The Red Footed Tortoise has been growing in popularity for years. They are a larger species of tortoise (11-15″) from South America. Unlike many tortoise species, Red Foots come from the edge of the rainforest and appreciate higher humidity. Red Foot Tortoises are colourful compared to most other species. They are very dark to almost black with striking red markings on their front legs and head.
Red Footed Tortoise Enclosure
Red Foot Tortoises Tortoises require a tortoise table or large vivarium as their enclosure. As tortoise tables have an open top, they should be placed on a stable base and away from other pets or small children. Red Foot Tortoises are fairly unique in that they require at least an area of high humidity (75-90%). By offering areas of different humidity in the enclosure, your tortoise can choose where it feels most comfortable.
Tortoises can go outside under close supervision as they are expert climbers and diggers! It is best to use a suitable run with a shaded area to keep them in one place. This will keep out other animals and keep your tortoise away from unsuitable plants that may be poisonous.
Red Footed Tortoises require a basking temperature of 90-95°F (32-35°C). This is the warmest temperature directly under the heat bulb. The cooler areas of the table need to be around 75°F (24°C). For this reason, it is best to position the lamp towards the side of the table furthest from the bedding area. If temperatures drop below 75°F (24°C) at night time, we recommend adding a ceramic heat emitter. These do not give off any light so they won’t disturb your or your pets sleeping pattern.
Ultra violet light (UVB) is essential for all species of tortoise. They use it to make vitamin D3 which is needed for the formation of bone. Without a proper source of UVB, pet tortoises cannot absorb calcium properly and can develop metabolic bone disease (MBD) this means that their shell and bones will become soft and malformed.
In the wild, sunlight provides all of the necessary ultra violet light your tortoise needs. In captivity, we can replicate this by using a fluorescent UVB lamp which is mounted on the side of the table out of reach of the tortoise. These lamps give of relatively little heat so a separate heat bulb is essential. Our preferred solution is to use a mercury vapour lamp which provides the tortoise with both heat and UVB together. These lamps are very efficient and easy to mount using a ceramic reflector lamp holder. The UV bulb may be switched off over night.
Red Footed Tortoise Diet
Red Footed Tortoises are omnivores and in the wild they eat a huge variety of plants, flowers and fruits. Unusually for a tortoise, they also consume animal protein such as small invertebrates. It is best to replicate this as best we can by offering a variety of fresh greens and supplements. Fruits such as kiwi, melon, berries and apple may make up around 15% of the diet. The diet of Red Foot Tortoises must have a calcium to phosphorus ratio of at least 2:1. This means that as an average, their diet must have at least twice as much calcium as phosphorus. Prepared tortoise diets are formulated with this in mind.
Some healthy fresh greens include…
- Spring greens
- Collard greens
- Types of chard
It is thought that Red footed tortoises eat more animal protein than any other species of tortoise. This can be supplemented by feeding things such as mealworms, waxworms and even cooked turkey mince. These items only needed to be added very occasionally (once or twice per month)
Iceberg lettuce is not a good food for pet tortoises. It consists of mainly water and little else. Unfortunately, if offered it, many tortoises will ignore other foods and can soon become unwell.
To guarantee that your pet is getting enough calcium (that shell requires a lot to grow) we recommend adding a calcium powder supplement to the food two or three times a week.
Red Footed Tortoises are fond of water. They should be provided with a bowl of water large enough to soak in. Red foots also appear to benefit from spraying or misting the enclosure to maintain a higher humidity. They are however, very adaptable to different conditions. We recommend investing in a humidity gauge to keep an eye on humidity levels. High humidity combined with low temperatures can be dangerous and lead to respiratory illness. For this reason the ambient (background) temperature should be kept close to 75°F (24°C) and never drop below 60°F (16°F)
Red Footed Tortoise Substrate
Red Footed Tortoises come from a Forest environment in the wild. High humidity must be maintained across some or all of the enclosure and for this reason, your choice of substrate is very important. The ideal substrate should simulate conditions in the wild. We use a mixture of substrates including Repti-Bark, Forest Floor and Tortoise Terrain. We also add a suitable hide filled with moist sphagnum moss
Red Footed Tortoises love to dig so make sure to give them a few inches depth of substrate to allow this. We like to vary the depth across the enclosure for a more natural feel.
As they are a tropical species, Red Footed Tortoises have lost the ability to hibernate and slow their metabolism down in response to low temperatures. If the temperature drops too much, they will try to sleep but this can be harmful to them. To avoid this problem, do not allow the temperature in the tortoise enclosure to drop below 60°F (16°C)
Other things to remember
When kept properly, Red Footed Tortoises make extremely hardy pets. They can live for 40 – 50 years! We have found that these are especially curious tortoises. They always seem more interested in what you’re doing than what’s going on in their enclosure. With gentle handling, they love attention and can spend time out of the enclosure with supervision from their owner. Remember though that it is not a good idea to let other pets get too close. Many animals eat tortoises in the wild and your new pet tortoise won’t know the difference between other pets and predators.
As with any animal, always wash your hands after handling. It is a good idea to wash pets bowls away from your own.
When your pet Red Footed Tortoise first arrives, leave him/her in the enclosure for a few days without handling. Tortoises get used to their surroundings and any move can be scary to them. many don’t eat for up to a week when they are settling in. There is no cause for alarm as they are cold blooded and do not gain energy from food in quite the same way we do.
Red Footed Tortoises are a fantastic addition to many families and we hope that you and your new pet enjoy each others company for many years to come.
Please do not impulse buy pets. Tortoises live a long time and while they are easy to keep, they do need specialist care. If your circumstances change and you are unable to look after your pet, we will always provide it with a good home. We will never offer money back for a pet so be sure that you have made a well informed decision before purchasing. We offer this service as aftercare, not as a business transaction.
You can download this care sheet as a PDF here Red footed tortoise care sheet