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Redfoot/Yellowfoot Tortoise Care Sheet

General Care - This is a medium size species. Adults are 12-18", though tortoises over 14" are rare. With proper care they should out live their owners.

What To Look For - When you get your tortoise, it is highly recommended look at it well. Many Redfoots/Yellowfoots are wild caught or farm raised. And while yours may appear to be healthy the stress of being brought home and placed in strange surrounding may cause a hidden problem to surface. This is true even with long term wild caught and captive born animals. Look for runny nose, watery eyes, and scraped under the shell bottom.
Pyramiding - Visually this is when the scutes of the shell are raised up into pyramid shapes.Pyramiding is a form of metabolic bone disease (MBD). It is characterized by a build up or stacking of keratin in the scutes. In advanced cases the shell becomes soft and flattens out. Sometimes plastron can be so soft you could push it in with light pressure. If you were to tap on the pyramids, they sounded hollow. After a summer of grazing on grasses and weeds with plenty of sun and exercise, and a proper diet. The shell will get rock hard.
I have discussed this extensively with veterinarians that specialize in reptiles, reptile rehabbers and experienced keepers. It appears that pyramiding in tortoises is from a number of causes. Some are fairly obvious and are mentioned on just about every web site that deals with chelonians:
  • too much protein
  • too little calcium
  • too much phosphorous  (a poor calcium :phosphorous ratio)
  • not enough D3
  • Basically Feed better, use better light, use better vitamins = stop Pyramiding!
Diet - Redfoot/Yellowfoot Tortoises are opportunistic grazers and enjoy broad leaf plants. However they also eat overripe fruit and carrion,etc. The best diet is one that contains a wide variety of weeds (leaves and flowers), greens, vegetables and fruit.

A good starting point:

         greens : turnip greens, collards, kale, red & green leaf lettuce, endive, escarole, chicory, dandelion etc.

         fruit: papaya, mangoes, apples, melons, cactus fruit etc

         vegetables: all squash, carrots, occasionally green beans

 For detailed diet information: (see our Salad chart) for a list of edibles:

Use calcium with D3 every day, and multi vitamins once a week.

Water - Redfoo/Yellowfooy tortoises should have water available at all times. The dish should be large enough for them to soak in. Outdoors they enjoy a small wading pool. I use a cement mixing tray. They also love to wallow in mud.
Housing (indoors) - For hatchlings I use small cement mixing trays...Rubbermaid storage containers work well also.. Up until they are about 6 months old, I use only long stem sphagnum moss as a substrate. Hatchlings are very prone to dehydration and moss holds the moisture very well. As they get older I start adding Eco Earth- coconut coir to the mix.
Suspend a basking light and UVB bulb over one end of the container. I prefer to use a 100 watt Basking Bulb, and a Zoo Med 10.0 Reptisun UVB Bulb.. I raise or lower it to get the temps in the low 90's in the basking area, The cooler end should be in the mid to upper 70's. Night temps can drop to 70F use a small heat matt place it so the it is under 1/3 of the container at the basking end. This give a temperature gradient which allows them to choose a comfort level. Be sure that they can not lay directly on it, or that they can not chew on it. Lights on 12 hours Daytime for basking, the heat mat on 12 hours a night to burrow in.
For juveniles and adults, a tortoise table is the best option. Since they do get rather large, the bigger you can make this the better.
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