Dessert Tortoise How Long Is Food Supposed To Be In Tank

Desert Tortoise Care Sheet – California Turtle & Tortoise Club

Please remember that no one care sheet can possibly cover all of the factors that exist in various geographic locations that impact the care of our desert tortoises, much alone all of the new knowledge that is always being discovered. It is highly advised that you join an online discussion group where fellow keepers can assist you with problems or difficulties that are not covered in the accompanying care document. Joining an online discussion group is free and easy. Introduce yourself to this care document, which contains advice on how to care for adult desert tortoises as well as their hatchlings.

Currently, the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is listed as endangered in the wild and is protected by federal and state legislation.

In California, a permission is necessary in order to keep desert tortoises in captivity.

Francisco Velasquez captured this image.

  • For further information on how to obtain a permit, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife or the California Turtle and Tortoise Club.
  • Possession of a permit or tag does not constitute authorization to breed.
  • It is against the law to release captive desert tortoises back into the wild for a good reason, as explained here.
  • If you are looking for a new home for a tortoise, you should contact the California Turtle and Tortoise Club.
  • Most CTTC chapters have a large number of desert tortoises in need of new homes.
  • Housing|Feeding|Sexing|Health|Hibernation Desert tortoises have been known to live for up to 60-80 years, and some have lived much longer.
  • It is hard to tell the precise age of a tortoise when it is an adult.


Adult desert tortoises must be maintained outside in a big enclosure if they are to survive and develop. In order to protect them from the sun and cold, they need also be given with a safe haven to sleep at night. They require a large amount of space to exercise and browse. If at all feasible, let them have free rein of the whole yard. Make certain that the yard is not an escape route and that swimming pools are properly enclosed. Remove any dangerous plants from the area and refrain from using chemical pesticides or fertilizers in the region.

Please bear in mind that the list is targeted toward mammals because there is no official list for tortoises, and as a result, many keepers choose to err on the side of caution and give plants for them those we KNOW are SAFE.

Tethered tortoises are cruel and barbaric, whether they are restrained by their legs or held together by holes punched in their shell. Instead, consult with CTTC about appropriate enclosures, fencing, and security.


Tortoises in good health have huge appetites! The cultivation of natural grasses and wildflowers as well as grass and weeds such as dandelions, alfalfa (in moderation), nopales (Opuntiacactus), mulberry tree and grape leaves, chickweed, nut grass, and (for rewards) rose petal, nasturtium, and hibiscus flower are ideal food sources. Desert tortoise grazing on dandelions in the desert. Michael J. Connor took the photograph. Supplement this diet with occasionally available items such as endive, escarole, squashes such as zucchini, diced carrots, tiny amounts of kale, romaine, and other dark-green leafy vegetables if you have a limited supply of growing foods.

Desert Tortoise Seed Mixes and edible native wildflower seeds can be purchased from a variety of sources, which can be found under “Feeding” in the section “Care of Hatchling Desert Tortoises.” Because tortoises require a lot of calcium, you should sprinkle it on their food every now and then (without phosphorus, as this will make calcium unavailable for bone/shell growth), or provide them with a calcium-rich source that is always available, such as boiled chicken eggshells or cuttlefish bone (preferred – always remove the hard, thin outer layer to prevent choking).

  1. Use of calcium with enhanced vitamin D3 is not recommended if the tortoise is kept outside.
  2. All foods should be free of fertilizers and pesticides, and they MUST be free of pesticides.
  3. Excessive consumption of foods strong in oxalic acid (which binds calcium) should be avoided, such as parsley, purslane, amaranth, spinach, beet leaves, collards, and Brussels sprouts should be avoided.
  4. If you feed your dog an excessive amount of fruits (other than the “cactus apple” from the Opuntiacactus when it’s in season), you may disrupt his digestive flora, which can lead to an infestation of intestinal parasites.
  5. Feeding soy, tofu, or any animal protein, such as cat or dog food, is not recommended.


Until they reach around 8 inches in length, desert tortoise hatchlings have a flat plastron (bottom shell) on their backs (10-15 years of age in the wild; 5-10 years in captivity). The plastron of the male becomes significantly concave at this point, whereas the plastron of the female stays flat at this point. Adult males also have larger gular horns, a longer tail, and increased glands beneath the chin, which are all characteristics of the species. Male tortoises will begin chasing for female tortoises as soon as they emerge from their slumber.

  • It may be important to segregate guys from one another in order to reduce the possibility of one being overthrown by another.
  • During the procedure, they will frequently do a number of “trial” excavations.
  • Please keep in mind that purposefully breeding desert tortoises is prohibited by federal and state rules in both the United States and California.
  • If the eggs are placed in the ground and hatch, please contact your local CTTC Chapter for assistance in finding a new home.


It is critical for the tortoise keeper to become familiar with his or her tortoise’s regular behavior because behavioral changes are frequently the first symptom of disease in these creatures. Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (which has destroyed the natural population of tortoises in California and Nevada) and other respiratory illnesses make tortoises particularly susceptible. A runny or bubbly nose, a loss of appetite, and gasping are all symptoms that something is wrong. Treatment for respiratory illness symptoms can generally be alleviated if they are started as soon as possible; nonetheless, there is no “cure” for URTD.

  1. The cause of swollen and sunken eyes is sometimes misdiagnosed as vitamin A deficiency when it is actually a result of dehydration or a respiratory ailment.
  2. Tortoises that are sick or injured must be transferred inside, away from flies.
  3. Parasite overload can manifest as symptoms such as weight loss and lack of energy for no obvious reason.
  4. Allowing your tortoise to be given Albendazole or Ivermectin by a veterinarian is not recommended since these medications might cause more significant health concerns or even death.
  5. (See alsoYahoo_ Groups Vets for Herps/ (for veterinarians suggested by keepers) andTortoise Trust HerpVets/ (for veterinarians recommended by keepers).


