Sulcata Tortoise Growth Rate: How Fast They Grow?

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

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Starting the tortoise keeping journey with a baby Sulcata tortoise is more than exciting. Still, you need to worry about a few factors, e.g., the size or growth rate of the pet. You know Sulcata tortoises have a lifespan of 150 years, and up to a definite age, the creature will keep growing.

You need to ensure that you can afford to provide the pet a spacious enclosure according to its size and growth rate.

The growth rate of a Sulcata tortoise can be between 1.25 inches per year to 2.1 inches per year. The Sulcata hatchling is born with a size around 1.5 to 2 inches. At the end of 1st year, the baby gains about 700 grams to 1 kg weight and a carapace length of 6 to 8 inches. It takes a Sulcata tortoise 15 to 20 years to grow up to the full length of 25 to 32 inches.

If you buy a baby Sulcata tortoise as a child, the pet will grow with you. In the following article, I will include the growth rate of a Sulcata tortoise and the factors that affect the natural development of this species.

How Fast Does A Sulcata Tortoise Grow?

The growth rate of a Sulcata tortoise can be between 1.25 inches per year to 2.1 inches per year. During the first 5 to 10 years, the species experiences rapid growth. A Sulcata tortoise hatchling measures 1.5 to 2 inches. By age 5, its carapace can grow to 10 to 20 inches.

A few studies claim that a Sulcata tortoise experiences around 33x growth in the first 5 to 10 years. After that, the development slows down. When the Sulcata tortoise reaches adult age at 15 to 20 years, it does not grow in length anymore.

You know, a Sulcata tortoise can get a carapace length of 25 to 32 inches. But there is no specific way to track the tortoise’s growth rate. It means a 16 inches long Sulcata tortoise can be a 5 year old juvenile or 10 years old sub-adult.

You can not determine the Sulcata tortoise’s age by its size. It is because the growth rate of this species depends on various factors. I will discuss it later.

How Big Is A 1 Year Old Sulcata Tortoise?

Sulcata tortoises are born with a tiny upper shell, measuring only 1½ to 2 inches long. By the end of their first year, Sulcata tortoises have grown to 6 to 8 inches in length.

The weight of the Sulcata tortoises can be as little as 700 grams to the highest of 1 kg. It totally depends on the size of the creature.

There is no standard size and weight chart for a Sulcata tortoise. On average, a 10 to 12-month Sulcata tortoise gains a carapace length of 5.5 to 7 inches.

Hence, you can not expect your pet Sulcata tortoise to grow as big as 8 inches in just 1 year. If you doubt something is wrong with your baby tortoise growth, take it to a vet for a proper check-up.

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By the time a baby Sulcata tortoise reaches 2 years of age, its body length can be at least 18 inches.

How Big Should A 3 Year Old Sulcata Tortoise Be?

A healthy 3 year old Sulcata tortoise typically measures 10 to 15 inches in length. At that age, they usually weigh between 2.25 to 4.5 kgs (5 to 10 pounds).

However, some juvenile tortoises may not gain the usual body length due to genetics and slow growth.I have encountered owners who complain their Sulcata tortoise has barely reached 3.5 to 5 inches. There is nothing to worry about if your pet is eating properly and living a healthy life.

Growth Rate Of A Sulcata Tortoise

The growth rate of a Sulcata tortoise can be between 1.25 inches per year to 2.1 inches per year.

The Sulcata tortoise is the 3rd largest among all the tortoise species. These tortoises are born with a size of 1.5 to 2 inches and reach a carapace length of about 25 to 32 inches in adulthood.

From this data, you can imagine the fast growth rate of the Sulcata tortoises.

Experts claim that you can not predict your Sulcata tortoise’s carapace length or weight at any point. It is because the development of the pet is dependent on different factors. The researchers can not declare a standard growth chart for the Sulcata tortoise for this very reason.

I have managed to pull off an estimated growth chart for the Sulcata tortoises. The data is collected from different interviews, forums, and research papers.

