Red Footed Tortoise Care Sheet, Diet and Habitat

The red foot tortoise of South America is one of the most popular pet tortoises in the US. These tortoises are easy to acquire, remains at a size that can be easily handled and they’re also very simple to take care of. One of the notable features of the red foot tortoise is the amazing colorations on their head, legs and shells.


The red foot tortoise is native to places with moderate climates. But these tortoises have also show the capability of adapting to different climates and even habitats when in captivity.

They are great pets because taking care of them are low cost and have such curious personality. As such, they are typically sought after by tortoise keepers.

These tortoises live in rain forest areas that are close to open habitats. Some of the range of red foot tortoises is the same as the yellow foot tortoise overlapping in Suriname. In here, both the red foot and yellow foot tortoise inhabit grasslands and forests.

Red Footed Tortoise Care Sheet 

Red Footed Tortoise Food and Diet


Like most tortoises, red foot and yellow foot tortoises are primarily herbivores. Majority of their diet consists of dark leafy greens such as mustard greens, carrot tops, collard greens, kale, red and green leaf lettuce and beet tops.

The key when it comes to red tortoise diet is variety so don’t be afraid on experimenting on the different types of greens to include.

These tortoises are able to eat wide variety of plants in the wild and that makes variety important to tortoises in captivity. Aside from variety of fresh leafy greens, they should also be offered various kinds of hays in order to add fibre to the tortoise’s diet.

Commercially-available forest tortoise diets along with hay and greens can make up the tortoise’s base diet.

Red Footed Tortoise Enclosure and Setup

The enclosures for red foot tortoise are required to be a sturdy wall that has to be at least 16 inches in height. This enclosure has to be 16 inches above ground and then a few inches below ground so as to discourage or prevent the tortoises from digging.

The red foot tortoises are not typically burrowing tortoise so digging is not so much of a concern. Remember not to use see through walls & fences for the enclosure as when tortoises see through or over these walls, they are tempted to escape.

Red Footed Tortoise Size

Approximately, red foot tortoise hatchlings are about 1 ½ to 2 inches in carapace length. Their growth rate varies depending on a number of variables. Mostly, the factors depend on the quality and amount of food the tortoises are taking in.

It could also depend on the temperatures that your pet is exposed to. The adult size is generally about 11 to 14 inches with some exceptions.

There are some instances of females as small as 9 inches to lay eggs when it females of size 11 to 12 inches are most likely to do so. Red foot tortoise is like most tortoises that grow rapidly in the first 5 to 10 years which then slows when they age.

Reed Footed Tortoise Lifespan

How long a red foot tortoise live depends on a number of factors. Among these factors, the most indications are they can live for over 50 years. Tortoises in captivity have to be kept in ideal conditions that are the same of their natural habitat but without the threat of predator.

With this, red foot tortoises in captivity usually have lives than those that are raised in simulated settings.

Baby Red Footed Tortoise


This is a picture of a red foot tortoise hatchling just out of the egg. Visible are the notable colorations in the head and arms of the tortoise. As indicated, you can also glimpse an egg tooth of the hatchling. Below, you can learn more about how to better care for red foot tortoise hatchlings.

Caring for Red Footed Tortoise Hatchlings

Pyramiding, Photo By: Joe Heinen DC

The red foot hatchlings and juveniles have very similar needs as that of the adults. The only difference is that they are more sensitive when it comes to drafts and dehydration.

Breeders would keep the tortoise hatchlings on dry substrate and improperly feed them. This then leads to pyramiding at early age.

Red Footed Tortoise Facts

Simple facts about red food tortoise to remember:

  • The make red footed tortoise would make clucking sounds when they court and mate. This sound is quite similar to a hen.
  • When weather becomes cool, red foot tortoise metabolism considerably slows down. With this, the tortoises can very well survive on minimal food.

CB (Captive Breed) Red Footed Tortoise


This is a picture of two juvenile red footed tortoises. The two tortoises are sized enough to fit a palm. You see the incredible coloration of the tortoise shell.

Behind the picture was an enclosure of the young tortoise. Hatchlings and young tortoises are at high risk of predation that keeping them in enclosures is best.

Adult and Fully Grown Red Footed Tortoise


In this picture, you can see three different red foot tortoises from the young to adult and fully grown ones. You can see the different in sizes between the three.

Red foot tortoises are medium-sized tortoises with average size of generally 30 cm or 12 inches when they reach adult. However, some can also reach more than 40 cm or 16 inches.

Sexing Male and Female Red Footed Tortoise


In this image, you can see the difference between male and female red foot tortoises. As you can see, the males have quite a concave plastron. Its waist is somewhat constricted that gives them the peanut shape. On the other hand, the female has flat plastron that could be a bit concave.

Red Footed Tortoise Breeding

The red foot tortoise often starts breeding it reaches 6 to 8 inches long. The smaller sizes clutches are usually small with the eggs infertile. Compared to this, the larger tortoises are seemingly more successful to produce fertile eggs. Sometimes, the males in a breeding colony will fight because it is necessary for stimulating reproduction.

There are also instances when the males would tend to ignore each other. Also, the females would sometimes actively seek out the males, nudging them when they act uninterested. The males of red footed tortoise have quite the concave plastron. Also, some of them have a constricted waist that somehow gives them a peanut shape.

