Sulcata vs Aldabra Giant Tortoise As Pets – Full Comparison

Do you love tortoises and want to keep one but don’t know which species to go for? Between sulcata vs aldabra tortoises which this article will discuss, what do you want to know about them?

Fair enough, you’re at the right place where all your questions will be answered. Sulcata vs aldabra giant tortoises promises to give you a detailed comparison between the two species of tortoises with the hope that you’ll make the right choice of pet.

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Sulcata vs Aldabra Giant Tortoise As Pets

Sulcata Vs Aldabra Giant Tortoise As Pets
Sulcata Vs Aldabra Giant Tortoise As Pets

Just when you thought that you’ve seen it all, then comes another unbelievably huge land tortoise called the ‘aldabra giant tortoise’.

I’ve been asked several times by beginner reptile keepers if sulcata tortoises and the aldabra giant tortoises are supposed to be kept as pets because these two species of tortoises are incredibly big for indoor pets.

To start with, let’s discuss their personalities and their sizes when they’re still hatchlings, juveniles, or young tortoises. The aldabra tortoises are docile animals that get easily acclimatized to their domestic environment.

Once they are used to their new captive environment, they bond easily with their keepers and would love to be around them. Like with sulcata tortoises, they can easily identify their owners and can also distinguish them from strangers.

In the same way, sulcata tortoises are docile, friendly, calm, active and not shy. They’re both strict herbivores and heavy eaters. Thus don’t be surprised to see your tortoise associate you with food if you decide to keep one. It’s one of the things they understand well and love doing.

As stated earlier, these two species of tortoises love to be handled. But this will only work when they’re still young and small in size than when they grow big and heavy.

When it comes to their sizes, Galapagos giant tortoise which is the biggest land tortoise measures about 5 feet and weighs 550 pounds (249476g). With this in mind, aldabra giant tortoise which is the second-largest land tortoise and sulcata the third-largest measures between 3ft to 4ft and 24 inches to 30 inches respectively.

In terms of weight, adult sulcata tortoises weigh over 100 pounds while aldabra tortoises weigh between 330.6 pounds to 551.2 pounds. (That is 149957.6g to 250201.6g).

Should you decide to keep any of these tortoises as a pet, you should understand that they don’t stay small for a long time. Hence, you must have it in your plan to care for it when it gets too big.

Like I said earlier, both sulcata tortoises and aldabra tortoises make great pets even for beginners but the challenge most keepers have is always enough space to house them outdoors within the house which is why most keepers would choose to rehome them then.

From the foregoing, do you think you can keep any of these species? Let’s explore other fun facts about them. Keep reading.

Sulcata vs Aldabra Giant Tortoise: Full Comparison

Do not get frightened, size isn’t the only criteria to judge between a perfect pet from a bad one. The most important factor among many others is a good personality and disposition.

A pet that is not aggressive in nature, easy to care for, hardy, long-lived, and not posing any danger to a family with kids is a perfect pet to go for.

With this in mind, do these two species of tortoises meet these criteria? Let’s find out. In the end, you should be able to make a good choice of pet between the two.

Sulcata vs Aldabra tortoise
Sulcata vs Aldabra tortoise: which species is best for a pet?

Lifespan

If you’ve read our previous articles about ‘Sulcata Tortoises And Other Tortoise Species Such As The Russian Tortoise’, you would realize that ‘the bigger in size a tortoise is, the longer it lives’.

While sulcata tortoises would live longer some other species that it is bigger than, aldabra tortoises live even longer. Sulcata tortoises are long-lived with a lifespan of 105years both in the wild and captivity.

On the other hand, aldabra tortoises live even longer with a lifespan of 150 years or more if properly maintained. Some aldabra tortoises were reported to live up to 255 years in captivity which makes them to be nicknamed ‘you got to be 255 years old’.

That said, if you were in search of a reptile with a long lifespan, then you shouldn’t be looking any further because either of these two species of tortoises will make a good fit for you.

