Sulcata Diet Sheet

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5 Year Member
Oct 17, 2009
Location (City and/or State)
SF Valley, SoCal
There are many different opinions regarding what a sulcata should and should not eat. The diet sheet below is deigned to provide a basic understanding of a sully’s dietary needs. It does not cover every possible feeding scenario. Ultimately, it is up to you to ensure that your tort receives the vitamins and nutrients it needs. Do your research and use your common sense.

(This diet sheet is also sufficient for Leopards, Desert Torts, Stars, and Mediterranean Tortoises.)

Summary at a Glance

  • Provide variation in your sully's diet. The more variety you provide, the better the chances your tort is getting all the necessary nutrients.
  • Provide a fiber-rich diet based primarily on grasses and weeds. Include foods rich in calcium.
  • Vitamin D is essential. The best way to get vitamin D is through exposure to natural sunlight.
  • Never Provide commercial foods not specifically designed for tortoises, such as dog food or cat food.
  • Water should be available to your tortoise all times.

Nutritious Foods for your Tortoise
A sulcata’s diet should consist primarily of grasses and weeds. Below is a list of nutritious options. Feeding a wide variety of plants will ensure that your sulcata is getting all the nutrients it needs. This list is not all-inclusive and there are many many more great options plants not listed here. Wikipedia links have been added to make it easier for you to find more info & pictures of the plants.

Great Weeds and Grasses for a High Fiber Tortoise Diet

Calcium Power Foods

If you must buy at a Grocery Store, here are some good Options

Other Considerations

:tort:Fruits and Flowers: Grazing tortoise species such as sulcatas will opportunistically eat sugary foods such as fruits and flowers when they come across them in the wild. These foods make up a small percent of their diet. These foods benefit the tortoise by providing nutrients and dietary variation. If you choose to give your torts fruits and/or flowers, do so in moderation. Excessive amounts of these foods may be detrimental to the tort’s overall health. This is because high levels of sugar can raise the pH in a tort’s digestive tract. An increased pH may kill off beneficial bacteria within the tort’s digestive system.

:tort:Animal protein: The amount of protein and the form of protein a sulcata requires is debatable. Sulcatas are opportunistic feeders and have been known to eat high protein foods, such as dead birds and carnivore feces, in the wild. However, meat makes up a very small percent of their diet. Sulcatas are herbivores. Their digestive system is not designed to digest animal protein in the same way humans, cats, and dogs digest protein. In addition, many owners believe that excess protein may contribute to growth malformations (also debatable). As such, avoid animal protein such meat and dairy products. Instead, include plant protein as part of a varied diet. NEVER FEED YOUR SULCATA DOG OR CAT FOOD OR ANY COMMERCIAL FOOD NOT SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED FOR TORTOISES.

:tort:Calcium: Sulcata tortoises require alot of calcium in their diet. Feeding them calcium rich foods will ensure that they get this vital mineral. This mineral is particularly vital in the tort’s first year of life. Insufficient calcium levels can lead to serious bone deformation and long term health complications.

:tort:Calcium Supplements: Calcium supplementation is not required if a tort is eating a high calcium diet. Many plants, including oputunia cactus, dandelion greens, grape leaves, mulberry leaves, and many more are high in calcium.

Some sully owners choose to supplement. One way to ensure that a tort has enough calcium is to leave a cuddlebone or calcium block in their enclosure. Ideally, the sully will nibble on the cuddlebone or calcium block when it needs calcium. Using a cuddlebone or calcium block is a good way to provide enough calcium without fear of overdosing the tortoise with too much of the mineral.

Many owners use calcium powder if they believe that their tort is not getting enough calcium in their diet. Calcium powder can be sprinkled over food once or twice weekly. Mixing calcium powder with water and spritzing over greens with a spray bottle is a great way to get the calcium powder to stick to the food.

:tort:Oxalic Acid- Some plants contain significant levels of a compound called oxalic acid. Some studies indicate that this compound may affect calcium absorption. As such, you may want to limit oxalic acids in your torts diet. A list of oxalic acid levels for store bought greens can be found here:

:tort:Natural Sunlight: Sulcatas need Vitamin D to absorb the calcium provided in their diet. The best way to ensure that your tort is getting the required Vitamin D is house your tort in an outdoor enclosure where it is free to bask in the sun at will. Another option is to allow the animal to graze outdoors daily in natural sunlight. During colder seasons where outdoor time is not possible, an artificial UVB bulb can be used to fulfill the tort’s Vitamin D requirements.

:tort:Water: Water is a vital part of a sulcata’s diet. ALWAYS have water available within the enclosure for your torts to drink. A tortoise does NOT get all the water it needs from the plants it eats.

:tort:Calcium:phosphorus ratios - Some plants contain significant levels of phosphorus. Calcium and Phosphorus are both necessary to build healthy bone tissue. However, the tort needs much less phosphorus than calcium. In addition, some studies indicate that phosphorus may affect calcium absorption. Aim for foods that have high calcium levels, but low phosphorus levels. Ideally, aim for a ratio of greater or equal to 2:1. A calcium:phosphorus ratio table for popular store-bought greens can be found here:

:tort:Variation: The key to a good diet is variation. Provide as much variation as you can to ensure that your tort is getting a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients. The cheapest and easiest way to ensure that your tort is getting variation is to grow your own tortoise garden. You can find seeds online and at hardware & gardening shops. Some online retailers, including Carolina Pet Supply and sell premixed tortoise seed packets.

:tort:Toxins- Make sure that any plants you feed to your tortoise have not been treated with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. Wash all store-bought greens thoroughly. Check the ASPCA website and other sources to confirm that you not placing a toxic plant in a place where your tort can access it.

Edited 1/7/2014 - SS
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