Usually by late October when the days turn colder, the tortoise will eat less, bask less, and seem languid. A appropriate hibernating site may have to be supplied. Some tortoise owners use a dog home that has been lined with a thick layer of dry dirt, leaves, or shredded newspaper to keep their tortoises warm in the winter. A tarp should be placed over the entranceway to protect it from flooding or rain damage. Many pet owners like to “store” their animals in their garages or basements. Tortoises are kept in sturdy cardboard boxes that are deep enough so that they cannot climb out, and they are wrapped in many layers of newspaper to provide insulation.

If the box is put in your garage, remember not to operate vehicle engines because of the potential of poisoning from the vapors.

Many keepers now prefer a “box-in-box” approach, where the inner box is large enough for the tortoise to spin around in which is put in a larger box 3-5 inches larger with insulating layers of newspapers below and around the inner box.

Make use of a minimum/maximum thermometer and strive to keep temperatures between 42 and 55°F; do not keep in an area where temperatures will remain between 60 and 65°F and above for extended periods of time because it can cause increased metabolism, resulting in excessive water/weight loss and possibly illness or death.

  • It is possible for certain tortoises to construct a burrow and to successfully hibernate in certain environments.
  • Avoid allowing your tortoise to hibernate in an area where there is a considerable chance of flooding or the tortoise being wet – and chilly – as a result of heavy rains.
  • It is necessary to check on a hibernating turtle on a regular basis.
  • If the tortoise awakens during a warm period in the middle of winter, water may be supplied, but do not feed it at this time.
  • When the days begin to warm up, which should be around March or April, the tortoise will begin to move around in its storage box more actively.
  • It should be able to resume typical activities such as eating, exercising, and sunbathing after a week or two.
  • Towards the conclusion of the summer, a well-fed tortoise will begin to accumulate fat stores around its shoulders and hindquarters.
  • If you are dehydrated, wake up, drink plenty of water, and follow the rest of the winter’s advice.
  • No one who has been treated for a respiratory illness such as URTD, RNS, or URDS during the summer is eligible!

This pet will require adequate space for exercise and regular feedings, and on bright warm days with temperatures ranging from 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it should be placed outside into a wind-sheltered, sunny location for a couple of hours as frequently as feasible.

Basic Care: Desert Tortoise

The desert tortoise is considered to be a threatened species over much of its range, which includes both the Sonoran and Mojave deserts in Arizona and California. Recent research has revealed that the desert tortoise has been divided into two distinct species. It is found in the Mojave deserts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, west of the Colorado River, where it is known as the Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizi). The Morofka’s desert tortoise (Gopherus Morafkai) may be found in the Sonoran deserts of Arizona, east of the Colorado River and north of Mexico, where it can be found in the wild.

  1. The extinction of wild desert tortoise populations is endangered by development and the loss of their natural environment.
  2. Tortoise sanctuaries all around the southwest United States are now hosting large numbers of displaced tortoises.
  3. For the most up-to-date rules on amphibians and reptiles, visit or call your local Arizona Game and Fish Department office and ask for the most recent amphibian and reptile laws.
  4. The possession of one tortoise per person in a home is the limit.
  5. Unless you have acquired particular permission to keep them longer, you must give up baby tortoises by the time they reach the age of 24 months in Arizona, according to wildlife regulations.
  6. Size: Up to 20 pounds in weight Life expectancy: 60 to 100 years or more

Captive Care Requirements:

The desert tortoise is considered to be a threatened species throughout much of its habitat, which includes both the Sonoran and Mojave deserts in the United States. The desert tortoise has recently been divided into two distinct species. It is found in the Mojave deserts of California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, west of the Colorado River, where it is known as the Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizi) and its other namesakes. In Arizona’s Sonoran deserts east of the Colorado River and Mexico, the Morofka’s desert tortoise (Gopherus Morafkai) can be found.

  1. Populations of wild desert tortoises are under peril as a result of development and degradation of their natural environment.
  2. The tortoise population in sanctuaries across the southwestern United States has swelled to unprecedented proportions.
  3. For the most up-to-date restrictions on amphibians and reptiles, visit or call a local Arizona Game & Fish Department office and ask for the most recent amphibian and reptile laws on the books.
  4. Each member in a family is only allowed to own one tortoise at a time.

Unless you have gotten particular permission to keep them longer, you must give up baby tortoises by the time they reach the age of 24 months in Arizona. Breeding desert tortoises has been prohibited in Arizona since 2016. Amount of weight: up to 20 pounds Live between 60 and 100 years or more.


Desert tortoises are herbivores, which means that they eat plants as their primary source of nutrition. They require high-fiber meals in order to develop and digest in a healthy manner. It is recommended that they consume grasses and weeds as the majority of their diet. The most straightforward method of accomplishing this is to provide the tortoise with access to green places where they may graze on grass. Alternatively, grass hay, such as Timothy, Bermuda, or orchard grass hays, can be offered to the animals.

  • Weeds and natural shrubs are very beneficial to tortoises in their growth stages, such as juveniles.
  • You may get a list of native plants that are suitable for desert tortoises by clickinghere, and a list of all edible plants can be found by clickinghere.
  • Mazuri LS Tortoise Pellets should be administered no more frequently than once a week.
  • Never give your desert tortoise any meat, insects, dog or cat food, or monkey crackers since they are poisonous.
  • It is critical to restrict people’s access to water.
  • This will urge them to drink more and completely empty their bladder, which will aid in the prevention of bladder stones.
  • More information about nutritional supplements may be found at this website.
  • Please see this link for additional information on how to hibernate your tortoise.

How to Feed a Tortoise: The Guide to Tortoise Diet, Food & Nutritional Needs

Given the fact that our tortoises (and other pets) don’t have the option of running into the kitchen and grabbing a snack, we must be selective about what we give them. The dietary requirements of tortoises differ from species to species, which is why we’ll go into great detail about them in this post. We examine what they can consume, how much they can eat, how often they can eat, and which items they should avoid.

