Brandon1206

New Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2024
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
Ireland
Hi, I am making a new tortoise enclosure for red-footed tortoises that I will be getting soon. It will be 520 cm long, 210 cm wide, and 150 cm high. I live in Ireland, so it will be in an insulated shed. I am getting 3 females and 1 male. Could you recommend whether mercury vapour lights or full spectrum fluorescent lamps would be better for this setup? If full spectrum fluorescent lamps are recommended, what other lights do I need to get for heat? Also, any advice on substrate types, humidity levels, and general maintenance tips would be greatly appreciated!
 

Mr.pacheco

Active Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2024
Messages
108
Location (City and/or State)
Missouri
Dang that a big enclosure but cool and for substrate I personally use coconut coir if you want I can send you the link for it also make sure it’s 6 inch’s deep and all around for lights I don’t need huge lights so I don’t have any recommendations but for sunlight are they going to be outside a lot even if there in a shed and have windows you need UV light because it can’t transfer through glass
 

Mr.pacheco

Active Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2024
Messages
108
Location (City and/or State)
Missouri
For humidity you can pour water into the corners of the shed then the bottom layer of the coconut coir will be wet it will hold water nicely also you will have to buy a have a cheap one would work fine and also recommend buying a cheap heat checker they use to see if you have a temperature
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,333
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Hi, I am making a new tortoise enclosure for red-footed tortoises that I will be getting soon. It will be 520 cm long, 210 cm wide, and 150 cm high. I live in Ireland, so it will be in an insulated shed. I am getting 3 females and 1 male. Could you recommend whether mercury vapour lights or full spectrum fluorescent lamps would be better for this setup? If full spectrum fluorescent lamps are recommended, what other lights do I need to get for heat? Also, any advice on substrate types, humidity levels, and general maintenance tips would be greatly appreciated!
Hello and welcome to the forum!🙂
Woah this sounds a huge(and pricey😳)exciting project!

Unfortunately I’m not sure 102sq ft is big enough to house 4 red foots, and obviously our uk climate doesn’t allow us to get these guys outdoors all too often so a very sizeable indoor set up is needed for a group, I don’t have any experience keeping a small red foot group though. Perhaps @ZEROPILOT or @Tom can answer to the size set up you’ll need to house four like this.
I take it they’re already established with one another? How old are they?🙂

As they’re going to be indoors, for indoor uv go for t5 fluorescent tube lights(not mercury vapour) preferably ones with a reflector fitting so no uv is wasted, for whatever huge set up you’ll need here, you’ll probably need a few. For our indoor uv we personally use the Arcadia brand 12%, mounted 18-20 inches from the substrate, it comes with the reflector, perhaps you could get a piece of timber, screw the fittings on, then have some hooks screwed in the other side and us chains to hand securely from the ceiling. These can be ran on a 4hour timer from noon.

For heating in this size set up you could go for large RHP(radiant heat panels) though I don’t have any experience with those myself, I’ve seen them highly recommended. Or multiple CHE’s in ceramic dome fittings, both these options will need to be on thermostats, and use a temp gun to hang the height of your heating correctly.
You want to aim for an ambient temperature range of 80/86, 82-84 being optimal, so hang them to distribute the heat as evenly as possible, run either of these heating systems 24/7.

You’re probably also going to need some ambient lighting, a few screw in leds hung will do the job(colour range 5000-6500k) so long as they’re lighting the entire enclosure, you can then create shady areas with safe live plants and hides, or use led strip lighting. Either choice will need to be on a 12hr timer.

Your group needs around 80% humidity 24/7, for substrate(I don’t even want to think how much it’s going to cost to fill the size you need😣) firmly packed coco coir, not muddy! Make sure it’s packed firm so it’s not fluffy, it’ll potentially dry too quick, you don’t want dusty coir, then on top a whole layer of either mulch or orchid bark, aim to keep that top layer a bit dryer to avoid fungal infections, I’d mix the top layer now and then though to avoid it getting dusty, that will also help boost humidity too.
To maintain your humidity, pour lukewarm water into the corners of substrate, enough to make sure that bottom layer is always nice and damp. Don’t add any misters or foggers.

Definitely get some digital monitors that measures both humidity and temperature in a huge size like this, and always be doing checks of the entire floor level with the temp gun. I’d have multiple monitors, all the probes shell level, for this size I’d person also look into multiple smart meter sensors, they’ll be quite handy for a set up like this and good to have the environmental data, you’re essentially needing to make a HUGE indoor tropical environment, in a pretty cold climate, this is NOT an easy task by any stretch. I take it you’ve maybe got some experience keeping tortoise?

