Iceberg Lettuce?

Markw84

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
5,115
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
As a tortoise food, what's wrong with iceberg lettuce? Or other lettuce types too?
1. Too low in calcium.
2. Low Ca : P ratio.
3. Low fiber.
4. Low nutritional value.

Its everything a tortoise food should not be. Right? But what if we amend the lettuce? What if we mix in things to make up for these shortcomings and the lettuce serves as a delivery vehicle for these other items, along with the high water content of lettuce, all in a "package" that tortoises love?

As the size of my herd, and the size of the tortoises in my herd, have increased over the years, so to have my tortoise food needs increased. I used to be able to grow enough to feed them all, but with the drought, lack of time, and constant battles with the local wildlife eating my crops, I've had to start buying food. I still grow some of my own food, but its not enough anymore. I'm buying two cases of endive, escarole or romaine a week, and still have an opuntia day, Mazuri day, and either a mulberry or grapevine day. When I started feeding the grocery store greens, I was sure to add in what I call "amendments" to increase the fiber, calcium, and variety. For fiber, I soak Timothy hay horse pellets, These break down and I mix it with the lettuce in five gallon buckets, or large tubs. I use either type of ZooMed pellet for this purpose as well. Then I mix in some of @Kapidolo Farms dried leaf options. Moringa, dandelion, echinacea, marsh mallow, nettle, etc... Then I will add in some calcium powder. All of these things combined serve to make a good tortoise meal, and I've been getting by this way.

Here is the thing: I still need more and more food. I have some family friends that own a nearby restaurant. Every other day they cut up iceberg and romaine lettuce for burgers and salads, and this creates quite a lot of scrap pieces to be thrown away. Just their leavings make up about a 40 pound case, and they throw it in the dumpster because they have no use for it. This equates to about three full five gallon buckets which will feed my herd for a day. Its the heals and leaves they can't use. They sometimes offer it to me, but I've been reluctant because iceberg lettuce just is not a good thing to be feeding to my tortoises on a regular basis. Right? But what if I added chopped up orchard grass hay, soaked Timothy hay horse pellets, calcium, dried leaves, and I've recently started using Purina Organic Lay Crumbles for chickens on the advice of Will. Looking at the list above. Adding calcium carbonate powder fixes the low calcium and the Ca to P ratio. Adding the hay fixes the lack of fiber, and adding the lay crumbles and dried leaves fixes the low nutritional value part, right?

I've started feeding this lettuce with all this "stuff" mixed in a couple of days a week and it seems to be working fine. Poops are solid and full of rough fiber, growth is slow and steady each month, and my adults lay well formed eggs that hatch into vigorous healthy babies. I also mix in an assortment of other stuff when available too, like grated pumpkin, assorted other grocery greens like kale, collards, cilantro, spring mix, arugula, etc..., cucumber peels and various weeds, leaves and flowers.

I will agree with anyone that plain iceberg lettuce is not a good tortoise food to be fed in bulk on a regular basis, but when used as a vehicle to deliver all the good stuff that I am mixing in, it suits me fine. I welcome debate or conversation on the subject. Suggestions for improvement are welcome too.
Great post, Tom. I've been wanting to post something like this for some time.

I have been doing this - lettuce base to the meal - for years now. Just bite my tongue when I see references to NO LETTUCE here on the forum as did not want a debate.

Actually romaine and loose leaf lettuces are a very good food item. Loaded with many vitamins and minerals. As you mention, they lack enough fiber and romaine lacks enough calcium. Loose leaf lettuce actually has a good dalcium/phosphorus balance. I buy green leaf lettuce by the case each week as a base for many of the tortoise meals.

Here's a nutritional chart where I've selected a few of the evil lettuces and a few of the highly recommended items: (note how much vit A and C and low carb vs fiber lettuce is!)

nitrition lettuce vs grape cactus.jpg

Let's say we start with a pound of romaine and just look at the frequently mentioned poor calcium content vs phosphorus.

1 lb romaine = 163 mg calcium / 204mg Phos
We add 1/2 lb grape leaves. = 822mg cal / 206 Phos.

We chop up and mix into a nice salad that is now
1-1/4lb salad = 985mg cal / 410mg Phos
well over 2:1 cal/phos ratio in our salad.

But I mix in a lot of other things in a pound of lettuce. And normally at least an equal portion of grapes/mulberry/weeds to the lettuce for the day. Adding slices of cactus pads, lots of hibiscus and Rose of sharon flowers and leaves, etc, etc. The salad for the day is actually enhanced by the high vitamin and mineral content of the lettuce and the hydration of the great water content.

