How Big Does A Sulcata Tortoise Get? A Glimpse of Its Growth and Care 

Sulcata tortoises, also known as African spurred tortoises, are one of the most popular pet tortoises in the world. They are native to the Sahelian and Saharan regions of Africa and can grow quite large. So, how big does a Sulcata tortoise get? These tortoises are well known for their size, as they can grow to be quite large and weigh up to 200 pounds. They are one of the largest species of tortoise in the world, and they can live to be over 100 years old.

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
how big does a sulcata tortoise get

In addition, their impressive size and longevity make Sulcata tortoises an exciting and rewarding pet. If you want this pet tortoise, you should understand how big a Sulcata can grow. Therefore, we will explore the size and growth of the Sulcata tortoise in more detail. Let’s check this out!

About Sulcata Tortoise

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
About Sulcata Tortoise

The Sulcata tortoise is commonly referred to as the African Spurred tortoise. Its scientific name is Centrochelys sulcate, and the tortoise comes from the Testudinidae family. Out of all of the species of tortoises, the Sulcata tortoise is currently the third largest in the world.

Moreover, the Sulcata tortoise is also considered the largest mainland tortoise around the globe. The Sulcata African Spurred tortoise can be found in various regions throughout Northern Africa and is classified as an herbivore.

How Big Does a Sulcata Tortoise Get?

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
How Big Does a Sulcata Tortoise Get

Sulcata tortoises are estimated to grow to weigh approximately 230 lbs with a healthy diet. The size of a Sulcata tortoise will also vary based on its habitat, diet, and lifestyle. Typically, the Sulcata African Spurred tortoise will grow between 24 and 30 inches in length (once the tortoise has reached full maturity).

  • Adult Male Size: Between 24 and 30 inches once fully matured
  • Adult Female Size: Between 18 and 20 inches once fully matured

The rate at which the Sulcata tortoise grows is quite impressive among the tortoise lineage. A baby tortoise measuring 2″ can grow more than 10″ in under 2 years or 18 months. When a baby Sulcata tortoise reaches 2 years of age, you can expect its body to be at least 18″ in length. A Sulcata tortoise will not completely stop growing until they are around the age of 15.

How Fast Does A Sulcata Tortoise Grow?

Sulcata tortoises grow slowly, reach 18-24 inches in length, and weigh up to 100 pounds. They can grow up to 2-3 inches per year, with males typically growing faster than females. Their growth rate depends on environmental factors like temperature, humidity, and diet.

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
How Fast Does A Sulcata Tortoise Grow

Generally, at one year old, a healthy tortoise will measure seven inches and weigh five to ten pounds annually. They develop relatively slowly and take between 15 and 20 years to attain their full size. Future size must be considered if a Sulcata tortoise is regarded as a pet.

How Long Do Sulcata Tortoises Stay Small?

Up to the age of about seven years, a Sulcata tortoise will be regarded as little. They start to weigh more than 30 pounds at this point. However, depending on how you define the term, what is negligible for one owner may not be for another. Sulcatas can also vary quite a bit from tortoise to tortoise.

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
How Long Do Sulcata Tortoises Stay Small

But with an average length of just 2 inches, baby Sulcata tortoises will all be regarded as little. Even after the first year, when they have fully grown adults, they are still quite little, only increasing to a maximum height of 7″. From there, they quickly reach a rather substantial size with a growth rate of 5–10 pounds per year.

What Age Is A Sulcata Tortoise Fully Grown?

Most Sulcata tortoises will reach full size by the time they are 15 to 20 years old, although some individuals can get even larger sizes. On average, Sulcata tortoises reach around 24 inches and weigh between 40 and 60 pounds. If you want to keep one as a pet, you should know how quickly they develop and ensure you have enough room for them. As time passes, they ought to feel at ease in such a setting, not constrained in any manner.

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
What Age Is A Sulcata Tortoise Fully Grown

In addition, size isn’t the only factor determining when a Sulcata tortoise is fully grown. Their growth rate can be affected by their diet, environment, and the amount of exercise they get. In general, a well-fed Sulcata tortoise that lives in an appropriate environment and gets plenty of exercise will reach full size sooner than a Sulcata tortoise that is underfed and/or living in suboptimal conditions. 

What Impacts the Size of a Sulcata Tortoise?