Habitat

The natural habitat of sulcata tortoises is quite different from that of aldabra giant tortoises. Sulcata tortoises are from the hot desert of Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Sudan, Mali, and Senegal where they are exposed to harsh atmospheric conditions.

In these regions where they come from, they live in rocky environments with little or no access to water. Hence their primary source of water is from the foods they eat.

What this means is that their body is capable of adapting to extreme heat even with little access to water supply. For this reason, their habitat in captivity must simulate this hot desert environment.

Hence, when you’re making an enclosure for your sulcata tortoise, you must ensure to make it look like their wild arid deserts. Whether it is an outdoor enclosure or indoor enclosure, to set it up, you’ll need:

  • A Sizeable Enclosure: Depending on the size of your pet tortoise, an adult sulcata tortoise requires a big cage of about 80ft with strong walls. That is if you’re to keep it indoors.

Ideally, adult sulcata tortoises are to be housed outdoors to give them a bigger-stronger cage with lots of floor space for them to explore.

  • Plants and some rocks.
  • Substrates: To provide your pet sulcatas with the best substrates, you must take into consideration their natural habitat.

Being that they inhabit arid, rocky deserts of the regions to which they come from, the ideal substrate for their enclosure would be a mixture of different types of substrates.

Keep in mind that these substrates shouldn’t be loose particle substrates to avoid impaction and should not be compressed together either so that they can dig through. Also, being desert-dwelling reptiles, their substrates must be kept dry at all times.

On the other hand, aldabra giant tortoises are found in a variety of habitats such as scrub forests, coastal dunes, grasslands, and mangrove swamps in the wild. They are native to the Island of Aldabra which is where their name comes from.

Aldabra Atoll is one of the Seychelles Northeast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Their origin close to water explains why they can survive in swampy areas.

Hence, while setting up their habitat you must keep that in mind to ensure you give them a natural simulating habitat in captivity.

Size

Keeping any of these species of tortoises can be fun. But be mindful of their sizes at about two years of age. At this age, they will certainly need an outdoor enclosure to offer them enough roaming space.

Hence, if your home doesn’t have enough space to accommodate it during that time, you may want to go for a much smaller-size tortoise species. This is because you’ll be having this animal around for as long as you live.

For that reason, its size shouldn’t make you want to rehome it soon. Although both tortoises are large, sulcata tortoise cannot be compared to aldabra tortoise.

After Galapagos Giant Tortoise Complex which is the largest known land tortoise, aldabra is the second-largest land tortoise. It measures between 3ft – 4ft as adults and weighs between 330.6 pounds (149957.6g) and 551.2 pounds (250201.6g).

On the contrary, sulcata tortoises measure about 30 inches or more and weigh over 100 pounds.

Weight

From the foregoing, you’ll agree that although sulcata tortoises are large in size, it’s nothing compared to aldabra giant tortoises. The average sulcata tortoises weigh is between 80 – 150 pounds (36287g – 68038.9g) and 2.5 – 3 feet wide.

Aldabra tortoises on the other hand, weigh between 330.6 pounds (149957.6g) and 551.2 pounds (250201.6g). When they are these sizes, their enclosures are at risk of being pulled down if it wasn’t strongly constructed.

Looks

For pet tortoises, physical appearance isn’t such an important determining factor when making a choice of which species to go for. Perhaps looks determine the price and popularity for ball pythons and reptile lizards.

But for tortoises, you’ll have to check for other important factors since you’ll be having the animal around for a longer time. You want to make sure you pick the best pet with easy care requirements.

Beyond knowing the looks of your tortoise for buying purposes, you still need to know how to differentiate your species of tortoise from other species.

That said, identifying species of tortoises by their looks can be challenging as they seem to look almost alike. They all have the same feature of a domed shell, rough skin, and thick stubby legs.

That notwithstanding, each tortoise species has one or two things that set them apart from other species. One of these is their colors.

The sulcata tortoises have a brown colored, broad and oval carapace with large scales known as scutes. Their skin color is golden brown and they have short necks.

