Can Turtles Eat Arugula? Discover the Facts!

Turtles are unique pets that can bring a lot of joy and companionship to their owners. As herbivorous reptiles, turtles need a diet rich in leafy greens to stay healthy. One green that pet turtle owners may consider feeding is arugula.

Arugula is a leafy green vegetable with a peppery, sharp flavor. It contains many beneficial nutrients. This leads pet turtle owners to wonder – can turtles eat arugula?

This article will provide a thorough overview of whether or not arugula is safe and healthy for pet turtles to eat. We’ll explore the nutritional benefits of arugula for turtles. We’ll also look at any potential concerns with feeding arugula. Finally, we’ll provide clear guidelines on how much arugula to feed turtles, how to prepare it, and alternative leafy greens to consider.

Background on Turtles

Red Eared Sliders

Turtles are reptiles that have a hard protective shell, a beak-like mouth, and live generally in or near water.

There are over 300 species of turtles divided into two main groups:

  • Sea turtles: Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the oceans and have flippers for swimming. Examples include green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles, and leatherback sea turtles.

  • Land and freshwater turtles: These turtles live in freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds and on land. They have webbed feet for swimming. Examples include box turtles, painted turtles, and snapping turtles.

Turtles are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal materials. Their exact diet depends on the species. Land turtles tend to eat a variety of vegetation including leaves, flowers, fruits, and vegetables as well as worms, small insects, snails and slugs. Sea turtles may eat seagrass, algae, jellyfish, and other small ocean creatures.

In general, turtles need a balanced diet with calcium for their shells, protein for growth, and vitamins from vegetables and fruits. Leafy greens provide many key nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. Most turtles enjoy eating dark leafy greens as part of their diet.

Background on Arugula

Arugula, also known as rocket, is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the mustard family. It has been consumed since Roman times for its distinct peppery and slightly bitter taste. Compared to regular lettuce, arugula packs more nutrition and flavor.

Arugula is low in calories but high in vital nutrients. A 1/2 cup serving contains only 5 calories yet provides significant amounts of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, calcium, potassium, and manganese. The dark leafy greens are an excellent source of antioxidants which help protect the body from chronic diseases.

In addition to its nutritional benefits, arugula adds a unique kick of flavor because of its natural phytochemicals that produce a peppery, mustard-like taste. The young leaves are mild while mature arugula packs a bigger punch. The leaves have a crunchy texture when raw. Arugula is often used in salads to add a tangy, peppery element. It also works well in pestos, sandwiches, pizza, pastas, and more.

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Can Turtles Eat Arugula?

Turtle Eat Arugula

Arugula is generally considered safe for turtles to eat. This leafy green provides some beneficial nutrients, but there are also some potential concerns to consider before feeding arugula to your turtle.

The main benefits of arugula for turtles include:

  • High calcium content – Arugula contains calcium which is essential for a turtle’s shell health. The calcium helps strengthen and harden the shell.

  • Vitamins A, C, K – These vitamins support a turtle’s immune system and overall health. Vitamin A is important for eye and skin health.

  • Provides moisture – The high water content in arugula helps with hydration. This is especially helpful for turtles prone to dehydration.

Some potential risks and considerations when feeding arugula to turtles:

  • Goitrogenic compounds – Arugula contains goitrogens which can impact thyroid function if consumed in excess. Feeding arugula in moderation is recommended.

  • High oxalate content – Arugula has a high amount of oxalates which can bind to calcium and prevent proper calcium absorption. Alternating arugula with lower oxalate greens is advised.

  • Pesticide exposure – As with any greens, it’s important to wash arugula thoroughly or use organic to minimize any pesticide residue. Turtles are very sensitive to chemicals.

  • Diarrhea – The high water content could potentially cause loose stools if arugula is fed in large quantities. Start with small amounts.

Overall, arugula is a nutritious leafy green that can be fed to turtles in moderation as part of a varied diet. Follow proper feeding guidelines and watch for any digestive issues. When in doubt, check with your veterinarian for specific advice on your turtle’s nutritional needs.

Nutritional Benefits

Arugula Nutrition

Arugula is packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can provide health benefits to turtles. Some of the key nutrients include:

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Vitamin A – This vitamin is crucial for eye and skin health in turtles. It supports good vision, aids in shedding, and keeps the immune system functioning properly.

  • Vitamin K – Helps with blood clotting. Turtles prone to wounds or bleeding issues can benefit from the high vitamin K content in arugula.

  • Calcium – Turtles need ample calcium for proper shell and bone development. The calcium in arugula helps prevent metabolic bone disease.

  • Iron – Important for oxygen transport and energy production. Iron supports a healthy immune system and prevents anemia.

  • Potassium – Helps maintain fluid balance and nerve signaling. Provides electrolytes lost through urination and sweating.


  • Beta-carotene – A powerful antioxidant that gets converted to vitamin A in the body. It reduces inflammation and damage from free radicals.

