Sulcata Tortoise Size: How Big Do Sulcata Tortoises Get?

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Tortoises are considered to be easy pets to maintain, but what about the third-largest species? How big do they get, and do they make good pets? Let’s find out.

On average female Sulcatas will grow to 18 inches and weigh between 65 and 75 pounds, while males are between 20 and 30 inches, weighing approximately 120 pounds. Some males reach 36 inches and can weigh over 200 pounds.

This article will detail everything you need to know if you are considering a sulcate as a pet.

Read on because it covers everything from size to growth rate to diet, supplementation, housing, and more.

How Big Do Sulcata Tortoises Get?

Sulcata tortoises are one of the world’s largest (third-largest) species, and these “African spurred” tortoises get very large and range between 18 and 30 inches as a fully grown adult.

It will help to understand that the average is not 25 to 30 inches as consideration for the varying sizes of female and male Selcatas have to be taken into account.

Sulcata Tortoise walking

Rather, males are between 20 and 30 inches on average, and females typically grow to about 18 inches in length.

Additionally, in many situations, some specimens have been known to reach up to 2.5 and 3 feet (between 30 and 36 inches) in length.

Due to them being so large, their weight is just as astonishing, with fully grown females weighing between 65 and 75 pounds while males can weigh anything from 100 to 150 pounds and even (in some cases) over 200 pounds.

How Fast Do Sulcata Tortoises Grow?

There growth rate of Sucata tortoises has been known to be somewhat sporadic at best but typically very quickly.

All hatchlings of this breed are approximately 1.5 to 2 inches in length at birth and will grow at varying speeds throughout their life.

two Baby Sulcata Tortoises

It is not uncommon for hatchlings to grow to between 3 and 4 inches (shell length) in their first year.

Yearling Sucata tortoises can measure between 6 and 10 inches within 18 months, while others can reach 18 inches in only the span of two years.

Consider that due to them having such a sporadic growth curve, it is common in some situations for growth rates of this nature (up to 10 and 18 inches) to take up to 10 years as well.

Taking into account all these various growth rates, on average, a healthy Sulcata tortoise should grow between 1.25 and 2.1 inches per annum.

How Long Does It Take For A Sulcata Tortoise To Reach Full Size?

As you can now see, the growth patterns of a hatchling into a fully grown adult are random in the best situations.

However, the final adult size of a Selcata will be reached when they are between 15 and 20 years old.

a man size compare to a full grown sulcata tortoise

As stated, the average length is between 18 and 30 inches, depending on whether you have a male or female, and additionally, their weight will be drastically different.

Thus, you should keep in mind that if your Selcata tortoise has not reached these sizes and weight (between 130 and 220 pounds) averages, then between the ages of 15 to 20 years old, they will continue to grow until they are within these ranges.

Sulcata Tortoise Size By Age Chart

It would help if you understand that it is almost impossible to lay out a chart detailing the average size and weight of a Selcata tortoise due to its erratic growth patterns, and this chart should be used as a guide.

Sulcata Tortoise AgeSize (inches)Weight (grams)
Hatchling SulcataBetween 1.5 and 2 inchesAbout 35 to 58 grams
Yearling Sulcata (between 18 and 24 months old)Between 6 and 18 inches, dependingBetween 78 grams and 5 pounds (2,200 grams), depending
3-year-old SulcataOn average, 10 inchesAbout 4.5 pounds (2,000 grams)
Sulcata Between 4 and 5 years oldOn average, 10.5 inchesAbout 8.5 pounds (3,800 grams)
6-year-old SulcataApproximately 14 inchesApproximately 17 pounds (7,700 grams)
7-year-old SulcataBetween 16 and 17.5 inchesBetween 22 and 29 pounds (10,000 to 13,000 grams)
10-year-old SuclataIn some cases, 10 inchesAbout 4.5 pounds (2,000 grams)
Adult Sulcata (between 15 and 20 years old)Between 25 and 30 inches70 to 100 pounds (31,000 to 45,000 grams)
In some cases, over 150 pounds (68,000 + grams)

Are There Any Differences In Size Between Male And Female Sulcata Tortoises?

