Redfoot Tortoise Caresheet

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Redfoot NERD

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10 Year Member!
Dec 5, 2007
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ALL Tortoises on the planet require that 4 parameters be "IN BALANCE".

How this is accomplished ( or required ) is as varied as there are regions and keepers on the planet.

Temperature - Humidity - Lighting - Diet

Redfoot tortoises require the same parameters - they are unique from every other tortoise - although some other species of tortoises are similar
In other words = Redfoot tortoises are 'totally-different' than say Russian tortoises.
Different continent.. climate.. diet, etc.

Basically these 'basics" are for the first couple years of rearing and maintaining - in a region whos weather forbids outdoor exposure 5-6 months out of the year - you will find I tell Why and then What when explaining ..
How to keep everything "IN BALANCE".

This may seem like a lot to read and sometimes repeated - only to help
make it better understood!

This following Caresheet was created in 2005. Does it work you might ask?
It has 'started' literally hundreds of hatchlings - these are just a few examples.. shown 3-4 years old -

( all of these were 'started' indoors. No UVB bulbs were used... and every time they were taken outdoors and exposed to sunlight they freaked out and run for cover. Also were "misted-til-they-dripped" daily while eating )

Chances are you've not seen very many "Captive Raised" like these !!! Unfortunately these are the exception.. at least among 'most' keepers.
** DIET **
I use the size of their head as a gauge to how much is fed..I figure their stomachs are about the same size..
maybe even smaller! Early on [ even tho' they are 'opportunistic' - meaning they probably think this may be their last meal for awhile.. ( and / or do they know when to stop? ) ".. better eat while I can " ] I have received several emails about how much to feed.. only to find they ended up bumpy / pyramided. How much this had to do with 'quality' vs 'quantity' is unknown. I believe it's better to have them lean / hungry than fat / overfed. That's how mine have grown.. as shown.

Feed: hatchling's 1X ( size of head ).. every-day - juvenile's [ 4" - 6" SCL ] 3X .. 'every-other day' - adult's [ 6+" SCL ] 6X .. every 3rd day. Over-feeding is too common.. and easy to do! Resist overfeeding.. ' wrong / empty in nutrients ' easily causes health issues!
Keeping them 'hungry' is better than feeding too much!!!

Feed your hatchling "once" daily.. whatever they don't eat at one setting.. go ahead and discard.. otherwise it could easily cause "bugs" etc.
A good plentiful water source is Vital also!


FEEDING SCHEDULE.. first 2 days "greens alone".. next day "fruit alone".. next 2 days "greens alone".. next day "fruit treat" - pineapple or something different.. next day "animal protein" ALONE.. ( NOT Mazuri.. protein level too low & not animal source ). Your choice of "animal-protein" is entirely up to you - much is written on best source.
Sprinkle re-hydrated cat food with Calcium Carbonate powder (no D3).
"Chop/slice" everything small enough.. "bite-size"

On "greens" day we do not feed fruit because they often sort thru
and only want to eat the fruit.. like a kid and candy

-- Again.. these are all at least 6 months/3"

" Diet-options "
In order of calcium content:

Grape Leaves, Dandelion Greens, Curly Endive ( not Belgian ) / Chicory,
Escarole, Collard Greens and last but not least.. Hibiscus (blooms & leaves).

Although a variety is good no doubt..feed what is available per season.. or what the "Produce Mgr." can order for you.. you may be surprised what you can get when you ask!
No reason to feel that you are betraying your baby because you can only find a few things in the winter.. for example!

About "Half?" of my redfoot tortoise's diet consists of fruit & protein.. combined! Too many greens alone is not good for 'omnivores' .. is what redfoot tortoises are - a source of animal protein is vital .. ( redfoot tortoises are much more carnivorous than most believe or will accept - believe what you will on that )

Their main source of D3 is derived from their diet... ( if [ young-older ] adults traditionally come out of their hiding place.. in the morning to "bask / thermo-regulate" - hide most of the day out of the sun - and back out just before dark to 'graze' a little... then that seems to indicate that they do not rely on much sun / UVB to supply their D3 needs. And if that is the case ... they can receive their D3 needs thru their diet much easier and less expensive than the cost of "UVB bulbs" - especially for those of us that need to keep ours indoors 5-7 months out of the year.

I also ( per Andy Highfield ) -
use a "weight-management" type dry catfood every 7 days or so..well moistened until soft.. and "dowsed" with pure Calcium Carbonate powder (no D3).. [ most high quality / low fat dry catfood contains some D3 ]
( wait until your hatchling is 6 months old/over 3" or so before "supplementing" with protein and calcium on a weekly basis ) Like any / all writings these days ( considered scientific or otherwise ) - your choice on what you follow.
Always remember.. protein and calcium goes a long way!

