Can Tortoises Eat Iceberg Lettuce? (+ Other Types of Lettuce)

Yes, tortoises can eat iceberg lettuce, but it’s not recommended. Iceberg lettuce is one of the leafy greens with the lowest nutritional value and it’s often the cause of diarrhea. There are many better greens to give your tort like romaine lettuce, collard, chard, etc.

Can Tortoises Eat Iceberg Lettuce

Is Iceberg Lettuce Good for Tortoises?

In a word, “no”, iceberg lettuce is not good for tortoises. It’s not toxic or harmful per se, but it offers little to no beneficial nutrition for a tortoise.

It’s our responsibility to make sure we’re providing a high-quality diet rich in greens and other foods providing all of the nutrition that tortoises need.

Therefore, it’s best that you don’t give your tortoise iceberg lettuce. Instead, you should provide baby leaf salad, chard, broccoli leaves, dandelions, chickweed, and any of the weeds, plants, and veggies that are safe you’ll find listed below.

Is Iceberg Lettuce Bad for Tortoises?

I have read accounts and spoken with some tortoise owners that swear iceberg lettuce gave their tortoise an upset stomach.

This isn’t that surprising as iceberg lettuce is known to give some other small animals an upset stomach.

Combine this with the fact that iceberg lettuce is one of the worst leafy greens in terms of nutrition, and these reasons are enough for me never to give any to my tortoise.

If you do or have given your tortoise iceberg lettuce, don’t worry, it’s really not going to cause them any issues in small amounts. 

What Kind of Lettuce Can Tortoises Eat?

There is a long list of lettuce types, and to be honest, I think most if not all of them are better than iceberg lettuce.

Iceberg lettuce or crisphead as it’s also called tends to be one of the most common on the supermarket shelves as it’s one of the cheapest to produce, it’s as simple as that.

To give you a better idea, some of the types of lettuce that I was able to find other owners feed to their tortoises include;

Lambs lettuce, romaine lettuce, apollo lettuce, baby red oak lettuce, tango lettuce, and green Batavia lettuce.

So, next time you’re in your local supermarket, it’s time to dig a little deeper than the iceberg lettuce rack to see what they stock!

Author Note: There is a long list of different types of lettuces to try – it just so happens that Iceberg is one of the worst.

What Do Tortoises Eat?

Feeding tortoises it’s pretty straightforward, and a lot of fun.

The rule of thumb when feeding tortoises is to try and give them as many of the foods as they would eat in their natural habitats in the wild as you can.

There are various species of tortoise that are commonly kept as pets, broadly speaking they are split into two different categories:

  • Tropical rainforest species, and
  • Species native to grasslands or desert environments

Some of the common species of rainforest tortoises kept as pets are:

  • Yellow-Footed tortoise 
  • Red-Footed tortoise
  • Elongated tortoises

In their natural environment, these tortoises will roam over a wide area grazing on a wide variety of seasonally available foods.

The interesting thing about these species is that they eat a fair amount of fruit in the wild, this is the main difference between these species and those native to desert climates.

Some of the species of tortoise that are native to drier climates and eat very few, if any fruits in the wild includes:

  • Hermann’s tortoise
  • African Sulcata
  • Horsfield’s (Russian) tortoise
  • Indian Star tortoise
  • Leopard tortoise

If you have one of these species, you can still give them small amounts of fruit but don’t be surprised if they are not interested in eating them.

Fruit, in general, should only make up a small amount of a tortoise’s diet, around 5%. The sugar content is not ideal for tortoises, and they spoil a lot quicker anyway.

Plants That Tortoises Can Eat

Tortoise love plants, leafy greens, foliage. Here are some of the plants and flowers etc that are known to be safe:

  • Forget-me-nots
  • MulberryChicory
  • Chickweed
  • Clover
  • Arugula
  • Cat’s ears
  • Hibiscus
  • Dandelions
  • Plantain
  • Dock leaves
  • Knotweed
  • Aloe vera
  • Brambles (remove thorns!)
  • Mustard leaves
  • Evening primrose

Vegetables That Tortoises Can Eat

Although most tortoises will not encounter vegetables in the wild, no vegetables are packed with good nutrition and make for nice additions to their diets.

Here are some of the vegetables you can try out that are safe for tortoises:

Fruits That Some Tortoises Can Eat

Some species of tortoise, like the yellow and red-footed tortoises, munch on fruits in the wild and will enjoy nibbling on some in their terrarium.

Some of the most well-known fruits that are safe are:

Foods, Plants Etc Tortoise Should Not Eat

It’s equally – if not more – important that you are aware of the foods, plants, etc. that are potentially toxic, poisonous, or harmful in any way to your tortoise.

This is something I’ve always been very diligent about and done a good deal of research into, although it is a little bit of a grey area in places.

The best advice is to err on the side of caution. If you don’t know something is 100% safe to give to your tortoise, don’t offer it to them.

That said, here is a list of some of the foods that have been reported to be potentially toxic:

Fruits, Vegetables, and Foods

  • Citrus fruits
  • Chili Peppers
  • Parts of nightshade plants (explained in more detail below)
  • Bread
  • Yogurt
  • Beans
  • Avocado
  • Rhubarb


  • Morning glories
  • Ivy/Poison Ivy
  • Mistletoe
  • Hemlock
  • Holly
  • Azalea
  • Tiger Lily
  • Hydrangea
  • Buttercups
  • Yew
  • Foxglove
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Rhododendron

Author Tip: Variety is the key, the more different foods you can offer the better. Make a list of what your tortoise enjoys, and you can narrow down the foods you offer.

Can a Sulcata Tortoise Eat Iceberg Lettuce?

Sulcata tortoises are native to North Africa and are found on the southern edge of the Sahara desert.

These impressive tortoises look more like prehistoric creatures than your common house tortoise, but they do make for awesome pets.

In their natural environment, Sulcatas would not come across iceberg lettuce, they tend to graze on hay and grasses. Therefore, it’s not recommended that you give iceberg lettuce to Sulcatas.

Can a Desert Tortoise Eat Iceberg Lettuce?

As the name suggests, desert tortoises are native to desert terrains and some of the Desert ecosystems across the southwestern U.S.

Just the same as Sulcatas, desert tortoises would not eat iceberg lettuce in the wild – far from it.

Therefore, you should not give iceberg lettuce to your desert tortoise. Stick to the grasses, flowers, weeds, and leave your plans they would eat in their natural habitat.


Tortoises can eat iceberg lettuce, but the bottom line is that there are loads of other greens that are much better for them.

Personally, I’d skip on the iceberg lettuce. You want to provide your tort with the best possible nutrition to ensure they maintain optimal health and weight. But you don’t need to worry if you’ve been feeding your tortoise a little in the past.


Image credits – Taken by author; copyright

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