What Do Tortoises Eat in the Wild?

Tortoises live in such a diverse range of settings, with a diverse range of food sources accessible to them, that it is difficult to provide a general guideline for what they may consume as a group. A significant amount of study is required to ensure that your tortoise receives the appropriate food at the appropriate period of its life due to the great range of species and natural settings (as well as age-related requirements). An average tortoise’s diet will consist of of leaves and other plant material.

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But before you pass over any yummy insects to your tortoise, make sure you know what kind he is and whether or not he requires the additional protein.

These tortoises account for a significant proportion of the total tortoise population.

Carrion, slugs, and various insects or worms have all been seen to be consumed by these tropical tortoises, according to the scientific literature. Note that these are really little amounts of food, and you are unlikely to see a tortoise go out of its way to consume them.

It’s All About Location!

Desert tortoises, or tortoises that live in more arid and dry biomes in the wild, may eat the same foods as Mediterranean tortoises, according to the International Tortoise Society. Whether or not this is the ideal food depends on the species and life stage of the animal. Before giving your tortoise a particular meal, make sure you know what kind it is by looking at its shell. omnivorous tropical tortoises, for example, may thrive on a diet of plant material when kept in captivity. Although it is not recommended, it is possible for a completely vegetarian tortoise to become quite unwell if fed any type of meat or insect matter.

  • The star tortoise is a type of tropical tortoise that may be found throughout the tropics.
  • We just bring up these two tortoise species to demonstrate how similar and yet incredibly distinct tortoise species may be.
  • It’s important to remember that tortoises may live happily and healthily on a diet consisting primarily of greens, vegetables, and flowers.
  • They will very certainly love it anyhow, particularly if they are captive bred.

What can pet tortoises eat?

All species of tortoises require a diverse diet of plants to maintain a healthy life in captivity, while the specific plants required by each species for a healthy life in captivity vary greatly. In order to demonstrate this variation, we’ve picked a few famous or well-known breeds and provided a brief summary of them below.


When it comes to eating, grasses and plants will be the primary sources of nutrition for a gigantic sulcata tortoise, for example. That’s fantastic, especially considering their size and weight, which make them an outdoor tortoise rather than one that can be kept indoors with you. Consider them to be the equivalent of sluggish lawnmowers. Hay and grass are excellent for the sulcata since they will eat it and play with it as well as with it. Grazing areas with a variety of green grasses, as well as the occasional weed such as dandelions, can help to supplement their diet.

Make sure to include the occasional vegetable and to sprinkle calcium powder on their diet on a regular basis.

Aldabra, Leopard, and Galapagos

Leopard tortoises, Aldabra tortoises, and Galapagos tortoises are examples of tortoises that have adapted to consume a variety of grasses, like the sulcata. Their diet would consist primarily of grasses and hay, with around two-thirds or three-quarters of their calories coming from fat.

Flowers, weeds, and greens should make up the remainder of their diet. This is so much fun: putting your pet tortoise in the backyard for meals and play time is fantastic. Just make sure that anything you have growing in your yard is not hazardous to torts before you plant it.

Russian Tortoise

While some tortoises, such as the Russian tortoise, are not as finicky as our lawnmower pals at the top of the list, they do have some unique requirements as compared to our lawnmower buddies at the top of the list. Because a Russian tortoise’s diet contains less grass than other tortoises, you shouldn’t rely on your backyard to provide food for this creature. It requires between one and ten percent of its diet to be composed of grass, therefore a small amount is OK. This breed does better when provided with more greens, such as lettuce and other vegetables, which account for the majority of the tortoise’s diet.

But not your particular tortoise, but the species as a whole.

Furthermore, purchasing your pet tortoise from a reliable breeder can assist you in determining the proper diet for your little tanky friend.

Additional pet tortoise food ideas

While it is crucial to maintain a nutritious food for your tortoise species, it is also beneficial to provide diversity. After all, you wouldn’t want to eat the same type of salad every single day, would you? A few more items that your pet tortoise may love as part of their menu would be mulberry leaves, aloe, parsley, oregano, artichoke, strawberry leaves, raspberry leaves, and blackberry leaves. Take note that we’re mentioning the leaves here. Not that torties should avoid eating berries, but they should make greens the foundation of their diets for the majority of the time.

You may feed your tortoise vegetables from the brassica family, which includes plants like as kale, cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and other similar veggies, if you do so in moderation.

Commercial Tortoise Food

There are a variety of pre-made tortoise feeds available. These are quite easy and readily available to purchase online. Most of them, on the other hand, are more like fast food and contain little nutritional value. Check the labels, consult with your breeder, and consult with your veterinarian to select the best pre-made tort food for your pet. The Zoo-med brand of tortoise food is actually one of the better ones on the market. The food served to Mazuri tortoises is also quite good. These should still be fed to your tortoise as part of a diverse diet, and not as a whole meal on a consistent basis.

Make sure to change up the foods you serve your tortoise on a regular basis to keep her happy, healthy, and interested in dinner time.

What foods are NOT safe for tortoises?

Many different kinds of tortoise feeds are available in pre-made varieties. As a result, they are convenient and easily accessible Nevertheless, the majority of these are more like fast food and provide little nutritional value. If you can’t locate the correct sort of pre-made tort food, contact your breeder for help or consult with a veterinarian. In fact, Zoo-med brand tortoise food is considered to be one of the best on the market. It’s also worth mentioning that the Mazuri tortoise food is rather good.

A tortoise may eat over two hundred different plants in the wild, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Don’t forget to switch up the foods you serve your tortoise to keep her engaged in dinner time and happy and healthy.

