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?
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); 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 grassland, shrubland, and desert areas 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 it can grow in full sunlight and in 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 region, gerbils will also eat fruit and insects when 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 much nutritional value 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:
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.
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.
Bananas are rich in vitamins. Vitamins are important in keeping gerbils healthy and preventing certain health issues.
Gerbils don’t drink a lot of water, but they should always have access to water. 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.
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 health in humans and 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]:.
A banana’s calcium to phosphorus ratio is :[4.4], which indicates that it isn’t good as part of the main diet. However, if you only give bananas as a treat and only occasionally 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; you can find bananas almost anywhere in the world. Bananas can be eaten in different ways:
- dried or dehydrated
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 you can buy online or in pet stores containing bananas.
Fresh bananas are the most common way to give a banana to gerbils. Be aware that the banana pieces quickly turn black when exposed to air. You will have to be careful to 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 undergo 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. Just like regular chips, these chips are crunchy but offer little nutrition. Banana chips are often fried and have a high-fat content, leading to obesity.
It’s better to give fresh bananas because they are healthier. Another way to reduce the fat content is to bake the chips yourself with a homemade 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.
A banana peel is the skin of the banana and isn’t usually eaten by humans. It can be fed to gerbils, although most prefer fresh, dried, or baked bananas. Make sure to always wash the banana peel since it can contain pesticides.
Banana bread 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
Some treats, like the Oxbow Simple Reward Treats and the Kaytee Fiesta Yo Dips, 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 small pieces of fresh banana once a week. Dried or dehydrated banana should be limited to only once every two weeks or once a month. If you give more than that, your gerbil’s diet can become unbalanced. Bananas contain a lot of water and sugar, which can cause health issues.
How many bananas can you give?
Gerbils should only eat a small bite-sized piece (up to one teaspoon) of fresh banana per gerbil per serving. Giving dried or dehydrated bananas is not recommended because of their large percentage of sugar. But, if you give dried or dehydrated bananas you should limit them to half a teaspoon.
Gerbils have a small stomach and giving too much kiwi 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:
- Complete and illustrated gerbil diet guide
- Can gerbils eat fruit? (List of safe fruits to give)
- Can gerbils eat apples?
- Can gerbils eat strawberries?
- Can gerbils eat grapes?
- Can gerbils eat avocados?