Can Gerbils Eat Apricots? (Fresh, Dried and Seeds)

Gerbils love to eat all kinds of seeds and need a balanced diet to keep them healthy. However, an occasional (healthy) snack can bring a little bit of variation in the diet. Apricots are a juicy and delicious fruit and you might want to give a piece of apricot to your gerbils. But can gerbils eat apricots, or are there better alternatives?

Gerbils can eat fresh and dried apricots but only as a treat. You should feed only small apricot pieces because of the high percentage of water and sugar. Dried or dehydrated apricots contain little water but have more sugar per piece. Therefore, only feed apricots as a treat once or twice a week.

Apricots – and fruit in general – should never replace the main diet of gerbils. Gerbils are desert animals and they naturally feed on seeds and grasses. Specially formulated seed and pellet mixes contain all nutrients that your gerbil needs to live a long and healthy life. 

Many seed and pellet mixes contain a small percentage of fruits (like apples and bananas), so an occasional piece of apricot won’t hurt your gerbils. However, you should only give small amounts. There are also several ways to feed apricots to gerbils (fresh, dried, dehydrated) and some are better than others.

Do Gerbils Eat Apricots in the Wild?

Gerbils live in arid regions and Mongolian gerbils are no exception. Mongolian gerbils live in an area with grassland, shrubland, and desert and are used to living with only a limited amount of water.

The temperatures in the natural habitat of these gerbils can get up to 50 °C (122 °F), although usually, the temperatures are lower. Water is scarce in this region and you would think that an apricot tree wouldn’t grow well in this region.

Apricot trees need water to grow and the desert doesn’t have enough water or rainfall to sustain apricot trees. Only an oasis can sustain apricot trees. This means that there are no apricots available in the natural habitat of gerbils.

Mongolian gerbils will eat seeds, roots, bulbs, and herbs. When they’re available, gerbils will also eat fruit and insects, but this depends on the time of year and their region.

So, wild Mongolian gerbils don’t have apricots or apricot seeds on their plate but this doesn’t mean that pet gerbils won’t eat apricots when you give them. However, gerbils don’t get a lot of nutritional value from them and don’t need them to stay healthy.

Nutritional Value of Apricots (Analysis)

You can find the nutritional value of apricots on FoodData Central, a database of the US Department of Agriculture. Below you can find the most important data:

NutrientAmount (per 100 grams)
Water86.4 g
Protein1.4 g
Fiber2.0 g
Sugars9.24 g
Calcium13 mg
Magnesium10 mg
Phosphorus23 mg
Vitamin C10 mg

Fiber

Gerbils have a very simple stomach and don’t have a well-developed cecum and colon. According to the book Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, this suggests that they are adapted to mostly eat low-fiber foods such as seeds.

Fresh apricots have 2% fiber per serving, while dried or dehydrated apricots have around 7% fiber per serving. These percentages are similar to or even less than the fiber content of seed mixes and pellets for gerbils. So, gerbils won’t have too many problems digesting apricots.

Minerals

Gerbils are prone to seizures and there is an elevated risk when gerbils are fed a low-magnesium diet. However, according to a study from Harriman in 1974, this risk was eliminated when magnesium was added to the diet at 1.39 grams per kilogram. Magnesium also plays a role in preventing alopecia and weight loss. The recommended dietary magnesium concentration is 1.5 grams per kilogram, while the minimum is 1.0 grams per kilogram.

Apricots contain around 10 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, which equals 0.1 grams per kilogram. Most quality seed mixes and pellet diets will contain enough magnesium to keep your gerbils healthy. Apricots won’t do too much but can add a little bit of magnesium.

Vitamins

Apricots are rich in several vitamins and have a very high concentration of vitamin C. Vitamins play an important role in keeping gerbils healthy and can prevent certain health issues.

Water

Gerbils don’t drink a lot of water, but they should have access to water at all times. They’re desert animals and can survive a long time without water. In captivity, you should provide fresh water daily.