I will add I personally never use iceburg lettuce. But romaine and especially loose leaf is really a good added food.

As we always say - variety and lots if different food items is key. So whether we say these lettuces are good or not, we still can have those who will be lazy and only dwell on one food item. So the variety is key is the important part, not to eliminate lettuce as a choice of one of the items.

With Kapidolo Farms dried goods this also becomes easier. Without water content the dried items are about 10 times more dense in their vitamins and minerals. So my above example would only need just under 1 ounce of dried grape leaves to do the same thing! And the dried items stick to the lettuce mix and is impossible for the tortoise to eat anything without also eating the dried bits stuck to it!

Here's a typical salad for the day...

IMG_0022(2).jpg
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
93,602
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
As many of you know I was in the turtle/tortoise rescue business for many years, only giving it up last year.

When adopting out a tortoise and discussing what to feed it I NEVER included 'iceburg lettuce' in my repertoire. Reason being, the majority of the people heard 'iceburg lettuce' and then didn't hear anything else. After keeping their new tortoise for a while they would call me to discuss problems they were having and I learned that lettuce was the majority of what was being fed. It's quick and easy and most people have it on hand. But not good to feed as the main part of a diet.
 

Markw84

Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
5,115
Location (City and/or State)
Sacramento, CA (Central Valley)
As many of you know I was in the turtle/tortoise rescue business for many years, only giving it up last year.

When adopting out a tortoise and discussing what to feed it I NEVER included 'iceburg lettuce' in my repertoire. Reason being, the majority of the people heard 'iceburg lettuce' and then didn't hear anything else. After keeping their new tortoise for a while they would call me to discuss problems they were having and I learned that lettuce was the majority of what was being fed. It's quick and easy and most people have it on hand. But not good to feed as the main part of a diet.
I don't believe its just because all they hear is lettuce. I believe it is because in winter and many times of the year, there is no weeds, no grape leaves, no mulberry leaves. So what do they do?? I like to give them something they can do all year in any place so they don't have to figure somehting else out on their own when they find the recommended items are just not available.

Some people will simple hear what they want no matter what. We can't do anything for them. We can do something that works all the time for the remaining 95%!
 

Donna Albu

Active Member
5 Year Member
Joined
May 15, 2014
Messages
123
Location (City and/or State)
Peoria, Maricopa County, AZ
As a tortoise food, what's wrong with iceberg lettuce? Or other lettuce types too?
1. Too low in calcium.
2. Low Ca : P ratio.
3. Low fiber.
4. Low nutritional value.

Its everything a tortoise food should not be. Right? But what if we amend the lettuce? What if we mix in things to make up for these shortcomings and the lettuce serves as a delivery vehicle for these other items, along with the high water content of lettuce, all in a "package" that tortoises love?

As the size of my herd, and the size of the tortoises in my herd, have increased over the years, so to have my tortoise food needs increased. I used to be able to grow enough to feed them all, but with the drought, lack of time, and constant battles with the local wildlife eating my crops, I've had to start buying food. I still grow some of my own food, but its not enough anymore. I'm buying two cases of endive, escarole or romaine a week, and still have an opuntia day, Mazuri day, and either a mulberry or grapevine day. When I started feeding the grocery store greens, I was sure to add in what I call "amendments" to increase the fiber, calcium, and variety. For fiber, I soak Timothy hay horse pellets, These break down and I mix it with the lettuce in five gallon buckets, or large tubs. I use either type of ZooMed pellet for this purpose as well. Then I mix in some of @Kapidolo Farms dried leaf options. Moringa, dandelion, echinacea, marsh mallow, nettle, etc... Then I will add in some calcium powder. All of these things combined serve to make a good tortoise meal, and I've been getting by this way.

Here is the thing: I still need more and more food. I have some family friends that own a nearby restaurant. Every other day they cut up iceberg and romaine lettuce for burgers and salads, and this creates quite a lot of scrap pieces to be thrown away. Just their leavings make up about a 40 pound case, and they throw it in the dumpster because they have no use for it. This equates to about three full five gallon buckets which will feed my herd for a day. Its the heals and leaves they can't use. They sometimes offer it to me, but I've been reluctant because iceberg lettuce just is not a good thing to be feeding to my tortoises on a regular basis. Right? But what if I added chopped up orchard grass hay, soaked Timothy hay horse pellets, calcium, dried leaves, and I've recently started using Purina Organic Lay Crumbles for chickens on the advice of Will. Looking at the list above. Adding calcium carbonate powder fixes the low calcium and the Ca to P ratio. Adding the hay fixes the lack of fiber, and adding the lay crumbles and dried leaves fixes the low nutritional value part, right?

