Sulcata Tortoise Care Sheet
Looking to learn proper Sulcata tortoise care? We’ve got the best African Sulcata tortoise care sheet anywhere!
Unlike the tropical tortoises, which are omnivores, and the Mediterranean tortoises, which eat mainly vegetables, the African sulcata tortoise is mainly a grazing animal. In the wild, about 75% of its diet consists of grass. In captivity, it should be fed lots of grass! The best thing is to just let them graze in a garden, rather than having to feed them, but this is not always possible.
The base of the African sulcata tortoise’s food pyramid is grass and hay. The pyramid is finished off with cactus pads (prickly pear pads), flowers like rose petals, leaves like hibiscus, mulberry and grape, and weeds like dandelions and clover.
The African sulcata tortoise is a huge tortoise with a huge shell, so it needs huge amounts of calcium. This species seems to take particularly well to cuttlebone. I advise always leaving cuttlebone in your tortoise’s habitat. Spreading powdered calcium supplements on their food once or twice a week is also a good idea.
Being from the Sahara, these animals don’t like the cold. If their environment falls below 61°F at any time, you are inviting problems. Aim for a daytime temperature of 75° to 85°F. Going too far above this range is also problematic, but most keepers find they have the most trouble with excess cold.
Being such a big tortoise, they naturally need lots of space. For all practical purposes, it is very hard to keep an African sulcata tortoise indoors all the time. They need indoor space of at least 8 feet by 8 feet, as well as an outdoor pen and an outdoor shelter.
A tortoise table should be equipped with UV lights as described in my article on tortoise housing. The best substrate for African sulcata tortoises is grass hay. They nibble on this for snacks.
Outdoors, it is good to have both a shelter and an area for them to roam free and graze. A small garden shed, of the sort you can buy in any garden center, is suitable. This should be heated with a big heat mat, which you can get in any reptile supply store. The interior of the shed should be kept at 80-90°F. Remember that these are big strong animals and are liable to break down anything that is too flimsy. You may want to reinforce the walls of the barn and will certainly want to insulate it. I have been toying with the idea of creating earth berms around a barn for a sulcata shed, but have not yet had the chance to put this into practice. I believe this would provide a stable temperature as well as greatly strengthening the structure. If you try this out, be sure to let me know how it goes.
African sulcata tortoises are big fans of soaking. In their indoor habitat, provide a shallow tray of water big enough for them to sit into. The article on tortoise housing describes how to build these. As with all tortoise species, the hatchlings are particularly prone to dehydration, so place them manually in the water tray for 15 minutes every day.
This species does not hibernate.