I hope whatever you go with is very well insulated because our winters are brutal! A red foot’s high humidity coupled with any kind of breeze could be a fatal mix. They thrive being the the 80’s 24/7

Any questions ask away!
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,333
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Dang that a big enclosure but cool and for substrate I personally use coconut coir if you want I can send you the link for it also make sure it’s 6 inch’s deep and all around for lights I don’t need huge lights so I don’t have any recommendations but for sunlight are they going to be outside a lot even if there in a shed and have windows you need UV light because it can’t transfer through glass
unfortunately in our uk climate op isn’t going to be able to have them outside a whole lot, their shed won’t be able to have windows as they need a closed set up to maintain their humidity needs, plus our uk winds would be fatal to these guys. They’re going to need indoor uv lighting🙂with both coco coir and orchid bark ideally👍
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,333
Location (City and/or State)
UK
For humidity you can pour water into the corners of the shed then the bottom layer of the coconut coir will be wet it will hold water nicely also you will have to buy a have a cheap one would work fine and also recommend buying a cheap heat checker they use to see if you have a temperature
Also be aiming for damp with the coir firmly packed with the bark on top, not wet so it’s muddy or anything if that makes sense, the temperature gun is definitely a good recommendation🙂
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,333
Location (City and/or State)
UK
If you feel the inside isn’t sealed enough to hold the heat(absolutely don’t want cold breeze getting in from anywhere) perhaps some sort of large poly tunnel lining staple gunned on the walls would be an idea, that’ll really help maintaining the humidity too! Don’t worry about air flow being an issue, going in to do daily maintenance is enough air exchange
 

Brandon1206

New Member
Joined
Jun 14, 2024
Messages
2
Location (City and/or State)
Ireland
Hello and welcome to the forum!🙂
Woah this sounds a huge(and pricey😳)exciting project!

Unfortunately I’m not sure 102sq ft is big enough to house 4 red foots, and obviously our uk climate doesn’t allow us to get these guys outdoors all too often so a very sizeable indoor set up is needed for a group, I don’t have any experience keeping a small red foot group though. Perhaps @ZEROPILOT or @Tom can answer to the size set up you’ll need to house four like this.
I take it they’re already established with one another? How old are they?🙂

As they’re going to be indoors, for indoor uv go for t5 fluorescent tube lights(not mercury vapour) preferably ones with a reflector fitting so no uv is wasted, for whatever huge set up you’ll need here, you’ll probably need a few. For our indoor uv we personally use the Arcadia brand 12%, mounted 18-20 inches from the substrate, it comes with the reflector, perhaps you could get a piece of timber, screw the fittings on, then have some hooks screwed in the other side and us chains to hand securely from the ceiling. These can be ran on a 4hour timer from noon.

For heating in this size set up you could go for large RHP(radiant heat panels) though I don’t have any experience with those myself, I’ve seen them highly recommended. Or multiple CHE’s in ceramic dome fittings, both these options will need to be on thermostats, and use a temp gun to hang the height of your heating correctly.
You want to aim for an ambient temperature range of 80/86, 82-84 being optimal, so hang them to distribute the heat as evenly as possible, run either of these heating systems 24/7.

You’re probably also going to need some ambient lighting, a few screw in leds hung will do the job(colour range 5000-6500k) so long as they’re lighting the entire enclosure, you can then create shady areas with safe live plants and hides, or use led strip lighting. Either choice will need to be on a 12hr timer.

Your group needs around 80% humidity 24/7, for substrate(I don’t even want to think how much it’s going to cost to fill the size you need😣) firmly packed coco coir, not muddy! Make sure it’s packed firm so it’s not fluffy, it’ll potentially dry too quick, you don’t want dusty coir, then on top a whole layer of either mulch or orchid bark, aim to keep that top layer a bit dryer to avoid fungal infections, I’d mix the top layer now and then though to avoid it getting dusty, that will also help boost humidity too.
To maintain your humidity, pour lukewarm water into the corners of substrate, enough to make sure that bottom layer is always nice and damp. Don’t add any misters or foggers.

Definitely get some digital monitors that measures both humidity and temperature in a huge size like this, and always be doing checks of the entire floor level with the temp gun. I’d have multiple monitors, all the probes shell level, for this size I’d person also look into multiple smart meter sensors, they’ll be quite handy for a set up like this and good to have the environmental data, you’re essentially needing to make a HUGE indoor tropical environment, in a pretty cold climate, this is NOT an easy task by any stretch. I take it you’ve maybe got some experience keeping tortoise?

