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What Proteins Can Sulcata Tortoise Eat? 15 You Must Know

What Proteins Can Sulcata Tortoise Eat?

Sulcata tortoises are primarily herbivorous. But, they are also known to eat animal proteins occasionally. Even so, sulcata tortoises do not require much protein in their diet. 

Following sulcata tortoise community forums, you will realize that most sulcata tortoise keepers are confused about including proteins in their pet’s sulcata tortoise diet.

Most sulcata enthusiasts are unsure if they should add a little or entirely exclude proteins in their pet’s diet.

As such, we came up with this article to help you understand if your sulcata needs proteins in their diet. Additionally, we will also tell you how much and what proteins are necessary for your sulcata. Continue reading!

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Dilber. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

Do Sulcata Tortoise Need Protein?

Sulcata tortoise needs protein but it should be plant-based. Animal protein is harmful to them. Animal proteins can cause carapace deformity, while excessive plant protein can lead to scute pyramiding. In the wild, sulcata are said to eat protein-rich food from dead animals and plants.

Do Sulcata Tortoise Need Protein
Do Sulcata Tortoise Need Protein

In captivity, you don’t have to feed your sulcata with animal proteins. However, you do not have to eliminate plant proteins from your sulcata diet. Instead, you can provide vegetables rich in proteins in small quantities.

Some of the typical rich in protein vegetables include peas, beans, bean sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, and quinoa. You can feed all these vegetables to your sulcata but in moderation.

Sulcata tortoise diet should include food rich in fiber and low in protein and fat. Excessive feeding of proteins can cause rapid growth to your sulcata tortoise. And, rapid growth can cause kidney failure, which in return shortens the life of your sulcata.

Animal protein increases the level of uric acid in the bladder which can cause urinary obstruction and can also damage to kidneys.

It is, therefore, best if you would exclude protein in your sulcata tortoise or provide a small quantity to avoid those protein-related health issues.

Best Protein Source for Sulcata Tortoises

What Proteins Can Sulcata Tortoise Eat?
What Proteins Can Sulcata Tortoise Eat?

Like we stated earlier, sulcata tortoises do not require animal proteins. However, a little plant-based protein will not harm them. Some sulcata genera such as Manouria, Cherisma, and Kinixys may need food rich in protein in small quantities. 

It is critical to know what foods you need to provide your sulcata to supply them with proteins. There are two significant ways to provide your sulcata with a protein diet. One is through offering them natural sources of proteins, and the other is through supplements.

Plant source protein in the diet is necessary to keep the immune system of sulcata tortoise active and alert against infections and pathogens.

Natural protein sources 

The natural way of providing your sulcata tortoise with proteins is through offering them animal proteins such as worms and insects or vegetables rich in proteins. However, animal proteins are not suitable for sulcata, and thus you should avoid them. 

Providing your sulcata with a vegetable rich in protein would be the best way to supplement them. However, even plant proteins can be harmful if provided in high quantities. 

Therefore, it would be best to limit protein intake to only 0-5% of your sulcata diet. The best way to offer proteins to your sulcata is by limiting it to only once every two weeks.

Some of the best natural sources of protein include

  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes 
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Bean sprout
  • Asparagus
  • Quinoa


The second way of providing your sulcata tortoise with protein is through supplements. Most standard commercial protein supplements for sulcata tortoises include tortoise chows such as Mazuri, and dry feeds. 

In most cases, supplements are only suitable for baby sulcata tortoises rather than adults. Even so, it would help if you only offered these supplements once or twice a week. 

Do all Tortoises Need Protein?

All tortoises are strictly herbivorous

Their primary diet comprises grass, vegetables, and small amounts of fruits. Even so, this tortoise food contains proteins but in low quantities. Therefore, protein is essential in the tortoise diet but only in low amounts.

Tortoise’s diet differs from each species. For instance, subtropical and Mediterranean tortoises thrive well with weeds and succulents. Therefore, excessive proteins are not necessary for their diet. Some of these tortoises include 

  • Hermann’s tortoise
  • Mediterranean Spur Thigh Tortoises
  • Marginated Tortoise 
  •  North American Desert Tortoise
  • Russian tortoise 

Tropical tortoises, on the other hand, have a slightly different diet. These tropical jungle natives have a variety of available diets compared to subtropical and Mediterranean tortoises. 