A gerbil’s body isn’t adjusted to drinking a lot of water and apricots contain approximately 86% of water. So when you give too many apricots or give them too many times in a week, your gerbil can get health issues such as diarrhea.

Sugar

Fresh apricots contain around 9% sugar per piece and dried or dehydrated apricots even contain around 50% sugar per piece. Gerbils aren’t used to eating many sugary foods and their sugar intake should be limited. Too much sugar is bad for your gerbil’s teeth and their body will have problems digesting it.

Calcium to phosphorus ratio of apricots

The calcium to phosphorus ratio is a ratio between two minerals. It’s vital for bone growth and bone health in humans and rodents. According to the book Nutrient Requirements of Laboratory Animals, the amount of calcium that gerbils need is 5.0g/kg diet and the amount of phosphorus is 3.0g/kg diet. Based on this data, the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio for gerbils is around [1.7]:[1].

An apricot’s calcium to phosphorus ratio is [1]:[1.76], which is also an indication that it isn’t good as part of the main diet. But as a treat, it can be given just fine. 

Can Gerbils Eat Apricots? (Feeding Instructions)

Based on the nutritional value of apricots, we can conclude that gerbils can eat apricots. However, they shouldn’t be the main diet and should only be given occasionally. Most herbs and vegetables are better alternatives to feed more regularly.

Now that you know that gerbils can eat apricots, we’re going to learn how many apricots they can eat and how many times a week you can give apricots to gerbils.

What kind of apricots can you give?

Apricots are edible fruit and you can find apricots almost anywhere in the world. You and your gerbils can eat them in different ways:

  • fresh
  • dried or dehydrated

Fresh, dried or dehydrated apricots

Fresh apricots are more popular than dried or dehydrated apricots, but they contain more water and less fiber per serving. Fruits high in water content can cause minor health issues, especially when too much is given.

Dried or dehydrated apricots go through a process where most water is removed from the apricot. The result is a smaller piece of apricot that looks wrinkled.

There is a notable difference between fresh and dried/dehydrated apricots:

NutrientFresh apricotDried/dehydrated apricot
Fiber2%7%
Sugar9%53%
Water86%30%

You can buy dried and dehydrated apricots (such as these tiny apricot slices) or you can make them yourselves with a food dehydrator.

How many times can you give apricots?

Gerbils can eat small pieces of an apricot once or twice a week. However, if you routinely give more than that, the diet of your gerbil will become out of balance. Apricots contain a lot of water and sugar and can cause health issues when you give too much.

How many apricots can you give?

Gerbils should only eat a small piece of fresh apricot (up to 10 grams) per gerbil per serving. If you give dried or dehydrated apricots, you should give even less (up to 5 grams) because of the high sugar content.

TypeAmount per gerbil (grams)Amount per gerbil (oz.)
Fresh apricot10 grams0.36 oz.
Dried or dehydrated apricot5 grams0.18 oz.
Apricot kernel (seeds)0 grams (never)0 oz. (never)

Gerbils have a small stomach and giving too much apricot might lead to your gerbil not eating its daily seed or pellet mix. This would be similar to eating only snacks the entire day and not having the appetite to eat a nutritional meal.

Related Questions

Can gerbils eat apricot kernel (seeds)?

You should never give apricot seeds to gerbils. These seeds contain the chemical compound amygdalin, which is composed of cyanide and sugar. When your gerbil chews on the seed it will release the cyanide. Cyanide is poisonous and will cause to death of your gerbil quickly, even in small amounts.

Can gerbils eat dried apricots?

Gerbils can eat dried apricots but only in very small amounts. Dried apricots contain a high amount of sugar which isn’t healthy for gerbils. Therefore you should only give them on rare occasions and only in a small amount (up to 5 grams).

Want to Learn More?

If you’re interested in learning more about gerbils as pets, please read the following articles:

If you’re interested in getting gerbils as pets, you should read our beginner’s guide to keeping gerbils as pets and our gerbil care guide.

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