African spurred tortoises, commonly called sulcatas are very large tortoises commonly kept as pets. Of course, before purchasing one for yourself, you should understand just how big sulcata tortoises get and if you are prepared to care for one.
Male Sulcata tortoises usually grow up to 30 inches tall and weigh about 100 lbs However, It is not unheard of to have a sulcata that weighs over 150 lbs and even up to 200 lbs. Female sulcata tortoises typically reach sizes of 20-25 inches and weigh 70-80 lbs on average.
Sulcatas are the third largest tortoises in the world and need the proper space to be properly cared for. People are attracted by their small size and cute features as a baby.
However, a baby sulcata tortoise’s size can be deceptive to just how large it will get. We are talking about a tortoise that can grow to weigh 150+ pounds and possibly live for 100 years.
How Long Does It Take For a Sulcata Tortoise To Get Big?
It takes years for a sulcata tortoise to completely mature and reach its full height and weight. They live more than 70 years and will have grown to their maximum size within 15 – 20 years.
Sulcata tortoises are a serious commitment. They grow to an impressive size and weight, live as long as a human, and have very specific enclosure and dietary requirements.
However, dedicated owners can easily provide their tortoises with an enriching and happy life. Just understand that you are committed to housing a very large reptile that might out live you.
Sulcata Tortoise Size Chart By Age
Their growth timeline is usually as follows:
- 0 – 2 years: This is the age when sulcata tortoises are usually sold; they are most commonly 2 – 3 inches long and weigh less than 1 Ib
- 2 – 10 years: As they mature juvenile tortoises will quickly reach 5 – 15 inches long and around 30 Ibs; this is the midway point of their growth
- 10 – 20 years: After the decade mark, sulcatas will steadily grow until they reach their mature size of 20 – 30 inches and 70 – 100 Ibs.
Because of their size, sulcata tortoises are not recommended for owners with limited outdoor space. They require a substantial amount of space and upkeep.
Before purchasing a cute baby tortoise, you need to understand how big sulcata tortoises can really get.
Sulcata Tortoise Enclosure Size Requirments
When your sulcata tortoise is more mature and ready for an outdoor enclosure, it’ll need quite a bit of space. A good rule of thumb is to provide 100 square ft. of space for each tortoise.
This may seem like a lot, but sulcata tortoises can be very active and benefit from larger enclosures.
The most important elements of your outdoor sulcata enclosure include:
- Space – The more, the better for these tortoises; they enjoy exploring and interacting with new yard décor, hiding spots, and anything else that may come into their territory.
- Shelter – Your sulcata will need a dry space to retreat to and sleep in; it should be able to withstand rain and other bad weather and be large enough for your tortoise to easily move around in.
- Heat – Keep one zone in your enclosure 85°F at all times; during the day, other parts of the enclosure can rise to 95°F or higher and at night they can drop to 80°F or lower; this creates a gradient with one steady zone that sulcata tortoises use to regulate body temperature
- Water – Your tortoise should have access to clean water at all times; you can install a water feature such as a shallow pool or waterfall or just keep a container of water outside that you refill and clean regularly
Big Tortoises and Big Diggers
But remember: keeping sulcatas isn’t always easy. In their native habitat, these tortoises dig expansive burrows to regular their body heat and escape the extreme desert temperatures.
These giant tortoises can wreak havoc on your yard, especially if your tortoise ends up under your house or near its foundation.
So take this as another consideration before purchasing a sulcata tortoise that can grow so large and dig very large holes in your yard.
The Biggest Sulcata Tortiose I Have Ever Witnessed
The biggest sulcata tortoise that I have personally every witnessed myself I think weighed 160 lbs. It truly was a giant tortoise. Thankfully, however, it has loving owners that take good care of their giant tortoise.
Since these giant tortoises live so long they will likely out live you. Especially, if you purchase one as a baby. So having a plan for someone to take over the care is essential.
Understand that you will be asking someone to take care of a tortoise that might weigh 150 lbs and need a large outdoor enclosure and possibly an indoor enclosure for the winter.
Looking For A Tortoise Smaller Than A Sulcata?
The size of a sulcata tortoise can be quite hard for most people to handle. Thankfully, however, there are some smaller tortoise options you can choose from if a sulcata tortoise is too large for your liking.
If you’re looking for a smaller tortoise, it would be best to go with one of the varieties below:
Or you can search for another small-sized tortoise.
These can be easily kept indoors for the entirety of their lifespan. Most stay under 12” (some less than half of that!) and are very docile.
Because of their smaller size, they also aren’t as destructive as sulcatas, though each species has its own benefits and drawbacks. But don’t be fooled by their size— like the sulcatas, they still have a big personality!
Understand How Big Sulcata Tortoises Get Before Purchasing
So just how big do sulcata tortoises get? As you can see, the sulcata tortoises are very large. They can also live longer than many humans. Because of this, these animals are certainly a big commitment.
However, if you are up for it these beautiful animals can make lifelong companions. If you are interested in getting a tortoise but are intimidated by the sulcata tortoise size, then I would simply recommend looking into a smaller species.