Redfoot Tortoise Care Sheet

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Well-Known Member
5 Year Member
Feb 20, 2016
Location (City and/or State)
Lewisville, Texas
NOTE: I do not keep redfoots, and I only have one tortoise in total. With this in mind, remember that I am in no way an expert, and this should not be used as cold hard proof of how to raise a redfoot. I used information from great keepers on this forum to put everything together.

This care sheet is not meant to be used as a complete guide, or your only source of information. Always use many sources when researching for an animal.

Species info
Scientific name-Chelonoidis carbonarius
Common name- Redfoot, red footed tortoise. Some color variations are unofficially called “cherry-head”.
Family- Testudinidae
Genus- Chelonoidis
Species- carbonarius
Lifespan- 80+ years

Social abilities- They do great Solitary or in groups of all females, or groups with at least three females and one male (but expect breeding). Pairs generally don’t work well.

Size- Varies greatly. Averages of 12-14 inches are normally seen, but it is not uncommon to find individuals 18 inches or larger.


Redfoots are a colorful, forest dwelling species of tortoise that are wonderful to keep and care for. They are quite docile, and, unlike other tortoises, thrive in groups. They are omnivorous, but only eat protien twice a month or so.

They are commonly kept for their nice temperament and pretty colors, and are a blast to keep for someone with the space.

There are also other ways to raise them, so always do your own research.


Redfoot tortoises live in the north of South America.


Many of these tortoises live in warm, humid rainforests, where the temperatures rarely fluctuate, and stay in the 80’s year round. The ground is usually blanketed in vegetation, and small amounts of sunlight are let through the canopy of trees.

Little of the vegetation has much nutritional value, and there is lots of competition for it.


While redfoots are very docile, they, like most tortoises, are not very tolerant of frequent handling. It’s good to let them eat from your hand, pet their shells, touch their legs and head, etc., but I would not recommend taking them out of their enclosures and “snuggling” with them, or anything similar, for long periods of time. Tortoises are somewhat timid, and would rather be alone than be messed with.

Handling has a few benefits, the most important being ease of handling for vets, and for me, reducing the chance of being peed on every time you pick them up.

Never let your tortoise roam your floors, no matter how closely you’re watching. It is too cold, and so many things can go wrong.


Redfoots are very forgiving with diet, and in the wild, eat whatever they can find. Feed a large quantity of weeds and dark, leafy greens daily, enough so that there is always a little left over at the end of the day. Also include vegetables like shredded carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, etc.

While these are fruit eating tortoises, the fruits where they naturally live are much different than our sweet, sugary fruits. Fruits like cactus fruit, papaya, figs, hard melons, etc. are best, but they can also have fruits like strawberries, blueberries, apples, or any other sweet, edible fruit as part of a varied diet. Feed a piece of “good” fruit the size of the tortoise’s head once a day, or feed a larger amount a few times a week. Mix in “sugary” fruits for variety.

For protein, Redfoots generally eat invertebrates. They should be fed a small amount of earthworms, night crawlers, superworms, dubia roaches, snails, or slugs once or twice a month.

Don’t worry if the amounts aren’t exact, and be sure to feed a varied diet. Always check and see if a food item is edible if you are not sure.

Dust greens with calcium with D3/vitamins 2-3 times a week.

Be sure to have a large, shallow water bowl (Terra Cotta saucer) available at all times.

A hatchling redfoot can be kept in a 40 gallon tank or tub with a completely closed top (which should last only a few months with proper care), but it is preferable to buy or make your own closed chamber. A good size for hatchlings is 4x2 feet, which should last around a year.

After they outgrow the hatchling enclosure, it is best to put them in an adult sized enclosure, but you can also move them to larger enclosures as they grow.

An adult should have a BARE minimum enclosure size of 8x4 feet (bigger being much better) if being housed indoors. It is preferable to house them in a closed chamber, but they can be housed in tortoise tables if full grown. However, it is so much better for adults to be housed outside year round. They can live in outdoor sheds with access to outside year round if in a cold climate.