Sulcata Tortoise Age Size & weight Chart

Sulcata Tortoise AgeCarapace LengthBody Weight
Hatchlings (0 to 3 Weeks)1 ½  to 2 Inches25 to 40 Grams
3 Months Old2 to 2.5 Inches40 to 50 Grams
6 Months Old2.5 to 3 Inches50 to 58 Grams
1 Year Old6 to 8 Inches700 to 100 Grams
3 Year Old10 to 15 Inches2.25 to 4.5 Kgs
5 Year Old10 to 20 Inches5 to 15 Kgs
10 Year Old20 to 24 Inches15 to 31 Kgs
15 Year Old++26 Inches+++30 to 50 Kgs++

Note: This is not an ideal development chart for your Sulcata tortoise. Your pet may have a different growth.

signs of optimal versus inadequate growth in Sulcata tortoises

Here is a table listing signs of optimal versus inadequate growth in Sulcata tortoises to help owners assess their tortoise’s development:

GrowthOptimal SignsInadequate Signs
Weight GainConsistent weight gain each month.Little to no weight gain or weight loss over time.
Shell ShapeSmooth dome shape with no bumps or ridges.Pyramiding (bumpy, pointed scutes) caused by poor lighting/diet.
Activity LevelAlert and active foraging for food each day.Lethargic, rarely leaving shelter or exercising.
AppetiteEagerly eats appropriate amounts of a varied dietLack of interest towards feeding.

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What Affects A Sulcata Tortoise’s Growth?

Previously, I have mentioned, each Sulcata tortoise has its own development pace. Different factors affect the growth of the pet. Such as,

  1. Genetics
  2. Gender
  3. Diet
  4. Calcium Intake
  5. Enclosure
  6. Lighting
  7. Hydration
  8. Environment
  9. Health

1. Genetics

Genes or the maternal effect of the Sulcata tortoise often decides the growth rate of the creature. The whole thing works in two ways. Such as,

Egg Size

The gravid Sulcata tortoise lays different size eggs in every hatch. The size of each egg depends on the amount of yolk, shell materials, water, and lipids the mother invests into it. The embryo inside the egg uses all these components for development.

In a sense, the elements inside the egg are partially responsible for the growth of the embryo. Besides, the initial energy of the hatchling to come out of the eggshell also comes from these components.

Different studies indicate that larger hatchlings come out of big eggs. And when a hatchling is born large, it owns a larger size in its life. Similarly, smaller hatchlings come out of the small eggs. A smaller Sulcata hatchling does not have the same growth as the large one.

However, the theory does not promise a fast growth of the tortoises. The studies have found a vague link between the egg size and the later growth rate of the Sulcata tortoise.

Sulcata tortoises continue to grow until they reach their full maturity age, which is between 15 to 20 years. At this stage, they can reach a length of 24 to 26 inches.

Incubation Temperature

The incubation temperature of the Sulcata tortoise eggs determines the growth rate of these creatures when they are inside the eggshell and after they are hatched.

In the wild, the gravid Sulcata decides the nesting place. The environment and weather of the area will affect the incubation of the eggs.

In captivity, the breeder takes care of the Sulcata tortoise eggs. So, it is in his hand to maintain a suitable temperature for the eggs.

Owner: Rusty Fields Lacy

2. Gender

Sexual dimorphism is present in Sulcata tortoises.

Generally, the male Sulcata tortoises are larger and heavier than the female ones.

During the baby and juvenile stage, the male and female Sulcata tortoises experience the same body development. Later, the males have faster growth.

The growth and development of the Sulcata tortoise slows down after the creature reaches its sexual maturity. Why? It is because, after that point, the tortoise diverts its energy in reproduction.

Sulcata Tortoise GenderAverage Growth Rate
Male1.5-2.1 inches/year 
Female1.25-1.75 inches/year

3. Diet

What is the one factor that has a major role in the growth rate of a Sulcata tortoise? Undoubtedly, the diet.

The owners often get confused about the quantity and the frequency of the feeding. There is always a chance of either poor dieting or overfeeding. And eventually, it affects the growth rate of the Sulcata tortoise.

A Sulcata tortoise is an herbivorous species in both wild and captivity. Its diet consists of plants, leaves, vegetables, grasses, hays, flowers, stems, shrubs, and fruits. Almost 80% of the Sulcata tortoise’s diet includes grasses and leaves. The rest is made up of green vegetables like kale, collard green, dandelion, turnip, etc.

