The red-footed tortoise, commonly known as the red foot or the savanna tortoise, is a moderate size tortoise with most individuals reaching, and they grow to a maximum size of between 12 to 18 inches. These animals are natives of South America. They are used to a moderate climate in the savanna to forest edges around the Amazon basin with higher humidity than most of the larger tortoises seen in captivity. It is important to have good ventilation and airflow to prevent respiratory distress with increased humidity. Due to their moderate personality and the fact that they are curious animals, the red foot are very popular animals in the pet trade.  In captivity, they are very popular, especially in the United States. Generally, the red-footed tortoises that are born in captivity are smaller compared to the wild ones.

John5199, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The red-footed tortoise is mainly bred in the United States, and this happens mostly in the humid southeastern states where it is easier to keep them outdoors throughout the year. The baby red-footed tortoises that are captive-bred can be found in many places, including the local pet stores, reptile expos, and directly from the breeders. However, these tortoises are still gotten from the wild, and this mainly is in some localities such as Guyana and Suriname. These animals are also farm-bred in South American and later shipped to the United States after reaching a size of 4 inches. These farms bred animals have somewhat pyramided shells, whereas the wild cough ones have a very smooth shell.


The hatchlings of a red foot are usually approximately 1.5 to 2 inches in carapace length when they are hatched. The growth rate is determined by different factors, but this mainly depends on the quality and the amount of food they are taking as well as the temperatures they are getting exposed to. The adult red foot is usually between 11 to 14 inches in length, with some exceptions to this rule. Sometimes the females are smaller compared to males since they can be as small as 9 inches. Just like the rest of the tortoises, the growth rate is usually rapid within the first ten years, and then the rare drops with age.


These reptiles are not high maintenance provided you set up their enclosure correctly during the first time with all conditions such as light, heat source, humidity and put everything on timers. The main daily activities include feeding, water bowl change, and cleaning up all the pet wastes. These pets are pretty, and in captivity, they are usually shy, often hide or burrow, and this is usually a stress response whenever they are under threat, such as predators. These animals are easygoing and docile, but in general, they do not like being handled.  They do not have teeth, but they have strong beaks, and they can bite. The bites are rare and unintentional, although they can hurt.

It is advisable to progeny small children from handling the red foot since they have a possibility of spreading salmonella. This is a bacterium that lives in the intestinal tract of most reptiles, and it can cause some illnesses in humans. This can be prevented by good handwashing after handling this animal. Different from the rest of the tortoise species, the red foot is usually active during the day.  In the wild, they spend most of tier time foraging and digging. If they have eaten a large amount of food that can sustain them for long, they can spend as long as a week wrestling. The wild red foot is burrows, and they do so to look for shelter so that they can be able to cool down from the heat and hide from the predators.  They feel more secure when they are hiding in a spot where they tightly fit.  This can be maybe a tree trunk and sometimes wedging several tortoises in at once. These animals also display some social behavior while in the wild such as sharing food and gathering in groups.  They are generally not territorial of their feeding and nesting areas, and there are two males that are competing for a female.


As a result of temperature and humidity requirements, it is recommended not to keep the tortoises in an open-topped table as we do with Mediterranean species.   A glass tank does not offer enough ventilation or size, and therefore a large wooded vivarium is recommended. These animals originate from the rainforest floor, which got a lot of stagnant rain and little breeze, and therefore they do not need a lot of ventilation as the Mediterranean species.  Due to the size and activities of the red-footed tortoise, we recommend four by 2 by two enclosures for the juveniles, but for the adults, you will need to reconsider the size. Average size of 6 by two by 2 gives the adults pet enough space to roam throughout the winter though you may also consider outdoor as an option.


Sometimes housing the red-footed tortoises outdoors can be a bit challenging due to the temperatures.  They are best kept indoors where temperatures and other conditions are closely monitored, but after some time, when they are 3 to 4 years old, they can be moved outdoors. If you decide to house your red foot outside, you will need a secure heated indoor area where the pets can bask whenever they need and to sleep in at night. Some people use portable or permanent radiators or heaters to heat the entire shed, garage, or building.  The outdoor enclosure should carefully be protected from predators, especially the hatchlings.  Some of the dangerous animals that can cause harm to the fed foot include cats, dogs, birds, foxes, and rats.  It is advisable to fence off the area with a foundation in the graded rather than free-roaming.  This will ensure they do not feed on anything they should not or dig up any flower beds.


