Tortoise Growth Rate: How To Make Them Grow Faster?

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

The tortoise help forums are swamped with questions like how big a 1-year-old Sulcata tortoise should get. Or what is the ideal size of a 5-year-old carapace tortoise? While I appreciate the concern, it is always ideal for researching the specific tortoise before taking it in.

Hence, I am addressing this issue of the tortoise growth rate and how to make them grow faster.

Tortoises exhibit a growth rate of 1 – 4 inches per year, depending on their species. For example, Burmese tortoises develop carapace 1 -2 inches yearly, whereas the Leopard tortoises might grow 2 – 4 inches. Several factors impact this rate, and this growth slows after a certain point.

The following article pinpoints the growth rate of different tortoises and their expected full size. Also, it discusses how to influence development in a healthy way. So, let’s start.

Tortoise Growth Rate: How To Make Them Grow Faster?

Honestly, you can not guarantee or idealize an exact growth rate when it comes to tortoises. Take my personal experience as an instance.

I have two Russian tortoise hatchlings of the same age. Both of them get the same care but surprisingly exhibit different growth. While one turned 3.5 inches on its 1st birthday, the other was struggling to reach 2 inches.

What went wrong? The care was out of the question as I had provided them with the same privileges.

Well, it is because you can not expect all your children to be the same height. The same happens with tortoises too. So when some of the tortoises reach the expected growth, the others might fall behind.

There is nothing to worry about as long as the pet is healthy, receiving top-notch care, and doing its daily tasks.

However, if you still insist on an ideal growth rate, it will be somewhere between 2 – 4 inches, depending on the species. But then again, it is never universal and will decrease over the years. Usually, most tortoises stop growing once they hit maturity or slow down their development rate.

I will talk more about the tortoise growth rate in the upcoming sections.

What Is The Growth Rate Of A Tortoise?

For larger tortoises, the growth rate is faster and draws attention. For example, Sulcata tortoises grow 4 – 6 inches in the first year and 1.25 – 2.1 inches in the following. On the contrary, the growth of small tortoises like spider tortoises is not so noticeable.

Apparently, Sulcata tortoises grow more than 2.2 lbs from 1.5 lbs, all in just one year. But then again, you do not get such developments with other tortoises.

The smaller species grow 1 inch or less yearly with a few grams to add to their body. As a result, the changes go unnoticed.

Here is the growth rate of different tortoise species,

Tortoise SpeciesAverage SizeAverage WeightAdditional Information
Aldabra Tortoise3 – 4 feet300 – 550 lbsThe Aldabra tortoise hatchlings start their journey with a 2 – 2.5 inches carapace. They grow a 3 inch top shell within a month and reach 4 inches within 4 months.  

The adult female Aldabra tortoises develop shells of 3 feet and males of 4 feet. They reach half of their full sizes by the age of 30. These tortoises can be as heavy as 800 lbs.
Burmese Mountain Tortoise2 feet70 – 100 lbsBurmese mountain tortoise hatchlings are not bigger than a baseball diameter (3inches). However, the babies will grow 1 – 2 inches yearly until they reach sexual maturity. Usually, these species become sexually mature by 15 years.
Egyptian Tortoise4 – 5 inches0.2 – 0.8 lbThe Egyptian tortoise babies are born about the size of a dime, less than an inch (0.75 inches). In most cases, these tortoises gain the adult carapace length in 7 – 10 years.  

However, some tortoises might have faster growth and achieve the length in 4 years.
Elongated Tortoise12 – 14 inches7 lbsElongated tortoise babies are about 3 – 4 cm. Usually, they grow up to 14 inches, and their development rate decreases after they become sexually mature.  

