Beginner-Guide of a Pet Cherry Head Tortoise

Beginner-Guide of a Pet Cherry Head Tortoise

Ever thought about having a delightful little companion like a pet cherry head tortoise? If you have, you’re in for a treat! Cherry head tortoises are small, personable, and charming creatures that make excellent companions for tortoise enthusiasts of all ages. They also have distinctive cherry-red markings on their heads, which add to their unique and captivating appearance.

This guide will take you through the basics of caring for your pet cherry head tortoise. We’ll cover everything from setting up their habitat to providing the right diet and ensuring their overall well-being. So, let’s dive in and prepare to embark on an exciting journey with your new shelled friend!

Brief Overview

The cherry head tortoise is a smaller version of the red-footed tortoise, closely related to the yellow-footed kind. They share the same Latin name (Geochelone carbonaria) and care requirements as their larger counterparts. Surprisingly, cherry heads are found naturally in the wild and hail from Brazil as well as surrounding areas.

These adorable tortoises have light gray or whitish carapaces with a dark, symmetrical mottled pattern on their plastrons. They average around 12-14 inches, with females generally larger. Look closely; you’ll notice slightly enlarged scales on the forelimbs near the ‘elbow.’ Their charming heads and limbs come in shades of yellowish to brilliant cherry red, which earned them the nickname ‘cherry head’ in the pet trade.

Diet and Nutrition

The diet of a pet cherry head tortoise mainly consists of fruits and seed pods. It enjoys various fruits like cacti, figs, Spondias, Annona, Philodendrons, and bromeliads. Apart from fruits, the tortoise eats grasses, leaves, flowers, roots, and shoots from different plants. Occasionally, it feeds on carrion and feces, especially from foxes. It might even consume small live animals like snakes and rodents. 

As a responsible pet owner of a cherry head tortoise, offering them a variety of fruits, leafy greens, and plant matter is crucial. Additionally, you should occasionally supplement their diet with insects or other animal-based foods to meet their omnivorous needs. Ensure the tortoise has access to calcium sources like cuttlebone or crushed eggshells to promote strong shell and bone development. 

Temperature and Humidity Requirements

Caring for a pet cherry head tortoise involves maintaining proper heat, light, and humidity. These little tortoises are most active in temperatures ranging from 81 to 86 °F. You should keep a warmer area at around 88 to 90 °F during the day. However, it’s fine at night if the temperatures drop to a few degrees lower.

To ensure their well-being, it’s important to provide adequate humidity in part of their habitat. High humidity levels are beneficial for them. Lighting should be kept low and diffused, or ample shade should be offered. For indoor setups, using lights that emit UVB wavelengths is recommended. This helps the tortoise metabolize calcium correctly and regulates the pineal gland vital for their health.


If you want to bring a cherry head tortoise home, remember to create a comfortable and safe environment with proper lighting, temperature, and substrate. Let them munch on leafy greens, vegetables, and occasional fruits. Plus you should also provide them with clean water and calcium supplements. It is also essential to take your tortoise for regular health check-ups and provide them with a well-maintained habitat. 

As you decide to enter this journey of cherry head tortoise parenthood, remember to handle them with care and respect their natural behaviors. You should also offer your tortoises ample opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation. Understanding their needs and providing a loving environment can foster a strong and rewarding bond with your pet.

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