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Turtles/pyramiding sos


hi there i have a 4year old red foot that i've had since a hatchling. i researched a lot before i aquired her but i recently noticed her shell seems to be pyramiding and very quickly. she has a large enclosure 4' x 5', uvb, heat, humidity at about 80% and i also followed the recommended diet very closely. i've added calcium plus D3 supplement. i know i cannot reverse this once it happens and i am very worried. diet is greens and hay plus occasional fruit. i would appreciate any advice as i am concerned for the health of my reptile. otherwise though she is very healthy and active. thanks so much for your time hope this is enough info

Hi Jesse,

Keeping redfoots from pyramiding can be difficult, and the reasons for pyramiding aren't entirely understood.  There is some relationship to diet and humidity, however, and slow growth seems to impede it as well.  If you could provide more information as to your setup, I can make more specific recommendations (substrate, exact warm/cool temperatures, brand of UVB bulb, etc.).  However, one thing to be aware of is that air humidity is not nearly as important as moisture in the substrate, so if you're measuring air humidity (with a hygrometer mounted on the side of the enclosure, for example) that may give you a false idea of actual substrate moisture.  At least part of the substrate should be quite wet (in the basking area), and the rest should at least be moist.  For this reason, you want a substrate that will retain moisture.  A mix of coir, sphagnum moss, and playsand is good.

You also should make some significant dietary changes.  Redfoots are omnivores, and need a mixed diet that includes greens, fruit, veggies, AND animal protein.  The base diet should be greens (turnip and mustard greens, collards, kale, dandelions, etc.) with fruit 3-4 times a week, and veggies (squashes, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, boiled sweet potatoes) 2-3 times a week.  Animal protein (pinky mice, worms, superworms, crickets, boiled chicken/egg, boiled shrimp, etc.) can be fed no more than once a week, but it's very important not to neglect the protein, as it can result in serious health problems over time.  I do not recommend feeding any cat or dog food, because commercial pet foods contain ingredients that are not healthy for tortoises.  Feeding whole meats is better.  

If you could provide a clear picture of your tortoise, I can get a better idea of her condition.  It's true that pyramiding can't be reversed, but the appearance can improve over time if necessary changes are made and the new growth is smooth.  


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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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