  • Floral species include: Amaryllis, Avocado (leaves and seeds), Azalea, Begonia, Boxwood, Buttercups, Calla Lily, Castor Bean, Crowfoot, Daffodil, Ficus, Holly, Ivy, Iris, Juniper, Nightshade Family (including: Primrose), Poinsettia, and Primrose.

This is not an exhaustive list of commonly occurring hazardous plants. Make sure to consult with a nursery professional if you need assistance identifying plants in your yard or house. Whenever in doubt, keep your turtle away from anything that you aren’t certain about. Other items to avoid are grass-heavy diets for tortoises that are not the sulcata, leopard tortoise, aldabra tortoise, or Galapagos tortoise, and tortoises that are not the Galapagos tortoise. These tortoise species have adapted to consume grasses as part of their diet.

When it comes to the inclusion of fruit in a tortoise’s diet, it should be kept to a bare minimum or avoided altogether in the case of Mediterranean tortoises.

Keep in mind that if you give your tortoise too much fruit, they may get fat.

What’s the deal with calcium in tortoise diets?

Making sure your tortoise’s diet has enough calcium is just as essential as paying close attention to the rest of their nutrition. Calcium supplementation is required for your pet tortoise. It aids in the development of her beautiful protective shell as well as the maintenance of her overall health. Tortoises require this additional calcium in their meals, in addition to all of the UVB and natural sunshine they receive. It helps to maintain their bodies robust and healthy while also aiding in the digestion of food.

  1. This can interfere with the absorption of calcium, which is essential for health.
  2. If your female tortoise intends to reproduce, she will want more calcium not just for her own health but also to ensure that her eggs grow in a healthy manner.
  3. Repti-cal is the name given to one of the most popular varieties.
  4. It has a lot of calcium, and your tortoise may find it enjoyable to nibble on.
  5. If calcium that has been manufactured and packed particularly for your tortoise is not accessible to you, or if it is too expensive to ship, you can purchase calcium powder from your local pharmacy; however, be sure the calcium powder is safe before using it.
  6. Calcium carbonate powder is the best option.
  7. All you have to do now is make sure your calcium powder has some vitamin D, which is also essential for the health of your tortoise.

In a nutshell, look for a calcium powder that is devoid of phosphorus and contains vitamin D. A tortoise can generate vitamin D from sunlight, but not all of the planet is as sunny as others, so ensuring sure they get enough vitamin D in their food is the best option.

How often should your tortoise eat?

As vital as the rest of their diet is, making sure your tortoise gets enough calcium should be a priority. Calcium supplements are required for your pet tortoise. Her beautiful protective shell is strengthened as a result of this, and her body is kept healthy. Aside from the UVB and natural sunshine, tortoises require this additional calcium in their meals. Additionally, it helps them digest their meals by keeping their bodies robust and healthy. Ensure, however, that the calcium you are providing your tortoise does not include excessive levels of phosphorus.

  1. Women and young tortoises require much more calcium than male tortoises.
  2. Tortoises require calcium to survive, and calcium powders are the most effective way to provide them with these minerals.
  3. In addition, cuttlebone can be included.
  4. Keep in mind that not all tortoises will appreciate the cuttlebone, so don’t take it personally if your tortoise doesn’t seem interested in trying it out.
  5. Just make sure it is safe before using any calcium powder.
  6. Cacao carbonate powder is the best option here.
  7. Just make sure your calcium powder has a little amount of vitamin D, since this is also beneficial to the health of your tortoise.
  8. The sun can provide vitamin D for tortoises, but not every part of the planet is consistently sunny, so ensuring sure they get enough vitamin D in their food is the best bet for their nutritional needs.


Feeding tortoises may be entertaining, but it must be done with with caution. Make sure you know what kind of turtle you have and that you provide it with a broad choice of items to consume. Check to see that you’re providing calcium in the form of a non-phosphorus powder with vitamin D added to it. If your tortoise is able to consume fruits, make sure to use them sparingly and to serve them in a shallow dish that your tortoise can easily get into and out of without difficulty. If your tortoise is not of the fruit-eating variety, avoid the urge to give him or her this potentially lethal gift!

It is dependent on their living surroundings and whether or not they have access to an outdoor pen where they may graze freely.

No matter what method you use to feed your tortoise, take comfort in the knowledge that he appreciates what you are doing for him. Watching him eat, speaking softly to him, and sharing a delicious salad together can help you bond even more.

Desert Tortoise Care

Known by a variety of names, including gopher tortoises and desert turtles, desert tortoises may be found throughout the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. During the day, they spend their time in tunnels beneath shrubs, overhanging soil or rock formations, or in the open, and they only come out to eat at the crack of dawn and twilight. They are considered an endangered species by the federal government, and it is unlawful to remove them from their natural habitat. The release of captive tortoises into the wild is strongly discouraged because they have the potential to spread a very infectious and lethal upper respiratory illness to the wild population.


Desert tortoises may live for up to 60 years or more in captivity if given the correct care. During their time in captivity, they attain sexual maturity when they are around 5-10 years old.


Adults often grow to be between 9 and 15 inches in length.


An adult’s length ranges between 9 and 15 inches on average.


Tortoises must be exposed to ultraviolet B radiation in order to manufacture Vitamin D. It is recommended to enable the tortoise to spend at least 30 minutes every day outside in the sun, which is the most effective source of UVB. If the reptile is kept inside, a special fluorescent lamp providing no less than 5 percent UVB (which should be stated on the container) can be acquired at a pet store or online. When not in use, this bulb should be positioned no more than 12 inches from the basking location and set to offer about 12-14 hours of daylight during the hot months and 10 hours during the winter.

Light bulbs with a screw-in end (including those marketed as “full spectrum” bulbs) emit heat but do not emit ultraviolet B radiation.