On the flip side, aldabra tortoises have long necks, longer than sulcatas. It is with these long necks that foraging on leaves higher than their reach is made easy for them in the wild.

They also have short, round legs with almost flat feet which help them when walking on sand. Because of their heavy shell and relatively short legs, they aren’t fast-moving animals.

Their carapace (upper shell) ranges in color from black to dark-grey with a visible neck plate which is often absent in other species of tortoises.

Active Levels

Both sulcata and aldabra giant tortoises are diurnal animals. What this means is that they’re most active during the day especially in the morning and late afternoon.

During the day when they are most active, a certain range of temperature has been recorded to explain that they become more active at specific temperatures.

For aldabra giant tortoises, they are often seen to become more active when the temperatures in their cage is within 78.8 F – 85 F and the humidity level ranging from 25% – 75%. This range is what they usually encounter in the wild.

Sulcata tortoises on the other hand are seen to be active in their normal ideal temperature range of 77 F – 95 F. In sum, these two species of tortoises are good diggers. They can dig long tunnels that can aid escape.

This is why it’s best to keep them outdoors in a very strong enclosure that the chances of them pushing it down or digging their way out is minimal.

Diet

Both sulcata and aldabra tortoises are primarily herbivores with a wide variety of grasses and leaves to feed on. The majority of the green grasses and leaves that they feed on both in the wild and captivity are rich in fibre but low in protein.

In captivity, sulcata tortoises diet on grasses, hays, and weeds. Aldabra giant tortoises on the other end eat mainly leaves, grasses, woody plants and sometimes carrion, small invertebrates, and carcasses of other animals including tortoises.

In captivity, both species especially sulcata tortoises are once in a while given fruits and flowers. Since these two animals feed majorly on green grasses, keeping up with their diet needs in captivity wouldn’t be a challenge.

Their kind of grasses are readily available at pet stores. However, to save some money, you can grow some of these grasses in your yard.

Brumation

Brumation or hibernation for tortoises is based on the individual species. While some species will comfortably hibernate, some species may die if triggered or forced into brumation.

In the case of sulcata and aldabra species, they DO NOT BRUMATE. For this reason, they shouldn’t be forced or triggered to hibernate in captivity.

What happens in the wild during the cold winter months is that they would slow down their metabolisms in order to conserve energy and survive the period.

This means that they would eat very little to nothing since the temperature wouldn’t encourage digestion.

The implication of this in captivity is that, if the temperature in their enclosures isn’t within the ideal range (that is if it’s too cold) it might trigger them to slow down metabolism which some keepers mistook to be brumation.

When this happens, if you continue to reduce the temperature and amount of day-time light, it may cause serious problems or even death.

In the wild, these species of tortoises burrow for one major reason, which is to escape the present extreme weather conditions.

If the weather is either too hot or too cold they would usually burrow for some time to either stay cool or warm as the case may be. They do not and will not completely hibernate.

Personality

Personality for tortoises varies a great deal between different species and individual tortoises of the same species. For instance, my sulcata or aldabra tortoise may seem friendly and love to be handled than yours of the same species.

But in general, both species of tortoises are docile in nature and friendly. Their docile nature is what endeared them to reptile enthusiasts including beginners.

The only difference between these two tortoise species is their activity level. While sulcata tortoises are still very active despite their huge size, aldabra giant tortoises are less active and slow in movement.

Required Enclosure Size

An Aldabra giant tortoise in an outdoor enclosure
An Aldabra giant tortoise in an outdoor enclosure

The fact that these two species of tortoises will get big as they grow old cannot be overstated. For this reason, their size is always the first and major thing you should factor out before choosing to keep any of these animals as a pet.

Within their first two years, (that is from hatchlings to 2years old), you can comfortably house them indoors. However, when they get bigger in size, you’ll need to construct them a strong and bigger outdoor enclosure.

Keep in mind that to provide an ideal outdoor enclosure, the setup in terms of temperature must simulate the wild. That said, when your aldabra giant tortoise is still small to be housed indoors, you can keep it in a 65m2 enclosure.

