Nothing could be more confusing than raising a Sulcata tortoise without knowing its age. You can not decide its food quantity, and you can not even breed the pet. Taking the tortoise to a vet can solve this confusion, but there are more ways to tell the age of a Sulcata tortoise. The most effective way to determine a Sulcata’s age is to compare it with a size-age chart.
A newborn Sulcata tortoise has a carapace growth of 1.5 to 2 inches. The hatchling will grow 10 – 15 inches within the next 5 years. With proper care, these tortoises can achieve a carapace size of 25 – 32 inches when they are 15 – 20 years.
The following article includes all techniques to tell the age of a Sulcata tortoise. So, give it a quick read.
How To Tell The Age Of A Sulcata Tortoise?
Unfortunately, there is no reliable method of determining the actual age of a Sulcata tortoise. Of course, if you have owned the Sulcata tortoise from day one, you can only tell its exact age.
However, do not lose hope. Different cheat methods developed by experts allow you to take an estimated guess at the age of your pet Sulcata tortoise. I will describe each technique in the upcoming sections.
1. Tell The Age Of A Sulcata Tortoise With A Size Age Chart
A Sulcata tortoise has a fast growth rate. While the baby Sulcata is not more than 1.5 to 2 inches, soon it will grow to 5 inches within a year or two. In fact, this species can grow into a 25 – 32 inches beast within 15 – 20 years.
Apparently, you can estimate the age of a Sulcata tortoise from the average size-age growth chart. For your convenience, I am adding the chart here,
|Sulcata Tortoise Age||Carapace Length||Body Weight|
|Hatchlings (0 to 3 Weeks)||1 ½ to 2 Inches||25 to 40 Grams|
|3 Months Old||2 to 2.5 Inches||40 to 50 Grams|
|6 Months Old||2.5 to 3 Inches||50 to 58 Grams|
|1 Year Old||6 to 8 Inches||700 to 100 Grams|
|3 Year Old||10 to 15 Inches||2.25 to 4.5 Kgs|
|5 Year Old||10 to 20 Inches||5 to 15 Kgs|
|10 Year Old||20 to 24 Inches||15 to 31 Kgs|
|15 Year Old++||26 Inches+++||30 to 50 Kgs++|
N.B. This chart is made after collecting data from real Sulcata tortoise owners and different organizations. Therefore, the age-size relation is a mere estimation, not an exact number. So, your Sulcata tortoise can experience a growth different from this chart.
It is healthy as long as the pet eats right and actively performs its daily task. However, consulting a vet is suggested. Browse a detailed growth chart of Sulcata tortoises from this article.
2. Tell The Age Of A Sulcata Tortoise With Counting Rings
Counting the rings is the most popular method of determining the Sulcata tortoise’s age. Let me tell you how this technique works.
- Sulcata tortoises have oblong patches called scutes, which include almost circular rings within each patch. Those rings come in a pair of thin and thick circles. While the thick ring indicates fast annual or summer growth, the thin one stands for the slow or winter growth cycle.
- Counting the number of these visible ring pairs will tell you the age of your Sulcata tortoise. For example, if there are 15 growth ring pairs on a scute, the tortoise is 15 years old.
However, this ring method is not reliable. The Sulcata tortoise can also experience scarcity of food in summer, which will give a wrong age estimation. Also, sometimes, the rings grow very close to each other and overlap. Thus, you can not count them correctly.
Therefore, determining the Sulcata tortoise’s age with visible growth rings is not a standard method. Nevertheless, you will have a close age range from those numbers.
3. Tell The Age Of A Sulcata Tortoise By Observing Shell
Well, this method is only applicable to baby Sulcata tortoises.
The Sulcata hatchlings are born with a soft shell. After 6 months, the changes in the caparace and plastron begin, and they start getting hard. So, if the shell of your Sulcata tortoise is soft, then the pet is under 6 months.
However, soft shells sometimes indicate a lack of vitamin D3, minerals, and U.V. rays. Hence, do not confuse these two situations.
4. Tell The Age Of A Sulcata Tortoise By Sexual Maturity
Generally, the female Sulcata tortoises get sexually active by 12 – 15 years. Sexual maturity comes a few years sooner in male tortoises. If your pet tortoises try mounting each other and involve in copulation, then they belong to the 5 – 15 years range.