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
What Impacts the Size of a Sulcata Tortoise

The Sulcata African Spurred tortoise is the largest mainland tortoise and one of the largest tortoises known to man today. While it is massive in size, it is gentle and kind in nature. Although it can take anywhere from 15 to 20 years for a Sulcata tortoise to reach its largest size, many other factors may play a role in any size and weight of a fully grown tortoise. Let us explain the main factors that may impact the size and weight of a Sulcata tortoise include:


A Sulcata tortoise that can roam freely in the wild is likely to grow much bigger than a tortoise held in captivity or in a cage. The environment of any animal plays a significant role in the overall size of the animal at maturity.

Factors such as temperature, humidity, and food access can all affect the growth rate of a Sulcata tortoise. An environment that is too cold or too wet can slow down the growth of a Sulcata tortoise. Similarly, an environment that is too hot or dry can also cause stunted growth.


The size and weight of a fully grown Sulcata tortoise will also vary depending on the type of food source it has access to and the amount of food it has access to regularly. A balanced diet should include leafy greens, vegetables, and occasional treats such as fruits and flower petals. 

However, overfeeding can lead to obesity, affecting their health and mobility. So, you should monitor your tortoise diet. Moreover, a diet lacking in vitamins and minerals can stunt growth and cause health problems. Therefore, make sure to give additional calcium supplements and multivitamins to your tortoise pet.


The size of a Sulcata tortoise is mainly dependent on its lifestyle. A Sulcata tortoise kept in an outdoor enclosure with plenty of room to roam and explore will be able to reach its full potential size. Sulcata tortoises kept in indoor enclosures may remain smaller due to limited space. Moreover, if a Sulcata tortoise is not required to move as much as it is found in the wild, it is likely to weigh more because it is not necessary to move or hunt for its food.

How Long Does a Sulcata Tortoise Live?

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
How Long Does a Sulcata Tortoise Live?

Sulcatas are incredibly hardy and can make lifelong companions for the right owners. Estimates state that a Sulcata tortoise can live anywhere from 70 to more than 100 years, depending on its habitat, lifestyle, and genetics. A Sulcata tortoise will require a healthy habitat and lifestyle in order to extend its lifespan as long as possible.

The key to a long life is providing your Sulcata with the best possible care. They require a high-fiber diet, plenty of exercises, and a warm and dry environment. You should also ensure your Sulcata tortoise has a large, secure enclosure to protect it from predators.

Where Does a Sulcata Tortoise Live?

Typically, the Sulcata African Spurred tortoise can be found throughout many arid and semiarid regions in Northern Africa. While the Sulcata tortoise may be held in various zoos and animal conservations worldwide, they are most comfortable in their homeland of Africa.

Where Does a Sulcata Tortoise Live?
Where Does a Sulcata Tortoise Live?

If you are in Northern Africa, you can typically find the Sulcata tortoise wandering outside throughout various deserts, grasslands, and savannas. Finding a Sulcata tortoise in the wild is not uncommon for those residing in regions throughout Northern Africa. The Sulcata tortoise also prefers to live in areas that are considerably hotter than other locations worldwide. Living in 100-degree Fahrenheit weather is not a problem for the Sulcata African Spurred tortoise.

The Home of a Sulcata Tortoise Outdoors

The Sulcata tortoise prefers to find soft land and soil to burrow into without being too weak to support them. Typically, you will find the Sulcata tortoise seeking ground to burrow in through grasslands and savannas free from rocks, boulders, and other obstructive obstacles.

The Home of a Sulcata Tortoise Outdoors
The Home of a Sulcata Tortoise Outdoors

If a Sulcata tortoise is held in captivity, providing the proper atmosphere and living habitat is imperative. Without suitable habitat, the Sulcata tortoise will suffer in terms of health, growth, and, ultimately, its lifespan.

What Does a Sulcata Tortoise Eat?

how big does a sulcata tortoise get
What Does a Sulcata Tortoise Eat?

Classically, the Sulcata tortoise is considered an herbivore. When they are in the wild, their primary nutrient source is plants and plant-based foods. The Sulcata tortoise will typically seek foods with high amounts of fiber rather than searching for foods packed with protein. Some of the Sulcata tortoise’s favorite foods include:

  • Cactus pads
  • Dandelions
  • leaves
  • Grass
  • Flowers
  • Flower petals

Essentially, anywhere flowers, plants, and grass grow can be suitable for a Sulcata tortoise, so long as the temperature is hot and arid enough.

