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Sulcata Tortoise Hatchling: How Do You Take Care Of A Sulcata Tortoise Hatchling?

Sulcata tortoises are also called African spurred and African spur thighs. They originate from the arid region of north-central Africa. Many considered sulcatas the most produced tortoises globally, and you may be wondering how you can take care of their hatchling.

Although sulcata tortoises require special equipment to raise them, it is quite easy to care for them. You can take care of sulcata tortoise hatchlings the same way that you take care of adult sulcatas. However, they are small and vulnerable, and you will need to provide extra care to protect them from dangers.

In this article, we will break down everything that you need to know about how to care for sulcata tortoise hatchlings, from the hatchling process to their housing requirements. 

The Hatching Process In Sulcata Tortoise 

In egg phase, baby tortoises are literally folded in half across their plastron and usually round in appearance. They will then start to straighten out after they have absorbed most of the yolk sack present in the egg.

Their tiny carapaces will then press right up to the eggshell, showing an imprint of the eggshell texture on their carapaces. You will see this imprint on their shell once they hatch but will eventually grow out of it.

The hatchling will straighten out to a point where it punctures a small hole in the eggshells with a bony protrusion found at the snout’s end known as an egg tooth. This will then help to weaken and dry out the shells so they can break open while the tortoises emerge.

The egg tooth is only used for breaking out of the shell, and it will be worn away once the hatchling starts to grow.


Avoid interfering with the hatching process unless you see that your tortoise is in trouble. This is because some tortoises can get out of the egg within minutes after puncturing the egg, while others can take days before getting out.

It is not necessarily that tortoises from the same clutch hatch together. Hatching of eggs usually takes up to three weeks between the first egg to hatch and the last one to emerge safely.

After the hatchling is out from the egg, you can provide a lukewarm shallow bath to help wash the sticky membrane from them and help them drink.

The Appearance Of A Hatchling Sulcata Tortoise

Sulcata tortoise hatchling
Sulcata tortoise hatchling

Sulcata tortoise hatchlings are similar to adult sulcatas but usually measure 45-50mm long and weigh around 25-30g. They have a uniform pale yellow-ivory color, but some hatchlings are darker. They have a narrow brown border on their scutes and serrated periphery on the carapace.

How To Care A Hatchling Sulcata Tortoises

Caring for hatchling sulcata tortoises is quite simple because it is very easy to provide a proper enclosure in your home for them. However, sulcatas require special care, and you need to house them in an enclosure that is as similar to their natural environment as possible.

Setting Up An Enclosure For A Hatchling Sulcata Tortoises

As stated before, it is quite easy to set up a proper enclosure for hatchling sulcata tortoises in your home. You can use large plastic totes with homemade tortoise tables to set up their habitat. It is not recommended to use a glass enclosure for your sulcata tortoise.

This is because your tortoise will try to walk through it regularly, and this can stress them. Furthermore, the water left in a glass tank can increase the humidity, leading to health problems like shell rot and respiratory illness.


Sulcata tortoise loves burrowing, and you will need to provide them with a substrate that can encourage them to do this. You can use a mixture of topsoil and cypress bark or children’s play sand for their enclosure. However, you can also use grass hay for them.

The best thing about using hay is that you can easily maintain it, and it will serve as nourishment for your tortoise. But you will need to ensure it is kept dry. When using sand as your sulcata tortoise substrate, you need to avoid placing food directly on the sand.

This is because your tortoise can eat sand and can become impacted. You can set up a sand-free area in your sulcata tortoise hatchling enclosure where you can feed them.

Hatchling sulcata tortoise in enclosure in an ideal substrate
Hatchling sulcata tortoise in enclosure in an ideal substrate


It is very important that you keep your baby sulcata tortoise in a high humidity environment. During the day, the humidity in their enclosure should be between 40-60%. At night, the humidity should be 70-80%, and you can achieve this by misting their substrate at night.

Hiding Area

You can also provide a humid area where your tortoise can burrow and sleet at night for their good health and growth. You can create a humid area for your baby sulcatas using a Sterilite container with a hold that is large enough for your tortoise to crawl through it.

You can then use substrates like peat moss, sphagnum moss, or coco coir for filling it.


