What Does Sulcata Tortoise Eat for Optimal Health?

The Sulcata tortoise is one of the most popular pet tortoises in the world. Sulcata tortoises are famous for their docile nature and relatively low maintenance needs. Known as the African spurred tortoise, it is a large and hardy tortoise species originating from the Sahara Desert of northern Africa. These gentle giants can reach up to 18 inches in length and live up to 80 years, making them an ideal companion for many households. 

What Does Sulcata Tortoise Eat for Optimal Health
Food For Sulcata Tortoise

Although they are easy to care for, they require a specific diet to maintain optimal health. Regarding diet, Sulcata tortoises are herbivorous and primarily eat plant matter. In this article, we will explore what Sulcata Tortoises should eat and avoid to stay healthy and happy.

About Sulcata Tortoises Diet Related To Their Optimal Health Condition

Sulcata tortoises are giant, terrestrial turtles native to the Sahara Desert in North Africa. They are the third-largest tortoise species in the world and can reach lengths of up to two feet and weigh up to 100 pounds. As herbivores, they need a diet that consists of high-fiber, low-protein foods.

What Does Sulcata Tortoise Eat for Optimal Health
About Sulcata Tortoises Diet Related To Their Optimal Health Condition

Sulcata tortoises’ diet consists mainly of plants and vegetables. They are fond of grasses, weeds, and cacti. Moreover, they also enjoy small amounts of fruits like apples, bananas, carrots, and squash. 

It’s important to note that Sulcatas should not be fed foods high in sugar. Providing them too many fruits or sugary vegetables, such as carrots or sweet potatoes, can cause gastrointestinal issues and obesity.

What Is The Best Diet for Sulcata Tortoises?

Are you looking for the best diet for Sulcata tortoises? They require a diet rich in dietary fiber and calcium to maintain their health and energy. We will discuss the best diet for Sulcata tortoises, including what food items they should eat and any dietary supplements they may need. Let’s get started!

What Is The Best Diet for Sulcata Tortoises
What Is The Best Diet for Sulcata Tortoises

Basic Diets

“Eating machine” is the term most frequently used by Sulcata owners to describe their tortoises. Sulcatas spend the entire day grazing and foraging. They must be able to feed on weeds and grasses in captivity, free of pesticides and herbicides.

Grass and Hay

Hay and grass are necessary for Sulcata tortoises to graze on. At least 80% of their diet should consist of shrubs, and edible flowers such as nasturtium, geranium, hibiscus, rose petals, cheatgrass, clover, and grass cuttings free of pesticides and herbicides. Some available grass hays include Timothy, meadow grass, oat hay, and orchard grass.

Greens and Vegetables

About 10–15% of the diet should consist of greens and vegetables. Collard greens, kale, mustard, turnip, and dandelion greens are among the available vegetables. Reduce your intake of oxalate-rich vegetables such as parsley, spinach, rhubarb, beet greens, and collards. Grated raw carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, corn on the cob, and greens like collards, dandelions, escarole, romaine, and kale can all be included in this list.

Greens and Vegetables
Greens and Vegetables

Additional Foods For Optimal Health

A varied and nutritious diet is essential to Sulcata tortoises’ health and well-being. While grasses, fruits, and supplements make up additional foods, which can help to ensure a complete and balanced diet. Here is an overview of the various additional foods that are suitable for Sulcata tortoises and discuss their nutritional benefits.


Fruits ought to be given in moderation as a treat. These typically contain a lot of sugar and water, which Sulcatas aren’t used to getting in the wild. Strawberries, slices of organically grown bananas with skin, cantaloupe with the rind on, berries, peaches, apricots, pears, and apples are suitable for serving as snacks.

Calcium Supplements

For healthy bone and shell formation, calcium must also be provided in addition to grasses. Make careful you select a calcium supplement that doesn’t contain phosphorus. Both calcium and phosphorus are essential for the synthesis of solid bone formation. You don’t need to give your tortoise any extra phosphorus because the body uses the phosphorus found in most foods much more quickly than calcium. Twice a week, we advise taking this calcium supplement.