To generate Vitamin D, tortoises require ultraviolet B light. It is recommended to enable the tortoise to spend at least 30 minutes every day outside in the sunlight, which is the best source of UVB. If the reptile is kept inside, a special fluorescent lamp providing no less than 5 percent UVB (which should be stated on the container) can be acquired from a pet store or online retailer. When not in use, this bulb should be positioned no more than 12 inches from the basking location and set to offer about 12-14 hours of daylight during the hot months, and 10 hours during the winter months.

Lighting with a screw-in end (including “full spectrum” bulbs) provides heat but not ultraviolet B radiation. For a dark, dry hideaway on the other side of the basking light, it is recommended that a hidebox be supplied.


The desert tortoise prefers to be kept outside, which is by far the finest environment for it. Each side of the cage should be at least 6 times the length of the tortoise in order to provide ample space for browsing and exercise. In order to prevent escape by digging, the enclosure should be twice the length of the tortoise’s height and at least one foot below ground level. With a screen or wire mesh overhead, the space should be predator proof and should be separated from any pools or ponds that may be in the vicinity.

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It is possible to create an artificial burrow that will replicate their natural surroundings.

It is recommended that the enclosure for one little tortoise be at least 2×3 feet in size to ensure that the tortoise has adequate space to exercise.

Separate housing for males is recommended due to the fact that they might fight and perhaps be turned onto their backs, which can be fatal if no one is around to correct him.


Outdoor enclosures with a planted soil substrate and a dry surface can be constructed. The bottom of an indoor enclosure should be coated with a material that is both safe and easy to clean, such as plastic. Newspaper or indoor/outdoor carpeting are both simple to change and clean, as well as being quite affordable. You may use grass hay to create an aesthetically pleasant and natural-looking surface, which should be removed when wet or spoilt, or sterile potting soil, which should be spot cleaned every few days and replaced every 6 weeks if you prefer something more natural-looking.


Due to the fact that we cannot perfectly replicate their habitat, water should always be supplied in a dish large enough to allow for soaking and filled just halfway so that it does not drown. Once a week, give the tortoise a 20-minute soak in warm water to help keep it hydrated and healthy.


Desert tortoises are purely herbivores and require a diet that is high in fiber, moderate in protein, low in fat, and high in calcium, among other things. In order to achieve this, grasses, weeds, and dark, leafy greens should constitute 85 percent of the diet, with hard vegetables accounting for just 15 percent of the total calories. Grasses and weeds such as alfalfa hay, Bermuda grass, fresh clover, clover hay, mallow, Opuntia cactus pads (prickly pears) and flowers, rye grass, rice grass, and sowthistle are all examples of these types of plants.

Acorn squash, red and green bell peppers, butternut squash, carrots, green beans, lentils, peas, pumpkin and other winter squash, snow peas, sweet potatoes, and turnips are examples of vegetables that can be combined to make up the balance of the diet.

In addition, a variety of fruits and flowers (without seeds or pits) can be used as treats: apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, figs, grapes, mangos, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes, Ficus benjamina, geraniums, hibiscus flowers and leaves, pansies, petunias, pothos, rose petals and leaves Any sort of lettuce should not be fed since it contains no nutritional value.


Desert tortoises are purely herbivores and require a diet that is high in fiber, moderate in protein, low in fat, and high in calcium, among other nutritional requirements. Grass, weeds, and dark, leafy greens should account for eighty-five percent (85 percent) of the diet, with hard vegetables accounting for just 15 percent. Alfalfa hay, Bermuda grass, fresh clover, clover hay, mallow, Opuntia cactus pads (prickly pears) and blooms, rye grass, rice grass, and sowthistle are examples of grasses and weeds.

A variety of fruits (without seeds or pits) and flowers can also be used as treats, including: apples, apricots, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, figs, grapes, mangos, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes, Ficus benjamina, geraniums, hibiscus flowers and leaves, pansies, petunias, pothos, rose petals and leaves, Any sort of lettuce should not be fed since it has no nutrients.


Because of the shorter days and lower temperatures in late October, the tortoise will eat less, bask less, and seem lethargic. If you keep your animals in cage and let them to hibernate in the backyard, you are taking a gamble. Even though our California winters are mild by national standards, a digging or burrowing chelonian will perish if exposed to a mix of moisture and cold. For hibernation, a cardboard box that is deep enough that the tortoise cannot crawl out of it and coated with newspaper will suffice.

The tortoise should be checked on on a regular basis; if it is asleep, it will stir when touched.

At this point, a warm bath should be administered.

If you have any reason to believe your tortoise is unwell or wounded, do not hibernate it because this can increase its symptoms.

Bring your tortoise indoors and keep it at a comfortable temperature (75-85 degrees Fahrenheit) to keep it healthy and active. If the tortoise is brought indoors, it must be given adequate space to move about and eat properly.


When the days grow colder in late October, the tortoise will eat less, bask less, and seem lethargic as a result. Encouraging your animals to hibernate in the back yard is a risky proposition while they’re in captivity. Even though our California winters are mild by national standards, a digging or burrowing chelonian will die if exposed to a combination of moisture and cold. If the tortoise is going to hibernate, a cardboard box that is deep enough that it will not be able to climb out is sufficient.

  1. It is important to check on the tortoise on a regular basis; if it is asleep, it will move when touched.
  2. At this point, a warm bath should be provided.
  3. If you feel your tortoise is unwell or damaged in any way, do not hibernate it because doing so can intensify its symptoms even further.
  4. It is necessary to offer adequate space for the tortoise to exercise and feed if it is kept indoors.


Enclosure for Hatchlings Even though breeding captive tortoises is prohibited by law and contributes to the growing number of tortoises in need of adoptive homes, it is possible for an adult female desert tortoise to produce viable eggs from a previous mating, resulting in turtle hatchlings in your backyard enclosure. The fact that they are kept outside so that they may get sunshine will aid in the development of a healthy shell and bones in this situation is essential. If you recently adopted a female desert tortoise and suspect she may be pregnant or laying eggs, contact the Desert Tortoise Adoption program coordinator as soon as possible.