I've started feeding this lettuce with all this "stuff" mixed in a couple of days a week and it seems to be working fine. Poops are solid and full of rough fiber, growth is slow and steady each month, and my adults lay well formed eggs that hatch into vigorous healthy babies. I also mix in an assortment of other stuff when available too, like grated pumpkin, assorted other grocery greens like kale, collards, cilantro, spring mix, arugula, etc..., cucumber peels and various weeds, leaves and flowers.

I will agree with anyone that plain iceberg lettuce is not a good tortoise food to be fed in bulk on a regular basis, but when used as a vehicle to deliver all the good stuff that I am mixing in, it suits me fine. I welcome debate or conversation on the subject. Suggestions for improvement are welcome too.
Just a side note - iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value for humans, either.
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
50,936
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
As many of you know I was in the turtle/tortoise rescue business for many years, only giving it up last year.

When adopting out a tortoise and discussing what to feed it I NEVER included 'iceburg lettuce' in my repertoire. Reason being, the majority of the people heard 'iceburg lettuce' and then didn't hear anything else. After keeping their new tortoise for a while they would call me to discuss problems they were having and I learned that lettuce was the majority of what was being fed. It's quick and easy and most people have it on hand. But not good to feed as the main part of a diet.
I feel this will and still goes on now. Even this thread is going to be a slippery slop in getting people thinking that iceburg is food to feed along with romaine and green leaf but nothing else in the mix. Newbies specially will not read all the posts and realize the ingredients Tom or Mark listed they add lettuce too is not just more lettuce.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
64,197
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
I feel this will and still goes on now. Even this thread is going to be a slippery slop in getting people thinking that iceburg is food to feed along with romaine and green leaf but nothing else in the mix. Newbies specially will not read all the posts and realize the ingredients Tom or Mark listed they add lettuce too is not just more lettuce.
I don't think you give enough credit to your fellow tortoise keepers. especially the ones here on a forum like this. I think your view is skewed by what you see daily in the retail pet market. I lived that life for years too, so I understand. There will always be dummies who wish to remain willfully ignorant, but I think the majority are smart and have basic reading comprehension.
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
50,936
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
I don't think you give enough credit to your fellow tortoise keepers. especially the ones here on a forum like this. I think your view is skewed by what you see daily in the retail pet market. I lived that life for years too, so I understand. There will always be dummies who wish to remain willfully ignorant, but I think the majority are smart and have basic reading comprehension.
No Tom, my view is not skewed at all! I see it all the time right here on this forum. We have many on here that claim to be lurkers for months, sometimes years, claim to have read many threads. Then they finally join and are doing 90-100 % wrong. Many don't pay attention to the info being given in certain situations is species specific and use it for any species and yes, they will pick out what they want to hear/see. Even a few long time members have read it all and posted threads etc asked questions, seems to have gotten it. Then they need help and they can't answer any of the basic questions, temps, humidity, etc because they really didn't do what was suggested or they had researched on here, because they picked and choose what they wanted to here.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
93,602
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
No Tom, my view is not skewed at all! I see it all the time right here on this forum. We have many on here that claim to be lurkers for months, sometimes years, claim to have read many threads. Then they finally join and are doing 90-100 % wrong. Many don't pay attention to the info being given in certain situations is species specific and use it for any species and yes, they will pick out what they want to hear/see. Even a few long time members have read it all and posted threads etc asked questions, seems to have gotten it. Then they need help and they can't answer any of the basic questions, temps, humidity, etc because they really didn't do what was suggested or they had researched on here, because they picked and choose what they wanted to here.
And I saw it time and again with people who adopted tortoises from me. . . and I gave them care sheets, food lists. And even though my list of foods was headed by, "Choose several from this list and nix it up for variety. . ." I would frequently hear, " But lettuce is right there o your list. " This from people who only feed iceburg lettuce.
 

Cathie G

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Aug 9, 2018
Messages
15,394
Location (City and/or State)
Lancaster
And I saw it time and again with people who adopted tortoises from me. . . and I gave them care sheets, food lists. And even though my list of foods was headed by, "Choose several from this list and nix it up for variety. . ." I would frequently hear, " But lettuce is right there o your list. " This from people who only feed iceburg lettuce.
I would hate to see their health if they can believe that is all that's needed.
 

