Secret Diet Tips: What Does Sulcata Tortoise Eat for Optimal Health?

Sulcata tortoises are species from the Sahara Desert of northern Africa. Known as the African spurred tortoise, it is large and hardy.  These gentle giants can reach up to 18 inches in length and live up to 80 years. That’s why they are an ideal companion for many households. However, with their huge appearance, you must be curious on what does Sulcata tortoise eat for optimal health?

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

In this article, we will talk about foods that Sulcata tortoises like and dislike, especially if you want to be the reptile pet owners. In fact, this species is one of the most popular pet in the world, due to their docile nature and relatively low maintenance needs. If you want to have them as your pets, you should understand the tortoise diet to keep them happy. What does Sulcata tortoise eat for optimal health? What food should they avoid? Here’s what you need to know!

About Sulcata Tortoises Diet Related To Their Optimal Health Condition

As herbivores and the third-largest tortoise species in the world, Sulcata tortoises need a high-fiber, low-protein diet. Therefore, Sulcata tortoises mainly consume plants and vegetables. Sulcata tortoises mostly like grasses, weeds, and cacti. Moreover, they also enjoy fruits like apples and strawberries.

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

However, it’s important to note that don’t give them a high sugar diet. So, we don’t recommend that you feed them Sulcata tortoises with large amounts of fruits. That’s because consuming too many fruits or sugary fruits can cause gastrointestinal issues and obesity.

What Does Sulcata Tortoise Eat for Optimal Health?

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 and grass cuttings. Make sure these are free of pesticides and herbicides. Not to mention, grass hays include Timothy, meadow grass, oat hay, and orchard grass are also recommended.

Greens and Vegetables

About 10–15% of the diet should consist of greens and vegetables. Collard greens, kale, and dandelion greens are ideal vegetables for the tortoises. Meanwhile, we don’t recommend you to give oxalate-rich vegetables to your Sulcata tortoises. Some high oxalate foods include parsley, spinach, rhubarb, and collards. In addition, 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. Grasses are essential diets, while fruits, supplements, and commercial foods make up additional nutrition. These combinations will 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 and apples are suitable for serving as snacks. In addition, you can give them slices of organically grown bananas with skin, cantaloupe with the rind on, or berries.

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 Sulcata tortoise any extra phosphorus. That’s because the body uses the phosphorus found in most foods much more quickly than calcium. We advise taking this calcium supplement twice a week.

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. The ‘Mazuri Tortoise Diet’ is a dried grass pellet-like meal that Sulcatas adore. So, it will be another excellent grass choice in the winter. If you want to soften these pellets for younger Sulcatas, we recommend you to 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, your Sulcata tortoise should avoid some foods as they can potentially be dangerous. Here are some of the foods that Sulcata tortoises should avoid to give you better understanding:

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 Sulcata tortoise:

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

2. High-Fat Foods

Sulcata tortoises are not recommended to consume high-fat foods from animals or plants. For instance, butter, nuts, or avocados are high in fat. Consuming these foods regularly can lead to obesity to Sulcata tortoises. Therefore, this condition will cause more health problems to Sulcata tortoises.

3. Sugary Fruits

Sulcata tortoises should avoid sugary fruits such as bananas and grapes. Sugary fruits can cause an imbalance in the tortoise’s blood sugar levels. Therefore it will lead to health problems such as obesity. Consuming these high sugar fruits too much also can cause digestive issues. Moreover, regular feeding will encourage metabolic bone disease to the tortoises.

4. Dog Foods

Although you also have a dog at home, it doesn’t mean you can give your pet tortoise the dog food. In fact, dog foods 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. Therefore, you should avoid giving dog foods for your Sulcata tortoises.

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

Just like any reptile, calcium is essential for the health of your Sulcata tortoises. Therefore, we recommend you to provide them with a cuttlebone or calcium-fortified food. Calcium supplements help to ensure that the tortoise has enough calcium in its diet. Finally it will help promote healthy bone growth.

