Humidity was one of the many aspects of Malti’s care that I got wrong. Oh so wrong.
Malti now faces a lifetime of respiratory challenges, including eyes that water and a wheezing sound when she breathes if the environment gets even the teensiest bit dry. She is also always going to be more susceptible to tortoise pneumonia (the basic equivalent to a people sinus infection) because of my early husbandry mistakes.
Boy do I regret that! But regret is all I’ve got. There are no do-overs.
The good news is, you are working your way through this course and that gives you the opportunity to do better by your precious redfoot than I did with Malti. Again, you are my hero.
You have a variety of options when it comes to adding humidity to your redfoot’s habitat. From handheld manual misters to expensive commercial misting systems, the key is to add regular doses of sufficient moisture and humidity without letting the habitat become either too wet and soggy or too arid and dry.
- Too wet? Watch out for shell rot, mold and fungus growth, inability to maintain internal thermostat (cold + wet = even colder), illness.
- Too dry? This can lead to tortoise pneumonia, shell pyramiding, watering eyes, wheezing, your basic recipe for redfoot misery.
Redfoot tortoises come from northern South America where the climate is sub-tropical pretty much year-round. Even the “dry season” is still pretty humid some days. And “cool” in this area is still a balmy 68 – 70 F (20 – 22 C), especially for a wild redfoot living amidst a dense tangle of grasses, leaves and soil.
And remember, if your redfoot lives indoors with you in air conditioned comfort, it doesn’t matter if it is literally 100 percent humidity outside. You need to find a way to bring at least 90 percent of that humidity inside and into your tortoise’s habitat to keep your redfoot healthy.
These tips will help you capture and maintain higher humidity inside your redfoot’s habitat.
- Add a thicker layer of substrate (see Lesson 4 to get substrate ideas).
- Add moisture-retaining sphagnum moss.
- Use live tortoise-safe plants and keep them well watered.
- Install an upper canopy of plants to trap the humidity inside the habitat.
- Combine water + energy by adding a low-level heating element beneath a water dish or a moist mossy area inside your redfoot’s enclosure.
- Include one or two shallow water dishes for evaporative humidity.
- Create a “humidity cave” using an upturned plastic tub lined with sphagnum moss and cut a doorway so your redfoot can enter and exit as desired.
- Use a hand mister to mist your redfoot’s entire enclosure a few times per day.
- Install a misting system on a timer to dispense regular doses of moisture.
- Soak your redfoot in a shallow bath of lukewarm water once daily (this is especially important for hatchlings and young juvenile redfoots).
Depending on the habitat setup you select, these types of products may also be helpful to establish the right balance of heat and humidity inside your redfoot’s enclosure.
NOTE: If for some reason these specific products are not available when you click the links, you can visit your favorite online retailer or Amazon and do a search for “humidifier reptile” to get some great ideas for similar products. You can also choose a “people” humidifier and simply make your own attachment hose to deliver humidity into your redfoot’s habitat.
Two more helpful tips you may find useful when choosing the humidifier for your redfoot:
- You want to be sure to match the output of your humidifier setup to the size of your redfoot tortoise’s habitat. I have had to send back several humidifiers because the output left Malti drenched in a matter of minutes!
- The best humidity system will direct the moisture down rather than straight up, where it will rise and dissipate rather than keeping the habitat itself humid. You can achieve this by making your own attachment hose or choosing a system that has a built-in hose or directional funnel.
- ZooMed ReptiFogger Terrarium Humidifier
- Evergreen Pet Supplies Reptile Humidifier/Fogger
- Reptile Humidifier (this is the one I use with Malti during the winter when she is indoors and I love it)
- ReptarX Reptile Mister/Fogger/Humidifier
- ExoTerra Handheld Mini Mister or Pressure Sprayer Mister
- ExoTerra Monsoon Solo Mister System