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The universe is full of exciting and mysterious animals, with some of them being kept as pets. The cats and dogs dominate that space, but there are many more types of animals to choose from.  In the United States, the most popular pets are dogs, with approximately 48 million households having dog pets. The cats and fish follow the list in their seconds and third place, respectively. However, the number 4 spot has been taken by reptiles which are becoming popular animals, and people are beginning to accept them as a pet.  In the past, many households did not keep reptiles since they were viewed as weird animals that could not live with humans.

Another reason why most people were adamant about keeping reptiles as pets are due to a lack of knowledge of how to take care of them.  But with time, people have gained confidence in these animals and the information about them, and they are quickly gaining popularity. One of the common reptiles that we are discussing, in particular, is the Sulcate Tortoise. This species is also known as the African Spurred Tortoise. This article seeks to explain why people keep them and all you need to keep one a perfect condition. First, let us discuss why you need to keep their tortoise as your pet.


It is common knowledge that the tortoises have been around for many years, and they are slow-moving, long-lived, and generally charming. These animals are lovely, peaceful with a hard shell, and whenever they feel threatened by both children and adults, they retract. They are in different species, and the Sulcata Tortoise is one of them. This species is the most popular type of tortoise and is kept by a majority as a pet. The Sulcata tortoise originates from Africa, and it takes around 20 years to reach maturity. It can be about 30 inches and 100 lbs. in size. The tortoises are among the longest living animals on the planet, and the sulcatas are not an exception. They are known to outlive their owners since they live for more than 100 years, with the longest documented is believed to have lived for 255 years. These tortoises are known to be curious and with indefinite personalities, and many owners refer to them as slowly moving dogs.


As an owner, you can choose to keep your sulcata tortoise indoors or outdoors, but for an outdoor, you cannot unless you have a well-spaced yard, and the area should be generally warm. They also thrive in a family setting as long as they are well taken care of without much disturbance. The question of whether they make a good pet or not will depend on what exactly are expectations from your pet.  For instance, a dog or a cat will be good for cuddling and companionship, while that cannot apply to this tortoise. The sulcate tortoise will make a good companion, but you cannot cuddle, and with time they will be extremely loyal.  Your pet tortoise will know you better, and the experience will be enjoyable, and it will be an interesting animal to have around.

The Pros

  • They are an outgoing individual with great individual personalities
  • Once the enclosure is built, they are easy to take care of for
  • They have a long span which means they will give you a companion for the rest of your life

The Cons

  • The giant size will need a lot of space to roam and graze, which might not be available.
  • Their roaming behavior can lead to a lot of damage around the tour yard.
  • They need very hot temperatures and a basking spot with more than 100 degrees F.


Just like mother tortoises, the sulcata species are big and slow. They are also known to be curious, which sometimes ends up getting them hurt. They can easily get stuck in spaces that are too small for them, and also, they can sometimes flip themselves over, and they are unable to right themselves. These pets are generally docile and pleasant, and they are rarely aggressive.  However, they do not lie being handled, and this means they should not be handled regularly and more so when they are young and fragile. When they are excessively handled, they can get stressed and develop some health problems, which can be fatal.


The sulcata Tortoises were originally from deserts and glass land in Northern Africa before spreading to the rest of the world, including the United States. While in the wild, these animals use burrowing as a means of escaping the heat and absorbing the water. Their den can reach a depth of up to 10 feet. The density of the soil is extremely critical to their natural behaviors. If the soil is too hard, they are unable to burrow and if it is too loses they fall apart as they burrow.  These animals should be housed indoors until they are big enough to escape the predators.  After they have attained the age of two years and they are adults, they are about 8 inches in size; they should now be moved to an outdoor pen with a lot of soil so that they can be able to get involved in their natural burrowing behavior and have enough space to graze.