  1. In order to provide warm season protection and cold weather hibernation, a smaller counterpart of the adult burrow should be constructed.
  2. To ensure that baby tortoises are kept safe from predators such as cats, dogs, and birds, the enclosure must be covered while yet allowing sunlight to pass through.
  3. Keep the tortoise burrow away from grassy feeding zones, which may attract ants as a result of the increased water, in order to prevent the hatchlings from ant infestation.
  4. Hatchlings should be permitted to hibernate throughout their first winter if they are in good condition.
  5. If a hatchling attempts to hibernate outside of the cage, it should be relocated to the burrow immediately.
  6. It is allowed to hibernate inside if the same measures as those recommended for adults are followed.
  7. If you are hibernating inside and your hatchlings become active in the spring, you should take them from hibernation and place them in their cage so that they may resume their normal feeding schedule.

You should also bring it indoors to prevent it from hibernating in the first place.

It is necessary to maintain a regular day/night light cycle (11 hours day, 13 hours night) with artificial illumination to do this.

The needed ultraviolet energy in the UV-B band is blocked by glass, however artificial lighting can provide the bare minimum needs.

Due to the ease with which hatchlings can fall over and land on their backs, generally as a result of climbing against the wall or over siblings, it is advisable to retain only one hatchling per box to minimize this problem.

Until the third year, the hatchling diet should contain approximately double the amount of protein and half the amount of fiber found in the adult diet.

The shell of a tortoise that does not acquire enough protein will become thin, its growth will be halted, and its lifespan will be significantly diminished. Young tortoises benefit from a variety of protein sources, including:

  • Mallows, primroses, and rock hibiscus are examples of natural forages
  • Clover and dichondra are examples of cultivated plants. Produce such as kale, collards, turnip greens, beet greens, mustard greens, bok choy, dandelion greens, parsley, cilantro, and other herbs and greens
  • Hedge hay such as Timothy or Bermuda grass is another viable alternative.

It is important to feed hatchlings on a regular basis and to offer food on a daily basis. A smart tip is to combine many different food items in each feeding and to provide a range of these meals. It is recommended that many plant species be maintained in the enclosure to enable for browsing. It is advised that the tortoise be allowed access to the plants after 14 days of plant development has occurred in order to avoid overgrazing. The unfinished pieces of supplemental meals should be removed from the enclosure at the end of each day to avoid attracting insects.

To sip from and soak in, hatchlings require a shallow water dish with approximately a half-inch of water to keep them hydrated.

The tortoise’s shell is somewhat fragile at first, but it will harden with time if it is provided with a suitable food and exposure to sunshine.

Sulcata Tortoise Care Guide: Everything You Need to Know

The Sulcata Tortoise is the most common species of pet tortoise in the world, with over a million individuals owning one. Tortoises, also known as African Spurred Tortoises, are cherished for their distinct personalities – many owners believe they behave in a manner similar to that of dogs. Those looking for a tortoise with a humorous and adventurous disposition need look no further. It is possible to keep Sulcata Tortoises either indoors or outdoors. However, as they reach adult size, which is around 100 pounds, they will require a fairly big area in which to wander, graze, and dig.

Sulcata Tortoise Overview

Sulcata tortoises are native to Africa’s deserts, where they are known as sulcatas. Known for its enormous size, tan and brown shell, and massive scales, the Sulcata Tortoise is a very popular pet among people who enjoy reptiles. As there is an overabundance of Sulcatas in the globe, it is recommended that you consult with a local pet store and re-home an adult Sulcata before adopting a baby Sulcata. They are excellent pets for first-time reptile owners who are prepared to make a long-term commitment to their pets.

The majority of the time, they are solitary pets who flourish in captivity when reared in hot, dry climates throughout the year.

Because of their enormous size (adult sulcatas may weigh more than 100 pounds), they must be kept outside; however, keep in mind that they are voracious diggers before letting one wild in your yard!

Are Sulcata Tortoises Good Pets?

Sulcatas are known to be quite social with their owners and other animals. They are able to build connections with their owners, recognize them, and have distinct personalities of their own.

This inquisitive and friendly turtle makes an excellent pet for any home, even those with small children. If you live in a warm climate and have a spacious yard, this species might be an excellent choice for you.

What We Like

  • Once their enclosure has been constructed, they are rather simple to care for. They have an extremely long lifetime, which means they will be with you for the rest of your life
  • Individual personalities who are outgoing and assertive
  • Once their enclosure has been constructed, they are rather straightforward to care for. This implies they will be with you for the rest of your life because of their lengthy life expectancy. Personalities that are outgoing and unique

Species Appearance

Distinguished by its golden skin and tan to brown shell, the Sulcata Tortoise is easy to identify! Moreover, it assists them in camouflaging themselves in their natural sandy desert habitat.

Are The African Spurred Tortoise and African Spur Thigh Tortoise The Same?

In fact, the African Spurred Tortoise and the Spur Thigh Tortoise are two additional common names for the Sulcata, both referring to the two or three spurs that protrude from the backs of their thighs. The scales on their front and rear legs are likewise quite conspicuous, overlapping and massive, and they are highly noticeable. There are multiple well-defined grooves on the top of its shell, which has an oval form. Their scutes are lighter in the centre and are highlighted with a considerably deeper brown hue than the rest of their body.

  • Unlike females, men have a curved plastron (the bottom of their shell) as opposed to females who have a flat plastron. A “V” shaped anal scute is developed in men whereas “U” shaped anal scutes are developed in females. The tails of males are longer than those of females.

Despite the fact that some are somewhat lighter in color than others, the majority of Sulcatas have the same basic yellow, tan, and brown coloration. There are, however, ivory and albino variants available that are far lighter in color.

What’s InA Name?

