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red footed tortoise

Red-Footed Tortoise Care Guide

Have you ever heard of the red-footed tortoise? This colorful reptile, known for its striking red scales on its forelimbs and feet, is a popular pet among reptile enthusiasts. Scientifically known as Chelonoidis carbonarius, the red-footed tortoise is a herbivore that enjoys a diet of fruits and greens. One interesting fact about these tortoises is that their shells can vary in color from dark brown to vibrant red.

Red-footed tortoises are native to South America and require heat to regulate their body temperature. They thrive in warm environments and can make great pets for those who have experience caring for reptiles. While prices may vary depending on where you live and where you purchase them from, on average, a red-footed tortoise can cost anywhere from $150 to $500.

If you’re considering getting a red-footed tortoise as a pet or simply want to learn more about this fascinating species of reptile, keep reading!

Variants of Red-Footed Tortoise

Red-footed tortoise is a popular species among reptile enthusiasts, known for its vibrant red scales on the legs and head. However, what many people don’t know is that there are various variants of this tortoise species with unique characteristics and traits.

Wide Variety of Variants

The red-footed tortoise has a wide variety of variants, differing in color, size, and shell pattern. The most common variants include Cherry Head, Colombian, and Bolivian.

The Cherry Head variant has a reddish-brown shell with yellow markings on the limbs and head. On the other hand, the Colombian variant has a more uniform brown shell with black markings on the limbs. The Bolivian variant has a dark brown or black shell with yellow-orange markings on the limbs.

Apart from these three popular variants, there are also other less common ones such as the Yellow-footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis denticulata), which has yellow scales on its feet instead of red.

Unique Characteristics and Traits

Each variant of red-footed tortoise has its own unique characteristics and traits. For instance:

  • Cherry Head: This variant is known for being docile and easy to handle.
  • Colombian: This variant tends to be larger than other variants.
  • Bolivian: This variant is known for having an aggressive temperament.

In addition to their personalities, each variant also has distinct physical characteristics. For example:

  • Cherry Head: This variant’s shell tends to be flatter than other variants.
  • Colombian: This variant’s shell can grow up to 18 inches long.
  • Bolivian: This variant’s shell usually has a more rounded shape than others.

Highly Sought After by Collectors

The different variants of red-footed tortoise are highly sought after by collectors because they offer something new and unique compared to standard pet store varieties. Collectors often seek out specific variants to add to their collections and may be willing to pay a premium price for them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are red-footed tortoises rare? No, red-footed tortoises are not considered rare and can be found in many pet stores and reptile shows.
  • How big can a red-footed tortoise get? Red-footed tortoises can grow up to 16 inches long and weigh up to 15 pounds.
  • When do red-footed tortoises lay eggs? Red-footed tortoises typically lay eggs once or twice per year during the breeding season, which is usually from January to April.
  • What does red-footed tortoise poop look like? Red-footed tortoise poop is usually brown or black in color and has a firm consistency.
  • What is the difference between male and female red-footed tortoises? Male red-footed tortoises have a concave plastron (the underside of the shell), while females have a flat plastron. Males also tend to have longer tails than females.

Habitat and Ecology of Red-Footed Tortoise

Red-Footed Tortoises

Where do red-footed tortoises live?

Red-footed tortoises are native to South America, specifically in the wet forests of countries like Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana. They can also be found on some Caribbean islands such as Trinidad and Tobago.

What is the habitat of a red-footed tortoise?

The habitat of red-footed tortoise is in the wet forests of South America. They prefer to live in areas with a lot of vegetation cover and high humidity levels. In particular, they like living on the forest floor covered with sphagnum moss which provides them with moisture.

Are red-footed tortoises terrestrial species?

Yes, red-footed tortoises are known to be terrestrial species. This means that they spend most of their time on land rather than in water.

What do red-footed tortoises eat?

Red-footed tortoises are herbivores whose diet consists mainly of fruits, flowers, and leaves found in their habitat. Some examples include hibiscus flowers, mangoes, papayas, bananas, figs, and cactus pads.

Where do red-footed tortoise lay their eggs?

Red-footed tortoises usually lay their eggs in shallow nests dug into the ground. The nests are typically located near tree roots or other natural features that provide shade and protection for the eggs. After laying her eggs (usually 4-8), the female covers them up with soil and leaves them to incubate for around 90 days before hatching.

What is the average lifespan of a red-footed tortoise?

Red-footed tortoises have an average lifespan of around 50 years when kept in captivity but can live longer if well cared for. In their natural habitat where they face fewer threats from predators and disease outbreaks compared to captive environments, they can live up to 100 years.

Where can I buy a red-footed tortoise?

It is important to note that buying and keeping a red-footed tortoise as a pet requires careful consideration and research. They are not recommended for inexperienced reptile owners due to their complex care requirements. If you are interested in acquiring one, it is best to purchase from reputable breeders or adopt from rescue organizations rather than taking them from the wild.