Generally, a male elongated tortoise matures at 3 – 6 years, when they are about 6 – 8 inches. On the contrary, a female elongated tortoise can be involved in mating at 8 – 14 years old.
Greek Tortoise8 – 12 inches13 lbsGreek tortoise hatchlings are not more than an inch. However, they can grow about 4 inches within 2 years. These tortoises will be fully matured at the age of 10 or over.
Hermann’s Tortoise5 – 8 inches7 – 9 lbsA baby Hermann’s tortoise is tiny, about the size of a dime. This species is one of the slowest growth tortoises and takes almost 12 years to gain the adult carapace length.
Indian Star Tortoise7 – 12 inches3 – 4.9 lbsIndian star tortoises are fast growers. The babies are slightly over an inch and exhibit rapid growth in the first few months. They gain the full carapace length within 2 – 3 years.
Leopard Tortoise16 – 18 inches44 lbsBaby leopard tortoises are 1.5 inches and a few grams. They have an impressive growth rate of 2 – 4 inches per year. Some of these tortoises gain maturity at around 6 years, and then the development takes a down hit. Generally, they will be at their fullest growth at 12 – 15 years old.
Marginated Tortoise12 – 15 inchesOver 11 lbsThe baby marginated tortoises are 2 – 2.5 inches or less. They grow rapidly throughout their youth and add 100 grams or more every year, even after gaining sexual maturity. However, after 20 years, their development rate slows down.
Radiated Tortoise16 inches35 lbsRadiated tortoises hatchlings are about the size of a golf ball. 1.6 inches. They grow about 2 inches annually and gain maturity when the carapace length is 11 – 12 inches.
Red Foted Tortoise10 – 18 inches20 – 30  lbsRed foot tortoise babies are 2 inches long and grow one inch yearly. By 10, these tortoises will grow up to 30 lbs.
Russian Tortoise8 – 10 inches2.5 – 3 lbsThe Russian baby tortoises are not more than 1 inch long. These creatures grow 8 – 10 inches over 15 – 20 years.
Spider Tortoise7 inchesA few grams – kgsSpider tortoise hatchlings are about 1.5 inches long and weigh 13 grams. These babies will mature within 6 to 14 years. Once they do, their growth rate will drop drastically.
Sulcata Tortoise26 – 32 inches50 kg++Sulcata tortoises are the fastest-growing tortoise. The babies are born about 1.5 inches and experience 33x growth within the first 5 years, reaching a size of 10 – 20 inches. These tortoises continue their physical development for 15 – 20  years.
Yellow Footed Tortoise10 – 18 inches20 – 30  lbsYellow foot tortoise babies are 2 inches long and grow one inch yearly. By 10, these tortoises will grow up to 30 lbs.

N.B. Do not lose heart if your tortoise does not cope with this growth rate. Consult a vet if needed. The pet is fine if it does not suffer from diseases or lack of care.


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How Long Does A Tortoise Take To Grow?

On average, a tortoise grows to its full size within 5 – 10 years. However, the timeline varies from species to species and gender to gender. For example, Indian star tortoises reach adult size within 3 years, while it takes 15 – 20 years or more for a Sulcata tortoise to grow. Again, the males are generally the first to gain full carapace length.

Here is a chart indicating the age frame when tortoises grow to their full length,

Tortoise SpeciesReaches Full Size
Aldabra TortoiseMore than 30 years
Burmese Mountain TortoiseMore than 10 – 15 years
Egyptian Tortoise7 – 10 years
Elongated Tortoise7 – 10 years
Greek TortoiseMore than 10 years
Hermann’s Tortoise10 – 12 years
Horsefield Tortoise10 years
Indian Star TortoiseUp to 3 years
Leopard Tortoise12 -15 years
Marginated Tortoise20 years
Radiated Tortoise16 – 21 years
Red Foted Tortoise10 years
Russian Tortoise20 – 30
Spider Tortoise6 – 12 years
Sulcata Tortoise15 – 20 years
Yellow Footed Tortoise10 years

Tortoise Size Age Chart: Sulcata Tortoise Growth Chart

Tortoise growth rate depends on the species. For example, a newly born Sulcata tortoise is 1.5 inches. At the end of year one, it will grow nearly 10 inches. By the time it turns 15 years, the creature will reach 26 inches of carapace length.