In the jungle, they eat fruits, vegetables, and small rodents. As such, tropical tortoises have evolved to omnivorous. You can, therefore, include animal protein such as earthworm, cooked chicken, or low-fat dog food in their diet. However, these proteins should only comprise 0-5% of their diet. 80% of their diet should also include vegetables rich in fiber and low in fat and protein.

Tropical tortoises include 

  • Burmese Brown Tortoises 
  • Red Foot Tortoises 
  • Yellow Foot Tortoises

Tropical Arid Grasslands and Dry Forests

Tortoises from these regions are herbivorous. Thus, their diet entirely comprises vegetation and fruits. However, they too consume low amounts of proteins from plant-based proteins. These plant-based proteins should only contain 0-5% of their diet.

Some of these tropical grasslands and dry forest tortoises include 

  • Sulcata tortoises
  • Leopard tortoises
  • Indian Star tortoises

What are the Main Protein Sources of Tortoises in The Wild?

Protein Sources Of Tortoises In The Wild
Protein Sources Of Tortoises In The Wild

In the wild, tortoises eat what is readily available. Many tortoises live in dry regions where food is scarce. They, therefore, have to graze for long hours before they can get enough food. In most cases, tortoises eat vegetables and grass available in their region.

Most of these vegetables contain low amounts of proteins which is suitable for tortoises. However, some species, such as red and yellow-footed tortoises, are omnivorous. 

They, therefore, get their proteins from insects and worms such as earthworms and dead carcasses.  Even so, these omnivorous tortoises’ diet consists of 80% grass and plants available in their habitat. 20% of their diet consists of natural vegetables. And, tortoises get their proteins from this 20% of wild vegetables. 

Therefore, the source of proteins for tortoises depends on their natural habitat. Tortoises get their nutrients from the available plants in their area. As such, it is critical to know your pet’s species before deciding what food to offer them. 

Some of the best vegetables that supply tortoises with proteins in the wild include

  • Watercress
  • Wild carrot
  • Wild oats
  • Whispering bells
  • Timothy 
  • Tea tree
  • Sow thistle 
  • Seagrape 
  • Rosemary 
  • Pigweed 
  • Napier grass 
  • Mustard 
  • Marigold 
  • Mallow 
  • Lavender 
  • Ice plants 
  • Hibiscus 
  • Goat head 
  • Endives 
  • Dandelion 
  • Corn plant 
  • Clover 
  • Chicory 
  • Bittercress
  • Basil 
  • Arugula 
  • Aloe 
  • Agave 
  • Alfalfa
  • Arizona 
  • Irish moss
  • Cactus 
  • Chickweed
  • Cattle spinach 
  • Cinnamon fern
  • Cornflower 
  • Dahlia 
  • Dayflower 
  • Dock 
  • Desert dandelion 
  • Fig tree
  • Lilac 
  • Pansy 

Fully understanding your Sulcata tortoise will help you better take care of them. As a suggestion, we would recommend you to get a good book. Not to become an expert on sulcata care but will help you avoid the common mistake in new pet tortoise owners.

Last update on 2022-12-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Wrapping Up

A good diet is essential for keeping your sulcata and any other tortoise happy and healthy. As such, it is critical to know your tortoise’s nutritional requirements. The primary nutrient requirement for tortoises is fiber.

Therefore, you should ensure to provide 80% of the fiber in your tortoise’s diet. The second most essential nutrients are food rich in calcium. Consequently, you must also include vegetables to supplement calcium and vitamins. These vegetables should have a higher ratio of calcium to phosphorous.

Protein in a tortoise diet is unnecessary. However, since most vegetables contain low amounts of proteins, it becomes almost impossible to eliminate them in the tortoise’s diet. But, since proteins can be more harmful than useful in sulcata tortoise’s diet, you must ensure that they only occupy 0-5% of their total diet.

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