Red-Footed Tortoise – Habitat, Care, Diet, Facts

A Red-Footed Tortoise is one of the easiest to care for. It lives approximately 50 years in captivity if you take good care of it. Feed it well, offer a spacious enclosure with a high temperature, enough humidity, and this tortoise will be happy.

Its name comes from its unique shell markings and coloring, which offer a superb color palette. In this article, I’ll talk more about the Red-Footed Tortoise and give you a general rundown of its characteristics and needs.

Red-Footed Tortoise Appearance

If I were to describe the Red-Footed Tortoise, it would be “fiery” and “alive.” Its shell bears strange reddish markings, and some of the scales on its limbs are also red. That’s why it’s called a Red-Footed Tortoise.

An adult gets to 25-40cm in length and 14kg in weight. In other words, this one is a medium-sized tortoise that’s quite easy to take care of. You won’t need any complicated setup or enclosure to house this tortoise. If you’re not sure what tortoise to acquire as a pet, the Red-Footed species is a good start!

Red-Footed Tortoise Behavior

When captive, the Red-Footed Tortoise is very shy and fearful. It’ll hide away and burrow into the ground at the first sign of danger. While this tortoise is very calm and docile, it doesn’t like handling too much.

Its sharp beak may pose a danger if the tortoise bites you unintentionally, though it doesn’t happen often. Though, it’s quite a painful experience when it does happen. Be careful and don’t stress it too much to avoid this.

What’s good about the Red-Footed Tortoise is that it’s very active during daylight. It’ll scramble for food, move around the enclosure, and forage the entire yard. A word of advice, though – don’t feed it a lot, at once. If this tortoise eats a huge meal, you won’t see its small red-tipped paws for an entire week. It’ll lie in its nest, resting and digesting all that food.

In the wild, Red-Footed Tortoises are very sociable among themselves. They often share food and gather in small groups. These tortoises are also not territorial at all unless it’s about mating. If it’s about mating, the hunger games begin, and may the best male win! Though, Red-Footed Tortoises are not as aggressive as other tortoises species, even when it comes to mating.

Red-Footed Tortoise Lifespan

If taken care of properly, a Red-Footed Tortoise can live for more than 50 years. In any case, captive tortoises live less than their wild counterparts, due to the stress of being captive. But if you house 2 or more tortoises in an enclosure, this will increase their lifespan.

Tortoises interact with one another and this improves their happiness and health level over the long term. They may even outlive you, so you better plan ahead!

Red-Footed Tortoise General Care & Housing

Take care of your Red-Footed Tortoise and everything will be fine. Fail to care for it and it’ll get sick, become depressed and stressed, and potentially die a premature death. When it comes to tortoises, their needs are quite different from average pets like dogs and cats. They need a specific temperature and humidity range to live their lives optimally. A too damp or arid environment will harm their health, and the same goes for a too hot or cold enclosure.

– Temperature

All tortoises regulate their body temperatures because of their cold-blooded nature. An optimal temperature for Red-Footed Tortoises is 85 °F to 90 °F outdoor and indoors. The basking spot should heat the environment at about 95 °F.

Add another heat source if the temperature drops below 80F during the day. At night, if the temperature drops below 70 °F, you need to either heat the shelter or bring the tortoise to a controlled indoor environment.

If the temperature is too low, the tortoise may develop a respiratory issue and become sick. You don’t want that, since tortoises are very vulnerable to sickness. They may not recover completely even with enough time.

Hypothermia is also a possibility when the temperature is too low, even though it may not seem so to you. Tortoises feel temperature differently from us!

– Humidity

A humidity of 50-70% is ideal for a Red-Footed Tortoise, whether indoors or outdoors. To produce this humidity, make sure the substrate is moist and, at night, spray it with water. A pan of shallow water is a great tool to increase the humidity in the enclosure, as well.

I also recommend placing a box of moist dirt of about 15cm depth so the tortoise can walk through it. To maintain a constant humidity level, use a hygrometer to gauge it.

As for the substrate, I recommend using orchid bark, cypress bark, or sphagnum moss, as these retain humidity the best. Alternatively, paper is also a good idea, but you’ll need to change it once per week. Mold may form, which doesn’t bode well for the Red-Footed Tortoise.

Respiratory issues are a real danger for most tortoises, especially Red-Footed Tortoises. I recommend you pay attention to the humidity, temperature, and the presence of mold in the tortoise’s enclosure.

– Enclosure Size

Tortoises fare better outdoors than indoors. The Red-Footed specimen needs an escape-proof enclosure that’s sturdy enough to outlast a storm. Humidity won’t be an issue for this tortoise because its native habitat is tropical. You can even use a sprinkler to increase the humidity.

When it rains, you’ll often see this tortoise coming out to play in puddles and leap in the mud. The enclosure should be at least 4 feet by 8 feet to offer the tortoise enough space.

