Red Footed Tortoise Care – Everything You Need To Know

Red Footed Tortoise Care – Everything You Need To Know


Hello and welcome to our red footed tortoise care guide! In this post, we will cover the essential elements that you must know. Reading and understanding this article is critical to having a happy, healthy red footed tortoise!

Species Summary

The red-footed tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria) is a high-in-demand pet in the United States. They get their name due to the bright colors on their legs, head, and shells, which can be from vibrant red to orange-yellow.

They can live for more than 50 years and are quite easy to care for. This means that you should be prepared to grow old with your pet as you care for it over the many years.

They are popularly kept as pets, and over-collection has caused them to be vulnerable to extinction


They’re one of the most versatile creatures that have been found in various habitats, like dry grasslands and humid forests. And although they’re generally herbivorous, they have been known to feed on insects and carrion in the wild as well as fruits, vegetation, and flowers.

The adults can grow anywhere between 12 to 18 inches and might even outlive their own owners, provided they receive the proper care and love they deserve. The shells of females are typically long and can almost take on a rectangular shape, whereas male shells can look like an hourglass, which looks like they have a waist.

red footed tortoise care


You can find red-footed tortoises in tropical areas with humid climates, where they can roam outdoors all year long. On the other hand, baby tortoises are found in several places like reptile expos, pet stores, or even straight from breeders.

Even so, these tortoises are imported from wild areas such as the Guyana and Suriname localities. They’re also mostly farm-bred in South America before and are shipped to the United States after their size reaches 4 inches. Interestingly, the farm-bred tortoises have shells shaped like pyramids, while those caught in the wild have a smooth shell.


Even though red-footed tortoises can generally live for more than 50 years, their lifespan can vary based on several factors. Furthermore, it is said that if they are kept in enclosures that closely resemble their natural habitat, they can live for even longer than those raised in human-made settings.



The males are larger than the females and can grow to approximately 13 inches (34 centimeters) long. The average height of females is said to be around 11.25 inches (28.5 centimeters) long. The weight of adult male tortoises can be about 20 pounds (9 kilograms).


Red-footed tortoises have a bumpy, concave shell. Their skin is mainly black with their shells typically being in gray, brown, or black color. Young tortoises have small areas of tan or yellow coloring covering or surrounding each bump. The head may show bright red marks. There are often patches of yellow, red, and orange on the tail and the legs.


In one of the most amazing phenomenons, red-footed tortoises go through unique color changes or morphs throughout their lives. As hatchlings, their color is yellow and brown with orange to red-colored legs and heads. And when they grow, their shell transforms into charcoal black showing highlights that range from tan to bright yellow. There are certain exceptions to this color scheme, and those are the albino red-footed tortoise and the hypomelanistic red-footed tortoise.

The albino red-footed tortoises don’t have any color besides bright red spots on their legs and head. There they’ll start out with a bright ivory color that can eventually go dark into a medium yellow once they start growing up. The hypomelanistic tortoise, on the other hand, has a lack of dark or black coloration, which makes them a light tan to yellow-colored along with orange spots on their feet and head.

Red Footed Tortoise Care

red footed tortoise care guide


Red-footed tortoises need free access to freshwater all the time. The water should be placed in a shallow dish that’s large enough for the tortoises to soak in. When outdoors, they need to enjoy splashing around in a small wading pool. The ponds must also be cleaned on a regular basis, as the tortoises not only soak in those dishes but also defecate in them. When outside the tank, they need to be soaked in warm, shallow water once or twice a week between 15 to 30 minutes so that they can get fully hydrated.


Don’t listen to what sellers usually tell their consumers about handling red-footed tortoises regularly. The tortoises are known for becoming too stressed if you do. What’s more, is that children would usually drop them when they’re spooked. If these stress factors keep building up, it could cause a deterioration in your tortoise’s health and activity levels. Therefore, it’s nice to handle them once in a while and then let them be. Just looking at them is enough and they’re curious personalities are just too much to ignore.


The only way to clean a red-footed tortoise is to soak them. Soaking helps them stay hydrated. According to many experts, preventing dehydration can help prevent pyramiding in tortoises, which is a deformity of the shell that can, at times, occur as they’re growing up.

