Close this search box.

Red-Footed Tortoise Care: How to Keep Your Pet Healthy and Happy

Red-footed tortoises are one of the most popular pet tortoise species, thanks to their colorful appearance, easygoing nature, and relatively small size. However, like all pets, red-footed tortoises require proper care to thrive. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to keep your red-footed tortoise healthy and happy. From creating the right habitat to feeding and handling, we will cover everything you need to know to be a responsible and caring pet owner.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Housing
    • Tank Size
    • Substrate
    • Temperature and Lighting
    • Humidity
    • Hiding Spots and Decorations
  3. Feeding
    • Diet
    • Feeding Schedule
    • Supplements
  4. Handling and Interaction
  5. Common Health Issues
    • Respiratory Infections
    • Shell Rot
    • Parasites
  6. Conclusion
  7. FAQs


Red-footed tortoises are native to Central and South America and can live up to 50 years in captivity. They are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals, and can grow up to 14 inches in length. As a pet owner, it is important to create the right environment and provide the proper care to ensure your red-footed tortoise remains healthy and happy.


Tank Size

The size of the tank or enclosure for your red-footed tortoise will depend on its size. For a juvenile tortoise, a 20-gallon tank is sufficient, while an adult will require at least a 40-gallon tank. Make sure the tank is large enough to allow your tortoise to move around comfortably and have enough space to exercise.


The substrate is the material that covers the bottom of the tank. For red-footed tortoises, the best substrate is coconut coir, which is made from coconut fiber and is safe for ingestion. Avoid using substrates like sand, gravel, or wood shavings as they can cause digestive problems if ingested.

Temperature and Lighting

Red-footed tortoises require a warm and humid environment to thrive. The temperature in the tank should be between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and no lower than 70 degrees at night. You can use a heat lamp to provide the necessary warmth, but make sure to position it in a way that your tortoise can’t touch it and get burned.

As for lighting, red-footed tortoises need access to both UVA and UVB rays. You can provide this by using a special reptile lamp that emits both types of light.


Red-footed tortoises need a humid environment to maintain healthy skin and respiratory function. The humidity in the tank should be between 50% and 70%. You can increase humidity by misting the tank daily and providing a shallow water dish for your tortoise to soak in.

Hiding Spots and Decorations

Red-footed tortoises need hiding spots in their tank to feel secure and reduce stress. You can use artificial or natural decorations like rocks, logs, and plants to create hiding spots and make the tank more visually appealing. Just make sure all decorations are safe and non-toxic for your tortoise.



Red-footed tortoises are omnivores and need a varied diet that includes both plant and animal matter. The ideal diet should consist of 70% vegetables and fruits and 30% protein. Good vegetable options include collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and dandelion greens, while fruits like strawberries, mangos, and papayas are good choices. For protein, you can offer your tortoise insects like crickets, mealworms, and earthworms, as well as cooked lean meat like chicken and turkey.

Feeding Schedule

Red-footed tortoises should be fed daily, but the amount and frequency will depend on their age and size. Juveniles should be fed more frequently, while adults can be fed once a day or every other day. As a general rule, offer your tortoise as much food as it can eat in 15 to 20 minutes, then remove any uneaten food to prevent spoilage.


To ensure your tortoise is getting all the necessary nutrients, you may need to provide supplements. Calcium is especially important for red-footed tortoises, as it helps maintain healthy bones and shells. You can offer a calcium supplement in the form of a powder that can be sprinkled on your tortoise’s food.

Handling and Interaction

Red-footed tortoises are generally docile and friendly, but they can become stressed if handled too much or too roughly. When handling your tortoise, make sure to support its entire body and avoid squeezing or pinching. Also, be gentle when placing your tortoise back in its enclosure to avoid any injuries.

It’s important to provide your tortoise with plenty of opportunities for exploration and exercise outside of its enclosure, but always supervise your tortoise during these times to ensure its safety. Additionally, try to interact with your tortoise regularly by talking to it, offering it food by hand, or simply spending time in the same room.

Common Health Issues

Respiratory Infections

Red-footed tortoises are susceptible to respiratory infections, which can be caused by poor temperature and humidity regulation. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and nasal discharge. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult a veterinarian right away.

Shell Rot

Shell rot is a bacterial infection that can occur when a tortoise’s shell is damaged or not kept clean and dry. Symptoms include soft, discolored spots on the shell. Treatment involves cleaning and disinfecting the affected area, as well as addressing the underlying cause.


Red-footed tortoises can be affected by a variety of parasites, including mites, ticks, and intestinal worms. Regular checkups with a veterinarian can help detect and treat any parasitic infections.


Red-footed tortoises are fascinating and rewarding pets, but they require proper care to stay healthy and happy. By providing the right habitat, diet, and handling, you can ensure your tortoise lives a long and fulfilling life. If you have any questions or concerns about red-footed tortoise care, consult a veterinarian or reptile specialist.


  1. Can red-footed tortoises be kept with other tortoise species?
    • While red-footed tortoises are generally sociable, it’s best to keep them with other tortoise species that have similar requirements for temperature, diet, and size.
  2. How often should I clean my red-footed tortoise’s enclosure?
    • You should clean your tortoise’s enclosure at least once a week, removing any uneaten food, feces, and soiled substrate.
  3. Can red-footed tortoises be housed outdoors?
    • Yes, but only in a secure, predator-proof enclosure that provides the necessary temperature, lighting, and humidity.
  4. How often should I take my red-footed tortoise to the vet?
    • You should take your tortoise to the vet at least once a year for a check-up and fecal examination to detect any underlying health issues.
  5. Can I feed my red-footed tortoise cat or dog food?
    • No, cat or dog food is not suitable for tortoises and can cause digestive issues. Stick to a diet of vegetables, fruits, and protein sources recommended for red-footed tortoises.
  6. How can I tell if my red-footed tortoise is male or female?
    • Male red-footed tortoises typically have longer, thicker tails than females, and their plastrons (bottom part of the shell) are concave. Females have shorter, narrower tails and flat or slightly convex plastrons. A veterinarian or reptile specialist can also determine the sex of your tortoise through a physical examination or DNA testing.

In conclusion, owning a red-footed tortoise can be a wonderful experience, but it requires a commitment to providing the proper care. By creating the right environment, offering a nutritious diet, and handling your tortoise with care, you can enjoy many happy years with your new pet. Remember to consult with a veterinarian or reptile specialist if you have any questions or concerns about your red-footed tortoise’s health or behavior.