Lesson 3: Redfoot Tortoise Humidity

TEXT VERSION: Redfoot Tortoise Humidity Needs

….with exotic animal specialist (herpetologist) Danielle Inman & redfoot tortoise keeper Shannon Cutts

SHANNON: So how much humidity does a pet redfoot tortoise really need in captivity?

DANIELLE: Redfoot tortoises should have humidity of greater than 75 percent. The closer you can get to that 100 percent mark the better.

Now you can measure humidity and track the humidity in your redfoot tortoise’s enclosure with a hygrometer.

It’s a simple device you can buy one from a pet store or you can buy it online – whatever is easiest. You can just keep it in the enclosure at all times so that you can have a read on that humidity.

Humidity is important – very important – to hatchling development; it is important to respiratory health – you know, this is a species that is native to northern South America and so naturally their humidity requirements are very, very high.

Now keeping the humidity up within your home can be a bit difficult because ideally in most homes we try to keep humidity down to prevent mold growth and things like that.

So limiting the circulation within the enclosure, adding a humidifier is important, and the material used within your enclosure – things like substrate and the style of lid and the style of the enclosure itself – all of those things are very important to maintaining humidity in the enclosure.

redfoot turtle cartoon

NOTE from Shannon

I live in Texas where it is nearly 100 percent humid nearly 100 percent of the time. So naturally I thought “wow – redfoot tortoises like humidity and I live in a humid place and, well, perfect!”

But then there is air conditioning, a modern convenience no survival-loving Texan would dream of going without. And guess what air conditioning takes out of the indoor air? (If you guessed “humidity,” you are probably either a mechanical engineer or a Texan.)

Unfortunately, mastering the finer points of mechanical engineering was never my strong suit and I didn’t realize my indoor air was far too dry for my hatchling redfoot’s needs.

So by the time I realized I needed to add back humidity into Malti’s indoor habitat, she had already been treated for two dangerous bouts of tortoise pneumonia (what exotic veterinarians call a sinus infection when it happens to a reptile).

By the same token, “humid” is not the same as “sopping wet.” Get too carried away with adding humidity into your tortoise’s enclosure and you end up with another staple of Texas life – mold and mildew. These are bad news for tortoises as well as for people.

All this to say, it is a fine line between too dry, just right and too wet.

Which is just one more reason why I keep emphasizing how not easy it is to care for a redfooted tortoise. You can absolutely learn to do it, but just remember: if it feels like a daunting challenge, that is how you know you are treating your role as tortoise keeper with the proper degree of seriousness and respect.

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