My Redfoot Hatchling Careguide

A Beginner’s Careguide for Redfoot Tortoise Hatchlings

Temperature/Humidity/Diet/Enclosure/Lighting

I’m not an expert, just a well-read amateur with a happy and healthy redfoot, but direct experience has taught me that given sufficient attention to the five key factors above, the keeping and raising of a redfoot tortoise from a hatchling should be a relatively straightforward and simple process. If you keep in mind how and where their wild relatives live (as scavengers in a tropical jungle or forest’s edge), and try to mimic those conditions somewhat in their home (within your home), they should do fine.

Temperature
I keep the warm end of the enclosure around 92F during the day, the cool end around 82F, with the temp dropping a bit at night, but never below 75F in the coolest part of the enclosure (in my enclosure the light/dark cycle makes this difference work). I heat my enclosure through a combination of an undertank heater, and the UVB basking bulb over one end. The undertank heater is on a thermostat that shuts it off at 86F, buried under the substrate.

Humidity/Water/Soaking
With hatchlings especially, the humidity should be kept close to 100%; this is pretty easy to do with a closed system. Wetting the bedding material (I use cypress mulch) with warm water and closing the enclosure from the open air will, in combination with the heating, boost the humidity to acceptable levels. In addition to a shallow water bowl in the enclosure, you should soak your hatchling in warm water (up to the bottom of their carapace) every day for 10-20 minutes. I use a 60cc syringe (without needle) to spray the hatchling all over while they’re soaking.

Diet
Redfoot Tortoises eat a wide range of foods. Variety is the key to a healthy diet. A general guideline to follow is: 50% greens, 40% fruits & veggies, and 10% animal protein. I make a salad for mine everyday, topped with fruits and vegetables and the occasional protein, but you can also alternate days of single foods or types of food, any of these (and more) are good, so long as you make sure to rotate through a broad variety … bolded below are redfoot superfoods.
(check http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Nutrition.html for more precise nutrition data)


Pre-made Tortoise Foods 
Mazuri, RepCal, and Zoo-Med make tortoise-chows in pellet form that tortoises love! I supplement whatever I’m feeding with a few pellets once or twice a week, soaking the chow in a bit of warm water first to soften, then mixing/mushing them in with everything else. I also supplement with two freeze-dried mixes made by Zilla once or twice a week, one an omnivore mix (consisting of veg and insects) and the other a fruit mix; I rehydrate a teaspoon of each with twice as much warm water, and spread it over whatever else I’m currently feeding.

Enclosure
Since the temperature and humidity parameters necessary for hatchlings to remain healthy are well outside what most houses normally maintain, a closed system is the best and easiest way to house your redfoot hatchling. You should have a temperature/humidity sensor inside the enclosure to ensure you have parameters that will support your hatchling’s health and wellbeing. Tortoises roaming free indoors can get too cold and also find/eat things they shouldn’t.

A large aquarium or rubbermaid-type container are likely the best options: used aquariums are easy to find inexpensively online (it can be cracked, doesn’t need to be watertight), and Walmart (or similar) has what they call a “Holiday Tree Storage Tote”, which is perfect. The key to their success is a lid that keeps most of the heat and humidity inside the enclosure (and available to your tortoise).

The bedding material should be a few inches deep throughout the enclosure. I use cypress mulch, but orchid bark and coco-coir are also perfectly good options. Whatever bedding you use, it should be moistened and turned over every week, with spot cleanings as needed (to remove spilled food and poop).

My redfoot generally poops during his daily soakings, so hardly ever poops in the enclosure. I provide two hides for my redfoot, one on the warmer end of the enclosure, one on the cooler end. I also have some plants for him to explore and nibble (I use round 1pt tupperware screwtop foodsaver containers with a 1” hole drilled in the lid for the plant, and damp cypress mulch instead of soil). Plants for the enclosure that I’ve used with good results include spider plant, pothos (Darwin’s favorite), and mint.

A water bowl/pool is provided via a shallow 8” plastic underpot that I see my redfoot both drink from as well as walk around in from time to time. The foodbowl is a 4” pottery underpot. I have, but my redfoot doesn’t actually need, a speaker looping a spotify playlist of jungle sounds into the tank; I think the background noise helps to mask out the alien sounds of NH for my tropical friend.

Lighting
Redfoot tortoises are primarily jungle beasts, and aren’t, in general, bigtime baskers or sun-worshippers, so the lighting should be primarily to support their heat and circadian rhythms, while also providing some UVB, which helps their digestion and metabolism. I have a 75w UVB incandescent bulb over one end (the warmer end) of the tank; also a 24 inch UV fluorescent tube light. I have the lights on a timer that has them running 12 hours a day. I generally see my tortoise under the incandescent light for a bit in the mornings and feel that he gets sufficient D3 from this and from his diet (salmon and eggs are both rich in D3). In the summertime, I reduce the wattage of the incandescent light to 50w, as it brings a fair amount of heat into Darwin’s system, which is needed in the wintertime, but not so much during the warmer months.

In Conclusion
Again, I’m by no means no expert on Redfoot husbandry, just a guy who’s read a lot of posts and charts and articles by people who’ve kept redfoots for years, but I feel that this very basic guide is a good place from which to start with your redfoot hatchling. There are certainly different ways to keep redfoot hatchlings, but the methods I’ve detailed above have been working for me and Darwin, as well as numerous people who’ve been keeping redfoots for a lot longer than me.

If you have questions, comments, gripes, or suggestions, please feel free to get in touch with me at: jsheffield@gmail.com

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