Diet Requirements for Red-Footed Tortoise

Red-footed tortoises are herbivores that require a balanced and varied diet to stay healthy. As a tortoise owner, it is crucial to understand their dietary requirements to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients for optimal health.

A Varied Diet Is a Key

A balanced tortoise diet should include leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, and protein sources. Leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, dandelion greens, and mustard greens are excellent sources of calcium and vitamin A. Vegetables like carrots, squash, zucchini, and bell peppers provide vitamins C and K. Fruits such as strawberries, papaya, and mangoes are high in fiber and antioxidants.

Protein sources like cooked chicken or turkey can be given occasionally but avoid feeding red-footed tortoises high-fat or high-protein diets regularly. Insects like mealworms or crickets can also be fed in moderation.

It is essential to offer a variety of foods to ensure your red-footed tortoise receives all the necessary nutrients required for its growth and development. Feeding them the same food repeatedly can lead to nutritional deficiencies or cause them to become picky eaters.

Fresh Water Access

Tortoises need access to fresh water at all times to maintain hydration. Provide a shallow dish of water that is cleaned daily so that your pet has access to clean water always.

Consult with an Expert

Consult with a veterinarian or reptile expert for specific dietary recommendations for your red-footed tortoise. They will advise you on how much food your pet requires based on its age and size.

What To Feed Your Red-Footed Tortoise?

Here’s a list of some safe foods that you can feed your red-footed tortoise:

  • Leafy Greens: Kale, Collard Greens
  • Vegetables: Carrots, Squash
  • Fruits: Strawberries, Papaya
  • Protein Sources: Cooked Chicken, Mealworms

What To Feed a Baby Red-Footed Tortoise?

Baby red-footed tortoises require a more protein-rich diet than adults to support their growth. Offer them small amounts of cooked chicken or turkey along with leafy greens and vegetables.

What Does a Red-Footed Tortoise Eat in the Wild?

In the wild, red-footed tortoises feed on a variety of vegetation such as grasses, cacti, flowers, fruits, and occasionally insects. Mimicking their natural diet is essential for their optimal health.

Red-Footed Tortoise

Housing Requirements for Red-Footed Tortoise

Spacious Enclosure

Red-footed tortoises are active creatures that require ample space to move around. For a single adult red-footed tortoise, the minimum enclosure size should be 4 feet by 8 feet. However, if you plan on housing multiple tortoises, then you will need to increase the size of the enclosure accordingly. It is important to provide enough room for your red-footed tortoise to roam and explore.

Basking Area and Hiding Spot

In addition to providing enough space for your red-footed tortoise, it is also important to create an environment that mimics its natural habitat. This includes providing a basking area where they can soak up heat and UVB rays from a basking lamp or sunlight. The basking area should be kept at a temperature between 90-95°F during the day and allowed to cool down at night.

Red-footed tortoises also need a hiding spot where they can retreat when they feel stressed or threatened. A hiding spot can be as simple as a pile of rocks or logs placed in one corner of the enclosure.

Temperature Control

Maintaining proper temperatures inside the enclosure is crucial for the health of your red-footed tortoise. The temperature inside the enclosure should be maintained between 75-85°F during the day and allowed to drop slightly at night. You can achieve this by using heat lamps, ceramic heaters, or under-tank heating pads.

It is important to monitor temperatures inside the enclosure regularly using a thermometer or thermostat to ensure that they remain within safe levels.

Substrate Mix

The substrate used in your red-footed tortoise’s enclosure should consist of a mix of soil, sand, and coconut coir. This mixture creates an ideal environment for burrowing and helps maintain appropriate humidity levels.

Avoid using substrates such as cedar shavings or pine bark, as they can be harmful to your tortoise’s respiratory system.

Health Issues in Red-Footed Tortoise

Red-footed tortoises are popular pets due to their charming personalities, small size, and easy-to-care-for nature. However, like all animals, they can be susceptible to a range of health issues that must be addressed promptly to ensure their well-being.

Respiratory Infections

One of the most significant health issues that red-footed tortoises face is respiratory infections. These infections can be caused by poor husbandry practices such as inadequate ventilation or exposure to cold temperatures. Symptoms of respiratory infections include wheezing, labored breathing, and nasal discharge. If left untreated, respiratory infections can lead to pneumonia and other serious complications.

To prevent respiratory infections in your red-footed tortoise, ensure that their enclosure has adequate ventilation and is kept at an appropriate temperature range between 75-85°F during the day with a drop-down to 70-75°F at night. Avoid exposing your pet tortoise to drafts or sudden changes in temperature.

If you suspect that your red-footed tortoise has a respiratory infection, take them to a veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment may involve antibiotics or other medications depending on the severity of the infection.


Another common health issue in red-footed tortoises is obesity. This condition occurs when a tortoise is overfed or lacks exercise which leads to excessive weight gain. Obesity can cause liver disease and heart problems which can shorten your pet’s lifespan significantly.