Mazuri Tortoise Diet

In areas where grass doesn’t grow in the winter, you can switch out your Sulcata grass for commercial food for tortoises. Mazuri Tortoise Diet, a dried grass pellet-like meal that Sulcatas adore, is another excellent grass choice in the winter. If you want to soften these pellets for younger Sulcatas, place them on a plate and softly shower them.

What Foods Should Sulcata Tortoises Avoid?

When it comes to feeding a Sulcata tortoise, it is essential to provide a variety of healthy foods to ensure your tortoise gets the proper nutrition. However, some foods should be avoided as they can potentially be dangerous for your tortoise. Here are some of the foods that Sulcata tortoises should avoid:

What Foods Should Sulcata Tortoises Avoid?
What Foods Should Sulcata Tortoises Avoid

1. High Oxalic Acid Foods

Oxalic acid molecules in some meals stop the body from absorbing calcium from food. Due to the presence of oxalic acids in the following foods, you should refrain from frequently feeding them to your African tortoise:

  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Mustard
  • Greens
  • Cauliflower 
  • Spinach

2. High-Fat Foods

High-fat foods such as avocado and nuts can lead to obesity in Sulcata tortoises and cause them to become ill. Additionally, the skin and pit of the avocado can be a choking hazard.

3. Sugary Fruits

Sulcata tortoises should avoid sugary fruits such as bananas and grapes because they can cause digestive issues for the tortoise and encourage metabolic bone disease. Fruits are high in natural sugars and can lead to obesity in tortoises. Additionally, sugary fruits can cause an imbalance in the tortoise’s blood sugar levels, leading to health problems.

4. Dog Foods

If you also have a dog at home, avoid your pet tortoise from dog foods. Sulcata tortoises should avoid dog foods because they are not formulated for the specific dietary needs of tortoises. Dog foods are typically higher in proteins and fats, which can lead to obesity and other health problems for tortoises.

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How To Feed Sulcata Tortoises?

A Sulcata is very easy to feed. Let them graze in their yard all day and occasionally give them extra food. Pyramiding can result from too much or too little growth; it should expand slowly and steadily. If your tortoise is still housed, make sure to feed it a daily mound of the recommended food that is as big as it is.

How To Feed Sulcata Tortoises?
How To Feed Sulcata Tortoises

In addition, ensure that your Sulcata has access to fresh water at all times, including daily soakings. There is a misconception that because they are desert animals, they don’t need water. This is untrue, and not getting enough water can make them sick.

Tips To Feed Sulcata Tortoises To Keep Them Healthy

Feeding Sulcata tortoises can seem challenging due to their size and dietary requirements. However, with a bit of research and preparation, it is possible to keep them healthy and happy. Here are some tips to help you feed your Sulcata tortoises:

1. Offer Them a Variety of Diet

As herbivores, Sulcata tortoises require a balanced diet of plants and greens. Eating various greens and plants provides them with the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need. Variety also helps to prevent boredom, which can lead to health problems. Eating various greens and plants also ensures that the tortoise gets enough dietary fiber to keep its digestive system healthy.

2. Provide Them With Calcium

As with any reptile, calcium is essential for the health of your Sulcata tortoises. Provide them with a cuttlebone or calcium-fortified food to ensure they get the necessary calcium. Calcium supplements help to ensure that the tortoise has enough calcium in its diet and helps promote healthy bone growth.

3. Limit Their Fruits Intake

While some fruits are nutritious and can be part of a balanced diet, they should be limited. Fruits contain a lot of natural sugars, which can cause health issues in tortoises if consumed in large quantities. Fruits are high in sugar and can cause high blood sugar levels and obesity. 

4. Offer Them Grazing Opportunities

In the wild, Sulcata tortoises graze on a variety of grasses. Offering Sulcata tortoises grazing opportunities is beneficial to their health and well-being. Grazing also allows the tortoises to search for food, an essential part of their natural behavior. It is also an excellent opportunity for environmental enrichment, which is necessary for the mental and physical health of the tortoises.