I hope whatever you go with is very well insulated because our winters are brutal! A red foot’s high humidity coupled with any kind of breeze could be a fatal mix. They thrive being the the 80’s 24/7

Any questions ask away!
I currently don't have any tortoises, but I'm doing a lot of research to prepare for them. The tortoises will be adults, and I haven't acquired them yet; the pet store is ordering them for me.

going to go with the T5 fluorescent tube lights with reflector fittings. Ceramic bulbs might be more economical to run, and each will have its own thermostat.

Regarding the substrate, it's quite costly. I need to purchase approximately 25 boxes, each containing 12 briquettes, which will provide about 6-7 inches of coco coir. I found a website that offers the best deal at https://www.fruithillfarm.com/compact-coco-coir-briquettes.html#134=1214. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble finding orchid bark; it seems to be available only in pet stores for around 11 euros per 10 liters.

The enclosure will be well-insulated. I'm planning to use loft insulation roll on the walls and cover everything with reflective silver bubble insulation. Also, I'll place wood at the base to prevent the tortoises from rubbing against it. My father, who is a builder, will help me make the shed so there should be no breeze and keep the heat in.
 

Tom

The Dog Trainer
10 Year Member!
Platinum Tortoise Club
Joined
Jan 9, 2010
Messages
64,076
Location (City and/or State)
Southern California
Hi, I am making a new tortoise enclosure for red-footed tortoises that I will be getting soon. It will be 520 cm long, 210 cm wide, and 150 cm high. I live in Ireland, so it will be in an insulated shed. I am getting 3 females and 1 male. Could you recommend whether mercury vapour lights or full spectrum fluorescent lamps would be better for this setup? If full spectrum fluorescent lamps are recommended, what other lights do I need to get for heat? Also, any advice on substrate types, humidity levels, and general maintenance tips would be greatly appreciated!
-You want HO tubes for UV, not mercury vapor bulbs.
-You'll want several LED bulbs of one sort or another to make it look like day time in there.
-RFs don't need a basking lamp.
-For an area that large, conventional reptile heating methods like CHEs and RHP won't work. You will need a couple of oil filled radiant heaters set on redundant thermostats, and you'll need a generator to run them for when the power goes out. This will maintain ambient around 27-30C 24/7/365 (82-86F) at floor level.
-Orchid bark is the best substrate but I don't know if you will find it in bulk over there. Cypress mulch or coco chips can also work. I would not use coco coir for this application. Definitely do NOT use soil, sand, peat, or any kind of moss.
-Humidity should be over 80% all the time.
-Unfortunately, the space you have really isn't large enough for one adult RF, much less four of them. A group of adults would need something near 1000sq. feet. 500 sq. feet would probably be okay with sight barriers and bushes, but 119 sq. ft. is just too small for tortoises this large. 119 might be okay for a group of Russians or western hermanni to over winter in, but that is just not enough room for a group of RFs.
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,333
Location (City and/or State)
UK
I currently don't have any tortoises, but I'm doing a lot of research to prepare for them. The tortoises will be adults, and I haven't acquired them yet; the pet store is ordering them for me.

going to go with the T5 fluorescent tube lights with reflector fittings. Ceramic bulbs might be more economical to run, and each will have its own thermostat.

Regarding the substrate, it's quite costly. I need to purchase approximately 25 boxes, each containing 12 briquettes, which will provide about 6-7 inches of coco coir. I found a website that offers the best deal at https://www.fruithillfarm.com/compact-coco-coir-briquettes.html#134=1214. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble finding orchid bark; it seems to be available only in pet stores for around 11 euros per 10 liters.