There are various names for these tortoises that you will come across. An explanation of the numerous names may be found here. In recognition of the spurs on their thighs, they are referred to as African Spurred Tortoises (or Spur Thighs) as previously stated. The deep grooves in the shells of this tortoise species have earned it the name Sulcata (deep grooves). Sulcata is derived from the Latin word’sulcus,’ which means ‘furrow,’ and refers to the grooves formed by a plow, which are similar to the grooves in the Sulcata’s shell.

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It was formerly classified as Geochelone sulcata until being reclassified as Centrochelys sulcata in 2012.

Personally, I believe Sulcata is the most appealing of the three names, which is probably why it is the most commonly used.

How Big Do Sulcata Tortoises Get?

A newborn Sulcata is around two inches in length when it is born. Their development rate will be strongly influenced by their nutrition, confinement, and habitat, among other factors. The average healthy tortoise will grow to seven inches in length at one year of age and add five to ten pounds every year after that. They are extremely sluggish growers, and they will not reach mature size until they are 15 to 20 years old. They will, on the other hand, grow to be big tortoises. An adult sulcata tortoise is considerably different from the young tortoises with whom you began.

The Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises, both of which are island tortoises, are the only other tortoises in the world.

Typically, adult female sulcata tortoises will weigh 70 to 90 pounds and measure 24 to 30 inches in length and circumference.

It is expected that males would be somewhat bigger than females. A considerable number of the world’s largest and oldest Sulcatas have grown to weigh well in excess of 100 pounds.

Sulcata Tortoise Care Guide

This tortoise is a herbivore, which means it eats only plants. In the wild, they eat a wide range of grasses and other plants to supplement their diet. In captivity, the food should be the same as it is in the wild. In an ideal world, kids would be given a variety of greens to choose from. Many other flowers may be utilized to spice up their food and provide some variety:

  • Spring mash-ups
  • Kale, collard greens, and turnip greens
  • Mulberry leaves and grape leaves
  • Orchard grass hay
  • Cactus pads
  • And other vegetables The majority of lawn grasses

A minimum of 80% of their daily calories should come from the greensand grasses indicated above. Sulcata tortoises should not be fed fruits and vegetables in large quantities since they are high in sugar content. Pumpkin and watermelon rinds make for a tasty treat every now and again. Older Sulcatas will spend most of their day grazing in the yard. You should avoid treating your grass with pesticides or fertilizers since they can be dangerous to tortoises if they are exposed to them. They can use commercial pellets as a supplement to their diet; nevertheless, fresh greens and grass should provide the majority of their nutritional needs.


Calcium is a crucial component that might be ignored by novices due to a lack of calcium in the food that is provided to them on a regular basis. These tortoises get their calcium from a variety of sources, including roots, dirt, bone fragments, and snail shells. In captivity, you may either feed them a calcium supplement or cuttlefish bones to augment their calcium intake. You should give them calcium supplements two to three times a week if you wish to do so. Make sure the calcium supplement you give them does not contain vitamin D3 because too much of it can be hazardous.


Water intake is low for a desert-dwelling reptile since they are adapted to living in the desert. You may soak their daily greens for a few minutes before feeding them to ensure that they receive a proper quantity of water. A small water dish can also be supplied, but it should be cleaned on a regular basis due to the fact that they have a tendency to defecate in it. Finally, it is important to bathe your tortoise in shallow warm water for at least 15 minutes twice a week in order to preserve their skin in good condition.

Sulcata Tortoise Lifespan

The majority of Sulcatas survive for 80 to 100 years in captivity, requiring a lifelong commitment from their keepers. This kind of lizard is extremely robust and can survive in the severe circumstances of a desert environment. However, if they are not adequately housed or provided a sufficient food, they might suffer from a number of health problems. These include the following:

  • Their scutes can be distorted as a result of a high-protein diet or low humidity levels in their cage
  • They are also susceptible to infection as a result of wet and neglected substrate. Most of the time, these illnesses will manifest themselves as white patches on their skin or shell, and they will be linked with an unpleasant odor
  • Dehydration is a prevalent health condition that affects many people. Weight loss, tiredness, flaky skin, and dry feces are all common symptoms of this condition. The fact that hatchlings have such thin skin and may dry up fast makes them especially vulnerable to dehydration. The condition known as metabolic bone disease is also frequent in tortoises that are not properly housed or nourished. Those Sulcata tortoises who are not given enough calcium or vitamin D, or who are not exposed to enough ultraviolet B light, will develop shell deformities

Additionally, lung infections (which are frequent in other reptiles) egg binding, and bladder stones are also potential health difficulties in captivity. The majority of health problems are related with a reduction in physical activity and weight loss. You should keep track of your pet’s weight on a regular basis, and if it begins to fall at any time, it is recommended to contact with a veterinarian. Signs That They Are in Good Health

  • Shell that is uniform in appearance and devoid of dirt, flakes, and imperfections
  • A healthy appetite and level of exercise
  • There is no discharge or discomfort coming from the mouth, nose, eyes, or ears
  • The ears are clear. feces that are well-formed and hard, as well as white urates

Symptoms of a medical condition

  • Drooping of the eyebrows or mouth breathing are two examples. Loss of appetite and lethargy
  • Feces that are watery
  • Expulsion of mucus from the mouth, nose, eyes, or ears

Sulcata Tortoise Enclosure

Sulcata tortoises are also known as African Spurred Tortoises because they may be found in the deserts and grasslands of northern Africa, on the southern border of the Sahara desert, where they are known as African Spurred Tortoises are located. It utilizes digging to escape the heat and to absorb water while it is in its native environment in the wild, according to the African spurred tortoise. Many other desert creatures will take up residence in their burrows in order to avoid the severe heat as well.

Their burrows may go down to a depth of up to ten feet. In order for them to behave in their native environment, the soil density must be exceedingly dense. It is impossible for them to burrow if the earth is too solid, and if the dirt is too loose, their tunnels crumble and break apart.

