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Sulcata Tortoise Care



The Sulcata Tortoise also know as the African Spur Thigh Tortoise is the third largest tortoise species in the world and one of the most popularly kept tortoise species. Large male Sulcatas can grow to be up to 200 pounds! This is a rare example but it is not uncommon for a sulcata to reach 100+ pounds. Most females typically are around 70 to 100 pounds. However this kind of weight takes a long time to achieve, as sulcatas can live to be 100 years old! Baby sulcatas start off being able to fit in the palm of your hand. They do the majority of there rapid growth within the first 10 years. After that they will continue to grow their whole lives but at a much slower rate. 

Housing these tortoises can be difficult especially for a larger adult. But babies can be kept indoors quiet easily for the first few years of live. You want a cage that they have plenty of room to move around in, something like a tortoise table which is commonly sold at pet shops, or a cage that is 4 feet by 2 feet usually is a good size. Really you want the biggest enclosure you can use but not so big that your tortoise would get lost and not be able to find its water, food, and heating. For a larger tortoise, eventually you will need to have a large open space to keep them. For most people an indoor enclosure is not practical and you will need to move them outside. This is where doing your homework on getting a new pet is so important because most people buy a little sulcata baby and they don't realize or prepare for how big it will get. If you live in a cold climate you might not be able to keep it outside. That is why sulcatas are best kept if you live in a warmer environment where you can keep them outside most if not all of the year. For an adult sulcata the larger the enclosure the better(again not so big that its unnecessary and you can't find your sulcata). What's important is to make sure the enclosure is secure, you want the walls of it to be at least 2 feet tall as well as 12 to 24 inches buried into the ground to make sure the sulcata can't dig under the cage.


For an outdoor enclosure with a larger tortoise the grass and natural terrain is obviously what would be on the floor. However for the substrate of an indoor enclosure your going to want to use aspen bedding, reptile bark, cypress mulch, or coconut fiber. There are many more options and a lot of people have success with many different bedding choices. The important thing is that it's absorbent and free of any harmful additive or pests. Usually buying a good quality organic product works well. Sulcatas like to dig so giving them a few inches of bedding for them to do that is good. Also placing multiple hiding spots either with containers they can hide under or plastic plants they can find shelter in is a good idea to reduce stress. 

Sulcata tortoises are from North and central Africa in that climate they experience high heat but also low drops at night. During the day you want to give your sulcata tortoise a hot spot of 100 degrees and keep the ambient temperature around 70-85 degrees. At night they can experience a drop in temperature (turning the heat light off and letting it drop to room temperature is fine) They can actually handle night time lows of 45 degrees! As for lighting they do require UVB lighting. If they are kept outside obviously letting them get a lot of natural sunset is important. But indoors a good quality UVB light they can get under is needed.

Always provide them with a shallow bowl of water they can get into and soak. You are going to have to change and clean the water often because they usually defecate in the water dish. Providing a humid hide(a hiding place where they can go into with higher humidity) is very important to prevent pyramiding which is when there shell grows abnormally and this can cause issues down the road. This can be achieved with a plastic container with dirt underneath it and sprayed down so it's very humid. Along with this, soaking baby sulcatas twice a week really helps them stay hydrated as they tend to dehydrate faster then adults. Lastly misting the enclosure is a good way to increase the overall humidity.

Sulcatas love to eat and they will eat a wide range of grasses, vegetables, and fruits. However your sulcata's diet should be mostly made up of grasses and lower nutrient plants. Fruit should be a very occasional treat. For baby sulcatas spring mix salads work well with a tortoise pellet diet which there are many on the market including mazuri tortoise diet which is really good. Any green leafy vegetable is a good choice. Adult sulcatas will eat a lot of grasses including alfalfa, lawn grasses, orchard grass and a few others. Adults sulcatas can eat a lot of food so grasses are the most effective way to provide that.

You want to avoid handling your tortoise as they don't really enjoy being picked up, however when left to move on their own older sulcatas tend to enjoy human contact and can have great personalities. But as babies it's best to avoid picking them up because this can stress them out.


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