To prevent obesity in your red-footed tortoise feed them an appropriate diet consisting mainly of dark leafy greens such as kale and collard greens along with occasional fruits like strawberries or melons as treats only once per week. Avoid feeding high-fat foods like cheese and nuts which can contribute to weight gain.

Provide your pet tortoise with ample space for exercise. Enclosures should be at least four times the length of your tortoise and include a variety of hiding spots, climbing areas, and other enriching features.


Red-footed tortoises are also susceptible to parasites such as mites and ticks which can cause skin irritation or infection. These parasites can be contracted from other animals or their environment. Symptoms of parasitic infestations include itching, redness, and scaly skin.

To prevent parasite infestations in your red-footed tortoise, ensure that its enclosure is clean and free of debris. Regularly inspect your pet for any signs of skin irritation or infection. If you suspect that your tortoise has a parasitic infestation take them to a veterinarian immediately for treatment.

Treatment may involve medications such as anti-parasitic sprays or dips depending on the type of parasite present.


Breeding and Caring for Red-Footed Tortoise in Captivity

Red-footed tortoises are popular pets among reptile enthusiasts due to their unique appearance, manageable size, and friendly temperament. However, breeding and caring for these animals in captivity requires a considerable amount of knowledge and effort.


The enclosure is one of the most critical factors to consider. Young tortoises require an indoor enclosure with plenty of space to move around, a heat source, and access to fresh water. Adult tortoises can thrive in an outdoor pen with access to shade during the hot summer months.

  • Indoor enclosures: Hatchlings should be kept in a sheltered indoor enclosure that provides enough space for them to move around freely. The temperature inside the enclosure should be maintained between 80-85°F during the day and 70-75°F at night. A basking spot with temperatures ranging from 90-95°F should also be provided.
  • Outdoor pens: Adult red-footed tortoises can live outdoors as long as they have access to shade during the hot summer months. The pen should have a secure fence or wall that is high enough so that the tortoise cannot escape.


A balanced diet is crucial for maintaining the health of red-footed tortoises in captivity. These animals are omnivores that require both plant-based foods and animal protein.

  • Tortoise pellets: Commercially available tortoise pellets provide essential nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins D3, E, and B12.
  • Fresh vegetables: Offer your pet fresh vegetables such as kale, collard greens, spinach carrots, or squash.
  • Animal proteins: Provide animal protein sources like insects (crickets), worms, or cooked eggs (boiled, scrambled).


Breeding red-footed tortoises in captivity requires a reputable breeder and appropriate conditions to ensure the health of the offspring.

  • Reputable breeder: It is essential to find a reputable breeder who can provide you with healthy animals that have not been taken from the wild. The pet trade has had a significant impact on wild populations of red-footed tortoises, so it is important to avoid purchasing animals from unscrupulous dealers.
  • Mating season: Red-footed tortoises mate during the rainy season when there is an abundance of food available. The mating season varies depending on where they live but generally occurs between March and August.
  • Incubation: After mating, females will lay their eggs in a shallow hole dug in the ground. The eggs should be removed and placed in an incubator set at 82-86°F. The incubation period lasts between 100-120 days, after which hatchlings will emerge.

Conclusion: Red Footed Tortoise as a Pet: Care Sheet for Owners

Owning a red-footed tortoise can be a rewarding experience for pet owners. Understanding their variants, habitat and ecology, diet requirements, housing needs, health issues, breeding, and caring in captivity is crucial to ensure they live a healthy life.

Providing them with a spacious enclosure that mimics their natural habitat is important along with a balanced diet consisting of vegetables and fruits. It is also important to monitor their health regularly and seek veterinary care if necessary.

If you are considering getting a red-footed tortoise as a pet, make sure you have the time, resources, and knowledge to provide them with proper care. They can live up to 50 years in captivity so it’s essential to commit for the long term.


Q1. What should I feed my red-footed tortoise?

A1. A balanced diet consisting of dark leafy greens such as kale or collard greens along with vegetables like carrots and squash is recommended. Fruits can also be given in moderation.

Q2. How often do I need to clean my red-footed tortoise’s enclosure?

A2. The enclosure should be spot-cleaned daily and fully cleaned once every two weeks.

Q3. Can I keep multiple red-footed tortoises together?

A3. Yes, but make sure the enclosure is large enough to accommodate all of them comfortably.

Q4. What kind of lighting does my red-footed tortoise need?

A4. They require UVB lighting for at least 12 hours per day to aid in calcium absorption.

Q5. Do red-footed tortoises require any special supplements?

A5. Yes, they require calcium supplements which can be dusted on their food twice a week.

Q6: How big do red-footed tortoises get?

A6: Red-footed tortoises can grow up to 14 inches in length and weigh up to 11 pounds.

Q7: Are red-footed tortoises good pets for children?

A7: While red-footed tortoises can make great pets, they require a lot of care and attention. It’s important to ensure that children understand the commitment required before getting one as a pet.

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