Care of Red Footed Tortoise

Bennett Greenberg
by Bennett Greenberg
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Indoor Accommodation

Always try to avoid glass tanks such as aquariums. When tortoises can see through to the outside they have a tendency to spend most of their time trying to get out. If you must use a glass tank, cover the bottom four to six inches to block your tortoise's view. The most common form of indoor accommodation for small or medium sized Red-foot Tortoises consists of what looks like a bookshelf unit flipped onto its back. A reasonable size habitat for a hatchling is 2 feet by 3 feet, as the animal grows the size of this habitat should be increased. For a large adult Red-foot tortoise the indoor accommodation should be at least 6 feet by 4 feet. Food, water and eventually nesting containers should be placed flush with the surface for easier animal access when possible.

The water area of the habitat should be large enough to allow the tortoise to soak in it if it wishes - it must also be shallow enough to protect from drowning. Keep the water clean at all times. Red-Foots tend to defecate and urinate in their water. Remember, this is the same water they drink so keep it clean! Mist the indoor habitat daily and soak your Red-Foot at least once a week.

Considering the Red-Foot needs a higher humidity then most tortoises a substrate mix that will help maintain this humidity is recommended. A mixture of topsoil, sphagnum moss and "Bed-A-Beast" will work as a good substrate. If room permits, plant some shallow pans with grass, clover and dandelion for grazing and something like monkey grass or small shrubs for cover. Always try to make the habitat as natural as possible. Add a few rocks and a branch to help break up the tortoise's view of the entire habitat lending to a feel of a larger area.

Make sure the habitat is large enough to establish at least some type of temperature gradient. In one corner of the environment a 100W spot lamp should be positioned to provide artificial basking facilities. This should be positioned to provide a basking spot of 95°F or so in that section of the habitat. The habitat should also be equipped with a full spectrum fluorescent light no more than 18" above the ground to provide for UVB. A UVB source is necessary for Vitamin D3 syntheses (needed in calcium metabolism). A supplement such as Rep-Cal Calcium supplement with vitamin d3 or Miner-All is recommended. There should be a hide box located in the corner away from the basking spot to allow the animal a dim retreat.

Outdoor Accommodation

Even though red-footed tortoise are medium-sized, they still need a large area or enclosure to roam in. 9 sq ft. per tortoise is recommended (Rundquist, 1994). Predator proof outdoor habitats offer many advantages over indoor accommodations and should seriously be considered as an option during warm weather.

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