The Redfoot Tortoise diet is unique because these tortoises are omnivorous to a greater or lesser extent and that means you need to add a small percent of animal protein to their diet.
The Wild Redfoot Tortoise Diet
Various studies done over the years in the wild habitat of the Redfoot tortoise shows that fruits are the primary component and can be as high as 70% of their total diet during the wet season and roughly 40% during the dry season.
In the wild, along with fruit, the flowers of various tropical plants are the second most common food in the Redfoot tortoise diet.
This is why I follow and recommend a year round – 60% fruit – 35% greens (which includes some mushrooms), 5% animal protein diet.
Redfoot’s, unlike Russian’s, Greek’s or Leopard tortoises, have a digestive tract that can easily handle the richer, sweeter, higher carbohydrate intake of fruit. We stick with papaya, mango, plums, berries, and cantaloupe for our herd.
Now, in captivity, we need to include some low-fat animal protein in their diet for two reasons. First, Redfoot’s are a rain forest tortoise and only on occasion do they actually bask in the sun like Russian’s, Greek’s, and Gopher tortoises.
Here’s a video where I show you how to mix animal protein in with their fruit and greens.
The Redfoot tortoise diet is very different, as I’ve mentioned by their being omnivores. Much of the vitamin D3 component they require comes from their consumption of animal protein in their wild diet, not from basking in the sun.
Second, a lack of animal protein for a Redfoot Tortoise fed on totally herbivorous diet (fruit and greens only) can result in locomotion issues and neurological problems.
I recommend as part of the your Redfoot Tortoise diet, feeding re-hydrated dried low-fat cat food once every 10 days. You want to avoid high-fat canned foods, so look for 5% fat or less. We give about 8-10 grams of moistened low-fat cat food to our adult (10-12 lb) tortoises once every ten days. Figure .75 – 1 gram of cat food to 1 lb of tortoise.
We do not feed our hatchlings any protein until they reach at least 6 months old.
For Redfoot’s – Not Russian’s
The Redfoot Tortoise diet would eventually kill a Russian, Greek, or Leopard tortoise but is perfect for your Redfoot.
One result of this higher protein, higher purine (mushrooms) content of your Redfoot tortoise diet is they must always have access to fresh water and have a higher humidity enclosure. Dehydration is a serious issue for your Redfoot because they consume a higher protein and purine (mushroom) diet.
All tortoise species, like the Redfoot tortoise, that consume a higher protein content live in high rainfall, high humidity environments with continual access to free standing water.
Finally, the higher protein diet is seen in the Redfoot tortoise digestive tract biochemistry, with how they eliminate the waste products from protein metabolism.
Tortoises from environments with plentiful water are primarily aminoureoletic, excreting a blend of ammonia and urea, while tortoises from arid environments (like Russian’s, Greek’s and Gopher tortoises) are typically uricotelic, excreting uric acid and urates – the white yogurt-like material you’ll find in their enclosure on occasion.
So, now that you know why you need to feed your Redfoot tortoise a small amount of animal protein, make sure you do and make sure it’s low fat as well.