As you move, you sulcate tortoises outside; it is also crucial to include a well-insulated hiding box to help with homeostasis and avoiding predators. The outdoor enclosure should at least be 100 square feet with a 12-inch wall. The indoor enclosure should have UVB lighting, and the bedding should be earth or sand.  Despite the fact that the growth rate of a sulcate tortoise is slow, it is important to start with the large tank as they will still grow, and this will be costly to keep replacing them. For the fast year, you can use a 50-gallon tank, and the plastic tubs and turtle tables are suitable too.  After the first year, you can now move the pet to the outdoor cage. These tortoises are avid climbers, and therefore the cage should have some logs, rocks, and other features for them to scale. The hiding areas should also be included. It is not necessary to do the misting since they originate from hot arid climates.


Sulcata tortoises need a lot of temperatures to live a healthy life and remain active always. These animals can handle outdoor temperatures f more than 100 degrees F provided they have got a shady place where they can move to whenever they want to cool off.  At night, the temperatures drop to around 60 degrees F, and at this time, they may need some heat supplement.  In the room, you should maintain the daytime temperatures at around 80 to 90 degrees F with a basking lamp mat around 95 degrees F.  During the night, the average temperatures f between 60 and 80 degrees F are fine.  You should never let your enclosure get too cold since the tortoise will stop eating and will be at risk of getting ill.


Sulcata tortoises housed outdoor do not require any special lighting beyond the sun, but when they are housed indoors, it is important to provide UVB lighting since it will not be getting regular unfiltered light. The light will help the tortoises get strong bones, avoid disease and stay healthy.  You should ensure the light spruce is placed closer to the pet so that he receives full benefits.


The ideal humidity level of this tortoise is between 40 to 55 percent. Humidity that that is too high can lead to fungal infection and other issues. If you are interested in increasing the humidity of the enclosure, you can mist it once or twice a day.


Sulcata tortoises are herbivores that need high fiber and low protein diet. This can be achieved by feeding them on a variety of grasses and hays that comprise 75 percent of their diet, along with edible weeds and flowers such as clover, cactus pads, dandelions, and dive. You should avoid feeding them food that re rich in oxalates, such as spinach, kales, mustard, and beet greens. These pets will nibble on the weeds and grasses available in the enclosure throughout the day, and you should consider offering a salad of other leafy greens and vegetables after every two days.  You should always consult your vet to ensure that you are feeding the right variety and quantity since they vary with size, age, and the general health of your pet.

 These foods should be supplemented with calcium once a week.  Do not feed them on fruits, animal protein, or pellet tortoise food from pest stores unless under the instruction of a vet.  These tortoises get most of their hydration from food.


In the enclosure, you should provide a lot of shelter and hides in order for your pet to as an alternative to burrowing if you cannot provide the substrate. Ensure you give them a lot of cool places away from the heat source if they should need it.  Just like the rest of the tortoises, the sulcatas love climbing and exploring, and therefore is important you provide them witty rocks, plants, and logs for them to interact with and encourage exploratory behavior.   If you decide to provide the plants to your pet, whether indoors or outdoors, you should be thorough research on the best plants that will not turn toxic in case your pet eats them.  Even if you find that the plant is healthy, you should monitor how much your tortoise eats it to ensure it feeds on a balanced diet.


 It is advisable to make a week’s worth of salad and fridge it, and then you can feed a small amount every day.  You should feed them with enough salad every day so that there is a little bit left over each night.  This is to ensure the young tortoise eats enough to maintain healthy gastrointestinal flora that aids with good digestion and development.


With proper care for the sulcata hatchlings, they will outgrow their initial enclosure quickly and will also need more amount of salads weekly. Eventually, many of the sulcatas get moved to the outdoor enclosure. They can be kept as breeding trios of one adult male and up to four adult female tortoises, but they may be fighting depending on the individual personality.  You should not house tortoises of different sizes in the same cage since they are known to kill and eat small ones.


You should also provide your sulcata with a shallow bowl of water for them to drink and bath as they please.  Despite the fact that these animals can go for days without water in the wild, you should provide them with clean and fresh drinking water every day.  As they grow old, you might find it difficult to provide a suitable water dish, and therefore you can liaise with your local hardware to make for you a creative one that will work for your pet.  They also get extremely heavy as they age, and therefore you may consider putting them in a bathtub twice a week for a soak.


