All advice given in this care sheet comes from 20+ years of keeping, breeding and altogether working with

 these animals. It is especially important to practice proper husbandry in order to ensure the health and 

wellbeing of the animal. All advice given is solely that of HSR&E. 

While we recommend the following advice, we also understand that there are different ways to successfully

 raise these animals. This care sheet is simply based off the successful practices that we ourselves have 

used over the years.


 Due to the high number of predators in any given area, we recommend that your Sulcata Tortoise be kept indoors for the first 2 to 3 years of its life. It is always best to allow the animal to gain some size before placing it in an outdoor pen.

 We start moving our sulcatas outdoors when they hit 2 years of age. For their first outdoor year, we bring them back inside on cold nights that drop below 55 degrees.

 At 3 years of age, they stay outside permanently and are provided a hot house in their pen.

 It is important to provide the hot house early in the year so that they become accustomed to going inside of it at night before the cold weather hits. You may have to move them in their physically the first few times until the catch on.

Baby Sulcatas are quite easy to set up indoors. There are several acceptable ways to do so. The following list of items are recommended:

When constructing an outdoor pen for your sulcata it is extremely important to make sure the perimeter is buried down into the ground at least 8-10 inches

For larger sulcata we recommend 12-18 inches. Sides should be 20-24 inches above ground level and all corners should be a minimum of 6 inches higher by 24 inches down each side to prevent climbing.

 While they are not the most agile of creatures, YES, these animals can and will climb if given the opportunity. Be sure to create your pen out of SOLID materials that they cannot see out of or over.

 This applies to sulcata of all ages. More on this below. 


Rubbermaid or another brand of tub at least 6” or deeper.

We prefer the extra-large mason tubs that can be purchased at just about any Home Depot or Lowes. Be sure to stay away from anything that is clear, like aquariums. Being able to see out through clear sides can be extremely stressful to your tortoise. It will cause them to pace nonstop because they will want to get to what they can see. It is always best to opt for a solid colored tub.


It is ESPECIALLY important that your water dish is as shallow as possible. Baby torts are infamous for rolling themselves over due to a misstep. If this happens in a water bowl, it could be disastrous. We prefer to use a simple Tupperware or deli cup lid able to hold about a quarter inch of water. This is more than deep enough for your tortoise to drink from and it helps to avoid any potential hazards. Water should be changed, and dish should be cleaned daily.


For a Heat/UVB bulb.

Another item that can be purchased at any Home Depot, Lowes or other general hardware store. We will cover heat and UVB more below.

Substrate and Environment

Materials to Avoid

Under no circumstances should you keep these animals on pine or cedar. Pine, cedar and other phenol-containing woods have toxins which can cause significant health problems in a variety of herps/reptiles and other animals and should not be used.



Babies: 68-80 degrees - Basking: 100 degrees 

Adults: Various – Adult sulcata do very well outdoors. Even in a cold climate so long as a “hot house” is provided. Here at HSR&E our adults live outside year-round. 

Temperatures in Texas can reach 100 degrees in the summertime; therefore, we make sure our torts have a watering hole and plenty of options for shade. They also have a hot house which has heat running on any day where the temperature drops below 55 degrees. The temperature inside the hot house is set to 80 degrees. They are very capable of thermo regulating themselves. We have seen our larger sulcata tortoises come out for a few short minutes on 18-degree mornings to graze and then when they feel cold, they head back inside. During stormy weather if it is 55 degrees or below and windy or rainy, we will lock them in for the night, so no accidents occur.  


UVB lighting is essential to raising healthy, happy tortoises. When raising babies indoors, UVB is needed to help them properly process calcium. Our personal preference for UVB lighting is the Powersun bulb. You can find these in various wattages from 60-160 watts. We prefer 80 W for babies in their first 6 months to a year. By year 1, most of ours have already been swapped over to 100W. As adults in their outdoor enclosures, they will get what they need naturally from the sun. UVB, along with a proper diet, helps with bone and shell development.


While Sulcata are durable animals, providing the proper humidity required for them is important in maintaining good health. Especially as babies. Both excessive and inadequate humidity levels can lead to illness in the form of respiratory infections and a very damp environment easily lends itself to the growth of mold and fungus which can contribute bacterial or fungal infections, scale or shell rot. 


