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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Care Guides > Red Foot Tortoise Setup Steps

Red Foot Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonaria)

Experience Level: Intermediate

Red Foot Tortoise in terrarium


Did you know? Red Foot Tortoises get their name from the red/orange colored scales on their front legs and heads. They are one of the most colorful tortoises and considered one of the more personable and curious tortoises available.

Step 1Choosing a Terrarium

Red Foot Tortoises originate from South America. Multiple tortoises of same type can be housed
together (same-sex pairs recommended).

(A) Use a well-ventilated, 55-gallon (36" long) or larger terrarium for a small tortoise although
a larger enclosure will be required for adult tortoises.

(B) Screened lid, if not included with habitat.

Step 2Heating and Lighting

Red Foot Tortoises require a temperature gradient (cool side/warm side) to appropriately regulate their body temperature. Temperatures within the habitat should also vary between daytime and nighttime hours.

• Equip the habitat with two (C) thermometers (one on each side of habitat) and one (D) hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels.

• Heat is provided by a (E) high-wattage heat bulb placed directly above the basking spot and should be the warmest point in the habitat during the day. Turn the basking light off during the evening.

• Use a ceramic heat emitter or night heat lamp as needed to maintain nighttime temperatures.


Target Range
Humidity 50-80%
Day - Cool Side 80-90o F (27-32o C)
Day - Basking Spot 95-100o F (35-38o C)
Night 70-80o F (18-27o C)

• Red Foot Tortoises are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. Use a daytime (F) UVA/UVB (ultraviolet) fluorescent bulb for approximately 12 hours per day.

• To view your tortoise at night, use a night-specific bulb to minimize your pet’s visible light.

Step 3Substrate and Decor

(G) Use a 2-3" (5-8 cm) layer of coconut fiber or cypress bark bedding to help retain humidity.

• Clean out waste weekly and completely change bedding at least once a month.

(H) Add a large hiding place in the cool area of the home.

(I) Provide a shallow water dish, large enough for your tortoise to fully soak in and to help retain humidity within the habitat.

• Ensure decor is large and stable enough for the size of your tortoise.

• Provide plants (artificial or live) throughout the habitat for additional hiding areas.

Red Foot Tortoise in Terrarium

New surroundings and environments can be stressful for pets. Prior to handling your turtle, give him 3-4 days to adjust to his new surroundings while monitoring his behavior for any signs of stress or illness. Shortly after purchase, ask a veterinarian familiar with reptiles to examine your turtle

Things to Watch For
• Runny droppings for more than two days
• Eating or drinking less; weight loss
• Swollen joints
• Discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth
• Shell problems; discolored shells
• More time spent hiding in their shell

If you notice any of the above signs, speak with a PetSmart store associate or reptile veterinarian with questions about the health of your pet.

PetSmart Cares
Pets purchased at PetSmart are part of our exclusive Vet Assured™ program; a program designed by PetSmart veterinarians to help improve the health and well-being of our pets.

The program includes:
• Specific standards our vendors agree to meet in caring for and observing pets for common illnesses.
• Specific standards for in-store pet care.
• The PetSmart Promise: If your pet becomes ill during the initial 14-day period, or if you’re not satisfied for any reason, PetSmart will gladly replace the pet or refund the purchase price.