickly pear for your tortoise, I suggest you check out these options.
These prickly pears are spineless so you don’t have to worry about getting poked by the thorns. You can also plant these cactus in the ground if you have an outdoor tortoise enclosure.
Are prickly pears healthy for tortoises?
The nutritional value of prickly pear cactus will depend on the species of your tortoise. For example, yellow and red footed tortoises require almost 50% of their diet to be fruits, so prickly pears are very natural and healthy for their diet.
However, it is important to note that grassland tortoises require most of their diet to be vegetables, so fruit shouldn’t be fed to them daily. If they are fed too much fruit, their body can have a hard time digesting it, especially if it is fruit that is high in sugar. Some popular grassland tortoise species include Russian tortoises, Greek tortoises, Leopard tortoises, Dessert tortoises, Sulcata tortoises, and Hermann tortoises.
While prickly fruit shouldn’t be fed to these species daily, you can certainly feed it to them every week or so as a treat. Below are some helpful feeding guides for some of the most popular tortoises.
- Best food for a Sulcata tortoise
- Best food for a Russian tortoise
- What fruits and vegetables can a Hermann’s tortoise eat?
As I mentioned earlier, they will probably love the sweet taste. Below is a video of a Desert tortoise eating prickly pear fruit.
Prickly pears are a great source of water, so they can help keep your tortoise hydrated, especially in warm temperatures.
They also are a great source of calcium and fiber, both of which are very important components of a tortoise’s diet.
If you have a Desert tortoise, you should check out my guide on what fruits can you give a Desert tortoise.
How much prickly pear to feed a tortoise?
I suggest feeding your tortoise enough prickly pear that they can eat in two minutes. This will probably be the size of your hand but could vary depending on the size of your tortoise and their appetite.
As a reminder, you should make sure to feed your tortoise a balanced diet that also includes vegetables.
While prickly pear cactus is safe for tortoises, there are some precautions you should keep in mind.
Feeding prickly pear cactus to your tortoise
If you are feeding a prickly pear cactus pad to your tortoise, make sure that it is still green. If it has taken on a brown color, it is likely rotten and might even have insects inside of it.
For prickly pear fruit, make sure the fruit is still a reddish color.
Feeding for the first time
If you are feeding prickly pear to your tortoise for the first time, you should start with a small amount. I suggest a piece that is half the size of your hand.
Make sure to keep a close eye on your tortoise in the days following. While they should be able to easily digest the fruit, there is a chance they develop digestion issues. If your tortoise develops diarrhea, I suggest not feeding them prickly pear again.
You can help aid your tortoise’s digestion by making sure they have access to fresh clean water at all times.
While most tortoises should like the taste, their is a chance your tortoise won’t be interested. If this is the case, do not force them to eat it.
If you have your own garden, you can try to grow your own prickly pear cactus plant.
Can tortoises eat prickly pear cactus with thorns?
Many people wonder whether they can feed their tortoise a cactus that has thorns. While most prickly pears don’t have spines, they do have small thorns called glochids. In the wild, tortoises will eat prickly pear with the glochids still attached, so your tortoise should be fine doing it in captivity.
However, if you want to play it safe, you can easily remove the glochids. You can do this by washing the prickly pear under high pressure water. If that doesn’t work, you can try putting the cactus pads on an oven top, and the glochids should fall off. I recommend wearing gloves when you hand prickly pears, as the glochids can easily pierce your skin.