Apart from humidity, the temperature is an important aspect of housing a sulcata tortoise. Sulcata tortoise originates from an arid environment and will need enough heat to stay healthy. The ideal daytime temperature for your sulcata tortoise enclosure is between 75-90oF.

The ideal nighttime temperature should be between 60-75oF, while you will need to provide a basking spot between 93-96oF for them. You can use a heat lamp to help provide a warm basking area for your tortoise.

Also, you can set up your sulcata tortoise enclosure with a cool side of the tank and a hot side. You can then use a thermometer to ensure the temperature is at an optimal level.


It is essential to provide UVB lighting for your sulcata tortoise when housing them indoors. They need UVB lighting to help process the calcium that they need for their growth. Furthermore, your tortoise can develop serious health issues if you do not provide them with UVB lighting.

You will need to turn on the UV lighting for about 10-12 hours and turn it off at night. Furthermore, the UV lamp should be within 10 inches of the basking lamp to be more efficient.

Note: UVB light usually loses its efficiency over time, and you will need to replace the bulb every 6-10 months.

Provide Basic Diet For A Hatchling Sulcata

Diet is a crucial part of sulcata tortoise care. Feeding hatchling sulcata tortoise with foods high in fat and protein will lead to accelerated growth. However, feeding them with protein and fat can lead to shell deformities and other health problems that reduce their lifespan.

The best food suitable for sulcata tortoise is grass and hay, with high fiber and low protein. Fiber is essential for the good health of sulcata tortoise, while the lack of it can cause diarrhea, metabolic bone disease and make them susceptible to parasites.

Sulcata tortoises love grazing, and feeding them in a pasture of grass, herbs, dandelion, and clover outdoors is ideal for them. You can also feed them with fresh-cut orchard hay, Bermuda hay, and timothy hay when housing your tortoise indoors or during the winter.

You should only feed your tortoise with vegetables and fruit occasionally and in smaller portions. This is because too much fruit can lead to colic and diarrhea. Because vegetables and fruits have high sugar content, which can be harmful to your tortoise if it is in excess.

You will also need to provide calcium supplements to your sulcata tortoise for optimal health. You will need to provide calcium supplements for your hatchling sulcata tortoise daily as they need it for their rapid growth. In addition, you can offer vitamin and mineral supplements to your hatchlings once a week.

You will also need to provide fresh water for your hatchling sulcata tortoise. However, you will need to provide the water in a shallow bowl. You will also need to soak your hatchling sulcata tortoise regularly to help encourage them to drink water.

sulcata tortoise eating grass
Sulcata tortoise basic food is a fiber rich grass or hay

Care Tips For A Hatchling Sulcata Tortoises

Here are some tips that you can follow when caring for hatchling sulcata tortoises.

  • When using a glass enclosure, you will need to tape an opaque object to the glass when you notice that your tortoise is constantly rubbing their nose on it or wants to walk through it.
  • Ensure you place a humid hide box in your hatchling sulcatas enclosure. This will help prevent dehydration and pyramiding, and you will simulate a humid burrow that they use in the wild.
  • Ensure you place your hatchling sulcata tortoise in a waterproof enclosure because they need high humidity and moisture.
  • Keep your hatchling tortoise out of the reach of dangerous objects and predators like steps, dogs, raccoons, etc.
  • Sulcata tortoises are voracious eaters, and you should keep them away from toxic plants, small plastics, human and animal hair, etc.
  • Hatchling sulcata tortoises usually have issues walking on grass and can become exhausted, stranded on the lawn, and even die from overheating. You will need to provide a path of bare soil that will connect them to their basic needs.
  • Sulcata tortoises are active climbers, and you should ensure they don’t have the chance to climb steep things as it may make the tortoise tip over. Tipping over can lead to death if they cannot get up, as they can die of hyperthermia or even choke or drown in their own vomit.
  • Ensure you place your sulcata tortoise hatchling in an enclosure that is escape-proof as they can try to get through cracks.

Wrapping Up

Sulcata tortoise is a popular tortoise breed that can be kept as a pet due to its unique personality. Just like adult sulcata tortoises, caring for baby sulcata tortoises is quite easy even with the special care they need.

It is best to keep baby sulcata tortoises indoors for the first few years to minimize harm from predators and prevent them from escaping.

We hope this article helps to answer all your questions about caring for sulcata tortoise hatchlings. If you have any questions or comments, you can ask using the comment section below.

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