Soaking a tortoise is quite simple. What you need is an opaque container that can comfortably hold both the water and your tortoise. Make sure the water is of room or warm temperature. And don’t forget about your tortoise, because unlike turtles, they can’t swim. That’s why it’s always better to supervise your tortoise while they’re soaking.


tortoise tank


A wooden vivarium would be an ideal enclosure for red-footed tortoises as wood is an excellent heat insulator and the vivarium makes it easier to control the essential temperatures that closely mimic the natural habitat of the tortoise. You must ensure that the wooden vivarium has to have great ventilation that allows air to move swiftly in and out of the enclosure. The vivarium must be at least 1150 mm (46 inches). It also has to be hot on one side but should be long enough to allow the temperature to drop on the cooler side.

For outdoors, you can provide your tortoise with a strong, escape-proof enclosure along with a mister or a sprinkler to increase the humidity for them if required. Furthermore, your tortoise has to have a densely populated area with vegetation for a nice cool retreat.

Lighting and Temperature

For the indoor enclosure, you’ll have to use UVB lighting, which closely resembles the ultraviolet rays of the Sun. You’ll also need special heat bulbs to heat the enclosure. A 95° Fahrenheit basking spot should be provided along with an 80 degree Fahrenheit daytime thermal gradient. You need to keep the basking spot on for 10 to 12 hours per day. You can control it using a dimming thermostat.

Also, make sure that the temperature of the enclosure drops around 70° Fahrenheit at night. If the temperature drops lower than that, your tortoise may be at risk of developing hypothermia or a respiratory infection. So be sure to provide your tortoise with a pan of water that they can walk into just so the enclosure can be kept humid.


The enclosure humidity should be between 50 and 80%. You can use a hygrometer on how to measure the humidity to ensure it’s kept right for your pet.

Red Footed Tortoise Care – Health

red footed tortoise health

Common Health Issues

There are some common health issues that can do your tortoise harm and one of them includes shell rot, which is an infectious disease caused by fungus or bacteria. This condition displays flaky patches on the shell of your pet. It’s both common and problematic that could lead to a number of other critical infections that can be resolved with antibiotics.

Another problem is vitamin A deficiency. This infection can lead to swollen eyes and other types of infections such as ear infections. Fortunately, both of these problems can be resolved with antibiotics.

Lastly, red-footed tortoises are vulnerable to parasitic infections that can only be detected following a veterinarian’s examination.

Food & Diet

Before you start reading, check out this video on diet (if you want). It supplements our diet guide below.

As we said earlier, red-footed tortoises are typically herbivores, but in the wild, they do display some omnivorous tendencies. It’s really important not to overfeed the tortoises with animal protein though. For instance, one small serving of lean meat or moistened low-fat cat food every other week should be enough to give them lots of animal protein.

Besides that, you can offer them a vast range of dark, leafy, and fresh greens like endive, dandelion greens, escarole, and mustard greens. However, you need to keep track of the calcium to phosphorus ratio shows of these types of greens. You can also include other types of fruits and vegetables in your tortoise’s diet. A vitamin D3 and calcium supplement should be used a couple of times in a week

Red Footed Tortoise Care FAQ

  1. How long should a Red-Footed tortoise soak?

    Once or twice a week outside of their enclosure between 15 to 30 minutes.

  2. How often should a Red-Footed tortoise eat?

    No more than once or twice a week and they need to eat a range of items like vegetables, fruit, animal protein, and calcium.

  3. How do I know if my Red-Footed tortoise is happy?

    Your turtle should be fine generally on their own. But if they’re handled too regularly, they’ll get stressed easily.

  4. Do Red-Footed tortoises like to be held?

    So long as they’re not stressed, they’re fine.

  5. Do Red-Footed tortoises bond with humans?

    Of course. All tortoises and turtles are known for showing affection to their owners.

  6. Do Red-Footed tortoises like being stroked?

    There’s a bit of a yes and no to this. But you need to be careful as the shells have a tortoise’s nerve endings in them.

  7. How do you entertain a Red-Footed tortoise?

    Red-footed tortoises are very curious creatures and are easily entertained. So don’t worry about it much.


Hopefully you learned about red tortoise care form this extensive article! You should have no trouble taking care of your red-footed tortoise from now on or if you eventually decide to get one for yourself. Any questions, comments, or feedback? Please let us know in the comments below, thanks!


Having grown up with geckos and a bearded dragon as pets, my passion for reptiles has sparked once again! When I'm not writing about reptiles, I can be found gaming and maintaining physical shape.

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