As babies, your Tortoise should always have a readily available supply of fresh water. Babies can make a habit of figuring out ways to turn themselves over on their sides or even belly up at times. For this reason, a shallow water dish is recommended so they cannot accidentally drown themselves. Clean, fresh water daily is also essential for outdoor adults. They will, however, never shy away from a good mud hole. Especially during the hotter summer months.


There is a lot of back and forth on this topic. While some folks prefer hides with a damp moss (sphagnum or orchid) inside for shell development, in our experience a hide is not needed. The babies mostly never bother with them and if you are providing daily soaks/misting they are unnecessary. However, should you prefer to use a hide, you can either purchase one or make one out of a Tupperware bowl with the lid on. Simply cut a hole large enough for the baby to enter and exit, stuff loosely with dampened moss and place it in the enclosure lid down.


Premium Coconut Substrate or other Coconut Fiber Substrate

Another good choice for maintaining heat and humidity levels. Some effort required to maintain levels.

Alfalfa Pellets

Our recommendation. Not only do alfalfa pellets make for a good substrate to dig around in, but the pellets are also safe for your sulcata to eat. This avoids the option to have to add a feeding bowl as their food can be placed directly on the pellets.


Harder to maintain

Carpet can be a petri dish for bacteria and while eating, jaw or claws may get snagged on it. For these reasons we do not recommend it.


Wood shavings

Aspen is very dry and dusty and has been known to cause breathing issues. It requires a lot of work to maintain heat and humidity levels when using aspen. In our professional opinion, this substrate is much better suited for use with mammals.

Maintaining proper temperatures is essential to keeping your Sulcata Tortoise healthy – failure to do so can lead to a host of issues from poor feeding to lethargy to potentially lethal respiratory infections. For this reason, you want to make sure you can measure the temperatures accurately for babies and adults alike. It is best to invest in a digital thermometer. These can be found at stores like Walmart or Home Depot and can also be found online for less than $10 - $15.

You should NEVER use a heat rock or heat tape with your tortoises or put any sort of heat source inside the enclosure with your tortoise that it can come into contact with! Tortoises will “nip” at just about anything, so wires inside of an enclosure need to be avoided at all costs. These animals can easily burn and injure themselves. Heat should come from above the animal and radiate downward for them to absorb through their skin and shell.

Our #1 recommendation for a reliable heat source for your indoor baby tortoise is a Powersun bulb. We have used these heat/UVB combo bulbs for years with great success. RHP’s (Radiant Heat Panels) are also another excellent choice for your indoor baby tortoise. These can be purchased online and typically come with a lifetime warranty. Be sure to read manufacturer specs/directions when using ANY heat source.

There is no better heat source for an outdoor Sulcata than the sun. Adult Sulcatas that are kept outdoors will thermoregulate themselves when set up properly. You must be sure to provide them with plenty of shade to escape to during the hotter months.  

Nutriton and feeding

We feed our hatchling Sulcata tortoises Spring mixed veggies along with Mazuri Tortoise Diet twice every day for the first 3 months. Once in the morning and once in the evening. 

As they get older, we reduce feedings to 3-4 times a week and once per feeding day with larger potions. 

Only offer as much as they will eat within an hour. Remove or add until you have a feel for what they can comfortably consume.

 These animals are fantastic eaters and will rarely turn away food. Therefore, it is important to gauge intake. 

Here is a safe foods list for adults:

What do 

bearded dragons eat?

GRASSES: 75% of Diet 

• Bermuda Grass    • Lawn Fescue 


Safe Plant List: • Hostas • Dandelion • Bermuda Grass • Clover 


• Prickly Pear Cactus (Pads & Fruit. NO SPINES) • Clover (various) • Dandelions 

• Hibiscus Flowers • Roses • Romaine Lettuce • Squash • Endive • Watercress 

• Kale • Chicory • Escarole • Radicchio • Collard Greens (Not a Staple) 

• Mustard Greens (Not a Staple) • Turnip Greens (Not a Staple) 

• Carrot Tops (Not a Staple) • Radish Tops (Not a Staple) • Parsley (Not a Staple) 

FRUITS: 10% of Diet 

• Strawberries • Cantaloupe • Honey Dew • Tomatoes • Apple 

***NO CITRUS*** 

Grazing alone provides much of the protein and fiber these Tortoises need. Mazuri Tortoise Diet will help provide as well. 

Enjoy your new pet and remember to practice proper husbandry 😊