On the other hand, the females often have flat plastron which can be a bit concave. When it comes to successful breeding of this tortoise, the key aspects apart from size is diet. The tortoise with the highest hatch rate and largest clutches are often the one that’s fed with wide variety of food as well as animal matter, at least a few times a week.

You can get animal matter from  frozen mouse pinkies (must be thawed before feeding), boiled eggs, turtle brittle, chicken livers, boiled chicken, Aquamax trout chow, salmon that’s canned in water and Butterworms.

If your tortoise’s diet is not enough, you can expect the egg production to slow down. When diet is not enough, the yolk of the egg may not have enough nutrients so that the embryo can fully develop.

Inadequate diet is one of the reasons of the condition, “dead in the shell”, where the tortoise actually develops almost to hatchling size but then dies before it hatch.

The same thing may also contribute to the condition, “failure to thrive”, where the eggs are hatched but the hatching doesn’t make it even with proper care. Mating begins when the male starts walking closely behind the female then slowly mounting her as it lets out low grunts.

Red Footed Tortoise Habitat


One of the common and biggest mistakes that people believe about red foot tortoise is to think these animals live in open savannah areas out in the wild.

The truth is that red foot tortoises live in tropical rain forests thus making them forest tortoises. Learning of important geologic and topographic facts about red foot tortoise is important when creating the indoor and outdoor enclosures of your pets as well as in preparing their food.

The Guyana is one of red foot tortoise origins and they are about 85% dense tropical forest. The country is made up of roughly 10 to 15% savannah areas. In the 85% dense tropical forest areas of the country, you will find almost all wild reed foot tortoises. When it comes to red foot tortoises, the colour of their carapace is also an important fact.

The colour is usually navy, dark brown or almost black. Considering the very dark colour of the carapace, you can deduce that these tortoises don’t live so much in sunny areas.

Their dark carapace gives them the ability to get warm quickly with the dark colours absorbing heat quickly. At the same time, these may also overheat them quickly under intense sunlight.

Setting Up Red Footed Tortoise Indoor and Outdoor Enclosures

In setting up an indoor and outdoor enclosure for red foot tortoise, it is often open, with a hide and lots of sunshine. But this kind of setup is not what a red foot tortoise need.

More so, this setup is extremely difficult to be kept in a temperature in between 70 to 90 degrees with humidity between 70 to 90%. The enclosures, indoor or outdoor, should be much like the tortoise’s natural habitat. On that note, it has to be 60 to 70% covered in plants.

Red Footed Tortoise Temperature

A red food tortoise’s preferred habitat somewhat differ based in region. However, generally, it is consistent with seasonal temperatures of about 30-degree Celsius or 86-degreee Fahrenheit. It rarely gets below 20-degree Celsius or 68-degree Fahrenheit or more than 35-degree Celsius or 95-degree Fahrenheit.

Red Footed Tortoise Growth Rate and Chart

After birth, the hatchlings have to find food first quickly because they have little in surviving on the nutrients they get from their time inside of the egg. They grow slowly and don’t grow sexually until after a few years.

As they age, their colour slowly changes as they transition to adulthood. The juvenile red foot tortoise’s carapace is pale yellow but when they mature, it turns into dark brown, navy or almost black.

South American Red Footed Tortoise


This is the South American variant of the red footed tortoise. It also has dark brown or black carapace and doesn’t have constricted waist. The females of this variant are typically larger than the males.

Hypo Red Footed Tortoise


Hypo Red Foot Tortoise or hypomelanistic refers to a tortoise that has a gene which greatly reduces it melanin black pigment.

Red Footed Tortoise Pet


This image shows a small red foot tortoise for pet. The pet is quite small with yellow carapace. When the young grows, the carapace would often turn  to  dark  brown or black depending on the variant.

Bolivian Red Footed Tortoise


This is the Southern variant of the red foot tortoise which mostly ranges in Bolivia, northern Argentina and Paraguay. Their carapaces are not quite dark brown or black but sometimes whitish or light grey. They also tend to be bigger with the plastrons dark and with symmetrical mottled pattern.

African Red Footed Tortoise


Another of the species of red foot tortoise is the African Red Footed Tortoise. The head and limb colours of this species are mostly light orange to red with the plastrons generally yellow.

The African Red Footed Tortoise ranges in northern Brazil, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana and Guiana.

Cherry Head Red Footed Tortoise


The cherry head red foot tortoise is one of the most beautiful and quite impressive species of tortoise. It is slightly smaller than the red foot tortoise and is hardy. They are one of the most popular and highly sought after as pets.

Russian Red Footed Tortoise


This is a Russian red foot tortoise. One of the main difference between Russian and red-footed tortoises is that the former is smaller. Also, they need drier accommodations compared to the red footed tortoises.

Albino Red Footed Tortoise


This image is that of a juvenile red foot tortoise. This one is an albino tortoise thus the pale colour of its carapace. As mentioned before, the young red foot tortoises’ carapace’ colour is pale yellow. When the tortoise grows and become adult, this pale yellow colour turns to almost black, navy or brown.

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