can russian tortoises eat spinach

Can Russian Tortoises Eat Spinach?

Written by: Josiah Shobayo
Last updated on:

Russian tortoises are natural herbivores, so they depend on a plant-based diet for their nutrients. But a lot of people assume all kinds of plants are acceptable feeding options for these tortoises. So this begs the question: Can Russian Tortoises eat spinach?

In this article, we will discuss the nutritional benefits and health risks associated with feeding Russian tortoises spinach. So, keep reading to find out whether you should add this vegetable to your tortoise’s food chart or not.

Can Russian Tortoises Eat Spinach?

Yes, Russian tortoises can eat spinach but only infrequently and in very small quantities. This is because spinach contains an excess amount of oxalic acids which prevents the tortoise’s body from absorbing beneficial nutrients into its digestive tract. 

Some Russian tortoises will eat spinach willingly but others will not like it. If you have a picky tortoise like that, it is probably best that you don’t force it to eat spinach.

Most times, it is advised that spinach should not be fed to tortoises at all. The stems, stalks, roots, and leaves of spinach are not considered healthy for consumption due to their acidic content. If they are to be fed to tortoises at all, then they should be served minimally on infrequent occasions.

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Is Spinach Healthy For Russian Tortoises?

While Russian tortoises eat any leafy green vegetable, there are some vegetables they must consume in limited amounts. Spinach is an example of these vegetables. This is because spinach has a high concentration of oxalic acid and this acid makes it impossible for the tortoise to absorb calcium and other essential minerals. 

Also, spinach contains a substantial amount of calcium oxalate crystals which is a common cause of kidney stones in tortoises. And other than that, there is a chance that the tortoise may suffer irritation on the skin and the inner mucous membrane. From these deductions, it is no secret that these health problems can be deadly in most cases.

On the bright side, however, spinach has a few nutritional benefits attached to it. For one, spinach contains a very good amount of calcium which is beneficial to the tortoise’s eyesight and shell. Also, spinach helps maintain a healthy digestive system and skeletal growth in tortoises due to its phosphorus content. This is why some owners add spinach to their tortoise’s diet. 

But since the adverse effects outweigh the nutritional benefits, it is safe to say that spinach is not a recommended feeding option for Russian tortoises. If anything, it should not even be considered a treat since there are many risks involved.

If you have been feeding your Russian tortoise spinach as a staple food, then you should probably set an appointment with the vet to check for underlying issues, if any are present.

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How Should You Feed a Russian Tortoise Spinach?

Irrespective of all the possible health risks involved, spinach is not a toxic food since it contains a few nutritional benefits. So, it can be fed to Russian tortoises in some cases. However, you have to be careful if you want to feed your tortoise spinach. 

Go for spinach during Fall season instead of spring and summer. It has been scientifically proven that oxalates are most prevalent in the summer and spring seasons when dehydration is at its peak.

After considering the season, be sure that the spinach is fresh and organic. Frozen or cooked spinach is not ideal for Russian tortoises. So you only have to wash and let the spinach dry first before you serve it in small quantities. A few leaves at a time is more than okay in one sitting.

If you can, add other healthy vegetables to the mix, so that the meal can be more healthy. Carrot tops, hay, romaine lettuce, collard, kale, and mustard greens are good additives in this case.


Since Russian tortoises have a strict all-plant diet, many owners assume any kind of fresh vegetable is good for them. However, spinach is not the kind of vegetable because it contains high levels of oxalates which can be extremely harmful to the digestive properties of the tortoises when consumed in excess. 

So, you only need to feed tortoises spinach infrequently in limited quantities.

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