Red Foot Tortoise: The Basics Of Keeping

The dry and wet forests and grasslands of Central and South America are the natural habitat of red-footed tortoises. Red-footed tortoises are a popular pet with striking shell coloring and markings, and they are relatively simple to care for. Expect to make a substantial investment in equipment, food, and your living space for what could be a 50-year commitment if you’re considering getting one.

Behavior and Temperament

As long as you set up their enclosure correctly the first time with the proper lighting, heat source, humidity, and timers, these animals are not high maintenance. Feeding, refilling the water bowl, and cleaning up pet feces are the primary daily responsibilities.

In captivity, these adorable tortoises behave timidly, hide frequently, and burrow; this is typically a stress response in the presence of predators. In general, they dislike being handled but are docile and laid-back. Despite lacking teeth, their beaks are strong and capable of biting. Although bites are uncommon and typically unintentional, they can be painful.

In general, you should discourage young children from handling turtles and tortoises, primarily due to the risk of salmonella transmission. This bacteria is found in the intestinal tracts of the majority of reptiles and can cause illness in humans. Good hand hygiene can protect against bacterial infection.

Unlike other tortoise species, red-footed tortoises are relatively active during the day. They spend the majority of their time in the wild digging and foraging. If they have consumed a large meal, however, they can rest for up to a week.

Red-footed tortoises in the wild are prolific burrowers. They burrow to find shelter, escape the heat, and conceal themselves from predators. They feel the safest in a tight hiding place, such as a tree trunk, sometimes squeezing several tortoises inside.

In addition, red-footed tortoises exhibit social behavior in the wild, such as sharing food and congregating in small groups. Unless two males are vying for a female, they are not overly possessive of nesting or feeding grounds.

Housing Requirements

The ideal enclosure for the red-footed tortoise is an outdoor enclosure that is sturdy and escape-proof. This species is native to the tropics and prefers humid conditions. If necessary, install a sprinkler or mister to increase the humidity. This tortoise enjoys cooling off in a muddy wallow or puddle. You can bury a shallow water pan, but make sure the tortoise can climb out of it safely.

Provide, if possible, a densely vegetated shaded area for a cool retreat. A doghouse-like structure can also provide shade. To prevent your red-footed tortoise from digging and escaping, the enclosure’s walls must be approximately 16 inches tall and extend a few inches below the ground.

You can house this tortoise indoors, but a large enclosure is required (roughly 4 feet by 8 feet though larger is even better).

Spot clean or scoop up pet waste for cleaning. Every day, clean and disinfect the water container.


As cold-blooded organisms, reptiles must maintain their body temperature. They require a thermal gradient or spectrum of temperatures in order to maintain optimal body temperature. The average daytime temperature, whether outdoors or indoors, should be between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The tortoise will also require a 95-degree basking spot.

If the temperature falls below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you must add a heat source. If nighttime temperatures fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, heat the outdoor shelter to 70 degrees Fahrenheit or transfer your tortoise to an indoor environment-controlled enclosure. At temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the animal is susceptible to respiratory infections and hypothermia.

Although red-footed tortoises do not hibernate, they may begin to slow down during the winter months, even if they are kept indoors.


In an indoor enclosure, full-spectrum ultraviolet light is required because your tortoise will not receive direct sunlight. Tortoises need UVB rays in order to produce vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 assists the tortoise in absorbing calcium, which is essential for bone development and structure. All indoor enclosures must contain a 10 percent fluorescent UVB tube light equipped with a reflector to direct the UVB rays downward toward the tortoise.


Most pet owners line the bottom of the cage with a substrate or bedding. Tortoises require this substance for digging. As a substrate, use cypress bark, orchid bark, or sphagnum moss, which also helps retain moisture. Paper can also be used and is simple to clean. Every one to two weeks, replace the substrate to prevent mold and excessive bacterial growth.


Red-footed tortoises are omnivores in the wild. They consume a wider variety of foods than most other tortoises. Their primary diet consists primarily of fruits and vegetables.

60 percent dark leafy greens and grasses, 15 percent vegetables, 15 percent fruit, and 10 percent tortoise pellets or animal protein constitute a balanced diet for red-footed tortoises. Feed them the amount of food they can consume within 15 to 30 minutes, or estimate the amount of food to offer based on the size of the shell. Feed them each morning at roughly the same time each day.

Dandelion greens, endive, mustard greens, and escarole are the best dark, leafy greens for red-footed tortoises. Avoid feeding large quantities of kale, spinach, and broccoli; these vegetables may be offered, but only in minute quantities.

Red-footed tortoises are more tolerant of fruit than the majority of other tortoise species. Carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, papaya, figs, and hard melons are among the vegetables and fruits that should be fed regularly. Once every two weeks, they can consume approximately 1 ounce of animal protein in the form of moistened low-fat cat food or lean meat. Three times per week, add calcium and vitamin D3 supplements to their diet. You can also feed tortoise pellets containing added vitamins and minerals.

Refill its water dish with fresh, filtered water daily.

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