Quick Start: Redfoot Diet Guide

You now know that redfoot tortoises need a very specific type of diet to thrive in captivity.

They also need daily help to self-regulate their feeding in captivity. In the wild, redfoots are “opportunistic feeders” – they will eat while the eating’s good. This can mean a very overweight redfoot in captivity (you can trust me on this – my Malti was on a diet before she turned three!).

Redfoots love (LOVE, L.O.V.E.) to eat. If it is edible – and often even if it is not edible – they will still want to eat it and you can bet they will try.

Only certain foods will provide the right balance of calcium to phosphorus without the ever-problematic calcium-blocking oxalates. These foods should be staples in your redfoot’s daily menu.

Don’t believe me yet? This is Malti as a baby….trying to eat my KEYS.

Many different opinions exist about feeding frequency, amount of different food groups and overall portion sizes. As well, it is vital to be aware that these can and should change based on your tortoise’s age, weight and health.

In other words, the portion you feed your hatchling as well as how you prepare the foods (diced up small into tiny bite-sized bits) will change as your redfoot gets bigger and stronger and hungrier.

When Malti was a hatchling or young juvenile, I would have sliced and diced the heck out of this cactus pad. As a six-year-old young adult, she gets the now-safe enrichment of tackling it whole. 

While there are numerous schools of thought about the best weekly feeding strategy to use, the “warm/cool season diet” and the “year-round diet” plans are two of the most common and popular.

You may want to experiment with one or both to see what works best for you and your redfoot.

Warm/Cool Season Diet

  • WARM season 70/20/10: 70 percent flowers/leaves and fruits; 20 percent grasses and vegetables; 10 percent protein and fungi.
  • COOL season 40/25/25/10: 40 percent fruits; 25 percent flowers/leaves; 25 percent grasses and vegetables; 10 percent protein and fungi.

Year-Round Diet

  • 55/35/10: 55 percent flowers/leaves and fruits; 35 percent grasses and vegetables; 10 percent protein and fungi.

BEST Staple Foods

  • Best greens: dandelion, turnip, romaine, hibiscus, spineless cactus (opuntia).
  • Best fruits: FRESH figs, papaya, mango, pineapple, grapes.
  • Best protein: hard-boiled eggs, skinless/boneless turkey or fish, superworms, snails, slugs, moistened cat food kibble.

If you are able to house your redfoot tortoise outdoors – or even if you have any space to grow natural food for your redfoot – there are lots of fun seed mixes to try.  You can also pick up seed packets or seasonal seedlings at your local nursery or garden center. Just be aware your redfoot may eat them before they ever have the chance to sprout and become established!


You will want to add a no-D3 calcium carbonate powder supplement to ensure your redfoot is taking in enough calcium. Dust this lightly over the food according to the manufacturer instructions or as your exotic veterinarian advises.

Why no-D3? As long as your redfoot is taking in adequate amounts of full-spectrum UV light daily, either from natural sunlight or an appropriate artificial bulb source, your tortoise’s body will be able to make the D3 they need. When in doubt, always defer to your exotic veterinarian for guidance on choosing the appropriate supplements as well as the best supplementation schedule for your redfoot’s age, life stage and health history.

You can also provide a cuttlebone (turtle bone) for extra calcium – this is particularly vital if your tortoise is housed indoors and taking in only artificial UV light.

I also use a supplement called TNT (Total Nutrition for Tortoises) that I sprinkle over Malti’s food a few times each week. This is something you may want to ask your exotic veterinarian about.

Clean Water

Your redfoot should have ample clean, fresh, SHALLOW water (no more than mid-shell depth) at all times. Redfoots like to bathroom in the same area where they drink and soak so frequent water changes are a must!

Packaged/prepared Redfoot Tortoise Foods

As Dani mentioned in the Module 6 video lesson, a menu of fresh, whole, natural foods is always best whenever possible. But pelleted and packaged foods are also available as needed to supplement what you can acquire locally at different times of year.

In the next section here, I have shared links to seed mixes, supplements and prepared/packaged foods and treats that you may want to consider using to supplement your redfoot’s diet as needed or desired.

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