However, your pet Sulcata is herbivorous that does not mean the creature will eat any plants or vegetables you offer. High oxalate, high carbohydrate, and high protein foods are a curse to the Sulcata tortoise.

High protein and high carb vegetables cause obesity in the Sulcata tortoises. Overfeeding of protein can lead to pyramiding and other deformities. Excessive fruits in the diet list will upset the pet’s stomach and create other health issues.

Like us humans, the Sulcata tortoise also stores excessive fat. The neck and limbs are the ideal areas for fat deposition. Due to obesity, the Sulcata tortoises can not move around freely.

So, what is the balanced diet for a Sulcata tortoise? Grasses, vegetables, and plants with high fiber and low protein make the best meal for your pet Sulcata. Explore the diet of a baby tortoise from here.

For a feeding schedule, you need to determine the age of the tortoise first. A Sulcata tortoise hatchling can eat every day. In the juvenile stage, offer food every other day. When the Sulcata tortoise turns into an adult, feed it thrice a week.

The 15-minute rule will work to determine the quantity of food. Some owners follow the shell rule to feed the pet. As per the rule, you should offer the Sulcata the same amount of food that equals its shell size. This method is not recommened.

Do you know with a proper diet, a Sulcata tortoise can live up to 150 years? Find out more from this article.

4. Calcium Intake

You can not deny the role calcium plays in the growth and body development of the turtles and the tortoises. A sufficient amount of calcium in the diet is a must for a strong bone and shell structure.

Lack of calcium can lead to metabolic bone diseases and shell softening conditions.

Besides ensuring a solid body structure, calcium intake also affects the growth rate of a Sulcata tortoise. If the meal of the pet contains enough calcium and other minerals, it will grow to its full length. On the contrary, with insufficient minerals, the pet will barely have a smooth growth.

Usually, in the wild, the Sulcata tortoise fulfills its calcium requirements from foods. The species depend on the vegetables and plants that grow on the calcium-enriched soil.

In captivity, you should not take any risk with the calcium intake of the Sulcata tortoise. Sprinkle supplements on the meals of the pet. You can also offer a calcium powder bowl in the enclosure.

5. Enclosure

You know the Sulcata tortoises are the third largest among all the tortoise species. The creatures can get around 25 to 32 inches big and 100 pounds in weight.

To accommodate such a pet, you will need a large and spacious enclosure.

An 18 x 18 x 12 enclosure works well for a hatchling and 1 to 2 years juvenile. When the Sulcata tortoise grows older, you have to move the pet to a bigger space.

Keeping the Sulcata tortoise in a small terrarium will stress the pet. The anxiety can affect the creature’s growth rate.

6. Lighting

Like all other turtles and tortoises, Sulcata tortoises need UVA and UVB rays to stay healthy. UVA exposures keep the creatures active and mentally sane. And the UVB rays activate the Vitamin D3 synthesis in the tortoise body.

Without vitamin D3, the Sulcata tortoise can not absorb calcium from food. Eventually, the pet will face shell deformities and other bone diseases.

All these conditions are linked up to the growth rate of the tortoise. Without proper UV light, the pet will not have a desirable body development.

In the wild, the sun is the natural source of UV rays for the Sulcata tortoises. But in captivity, owners have to set up artificial UV lamps in the enclosure. The light should be kept on for 10 to 12 hours a day.

Owner: Erica Marie

A baby tortoise measuring 2 inches at birth can grow to more than 10 inches in under 18 months.

7. Hydration

You know a Sulcata tortoise does not drink much water or is not a fan of swimming. But to keep the body hydrated, the creature goes to a water source from time to time. The pet will drink water and wet its shell.

Without any water source, the Sulcata tortoise will feel dehydrated. Experts claim that dehydration can cause health complexities, which will eventually affect the pet’s growth rate.

8. Environment

Sulcata tortoises are native to arid regions. These creatures prefer living in areas with high temperatures and low humidity. So, when you are purchasing a Sulcata tortoise, make sure you can offer the pet the optimal environment.

A low temperature, cold, and dump enclosure is not ideal for the Sulcata tortoises. The environment can cause fungal infection, loss of appetite, and fatigue in pets.

A tortoise with health problems can not grow to its potential size.