5. Monitor Their Diet

It is essential to monitor the diet of a Sulcata tortoise because their diet needs to be balanced to maintain their health and prevent malnutrition and other health problems. Proper monitoring of their diet helps to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need, as well as prevent overfeeding or underfeeding. Ensure their diet should consist mainly of grasses, weeds, and other green plants. 

Monitor Their Diet
Monitor Their Diet

Common Dietary Problems Related To Tortoise Health

Sulcata tortoises are herbivores, and their diets must be carefully balanced to provide them with the nutrition they need to thrive. Without the proper diet, Sulcata tortoises can suffer health problems, such as shell and bone deformities and metabolic bone disease. Let us discuss the common dietary issues associated with Sulcata tortoises and how to prevent them.

Common Dietary Problems Related To Tortoise Health
Common Dietary Problems Related To Tortoise Health

1. Overfeeding

When a Sulcata tortoise is overfed, it can become overweight and unhealthy. This can lead to several health problems, including metabolic bone disease, shell deformities, and other issues. 

To prevent overfeeding, it is essential to provide a balanced diet low in fat and fiber. It is also important to pay attention to the amount of food being offered and to give only what is necessary for the tortoise’s size and age. 

2. Lack of Grazing

A Sulcata tortoise may become malnourished if it does not have access to pasture. Moreover, lack of grazing can cause obesity since your Sulcata tortoise rarely moves. This can be prevented by providing a diet that is high in fiber and low in protein and fat, as well as plenty of access to hay, grass, and leafy greens outdoors. Additionally, regular access to various fruits and vegetables can help ensure that a Sulcata tortoise gets the essential nutrients it needs.

3. Inadequate Calcium Intake

Inadequate calcium intake can cause a Sulcata tortoise to develop a condition known as metabolic bone disease. Symptoms of metabolic bone disease can include softening of the shell and an inability to right itself if flipped onto its back. 

Sulcata tortoises should be provided with a diet high in calcium and vitamin D3, such as dark leafy greens, squash, carrots, and other vegetables, to prevent this condition. Additionally, a UVB light should be provided for the tortoise to ensure adequate calcium absorption. Lastly, as directed, the diet should be supplemented with a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement.

4. Imbalance of Nutrients 

When a Sulcata tortoise has an imbalance of nutrients, it can cause various health issues, such as shell deformities, shell softening, growth and development problems, and metabolic bone disease. To prevent this, it is essential to feed a balanced diet that includes a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. Providing a variety of food items will ensure that the tortoise receives an adequate balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. 


Sulcata tortoises are herbivores and primarily eat grasses, leaves, and other vegetation. They require a diet that is high in fiber and low in protein and fat for optimal health. They also eat fruit and vegetables as a supplemental part of their diet. Good nutrition is essential for a healthy Sulcata tortoise, so offering a variety of plant-based foods is the best way to ensure it gets all the nutrients it needs.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What can sulcata tortoise not eat?

Sulcata tortoises should not eat anything high in oxalates, such as spinach, kale, and other cabbage-family vegetables. These types of foods can lead to calcium deficiency and other nutritional problems for the tortoise. It is also important to avoid feeding them sugary fruits or foods high in fat, as these can contribute to obesity and other health issues.

How often should you feed a sulcata tortoise?

Generally, Sulcata tortoises should be fed daily, as they have high metabolisms. Adults should eat at least three times per week, while hatchlings should eat daily. Since they are herbivores, they should be fed fresh vegetables and grasses to ensure they get the necessary nutrients. It’s also essential to make sure they have access to a calcium supplement, as calcium is vital for their growth and health.

What vegetables do Sulcata tortoises eat to maintain their optimal health?

Sulcata tortoises are herbivores and typically eat a variety of leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, collard greens, turnip greens, and dandelion greens. They also enjoy munching on edible flowers and vegetables such as squash, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers. These vegetables provide a variety of essential vitamins and minerals that are essential for optimum health and growth.

Do sulcata tortoise need water?

Yes, Sulcata tortoises need water. All tortoises need adequate access to water in order to stay hydrated, keep their shells and skin healthy, and digest their food correctly. Without access to clean water, tortoises can become dehydrated and develop health problems.

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