These animals require an enclosure that has a sturdy wall at least 16 inches above the ground as well as a few inches below the ground to prevent them from digging.  These animals are not so much into burrowing and digging, and therefore this is not a major concern as it would be with other species.  You should not use the see me through fences since these animals try to escape through or over these walls since they can see the other side. When you decide to house your pet indoors, the best enclosures are the sweater boxes or a tortoise table which you can buy or make by yourself.  The container itself is not as crucial as the furnishing put into it, which includes the substrates, lighting, temperatures gradient, and the cage furniture.  In colder climates, an ideal enclosure should be built in the garage for the large tortoises during the winter, and they should be heated enough to keep the tortoise comfortable during the indoor months.

Besides keeping the moderate levels of humidity in the enclosure, a baby red-footed tortoise that is raised indoors housed has access to a humid hiding area where they can snuggle in and get a dose of humidity much as they would do in a natural burrow.  This humid microclimate is important in aiding their shells to grow smoothly and helps in keeping the tortoise hydrated.  The tortoises that are raised with improper humidity tend to dehydrate quickly and form bumpy shells as they grow. There are a variety of substrates that can be used for indoor red-footed enclosures.


Inside the red-footed enclosure, there should be two hide boxes available, and one should ideally be placed on the cooler side of the enclosure while the other is on the warmer side.  These animals love the hiding areas, especially when they are taking their daily naps.  These hide boxes can be created from all sorts of household items such as large PVC pipes, half terracotta plant pots, and wooden huts.  It is important to ensure the tortoise can be able to turn itself while inside the hiding area. The rocks, driftwoods, and plants not only make the enclosure aesthetically pleasing to the owner it also offers some enrichment and stimulation to the pet.  However, the plants that are used should be non-exotic, and if faux, they should be kept out of the reach of the tortoise and their mouths. The accessories of the cage should be regularly changed preferer ably on a weekly basis during the clean to allow the tortoise to explore a new surrounding which gives them an opportunity to exercise, feed a natural behavior, and stimulates their minds.  The live plants should be potted to prevent rooting and plant destruction. During the summer and spring season, the red foot get the opportunity to wallow in the mud, and this is a phenomenal form of enrichment, however messy it is.

 The enclosure should have some water dishes not only for drinking but for soaking too.  These animals love to soak themselves and relieve themselves in the eater bowls, which necessitate regular water changes.  The dish needs to be deep enough for the tortoise to cover up their elbows whined, standing large enough for them to maneuver inside. If you cannot find a dish that is large enough, you can also opt to soak in Luke warm water for about 10 minutes 2 to three times a week, and that will work perfectly. However, every effort should be made to ensure the reis a large dish or tray.


The red foot that lives outdoors is tolerant to various temperature ranges. The high temperatures are not going to be a big brother as long as the pet has been provided with a shaded area to escape to just in case it is desired and constant access to water for soaking and drinking. For instance, in Las Vegas, United States, the adult fed-footed tortoises are kept at temperatures of up to 115 degrees F concessionary and have had no access to heat.  In Las Vegas, the enclosures are sprayed with sprinklers several times a day, which lowers the overall temperatures in the area and raises the humidity levels. The entire area is covered with 80 percent shade cloth.

These tortoises can also handle as low temperatures as 45 degrees with no major issue.  However, whenever the nighttime temperature drops below 50 degrees, a heated hide box should be provided that will maintain at least 60 degrees at night, and the pet should be brought inside during such times. The red-footed tortoises are kept outdoor year-round in some parts of the country where the temperatures drop up to 20 degrees.  It is, however, required that these red-footed tortoises be checked each evening to ensure that they are in the heated area and they do not fall asleep out in the open and end up getting exposed to cold temperatures during the night. Indoor, these reptiles can be maintained at normal temperatures of between 60 to 80 degrees. They should also have a basking area that is heated by an n overhead light or ceramic heat emitter.  This warm spot should be that range f 90 degrees F.

