Redfoot tortoise, Chelonoidis carbonaria

Redfoot tortoises are a fun and rewarding pet for more experienced keepers

At a glance...
  • Redfoot tortoises are a unique, rainforest species of tortoise
  • Docile temperaments, but complex husbandry requirements
  • A great option for intermediate and experienced hobbyists
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Do Redfoot tortoises make good pets?

Redfoot tortoises are a rather large and unique-looking tortoise species originating from the forest habitats of Central and South America. This species has higher humidity requirements than most, but still requires good airflow which can make caring for them a little more complex.

Redfoots are a docile species that will tolerate handling, but they do not enjoy being suspended in the air, so it is better to interact with them whilst they roam or feed. At Swell Reptiles, all of our Redfoot tortoises are captive bred in the UK, meaning you can rest assured that your new tortoise came from a reliable source.

What enclosure do I need for my Redfoot tortoise?

Due to their larger size and surprisingly high activity levels, Redfoot tortoises should be provided with an enclosure footprint of at least 150 x 90cm (5 x 3ft), although they grow quite slowly and smaller enclosures can be used for younger individuals.

As they are quite prone to respiratory infections in low-ventilated areas, open-topped tortoise tables work best, although it can be difficult to maintain the correct humidity levels in these set-ups. Wooden vivariums can also be used, but extra care should be taken to increase the ventilation, for instance, by drilling holes into the ceiling panel.

Do I need to provide heating and lighting for my Redfoot tortoise?

To enable them to properly regulate their own body temperature, Redfoot tortoises should be provided with both warm and cool areas within their enclosure. The basking temperature for this species should be around 32°C (89°F) and their cool end should be between 22-25°C (71-77°F). Redfoots also require a medium-high level UVB to enable them to synthesise vitamin D3 and utilise the calcium provided in their diet. Without this, their shells will not be able to grow properly, leading to various health issues that in the worst cases can prove fatal.

On an open-topped table, heat and UVB can be provided using a single source, an all-in-one D3 basking lamp, otherwise referred to as a Mercury Vapour Lamp. The height of the bulb to reach the correct UVI can differ between brands, so it is important to read the product packaging or even test using a Solarmeter to determine the required height. Once you have figured this out, you may need to increase or decrease the wattage as required to reach the correct temperatures, as these bulbs cannot be regulated by a thermostat.

When using a vivarium, the heat and UVB must be provided from separate sources. The best way to provide heating is using an overhead heating system such as a basking lamp and dimming thermostat, or a ceramic heater and pulse thermostat. Whereas, your UV will come in the form of a strip light, such as an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - Forest 6% positioned 30-40cm (12-15”) above the tortoise’s shell, or an Arcadia ProT5 Kit - Desert 12% positioned 40-60cm (15-24”) above the shell.

What substrate should I use for my Redfoot tortoise?

Due to their higher humidity requirements, a loose, soil-based substrate that will hold moisture works best for Redfoot tortoises, such as coco soil or Arcadia EarthMix for bioactive set-ups. Whilst helping to keep the humidity levels up, these substrates will also provide a burrowing opportunity to your tortoise, which is a part of their natural behaviour.

How do I decorate a Redfoot tortoise’s vivarium?

If you opt for a tortoise table, this will likely already have at least one hiding area built into it, however, not all tables do, and most vivariums do not, so you may need to provide a couple of wide-opening caves for hiding such as the Exo Terra Tortoise Cave. A shallow water dish that your Redfoot can climb into is also essential for hydration, for example, the ProRep Tortoise Pool.

A Redfoot tortoise’s enclosure should also incorporate enrichment opportunities in the form of tunnels, hills, bark pieces, rocks and foliage from either live or artificial plants. If live plants are used, they are likely to be eaten so it is important to ensure the chosen plants are safe for consumption by your tortoise and be prepared to need to re-plant the set-up over time.

What do Redfoot tortoises eat?

Redfoot tortoises are one of the only examples that are not completely herbivorous, in nature, they are scavengers, and will take advantage of carrion left lying around by larger predators. The larger portion of their diet should still, however, come in the form of vegetation such as vegetables, fruits, garden weeds and flowers, but the occasional reptile frozen food or egg can be offered to provide protein and add variety.

All vegetation offered to your Redfoot tortoise should be supplemented according to a feeding cycle. We recommend using a calcium-rich multivitamin on every feed, such as Arcadia EarthPro-A, a calcium plus magnesium supplement on every fourth feed, such as Arcadia CalciumPro Mg and finally, a vitamin D3 supplement on every eighth feed such as Arcadia EarthPro RevitaliseD3.

How do I buy a Redfoot tortoise?

If you would like to purchase one of our UK captive bred Redfoot tortoises, you will need to collect this from our superstore as we do not ship livestock.

To ensure all of our animals go to suitable homes, we will ask a few quick questions and also to see some images of your set-up which should already have the required temperature and humidity parameters and adequate lighting installed. We reserve the right to refuse adoption to anyone we feel is unprepared to adopt.

For more detailed husbandry information, please refer to our dedicated Redfoot Tortoise Care Sheet. Or, if you would like to look at some alternatives, you can check out our Horsfield tortoise care sheet.

Common names Redfoot tortoise
Scientific name Chelonoidis carbonaria
Country Central and South America
Captive-bred Yes
Adult size 27-35cm (11-14”)
Natural habitat Forest habitats
Housing 150 x 90cm (5 x 3ft)
Ideal temperature 32°C (89°F) (warm end); 22-25°C (71-77°F) (cool end)
UVI 3-4
Ideal humidity 60-80%
Diet Omnivorous
Average lifespan 50+ years
Personality Docile
Ease of handling Easy, more difficult with adults
Cohabitable No
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Help Guides
  1. Redfoot tortoise, Chelonoidis carbonaria, care sheet
    Categories: Care sheetsChelonians

    Redfoot tortoise, Chelonoidis carbonaria, care sheet

    Redfoot tortoise, Chelonoidis carbonaria, husbandry guide from the experts at Swell Reptiles, covering housing, heating, lighting and more.