Gerbil Dietary Questions: Can Pet Gerbils Eat Bananas?

Mongolian gerbils are omnivorous and can eat both plant and animal matter. It’s important to give a proper diet to your gerbils with a high nutritional value for them to stay healthy. Most fruit is high in sugar content, which can be dangerous for gerbils. So, can gerbils eat bananas?

Gerbils can eat fresh and dried bananas but only as a treat. You should feed only small pieces because of the high percentage of water. While dried bananas contain less water, they do have more sugar per piece. Therefore, only feed bananas as a treat once or twice a week.

Bananas can be healthy snacks but the main (staple) diet should still consist of a seed mix or pellet food, especially for owners that aren’t used to keeping gerbils as pets. A good seed mix and pellet food will contain all nutrients that your gerbils need. It reduces the risk of health issues that are caused by an improper diet.

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

Do Wild Gerbils Eat Bananas?

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 a banana plant wouldn’t grow well in this region.

Bananas are widely available as fruit but they only naturally grow in tropical areas. The banana plant does best when they can grow in full sunlight and in a moist soil. Banana plants can tolerate high temperatures but will need enough water to do so.

Mongolian gerbils will eat seeds, roots, bulbs, and herbs. Depending on the time of year and their region, gerbils will also eat fruit and insects when they’re available. However, they don’t come in contact with bananas in their natural habitat.

This doesn’t mean that pet gerbils won’t eat bananas when they’re given to them. However, gerbils don’t get a lot of nutritional value from them and don’t need them to stay healthy.

Nutritional Value of Bananas

I already mentioned that the nutritional value of bananas is low for gerbils but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have any nutrients in them. The following nutritional data (for 100 g) comes from FoodData Central:

NutrientAmount (per 100 grams)
Water74.91 g
Protein1.09 g
Fiber2.6 g
Sugars12.23 g
Calcium5 mg
Magnesium27 mg
Phosphorus22 mg
Potassium, K358 mg
Vitamin C8.7 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.

Bananas have around 3% fiber per serving. These percentages are less than the fiber content of seed mixes and pellets for gerbils. Therefore, gerbils won’t have too many problems digesting bananas.

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.

Bananas contain around 27 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, which equals 0.27 grams per kilogram. Most quality seed mixes and pellet diets will contain enough magnesium to keep your gerbils healthy. But bananas can also help to add – a small amount of – magnesium to the diet.

Vitamins

Bananas are rich in vitamins. Vitamins play an important role in keeping gerbils healthy and preventing 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 bananas contain 75% water. So when you give too many bananas or give them too many times in a week, your gerbil can get health issues such as diarrhea.

Sugar

Fresh bananas contain around 12% sugar per piece and dried bananas contain more 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 bananas

The calcium to phosphorus ratio is an important ratio between two minerals. It’s important for bone growth and bone health in humans and also in rodents. For gerbils, the amount of calcium should be 5.0g/kg diet and the amount of phosphorus should be 3.0g/kg diet. Based on this data the right calcium to phosphorus ratio is around [1.7]:[1].

The calcium to phosphorus ratio of a banana is [1]:[4.4], which is also an indication that it isn’t good as part of the main diet. However, if you only give bananas as a treat and only on occasion the calcium to phosphorus ratio isn’t very important.

Can Gerbils Eat Bananas? (Feeding Instructions)

Based on the nutritional value of bananas, we can conclude that gerbils can eat bananas. 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 bananas, we’re going to learn how many bananas they can eat and how many times a week you can give bananas to gerbils.

What kind of bananas can you give?

Bananas are edible fruit and you can find bananas almost anywhere in the world. Bananas can be eaten in different ways:

  • fresh
  • processed
  • dried or dehydrated
  • baked

Below, you’ll find the most common ways to feed bananas to gerbils. In short, gerbils can be fed:

  • fresh bananas
  • dried or dehydrated bananas
  • baked banana ships
  • banana peels
  • banana bread (without added sugar)

There are also certain treats that you can buy online or in pet stores that contain bananas.

Fresh bananas

Fresh bananas are the most common way to give a banana to gerbils. Be aware that the banana pieces turn black very quickly when exposed to air. You will have to be careful that you give the banana pieces in a food bowl or on a platform where your gerbils can eat them. Always check if there are leftover pieces and take them away when they’re not eaten after a few hours.

Dried or dehydrated bananas

Dried or dehydrated bananas go through a process where most water is removed from the banana. The result is a smaller piece of banana that is brown and looks wrinkled. Dried bananas are often also called banana chips (but are not baked or fried as other banana chips).

Dried or dehydrated bananas can be compared to fresh bananas when it comes to nutrition but are easier to chew for gerbils and don’t go bad as fast as fresh bananas. If you want to dehydrate bananas you can use a food dehydrator.

Baked banana chips

Banana chips are similar to potato chips but they’re made of bananas. These chips are, just like regular chips, crunchy but offer little nutrition. Banana chips are often fried and have a high content of fat which can lead to obesity.

It’s better to give fresh bananas because these are healthier. Another way to reduce the fat content is to bake the chips yourself with a home-made recipe. The lemon juice in this recipe will prevent the darkening of the banana chips. Never give store-bought banana chips that are often fried and contain added sugar and salt.

Banana peels

A banana peel is the skin of the banana and isn’t usually eaten by humans. It can be fed to gerbils although most will prefer fresh, dried, or baked bananas. Make sure to always wash the banana peel since it can contain pesticides.

Banana bread

Banana bread is bread that is made from simple ingredients (flour, water, bananas, baking powder) and can be fed to gerbils in small amounts as a treat.

This bread is high in carbohydrates and store-bought banana bread often contains added sugar and salt. If you do give banana bread it’s best to make your own bread without additives. Even better is to give a piece of a fresh banana.

Commercial banana treats

There are some treats, like the Kaytee Small Animal Treats and the Kaytee Fiesta Yo Dips, that contain banana (flavor). Most of them are high in sugar and fat content but some can be given for their purpose, a treat to be given on occasions.

How many times can you give bananas?

Gerbils can eat bananas once or twice a week. However, if you routinely give more than that, the diet of your gerbil will become out of balance. (Fresh) bananas contain a lot of water and can cause health issues when you give too much.

How many bananas can you give?

Gerbils should only eat small to medium-sized bananas (up to 10 grams) per gerbil per serving. If you give dried bananas, you should give even less (up to 5 grams) because of the higher sugar content.

TypeAmount per gerbil (grams)Amount per gerbil (oz.)
Fresh banana10 grams0.36 oz.
Dried or dehydrated banana5 grams0.18 oz.

Gerbils have a small stomach and giving too many bananas 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.

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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