Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Red-Footed Tortoise: Pictures, Facts, Diet, & Care Guide

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Cute small baby Red-foot Tortoise in the nature

The Red-Footed Tortoise comes from the forests of America and is a popular pet species because of the distinctive red markings on its feet and striking shell coloring. The Red-Footed Tortoise does need high humidity and temperatures, so depending on the environment you live in, you may need to provide additional heating and a tank that retains humidity, rather than an open-top table enclosure.

The species has a lifespan of more than 50 years in captivity, which is approximately twice as long as it would live in the wild, and other than its habitat requirements, it is considered a relatively easy tortoise to care for.

Size: Medium
Weight: Up to 30 pounds
Lifespan: Approximately 50 years, possibly more
Suitable for:
Owners looking for a docile tortoise that can commit to long-term ownership
Temperament: Sociable, active, occasionally shy

The Red-Footed Tortoise does require a substantial commitment. You should expect yours to live 50 years and be prepared for the fact that they can live up to 80 or 90 years. Get the enclosure setup properly from the beginning, and commit to a daily schedule, and you will find the species is easy to care for and a joy to keep.

Red-Footed Tortoise Breed Characteristics

red-footed tortoise in the enclosure
Image Credit: fullframes, Shutterstock

How Much Do These Tortoises Cost?

The Red-Footed Tortoise is a popular species, which means that it is quite easy to find captive-bred examples for a relatively low cost. Hatchlings and young examples cost anywhere between $200 and $600 while adults can cost $1,000 or more, with females typically costing more than males. As with most pets, the cost of buying the animal itself will not be the largest investment you make over its life.

The Red-Footed Tortoise has some very specific tank and habitat requirements, which will require an initial outlay of up to $500 and you will need to pay around $50 per month to keep your tortie. Bearing in mind the species can live for 80 years, this means a lifetime outlay of a lot of money although this will obviously be spread out over a considerable period.

Their popularity means Red-Footed Tortoises can be found in pet stores, but it is usually better to get yours from a reputable and experienced breeder. This will also allow you to ask questions specific to this breed, which may not be answered in a pet store.

Red-Footed Tortoise Behavior

The Red-Footed Tortoise has become a popular species. It is a burrower, and yours may spend some time burrowing to make a safe spot to hide, especially as it gets used to its new surroundings. However, it is a sociable animal, and it will usually get along well with its human family. It can also live with other tortoises, as long as you choose the right tank mate and ensure that it has adequate space and conditions.

Do These Turtles Make Good Pets?

Image Credit: E. Beth Thomas,ShutterstockThe Red-Footed Tortoise is considered a good pet species. Burrowing is part of the species; natural activity, so it may spend some time trying to burrow. However, it is active during the day which means that you can spend time watching your new pet. Although it doesn’t particularly enjoy being handled, the species is docile and will tolerate your company.

Although it has no teeth, an adult Red-Footed Tortoise does have a hard beak and it can hurt if it bites you, whether accidentally or intentionally. Intentional bites are rare and are not usually administered without reason. If yours does try to bite you, check what you’re doing and look for a possible cause. It could be an indication that your pet is in distress, stressed, or even ill.

Red-Footed Tortoise Tank Mates

The species is not considered very territorial or aggressive, although two males can become aggressive if they are challenging for the attention of a female. It is possible to keep two of these tortoises together. It is generally recommended that you keep two of the same gender. If you intend to keep two together, you will need to provide enough room for both.

A single Red-Footed Tortoise requires a minimum of 55 gallons. Ideally, you will need to provide 80 gallons or more for two adults living together. It is not recommended that you keep different species together because some species can carry germs and diseases that are potentially fatal for other species.

red-footed tortoise eating a blueberry

Care Sheet & Habitat Setup:

Although the Red-Footed Tortoise is considered an easy species to keep, it does have specific habitat requirements, and getting the right tank setup is important. You need to be able to provide proper temperature, including a hotter basking area, and the tank needs to effectively maintain an appropriate humidity level.

Light Requirements

It is possible to keep Red-Footed Tortoises outdoors, but only if you have an appropriate climate and if you can provide additional heating and humidity to meet the species’ natural requirements. If you keep yours indoors, you will need to provide full-spectrum ultraviolet lighting so that your tortoise meets its UVB requirements.

UVB is especially important to tortoises because it enables them to synthesize vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 allows the tortoise to properly absorb calcium, which is used to maintain bones. The tortoise’s shell is an extension of its bones, so calcium also helps ensure a healthy shell.

Red-footed tortoise close up
Image Credit: S.Candide,Shutterstock

Heat and Humidity Requirements

Reptiles are cold-blooded animals which means they need a constant supply of heat to be able to regulate their body temperature. They also need a temperature gradient, with one end of the tank cooler than the other end, with the hotter end providing a basking spot. The lower temperature should be around 85°F with the basking spot being 95°F. Ensure you have thermometers set up to check both ends of the gradient and a reliable heat source.