How Often Does a Sulcata Tortoise Need to Be Fed?

how Ooten does a sulcata tortoise need to be fed
How Often Does a Sulcata Tortoise Need to Be Fed

A regular eating schedule is imperative, whether a Sulcata tortoise is found in the wild or held in captivity, or as a pet. The Sulcata tortoise eats at least 3 times a week at a minimum if they are adults or fully grown. However, it is essential to note that Sulcata hatchlings must be fed daily, with no exceptions. 

If a Sulcata tortoise is being kept as a pet or taken care of in captivity, keep the following tips in mind while providing its food:

  • Dusting food with vitamins and minerals: At least every 2 to 4 weeks, it is highly recommended to dust an adult Sulcata tortoise’s food with vitamins D and D3. This will help to ensure proper vitamin levels and absorption while ensuring a healthy immune system at any age.
  • Hatchlings feeding schedule: It is important to remember that any Sulcata hatchlings must be fed daily and with a routine plan in place. Hatchlings should be fed once in the morning and once at nighttime for optimal nutritional benefits.


Sulcata tortoises are a species of tortoise native to the African Savannah, and they can grow to be up to 3 feet in length and weigh up to 200 lbs. They are also a long-lived species, with some living up to 100 years. The Sulcata tortoise is an impressive tortoise that demonstrates its determination to evolve and survive repeatedly. When caring for a Sulcata tortoise, it is crucial to consider its habitat, diet, and lifestyle. With proper care and attention, your Sulcata can be a rewarding pet for many years.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is it possible to keep a Sulcata tortoise as a pet?

Yes, it is possible to keep a Sulcata tortoise as a pet. However, it is essential to remember that the Sulcata African Spurred tortoise can live anywhere between 70 and 100 years, meaning an entire lifetime of commitment. As a pet owner, you should provide the necessary care and environment for a healthy and safe habitat.

How do I keep a Sulcata tortoise as a pet in a suitable habitat?

To properly keep a Sulcata tortoise as a pet, you must provide them with the appropriate habitat. This should include a large, secure outdoor enclosure that is free from potential predators and provides plenty of space for them to roam and forage for food. Sulcata tortoises should be reared indoors as young animals. When the temperature is within the permissible range, residing outdoors is acceptable. It is essential to provide your Sulcata tortoise with plenty of ventilation and a suitable environment that includes all its favorite foods.

How do you bathe a Sulcata tortoise?

Anyone who owns a Sulcata tortoise must familiarize themselves with the bathing routine required to keep their tortoise happy and healthy. It is adequate to soak for 15 to 20 minutes in lukewarm or tepid water. A regular bath will help ensure your tortoise remains hydrated, mainly if you use indoor heat lamps to provide a comfortable indoor living environment.

Do I need to soak my Sulcata tortoise?

Yes, Sulcata tortoises require soaking about twice weekly to keep them hydrated and clean. They stay robust and healthy, preventing illnesses brought on by dehydration or bacteria that can accumulate in their body. Moreover, Sulcata tortoises also require soaking to avoid skin and shell cracking due to dehydration.

Are Sulcata tortoises intelligent?

Yes! Sulcata tortoises are, in fact, incredibly intelligent and fidgety. That implies that, at some point, your enormous tortoise will try to leave its enclosure. If you confine them in pen with no bottom, they will dig a hole under the fence and get out. Sulcata tortoises are known to recognize their caretakers/owners and have been intelligent enough to live longer than 200 million years on our planet.

Do I need to keep my Sulcata tortoise indoors, or can I allow it to live outdoors?

In the US, we recommend keeping Sulcata tortoises indoors, as they are native to the African savannah and need more specific care than many other tortoises. Outdoors may be exposed to extreme temperatures, predators, and a lack of nutrition, all of which can damage their health. If you choose to keep your Sulcata outdoors, ensure the enclosure provides adequate protection and nutrition.

If possible, set up a makeshift desert area and ensure that your backyard has a proper enclosure to prevent your Sulcata tortoise from escaping. You can also implement fresh grass surrounding the desert area to offer your tortoise a new and healthy food source. Having a Sulcata tortoise in your backyard is great if you have tricky pests or insects you want to take care of, as Sulcata tortoises are known to eat the following (along with plants and grass):

  • Insects
  • Lizards
  • Frogs
  • Rats
  • Snakes
  • Birds

In the best-case scenario, the Sulcata tortoise is most likely to thrive when it is allowed to live outdoors. If you have the space, environment, and atmosphere available, let your Sulcata tortoise have the ability to live outside and roam your backyard. This is optimal if you live in a desert region, as Sulcata tortoises thrive in arid and semiarid climates.

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