5 Year Member
- Oct 25, 2009
Greetings fellow Tortoise enthusiasts! I thought I would give you guys an update on my Redfoots and their habitat. My three Redfoot tortoises are approximately six years old now and doing very well. They are happy as clams in their new enclosure (I spoil them rotten). Earlier this year I began construction on a much larger terrarium as they had outgrown their first table (33"x29"x12" with a total 6.64 Square feet of roaming space) shown here:
This small terrarium was fairly well suited for their needs as babies. It maintained temps fairly well and provided decent coverage as long as the plants survived. What it lacked was an enclosed design to maintain humidity and a lack of energy efficiency to maintain heat. The substrate was also difficult to keep moisture evenly throughout and free of small insects.
What I quickly learned about Redfoots:
1. They will eat every plant in sight that they can reach.
2. They will wreck any beautiful ornamental habitat design or structure that isn't permanently secured.
3. They will slowly bulldoze any hills or substrate shape back to flat.
4. They will ruin a perfectly clean water bowl with poop as soon as you drop it in. .
Don't get me wrong, I love my babies! But a change in habitat design was in order and I needed to learn from my previous mistakes. My goal was this: To create a near indestructible habitat with plenty of roaming space, yet have the intimate feel of a rainforest. Designed as automated a system as possible, so I can spend more time ENJOYING and less time DOING.
Their new enclosure is 69" Wide, 27" Deep and 23" Tall with a total 12.9 Square feet of roaming space). Custom built acrylic with a black background. The custom stand sits a very low 26" in height, much lower than a traditional aquarium stand.
The canopy is a front hinging design with no obstructions from lighting or a wood trim edge to reach over. All areas can be accessed by hand and without a step stool.
Lighting is a hanging pendant T5 Quad 60" 6500K 320W 4x 80W with 6 led moon lights. It is on 3 separate timers. With daylights kicking on gradually every 30 minutes, instead of all at once.
Supplemental heat is provided by Three Fluker's 17x11" Large Heat Mats controlled by a Hydrofarm Digital Thermostat to kick on below 79. The one heat is placed under large flagstone rock in their shaded cypress much bed. The other two are placed under large flat rocks that do an excellent job radiating heat. They are warm to the touch and a great way for Torts to decide if they too warm or cold and move accordingly.
Humidity is maintained and plants are watered by a Mist King system with six nozzles spraying for 12 seconds, 8 times per day. It provides a fine atomized mist that evaporates quickly. The tortoise love it and I highly recommend this system over a manual pressure sprayer.
My biggest issue with my previous enclosure was providing freshwater without cleaning out their small bowls every single day. The new enclosure use a much larger three gallon concrete mixer tray filled with mexican river rock. The rock allows a 2" shallow area safe for torts to bathe, while still providing the high volume of water necessary to keep water cleaner longer. Water changes are done very easily by siphoning out the old into a 5 gallon bucket below. I used a piece of flat drift wood tied down with braided fishing line as a waterfall.
One of the toughest decisions I made that I don't often see in enclosure design is the greater use of large pebbles as a main substrate. While I wouldn't recommend this substrate for hatchling or very small torts, larger tortoises have no problem finding their footing and exploring their surroundings. I have noticed a huge improvement in overall water cleanliness and dust levels throughout the terrarium and the room. This was achieved by having a smaller dedicated 15"x12" bed of cypress much for them to sleep in. Their bed is contained within its own plastic container and very easy to lift out, clean and replace. By having the majority of exploring space filled with Mexican river rock, I have found that the torts have less eye irritation and sneeze less. They also learned to do all of their burrowing in the cypress mulch bed as they aren't strong enough to move around the rock structure or drift woods. Also, they haven't once defecated in their mulch bed since I tried this technique. Because of the high cost and weight of Mexican river rock for my application, the majority of space below the surface is a block structure of light weight closed cell foam. The foam is water proof, resists bacteria and does not deteriorate. So if you can imagine without the rocks, two plastic basins (one for mulch and one for water) and a 6" layer of foam surrounding those basins and a 2" layer of rock covering the top, front and side viewing angles. This also made for very easy cleaning and drainage, as I can hose off the entire enclosure and quickly siphon out all the water.
As I mentioned above, Redfoots will eat any vegetation within reach and find creative ways to access plants out of reach. In an effort to keep my decorative plants alive, be able to choose almost any non-poisonous plant species without fear if ingestion, all plants were placed on acrylic table tops far out of reach. The acrylic tables also double as shade structures, where they like to spend the majority of the time. This allows for much more free roaming space and no plant casualties.
I hope you enjoyed exploring my newest enclosure. Redfoot tortoise care is a life long responsibility. I've learned a lot from my previous experiences, but in no way consider myself an expert in care. Every owner has a different ideology on proper care and habitat, I wanted to share with you mine.