Common Name: Sulcata Tortoise
Scientific Name: Geochelone sulcata
Distribution: Throughout eastern & southern Africa
Size: 15-30”+, 70-100+ pounds
Life Span: up to 100+ years


Sulcata tortoises are a beautiful species of large tortoise found throughout eastern and southern Africa. Sulcata tortoises are a great choice for an intermediate to advanced tortoise keeper but should be avoided by beginners. Of all the larger species of tortoise available, the docile and social nature of the Sulcata tortoise makes it a great choice for keepers that have the space to accommodate their size. These peaceful tortoises can be kept in small groups and do well when housed together. As with all turtles and tortoises, purchasing this species is a long-term commitment. Common Name: African Spurred Tortoise, Sulcata Tortoise



  • Sulcata tortoises will do best if kept outdoors in temperatures that do not fall below 50°F.
  • If being kept indoors, an adult Sulcata tortoise will need at least a space of 80 ft².
  • Zoo Med’s Tortoise House™ is an ideal enclosure to house this species as a hatchling and juvenile. The Tortoise House™ can be taken outdoors to provide natural sunlight when temperatures permit.
  • Zoo Med’s Tortoise Play Pen™ is an excellent way to occasionally offer natural sunlight and grazing opportunities to your tortoise if being kept indoors. A Sulcata tortoise will eventually outgrow both of these enclosures as it matures.


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  • Daytime Terrarium Temperature: 75-80°F
  • Basking Spot: 83-88°F
  • Nighttime Temperature: 60-75°F
  • Zoo Med’s Basking Spot Lamp™, Repti Halogen™, Ceramic Heat Emitter, and ReptiTherm™ Under Tank Heater are good choices for heating Tortoise enclosures.
  • The ReptiTherm® Habitat Heater is a great way of offering large tortoises heat, as well as heating outdoor ‘tortoise houses’.


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  • UVB Lighting is essential for tortoises to process calcium in captivity.
  • Without UVB lighting tortoises will develop serious health problems such as abnormal shell growth and other deformities.
  • UVB Lighting should be left on for 10-12 hours a day and turned off at night.
  • Zoo Med’s REPTISUN® linear and Compact Fluorescent Lamps are a great choice for providing UVB. The PowerSun® is an excellent way to provide both UVB and Heat all in one lamp!
  • Supplemental UVB lighting is not necessary if the tortoise is to be housed outdoors and has access to unfiltered natural sunlight.


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  • Sulcata tortoises live in arid places in the wild and will do well on a variety of dry substrates in captivity. Forest Floor™, Eco Earth® and ReptiSand® can all be used as substrates.
  • It is important to offer your tortoise both dry and humid areas within their enclosure. This species will readily take refuge underground where temperatures are cooler and humidity is higher.
  • Always offer a humidity chamber, or a humid hide-box that your tortoise can fit completely into. New Zealand Sphagnum Moss or Eco Earth® can be used to hold moisture.
  • Create the optimum substrate mix with 1/3 Zoo Med’s Forest Floor®, 1/3 Zoo Med’s Eco Earth®, and 1/3 Zoo Med’s ReptiSand® or REPTIFRESH®.
  • We recommend providing a deep( 4+”) of substrate to allow your tortoise to burrow.


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  • Sulcata Tortoises require a high fiber, low protein diet rich in calcium.
  • Zoo Med’s Grassland Tortoise Food™ is an excellent choice of maintenance diet because it offers long stem grasses that are similar to foods available in the wild.
  • It is essential to supplement your tortoise’s diet with Repti Calcium™ and ReptiVite™ as directed to provide balanced nutrition.
  • Other quality foods for your tortoise: grasses, kale, clover, hibiscus leaves and flowers, alfalfa, hay, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, rose petals, and sow thistle to name a few.
  • Warning: Be sure that any natural grasses or plants offered have not been treated with pesticides or other chemicals.
  • Fruits should only be offered on occasion and should make up less than 5% of the total diet. Cantaloupe, strawberries, apples and other non-citrus fruits will be accepted. Zoo Med’s Fruit-Mix-Ins™ can be mixed into pelleted foods to add variety to the diet.


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  • Sulcata tortoises will drink standing water out of a water bowl. Provide fresh water every day. Zoo Med’s Repti-Ramp™ Bowl makes an ideal water dish that allows your tortoise easy access to fresh water.
  • Treat all water with ReptiSafe™ water conditioner to remove any harmful chemicals from tap water.