Make sure the enclosure is tall enough so the tortoise doesn’t climb over it. While not the best climbers, Red-Footed Tortoises can still scale a lower fence or enclosure wall. Ironically speaking, they have problems climbing over tall water pans, if it’s too deep. Moreover, this tortoise likes digging, so consider this when building the enclosure.

– Lighting

A tortoise needs the sun’s light to extract the precious vitamin D3. In an outdoors enclosure, this is simplicity itself. The tortoise has almost constant access to the sun whenever it wants to.

In an indoor enclosure, though, you’ll need to install UVB light and a reflector to spread the UVB rays to the tortoise. Vitamin D3 helps the absorption of calcium in a tortoise’s body, and calcium is crucial for bone and shell development.

Red-Footed Tortoise Food & Nutrition

Without the right nutrition, the Red-Footed Tortoise will be weak and may even become sick. Fortunately, this species isn’t picky about its food. Even in the wilderness, these tortoises eat a lot of leafy greens and fruits.

Even animal protein and bones are among their favorite foods. I recommend watching for vitamin A deficiency in your tortoise, as it can manifest in ear infections and swollen eyes. Supplement its diet with vitamin A if necessary!

– Feeding

Proper nutrition is vital for the proper development and health of a Red-Footed Tortoise. Fortunately, this species is an omnivore, and it can eat animal protein and greenery alike.

I recommend using the following diet: 60% dark leafy grasses and greens, 15% fruits, 15% vegetables, and 10% animal protein or pellets. Only feed your tortoise enough food so it finishes eating in 15-30 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to feed it an amount of food equal to the size of the tortoise’s shell.

The best dark-leafed greens for the Red-Footed Tortoise include mustard greens, escarole, dandelion, and endives. You can also feed your tortoise kale, broccoli, and spinach, but only in small amounts.

Fruits are another dietary option since the Red-Footed Tortoise is very tolerant of fruits. You can feed it papaya, parsnip, carrots, hard melons, and sweet potatoes. As for animal protein, this tortoise can eat up to 28g twice per month. You also need to feed the tortoise calcium and vitamin D3 supplements.

– Hydration

Tortoises extract most of the necessary water from fruits and leafy greens. Food also acts as hydration, in other words. But they may also need a bowl of water to drink from time to time. If it’s particularly hot outside, the hydration from food may not be enough.

So, the tortoise will end up drinking a bit of water. But take care so that the water bowl isn’t too tall. The tortoise may end up stuck inside it.

Red-Footed Tortoise Breeding

Unlike other European breeds of tortoises, Red-Footed Tortoises don’t ram or bicker among one another. Males don’t fight each other much for a female’s attention. And when the copulation takes place, there’s no violent ramming involved. If the female is not interested in the male’s advances, she just walks away. The male may attempt copulation a few more times but if nothing comes out of it, he’ll give up eventually.

During the mating season, a male will approach a female while wagging his head. That’s a sign of mating among Red-Footed Tortoises. If the female is interested, she’ll raise her hind legs and the copulation begins. Most mating occurs during May, June, July, and August but this isn’t an ironclad rule. Red-Footed Tortoise may mate all year-round.

5 Interesting Facts about Red-Footed Tortoises

  1. When interested in the same female, two males may enter a scuffle which generally ends with one male turned on its back. The winner gets to meet and impress the female, and maybe even make a few offspring.
  2. Most Red-Footed Tortoises live for more than 50 years, and some even reach 100 years. That’s more than many people live but we already knew that tortoises live a long life.
  3. Male and female Red-Footed Tortoises identify each other during mating with head movements (head wagging).
  4. When at rest, Red-Footed Tortoises barely move at all. In fact, cases have been documented where termites built tunnels on carapaces of Red-Footed Tortoises that were at rest.
  5. The Red-Footed Tortoise eggs are temperature-dependent when it comes to the gender of the baby tortoises. A temperature over 88F (31C) means the egg will be a female, and a temperature lower than 82 °F (28 °C) means the egg is a male.


If you ever wanted a pet tortoise, the Red-Footed Tortoise is your best bet. It’s very easy to take care of, for a tortoise. Sure, you’ll need to manage its temperature, humidity, diet, and everything else. But you’ll have a happy tortoise hissing at you when you pet it too much.

I also recommend getting at least two tortoises so they can socialize. Ideally, they should be a male and female so they can make babies. Who doesn’t want baby tortoises?

avatar William
William is a respected pet enthusiast with expertise in reptiles and birds. With extensive experience caring for these animals, he shares his knowledge through engaging and informative articles in various publications. He is an active member of pet-related organizations, volunteering regularly at shelters and promoting animal welfare and conservation. read more...

Questions and Answers

Suzanne Simpson April 3, 2022 Reply

I don’t know if its ok to ask but what do you use to clean your tortoises pen?

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