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Red-footed Tortoise Care

Red-footed Tortoise Care

Red-footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria)

Popularity: Popular because they are easy to care for, generally stay healthy and are quiet.

Origin: They are indigenous to southern Central America and northern parts of South America. They can also be found in the islands of the Caribbean and the West Indies.

Native habitat: Forests and savannas

Size: 10-14 inches, but sometimes up to 16 – up to 20 pounds

Lifespan: 40-50 years

Appearance: Red-footed tortoises get their common name from the red markings they have on their legs and feet. Their face may also be marked in some combination of yellow and orange. They will typically grow to be around 10-14 inches in length, but some may grow a couple of inches longer. When they get older, their shell “caves in” right in the middle. Viewing the tortoise from above gives it an hourglass appearance.

Diet: Omnivorous

Activities: In the wild they are active in the morning and after a rainfall. This is mostly to seek out food.

Defense Mechanisms: They hide in their shell.



Newborns and youngsters need housing that is 2x3 feet, and adults need it to be 4x6 to 4x8. It needs one area that is warm, one that is cool, and one that is for basking. Include a large water dish that can be situated down into the substrate as a bathing area. Unlike most reptiles, it is not the best thing to house these in a tank. Most owners use a large tortoise table. Youngsters can be raised in large plastic tubs.

Tortoises can be housed outdoors providing the temperature doesn’t fall below 60 degrees F. Provide a hide that will keep the reptile out of poor weather conditions. Make sure the enclosure gets some sun and some shade. Be sure to mist it well every day if you live where it is not humid.


Good substrate is fine sand mixed with cypress mulch or sphagnum moss. These substances hold moisture to help with humidity.


Put some hides in the enclosure. Real or artificial plants are good choices, with real ones being the best for humidity reasons. Pieces of wood and bark work well, too.


The enclosure needs to have a thermal gradient, so one area should be from 80-85 degrees F, one should be 70-75 degrees, and one should be around 90 degrees for basking. Using reptile heat pads and heating lamps work well for this. Use a thermometer to make sure it’s correct.


Red-footed tortoises need a considerable amount of humidity. Mist the housing regularly, including the substrate and even the reptile. It shouldn’t be soaked inside, but there can be one area that is moister than the others.


Most sources say it is not necessary to provide UVB lighting for these exotic pets; however, there should be a cycle of day and night – 10-12 hours of each. For the dark hours, you can view your pet with an infrared lamp.


These animals eat fruits, leafy, green vegetables and other vegetables, and flowers such as hibiscus. Only one-fourth of the diet should be fruit. Feed newborns every day, juveniles every other day, and adults twice per week. It is advised to dust the food with a calcium supplement.

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