9. Health

Sulcata tortoises can survive harsh weather, but they are still vulnerable to different health conditions. The common diseases among the Sulcata tortoises are,

  1. Respiratory infection
  2. Pneumonia
  3. Pyramiding
  4. Shell deformation
  5. Metabolic bone diseases
  6. Fungal infection

Any severe illness affects the tortoise’s growth rate. A sick tortoise does not grow as fast as the healthy one.

A recent study found that Sulcata tortoises kept in optimal environmental conditions with ad libitum access to food and water grew even faster than previously thought. Some individuals were measured growing over 3 inches in a single year during their juvenile stage.

How Can I Make My Tortoise Grow Faster?

To grow your tortoise faster, ensure a balanced diet with supplements, a spacious enclosure, a well-suited habitat, and regular medical check-ups.

However, as a tortoise owner, I would not worry about my pet’s size as long as it is leading a healthy life.

I have mentioned above that each tortoise has its own pace for growing up. Sometimes, the genes are responsible for the underweight or undergrowth of the pet. So, if you try to fast the development rate, the tortoise will feel stress or trauma.

You can try different tips to faster your tortoise growth only if any external factor is responsible for it. Here are some healthy hacks that might help you:

  • Measure your tortoise’s carapace length and weight. Compare it with an estimated growth chart to find out the difference.
  • Take a closer look at the enclosure. Make sure the place is big enough for the tortoise to walk and move around.
  • Monitor the habitat temperature and humidity level. The environment preference depends on your tortoise species. Try to replicate the natural environment as much as possible.
  • Focus on the feeding of the tortoise. The diet chart of the tortoise should contain high fiber and low protein items.
  • Calcium and vitamin supplements are a must for captive tortoises. Otherwise, the pet will suffer from health issues.
  • Take your tortoise to the vet regularly. Monitor for any sign of illness and take immediate action.
  • Continue the measuring session every other week and see if there is any development or not.
Owner: Cathy Cullicott

How Big Do African Sulcata Tortoises Get?

African Sulcata tortoises are the third largest tortoise species in the world.

According to different captive, zoo, and wild sources, the Sulcata tortoises can grow up to 32 inches with a weight of 200 pounds.

Again, some experts suggest that these tortoises can experience growth up to 36 inches.

Of course, not all Sulcata tortoises will reach a carapace length of 32 – 36 inches. The average size of the species is around 26 – 30 inches. Generally, the female African Sulcata tortoises are shorter than the males.

The species have an excellent growth rate. For example, a healthy adult male can reach a 20 inches carapace length in 5 – 10 years.

Here is a table comparing the growth rates of Sulcata tortoises in the wild versus captivity:

EnvironmentAverage Growth Rate
Wild1-1.5 inches/year
Captive1.25-2.1 inches/year

Frequently Asked Questions

How Fast Do Tortoises Grow?

Tortoises can grow at different rates depending on the species. Regardless of species, it’s normal for baby tortoises to grow 1 inch or more per year until maturity. Once a tortoise reaches maturity, its rate of growth slows. There should be a visible change in how big a tortoise is every 6 months.

What Is The Weight Of A Full Grown Sulcata Tortoise?

The weight of a full-grown Sulcata tortoise can vary depending on the gender and subspecies. However, on average, a fully grown Sulcata tortoise can weigh between 90 to 200+ pounds (40 to 90+ kg).

Sudanese male Sulcata tortoises often reach 100 to 200 pounds at their adult size whereas, female Sudanese Sulcata tortoises can grow a bit smaller but still quite big compared to other types of tortoises.

How Long Does It Take For A Tortoise To Grow?

Most tortoises take 5 – 10 years to reach maturity and grow into their total body size. However, some species take longer while others may take shorter periods. Different species grow and reach maturity at different times. Their growth is determined by several genetically determined factors and other physical and behavioral factors.

Tortoises reach their full size in 1-10 years, with 5 years being the average timeframe. The fastest-growing tortoise, the leopard tortoise, requires just 1 year to completely grow. 


A Sulcata tortoise experiences the fastest growth in the first 5 to 10 years. After 15 years, you can barely witness any shell growth. A healthy Sulcata reaches about 25 to 32 inches in its adulthood. If you think your pet is not growing as per its age, consult a vet soon.

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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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