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Sulcata Tortoise Care: The Ultimate Guide

sulcata tortoise care

Have you ever considered owning a pet that can outlive you? If yes, a sulcata tortoise could be the ideal option for you! Due to their quiet and calm nature, these tortoises make the best pets and live up to 100 years. This might be shocking, but don’t worry; before you handle a sulcata, we’ll equip you with all the tips for sulcata tortoise care in this article.

Sulcatas might seem dim-witted but don’t let their slow-moving nature fool you. These creatures are surprisingly active and can even recognize their owners. Caring for a sulcata requires full-time dedication and attention, from creating a suitable habitat to providing a balanced diet. So, whether you are shopping for a sulcata tortoise for sale or just purchased one, read this guide to ensure you provide proper care.

With this ultimate guide, you’ll be fully trained to provide your shelled friend with the best life possible. So let’s get straight into the details of sulcata tortoise care.  

Scientific Name: Centrochelys sulcata
Common Names: African Spurred Tortoise, Sulcata Tortoise, Spur Thigh Tortoise
Genus: Centrochelys
Size of an Adult Tortoise: 20-30 inches
Weight of an Adult Tortoise: 80-150 pounds
Life Expectancy: 50-150 years
Sulcata Tortoise Care Facts

Growth of Sulcata Tortoise 

Are you curious to know how long sulcata can get and what their lifespan is? Hold on as we’re going to explain each detail about these loving pets.

1. Size 

Sulcata tortoises show a variety of size diversity throughout their lifetime, but the fact that they are the third largest tortoise species in the world; makes them a little scary for some people. 

The baby sulcata tortoise is born with only a 1 ½ inch to 2-inch long shell size. Most people buy them without even realizing they are such a large species. With optimum diet and care, they grow at a rate of seven inches per year and gain 5-10 pounds annually.

However, this species of tortoise is a very slow grower. They would reach their adult size of 20-30 inches only when they are about 15 to 20 years old. 

The size variation also varies from female to male species. An adult female sulcata can grow up to 70-100 pounds and grow 24-30 inches long. Males, on the other hand, are slightly larger. Some of them can weigh as much as 100-150 pounds!

2. Lifespan

Sulcata tortoises are known for their longer life expectancy ratio. In some cases, they might grow for as long as 150 years. In captivity, they have a minimum lifespan of 50-70 years; with great care, it might even be longer! 

A good sulcata tortoise care in diet, environment, and a healthy lifestyle is essential in this extended life expectancy. Since their origins are in the harsh Saharan deserts, these species are well-adapted to harsh living conditions, giving them longer lifespans.  

Habitat of Sulcata Tortoise 

Sulcata tortoises are the natural inhabitants of the Sahara desert region of Africa and the Sahel semi-arid regions in Northern Africa. They are most commonly found in temperate countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia, and Sudan.  

Ideally, sulcata prefer to live in loose but not-so-loose soils, which makes digging burrows easy. Their favorite habitats include grasslands, savannas, thorny scrublands, temperate jungles, and deserts. 

 Therefore, for in-home sulcata tortoise care as pets, try to provide them with dry, well-drained soils with an ideal temperature range. You can keep larger ones in your backyard with a desert-type set-up and large grassy areas.

Sulcata Tortoise Care Guide

Keeping sulcata as a pet isn’t as simple as keeping some other tortoise species. Here we’ll delve deep into the sulcata tortoise care guide to help you keep your sulcata energetic, passionate and healthy.

1. Lighting 

Like humans, sulcatas need UVB light to process their body’s calcium and synthesize vitamin D3. Without UVB, they could develop health problems like metabolic bone disease (MBD) and abnormal shell growth patterns.

Outdoor sulcata tortoise care can be easily managed as they absorb their UVB directly from the sun, but indoor pets need special attention. You can accomodate them by using specially designed UVB light bulbs that have no harful UVC output. XYZReptiles offes some of the best bulbs. UV lighting can be used for 10-12 hours daily and turned off at night.

Furthermore, sulcata tortoises also need basking lamps and heat lamp bulbs for ideal growth. These unique lamps (100w in a 48″ vivarium) provide heat and UVB at up to 100 degrees. For maximum efficiency, keep them at a 10-inch distance from UV bulbs.  

2. Temperature

Since sulcata tortoises are ectothermic, they can easily tolerate different temperatures; as long as they are controlled! Their daytime temperature range is 80-95ºF with a basking range of up to 100-110ºF. Don’t forget the shade source in their tank; this will protect them from overheating. 