  • Lutein – This antioxidant helps maintain eye health and good vision. It can prevent age-related degeneration.

  • Quercetin – Has strong anti-inflammatory effects that may boost immunity and heart health. It also has anti-cancer properties.

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In summary, the wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in arugula provide great nutritional support for a turtle’s health and wellbeing. Feeding arugula offers benefits ranging from better immunity to healthier skin, bones, vision, and more.

Potential Concerns with Feeding Arugula to Turtles

While arugula does provide some nutritional benefits, there are a couple potential concerns to be aware of when feeding it to turtles:

  • Oxalates: Arugula contains oxalic acid, which can bind to calcium and prevent proper calcium absorption. This is especially problematic for growing turtles that need ample calcium for healthy shell development. Too much oxalates could lead to metabolic bone disease. Mature, adult turtles are less susceptible but oxalates should still be limited.

  • Goitrogens: Arugula contains goitrogens, compounds that can disrupt thyroid function by impacting iodine uptake. Since turtles have very slow metabolisms already, goitrogens could cause further thyroid issues and associated health problems.

So while arugula is not toxic, the oxalates and goitrogens it contains should be fed in moderation to prevent potential endocrine and calcium problems. It’s best to mix in other greens as well and not feed arugula exclusively or too often. Monitoring the turtle for signs of shell/bone abnormalities or thyroid dysfunction is advised. Limiting oxalate-rich foods like arugula is recommended for hatchlings and juveniles especially.

Pet Turtles

When offering arugula to turtles, it’s important to follow some basic feeding guidelines to ensure they get the benefits without any potential downsides.

How Much to Feed

Arugula should be fed in moderation as part of a varied diet. A general rule of thumb is to feed 1-2 leaves per inch of shell length, 2-3 times per week. So for a 4-inch turtle, you would offer 4-8 arugula leaves a couple times a week. Overfeeding arugula can lead to loose stools.


It’s best to rotate arugula with other leafy greens and vegetables. Feed arugula no more than 2-3 times per week as part of a varied diet. This prevents your turtle from developing a taste preference for arugula over other healthy foods.

By following these recommendations when feeding arugula, your turtle can gain nutritional benefits without risking any potential digestive upset. Moderation is key when offering any new food item.

Best Ways to Prepare

When feeding arugula to turtles, it’s best to chop or dice the leaves into smaller pieces. Turtles may have difficulty chewing or swallowing larger leaves whole. Chopped arugula is easier for them to eat.

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You can feed arugula to turtles either raw or cooked. Some turtles may prefer raw arugula, as cooking can reduce some of the vitamin content. However, cooking softens the leaves, making them easier to chew and digest. A good preparation method is to lightly steam or roast the arugula.

Whether raw or cooked, chopped arugula is the easiest for turtles to consume. Dicing the leaves into tiny pieces can also work well. Just avoid feeding whole, large arugula leaves that may pose a choking hazard or be difficult to chew.

Alternative Leafy Greens

What Do Turtles Eat

Arugula certainly offers great nutrition for turtles, but variety is important too. Here are some other leafy greens that can supplement arugula in a balanced turtle diet:

  • Kale – An excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and carotenoids. The fibrous leaves also provide roughage to support healthy digestion. Chop kale leaves into bite-sized pieces.

  • Collard Greens – High in vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium. The large leaves are easy for turtles to grasp and bite. Just remove the stems before feeding.

  • Turnip Greens – Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and folate. The bitterness is appealing to some turtles. Chop the greens into small pieces.

  • Mustard Greens – Contains high levels of vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese. The spicy flavor adds nice variety. Cut larger leaves into small strips.

  • Bok Choy – Provides lots of calcium, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. The tender crunchy stems and leaves make for a refreshing change of texture. Slice bok choy into thin pieces.

Switching up the leafy greens gives turtles’ different nutrients while keeping their palate interested. When sourcing greens, always go for organic and pesticide-free whenever possible. Wash all greens thoroughly before feeding.


In summary, arugula can be a healthy, nutritious addition to a turtle’s diet in moderation. The high calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and antioxidant content provide nutritional benefits. However, arugula also contains oxalic acid which can bind to calcium and potentially cause health issues if fed in excess.

When feeding arugula to turtles, it’s best to chop or tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Offer arugula in combination with other vegetables and only 1-2 times per week at most. Introduce new foods slowly and watch for any signs of an upset stomach. Avoid iceberg lettuce and spinach as primary leafy greens.

With proper precautions, arugula can be a tasty, healthy treat for turtles. But variety is key – rotate arugula with other leafy greens like kale, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, and bok choy. This will ensure your turtle receives a diverse range of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Moderation and proper preparation is key when feeding arugula or any new food item.

Samantha Jenkins
Samantha Jenkins

I am Samantha Jenkins, a devoted turtle enthusiast and conservationist. My love for nature and my special connection with turtles have shaped my life's purpose. In my free time I like to travel and hang out with friends!

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