Sulcata Tortoise Care

COMMON NAME: African Spurred Tortoise, Sulcata Tortoise

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Centrochelys sulcata

ADULT SIZE: 18-30 inches and 80-150 lbs

The African Spurred Tortoise, also know as the Sulcata Tortoise, is the third largest tortoise in the world and is native to the Sahara Desert of Africa.


*Never keep ANY tortoise in an aquarium*

Sulcata Tortoises should be housed outside as much as possible due to their large size and nature to roam around all day eating grasses and weeds. The larger the enclosure the better, however, it is recommended that a single 3 lb Sulcata have an minimum enclosure size of 16ft x 24ft. Access to water should be provided at all times as well as a hide box to allow the tortoise the ability to shade themselves on hot days. Having a hide box also discourages digging, which all Sulcatas naturally do in the wild. It’s also recommended to feed your Sulcata on a rock of some kind to help keep their beaks trimmed down.

Indoor inclosure for winter time and cold temperatures should be at least a 150 gallon – 300 gallon stock tank for a 3 lb Sulcata tortoise. When inside, you’ll need to include a UVA/UVB light for your tortoise as well as a basking heat lamp. I recommend a Powersun 100w – 150w Mercury Vapor Bulb. Of course the indoor enclosure will also need fresh water daily as well as a hide box.

Daytime temps should be 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit and at night, temps should be 60-80 degrees fahrenheit. I never let indoor or outdoor temps fall below 50 degrees for more than one day. If outiside, I let mine stay outside as long as the temps will warm back up and it’s not multiple days in a row.

Make sure that humidity is around 40-60% on average. Too dry of conditions can result in watery eyes, dry skin, and pyramiding of the shell. Conditions that are too humid can result in respiratory infections.


In the wild, Sulcatas spend all day roaming around and eating grasses and weeds. They do this because in their natural habitat, the grasses and weeds are not very nutritious so they have to eat a lot in order to get the nutrients they require. I keep my tortoises in enclosures that have natural grasses, hay and clover for them to nibble on throughout the day. I supplement leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, endive, radicchio, green leaf lettuce and dandelion greens once a week and some Mazuri Tortoise Diet once or twice every two weeks.

Despite a lot of information on the internet stating that Sulcatas shouldn’t be fed fruit, I have never had a problem giving my tortoise watermelon or strawberry every once in a while. I find that it’s great for hydration and they also love it as a treat as well.