On the other hand, you’ll need an enclosure size of about 80 ft2 to house your adult sulcata tortoise indoors. You can keep hatchlings and juvenile in an enclosure size of 18 x 18 x 12.

But note that this size of enclosure can only accommodate your sulcata for the first few months to 2 years of its life. Having said this, you should know that the more tortoises you intend to keep, the bigger and stronger the enclosure you’ll provide.

Lighting, Heating, Humidity Requirements

Sulcata tortoises inhabit hot, arid deserts in the regions where they originate from. In captivity, the ideal day-time temperature that should be maintained in their cages ranges from 77o F– 95o F.

A basking spot temperature of not higher than 122o F should also be provided. At night, the temperature should not fall below 63o F.

On the contrary, aldabra giant tortoises aren’t exposed to extreme heat in the wild as with sulcatas. They occupy grasslands, scrub forests, coastal dunes, and mangrove swamps.

Thus their ideal temperature in captivity is a basking spot of about 90 F, an ambient temperature of 78 F – 80 F and a humidity level of 25% – 75%. If you’re keeping these tortoises in an outdoor enclosure, the temperatures will be higher than this to keep them warm.

Cost

It is less expensive to buy and keep a sulcata tortoise than an aldabra giant tortoise. Depending on the size, aldabra giant tortoises cost between 1000 USD to 20,500 USD.

Since they are bigger in size than sulcata tortoises, you might spend twice on feeding the amount you spend on sulcata tortoises. 

On the flip side, sulcata tortoises wouldn’t cost you a fortune to get them. They’re sold for about 50 USD to 1000 USD. Apart from the buying cost, you’ll need to get its ideal habitat which will cost you approximately 300 USD to set up for the first time.

In sum, to buy and keep a sulcata tortoise will cost you between 1500 USD to 2000 USD.

Ability To Keep In Groups

it's possible to keep these animals in groups of the same species
It’s possible to keep these animals in groups of the same species

From what we understand about the personalities of these tortoises, they can be kept in groups of the same species. The only concern you should have is making them a large cage spacious enough to accommodate them conveniently.

It’ll be easy while they’re still young and small in size. But when they become big, a large outdoor enclosure is inevitable. That said, avoid keeping two different species together in the same cage. Keep reading to find out why.

Suitability For Beginners

From the foregoing, both species of tortoises make great pets for beginners. But you should take the most important factors such as their sizes and cost into consideration before making your final decision.

Whichever species you choose to go for, you’ll need a large enclosure for it in the space of 2years to 12 years.

Can You Keep Sulcata And Aldabra Giant Tortoise Together?

As an exotic reptile enthusiast, can you keep these two species as pets simultaneously but in separate enclosures? YES!

a group of Aldabra giant tortoise on race
A group of Aldabra giant tortoise on race

Can you keep them together in the same enclosure? NO!

NOTE that for many reasons such as the potential spread of diseases, differences in temperature requirement, and behavioral differences You Should Not Keep Different Species Of Tortoises Together In The Same Enclosure.

In essence, do not keep sulcata and aldabra giant tortoises together in the same pen because these animals are from different environments with varied atmospheric conditions.

What this means is that the animals would need different degrees of temperature at different times for survival. Hence, keeping them together in the same enclosure under the same temperature is detrimental to their health and survival.

Wrapping Up

The purpose of this article was to offer you first-hand comparison between sulcata tortoise and aldabra giant tortoise. As with a successful manual, we hope that this article has been able to deliver on its promise of detailed comparison.

For an animal that has different species within the same family, it’s always a challenge choosing from the various species the best fit for a pet lover.

One good step in making this easier is your interest in studying these species of animals closely to better understand them and know which species is the best fit for your personality.

While we can’t impose or recommend a specific tortoise species for you, we hope you make your choice based on which one is easy-to-care-for, which one has a low maintenance cost, which best suits your personality, budget, environmental conditions, and space.

Once you’re able to get all these factors figured out, you’re certain to make a good choice.

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