I have a male Russian tortoise who will only eat red leaf lettuce or Romaine. I sprinkle on vitamin A powder but he

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Customer: Hi! I have a male Russian tortoise who will only eat red leaf lettuce or Romaine. I sprinkle on vitamin A powder but he simply doesn't touch those pieces. Will this diet be enough to keep him healthy? Also, is it possible to overfeed a turtle?
Answered by Anna in 22 mins 14 years ago
30+ years of experience

17,026 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary


Some additional information will help me to answer your question.

What kind of habitat do you keep your tortoise in - indoors, outdoors? If outdoors, will you describe it and your climate?

If indoors, how big is it? What type of lighting do you have? What temperature do you maintain?

What foods have you tried to give him that he won't eat?

Thank you.


Hi Anna
He's in an indoor terrarium, about 15 gal. with bark mulch bedding and a water dish. I try to keep it at least 70. He has a heating pad under the tank and a UV basking lamp, which he loves. Overall he seems fine but his scutes are very dry also.
re: other foods: I've offered him parsley, kale, carrots, tomatoes and dandelions. No interest!
Thank you for getting back to me. Lettuce isn't a complete diet, and the tortoise will get sick if that's all he eats. The vitamin A supplementation isn't a good idea. Too much vitamin A easily leads to eye problems in tortoises. These tortoises need a high fiber diet. Hay and grasses should be a big part of the diet. Greens such as dandelion, collards, and turnip greens are also good. You should supplement calcium with calcium carbonate powder. I recommend that you read about an appropriate diet at the following site:


The first thing I would try with the tortoise is some good quality grass hay.

The tortoise may not have much of an appetite because a few things in his habitat are not optimal. A tank isn’t the best environment for tortoises to live in because the air can’t circulate properly. They should have some kind of an open enclosure that is at least 4 feet long and 2 ft. wide, and 1 to 2 ft. deep. You could build such an enclosure or convert a preformed garden pond or child’s plastic wading pool (one of the larger sizes).

Your temperatures are a bit too cool. The gradient in the enclosure should be 75*F to 85*F, with the basking area warmer yet, at 95*F. Night temperatures can go down to 70* to 75*F. A UV basking light most likely only puts out UVA rays. To stay healthy indoors, the tortoise also needs a UVB light. A Reptisun 10.0 is a good brand. Full-spectrum is not the same thing. The UVB light doesn't provide heat, but without it, the tortoise will develop Metabolic Bone Disease. MBD causes a slow, painful death. UVB bulbs are ineffective after 6 months, even though they may look fine.

I suggest that you read the information at the above site I gave a link to, increase the temperature in the enclosure, and try some of the recommended foods right away. A UVB light should also be a priority. After that's all taken care of, you can look at your options for a different type of enclosure. If you have more questions about this, just let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope your tortoise will soon be willing to eat a healthy diet.

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