Consider that for most tortoise breeds, females are typically larger than their male counterparts sporting a rounder shape and typically having a higher dome.

However, the roles in size are revered for a Selcata tortoise, with the males being much larger than the females.

As stated, the males can range between 20 and 30 inches and, in some cases, even hit the 36-inch mark weighing over 200 pounds, with an average male weight of approximately 120 pounds.

Not only does their size and length exceed a female, but they typically have a wider anal scute (which is greatly divided) and a longer, thicker tail.

Conversely, females tend to grow only to 18 inches in length as adults, usually weighing under 100 pounds.

Research indicates that in some species of Testudines, males are larger than females due to evolution, with males adapting to successfully increase their chances in combat.

Additionally, it could be due to them having to forcibly inseminate females.

This theory could be considered quite viable as male Sulcata tortoises are prone to being aggressive and will fight, ram, and snap at perceived threats or other males.

How Long Do Sulcata Tortoises Stay Small?

Understanding that a Sulcata tortoise’s growth rate varies considerably.

it would help to know that depending on factors that help contribute towards its growth, such as diet, enclosure, lighting, environment, etc., (which will be discussed in the following section), your Sulcata tortoise may or may not stay “small” for that long.

On average, healthy Sulcatas will reach 7 inches by age one and should continue to grow between 1.5 and 2.1 inches yearly (as stated).

Accounting for a Sulcata tortoise’s weight, a healthy average is determined to be an increase of between 5 to 10 pounds per year.

Factors That Influence A Sulcata Tortoise’s Size & Growth

If you intend (and want) to rear your Sulcata tortoise to its maximum size, then the factors that will now be discussed should be highly regarded.

If taken into account, these elements will essentially help your tortoise grow as quickly as possible while keeping them healthy.

Diet and Nutrition

Sulcata tortoises are herbivores requiring a low-protein, high-fiber, calcium-rich diet that should be given along with fresh water.

The bulk of their diet (approximately 90%) will mainly consist of grass, plants, and hay.

A typical diet may consist of;

  • Cheatgrass
  • Grass cuttings
  • Clover
  • Shrubs
  • Edible flowers such as geraniums, nasturtium, rose petals, and hibiscus

Expert Tip: If you plan to house your tortoise in your yard, ensure that the grass is herbicide and pesticide free.


Two main factors in terms of genetics will play a role in how fast your Sulcata will grow, and these are namely;

  • The egg size
  • The incubation temperature

Taking into account egg size, a mother Sulcata will invest more time into larger eggs than smaller ones providing more nutrients, such as shell material, yolk, water, and lipids to them.

Due to this, it is common for larger hatchlings to come from larger eggs, although this doesn’t always guarantee that the growth rate will be quick.

The next element playing a role in the size and growth rate is the incubation temperature which will be directly impacted by weather and the environment where the eggs are laid.

Research indicates that consistent temperature is best for promoting healthy and fast growth in Sucata tortoises.


As you now know, sex will be the determining factor when it comes to the final size and weight of male and female Sulcata tortoises.

Consider that both males and females will grow at similar rates as hatchlings, yearlings, and juveniles, and factors such as diet, environment, and genetics may spur or inhibit this to a degree.

However, once reaching sexual maturity at the age of 5, both the development and growth of the male and female will slow down, but the males will experience speedier growth as they become an adult.

Calcium Intake

That all tortoises need a sufficient amount of calcium that should be supplemented into their diet in order for them to grow as quickly as possible, maintain well-being, and develop a healthy shell.

It will help to remember that calcium is not only the key ingredient for helping to form a healthy shell but for bone growth and formation.