Red-Footed Tortoises also need humidity to be between 50% and 70%. A hygrometer will measure humidity and you should add a bowl of water. Not only will this help increase humidity, but your tortoise will enjoy walking in the water. The right substrate can also help maintain adequate humidity levels.

Tank Size

A suitable size of tank for a single Red-Footed Tortoise is 55 gallons or one that offers at least 4 x 8 feet. The tank sides need to be at least 16 to 18 inches high, and because the species is a burrowing tortoise, the sides should ideally go below the ground or down to solid ground. There is no such thing as too much space, so if you can provide a larger tank for your tortoise, it will benefit from the extra room.


Like most species, Red Footed Tortoises prefer an uncluttered space so that they can easily get around. Too many plants, rocks, and items can be difficult to navigate around with a hefty shell on your back. However, you can add some plastic plants and other basic décor items to brighten the enclosure up, especially if the tank is on the larger side. Make sure there is plenty of empty space for exercise, though.


Because this species is a burrowing species, you need a substrate that facilitates digging. Cypress or orchid bark is suitable, but sphagnum moss is preferred because it also aids in maintaining appropriate humidity levels. The substrate will need to be changed every couple of weeks to ensure it is clean and to get rid of any bacteria.

red-footed tortoise eating spinach from a plate
Image Credit: Marcy Schrum, Shutterstock

Things to Know When Owning a Red-Footed Tortoise:

The Red-Footed Tortoise does need plenty of space. Its temperature and humidity requirements also mean that this species tends to do better kept indoors and in a wooden enclosure that allows you to monitor and maintain levels.

Food & Diet Requirements

This omnivorous species needs a diet consisting of both plant and animal matter. An ideal ratio consists of 60% greens and grasses, 15% vegetables, 15% fruit, and 10% animal protein. Feed as much as your tortoise can eat in 20 to 30 minutes and remove any food that is left over after this time. You will also need to add supplements, for calcium and vitamin D3, to their food every couple of days to ensure they are getting a balanced diet.

Size & Growth Chart

An adult Red-Footed Tortoise will usually reach around 12 inches and weigh up to 30 pounds, and it can take 10 years for them to reach full maturity. While every tortoise will grow at a slightly different rate, it helps to have a rough idea of what size your tortoise should be so that you can identify any potential problems.

Age Weight Size
1 year 3–4 pounds 2.5–3 inches
2 years 4–6 pounds 3–4 inches
3 years 7–9 pounds 5–6 inches
5 years 11–16 pounds 7–9 inches
10 years 20–30 pounds 12–14 inches
Red-Footed Tortoise Closeup
Image Credit: reptiles4all,Shutterstocks


Lifespan and Health Conditions

Red-Footed Tortoises are quite hardy animals, with most health problems being caused by poor living conditions or poor diet. The species is an omnivore and you do need to make sure that you get the balance of animal and plant matter right, while also supplementing, to avoid deficiencies.

Minor Conditions
  • Ear Infections
  • Eye Infections
  • Parasitic Infections
  • Shell Rot
Serious Conditions
  • Respiratory Issues

Male vs Female

There isn’t a lot of difference in the weight of adult males and females, but the male can be slightly longer. Both genders also display similar characteristics and traits, and both are amiable and placid. The male is slightly more likely to be territorial than the female, but this usually only happens when multiple males are competing over a female.

male Red-Footed Tortoise walking outside
Image Credit: Brenda Carson,Shutterstock

3 Little-Known Facts About Red-Footed Tortoise

1. They Eat Some Animal Matter

Red-Footed Tortoises are omnivores, which means that while the majority of their diet consists of plant matter, especially grass and greens, they will eat some insects and other animal-based protein, and this needs to be replicated in their diet as pets. They will occasionally eat mice, rats, and chicks. You can feed boiled chicken, in moderation, as a good source of animal protein.

2. They Have Red Feet

Unsurprisingly, given their name, Red-Footed Tortoises have red feet. They have red blotches on their legs, and it is fun to watch them walk. The red coloring is not only how the species got its name but has likely helped them become a popular pet tortoise breed.

3. They Don’t Enjoy Being Handled

Another reason for their popularity is that they are docile tortoises. Although they can bite, and the hardness of their beak makes bites quite painful, it is rare that they do so on purpose. However, they don’t really like being handled, and it is a good idea to keep handling to a minimum. Not only can it stress the Tortoise out, but they also carry salmonella, and the bacteria can easily spread to you if you do pick your tortoise up often.

Final Thoughts

The Red-Footed Tortoise is a popular pet tortoise species. It has red markings on its feet and a beautifully colored shell. It is also a lively tortoise that tends to be active during the day, and while it doesn’t necessarily tolerate handling, it is quite a friendly little species. The hardest aspect of owning a Red-Footed Tortoise is ensuring that you get the habitat conditions just right, considering both temperature and humidity need to match the forest conditions of Central and Southern America.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: seasoning_17, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database