Start Them Indoors

In addition to being known as African Spurred Tortoises, Sulcata Tortoises are also known as Sulcata Tortoises because they are found in deserts and grasslands throughout northern Africa, on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert. It utilizes digging to escape the heat and to absorb water while it is in its native environment in the wild, according to the African spurred tortoise. The burrows of many other desert animals will be taken over by them in order to avoid the severe temperatures themselves.

In order for them to behave in their native environment, the soil density must be quite dense.

Time To Go Outdoors

When they reach the age of two years or the size of eight inches, they should be relocated to an outdoor pen with plenty of soil to allow them to engage in their natural burrowing habits as well as enough area to graze freely. The use of a well-insulated hiding box is critical when relocating them outside to aid in maintaining homeostasis and avoiding predators throughout the transition. In colder climates, you may need to go a step further and equip them with an exterior heated shed to keep their belongings safe.

  • Enclosure Outdoor
  • 100 square feet with 12-inch walls
  • Type: outside
  • Size: outdoor Illumination: UVB illumination (if the system is located inside)
  • Eco soil and sand are used as bedding.

An outdoor enclosure should be at least 100 square feet in size and be surrounded by walls or a robust fence that is at least two feet height and one foot in depth. Because sulcatas are quite powerful, it is essential that the walls be constructed with care. You may reinforce the wall using cinderblocks to make it more stable. The fence or wall should be at least one foot underground; otherwise, they may be able to tunnel beneath the fence line and escape. Sulcata tortoises are natural climbers, thus their cage should be filled with logs, rocks, and other obstacles for them to navigate.

Another appropriate addition is a small water dish on the side of the table.

You should, however, offer a shallow soaking dish or immerse them in shallow water at least twice a week to ensure that they are well cleaned.

Lighting and Heating

Tortoises, who are ectotherms, regulate their body temperature by interacting with their environment. Tortoises require ultraviolet B (UVB) light to metabolize calcium and make vitamin D3 in their bodies. If they are kept outside, they will receive the UVB that they require from direct sunshine. To illuminate interior cages, a UVB light source will be required. Given the fact that they also require a basking bulb, it is feasible to purchase light bulbs that emit both heat and UVB rays. To keep the essential UVB and basking bulbs in the cage, you may purchase a hood to go over it.

Maintaining the proper humidity level is essential for keeping your reptile hydrated and for maintaining good skin on its body.

They require a humidity range of 40 percent to 60 percent, with hatchlings requiring a humidity range of 50 percent to 60 percent. Humidity should be monitored with the use of a hygrometer.

Sulcata Tortoise Bedding

When a newborn Sulcata is kept indoors, it prefers a mixture of soil and sand as a bedding material. If you are unable to get that mixture, there are several additional substrates that will suffice: cypress mulch, aspen mulch, and orchid bark. A weekly change of the substrate and a thorough cleaning with soap and warm water once a month are recommended for these creatures. When keeping them outside, make sure they have sufficient of non-toxic grass to munch on and dirt to burrow themselves in to keep them healthy.

Typical Behavior

Sulcatas have two major activities they spend much of their time on depending on the season: When temperatures are colder they will graze for hours since their huge bulk demands a lot of energy. As temperatures get hotter and more friendly they will build huge holes to shelter from the sunin their muddy wallow. To their surprise, they also use their saliva to cool themselves down after they have sweated a lot. After a cold evening, sulcata tortoises will spend their mornings sunbathing in the sun to elevate their body temperatures.

  • They will attempt to flip each other over, and the males will ram each other in order to demonstrate dominance.
  • As a result, it is preferable to keep them separate from one another.
  • They also utilize their lips and feet to examine diverse characteristics of their surroundings through taste and touch.
  • Although they are not able to brumate in captivity, they may do so for brief periods of time.

Handling Advice and Tips

Handling the Sulcata Tortoise is not something the tortoise enjoys. Adults are frequently too heavy to carry since they have gotten stressed by handling as hatchlings and adolescents. If you absolutely must handle your Sulcata, do not pin or bind it in any way. Move it gently and carefully, maintaining control, and do not elevate them extremely far over the ground. Hands should be washed before and after handling to avoid the transmission of germs.

Sulcata Tortoise Price

In the pet trade, thesetortoises are commonly acquired from a petstore for between $100 and $200, depending on the species. It is possible to obtain them for free from individuals who are wishing to rehome their pets. Because they are quite popular and may live for more than 100 years, there are a large number of tortoises available for adoption. Before adopting a tortoise, you should undertake a thorough physical examination on it.

  • Check for discharge in the animal’s nose, eyes, ears, and mouth. Check for abnormalities or malformations in the shell of the turtle. It’s also important that they are bright, alert, and energetic.

Males start mating with females by surrounding and ramming them with their bodies.

Females deposit roughly 20 eggs, which they bury 10 inches down in the ground. The eggs must be incubated for around eight months before they will hatch.

Sulcata Tortoise Facts
Common Name African Spurred Tortoise
Scientific Name Centrochelys sulcata
Price $100+
Size 70 to 100 pounds (males are slightly bigger)
Lifespan 80+ years
Diet Grasses, leafy greens and hays
Tank Size 100 square feet for adults
HumidityTemperature Basking temperature: 100°FCool side: 85 – 95°F
Popular Alternatives Red-Footed TortoiseRussian Tortoise


Sulcata Tortoises may make terrific pets if their new owners do their homework before bringing them home. They require a lot of room to graze and perform best in hotter, drier regions, according to experts. You should construct a spacious outside enclosure with plenty of hiding nooks and barriers for your turtle to climb and graze on grasses while you watch television. Because of their long life span, captivating demeanor, and ability to be kept outside, they are in high demand all over the world and are available for purchase.

What are your thoughts on this particular species?

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