ColumbiaJane

Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2017
Messages
43
My DT had to stay up all last winter because he was sick, and as Mark said, no leaves, no weeds…Fortunately, I had a good variety of dried stuff from kapidolo and made him lettuce wraps every day with romaine. He wintered well.
 

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 23, 2008
Messages
93,602
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
All of you who are saying lettuce is ok with additives is missing the point. I'm saying quite a few inexperienced keepers hear (or read) "iceburg lettuce" and they key in on that to the exclusion of other foods because it's quick and easy. Please don't discount my many years doing tortoise rescue and hearing many, many sad stories. There are lots of folks out there in the real world who don't do research or go online and find the forum. Folks who have taken a tortoise from the desert or inherited it when their mom died, who dumped their new animal out in the backyard and think it's fine to toss him some lettuce.
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
50,936
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
All of you who are saying lettuce is ok with additives is missing the point. I'm saying quite a few inexperienced keepers hear (or read) "iceburg lettuce" and they key in on that to the exclusion of other foods because it's quick and easy. Please don't discount my many years doing tortoise rescue and hearing many, many sad stories. There are lots of folks out there in the real world who don't do research or go online and find the forum. Folks who have taken a tortoise from the desert or inherited it when their mom died, who dumped their new animal out in the backyard and think it's fine to toss him some lettuce.
I sure hear ya Yvonne. We see it all the time still on here. The lettuce is easily found, cheap and everyone sells it. I can imagine the many times you put the work in to educate the adopters, give them all the info they needed, just for them to see the easy lettuces and forget the rest of the list.
 

Cathie G

Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Aug 9, 2018
Messages
15,394
Location (City and/or State)
Lancaster
That's their fault when they read it but don't really read it. No lettuce isn't a Tortoise's whole diet. It's just a desert and some water.animal way if needed. I don't understand how those people could even come to that conclusion from what's been posted here if that person actually reads everything. And since you've tried to educate them that's all and the best you can do.🤗
 

ColumbiaJane

Member
5 Year Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2017
Messages
43
I understand what you are saying Yvonne, and have definitely come a long way from feeding green beans and squash (plus dandelion, mulberry and grape leaves) since joining TFN and have learned so much. I value the experience and wisdom presented here and advise any tortoise owner that I meet to join this forum and learn. Thank you all.
 

Tommo

New Member
Joined
Jul 6, 2022
Messages
3
Location (City and/or State)
St Albans
As a tortoise food, what's wrong with iceberg lettuce? Or other lettuce types too?
1. Too low in calcium.
2. Low Ca : P ratio.
3. Low fiber.
4. Low nutritional value.

Its everything a tortoise food should not be. Right? But what if we amend the lettuce? What if we mix in things to make up for these shortcomings and the lettuce serves as a delivery vehicle for these other items, along with the high water content of lettuce, all in a "package" that tortoises love?

As the size of my herd, and the size of the tortoises in my herd, have increased over the years, so to have my tortoise food needs increased. I used to be able to grow enough to feed them all, but with the drought, lack of time, and constant battles with the local wildlife eating my crops, I've had to start buying food. I still grow some of my own food, but its not enough anymore. I'm buying two cases of endive, escarole or romaine a week, and still have an opuntia day, Mazuri day, and either a mulberry or grapevine day. When I started feeding the grocery store greens, I was sure to add in what I call "amendments" to increase the fiber, calcium, and variety. For fiber, I soak Timothy hay horse pellets, These break down and I mix it with the lettuce in five gallon buckets, or large tubs. I use either type of ZooMed pellet for this purpose as well. Then I mix in some of @Kapidolo Farms dried leaf options. Moringa, dandelion, echinacea, marsh mallow, nettle, etc... Then I will add in some calcium powder. All of these things combined serve to make a good tortoise meal, and I've been getting by this way.

Here is the thing: I still need more and more food. I have some family friends that own a nearby restaurant. Every other day they cut up iceberg and romaine lettuce for burgers and salads, and this creates quite a lot of scrap pieces to be thrown away. Just their leavings make up about a 40 pound case, and they throw it in the dumpster because they have no use for it. This equates to about three full five gallon buckets which will feed my herd for a day. Its the heals and leaves they can't use. They sometimes offer it to me, but I've been reluctant because iceberg lettuce just is not a good thing to be feeding to my tortoises on a regular basis. Right? But what if I added chopped up orchard grass hay, soaked Timothy hay horse pellets, calcium, dried leaves, and I've recently started using Purina Organic Lay Crumbles for chickens on the advice of Will. Looking at the list above. Adding calcium carbonate powder fixes the low calcium and the Ca to P ratio. Adding the hay fixes the lack of fiber, and adding the lay crumbles and dried leaves fixes the low nutritional value part, right?

