Learning about optimal feeding and nutrition for Sulcata tortoises is paramount for their growth! In the wild, this large tortoise species will feed on food that is rich in fiber and low in protein, like grasses and leafy greens. My hands-on experience with these tortoises has taught me that it is crucial to replicate a natural diet in captivity. High fiber intake will maintain their gut health!
It’s also crucial to provide a calcium intake to support the development of a strong carapace and bones. On the other hand, you must avoid giving it too much protein to prevent kidney problems and shell deformities. Balanced feeding and meeting their nutritional requirements will help your Sulcata tortoise maintain a fast growth rate, allowing them to live a long healthy life!
What to Feed Baby Sulcata Tortoise?
Feed your baby Sulcata tortoise with 70% fresh grass and soaked hay, 10% wild weed, 10% wildflower, and 10% green vegetables to promote healthy growth! A mix of orchard and timothy hay, Bermuda grass, as well as chopped cactus pad, and dandelion flowers, are staples in my baby Sulcata’s diet. You must chop them up to prevent any choking hazards. For hay (dried grass), soak them up first and add a dash of greens or diced cactus to entice your babies to eat!
In any case, focus on providing a diet that mirrors what they would consume in the wild. This means healthy foods high in fiber and low in fats and proteins. That’s why my Sulcata babies’ diet is grass and hay! Occasionally, people give them fruits, like bananas and berries. But I don’t recommend them because of their high sugar content, which could disrupt digestion. Crucially, provide calcium supplements and cuttlebone to prevent the risk of metabolic bone disease.
Mix, rotate, and alternate the following ingredients for the optimum feeding and nutrition for sulcata tortoises!
|Weed + Flower
|Dandelion flowers + leaves
|Prickly Pear Cactus pads
|Broadleaf Buckhorn Plantain
|London rocket leaves
|Henbit flowers + leaves
|Hollyhock flowers + leaves
|Corn on the Cob
|Roses flowers only
|Creeping Red Fescue
|Red leaf lettuce
|Hibiscus flowers + leaves
|Geranium leaves and flowers
|Grape leaves only
How often to feed Sulcata Tortoise?
Feed your adult Sulcata Tortoise once every two or three days, once every two days for older juveniles, and every day for hatchlings! A young tortoise has a faster metabolism, hence you should feed it more often. As they get older, their metabolism slows down so you don’t need to feed juvenile and adult tortoises as often. For every feeding, I also dust the food with a calcium powder. I add vitamins and minerals every 2 to 4 weeks for optimal health. Focus on vitamin D
For portions, I use the pile method for adult tortoises, leaving a loose pile of food the size of their carapace. For small juveniles and hatchlings, I give them a pile the size of their head. I adjust portions accordingly. If they finish the pile, I add more. I also let them graze freely in my outdoor enclosure on a grass bed. There is no exact portion measurement because it varies between tortoises and hobbyists. This schedule allows them time to digest their food fully!
|Hatchling (1 to 6 months)
|Size of the head 2 to 3 times per day, 1/4 Cup
|Babies (8 to 12 months)
|1/4 to 1/2 cup, add more if they finish quickly
|Juvenile (1 to 5 years old)
|Once every 2 days
|Pile method, add more if they finish quickly
|Adult (5 years old and older)
|2 to 3 times a week
|Pile method, let it graze on its own outdoor
What vegetables can a Sulcata Tortoise eat?
Sulcata tortoise can safely eat vegetables like pumpkin and squash as well as leafy green veggies like collard green and Chinese cabbage. These vegetables contain excellent fiber, vitamins, and minerals, essential for their growth! They are safe options that will not upset your tortoise’s stomach as long as you don’t let it eat too much. Remember that vegetables should only be 10% of the Sulcata feeding menu!
Please note that not all leafy green vegetables are appropriate for your Sulcata tortoise. Avoidable foods include spinach and parsley because they contain oxalates that inhibit calcium absorption. Don’t feed them lettuce either because it offers little nutritional value and can cause diarrhea. Ultimately, I always ensure that my vegetables are clean from pesticides!
What fruits can a Sulcata Tortoise eat?
Sulcata Tortoises can eat a variety of fruits like unpeeled cut-up bananas, watermelon, apples, and strawberries as an occasional treat. You can dice them up in small portions and give them on hot summer days. However, it is actually not a good thing to feed them fruits because of their high sugar content. It can cause digestive problems and obesity if you feed your Sulcata tortoise too much fruit.
Sulcata tortoise can’t digest sugar the way humans do! It simply is not part of their diet. If you must give your tortoise fruit, make sure that it is in small portions, less than 10% of the meal. It should not be part of the daily meal! An adult tortoise can tolerate a little bit of sugar, but for a hatchling, it’s best to stick with grass, hay, and weeds!
What plants are safe for Sulcata Tortoise?
Staple plants safe for Sulcata tortoises include grasses such as Bermuda, orchard, and timothy which should be 70% of their diet. As for weeds, which make up 10% of the menu diet, your adorable giant tortoise can safely consume dandelion leaves, plantains, sowthistle, and geranium. Chickweed, Boston fern, and prickly pear cactus pad are also good for their health!
For leafy greens, you can give your Sulcata kale, collard green, and mustard green. Make sure that you only provide these plants twice a month and not more than 10% of their diet because they may cause goitrogens and have higher oxalate. If you want to give your Sulcata tortoise flowers, hibiscus and yellow dandelion are their favorite. A rose is also a good option but make sure that you only give the petals!
What protein does a Sulcata Tortoise need?
Sulcata tortoise only needs plant-based protein found in grasses, weeds, and wildflowers! This animal, be it the adult or the hatchling, requires only a limited amount of protein, not more than 10%. Excessive protein can lead to shell deformities, pyramiding scutes, gallbladder stones, gout, and other health issues!
Please note that some plants have high protein. For example, do not feed your pet Sulcata tortoise too many legume-based plants like beans, sprouts, and nuts! Never give them animal-based protein because this tortoise, which is also known as the African Spurred tortoise, can’t digest it. Sulcata is a 100% grassland herbivorous tortoise that needs tiny amounts of protein!
|Frequent as staple
|Frequent as staple
|Frequent as staple
|Rarely as supplement
|Frequent as grass supplement
|Sparingly as supplement
Now that you understand the optimal feeding and nutrition for Sulcata tortoises, you can develop the ultimate menu for your beloved pet. A balanced diet is crucial for their growth and well-being. Please remember that Sulcata tortoises are herbivorous and require foods that are high in fiber and low in protein! They should be fed a variety of foods, including hay, grasses, leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits.
You can feed them with 70% fresh grass and soaked hay, 10% wild weed, 10% wildflower, and 10% green vegetables. A mix of orchard and timothy hay, Bermuda grass, as well as a chopped cactus pad, and dandelion flowers, are also staples in their diet. Calcium supplements and cuttlebone are essential to prevent the risk of metabolic bone disease. I hope this information helps you take good care of your Sulcata tortoise!