For a baby sulcata that is housed indoors, a mixture of earth and sand is preferred.  There are some other substrates that will suffice if you are unable to obtain that mix. The substrates should be changed on a weekly basis, and the enclosure should be scrubbed with soap and warm water at least once a month.  Whenever you are housing them, ensure you have plenty of non-toxic grass to graze and soil to bury themselves in. Clean their pen of excrement and food scraps daily.


The Sulcatas have two main activities that they spend most of their time doing, depending on the season.

  • Grazing
  • Burrowing

During the time when the temperature is cooler, they will graze for hours since their large size needs a lot of calories.  However, as the temperatures increase and become more hospitable, this pet will dig extensive burrows to hide from the sun. One interesting this is the fact that they will rub their saliva on their arms to help them cool down.  These tortoises will spend most time of their morning basking in the sun so as to raise the temperatures after a cool night. 

In the wild, the Sulcatas are aggressive towards each other, and they will attempt to flip each other, and the males will ram to show dominance.  The females tend to be less aggressive but can still show some signs of aggression, and this is one of the reasons why they should be housed individually.  The tortoises use different forms of communication, such as vocalizations, physical movements, and pheromones.  They also use their mouth and feet to explore different features of the environment around them through touch and taste.  Unlike other tortoises and turtles, the Sulcatas do not hibernate in the wild, but they will sometimes enter into short periods of brumation while in captivity.


The sulcata tortoises do not like being handled. Both the hatchlings and the juveniles get stressed during the handling while then adults become too heavy to lift.  However, if you want to handle your sulcata, you should not pin or restrain them. Move it slowly, be controlled, and do not lift them far from the ground.  Make sure you wash your hands before and after handling them to avoid transmitting the bacteria.


Tortoise beaks are very delicate and require special care. They’re also prone to infections if they are not carefully taken care of.  Below are some of the ways to keep your tortoises’ beak healthy;

A beak is a mouth extension that helps your pet to eat and drink.  It is also used to groom itself and to dig out food. Immediately you notice that the beak of your Sulcata is starting to get dry, cracked, and chipped, then it is time you trim it.  If you are not sure whether the beak should be trimmed or not, then you can seek advice from a vet.


It is very crucial to get your pet Sulcata from a reputable breeder who can tell you the truth about their health history.  Bearing In mind that this is an animal that you will live with for a very long time, it is 9mortant to start off on healthy food.  In the United States, the breeders are easy to find due to the popularity of these animals.  The average cost of one Sulcata is between 50 to 200 dollars for a young one. You should look out for a healthy tortoise with clear eyes and a smooth shell.  You should demand to see it before buying. One of the features of a healthy tortoise is that it is a voracious eater, and if you find out that the pet is not eating, then it might be a sign of illness.  Another factor you need to consider is whether you are ready to adopt such a huge animal that could easily outlive you.  However, the Sulcatas can be rehomed, and you can place them under the care of someone else if you can no longer take care of them.


Most of the medical conditions that these tortoises have are a result of poor living conditions or improper care, and therefore, you should schedule a regular check-up with your vet so that you can be able to detect any heat condition early.  The most common diseases among the tortoises include the

  • Shell rot
  • Parasites
  • Respiratory infections
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Dehydration
  • Trauma
  • Malnutrition
  • Wounds and burns

Below are some of the things you should do and should not do to ensure smooth sailing with your tortoise;


  • Do not house your tortoise with other tortoises or reptiles
  • Leave any sharp edges in your tortoise enclosure because they can be swallowed and cause internal damage.  Place the heating source direct to the reach of your pet.
  • Purchase a wild-caught Sulcate. You should only purchase from a certified and known breeder.
  • Allow your tortoise to roam around the house unsupervised.
  • Expose your tortoise to cats and dogs and protect them from any predator.
  • Give them a cat or dog food
  • Let them near pesticides
  • Let small children or inexperienced  people handle your  pet  tortoise


  • Always check the temperatures inside the enclosure both during the day and night.
  • Keep protecting them from predators, and for those living outdoors, supply them with protection.
  • Monitor their food intake and feed them a varied quality diet.
  • Provide natural sunlight when possible.


