How to Succeed with Your New Sulcata Tortoise
Aqualand's inside scoop on Geochelone sulcata
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Is this a disguise? Not all sulcatas look exactly alike.
Origins: Sulcata tortoises come from a dry, arid location in Africa. They still need daily access to water. Babies need a daily soak.
Appeal: Baby sulcatas are cute. They beg for food. And trundle after you in search of a snack (just like little kids).
No Glass Lids: Unlike computer game turtles, your sulcata tortoise cannot jump. And they hate humidity. If you need a cover to protect them from your other pets, use a screen.
Size: As the world’s third largest tortoise, sulcatas grow plenty big. The largest sulcata ever recorded was 240 pounds. Yours won’t get that big. Still, they grow fast – 45 pounds in 15 years. (Fifteen years is fast to a tortoise.)
Best Foods: You can’t feed your sulcata tortoise high nutrient foods. They’ll eat it readily but do poorly on it. Too much nutrition makes their shells grow funny. This weird growth pattern is called pyramiding where they grow “hills” on the patterns on their shells. They need lots of fiber in their diet – grasses and weeds. They love dandelions. But limit their intake of treat foods.
Roaming Range: Let your sulcata romp (well, as much as a tortoise can romp) in your grassy (or weedy) backyard. He’ll enjoy the grassy “eats” and the sunshine. Don’t do this if you just nuked your lawn for weeds. Limit his romping time so you don’t bake his brains out.
Substrate: Any substrate too large to swallow will probably work. Use a contrasting color and your sulcata will show well. Aspen is also good but they blend into it. Your sulcata will dig and/or burrow.
Grazing Areas: Got a little garden space in your backyard? You can buy “tortoise grazing mixes” for your sulcata. Or throw out a couple handfuls of bird seed on the area and rake it in. Bird seed grows amazingly fast (and tasty).
Non-Foods. Do not feed cat or dog foods – way too nutrient rich. Do not feed fruits except as an occasional treat.
Housing: Your sulcata tortoise needs lots of room. You can start a baby in a little lizard setup but he really needs room to roam. He’s not fast but like the turtle that out-ran the hare, your sulcata keeps on trucking. Give him plenty of roaming room.
The species is a leopard tortoise. I have three of them in my backyard and they are about 90 lbs or so. Don't let anyone tell you that the big tortoises don't have personality, when I go out to prune my rose bushes, they follow me through the fence. Mike (No last name)
Temperature: Keep your sulcata tortoise warm and dry -- 75o to 85oduring the day and a bit cooler at night. Put your heat bulb at one end so he has a choice of temps. Sulcatas cannot tolerate cool or damp conditions.
Hide Box: In the wild, these guys burrow or dig under something to keep out of the hot sun. Give him a hide box in his cool area.
Lighting: You need a reptile bulb with UVB for your sulcata tortoise. You probably also need a basking bulb to keep him warm.
Water: Sulcata tortoises need a flat water bowl they can get in and out of. Babies (under a year old) need a daily soak. They prefer tepid water. Change it daily. Bigger guys just need an occasional dip.
Turtle Vet: You really need to vet your sulcata tortoise. He’s an expensive and long-term commitment. As soon as you get yours, call Dr. Harmon for a general checkup.
Breeding: We've never bred them ourselves. You will need plenty of room -- and patience.
Last Word: Your sulcata tortoise could care less about décor. Decorate to your own preference. LA.
Here's a link to a very informative site. Maybe not the humblest:
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