At night, a temperature drop is needed to 65-70ºF as they need a cool and dark place for optimum growth. For best sulcata care, use two different thermometers at both ends of the tank to monitor and control temperatures accordingly.

Sulcata Tortoise Care Sheet For Proper Diet

Sulcata tortoises need regular care and a robust diet to help them grow soundly. This care guide will help you keep your little pet healthy and proactive.

1. Diet

Sulcata tortoises may seem like slow-natured animals but are pretty eager eaters. Since they are herbivores, they like to eat green leafy things like regular lawn grass, grass hay, timothy hay, clover leaves, bermudagrass, Wheatgrass, Mazuri pellets, etc.

For baby sulcata tortoise care, special attention is needed. They cannot eat regularly, so they need access to lightweight grasses and hay for grazing. Always go for pesticide and herbicide-free grass cuttings and edible soft flowers like hibiscus, rose, geraniums, etc.

2. Additives 

Sulcata tortoise care also needs special attention to supplementation and additives for the diet. Especially for pets on a supermarket-bought diet, always add vitamin and mineral powder with high calcium. This is important to meet nutritional deficiencies and help them live long lives!

3. Snacks

For a healthy and happy sulcata tortoise, snacks can be important to their diet. Plus, when your pet grows big and heavy, it can be a great trick to lure them out. Some of the snacks that you can give your sulcata tortoise include

  • Hibiscus 
  • Mint leaves
  • Marigolds (Most Favorite)
  • Aloe vera
  • Dandelions 
  • Oregano
  • Cactus flowers
  • Spider plant etc

Hydration Care of Sulcata Tortoise 

Proper hydration is critical to the health and well-being of a sulcata tortoise. In the wild, these tortoises obtain water from dew, succulent plants, and occasional rainfall. So, in captivity, providing a clean and fresh water source for the tortoise to drink and soak in is essential.

For pet sulcata tortoise care, you can use an open water dish, which should be large enough for the tortoise to fit in and deep enough for them to soak in comfortably. So, make sure to clean the dish regularly and refill it with fresh water to prevent bacterial growth and contamination.

You can also use an outside-of-enclosure soaking. This involves filling a shallow container with warm water and allowing the tortoise to soak for 20-30 minutes. Soaking provides hydration and helps the tortoise regulate its body temperature, keeping them happy and healthy!

Sulcata Tortoise Healthcare

Sulcata tortoises are amongst the strongest creatures. They are seldom affected by health conditions. However, they are very vulnerable to respiratory infections. This is due to prolonged cold and humid environments. Since these creatures are dry-loving animals, their environments should be kept warm and dry to keep them healthy.  

1. Dietary Diseases

A dietary calcium deficiency can cause a metabolic bone disease in sulcata tortoises which may cause shell softening. However, by correcting the errors in sulcata tortoise care, giving proper UVB light, and supplementing with powder calcium, your pet can be cured within days!

Similar, a high protein diet could cause excessive pyramiding of shell and uric acid layering in the bladder. This might lead to severe urinary blockage, requiring immediate medical help from a vet. 

2. Common Parasites

Both internal and external parasites can affect sulcata tortoise. They often preyed on by roundworms and tapeworms, causing intestinal bleeds and GIT problems. Mites and ticks can cause external infections by inflicting bites on the skin. So, good sulcata tortoise care is essential for keeping them healthy. 

Sulcata tortoises don’t show signs of illness easily, but it’s too severe when they do. So to catch symptoms in  time, keep a close watch on their routine behavior to pick out abnormal behaviors. 

How To Care For a Sulcata Tortoise While Handling It?

Sulcata tortoises are behaved and peace-loving creatures. You can call them introverts of the tortoise race. This explains why they are resistant to handling and human touch. Older ones are better tolerant of humans. But baby sulcata tortoises can easily get stressed when overhandled.

Therefore, to keep them cozy and safe, always handle them gently, in a right-side-up manner. Also avoid pinning them down or cornering them while playing. Carry them very slowly, close to the ground. These sulcata tortoise care tips will also eventually build your pet’s trust in you!   

Where Can You Buy Sulcata Tortoise?

Now that you know all the crucial aspects of sulcata tortoise care, you might also be ready to gift yourself a pet! You can easily get all the age groups, from baby sulcatas to adults; in any gender–male and female–you want. You can easily buy it from any reptile farm, local breeder, or even right here at XYZeptiles. Sulcata tortoises make exceptionally great pets, have a long lifespan, and are super easy to look after. Doesn’t this make them an ideal pet?

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