Your Sulcata tortoise is no different, and you should supplement their diet with calcium powder 2 to 3 times per week to achieve its optimal size and growth rate.

If you would like to make your own (DIY) calcium powder for your tortoise, check out the video below.

UVB Lighting

If you plan to keep your Sulcata tortoise indoors, then you will need to employ a UVB light in order for them to grow and stay healthy.

T5 tube-style lamps with a high output should provide UVB lighting, and you should refrain from using UVB lamps. Additionally, these should be on for 12 hours a day (work with a day/night timer).

A 10.0 (10%) tube lamp should be situated 12 to 16 inches away from the substrate, and if a stronger 12.0 (12%) is used, then the distance should be 18 to 24 inches away.

UVB Lighting
  • High-output tortoise lamp
  • Claw-fect for larger tortoise habitats.
  • Crafted to put out stronger and brighter UVB light.

Expert Tip: If you plan to house your Selcuta tortoise outdoors, then the Sun will provide UVB lighting.


The habitat of a Sulcata tortoise is typically semiarid and desert regions, with them being found in deserts, grasslands, thorn scrubland, and savannas.

Ideally, they should be kept outdoors where there is grass with soil that is loose enough to dig in but firm enough so their burrow will not collapse.

This will be your best bet if you intend for your tortoise to establish its maximum growth rate and full size.

Take note that it is impractical to try and house a Sulcata indoors due to the enormous size they grow into.

Additionally, the impact of having it indoors in a small enclosure will cause it to experience stress, which in turn affects its health and thus its growth rate.


Needless to say, your Sulcate’s overall health will be an overriding factor in its ability to grow rapidly and achieve its maximum size.

As such, you should seriously consider the factors we have discussed in order for your tortoise to retain its well-being.

Additionally, it would help if you kept in mind that your tortoise will need to stay hydrated, and a checkup at the vet should be done every couple of months.

Consider that tortoise will tend to avoid water and swimming as frequently as possible, so fresh water in a shallow dish and wetting their shells is a good way to keep them hydrated.

How Much Space Do Sulcata Tortoises Need?

Space will be one of your major concerns if you intend to get a Sulcata.

Due to their size (both males and females), it is best to keep them outdoors or in areas that do not fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, arrangements can be made to keep them indoors if the appropriate measures are met, and they will need at least a space that is equivalent to 80 square feet.

Indoor Enclosures

As discussed, your enclosure should be at least 80 square feet, but practically, it would be best to have an enclosure that is 10 X 10 feet (100 square feet).

Additionally, you will probably need to build a custom enclosure as ones of these sizes are typically not sold commercially.

Expert Tip: Establishing a large enclosure indoors for a hatchling Sulcata is impractical, and it would be best to upgrade as they grow older.

Outdoor Enclosures

Establishing an outdoor enclosure for your tortoise would be best, and creating one with a desert-like theme would be ideal.

The same principles as an indoor enclosure will apply where they will need an abundance of space as they grow to adulthood.

Once again, you will probably need to build an enclosure yourself due to the scale needed, but just remember to have a portion of it shaded.


How Can I Make My Sulcata Tortoise Grow Faster?

Sulcata tortoises grow rapidly on average, and there should be no need to further speed up this process.

In fact, it is unhealthy for tortoises to grow at a fast pace. Thus, you should only maintain and establish the factors (diet, environment, etc.) that positively affect its growth and well-being.

How Big Is A 1-Year-Old Sulcata Tortoise Size

A 1-year-old Sulcata is, on average, about 7 inches in length.

How Big Is A 3-Year-Old Sulcata Tortoise Size

A 3-year-old Sulcata is typically 10 inches in length.

How Big Is A 5-Year-Old Sulcata Tortoise Size

A 5-year-old is usually 10.5 inches in length.

Consider that when it comes to size and weight and due to their sporadic growth rate these are just guidelines.

About the Author
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Chafik Abderrahman is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of

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