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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 1000 Grams
3 Year Old10 to 15 Inches10 to 15 Inche
5 Year Old10 to 20 Inches5 to 15 Kgs
10 Year Old20 to 24 Inches15 to 31 Kgs
15++ Year Old26 Inches+++30 to 50 Kgs++

Similarly, the Horsfield tortoise baby is 1 inch long. At the end of year 1, it will grow somewhere up to 3 inches and within 5 years, the creature will turn 5 – 6 inches even more.

According to some sources, Horsfield tortoises gain their full length (9 -10 inches) within the first 5 years. However, other reports claim that the species take almost 10 years to reach the carapace length.

Again, the Russian tortoise hatchlings are also born with a size of 1 inch or less. Within 1 year, the babies will develop 3.5 inches, showing maximum growth. However, they take 15 – 20 years to gain 8 – 10 inches of carapace length.

Can A Tortoise Grow Too Fast?

Tortoises can grow too fast, especially captive tortoises. It is often abnormal, and overfeeding is to blame. It causes pyramiding, obesity, high mortality, gastrointestinal diseases, or renal issues in tortoises. Taking action at the right time can minimize the health damage and revive the pet.

As I always say, your tortoise will grow at its own pace.

I have seen owners stressing because their pets are not developing their carapace as expected. So they ask for tips to make the tortoises grow faster. But as you can see, growing too fast indicates diseases.

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Tortoises who grow abnormally suffer from obesity, pyramiding, digestive issues, kidney failure, or liver stones at any point in their life. This rate is higher among captive tortoises. Why do you think it happens?

Of course, the wild tortoises eat only the amount they require. But in captivity, you are in charge of selecting its diet and making a habit.

Tortoises are not opportunistic feeders, at least to an extent. It is because they live on fiber and do not have to hunt down animals. As the wild lands are filled with greens, the tortoises are surrounded by food.

The scenario is quite the same in captivity too. So, what is the issue here?

Well, 4 things lead to the unhealthy growth of tortoises,

  • Overfeeding of protein
  • Overfeeding of calcium
  • Overfeeding of phosphorus
  • Lack of vitamin D3

Tortoises are herbivorous and live on greens. Hence, overeating protein is a rare case among them. However, some tortoise species are known to be omnivorous and consume a small amount of protein.

Those omnivorous tortoises feast on worms, insects, carrions, and dead animals. Overeating is not an issue for them, and they can exhibit a faster growth rate than usual. Check out the tortoise diet from my previous article.

Moving to the second issue.

You know calcium is significant in the shell and bone growth of the tortoises. But when you overfeed this mineral to your tortoise, they end up having physical issues. They will experience faster growth of shell, plastron, and beaks, which is a curse to them.

Similarly, consuming phosphorus-rich food does the same to tortoises. Lastly, the lack of vitamin D3 in the food or the absence of UV rays can also mess up the growth cycle of a tortoise.

How would you know if your tortoise is growing too fast? Follow the points,

  • Go through the growth chart of the tortoise and compare the development. If you notice anything abnormal, recheck your care sheet and look for any signs of diseases. Consult a vet if you find nothing.
  • You will notice fatty skin on the neck and limbs of the tortoise. Also, the pet will have trouble walking.
  • Weight loss, lethargy, dehydration, etc., can be the signs of renal failure.
  • Bumpy scutes, abnormal bone or spine, and overgrown beaks indicate pyramiding and overeating.

These issues can become so severe that your tortoise might die. First, find out the signs of a dead tortoise from here. Then how to ensure the healthy growth of the tortoises? Catch the tips in the following subsection.

How To Make The Tortoises Grow Faster?

