Baby Sulcata Tortoise Feeding Guide For Beginners

Baby Sulcata Tortoise Feeding Guide For Beginners

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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What can be more heart-warming than getting a baby Sulcata tortoise? But wait. Owning a tortoise is not everything.

You have to ensure top-notch care for the pet. Most beginners struggle to find out the proper feeding guide for the baby Sulcata tortoise. In this article, I am going to clear all those doubts.

The baby Sulcata tortoise diet consists of grass, weeds, edible plants, broad leaves, and fruits. Never for once feed your Sulcata hatchling insects or worms. The plants and grasses are enough for fulfilling their protein requirements.

Read this article to the end and get a fool-proof feeding guide for a baby Sulcata tortoise.

Baby Sulcata Tortoise Feeding Guide For Beginners

There is barely any difference in the food habits of a baby and an adult Sulcata tortoise. Maybe only the meal gap and the quantity vary from age to age. Other than that, the diet chart and favorite food list stay the same.

What Is The Best Thing To Feed A Baby Sulcata Tortoise?

The baby Sulcata tortoise diet includes the following items,

  • Grass
  • Weed
  • Vegetables
  • Edible plants
  • Fruits
  • Pellets

According to experts, each meal of a Sulcata tortoise should not exceed 80% of grass and hay and 20% of greens. If you decide to include a treat in the meal, make sure to keep it 10% or less.

Now, what are the safe food options for the baby Sulcata tortoise? Let’s explore.

Grass And Hay

Sulcata tortoise is a grazing species, and many beginners do not realize it. Yes, you can add greens, vegetables, and fruits to the food list, but the grass is not replaceable. Experts advise including 80% grass in the daily meal of a baby Sulcata tortoise.

Multiple grass options are available for your baby Sulcata tortoise. Such as,

  • Barley grass
  • Bermuda grass
  • Big bluestem grass
  • Buffalo grass
  • Cat grass
  • Couch grass
  • Carex grass
  • Creeping red fescue grass
  • Dallisgrass
  • Fescue grass
  • Kikuyu grass
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Little bluestem grass
  • Oat grass
  • Orchardgrass
  • Pampas grass
  • Ryegrass
  • Timothy grass
  • Wheatgrass

It is always better if you have yard grass. This way, you can just let the baby Sulcata tortoise graze all by itself. See, it is not necessary to grow multiple types of grasses. One or two kinds will work. But yes, do not put pesticides in the grass area and keep the yard clean of cat or dog poop.

However, it is not at all mandatory to have a grassy yard. You can buy grass from the pet store in bulk and feed your baby Sulcata tortoise. Some owners prefer to grow grass in small pots or the tortoise habitat.

Owners often mix grass and hay and feed the baby tortoise. Orchard hay, timothy hay, oat hay, etc., are safer options for the hatchling Sulcata tortoise.


Another popular and excellent diet option for baby Sulcata tortoise is weed. You can pull out the fresh weed from your garden. But yes, not all the weeds are safer for the baby. You must avoid the bad weed and only choose the good ones.

Here is a list of safe weeds for baby Sulcata tortoise,

  • Acanthus
  • Broadleaf plantain
  • Bindweed
  • Clovers
  • Cats ear
  • Chickweed
  • Dandelion
  • Filaree
  • Goat head weed
  • Hawksbreed
  • Hawkbit
  • Honeysuckle
  • Henbit
  • Ivy-leaved loaf
  • Mallow
  • Milk thistle
  • Narrow-leaf plantain
  • Nettle
  • Pricky sow thistle
  • Robina
  • Small sow thistle
  • Sedums
  • Trefoil
  • Vetches
  • Wild clematis

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The baby Sulcata tortoise diet includes a little amount of green, around 20%. I know vegetables and edible plants are not as important as grasses and hays. Yet, you can not ignore its significance.

A baby Sulcata can not eat all kinds of vegetables and plants. I am listing the safe options below,

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Chicory
  • Carrots
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Mesclun lettuce
  • Oakleaf
  • Peeper
  • Pumpkin
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Radicchio
  • Squash
  • Spring mix lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Turnip
  • Watercress


Fruit is not a mandatory diet for the baby Sulcata tortoise. It simply is a treat to their taste bud. Sometimes the hatchlings get tired of eating the same type of food and get bored. A fruity treat will definitely help them to increase their appetite.

So, which fruits do the baby Sulcata tortoises love? Here are some suggestions,

  • Strawberry
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cactus fruits
  • Banana
  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Papaya
  • Fig
  • Peaches
  • Apple
  • Pineapple
  • Melon
  • Berries, etc.

Fruits are high in sugar content, and hence, too much fruit is harmful to the baby. The baby Sulcata tortoise will keep eating the fruity treat even when it is not hungry.


Pellets are processed foods specially designed for tortoises. So, they are safe for the baby Sulcata tortoise. Pellets contain nutrients, which supplement the meals of the tortoise.

Pellets are all good and full of vitamins. Yet, it is not advisable to totally depend on these processed foods. You should feed your baby tortoise natural and pesticide-free foods.