I've started feeding this lettuce with all this "stuff" mixed in a couple of days a week and it seems to be working fine. Poops are solid and full of rough fiber, growth is slow and steady each month, and my adults lay well formed eggs that hatch into vigorous healthy babies. I also mix in an assortment of other stuff when available too, like grated pumpkin, assorted other grocery greens like kale, collards, cilantro, spring mix, arugula, etc..., cucumber peels and various weeds, leaves and flowers.

I will agree with anyone that plain iceberg lettuce is not a good tortoise food to be fed in bulk on a regular basis, but when used as a vehicle to deliver all the good stuff that I am mixing in, it suits me fine. I welcome debate or conversation on the subject. Suggestions for improvement are welcome too.
We've had our tortoise for 45 years and don't know how old she was when she arrived. For years she only ate when the sun shines and then it was only the odd dandelion leaf and apple, but she does love the heads and stalks of dandelion. She has hardly grown or gained weight. I weigh and measure her every year before and after hibernation. This year she has gone mad eating lettuce, dandelions, weeds, tomatoes etc and is roaming around her pen, (paved area and lawn and rockery) and sometimes escapes to the vegetable garden, but I can't always find how she gets out but I suspect she climbs the foot high chainlink fence. She has loads of energy when the sun shines. This is why I discourage folk from getting a tortoise. It's not fair to keep them in this climate, and they are not a toy for children. Having said that I love her to bits and she comes running when I call, in warm weather.
 

wellington

Well-Known Member
Moderator
10 Year Member!
Tortoise Club
Joined
Sep 6, 2011
Messages
50,936
Location (City and/or State)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
We've had our tortoise for 45 years and don't know how old she was when she arrived. For years she only ate when the sun shines and then it was only the odd dandelion leaf and apple, but she does love the heads and stalks of dandelion. She has hardly grown or gained weight. I weigh and measure her every year before and after hibernation. This year she has gone mad eating lettuce, dandelions, weeds, tomatoes etc and is roaming around her pen, (paved area and lawn and rockery) and sometimes escapes to the vegetable garden, but I can't always find how she gets out but I suspect she climbs the foot high chainlink fence. She has loads of energy when the sun shines. This is why I discourage folk from getting a tortoise. It's not fair to keep them in this climate, and they are not a toy for children. Having said that I love her to bits and she comes running when I call, in warm weather.
What kind of tortoise is it? Her diet has not been good and is one reason she would be undersized. Fruit should only be fed to very few species and tomatoes too. Lettuce with the diet she is getting isn't helpful. Her diet needs to greatly improve before I would give her any lettuce.
 

Tommo

New Member
Joined
Jul 6, 2022
Messages
3
Location (City and/or State)
St Albans
What kind of tortoise is it? Her diet has not been good and is one reason she would be undersized. Fruit should only be fed to very few species and tomatoes too. Lettuce with the diet she is getting isn't helpful. Her diet needs to greatly improve before I would give her any lettuce.
What do you suggest?
 

OliveW

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2022
Messages
286
Location (City and/or State)
Branford, FL
@Markw84 that is a beautiful looking salad! My Toritmer would love that. He loves brightly colored flowers and goes for them first thing. Do you grow enough flowers to support that every day? Or do you buy them somewhere?

I already had Hibiscus when my boy showed up, but I need to get busy planting lots of more flowers for him. Between Tortimer eating them and my granddaughter picking them, we have zero flowers right now.

@Yvonne G , extreme newbie here and accidental owner here. My boy will never see iceberg lettuce. Somewhere down the road, he may get some Romaine as a treat, but we thankfully have grass and his other basics growing here year round. :)

I posted here the day I found this forum, and have not left since. The internet is full of well meaning, but very wrong, care sites written by owners who just know what their tortoises like, but not what's good for them. So much contradictory information out there.

Some of us newbs take our commitment very seriously. I've even found a specialty vet in a nearby city, BEFORE I need them. Toritmer is going in for a wellness check in August, just to be established as a patient. :tort::<3:
 

New Posts

Top