New Sulcuta tortoises


New Member
Nov 7, 2014
20141028_104156_resized.jpg 20141022_084903_resized.jpg 20141026_154917_resized.jpg 20141026_155001_resized.jpg Hi all. I recently purchased a couple of Sucutas. I was told they were a breeding pair, however, after viewing some online pics, I think I probably have two males. (For the sake of clarification, I will call one a female, as that is what I was told.) Being inexperienced, I probably should have passed on the purchase, but one of them seems to be in bad condition and the owners were not discriminating. I decided to buy them, knowing I would find out how to give them the best care, rather then leave them to whoever.

One of them seems very vigorous and healthy; the other does not. "She"(?) moves with difficulty, and I can't tell if her shell is bad from malnourishment, or if she was injured? Her beak is also a bit deformed. She is eating, but I can't tell how much. The previous owners had the male for a year or so, and the female for a few months. They said the pair was breeding.

I have several questions and I will post pics. Some facts first.... I live in Southern California in Riverside County. I have housed the pair in a temporary area that is about 25 x 12. I was given a their house and I bought them a dog igloo, which they seem to like and spend large amounts of time in. I have a heat lamp in the dog house and have set the igloo so that the entrance is also very close to the heat lamp. I will need to buy a thermometer to see how warm it stays. I am feeding them grass hay, Bermuda and Mountain Meadow, and I offer them some Romaine lettuce (a few leaves everyday) and some rose flowers. I also clip some fresh crab grass on occasion. The first week they seemed to go through quite a bit of food, but now that the weather has changed, they don't seem to eat much. The hay seems undisturbed, and the other tidbits are uneaten. They are not very active either, the male comes out a little, but I never see the female come out of the igloo.

1) I read that these tortoises do not hibernate. Is it normal for them to be very inactive when the weather turns chilly? What would be a normal amount of activity in the fall/winter?

2) How warm should they be kept at night and what is the best way to accomplish that? I thought they would hibernate and it would be easy to winter them. Having a non-hibernating breed changes things. They really like the igloo, but that's more of a challenge to keep warm. There is no where to hang a heat lamp in there so it is hung in the turtle (dog) house, but they are not interested in staying in their old house. I put hay down on the floor; would anything make it more appealing?

3) For those who live in the So Cal area, what do you feed your tortoise? The sites I have seen seem to have a very limited diet. I don't want to feed them junk like fruit, but I'd like to give more variation then hay and roses. Is there local plants that I can search for and safely feed?

4) What do you think about her shell?

I'm sure I will have more questions later, but that's a good start! Thank you!
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Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Oct 29, 2013
Location (City and/or State)
Ohio USA
Sulcatas do not hibernate. You will need to provide them a space they can bask and warm up. 95-100 degrees for them to digest their food. Also your girls shell is in need of attention. I do not have any tips for that so hopefully an experienced member can help! I would gues the male is bullying her. These tortoises do not do well in pairs and he will "mate" her to death. Can you seperate them?! Here is a web site to help you find good food items:
Here is another good thread for you to provide proper housing for your two

You will have some work ahead of you but if you are willing you can greatly improve their lives, especially the weeker submisive female. Welcome to the forum, ask lots of questions :)

Yvonne G

Old Timer
TFO Admin
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Jan 23, 2008
Location (City and/or State)
Clovis, CA
Hi Robin:

My guess would be that the injured sulcata was dropped and it landed on the front right side, causing that injury. It's hard to tell how fresh the injury is, but if it happened shortly before you bought the tortoise, that might explain why is isn't as active as the other. In my opinion, you should seek out a qualified tortoise vet and get their opinion as to whether this is a fresh injury or not. The tortoise may need antibiotics.

Another reason the "female" might be hiding is that the male is bullying her. Tortoises are solitary creatures and they chase other tortoises out of their territory. Being fenced in, the submissive tortoise can't get out of the territory, so it hides a lot.

You are going to have to provide a bigger shelter for them. Something like an insulated shed. They need a place where they can be warm during the winter. And a dog house or Dogloo isn't big enough. If you hang a light or heat source from the ceiling of a dog house or dogloo, you are going to burn the tortoises' top shell.

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