How to look after a Redfoot tortoise

Red Foot Tortoises are the more curious personalities of the various types of tortoise and are a joy to keep as pets.
They do however require proper housing to meet their needs and a good stable diet.
It is important to do your research before deciding if the Red Foot tortoise is the right pet for you, so we at PB Animal Adventures would like to offer you our advice on this to help you out by answering the most frequently asked questions we have from our customers that book us for birthday parties etc.


How big do Red Foot Tortoises get?
They tend to grow to about 12-18” which is approximately the size of a dinner plate.


How long do they live?
Red Foot Tortoise can live for up to 50 years, if not a bit longer in captivity.


How can you tell the difference between a male and a female?
Females have much shorter tails and the males have a concave plastron. Red Foot Tortoises can’t be sexed until they reach 6-7” as it can be difficult to do this accurately before they reach this size.
Check out the picture below so you can see visually what we are talking about.



What type of housing is best for my tortoise?
Most people recommend a vivarium so that the humidity can be easily maintained.
The most recommended size of vivarium is (48″x24″x24″) as this enable the tortoise enough room to explore and move around. We often have the tortoises out exploring our HQ to enable them to be stimulated and exercise providing it’s not too cold in the office.
The tortoise should have a shallow water bowel for them to maintain hydration. (Must be shallow to prevent them from drowning).
There should be a UVB light which synthesises sun rays and therefore Vitamin D, enabling the tortoises to metabolise calcium (helping them to grow). Without the UVB light the tortoise will develop serious disease problems. The bulb needs changing every 6-8 months, as although they look like they are doing their job, the UV is less effective after this time.
Tortoises like to have shelter in their vivarium so they have a place to hide and relax. There are lots of inventive ways you can do this; we use bricks as you can see in the photo below as the tortoises can’t move them as they are too heavy.

Set Up


What humidity would is best for my tortoise?
Redfoot tortoises come from South America with their habitats being anything from grasslands to humid rainforests.
When we first got our Red Foot Tortoises we found lots of conflicting advice about the humidity levels and housing for them on the internet and from vets we asked.
The best advice we can give you is try the basic recommendations that are about to follow and adapt them to what your tortoise responds to better, meaning remaining healthy and active. This has worked well for us and we have really healthy tortoises.
Most people recommend a vivarium so that the humidity can be controlled with a bit more ease. Most also recommend a humidity level of 70-80% which can be measured with a hydrometer.
We found that a couple of shallow water bowls and a spray of the enclosure 2-3 times a week maintain the humidity well.
It is important to ensure you don’t go overboard with trying to keep the vivarium humid as this can cause the tortoise respiratory problems.


What Substrate do we use?

We use orchid bark as we find this helps with the humidity and is easy to keep clean.


What temperature should I keep my Red Foot Tortoises Vivarium?
We use a basking lamp on a thermostat linked to a temperature gauge that sits within the vivarium to maintain a good temperature. The Vivarium should be big enough to enable the tortoise to choose to warm itself in the warm end where the basking lamp is or the cooler end.
It is recommended that during the day the temperature is maintained at 29-32 °c and at night around 20 – 27°c. The thermostat will help you achieve this with ease.

We also have a thermometer at each end of the vivarium as a back up to gauge the temperature just in case the thermostat is not working correctly.


What do I feed a Red Foot Tortoise?
Red Foot Tortoises like any other animal like a variety of foods and will get bored if fed the same old things all of the time.
Red foot tortoises are omnivorous and will occasionally feed on small animals such as mice, rats and chicks (Usually found dead on the ground their travels). They eat vegetables including dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette, peppers. They eat non-citric fruits such as papaya, mango, apples, strawberries, blackberries, cactus fruit and tomatoes. Ones to avoid include cabbage, spinach, onion, tomato, buttercup, citric fruits and iceberg lettuce. Also dust the vegetables with Nutrobal before putting them in a food dish.
Tortoise pellet foods can be used as a treat for your tortoise; however we would not recommend this as a regular substitution for fresh foods.

We also use a cuttlefish bone as another source of calcium and also helps their mouths.

Does a Red Foot Tortoise need to hibernate?
The simple answer is no.
Red foot tortoises are one of the few types of tortoise that do not need to hibernate.


Where do I buy my tortoise from?
There are many reputable breeders around the UK that will ensure you are sold tortoises that are captive bred and not wild caught, come with the correct documentation needed, ensure all perspective owners are ready to receive their tortoises and offer you good advice on how to look after your tortoise.
WARNING – A reputable breeder will NOT send you tortoises via a carrier as this is not ethical.


2 thoughts on “How to look after a Redfoot tortoise

  • 19th July 2017 at 3:00 pm

    I HV a red footed tortoise who is about 20yr old he is constantly banging on the viv glass even though he is often out. I’m afraid he will hurt himself, I think he needs a lady.
    Please help



    • 19th July 2017 at 4:50 pm

      Hi Tracy,

      It is difficult to stop them doing this, however I found with ours that if they can’t see out of the glass they don’t bang as much. You can get some frosted sticky plastic that still lets in the light without them being able to see out of the vivarium as well. They only really see shadows which they pay less attention to. It won’t stop them banging but should reduce it. Also I would check the size of your vivarium. At 20 years old I would imagine he’s quite big so would need a lot of space.

      I hope that helps?


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