The adults can be housed outdoors full time if the climate is adequate: relatively humid, temperatures in the 60’s- low 90’s, and lots of places with shade and places to hide. If they cannot be housed outdoors during the winter, they should be kept in an 8x8 closed chamber/Table/shed.
It’s best not to house babies outdoors. They almost never do well, even if humidity is adequate.

For hatchlings and babies, I would recommend using 2-4 inches of coco coir. Mixing in sphagnum moss can be very beneficial to help hold moisture and humidity, but be careful to make sure that the tortoise doesn’t eat it. Then, put a layer or orchid bark or cypress mulch on top of half of the coco coir/peat moss. That gives them a dryer place to sit if necessary.

For juveniles and adults, fine grade orchid bark is definitely superior. However, you can always use any of the previously stated. It needs to be 4-6+ inches thick.
Be sure that anything you get is organic. You can find most of these in bulk at plant nurseries and hardware stores.

Never mix any amount of sand into the substrate, as it is an impaction risk, as well as a skin, eye, nose, and cloaka irritant. I also wouldn’t recommend using potting soil or topsoil, because it gets muddy when wet, and you can’t be sure of the composition.
Never use rabbit pellets, hay, aspen chips, or any type of rodent bedding. These are much too dry, and can even cause respiratory issues or impaction.

Always keep the top layer of substrate just damp, and pour water in the corners to keep the humidity up. You never want the substrate (other than the corners) to be constantly wet, as it will cause the tortoise to be much more susceptible to shell fungus or rot.

Food/Water dishes
Terra cotta saucers are by far the best dishes to use for food and water.
For water, it’s best to use two big enough for the entire tortoise to get into, and deep enough to come up to the bridge of the shell (where the plastron meets the carapace) sunken into the substrate.
Always have at least one in the enclosure.

For food, use either a 4-6 inch terra cotta saucer sunken into the substrate, or a rough slate or flat rock.
Don’t use anything too tall, deep, or small for water or food. They are too hard to get into, and potential drowning hazards. Put the food dish under the UVB light.

DO NOT USE RAMP BOWLS! Ramp bowls are a huge flipping hazard, and are notorious for drowning tortoises. They’re great for lizards and snakes, but not tortoises.

Enrichment, hides, and decor
Redfoots are relatively timid species, and need lots of places to hide. Provide lots of plant cover with (preferably) live plants, and other decorative items.

Provide lots of hides, including humid hides. These can include half logs, caves, flower pots turned on their sides and buried, etc. Be creative!


Redfoot tortoises require temperatures around 80-86 degrees at all times, day and night. There should be no basking spot, as it makes pyramiding very likely to occur, and temperatures being too hot or lights being too bright can be greatly stressful for them.
Never let the temperature in the coolest part of the enclosure fall below 80. That will make the redfoot susceptible to respiratory infections, and can make them less active and not want to eat.

Humidity is very important for redfoots, and it needs to be 80-100%(preferably 90+%) at all times. Lack of humidity leads to pyramiding. Pyramiding looks like this-
while a normal shell looks like this-
To achieve this humidity, you need to use a closed chamber enclosure. Not with a mesh or open top, but completely enclosed with no ventilation. It is also best to mount the heating equipment inside the enclosure, because when it’s on top or outside, it creates a chimney affect and draws the humidity and warm air out, and the cold, dry air in.

Mix water into the substrate weekly to help achieve the humidity. You can also pour water into the corners, and if it works for you, spraying down the enclosure can be helpful.

Thermometers and Hygrometers
Always use digital thermometers with probes, and digital hygrometer. I do not rely on pet stores for these, and I recommend getting them from hardware stores.

For thermometers, the best ones to use are temperature guns.
These are a miracle, and probably the greatest products ever invented. You can check the temperature of anything in the enclosure, anywhere, instantly. You can get these from Walmart and most hardware stores.

Always use digital Hygrometers. I prefer the ones that also tell temperature-
you can get these from most hardware stores.

Thermometers/Hygrometers to avoid
Never get any non-digital gauges, especially the sticky round ones with the analog dials, or button types. These are notoriously inaccurate, and you could pull 20 off of one shelf, and they would all read different numbers.