The enclosure will be well-insulated. I'm planning to use loft insulation roll on the walls and cover everything with reflective silver bubble insulation. Also, I'll place wood at the base to prevent the tortoises from rubbing against it. My father, who is a builder, will help me make the shed so there should be no breeze and keep the heat in.
Woah, I’ll admit to go from no tortoises to a group of red foots is a VERY brave choice and if I’m being completely honest with you here, I would HIGHLY discourage it! I don’t mean to sound a bummer at all, but a red foot tortoise isn’t a beginner tortoise let alone a group😣
I don’t think any amount of research will prepare you here unfortunately, but obviously none of us can stop you, if you’re determined to go ahead, please stick with us and follow our advice closely, following advice from elsewhere is so risky with the amount of outdated misinformation!
-You want HO tubes for UV, not mercury vapor bulbs.
-You'll want several LED bulbs of one sort or another to make it look like day time in there.
-RFs don't need a basking lamp.
-For an area that large, conventional reptile heating methods like CHEs and RHP won't work. You will need a couple of oil filled radiant heaters set on redundant thermostats, and you'll need a generator to run them for when the power goes out. This will maintain ambient around 27-30C 24/7/365 (82-86F) at floor level.
-Orchid bark is the best substrate but I don't know if you will find it in bulk over there. Cypress mulch or coco chips can also work. I would not use coco coir for this application. Definitely do NOT use soil, sand, peat, or any kind of moss.
-Humidity should be over 80% all the time.
-Unfortunately, the space you have really isn't large enough for one adult RF, much less four of them. A group of adults would need something near 1000sq. feet. 500 sq. feet would probably be okay with sight barriers and bushes, but 119 sq. ft. is just too small for tortoises this large. 119 might be okay for a group of Russians or western hermanni to over winter in, but that is just not enough room for a group of RFs.
Im glad Tom has replied to you here, my advice was clearly naive on this kind of set up you’re trying to achieve here. In our cold climate, in a large shed set up I’m not surprised conventional heating methods simply won’t work here😕and clearly the coir I’ve recommended won’t be ideal for this size either, definitely trust toms judgment here, orchid bark will be your best bet, maybe try googling breeder sack orchid bark, make sure its fir not pine.
As tom has confirmed, the size you have in mind is far too small for a group of red foots, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think they are housed well here in the uk, I wouldn’t personally buy into the trade of them here, I just don’t think it’s ethical. Our red foot was purchased by my moms partner many years ago after been given so much misguided info.

The pet shop you’re getting them from will likely provide you with all the wrong advice and information despite how convincing they sound and how long they’ve told you they’ve done it for. Please don’t listen to them, their main aim is to make a sale. They’ll probably tell you you can go ahead and do this in this size, it isn’t true, you’re going to end up with some very territorial and stressed torts here.

Unless you’ve done something like this before and are familiar with how enclosures work, building an enclosure outside in the uk for a red foot is SO difficult, I can’t stress to you enough how important their heating is, honestly it’s safest to just house one in a very large indoor set up. I hope you take all this information and forewarning on board, and I certainly hope it won’t put you off the forum! You could still be a great tortoise parent here! Just perhaps not a group of red foots😣honestly groups need to be housed in hot climates over in the US, not here in the uk, it just simply isn’t fair on them
 

Littleredfootbigredheart

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 28, 2023
Messages
1,333
Location (City and/or State)
UK
Just a heads up on some of the common misinformation you’ll be given

That one individual adult red foot can happily live in a 6 foot enclosure, absolutely not true, they say this because they know most people here in the uk don’t have the indoor size to adequately house a red foot

They’ll tell you to house pretty much all species of tortoise in far too small a set up! If you went in and said you’re going to be building an 8x4 foot space for a Russian, which is the bare minimum they should be getting, most will tell you you’re mad! Sizing for tortoise enclosures is by far one the worst things we’re behind on here. The tiny tables people put them in aren’t up to par and need phasing out.

That they NEED a cool end in the 70’s and a hot end in the 80’s, or that they need a basking area in the 90’s, neither are true, whilst adult red foot’s can tolerate night temperatures in the 70’s(though 80’s 24/7 is preferred due to their high humidity needs! Lower temps plus high humidity don’t mix well!) they thrive in an all over ambient temp range of 80-86, 82-84 being Goldilocks temps!

They NEED a night temperature drop, simply not true for this species, they’re forest floor dwellers where temps and humidity stay relatively stable

That they can happily live in pairs, this can actually be very stressful and can stunt the others growth, especially in the tiny set ups they sell here, behaviour that looks cute to us like following one another round is bullying in the tortoise world

They’ll often tell you to mist the enclosure to keep up the humidity or try and sell you a humidifier, both these methods can leave the air too wet causing respiratory infections, it also only focuses on getting the top layer of your substrate damp, which could then leave them more prone to fungal infections and the humidity won’t last as long, it’s best to aim for the bottom layer of your substrate being damp, you can do this with the Lukewarm water pours, just simply keep an eye on both your monitors and substrate to do them as and when needed, give the substrate a mix now n then to stop the top layer getting a little too dry and dusty.

I was once told in a reptile store to not bother providing water, never follow advice like that, it’s so outdated and wrong.

They’ll sell you the wrong kind of heating lamps, halogen or mercury vapour, compact uv bulbs, wrong substrates, wrong housing, you name it, the ones who do seem to care for the animals are following the same old outdated information, then the majority simply don’t care for the long term well being of the animal, money making is the priority for a business.

Tortoise are naturally robust by nature, so following the old wrong information can sometimes take years to see the ill effects it has on your tortoise

These are just all things to very much bear in mind for both you or any other uk members who happen upon this thread!🙏
A lot of this misinformation is vast elsewhere too, this is just speaking from some personal experience and the common things I hear in stores here regarding red foots, but also touching on some tortoise care in general
 
Top