Caring for your African Sulcata Tortoise
Common name: Sulcata Tortoise
Scientific Name: Geochelone sulcata
Size: They start out at the pet shops around the size of a donut until they reach 200 lbs and 36 inches in length.
Lifespan: 80 years
CagingOf course when they are young they can be housed in a tank. A large backyard with shaded areas and deep grounded fences so he can't dig his way out is great for the summer . Also, only have animal friendly non- poisonous plants in your yard. Don't forget these guys are from Africa where it is hot all year. They do not hibernate like desert tortoises in the US so you need to keep them in a warm climate. My Tortoise pen is 16x25 with a 4x8 custom built house that contains full spectrum lighting and is temperature controlled to be 80 degrees year round. Be sure your pen is enclosed on top to protect him from birds and stray cats if they are small.
Substrate: I use my backyard so my lawn has become a dust patch. I'll throw some hay down and I try to keep some pesticide and herbicide free patches of grass growing for him as he does love grass. If you make a pen, fresh untreated potting soil covered by Bermuda grass or hay works fine. You can layer this over a cement floor since these guys can dig like nobodys business. In the wild they can dig tunnels 10-20 feet long.
BehaviorIf they're awake they can eat all day, they are eating machines. Don't wear red nailpolish on your toes, although they are colorblind he loves the shade and will follow me around the yard trying to eat them.
Temperature: Hot, 80 degrees. Dry heat. No humidity. However, they do need to be soaked in very shallow water, never past their bottom shell , at least 3 hours a week. Especially when they are little guys or they can develop intestinal stones. They also enjoy a warm rain, but never in the cold.
FeedingThis is by far one of the most difficult parts of owning a Sulcata. They eat as soon as they awake in the morning until the sun goes down. Fresh pesticide-free grass, clover and edible flowers like nasturtium hibiscus roses and cactus fruits should be there main diet. I do offer a commercial diet for land tortoises but fresh greens are better. Collard, Mustard, Turnip, Dandelion, and Romaine (never Iceburg). Avoid Kale and Spinach. It is a pain when your little gem gets to be 50 pounds. You'll have to have grass sent to you as there is no way can you grow it fast enough. Try finding a source for untreated grass before ever getting a Sulcata. They also like fruit, but keep to a minimum, only as a treat. I always keep a fresh bowl of water for him even though I have never seen him take a drink and I will soak him a few hours a week in a couple inches deep pool of water.
Natural sunlight and vita-light for indoor kept tortoises. (see general care page)