Despite the fact that some people feel like it is not necessary, the UVB lighting is provided in the indoor pets just to ensure that they properly access the calcium in their diet. When it is placed at the overhead, it won’t lead to any eye damage, as some people claim. The lights should run for between12 to 14 hours every day, and an average heat source can be used 24/7 under or over the hide box areas. Lamp times make the light cycle consistent and easy.  During the heating, you can use ceramic heat emitters or red bulbs, and they all work perfectly.  The red-footed tortoises exist in a wide variety in the wild, from grassland to jungle, almost all with moderate to high humidity and moderate temperatures.  In captivity, the red foot has the ability to handle different amounts of humidity once they are fully grown, but for the babies, they should always be kept humid to ensure that the shell grows smooth and properly in their first years.

These pets do not hibernate completely but will go through a winter slow-down period during the cooler weather and shortened day lengths.  An adult red foot can safely handle low temperatures if up to 45 degrees during the night as long as they have a hiding box that has at least 60 degrees so t5hat they can move in case they can no longer handle the temperatures.  During the summer, these animals can tolerate as high as 100 degrees temperatures as long as they use a cooler area where the pet can hide when the temperature is too high to bear.  The moisture is not a big deal in warmer temperatures, but the tortoises should be kept dry on cod nights.


The tortoises thrive best in the humidity of between 50 to 70 percent. A big box of moist dirt can be offered and used to maintain a higher humidity area of around 80 percent, which allows the tortoise to regulate its own humidity requirements. The red foot loves sitting in mud wallows, and this helps in simulating that behavior. Great care is important that the substrate should be kept clean and it also should be changed on a weekly basis to prevent mold formation and excessive growth of bacterial. The boxes of dirt fulfill the natural need for the box turtles while maintaining humidity in the cage. The substrate should always be moist enough that the excess water drains out whenever it is passed together in hands.  To increase the humidity, daily misting, spraying, and showers are used.


Other than UVB lighting, the substrate is another highly debated topic in reptile husbandry.  Bedding such as the jungle mix is completely appropriate but requires maintenance to prevent the excess of feces, urine, and urate being collected as it is easy to overlook it in naturalistic bedding. As long as you spot clean and the substrate daily and change it monthly, a red-footed tortoise can be maintained on naturalistic bedding. An absorbent layer such as the indoor/outdoor carpet, butcher paper, or newspaper can be laid on the bottom of the enclosure and covered with Timothy hay by those who cannot be able to maintain a full naturalistic sept up. The importance of the timothy hay is to offer some enrichment, foraging, and some little extra type exercise as the red foot maneuvers over the textured terrain. The carpet underneath acts as an excellent barrier between the pet and the enclosure floor, especially when they undertake heaters are used. You can choose to also use some items such as the alfalfa pellets.  There should be delayed cleaning of all uneaten food and feces as needed, and a full substrate change should be done weekly.


One of the interesting factors is the fact that the red foot’s tortoises live in colonies when they are in the wild. You will, in most cases, find a number of red foot inhabiting in the same burrow, for instance.  Some of the tortoise species, such as the Mediterranean, are known to be aggressive and territorial, but for the red foot, they bare peacefully, and even the males co-exist with each other very well, and they will never fight even during the breeding.  The more you will house them together, the more space you will require, and if you keep more than two together, you will need something like a heated shed or greenhouse, including full-time heating throughout the winter due to the size requirement. There is not much that is known about their social lives, but if you keep your red foot solo, it will still thrive.  However, for those who have adequate space to keep more than one red foot, it is something you should consider doing.


The red foot is mainly eager eaters who will rarely turn down any meal that is offered to them.  The adults need to be fed with the best mixture of various fruits, vegetables, flowers, and leaves. They also graze on grape leaves, mulberry leaves, hibiscus leaves, and flowers. Just like any other tortoise, they enjoy the Mazuri tortoise diet, and having this on the hand has worked perfectly well for a backup plan if you cannot get the store for the fresh greens, and it is a good supplemental diet. The Mazuri tortoise diet works perfectly to cover for any of the nutritional bases that the other diet may have missed. With the red baby foot, you can also use the spring mixes, which have several leafy ingredients in them, and they are supplemented with kales, collard greens, turnip green, and any of the dark lettuce types.  The cactus pads have become a major part of the diet of many of the tortoise as well.

