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Redfoot Tortoise Care Guide

Updated: Jul 8

Adult male redfoot tortoise showing off his bright colors . Shadow's reptiles redfoot tortoise care guide teaches you how to care for red footed tortoises babies and adults. We have baby juvenile and adult redfoot tortoises for sale.

Chelonoidis carbonarius

Redfoot tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonarius) are popular pets due to their friendly and sociable nature, reaching anywhere between 10-15 inches when full grown they are a great size for someone looking for something bigger than a Russian tortoise but smaller than a sulcata). They are native to South America and the Caribbean and are known for their distinctive red markings on their heads and legs. Caring for a redfoot tortoise requires proper knowledge and understanding of their needs. In this article, I will provide a comprehensive guide to redfoot tortoise care.


These care guides that I write are used daily and followed as law here at Shadow’s reptiles. I am constantly working on improving them and the quality of care for my animals.  I appreciate any and all feedback I receive, in trade for your corrections, questions, and comments I promise to keep all care guides updated with the best possible care tips I can offer linked with updated YouTube videos and the products that I use for my animals.


Enclosure

The most crucial part in caring for any tortoise is the enclosure set up. If the correct requirements are not met your redfoot tortoise will become sluggish and lose their appetite.

You could use a variety of enclosures like plastic totes or glass tanks as long as the proper conditions can be met in them. For babies I recommend starting with a 2ft by 3ft enclosure this size could work until it is around 2-3 years old or around 6 inches. For adult redfoot tortoises I recommend an enclosure of around 8ft by 4ft if it’s just one tortoise a little smaller may be fine but the bigger the better. Once I have my tortoise’s enclosure in front of me the first step is always the substrate (assuming the enclosure was already cleaned prior). My favorite substrate for my tortoises and most of my other reptiles is cypress mulch. Since redfoots are a tropical species and require higher humidity (more on this later) I like to put a clump of sphagnum moss in a corner or in a hide and always keep it humid for them to go into it as they please. You may sometimes freak out when you can’t find your baby tortoise but redfoot tortoises are great at hiding in the substrate. If you don’t see your baby tort run your hands through the substrate and I’m sure you’ll find him. Luckily adults don’t dig much other than for laying eggs, but tortoises of all sizes still like to have a hide or two in their enclosure. For this you can use a variety of things, I’ve used many items from plant pots to roof tiles pretty much anything that creates a little hiding spot for your tort. Half logs or plastic hides work great for baby tortoises. Only 2 more things to put inside of the enclosure before you can put your redfoot tortoise in. The food bowl and water bowl, for food bowls I use deli cup lids for my babies and remove it after they eat but anything flat enough that your tort can easily access works to keep the food clean and off the substrate. For adults I use ceramic plant saucers or tiles, again anything flat and clean works. The water bowl needs to be shallow for your torts to be able to walk in and out and not flip over as that can cause it to drown.

Redfoot tortoises coming out of their water bowl. Shadow's reptiles redfoot tortoise care guide teaches you how to care for red footed tortoises babies and adults. We have baby juvenile and adult redfoot tortoises for sale.
One of my redfoot tortoise coming out of his shallow concrete pond.

I use plant saucers for my adults’ water as well but for my babies I like to soak them instead (more on that later) but any shallow dish works. I have also made them shallow concrete ponds in the past as you can see in this picture. Make sure the water is always clean as tortoises like to pee and poop while they drink and sometimes will sit inside of the bowls to refresh themselves.


Once you have your enclosure ready with the proper substrate, hides and bowls your next focus should be the “climate” of the enclosure. First the “Sun” your baby tortoise will need a heat lamp with a basking spot between 95°-100° Fahrenheit the point farthest from the basking spot being no less than 75° and no more than 85% Fahrenheit, I like being on the cooler side of this. You should have a thermometer handy to track the temp. I like to keep the basking spot in an open area, so my tort has plenty of space to bask and move around as he wishes and to avoid the risk of him trying to climb something and flipping over under the “Sun”. I like to use ceramic heat bulbs because they produce no light and can be kept on at night if your house gets cold, to keep the tort warm all the time. They, however, need to be checked often since they won’t show that they no longer work. You can use the thermometer or simply place your hand on the basking spot to feel if it's warm be careful not to touch the bulb or lamp because it'll be hot. With this we are replicating the heat from the Sun now we need the vitamins that it provides. A UVB bulb will take care of this! UVB is a light naturally produced by the sun that a lot of reptiles including redfoot tortoises need in order to produce vitamin D3. I place this next to the heat lamp so it is directly on top of the basking spot as well. If you could get a UVB tube even better because it’ll cover the whole enclosure. These lights should be on 12 hours a day, I keep mine on a timer but turning them on in the morning and off in the evening works as well.


Redfoot tortoises coming out of their hide to bask and enjoy natural sunlight. They do this to get the required UVB and heat up their bodies. Shadow's reptiles redfoot tortoise care guide teaches you how to care for red footed tortoises babies and adults. We have baby juvenile and adult redfoot tortoises for sale.
Adult redfoot tortoises coming out of their hide to bask and enjoy natural sunlight.

