Care of Red Footed Tortoise

Bennett Greenberg
by Bennett Greenberg
View Biography

Limit the intake of meats to about once every week. Rinse all grocery store greens and fruits to remove pesticide residues. Mader's 'Reptile Medicine and Surgery' (1996), recommends 75% vegetables and greens, 20% fruit, and 5% high-protein-content foods. As with any turtle or tortoise variety is key. Feed your Red-Foot a mix of chopped greens such as romaine lettuce, dandelion, mustard and collard greens sprinkled with fibrous toppings such as alfalfa hay, timothy grass and oats. On every second to third feeding, along with the chopped greens and grasses add some chopped papaya, mango, prickly pair or similar fruits. Fruits are normally consumed in a very ripe state after they have fallen from the tree.

Once every 7 days, along with the chopped greens and grasses, add small portions of protein such as chopped worms, crickets, chopped cooked egg or possibly even a commercial tortoise food. The greens, grasses and fruits mentioned above are just examples of a wide variety of foods that your Red-Foot can and will eat. You can substitute comparable foods in most cases. Some suggestions are mushrooms, sow thistle, summer squash, green beans, yams, hibiscus and dandelion flowers and leaves, plumbs, grapes and cantaloupe and berries such as blackberries, strawberries and mulberries. Do not feed bananas.

Hatchling tortoises should be fed daily. A diet of chopped greens (kale, endive, mustard, dandelions, etc.) and (once a week) a commercial tortoise diet (15% to 18% protein) should be fed to the tortoises. They should be soaked in shallow lukewarm water every day. Do not keep them on sand. Slightly moist peat moss or moist coconut husk is an ideal substrate that will help elevate humidity. It must be changed regularly to prevent bacteria and mold build up. It is best not to feed the tortoises on the peat moss. They seem to be able to pass the peat moss safely however if eaten in small quantities. If your tortoise is kept warm, fed and watered regularly, and given adequate room it should live for years. Small tortoises can grow about 2 inches per year.


The substrate of choice is cypress mulch or something possessing the same humidity holding properties in order to keep their shells/skin from drying out in captive conditions. In outdoor pens in areas of high sand content, food should not be placed directly on sandy soil. Sand can build up in the tortoises GI tract leading to possible impaction and even death. A completely separate sand-free area in the habitat should be utilized to feed.

A typical habitat for a Red-foot Tortoise should be large enough for it to walk around, and contain several elements - a pool, a basking spot, and a shady spot. This would be at least 10 to 20 square feet. If weather permits, they should be housed outdoors. When housed indoors the tortoises should be exposed to full spectrum UV lighting for about 13 hours a day. The Red-foot Tortoise especially needs water to soak and defecate in.

If these tortoises are to be kept successfully, they will need to have a temperature gradient so they can move to cooler areas when needed, and likewise, also move to warmer basking areas. During the day, they should have access to areas about 90-95°F and cooler areas in the low to mid 80s. At night the temperature should be lowered to about 68-75°F. This species does not hibernate in nature. Facilities must be provided for the continued health and well being of the tortoise indoors in cooler (non tropical) climates.

(Continued on next page)