Most of the Sulcatas live for up to 100 years and above in captivity, and this means keeping it as a pet will need a long-term commitment.  These are usually hardy, but being desert animals, there are a few challenges that they face in the wild.  IN captivity, they also find some health challenges, and they result from poor living conditions and poor diet.

  • Feeding a diet that is high on protein and keeping the humidity so low in the enclosure can cause a pyramiding of their scutes.
  • Dehydration is another common health issue that affects these pets, and it is associated with weight loss, flaky skin, lethargy, and dry feces.  The hatchlings are more prone to dehydration since their skin is very thin and can dry up so fast.
  • They are also prone to infections from a damp and neglected substrate. These infections normally present themselves as white perches on their skin or shell, and they are associated with a foul smell.
  •  Another health challenge they face in captivity is a metabolic bone disease. This occurs when your Sulcata is not fed with enough vitamin D, and calcium or they are not provided with enough UVB light.

Other potential health issues that they may encounter in captivity include respiratory infections, egg binding, and bladder stones.  Most of these health problems are associated with weight loss, and that is why you should always monitor the weight of your part, and in case you note any change, you should see a vet.

Signs They Are Healthy

  • Uniform shell free of debris, flakes, and irregularities.
  • Good appetite and activity.
  • Mouth, nose, eyes, and ears clear with no signs of discharge or irritation.
  • Well-formed and firm feces and white orate.

Sickness Symptoms

  • Mouth breathing or drooping of the head.
  • Weight loss and lethargy.
  • Watery feces.
  • Discharge from the mouth, nose, eyes, or ears.


 The baby sulcatas are basically born at around 2 inches in size.  Their growth rate will vary greatly based on their enclosure diet and environment. The healthy sulcatas will reach a size of 7 inches in a year and gain an average of ten pounds per year. They are slow growers, and they will take 15 to 20 years to reach adulthood.  Adult males typically weigh between 70 to 90 pounds and measure 24 to 30 inches.  The males are slightly larger than the females.


The shells of tortoises are made from calcium, and this means that they need access to vitamin D, which also means access to light.  Sometimes tortoises might develop softshell, which might be as a result of getting insufficient light, and this mainly occurs in the indoor sulcatas and rarely happens outdoor.


Question: What should I do if my sulcata tortoise keeps its eyes closed?

Answer: When your sulcata keeps its eyes closed, it is mainly a sign of vitamin deficiency or dehydration. However, you should never worry as it is not a serious problem, but if it persists for over a week despite the home treatment, then you should visit a vet. Some of the simple remedies are to soak your pet and cover its shelter so that it becomes moist. If it appears to be chronic, you can try applying a saltwater solution to its eyes twice a day and feed them small amounts of spinach as that is a source of vitamin A.

Question: Can my sulcata tortoise feel when I touch them?

Answer: The shell of a tortoise has some nerve endings, and that means they can feel when you touch, rub, scratch, and they will try to react in their own way.


The sulcata tortoises can make excellent pets if their owners take good care of them and provide all the necessary conditions. To enable this, you should, as an owner, do extensive research to understand and get b information on what is required of you from the starting all the way to the end. That way, you will know how to respond to every situation, and you will bring up a healthy and happy pet. These animals also need a lot of space to graze, and the best place for them to thrive re the warmer areas that resemble their natural habitat, which are arid and desert areas. The enclosure should have hiding spots and some obstacles for your pet to climb. They’ve loved my most reptile keepers due to their extensive lifespan and charismatic personality, and their ability to be housed outdoors since not all owners love keeping them in the same house, especially when the pet is a reptile. If they are well taken care of, they will create a long-lasting relationship considering their long lifespan.

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