As I said, growing fast is not always a good sign. Instead, you need to ensure that the tortoises grow at a healthy pace. Here is what you have to do,

  • Provide the tortoise with a large and spacious habitat. According to some sources, a tortoise should have an enclosure 10x its own size. Also, the habitat size should always increase as the pet grows. While you can raise a baby tortoise in an indoor space, you will have to move the pet to an outdoor set-up once it reaches adult size.
  • Arrange a cave with proper light at one end of the habitat. Provide a shallow water source for drinking and bathing. Maintain a cooler and warmer zone for the comfort of the pet.
  • Feed the tortoises vegetables, plants, leaves, stems, grass, and hays. Some tortoises eat both animal and protein matter. So, arrange insects, worms, or other protein sources for them. It is better to grow grass on the premises as tortoises love grazing. And yes, feed the tortoise calcium and vitamin supplements in the right ratio.
  • Measure the carapace length and weight of the tortoise every month. Make a tracking chart just for reference.
  • Take your tortoises to the vet for deworming and regular health checkups.

Why Is My Tortoise Not Growing?

What if your tortoise is not growing as per expected? Who will you blame then? Is it you, or is there something wrong with the pet?

Well, the answer can be anything. Usually, several factors play a role in the tortoise’s growth. The pet will fall behind if any one of these goes south.

Take a look at the probable answers,

Congested Enclosure

Tortoises require larger space to move, play, or do their exercises. In the wild, tortoises have the abundant wildness to roam around. Hence, putting them in a cramped enclosure hampers their growth, mental state, and even their digestion system.

Genetics

When Sulcata or Aldabra tortoises grow over 2 to 3 feet, the spider tortoises can not reach 7 inches. It is in their genetics.

Also, not all Sulcata tortoises will grow 32 inches, you know. Some will stop at 24 or 26 inches. It is because, just like humans, tortoises carry genes from their parents, which can influence their growth.

No UV

Tortoises require UV light to produce vitamin D3 in their bodies, which activates the calcium potential later. As a result, these pets can grow a healthy bone and shell structure.

What if you do not provide the tortoise with a UV light? It will hamper the growth of the tortoise, mess up its metabolism and increase the risk of metabolic bone disease.

Improper Diet

Each animal needs nutrition to flourish. Tortoises are no different. Feed them good and balanced food, maintain the diet schedule and watch them grow at a healthy pace.

On the other hand, an improper and irregular diet will cause malnutrition and diseases in tortoises. As a result, they will not grow as per expected.

Illness

Suffering from any disease deducts not only years from the tortoise’s lifespan but also hampers its growth. Skeleton damage, metabolic bone disease, respiratory illness etc., at an early age, can interfere with the growth. When sick, the tortoise spends all its energy healing, not growing. Thus, take the pet for regular checkups and take safety measures to prevent diseases.

Parasite Attack

Parasites live off the host’s body and consume nutrition to increase their population. Tortoises with parasites often exhibit malnutrition and slower growth because of this.

Usually, tortoises with parasites show symptoms like pooping worms, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, etc. Therefore, deworming pets can be taken as a prevention.

What Is The Fastest Growing Tortoise In The World?

Sulcata tortoises are the fastest-growing tortoise in the world. According to data, these tortoises show a 33x growth rate, developing the carapace 1.25 to 2.1 inches per year.

The Sulcata tortoises can reach a carapace length of up to 32 inches when fully grown. The babies are born not more than 2.5 inches and gain the full carapace length over 15 – 20 years.

Several things impact the growth rate of a Sulcata tortoise. For example,

  • Egg size
  • Incubation environment
  • Gender
  • Diet
  • Enclosure
  • Habitat set up and surrounding
  • Hydration
  • Health, etc

Get more details on the Sulcata tortoise growth rate from this writeup.

Conclusion

Tortoises can grow 1 – 4 inches per year until they hit maturity. However, these creatures might exhibit a slower development rate in many cases. It is absolutely fine as long as the pets are healthy and eating right. Yet, you can visit a vet for reassurance.

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