Generally, it is believed that the red-footed tortoises need more proteins in the diet than many other species. Some prefer not to offer a direct source of protein.  These animals should be fed greens every day, and the protein should be offered once a week.  Some keepers prefer to use the insects s supplement food sources, and some of these insects are mealworms, earthworms, waxworms, or super worms. Some even offer baby mice as a protein source in the diet of their captive-fed red foot.  The Mazuri tortoise diet has higher protein content than the normal vegetarian diet, and therefore, by using this in the diet of your tortoise, the needs are being met.  You should feed the tortoises from a grass surface, flat rock, or concrete or from a tray.  To prevent the tortoises from soil or rocks, which might bring some digestive problems, you should never feed them directly from gravel or a dirty surface.  These animals are grazers, and they will munch on any plant they will find within their enclosures, and therefore it is advisable to use plants such as clump grasses, palm trees in order to provide a somewhat food source.

Some of the best and safe weeds and flowers to feed your red-footed tortoise include;

  • Buttercup
  • Hibiscus
  • Bindweed
  • Fuchsia
  • Dandelion leaves and flowers,
  • heather
  • Chickweed
  • Hawkbits
  • Petunia
  • Pansies
  • Rose pets
  • Sow thistle

Some of the best choices for salad, vegetable, and leafy greens include

  • Pak Choi
  • Collard/mustard green
  • Parsley
  • Squash
  • Lambs’ lettuce
  • Endive
  • Watercress
  • Sprouts
  • Cactus pads
  • Bell peppers
  • Rec and curly lettuce

Some of the safe fruits that you can feed your tortoise in large quantities include;

  • Figs
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Strawberry
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Pomegranate
  • Cherries
  • Melon

Some of the fruits you should feed your pet in small quantities include;

  • Blueberries
  • Plum
  • Peach
  • Blackberries
  • Apple
  • Grapes
  • Pear
  • Banana

As said earlier, the proteins should be fed on a weekly basis and in small quantities. The juveniles should be fed a teaspoon, while the adults should be fed a tablespoon of the proteins. Some of the rich sources of protein for your red-footed tortoise include;

  • Boiled eggs
  • Cooked chicken’
  • Mealworms
  • Defrosted pinky mice
  • Slugs and snails
  • Low-fat dog or cat food
  • Shrimp and shellfish


Calcium is one of the essential components in the diet of a red foot, and it helps them to remain healthy and ensures good shell growth.  You should use s quality calcium supplement at least 4 to 5 times a week as well as have a source of calcium available in the enclosure, such as cuttlefish bone or calcium block.  In addition to this, you should also use a good quality multivitamin that contains D3 supplements, and they should be used 2 to 3 times a week.  You will schmooze either of the supplements to add to the main diet of the tortoises.


As an owner, you should provide your tortoises with a water dish for the indoors and small ponds for those living outdoors.  It is advisable to use shallow, low-sided dishes that are glazed to make cleaning easy.  Cleaning should be done on a regular basis since these animals tend to soak in the dishes and end up dirtying them. The water should be provided throughout the years, although during the winter they will use them rarely.  During the hot months, it is also crucial to provide some mudholes and puddle areas where the tortoises can sit and stay cool during the hot months.

For the red-footed tortoises that are housed indoors, you should provide shallow dishes, but they also need regular cleaning.  In shallow water, the red foot starts drinking immediately and flushing their system at the same time.  The baby and juvenile tortoises tend to dry out faster compared to the full-grown ones.  They can also be soaked outside the enclosure in shallow, warm water once or twice a week for between 15 to 30 minutes to get fully hydrated, and this helps to keep the main enclosure clean.  This is a kind of forced hydration, but it helps in keeping your tortoise fully hydrated.


Unlike the Mediterranean tortoise, the red foot does not brumate. All the year-round, the climate is generally stable, and therefore drop in temperatures will not put your red foot tortoise into a state of hibernation but will damage the seriously and eventually cause death.  You should never attempt to hibernate your red-footed tortoise, and you should ensure the temperatures remain constant throughout the year.


Sexing the babies is almost impossible until they attain the size of 6 to 8 inches, and after this, you should easily be able to tell a male from a female visually.  The male red foot has a long and thick tail, while the females have a short and stubby tail. The underside of a male red foot is concave, and the makes are smaller in size as well. Whenever you are buying these pets the size, they are sold in is so difficult to differentiate a male from a female, but due to their peaceful nature, there is no problem whether you end up with a male or female.


Generally, the population of the wild red foot is diminishing by the day, and this is mainly a result of habitat loss. It is advisable to always consider buying a captive-bred red foot over a wild-caught.  If you are lucky to have enough space and the right climate in your enclosure, breeding red foot tortoises in captivity is done readily.  To breed these animals, you will need a population consisting of both mature males and females, and this needs a lot of space, and the most appropriate is to have a shed, greenhouse, converted garage.  Breeding will occur naturally during the hottest months of the year, which in the wild would be May to august.