If the weather in your area permits your redfoot tortoise to have natural exposure to the sun it is better than artificial UVB. UVB cannot pass through glass so simply having your tort by the window (unless it’s open) will not work. Overheating is one of the number one causes of deaths for tortoises in captivity. If you are exposing your tortoise to the Sun, take into account the movement of the sun as well as how much shade is easily accessible. I like 50% shade 50% Sun if it’s a wide area (10ft by 10ft) in a smaller area I would say 75% shade 25% sun. The artificial Sun we created can also pose a threat that’s why it’s important to not have anything for your tort to flip on near the basking light, I like to keep that area as clear and flat as possible. Now that the Sun is in place, time for some weather. Humidity is important for all tortoises but redfoots being tropical need it even more! Your redfoot would like the humidity between 70%-80% and you will need a gauge to measure it. There are a few ways to increase humidity, with fog, “rain” or evaporation. Like I mentioned before soaked moss is a great addition to help have a humid spot in the enclosure as well. With a reptile fogger you can mimic fog and increase humidity. Having one turn on 10-15 minutes 2-3 times a day would help keep a good humidity. Of course, this can vary depending on how dry or humid your local area is, the type of enclosure you use and the strength of the fogger. You will need to do a little testing with the humidity gauge and thermometer to make sure everything stays consistent when you first set up your tortoise’s enclosure. You can increase the humidity with evaporation by placing water near the “Sun” this works best with a more closed enclosure and it’s a little less effective with open top enclosures like glass tanks with screen lids or wooden tortoise houses. The third is rain, by spraying the enclosure down with a spray bottle (make sure it has no chemical residue, it’s best to buy a clean one) or an automatic misting system. Depending on the strength of the mist I spray between 30 seconds to a minute 2-3 times a day. With that your tortoise’s new little world is ready! You can place him in and offer him a snack!


Diet and Hydration

Some of my baby redfoot tortoises enjoing a tortoise diet. Both can be found on our shop shadowsreptiles.com Shadow's reptiles redfoot tortoise care guide teaches you how to care for red footed tortoises babies and adults. We have baby juvenile and adult redfoot tortoises for sale.
Some of my baby redfoot tortoises enjoing a tortoise diet. Both can be found on shadowsreptiles.com

Redfoot tortoises have a less strict diet than most tortoises and can even eat a little protein! For my babies I keep their diet pretty strict. I feed a tortoise diet 2-3 times a week Monday and Friday sometimes Wednesday too. Every other day I feed greens like hibiscus leaves, mulberry leaves, opuntia cactus, wheat grass and rarely lettuce if it is donated to me. Lettuce is not very nutritional so you want to refrain from feeding them only lettuce but it is good for hydration. If you notice a runny poop I would cut back on lettuce and fruits and focus on feeding grasses like leaves, hay or wheatgrass. On the Wednesday I don’t feed the tortoise diet I’ll feed them some fruits like mango, papaya, watermelon and straw berries. I do not feed my redfoots additional protein or calcium as they’ll get all the nutrition they’ll need from the tortoise diet, they can however eat protein like eggs, chicken, turkey or rats but I rarely feed it. If I did it wouldn’t be more than once a month.


Like I mentioned earlier for hydration I prefer soaking my baby tortoises over any other method. With all the humidity tips I gave you for the enclosure your tort will probably be getting enough hydration already however I prefer not having a water bowl for the babies because I usually have a lot of them together and they'll constantly dirty it. So I soak them to lower risks of infection or diseases. Soaking a tortoise is simple, you'll need a small plastic tub or bowl and fill it with enough warm water around 80° - 85° Fahrenheit to reach your baby tortoises lower neck but not higher than his chin. Your baby should need to reach down to get the water. I like doing this outside if it is warm enough so the baby can get natural sunlight. I do this by putting the container they are in 75% in the shade and 25% in the sun. It is best to do this in the morning or evening so the sun is low and not too hot. The soaking video should help you understand better if you need any help.


Redfoot Tortoises Handling

Redfoot tortoises are very docile tortoises and rarely fight with each other, things like boxes or plant pots, other animals, and people which I see with a lot of my male sulcatas. Like most tortoises they do not like being off the ground, especially if their feet are in the air and not supported. Being held for too long or moved too fast can cause the tortoise to stress out and too much stress for a tortoise (and most animals) especially a baby can be lethal. You can tell a tortoise is stressed if they are peeing and pooping themselves, trying to get away, or hiding in its shell and hissing. The best way to interact with your tortoise is by taking him outside to explore and eat weeds and grasses in pesticide free lawns, hand feeding your tortoise and taking care of your tortoise by soaking and feeding. They are solitary animals and do not mind being alone but they also get along and interact with other tortoises, animals and people. Once they are older if you have taken good care of them and have been close to them, they will eventually start following you around.


Redfoot Tortoises for Sale

 

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These care guides that I write are used daily and followed as law here at Shadow’s reptiles.

 I am constantly working on improving them which in turn improves the quality of care for my animals and for my customers and their animals. I appreciate any and all feedback more than anything. In trade for your corrections, questions, and comments I promise to keep all care guides updated with the best possible care tips I can offer linked with updated YouTube videos and the products that I use for my animals.


If you wish to support us more directly take a look at our shop or become a member to unlock hidden blogs, YouTube videos, Giveaways and discounts. All the money we earn goes right back to caring for our animals and improving their futures, we appreciate all your support.



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4 Comments


He Nga
He Nga
Jun 02

How often do you change the substrate? My tortoises poop in the mulch etc

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I only change it once I see it really dirty, I can’t give you an accurate answer since I keep dozens of babies in one enclosure where you keep one or a few. I think you can change it every 3-6 months and be fine. They don’t make much of a mess.

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Chelsea Girl
Chelsea Girl
Sep 24, 2023

For a 1st-time reptile owner, (RF tort.) this was very helpful. Thank you! 🐢💛

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Thank you for your comment! I am glad this care guide helped you care for your redfoot :) If you ever have any questions please come back and leave them here.

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Meet the author

I have always been passionate about animals and their care. As the founder of Shadow's Reptiles (An online pet store), I feel responsible to share my knowledge through my educational animal shows, blogs and videos. I have dedicated part of my life to educating others on the unique needs of reptiles and animals in general. I aggressively research all animals that are coming into my care and I write these care guides as proof to myself that I am knowledgeable enough to care for said animal. I don't know everything but I do however know that I go above

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