Red-Footed Tortoises

Yarmouth Veterinary Center

75 Willow Street
Yarmouth , ME 04096




  • Chelonoidis carbonaria
  • Native to a wide variety of habitats, ranging from tropical forests to dry savannah or semi-arid land of Central and South America
  • High-domed carapace (upper shell); each scute of carapace has a yellow center; yellow to orange to red facial markings and scales on lower legs
  • Adults range in size from 12 to 20 inches
  • Generally social, but males can become aggressive
  • Lifespan 25 to 35 years, with greater than 50 years possible
  • Males have a concave plastron (lower shell) and relatively long tail; females have a flat plastron and relatively short tail


  • Primarily herbivores but will eat some carrion and slugs and snails
  • The majority of the diet should be dark leafy greens, but no lettuce: cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli leaves, spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard, endive, parsley, coriander, celery, watercress, rocket; weeds, including: dandelions, plantain, clover, chickweed, docks, sow thistle
  • Also offer a variety of chopped vegetables: shredded carrots, corn, peas, green beans, bean sprouts, mushrooms, peppers, okra, broccoli florets and chopped squash, hay
  • Fruits can be fed, but should not make up a large part of the diet, and should always be supplemented with calcium: berries, mango, papaya
  • Foods that should not be fed, because of a negative calcium:phosphorus ratio: any lettuce, banana, cucumber, tomatoes, grapes
  • Offer a small amount of animal protein every 1 to 2 weeks - low-fat dog food and earthworms are good options
  • Mazuri Tortoise Diet is an excellent option, and can be up to 50% of the diet
  • Calcium supplements: dust the non-breeding adult's salad once weekly; the calcium should have no phosphorus or a very small amount; the Ca:P ratio should be 2:1 or greater, eg, Rep-Cal
  • Dust with a general vitamin / mineral supplement once weekly, for example, HerpVite


  • Provide a general temperature gradient of 78 - 85 degrees and a basking spot that reaches 90 degrees; drop to high 60s / low 70s at night
  • Provide lots of drinking water and soaking water, and a high-humidity "hut"
  • These are very active tortoises - provide an adult or a pair of adults with a 4 x 8 fr enclosure
  • Lighting: full spectrum is needed for calcium metabolism; - overhead self-ballasted mercury vapor lamps (eg, Powersun by Zoo Med) provide both heat for basking and UV light; replace the light every 6 months, or check with a UV meter, because UV output drops significantly before the light burns out; normal glass windows do not allow a full spectrum of light to pass through


  • At YVC, we recommend an annual physical exam
  • Most of the same diagnostic tests that we can perform for dogs and cats are available for red-foots, including digital x-rays, ultrasound exams and endoscopy
  • Blood collection usually requires anesthesia
  • Medical and surgical care options also are similar to those for dogs and cats


  • Dehydration
  • Hepatic lipidosis
  • Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (metabolic bone disease)
  • Obesity (If obesity is a problem, fasting one or two times per week is an option, but increasing the size the enclosure will increase exercise)
  • Penile prolapse
  • Pyramiding of the shell
  • Respiratory infections