Foods You Should Never Feed Your Baby Sulcata Tortoise

Baby Sulcata tortoises have more appetite than an adult one. They might eat anything you throw at them. But of course, you should not.

Tortoise meals mostly contain grasses and greens. So, there is always a risk of feeding toxic or poisonous food. I suggest you check the plants or grasses you have picked up for your baby Sulcata tortoise or buy them from the pet store.

However, you should have a minimum idea about the forbidden food list for a baby Sulcata tortoise. Here are a few items you should never offer the baby,

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Mustard greens
  • Citrus fruits
  • Olive
  • Artichokes
  • Avocados
  • Grain and grain products
  • Legumes
  • Root vegetables
  • Sugary food
  • Dairy items
  • High protein foods
  • Bakery items
  • Processed food
  • Hot food
  • Tofu

The list does not end here. I suggest you ask your vet before adding any new unknown item to the diet list.

How Much Should I Feed My Baby Sulcata Tortoise?

1/4 cup of grass, weed and greens is mandatory for the baby Sulcata tortoises up to 6 months. Once the babies reach 8 to 12 months, 1/4 to 1/2 of balanced food is enough. If your baby Sulcata tortoise seems to devour the whole meal quickly, allow it to eat a little extra.

Babies are vulnerable and require more food to develop their bodies and immune system. But yes, they can not eat as much as young or adult tortoises.

I always suggest feeding baby Sulcata tortoises natural food items. When you add pellets to the meal, make sure the amount never exceeds 1 to 4% of the tortoise body weight.

If you feel your tortoise requires additional vitamin and mineral supplements, ask a vet. Never feed your pet anything without the expert’s consent.

How Much Should You Feed A Baby Sulcata Tortoise?

If you are too confused to determine the quantity of the baby Sulcata tortoise meal, pick any of the following rules given below,

  • 15-Minute Rule
  • The Head Method

15-Minute Rule

Experts believe that a tortoise eats the necessary amount of food in the first 15 minutes. So, the best way to decide the food quantity is to leave more than enough food in front of your baby Sulcata tortoise for 15 minutes. The baby will eat the necessary amount in that period.

Remove the leftovers and no more tasks. Do not feed the baby more than the required amount, even if it begs for food.

The Head Method

According to this rule, you need to imagine a bowl about the size of your baby tortoise’s head. Now fill it with grass and greens. Experts believe the amount will be enough to keep your baby tortoise functional and healthy.

How Often Should You Feed A Baby Sulcata Tortoise?

Baby Sulcata tortoises require more food to gain more energy and a healthy growth rate. That is why it is mandatory to feed the hatchling every day for the first 1 or 2 years.

You can divide the meals into two halves and offer them every morning and evening. Tortoises have the most appetite in those hours.

What happens if you fail to feed the tortoise every day? It will suffer from malnutrition and vitamin deficiency. The food habit affects the health and physical growth of the baby Sulcata tortoise.

Baby Sulcata Tortoise Dietary Issues

Insufficient food or the wrong diet chart leads to health issues and makes the baby Sulcata tortoise weak. Hence, as a responsible owner, you must have primary knowledge about these health conditions and tricks to prevent them.

Such dietary conditions are,

  • Hypovitaminosis
  • Pyramiding
  • Metabolic bone disease
  • Overfeeding


Lack of vitamin A causes hypovitaminosis A or vitamin A deficiency. If you fail to feed your tortoise a balanced diet, the chances of this health condition increase. Some symptoms of this disease are,

  • Lethargy
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Shut eyelid
  • Sunken eyes
  • Tissue build-up on eye

If your baby Sulcata tortoise is exhibiting any of these signs, rush to the vet as soon as possible. The expert will have the tortoise examined and prescribe necessary medicines. Antibiotic and vitamin A shots along with a balanced diet can cure the disease.


Pyramiding is a common health issue among the Sulcata tortoise. You will notice a deformed shell if your baby Sulcata tortoise is suffering from pyramiding.

The diet is not alone responsible for the disease. Here are the possible reasons for pyramiding,

  • Incorrect housing
  • Lack of vitamin D and sunlight
  • Dehydration
  • Overfeeding
  • Excessive fat and protein
  • Imbanaced calcium and phosphorus in meals, etc.

A balanced diet, well-arranged habitat, and prescribed medicines will get your baby Sulcata tortoise better.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Lack of UV light hampers the production of vitamin D3 and calcium absorption. It leads to the deformation of bones and shells. The condition is often referred to as MBD or metabolic bone disease.

Bumpy and soft shells are the signs that something is wrong with your little buddy. If the disease goes untreated for long, it gets severe and causes permanent damage to the baby. A high-quality UV lamp and a balanced diet always help in such conditions.


Overfeeding brings no benefit to anyone. If you feed your baby Sulcata tortoise more than necessary, it will suffer from obesity. Liver and kidney failure or complexities often occur due to overfeeding. You can easily ignore the condition by following the proper feeding schedule of the baby Sulcata tortoise.


A baby Sulcata tortoise requires more food than the young or adult ones. Grass and hay are more significant for these babies than vegetables and greens. Do not overfeed the tortoise. Instead, follow a proper feeding routine and consult a vet anytime necessary.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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