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How to Care for a Red Foot Tortoise

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With its striking appearance and relatively straightforward care requirements, the red-footed tortoise (Geochelone carbonaria) is one of the most popular pet reptiles. Red-footed tortoises are also sometimes referred to as "baby red-footed tortoises."

Accommodation Size

Red-footed tortoises need ample space to be happy. A single mature red-footed tortoise can usually thrive in an enclosure that is 5 feet in length, 3 feet in width and 1.5 feet in height. If you're housing two mature specimens together, they generally can do well in an enclosure 8 feet in length, 3 feet in width and 1.5 feet in height. Adult red-footed tortoises are typically between 10 and 14 inches long.

Nutritious Feeding Plan

Red-footed tortoises generally have voracious appetites, and should be given well-rounded diets that combine fresh vegetables, foliage, flowers and controlled amounts of fresh fruit. Vegetables should constitute the bulk of their dietary plan. As far as leaves go, the hibiscus and mulberry varieties are both favorites. Some of the diverse veggies and fruits that are beneficial for these reptiles are apples, romaine lettuce, raspberries, carrots, blueberries, oranges, green beans, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, strawberries, celery, dandelion greens, kiwis and pears. Commercial tortoise formula also makes a positive addition to their menus, although in moderation. If you have any questions regarding suitability of certain foods, consult a herpetological veterinarian before feeding your pet. Talk to the vet about nutritional supplements, too. Red-footed tortoises often need calcium supplements formulated specifically for reptiles—it takes a lot of calcium to build a healthy shell. Hatchlings generally need supplementation every other day. Older red-footed tortoises generally need supplementation two times per week.

In terms of standard meal sizes, offer as much food as your red-footed tortoises can consume in about half an hour. Then promptly remove anything uneaten, as you don't want to risk their consuming anything old or spoiled. It might take you a couple of feedings to gain an understanding of how much your tortoises can eat. Youngsters require daily feedings, while mature specimens need to eat between two and three times weekly.

Climate Requirements

Red-footed tortoises can manage life both indoors and outdoors. If they live outdoors, however, it's imperative that the temperatures always remain warm. They generally succeed in temperatures in the middle to upper 70s Fahrenheit. Basking spots with temperatures in the lower and middle 90s also generally work well for them. Note that red-footed tortoises typically flourish in humid settings, as those are natural to them in the wild. UV (ultraviolet) lighting is also imperative for them. Make sure your red-footed tortoise gets at least 12 to 14 hours of these beneficial rays each day, and place the lamp directly overhead to avoid hurting his eyes. UV lighting encourages red-footed tortoises' bodies to take in the calcium their bodies need.

Housing Extras

Red-footed tortoises who live in indoor enclosures generally do well with substrates such as peat moss and cypress mulch. Outdoor red-footed tortoises can manage fine with soil that's devoid of any chemicals. Make sure to add a few sizable level stones to the enclosure. Stones function as "plates" for red-footed tortoises' meals and also help keep their nails short. Shallow water dishes are a must too, as red-footed tortoises often enjoy immersing their bodies.

Red-Footed Tortoises and Roommates

Red-footed tortoises can often thrive with others of their exact species. Same-sex groupings are preferable, as reproduction is a possibility with mixed groups. Male red-footed tortoises also can be extremely territorial and bothersome toward females during the mating reason.

Routine Veterinary Care

Routine veterinary appointments—at least once per year—are crucial for keeping red-footed tortoises healthy and vibrant, for as long as possible. This species can be susceptible to respiratory conditions, especially if living quarters are overly damp or cold. Always be on the lookout for warning signs of illness or injury in red-footed tortoises, including noisy breathing, lackluster eyes, diarrhea, wheezing, hiding, excessive sleeping, absent appetite, sneezing and persistent bleeding. Though red-footed tortoises on the whole are pretty robust reptiles, signs of sickness call for immediate veterinary attention.