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Sulcata Tortoise Size: How Big Do Sulcata Tortoises Get?

Sulcata tortoises have a long lifespan, and you should be ready for a long-time commitment when keeping them as a pet. This also means that they will grow until a certain age. As a responsible tortoise owner, you need to know how big they can get to help prepare for their long-time commitment.

Sulcata tortoises are considered to be among the biggest tortoise species worldwide. They can grow to about 30-35 inches long and weigh around 110-150 pounds. Furthermore, the females usually grow a little larger than the male by at least half an inch.

In this article, we will answer your question on how big sulcata tortoises can get and factors that can affect their growth.

Sulcata Tortoise Size: Species Overview

Sulcata tortoise, also called the African spurred tortoise, originates from the deserts of Africa. They are among the most popular tortoise species and are widely known for their mind-blowing size. Furthermore, you can easily identify them by their tan and brown shell with large scales.

Sulcata tortoise is also a suitable pet for beginner hobbyists that is ready for a long-time commitment. They can live for more than 100 years in captivity if raised under optimal care. However, because of their huge size, you will need to house them outdoors.

Sulcatas are avid diggers, and you should ensure you set up their enclosure very well to ensure they don’t escape.

Sulcata Tortoise Size According To Their Age

Here is a breakdown of the sulcata tortoise growth rate based on their age.

Hatchling Sulcata Size

Once sulcata tortoise hatches, they are usually around 2.5-3 inches long and weigh about 35-40g.

Hatchling sulcata tortoise size
Hatchling sulcata tortoise
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One-Year-Old Sulcata Size

Generally, sulcata tortoises grow at their own pace. Some one-year-old sulcata tortoises are usually the size of a football, while others are the size of baseballs. However, A one-year-old sulcata tortoise can grow to about 6-8 inches long and weigh around 1.7-2.2 pounds.

Five-Year-old Sulcata Size

A sulcata tortoise can grow to around 4-26 inches long and can weigh around 1-80 pounds once they clock five years old. However, tortoises raised in a dry environment with a poor diet will be smaller than those fed with a proper diet and the right humidity of 80%.

sulcata tortoise size
Young sulcata tortoise

Adult Sulcata Tortoise Size 

Sulcata tortoises tend to continue growing until they are 15-20 years old. Once your tortoise clocks this age, you can consider it an adult. Adult sulcata tortoises usually grow to about 25-30 inches long and 24-30 inches wide.

During adulthood, sulcata tortoise can weigh about 90-200 pounds based on sex and species.

Adult sulcata tortoise
Adult sulcata tortoise

7 Factors That Affect Sulcata Tortoise Size

Sulcata tortoises usually grow to around 30-35 inches long and can weigh around 110-150 pounds. However, several factors can determine how big a tortoise can get. Furthermore, their size and weight usually differ from one individual to another based on these factors.

Some of the factors that can determine how big a tortoise can get are stated below.


Sulcata tortoises usually grow faster when they are young than when they reach adulthood. The rapid growth usually occurs for 5-8 years and then slows down afterward. This helps to play a huge role in how big they can grow in the wild.

As sulcata tortoises get bigger, there will be fewer animals that can prey on them, which helps them survive and even grow bigger.


One of the most important factors that can influence the growth of a tortoise is the diet. Sulcata tortoise is herbivorous and will feed on vegetation that is available for them in the wild.

However, sulcatas in captivity will have retarded growth with poor dieting, while overfeeding your tortoise can lead to obesity. Another thing is that obesity caused by overfeeding will also affect your tortoise’s shell.

Furthermore, feeding your tortoise with food materials like grasses, edible flowers, etc., helps to keep them healthy but will not make them grow rapidly. However, foods like fruits, high protein foods, and high carbohydrates vegetables will make them grow rapidly, leading to health problems like obesity and other issues.

Sulcata tortoise feeding on fiber rich grass
Sulcata tortoise feeding on fiber rich grass


Generally, female sulcata tortoises are usually a little bigger than males. Although the size difference may not be very significant, females are usually bigger by at least half an inch or more. 

Female tortoises are bigger than males because they need more space to keep eggs inside of them during reproduction. This is because tortoises don’t have a flexible body, and they don’t get bigger when they get pregnant. This is why they are a little bigger than the male species.

UVB Light

UVB light plays an important role in the life of tortoises as it helps in the production of vitamin D3 essential for calcium in their body. This shows UVB light helps to produce calcium needed for proper shell and bone growth.

However, a tortoise without access to UVB can suffer slower growth or none at all. In the wild, sulcata tortoises are exposed to sunlight most of the time and don’t usually have problems with getting UVB light.


The habitat of sulcata tortoises usually affects how big they can get. Sulcata tortoises usually grow well If they have access to good food, weather, UVB rays, and are not threatened by predators. This is why pet tortoises tend to get bigger than wild tortoises.

This is because pet tortoises get access to better conditions. Another thing is that pet tortoises don’t have to deal with winter. Furthermore, tortoises hibernate during the winter and use lots of calcium, energy, proteins, and vitamins to survive the period.

However, if a tortoise does not hibernate, it will use the energy to grow instead of surviving the winter.


The growth of sulcata tortoises can be affected by their health condition. However, diseases usually affect pet tortoises, unlike those in the wild. This is mainly because of the environment and food that they have access to when in the wild.

Some health problems that can affect sulcata tortoise are respiratory infection, pyramiding, metabolic bone diseases, etc.

Genes Or Maternal Effects

The genes of a tortoise can determine whether a hatchling sulcata tortoise will grow big or not. For instance, the size of a sulcata tortoise egg when it is laid can determine the size of the hatchling. Furthermore, when a sulcata tortoise hatches larger, the tortoise will grow larger.

However, when a tortoise hatches smaller in size, it will remain small. This shows that the tortoise may look smaller for its age, even as an adult. Although egg size is equally important in determining a hatchling size, it has little effect on growth after hatching.

Wrapping Up

Although sulcata tortoises will make a perfect reptile that you can keep as a pet, owners will need to research before adopting them. This is because keeping sulcata tortoises is a long-term commitment, and they require special care for them to grow well.

Furthermore, they are considered among the largest tortoises in the world, and prefer that you house them in a large outdoor enclosure. Sulcata tortoises also grow fast for the first 5-10 years of their life, and you should be ready to change their cage as often as possible.

We hope this article gives you an insight into how big sulcata tortoises can get. If you have any questions or comments, you can message us in the comment section below.

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