5. Tell The Age Of A Sulcata Tortoise With a Blood Test
Some people take their Sulcata tortoises for a blood test in order to determine their age. Unfortunately, you can not do this experiment at home, and an exotic vet is required.
The expert will draw blood from the pets and run some tests. Finally, he will give you an estimated age by analyzing the metabolic profile achieved from the blood test.
However, this method is also unreliable in telling your pet’s age. On top of that, blood tests can cost you $200, which is definitely expensive.
6. Tell The Age Of A Sulcata Tortoise Skeletonography
As the name suggests, skeletonography involves guessing the age of the tortoise from its bone and shell. Though this method offers a close age range, it is expensive and only performed on dead animals. So, the vet will cut open the Sulcata tortoise and take cross sections of its humerus, femur, scapula, and ilium to determine the age.
What Affects The Growth Of A Sulcata Tortoise?
Why don’t all Sulcata tortoises have the same growth? Well, the development of the Sulcata tortoises is linked to several factors.
A Sulcata tortoise will have the fullest growth in adulthood if all those factors favor it. Otherwise, the creature will have an undergrowth or overgrowth per its age.
Factors that affect the growth of a Sulcata tortoise are,
You know how genetics influence our growth and even our personality. It is true to an extent for the Sulcata tortoises too.
According to experts, maternal genes have more importance in deciding the size of the Sulcata tortoise.
For example, the healthy and large mother Sulcata tortoise gives birth to bigger eggs and invests more in nurturing the eggs. As a result, the hatchlings coming out of the clutch will be larger in size. As a result, those babies have more chances of getting to the fullest size when they are adults.
Sex dimorphism is nothing new with turtles and tortoises. Like many species, Sulcata tortoises also exhibit sex dimorphism, which is natural. So, the adult male Sulcata tortoises are generally larger and heavier than the adult females of the same age.
However, sex dimorphism is not observed among the baby and juvenile Sulcata tortoises. So, the male and female baby Sulcatas of the same age will be the same size.
Diet is the most crucial factor that influences the size of the Sulcata tortoise. If you do not feed your pet right, it will not grow as much as it should. Again, the tortoise will overgrow compared to its age when you overfeed it.
Thus, you should strictly follow the diet routine of the Sulcata tortoises. Not only that. You have to select each meal for these pets wisely.
Generally, Sulcata tortoises prefer grass, hay, fruits, vegetables, and a little amount of pellets in their meals. Regarding the feeding routine, a 5-a-week diet schedule is perfect for this species.
Calcium & Supplements
Calcium and vitamins are responsible for building the solid bones and shell of the tortoises and their healthy growth. But, of course, the diet is not always enough to fulfill the mineral requirement for captive Sulcata tortoises. Hence, you have to feed calcium and vitamin supplements to your pets. Otherwise, the tortoises can have slow growth compared to their ages.
Direct sunlight is another factor that influences the growth of Sulcata tortoises.
These creatures can not utilize calcium without vitamin D, so they experience slow and irregular growth. However, as we know, the U.V. rays from the sunlight allow the production of vitamin D3 in these tortoises, which influences calcium absorption later.
Without proper light, the Sulcata tortoise will not grow as expected and have weak immunity.
You can not force the Sulcata tortoise to adjust in a small enclosure. The species can get 25 – 32 inches big and requires a large outdoor space to thrive. In addition, keeping the pet in a congested habitat can stress it mentally, influencing the natural carapace growth.
Sulcata tortoises do not drink water like many other animals. But it does not mean that water is not essential for this species. In fact, dehydration can prevent the healthy growth of these tortoises.
So, you have to provide a shallow bowl of fresh water in the Sulcata’s enclosure for drinking and bathing.
Of course, the habitat environment is necessary for the healthy growth of the Sulcata tortoise. Without the perfect humidity and suitable temperature, the tortoise will fall sick more often. Any severe illness cuts the tortoise’s life span and hampers its growth.
A Sulcata tortoise with never-ending illness will not grow as much as a healthy tortoise of the same age. It is because the body invests all its energy in healing and can not concentrate on growth. Thus, take immediate action if your Sulcata tortoise is sick.
Many ways are available to guess the age of a Sulcata tortoise. For example, ring counting method, taking a blood test, shell observation, etc. Among them, comparing the size with the size-age growth chart is the second most effective way to determine the pet’s age. Of course, tracking its birthday each year since day 1 is the most accurate way to tell the age of a Sulcata tortoise.