Find a DRY Catfood with the highest PROTEIN / lowest FAT % you can find - what I used back then
Is no longer made. A weight management is usually the best. The small amount I have used has not shown any adverse results.

Redfoot tortoises are near "Rainforest" tortoises. They live on the edges of the forest.. which means they don't need a "basking" area. [ At the time this was written I addressed those 'most-common' at that time which was those from Guyana / Suriname. A quick look at the flora there shows that. This means they are in and out of the shade. { Obviously .carbonaria are from an enormous area covering "most" of South America ! And places where they have been introduced.... a " vast flora " !
This UVB thing has been an issue with all of those today that are reading into the "UVB" writings as meaning that it is the only source of D3 .. whether "Herbivores and Omnivores" do in fact need the same sun source to supply the "universal-need" for D3

My "indoor" enclosure ( for my hatclings - 2 year olds ) has one light source so they can see what they are eating!
And it's pointing away from their "living-space".. which is in the shade! ( same with the adults too )
IF D3 is not derived primarily from their diet - why is D3 added to our milk?
No need to spend a lot on UVB bulbs -- Especially those that combine heat and UVB!
My ADULTS breed and lay eggs inside .. sometimes in the dark!

While outside.. they are grazing.. or napping in the shade/tall clover - but most of the time they are in their "hide"!
So if adults are happy with virtually no UVB.. your hatchling certainly does not need their eyes fried out with it.
They spend the first couple of years laying low.. away from predators.. out of the direct sun and sight.. wouldn't you think??? [ friends in Venezuela tell me they have redfoots roaming wild in their backyards.. but seldom if ever are they smaller than about 6" SCL --- where have they been? ]
Many believe.. and I agree.. " too much" UVB is bad for little hatchling eyes!
Lights are NOT a source of heat!

If your hatchling / youngster is under the light a lot.. there is a good chance he's trying to get warmer.

HIDE/TEMPS: A vital part of health and well-being!

A flower pot cut in half turned 'away' from the light source-
( you don't sleep with the light on.. do you? ) is ideal for hatchlings.

After seeing too many pics of hatchlings, etc. climbing up on half-logs and tipping off/over - caution is encouraged. I've seen this especially in enclosures with too many unneeded plants and decorations that really only takes up floor space. They need more space to walk around.. remove all the extras and you will see more activity -
( as long as you provide enough "hide"/ totally dark space ) !!!

"Moistened" LONG-FIBER "spag.-moss".. which has been pulled apart to become "fluffy"..
is placed inside the pot.
A "heat-emitter" directly over the "hide" will keep the temps up..
and a daily misting of the moss IN the hide will help keep the humidity up .. also.
Only mist the moss enough to keep it moist.. not so much as to saturate!

Mid- upper 80's F is fine "in their hide".. low 80's F is ideal ambient temperature -
there is NO "basking" area temp. difference!!!
Expect your hatchling to spend "most"of their time..IN their hide!
You may have to experiment with the temps.

** Recently was asked how I heat the building mine live in during the winter months.
A small " 7-inch Ceramic-cube " heater works fine - be sure it has a good "thermostat" to control the temps.**


Without fail the biggest challenge is keeping "ambient" temps up!!!
"Over-misting" substrate can easily lead to 'shell-rot' on plastron!
It is not vital that substrate [ other than in hide ] be moist.. in fact staying almost
completely dry is far better. It IS critical to keep the carapace moist to ensure
healthy growth. A number of times everyday "mist-them-til-they-drip"!!!

[ Avoid shell rot by keeping substrate clean and virtually dry. This can be confusing since they require a high ambient humidity environment.
A good 'substrate' to use to eliminate a too wet surface for older torts.. is Cypress or Hardwood mulch.
( Older means at least a year old - "after" plastron has hardened! )
The surface dries quickly - it can actually be used OVER a 'coconut' type [ from a brick ]..
as long as the actual surface of the substrate is dry.. we are safe.


This Caresheet was created after watching 3 { 1998 } hatchlings grow "bumpy"!
There was no info on redfoot tortoise care back then.. so I contacted a few
young "old-timers" known to have experience.
That conversation led to creating the above Caresheet in early 2005 - few if any changes have been made because I've seen the same results since then as well as from many via email and phone conversations. They keep telling me the difference "Balancing the Parameters" has made. Many times I've heard "others" say... "This is what works for me".
My experience has been -- most don't really care what works for "the other guy"..
they want to know what works for "THEM" !!! Don't you agree?
Keeping the 4 'parameters' "BALANCED" will keep yours healthy
and thriving -- wherever on the planet you live!!!

Any concerns or questions.. post it on the forum and ask.
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