3. Limit Their Fruits Intake

Although some fruits are nutritious and can be part of a balanced diet, don’t overfeed your Sulcata tortoises. They should be limited due to the high amount of natural sugars, which can lead to obesity. Moreover, consuming in large quantities regularly can cause high sugar blood level and impact serious health issues.

4. Offer Them Grazing Opportunities

In the wild, Sulcata tortoises graze on a variety of grasses. So, offering Sulcata tortoises grazing opportunities is beneficial to their health and well-being. In fact, grazing also allows the tortoises to search for food. This activity is an essential part of their natural behavior. That’s why it is also an excellent opportunity for environmental enrichment, to maintain the mental and physical health of your tortoises.

5. Monitor Their Diet

We always recommend monitoring the diet of Sulcata tortoises to maintain their health. In addition, we have to ensure that your Sulcata tortoises have a balanced diet to prevent malnutrition and other health problems. We suggest their main diet should consist of various  grasses, weeds, and other green plants.

Proper monitoring of their balanced diet helps to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need. Not to mention, this tip is effective to prevent overfeeding or underfeeding to your Sulcata tortoises.

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, we strongly suggest you provide a balanced diet low in fat and fiber for your Sulcata tortoises. 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. To prevent this issue, provide your Sulcata tortoises a high fiber diet. remember to keep foods low in protein and fat.

Moreover, give them plenty of access to hay, grass, and leafy greens outdoors. So, they can get regular access to various plants and vegetables around. This can help ensure that Sulcata tortoises get the essential nutrients needed.

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. 

To tackle this issue, provide your Sulcata tortoises a diet high in calcium and vitamin D3. Dark leafy greens, squash, carrots, and other vegetables are a good food source to fulfill the vitamin and calcium they need. Additionally, place a UVB light at the captivity. Therefore, your tortoises can get adequate calcium and vitamin D. Lastly, you can support them with supplements intake. Adding calcium/vitamin D3 supplements to your tortoises food is recommended to balance their nutrition.

4. Imbalance of Nutrients 

When a Sulcata tortoise has an imbalance of nutrients, it can cause various health issues. Shell deformities, shell softening, growth and development problems, as well as metabolic bone disease are some potential health problems to your Sulcata tortoises. 

To prevent this, it is essential to feed them a balanced diet that includes leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. We also suggest you provide a variety of food items to the Sulcata tortoises. So, your tortoise receives an adequate balance of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need. 


Since Sulcata tortoises are herbivores, they mostly consume plants to fulfill their needs. Therefore, a high fiber diet such as grasses, leaves, and vegetables are recommended for them. In addition, they also need to eat fruits and supplements, in case your tortoises do not get enough nutrition from their foods. 

And, they should avoid high protein and fat diets for optimal health. So, you must avoid these types of foods such as avocados or dog foods. Remember that good nutrition is essential for a healthy Sulcata tortoise. We hope you can offer various and high quality plant-based foods they like to ensure their nutrition and health.

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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 cabbage. These types of foods can lead to calcium deficiency and other nutritional problems for the tortoise. It is also crucial to avoid feeding them sugary fruits or foods high in fat. Remember that these can contribute to obesity and other health problems. If you are curious on what does Sulcata tortoise eat for optimal health, check this article above.

How often should you feed a Sulcata tortoise?

Generally, Sulcata tortoises should be fed daily. That’s because 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. We also recommend making sure they have access to a calcium supplement, as calcium is vital for their growth and health. Understand what does Sulcata tortoise eat for optimal health to ensure the necessary nutrients in this article!

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

Leafy greens are Sulcata tortoises’ main diet to maintain their health. You can feed your Sulcata tortoises romaine lettuce, collard greens, and dandelion greens. And, they also enjoy munching on edible flowers and vegetables such as squash, zucchini, and carrots. These vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals they need for optimum health and growth. In case you want to know what does Sulcata tortoise eat for optimal health, check the article above!

Do sulcata tortoise need water?

Yes, Sulcata tortoises need water. All tortoises need adequate access to water in order to stay hydrated and digest their food correctly. Moreover, water keeps their shells and skin healthy. Without access to clean water, tortoises can become dehydrated and develop health problems. To understand on what does Sulcata tortoise eat for optimal health, read the article above.

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