One of the world’s largest species of tortoises is the Sulcata. Since they are herbivores, the majority of their diet consists of plants. However, a Sulcata tortoise needs a balanced diet to stay healthy.
So, what is included in a Sulcata tortoise diet? These tortoises love to eat hay, grass, and any type of greens available around them. Hibiscus leaves, smooth cactus, mulberry leaves, endive, etc. are examples of additional greens in their diet.
In this article, we will cover everything about the Sulcata tortoise diet and much more. Overall, it will help you to take care of your tortoise and make sure it stays healthy.
Sulcata Tortoise Diet
Sulcata tortoises or African Spurred tortoises are semi-desert animals and prefer a dry environment. In their natural habitat, they do not have access to a lot of water or food. So, this species of turtle only needs a little to survive. Thus, the food they intake does not need to be nutritionally rich either.
The Sulcata tortoise grazes and eats whatever it can get their mouths on as an adult. The foods they mostly like are;
- Hibiscus leaves
- Smooth Cactus
- Mulberry leaves
- Turnip greens
- Dandelion greens
- Collard greens
- Yellow Squash hay,
On the other hand, for baby Sulcata tortoises, it is the same diet.
Fruits In Their Diet
Some might say you cannot feed them fruits, but they are fine eating them too. However, too much fruit in their diet isn’t good either as Sulcata tortoises are a semi-desert species that does not need a rich diet. Once every two weeks is a fine number.
Fruits like Watermelon, Cantaloupe are full of water, and little of it is good to keep them hydrated. Again, they are tortoise species that live on less nutrient-based vegetation. So, do not go overboard with fruits or rich greens.
How to Feed a Sulcata Tortoise?
Adult Sulcata tortoise does not need to be fed. They graze. As adults, the tortoises understand what their body needs and they control their diet accordingly.
- Multivitamins and calcium supplements can be sprinkled on the greens you feed them. You can do that every 2 to 4 weeks.
- In contrast, the baby Sulcata tortoises need to be fed every day.
- The greens, like the leaves and cactus, need to be snipped with scissors to make them smaller. This will help baby Sulcatas to eat the foods properly.
Nevertheless, seeing the baby Sulcatas eat is quite enjoyable too. So, it is not an activity you will find tiring.
What Foods You Should Avoid
Sulcata tortoises love hay but not all types of hay is good for them. Particularly the Alfala hay contains too much oxalates that can lead to decrease life span, kidney failure and bladder stone. So, Alfalfa hay should be avoided if you want your Sulcata to be healthy.
Then avoiding any types of proteins and grain is important. Sulcatas cannot digest those. By grains also foods like pasta, noodles etc. should not be fed. Bottomline is avoid any human food. Just stick to a herbivore diet for your Sulcata tortoises.
Keeping Them Safe
The Sulcata tortoises are a bit hardy in nature. The adult ones need little to no care, but baby tortoises would need attention.
Adult Sulcatas can be pretty big and they can reach 70 to 100 pounds. These big creatures like to roam and graze. If they are left alone without any fence or boundaries, they will end up going very far and will end up eating valuable plants.
Also, they like to burrow to keep them cool. So, if you want to maintain your lawn, a Sulcata tortoise is not for you.
Baby Sulcatas need to be looked after continuously and need your care. One of the most important things you need to ensure is the temperature. The Sulcata tortoises are semi-desert species of tortoise.
So, the temperature must always stay around 29 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius ( 85 degrees Fahrenheit to 105 degrees Fahrenheit).
Similarly, you would need UVB lights as well. The UVB lights would be their primary source of heat in an enclosure.
Overall, you mustn’t let them wander. For that, a tortoise table or gallon tanks are great. The tortoises like dry soil and shades where they can rest if they soak up adequate heat. So, a small enclosure with rocks, dry soil, and little shade is perfect for baby Sulcatas.
Cleaning Sulcata Tortoises
Keeping your Sulcata tortoises clean can help them have better shell growth, reduce the risk of shell rot, reduces bacteria, and makes them look beautiful. So, it is good if you bathe them.
However, you cannot keep them unattended in water if they are baby tortoises. They can flip and drown.
Follow these steps to bathe your tortoises properly:
Step-1: Use a bathtub or a sink to bathe your baby tortoises. For the adult ones, a small kiddy pool would be great.
Step-2: Always use lukewarm water. Never use cold water to bathe your tortoises. It is not good for them. They enjoy the lukewarm water a lot.
Step-3: Fill the bathtub or sink so that the water level does not cover their head. They need to poke their head out to breathe. So, you must maintain a safe water level.
Step-4: Clean your tortoises gently with a bristle brush. The shell can be cleaned with a brush. However, for the softer parts, use wet cotton swabs.
Step-5: Do the cleaning gently and do not stress them. Take breaks between cleaning and letting them rest.
Step-6: Rub the tortoises with a dry towel carefully and put them in a warm place. Let them walk around, too, so that they can get a little exercise.
Overall, bathe your tortoise whenever you think they are dirty. You can watch this youtube video to get a visual idea of what their bathing looks like;
Here are some frequently asked questions that Sulcata tortoise owners come across;
They do drink water but in a very little amount. They mostly collect the water they need from the greens they eat.
They will eat fruits, but as an owner, you should not feed them fruits every day. Once every two weeks is a fine number that you can feed them fruits.
Sulcata tortoises can be fed commercial tortoise food, but it shouldn’t make up most of their diet. These meals frequently include significant levels of protein and fat, which, if ingested in excess, can cause health issues.
To sum it up, the Sulcata tortoise diet mainly consists of hay and greens. The adult Sulcatas like to graze and eat their food off the ground. The babies need to be fed greens by hand and daily.
Remember to always provide fresh water for your Sulcata tortoise. And monitor their diet closely to ensure they are getting the proper nutrients they need. With proper care and attention, your Sulcata tortoise can be a beloved companion for many years to come.