Growing opuntia indoors?

Nicole M

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I'm located in upstate New York, which definitely isn't the kind of climate that cacti and succulents thrive in. I also do not have space for a garden, as I share a small outdoor area with others in my apartment building.

That said, I would love to grow food for my tortoise, especially because harsh winters here leave me unable to harvest weeds and other plants from outside, and I'd rather not rely on store bought greens for months out of the year. Does anyone have experience or suggestions for growing tortoise seed mixes and cacti (opuntia) indoors, and for specific plants that can be thrive inside? I currently have a couple of potted aloe plants and a potted Opuntia rubescens sitting outdoors temporarily, and I'm wondering if anyone has any experience growing Opuntia ficus-indica indoors? Moreover, how would I best grow them indoors? Under some kind of grow light, maybe?

Any help is much appreciated!
 

wellington

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I have been able to keep mine alive indoors during winter months in two places. Some were inside my leopard hatchlings enclosure. They grew very skinny long cactus pads, not the proper growing ones. I also kept some in the south facing windows of an unheated shed. They stayed alive, did not grow pads until the weather warmed up. Now two new pads growing. Mine are spineless cactus. I think you can keep them alive inside, not sure how well you can get them to grow. They would for sure need some kind of UVB lighting or a regular plant light, I'm sure.
 

Yvonne G

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Mainly what happens in low light (like how it is indoors) is they grow tall and spindly, reaching for the light. I doubt that affects the nutritional value, but it doesn't look very pretty.
 

Nicole M

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There are many vendors that sell fresh pads year round, and I will shamelessly promote that I sell dried opuntia as "Cactus Chips"
https://www.facebook.com/KapidoloFarms/

Fresh pads also store well in a cool dark place for several months.
Nice! Thanks for the tip. Do you find that torts like the chips as much as the fresh pads, and are they a lot tougher?

I've also seen opuntia powder from Carolina pet supply--has anyone tried that out?
 

kelii

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I buy the chips. I cut them up and mix them with softened Mazuri. They seem to like eating them that way. I've never tried fresh.
 

Kapidolo Farms

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I have not tried the powder.

What I learned that brought me to create the chips as I do regards more than simply the nutritional content, but also the long fiber aspect. Another concern is how the powder is made. Most processing, even home canning of the pads uses temperature greater than 112F which is the beginning of denaturing (breaking up) many nutrients, especially protein.

In some of the threads regarding opuntia I and other TFO folks have quoted or referred to food and nutrition scientific literature, most but not all, analysis is done on powder that has been heated and dried in ovens the create a uniform product for the analysis.

I dry the chips with low heat, and high air flow so that minimal if any denaturing takes place. I posted a way to make a dehydrator, and at that time also advised using lower heat. Heat is the enemy of many nutrients.

How I came to decide to make the chips was from watching one of my Pancake tortoise colonies. Some food will get pushed off the tile they are fed on. I saw one pancake going to great effort to get a bit of days old dried opuntia that fell between rocks, and then consumed it. I have access to fresh opuntia, and it is fed out every second or third salad. I figured even with fresh being available maybe the tortoise preferred the dried, maybe not. Who knows what really goes on in the decision making processes of a tortoise?

I sent out over 100 one ounce samples to people and now include a small sample with each tortoise purchase. Mixed reviews on acceptance, but it seems the result as much as how they are fed out as anything.

@kelii describes the ideal for smaller tortoises for the dried opuntia.
 

Nicole M

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I have not tried the powder.

What I learned that brought me to create the chips as I do regards more than simply the nutritional content, but also the long fiber aspect. Another concern is how the powder is made. Most processing, even home canning of the pads uses temperature greater than 112F which is the beginning of denaturing (breaking up) many nutrients, especially protein.

In some of the threads regarding opuntia I and other TFO folks have quoted or referred to food and nutrition scientific literature, most but not all, analysis is done on powder that has been heated and dried in ovens the create a uniform product for the analysis.

I dry the chips with low heat, and high air flow so that minimal if any denaturing takes place. I posted a way to make a dehydrator, and at that time also advised using lower heat. Heat is the enemy of many nutrients.

How I came to decide to make the chips was from watching one of my Pancake tortoise colonies. Some food will get pushed off the tile they are fed on. I saw one pancake going to great effort to get a bit of days old dried opuntia that fell between rocks, and then consumed it. I have access to fresh opuntia, and it is fed out every second or third salad. I figured even with fresh being available maybe the tortoise preferred the dried, maybe not. Who knows what really goes on in the decision making processes of a tortoise?

I sent out over 100 one ounce samples to people and now include a small sample with each tortoise purchase. Mixed reviews on acceptance, but it seems the result as much as how they are fed out as anything.

@kelii describes the ideal for smaller tortoises for the dried opuntia.
Interesting! I assumed the powder would not be as nutritionally beneficial as the pads themselves, fresh or dried, as that's the case with most powdered supplements compared to their respective ingredients, but I had no real basis for thinking that in regards to the opuntia.

I recently ordered some opuntia ficus-indicate pads, and I'm working on getting my tort to eat them... So far she won't touch them, and they certainly are difficult to mix in with greens in a way that doesn't make her either completely refuse the food or allow her to eat around the cactus. That said, I definitely want to work the cactus into her diet, as it's just so nutritionally beneficial for torts. Once I'm done with these, I'd definitely like to invest in some chips! Especially since they'll keep while I work on getting mine to grow...
 

Tom

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Plants need light. This can be provided indoors. Cactus plants need strong light and heat.
 
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