The first sign of courtship Amon, the red foot is head wagging, and then the male will mount the female.  The red foot is very peaceful during this period, unlike the Mediterranean tortoises.  There is no ramming, biting, or attacking.  The process of mating is usually very peaceful with no injuries, and if the female is not interested, the female will just walk away, and the male will not make an attempt to force anything.  In the wild, egg-laying occurs between October and March, but this depends on the temperatures. You will be required to provide at least a 20 cm area of the substrate for digging in.  This can be either soil or peat and mulch mixed with some sand mixed in for some stability.  The average size of a clutch is usually five eggs in average. You need to monitor the behavior of the tortoise carefully so that you can remove the eggs once laid into an incubator.

The incubation for the red tortoise eggs can be challenging, and you should incubate them buried in the mix they are laid in at approximately 29 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 100 percent.  The average incubation period is between 120 to 140 days.  There is a popular myth that the red foot tortoises die immediately after they are hatched, but this is mainly due to the heath of the adults or the dirt they are fed on immediately after hatching, but it is still a mystery. When you buy a one-year-old red foot from a breeder or pet store puts them past the dangerous stage, and this gives you the best chance of getting a healthy tortoise. If you intend to breed your red-footed tortoises, you should ensure that the adults are kept in the absolute optimal condition and are fed with the best diet.


The red-footed tortoises are long-living pets, and in the wild, they live for between 2o to 40 years.  However, in captivity, they live for longer, and they surpass 50 years because they are not under any threat and they receive the best diet and living conditions.  There are some health problems and common injuries that the owners should be aware of. The injuries can include surface cuts, cracked beaks, and overgrown toenails.

  • Small laceration and abrasion from the items in the enclosure, and if these cuts occur, you should clean them with warm water and non-scented soaps daily.
  • Suppose they are not raised in a proper substrate; that is when the overgrown nails occur. You can fix the toenails using dirt substance or sometimes can be trimmed buy use of dog nail clippers.
  • The beak cracks mainly occur, but they are not a major concern.  To keep it trimmed, it is advisable to feed your tortoise on a rough surface.

Poor husbandry can result in several illnesses. Stress, low temperatures, and unclean enclosure can cause repository infections and shell rots or parasites to the red foot.

  • The wheezing sound is mainly a sign of respiratory infection.
  • The rotting shell indicates that the bacteria are eating on its shell.
  • Parasites can be internal or external, and they may be visible in the feces.

Any time you notice any of the above conditions on your red-footed tortoise, you should immediately consult the vet for immediate action.

Signs of a healthy red-footed tortoise

  • Bright, alert, and active with a healthy appetite.
  • Clear skin free of irregularities.
  • Clear urine and soft white urates.
  • Firm, dry and well-formed feces.

Sickness Symptoms

  • Lethargy, non-responsive, and lack of appetite.
  • Patchy, flaky, and dry skin.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Discharge from eyes, ears, nose, or mouth


The cost of a red-footed tortoise is approximately 150 to 300mdollars.  Before you can purchase a red foot, you should first check the local rescue groups and wildlife centers because many are abandoned and looking to be rehomed due to their lifespan.  However, if you decide to buy a baby, you should do so from a reputable breeder and ensure it is captive-bred.  The wild population is declining and threatened.  A healthy tortoise should be alert, have clear eyes and fecal vent, and the shell is smooth.  Before buying, ensure that you conduct a thorough physical examination checking its orifices for discharge and ensuring the skin and shell are free of irregularities.

The cost of putting up an enclosure can vary depending on the enclosure you want to create.  The outdoor one will be less costly compared to the indoor one since the latter requires a lot of conditions such as UVB lighting, basking bulb, and other artificial heat sources.


This pet is long-living, and therefore it is best suited for someone who is seeking to have a lifelong commitment to a hardy, intelligent and passionate reptile.  The fact that they have a long lifespan is one factor that appeals to most of their owners.  They are beautiful pets with nice brown shells with a red accent and red scales. Besides feeding them a healthy diet, they need regular checkups so as to avert any health problem in its early stages.  If you are looking for a medium-sized tortoise with some red markings, curious in nature am a great appetite, then the red-footed tortoise is the ideal choice.

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