Being forest tortoises that usually have very little sunlight because of the thick canopy of trees, and very constant, warm temperatures, Redfoots are not very tolerant of bright lights or temperatures being too hot or too cold. That’s why it is very important to make sure that your heating and lighting are adequate.

Normal light-producing heat lamps should not be used with redfoots, because it creates a hot-spot, and they are too bright. Instead, ceramic heat emitters should be used to keep temperatures constantly above 80 degrees.

It is best (and very recommended) to use a thermostat like Habistat or Ipower for ceramic heat emitters, but it is possible to achieve the correct temperatures without one.

When using any heat sources that require fixtures, always use one with a ceramic top.
Without using one, you risk starting a fire, and it can even burn out heat lamps much faster.

Your CHE will likely create a hot spot. To fix this, you need to create a shield or block off the area below it so that the tortoise can not get under it. You can use decorations, or even a large hide.

It’s best to go with a tropical tube light, in a T8 or T5 hood. There are multiple brands you can go with, but you should always use the long “tube” types, and not any compact fluorescents.

It’s best to put the lighting on one side of the enclosure(along the length or width), so that the majority of the enclosure isn’t too bright.

Lighting to avoid
Any kind of colored lighting. Tortoises can see the light and the color, so it keeps them up at night, along with making them eat their substrate and messing with their heads because it makes their world red. This goes for any species of tortoise, and most, if not all, species of reptiles.
Any kind of coil or compact bulbs. Not only do these produce very little uvb, but they are also known to cause terrible eye burns, and even temporary blindness. These should not be used for any reptile.
Any spot bulbs. They are much too desiccating on the shells, and much too bright and hot for redfoots. These shouldn’t be used for any tortoises, but are fine for most desert species of reptiles(other than tortoises).
Any UVB made for desert reptiles, or labeled as intense. These are too bright, and usually too strong.
Mercury vapor bulbs. Too bright, and much too intense and desiccating.


Daily, spot clean the enclosure for any poop or leftover food. Also remove any mold growing on the surface of the substrate if you find any.

Daily care
-soak hatchling-100 gram tortoises for 15-45 minutes, or more. After the 100 gram mark, you can start lowering it to every other day, and gradually to once a week for an adult. You can also soak daily for its entire life if you really want to.
-Feed and replace water
-Wet the substrate as needed, and be sure to pour water into the substrate and mix it up weekly.
-Be sure that humidity and temperatures are correct.


Not eating/Lethargic/inactive
-Did you just get your tortoise? New tortoises can take up to a month to become acclimated to their new enclosure. Leave your tortoise alone for a week, and don’t handle much. If your conditions are correct, they should start being active in no time.

-Check your temperatures and lighting. Are they above 80 and below 90? Do you have any bright lights? Temperatures being too low will cause tortoises to become sluggish, and unable to digest food. Temperatures being too high or lights too bright can be too stressful, and can cause them to hide. Fixing your lighting and heating may fix this problem.

Respiratory infection
Follow this post-

Shell Fungus
This is a very common problem in redfoots due to being a very humid species.
Shell Fungus is caused by being on a substrate with a top layer that is too wet, or an unhygienic enclosure. Be sure that you are frequently removing waste.

First, take a credit card or something similar, and use it to scrape off all of the fungus.
Then, apply an athletes foot cream(you can get it from the dollar store) to the plastron, or where the fungus was.
Third, keep the substrate dry until it goes away.
Shell Fungus is a very common occurrence in redfoots, so don’t worry if it happens.

Now, if you find shell ROT, contact a vet.

FURTHER READING (also has an app) is the best resource by far for any tortoise owner. Everyone with, or plans to buy, a tortoise should join. Is a great resource for redfoot info.

Don’t follow the advice of
Most people from YouTube, including Kamp Kenan. While there are definitely some good ones out there, most of these people are spreading incorrect and outdated info that can lead to a dead, sick, or not thriving tortoise. Stick with, and the tortoise library.

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