The Sulcata Tortoise is a favorite among many of our customers because they are absolutely adorable as hatchlings. They’re only an inch or so across (sometimes not much bigger than a pingpong ball!) and love to eat!
The biggest issue with those people who find them irresistible is the lack of research. A Sulcata becomes a lifetime investment and commitment. They’ll be a living heirloom for your children and even grandchildren to pass down. They’ve been known to live up to 150 years (or more!) and grow almost 200lbs! These are NOT a beginner pet.
Down to care and handling!
Habitat: As hatchlings, you can keep them in a 10 gallon tank. They must have heat and a water source always available. We use rabbit pellets for substrate because it’s digestible and absorbs their liquid waste. It’s also very affordable if you buy it in bulk.
Temperatures range from 60-80 degrees fahrenheit. You don’t want anything lower than 60 during the winter months. A UTH (Under Tank Heater) can be used while they’re small enough for enclosures, however, heat lamps can also be used to gain the proper amount of heat needed. Allow room for them to escape from the heat and remember that lamps can drain the humidity from the air in your enclosure.
Despite these guys originating from the Sahara Desert and areas like the Sahel, the Sulcata still needs a good amount of humidity. In the wild they’ll burrow as deep as 10′ to hide from the hot days and find the needed humidity. You can supply this with a water bowl sufficient for soaking, soaking them daily or semi daily or even misting lightly every day. The water bowl is the best suggestion because it allows them to gain moisture as they feel needed.
The enclosure should grow with the Sulcata. These guys get HUGE and will eventually take up residence in your back yard. They burrow so you’ll need to prepare your yard for the potential escapee…
Diet: All you Vegetarians will love these guys because they can eat the same as you do! They’re Herbivores. These guys are on a grass based diet. Line their enclosure with Hay and grass based foods (remember the rabbit pellets as bedding? That’s hay!) Too much wet food like melon, or very moist vegetables can cause issues with their digestion. A reptile with the runs can make for a very expensive vet visit.
Hay, and other dry grasses should be the MAIN part of their diet. Treats like dried fruit can be tasty, but again, too much of a good thing can and will be a bad thing.
Be aware of the items in your yard. Some plants can be deadly for your Sulcata. Azalea, Buttercup, Daffodils and Elephant Ears are common garden plants that can pose a deadly risk to your pet. Research your plants before planting if you know you’re Sulcata will be outside.
While doing my own research on these plants, I found a nifty site that had a very good list of deadly plants for most tortoises.
African Tortoise Deadly Plants
Research is key to owning a healthy Tortoise… or any animal for that matter! If only children came with a manual like some of our pets!
Feel free to contact our store for further questions, comments or concerns. If you have a sulcata you fear may be ill, or may have ingested some of the above listed plants, seek an exotic vet immediately.
There are quite a few other clinics in the area. These are just a few that say “Reptile” care.