I see far too many people who’ve recently acquired a hatchling or yearling Redfoot tortoise with a pen or enclosure more suited to a Russian or Greek than Redfoot tortoises.
Redfoot tortoises come from a completely different natural environment than arid tort species and if that natural environment isn’t replicated successfully your Redfoot will end up with any number of health problems – and your wallet will be much lighter.
In the wild Redfoot Tortoises are forest dwellers and until they reach 6 inches in size they hide in the forest floor and spend very little time in open areas. At 6 inches they’ve outgrown all but one of their major predators – the Jaguar.
In captivity, until they reach 3 inches or so, you’re not going to have a very interactive tortoise. Until they reach 3-4 inches they have a very strong need for safety and safety to them means hiding under leaves or any material that completely covers them.
The pen or enclosure for a 3 month to 3 year old Redfoot should be dimly lit, warm, damp, and with 70% of the surface of the pen covered with plastic plants, an easily accessible water bowl, and materials that provide numerous hiding places.
One 40 watt bulb is fine for a 3 foot by 5 foot enclosed pen – and that’s exactly what I’ve used or years with no issue what so ever. Add in 2, 60-100 watt heat emitter bulbs and you’ll easily have a consistent 75-90 degree temperature year round.
A substrate of top soil with the surface covered in sphagnum moss, plastic plants, and various sight breaks sprayed down twice a day (or if you setup a misting system to automatically run 4-5 times a day) and you’ll have consistent 75-90% humidity.
That temperature and humidity range is what your Redfoot needs to be healthy and grow at a normal rate.
Redfoot tortoises don’t require a UVB bulb, which is a must for arid species. Their ability to process calcium comes from their omnivorous diet where they consume carrion, beetles, worms, and slugs, not from the vitamin D3 reaction with calcium that UVB rays does for arid species.
Butterworms are an excellent protein source for young Redfoot’s because they are high in calcium along with protein. You can purchase Butterworms from Carolina Pet Supply.
Below are some pictures of our hatchling to 2 year old enclosure. It’s 3 x 5 feet in size and enclosed with clear plexiglass.
Small ½ inch holes on the end pieces provide the necessary airflow through the pen.
The light is a 40 watt LED that puts out no heat. They’re $10 at Home Depot and will last for years.
FWIW, there are 19, 6 month to 2 year old Redfoot’s in this habitat right now. Can you find them all? 🙂