The Sulcata tortoise, further known as the African spurred tortoise, is one of the world’s largest tortoises. It has a yellow-brownish shell and thick skin, and pointed scales on its legs. These tortoises can adapt to various living conditions, making this one of the reasons they have become popular as pets.
However, due to their long lifespans and unique care requirements, they are not suitable pets for everyone. I will go over how to care for adult Sulcata tortoises in this article
Adult Sulcata Tortoise Care Guide
To care for an adult Sulcata Tortoise, you must have a large enclosure, access to water, good substrate, and the right temperature and humidity levels.
Because Sulcata tortoises are one of the world’s largest tortoise species, caring for them as adults may be more difficult than caring for them as hatchlings. In general, young hatchlings can be kept indoors in a tank, and it is much easier to maintain their environment when they are living indoors. Adult Sulcata tortoises require much larger living areas.
How long until a Sulcata Tortoise is fully grown?
Sulcata tortoises can grow seven inches in their first year and gain five to ten pounds each year after that. While they are slow growers and will not reach adult size until they are 15 to 20 years old, they will certainly grow into large tortoises.
Once your Sulcata tortoise is at least 3 years old, you should make an outdoor Sulcata tortoise enclosure.
Sulcata tortoises, like most tortoises, are quiet, large, and slow. They are also naturally curious, which can work against them at times. They are prone to becoming stuck in spaces that are too small for them and flipping over and becoming unable to right themselves. Sulcata Tortoises make good pets because they are generally calm and docile. They are seldom aggressive or territorial.
Handling a Sulcata Tortoise
Adult Sulcata tortoises may be more resistant to handling than hatchlings, but all tortoises should be handled with care. Avoid tying them down or restricting them in any way. Allow them to continue in their intended manner. It is worth noting that regular handling can result in stress, leading to health problems or even death in tortoises, so it is best to avoid this.
What should Sulcata Tortoises eat everyday?
Sulcata tortoises are herbivorous tortoises that require a high-fiber, low-protein diet. A Sulcata Tortoise should eat a variety of grasses and hay everyday. This should make up at least 75% of their diet. They can also be fed other edible weeds and flowers and leafy green vegetables in small amounts. Avoid oxalates-rich foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, beets, and cauliflower.
A great vegetable for Sulcata Tortoises is brussel sprouts.
Unless told by your veterinarian, fruits or tortoise pellets should not make up more than 10% of their diet.
Consult your veterinarian to ensure you’re providing the proper variety and quantity, as this is highly dependent on your tortoise’s age, size, and health. If you overfeed your Sulcata, it could result in tortoise shell pyramiding.
To learn more, check out my guide on the best food for Sulcata tortoises.
Because Sulcatas are desert-dwelling reptiles, their water consumption is minimal. You can soak their greens for a few minutes before feeding them for their water intake. You should also provide a shallow water bowl, but this should be cleaned frequently.
How often should you soak a sulcata tortoise?
It is critical to soak your tortoise in shallow warm water for at least 15 minutes twice a week. This helps keep their skin healthy by not drying out.
Sulcata tortoises get calcium from roots, soil, bone fragments, and snail shells in the wild. You can support their calcium intake with a calcium supplement or cuttlefish bones. If you decide to give them a calcium supplement, make sure it doesn’t contain vitamin D3, as too much can be toxic.
If you need help choosing a cuttlebone, check out my article on the best cuttlebones.
To stay healthy and active, Sulcata tortoises require warm temperatures. If necessary, they can withstand outdoor temperatures of 100℉ or higher. However, they will need to have access to a shaded area for cooling off.
If the nighttime temperature falls below 60℉, they will require extra heat. If living indoors, maintain daytime temperatures in your tortoise’s enclosure at around 80 to 90℉, with a basking lamp at around 95℉. Along with that, temperatures between 60 and 80 ℉ are usually comfortable for them at night.
Tortoises kept in outdoor enclosures do not require additional lighting besides the sun. However, a UVA/UVB light is required when kept indoors because your Sulcata tortoise will not be exposed to regular, unfiltered sunlight.
The light will assist your tortoise in developing strong bones, avoiding disease, and remaining healthy. Leave the lights going for at least 12 hours per day.
Do sulcata need light at night?
No, Sulcata Tortoises do not need light at night. You should turn off all UVA and UVB lights at night.
Sulcata tortoises prefer humidity levels between 40% and 55%. Excessive humidity can cause fungal infections and other problems. If the humidity in the tortoise’s enclosure needs to be raised, lightly mist it once or twice a day.
Another way to increase humidity is with a tortoise humidifier.
A Sulcata tortoise uses burrowing to escape the heat and absorb water in its natural habitat. Because their dens can reach depths of up to ten feet, the soil density in their enclosure is critical to their natural behavior. They cannot burrow if the soil is too firm, and their burrows fall apart if the soil is too loose.
To learn more, check out my article on the best substrate for Sulcata tortoises.
How much space does a full grown Sulcata Tortoise need?
These large tortoises benefit from having access to a large outdoor enclosure. A full grown Sulcata Tortoise needs around 100 sq. ft. of spac. They require a sturdy fence that is at least 2 feet tall. The fence should be extended underground at least a foot in an outdoor enclosure because they burrow well.
A small shed is a good idea to provide shelter from the elements, and a muddy wallow can be included for your tortoise to soak and defecate in.
Because of their size, adult Sulcata tortoises should not be kept indoors, but if you live in a colder climate, you must provide them with a warm environment. When it’s cool outside, an outdoor heated shed or greenhouse where they can live can be a good option.
Common Illnesses in Sulcata Tortoises
Sulcata Tortoises, like many other reptiles, are susceptible to respiratory infections, especially if kept in overly humid environments. Shell rot is also a common problem in tortoises and turtles, and this is typically caused by a fungal infection resulting in a flaky, dry shell.
Another serious condition afflicting tortoises and other reptiles is a metabolic bone disease. When an animal’s phosphorous-to-calcium ratio is out of balance, it can cause bone softening and weakness. If not treated properly, this disease can result in deformities and even death.
If detected early enough, all these conditions are treatable by a veterinarian specializing in reptiles. Unless your vet recommends it, do not try to treat your tortoise with home remedies.
Are Sulcata Tortoises good pets?
Sulcata Tortoises can make excellent pets if owners research before bringing them home. Their long lifespan, charismatic personality, and ability to live outside entice owners from all over the world to purchase them.
I hope you developed a deeper understanding of caring for adult sulcata tortoises by reading this article. Sulcata tortoises are among the most interesting tortoises in captivity, and they form strong bonds with their owners. Good luck!