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. For example, melons are a tasty fruit full of vitamins. But can gerbils eat melons, or are there better alternatives?

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

Fruit 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, so an occasional (piece of) melon won’t hurt your gerbils. However, you should only give small amounts. There are also several ways to feed melons to gerbils (fresh, dried, dehydrated); some are better than others.

Do Gerbils Eat Melons 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 melon vines wouldn’t grow well in this region.

Growth of young melon in a glasshouse.

Melon vines need water to grow and the desert doesn’t have enough water or rainfall to sustain melon vines. Only an oasis can sustain them. Melon vines are best grown in warm and humid climates. The natural habitat of gerbils doesn’t fit this profile. This means that no melons are available in the gerbils’ natural habitat.

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. Melons aren’t available to them but this doesn’t mean that a gerbil won’t try a melon if you leave it in its enclosure.

Nutritional Value of Melons (Analysis)

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

NutrientAmount (per 100 grams)
Water90.2 g
Protein0.82 g
Fiber0.8 g
Sugars7.88 g
Calcium9 mg
Magnesium13 mg
Phosphorus17 mg
Vitamin C10.9 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 melons have 1% fiber per serving, while dried or dehydrated melons have around 7% fiber per serving. These percentages are lower than the fiber content of seed mixes and pellets for gerbils.

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.

Melons contain around 13 mg of magnesium per 100 grams, which equals 0.13 grams per kilogram. Most quality seed mixes and pellet diets will contain enough magnesium to keep your gerbils healthy. Melons won’t do too much but can add a little bit of magnesium.

Vitamins

Melons are rich in several vitamins and have a moderate 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; melons contain approximately 90% water. So when you give too many melons or give them too many times in a week, your gerbil can get health issues such as diarrhea.

Sugar

Fresh melons contain around 8% sugar per piece and dried or dehydrated melons even contain much more (60% or more). 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 melons

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].

A melon’s calcium to phosphorus ratio is [1]:[1.89], which is a bad ratio for gerbils.

Can Gerbils Eat Melons? (Feeding Instructions)

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

What kind of melons can you give?

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

  • fresh
  • dried or dehydrated

Fresh, dried or dehydrated melons

Fresh melons are more popular than dried or dehydrated melons, 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 melons undergo a process where most water is removed from the melon. The result is a smaller piece of melon that looks wrinkled.

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

How many times can you give melons?

Gerbils can eat small pieces of fresh melon once a week. Dried or dehydrated melon 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. Melons contain a lot of water and sugar and can cause health issues.

How many melons can you give?

Gerbils should only eat a small bite-sized piece (up to one teaspoon) of fresh melon per gerbil per serving. It’s not recommended to give dried or dehydrated melon because of its large percentage of sugar. But, if you give dried or dehydrated melon you should limit it to half a teaspoon.

Gerbils have a small stomach and giving too much melon 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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