Red-eared Slider Turtles Care and Feeding Tips

The taxonomic name for the Red-eared Slider is Chrysemys scripta elegans (formerly Trachemys scripta elegans), and it belongs to the Emydidae family. It is a marine turtle, a strong swimmer, and in the wild, will typically be seen basking on rocks, logs, or other surface areas above the water. Turtles are reptiles, and cold-blooded, so they must depend on external heat sources for heat. They will indulge in sunshine, and in the wild, burrow down into the earth to hibernate in winter season. The 3 main concerns in keeping a Red-eared Slider healthy are warmth, clean water, and proper diet.

Red-eared Slider Turtles Care and Feeding Tips

Properly taking care of a turtle is more complicated than many people believe. An adult, not a child, must take main responsibility for maintaining and cleaning the real estate, feeding, and keeping track of the turtle for any signs of disease.

Natural surroundings

The normal variety for the Red-eared Slider in the United States is from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, and the East Coast to western Texas. It has been discovered in other areas, probably due to the fact that individuals released their family pet turtles into those areas. It invests most of its time in or around water. Although it can be found in lakes and rivers, the Red-eared Slider prefers marshes, ponds, and slow-moving water that provide food and basking areas. In northern areas it will hibernate.

Physical attributes

Size: Hatchlings are roughly 1 inch in size. The Red-eared Slider can mature to 12 inches in length. In the United States, it is unlawful for animal stores to sell a Red-eared Slider that has a carapace (shell) less than 4 inches in diameter. This is since of the risk of salmonellosis. Please review the post “Salmonellosis and Its Risk to Owners” for additional information on decreasing your risk of exposure to this disease.

Sexual distinctions: Red-eared Sliders kept as family pets usually reach sexual maturity between 2-4 years of age. In the wild, females might not grow until 5-7 years of age. Women are normally larger than males, though males have longer tails and very long front claws. The cloacal opening on female Red-eared Sliders does not extend past the edge of the shell.

Color: The skin of a Red-eared Slider is green with brilliant yellow stripes. A spot of red behind each eye provides the Red-eared Slider its typical name, although some sliders might be missing this color. Some turtles may also have a little patch of red on top of their heads. The Red-eared Slider has webbed feet and strong claws. The shell of hatchlings is green with a great pattern of yellow-green to dark green markings. As the turtles develop, the carapace may become yellow or olive green, with the fine pattern changing into dark lines or patches on each scute. Parts of the shell might be white, yellow, or perhaps red. As the turtle ages, even the lines and spots may slowly vanish u%ntil the shell is an uniform dark olive green or greenish-brown. Some male turtles will end up being “melanistic” (evenly dark gray or black).

Breeders have actually developed two other color morphs (pressures). One is the pastel, which is lighter in color with varying amounts of red and yellow. The other is the albino, which is brilliant yellow as a juvenile. The color fades as the turtle ages.

How long does a red-eared turtle live?

Unlike cats and dogs, parrots and fish, you buy a turtle almost for life, because it also lives in captivity for 30-40 years. So before you get an exotic pet, think carefully. As for red-eared turtles, everything is also not as easy as it seems at first glance. Turtle – a reptile, so it equally needs and water, where it can swim, and land, where it can rest and bask in the sun or under a lamp, so accommodation for it need to create as close to the natural environment.


Turtles quickly acclimate to new environments, though they may spend the first numerous days hidden within their shells. Quickly, however, they will associate your existence with food, and will welcome you with anticipation. If a Red-eared Slider feels threatened, nevertheless, similar to other animals, it might bite.


Turtles should be managed carefully, with the body and legs supported with both hands. If the turtle ends up being alarmed, it might have a hard time and inadvertently scratch your hand or fingers. Lots of turtles become seriously hurt, in some cases fatally, if they fall, so constantly hold the turtle firmly and use two hands. Always wash your hands before and after handling the turtle. Children less than 5 years of age must not deal with turtles. If older children are allowed to manage the turtle, teach them how to do it correctly and make sure they likewise clean their hands prior to and after contact with the turtle.


Red-eared Sliders will require housing that simulates their natural environment – warm, with water for swimming, and a dry warm area in which to bask.

A glass or acrylic fish tank will be had to house the Red-eared Slider; glass is usually much better, considering that acrylic has the tendency to be scratched easily. Another option is a plastic energy tub, wading swimming pool, or stock tank. Bear in mind that your turtle will grow, and have larger housing requirements (see table below). An adult Red-eared Slider will ultimately require a minimum of a 55-gallon aquarium.

NOTE: To prevent needing to buy numerous housing systems over the life of your turtle, you might wish to start with a bigger aquarium. Larger is always much better.

DimensionFormula for Minimum
Size of Water Area*
4-inch Turtle
12-inch Turtle
Typical Aquarium Size (gal) 20 High120
L = Length of carapace (shell)* This is the minimum size of the area which will contain water, and does not include areas of dry land or air space above the water level to prevent the turtle from escaping.

Cage home furnishings:

The cage will need to consist of a way for the turtle to easily leave the water and basking websites completely from the water. Substrate such as large, smooth, aquarium gravel can be used to form a slope to an area of dry land. Cork bark, driftwood, a piece of plexi-glass glued to the side of the aquarium, or a stable platform of smooth rocks might be used for a basking site. A tight-fitting screen cover should be placed over the fish tank to avoid the turtle from escaping and items falling under the fish tank. It is normally best to avoid plastic plants, as the turtle might attempt to eat them.


The air temperature in the area of the fish tank must be roughly 75°F. If the area will be cooler than that, an infrared bulb or space heater may be used to maintain the appropriate temperature. A basking site ought to be supplied. An incandescent light bulb (75 watt or lower is generally enough) with a reflector needs to be placed over one area of the cage which has a raised area that can act as a basking platform. The temperature of the basking site must be 85-90°F nearest the bulb. Any bulbs must be fixed sturdily to something beyond the fish tank, above the evaluated top. Make definitely sure the light can not fall into the water or that the turtle can enter direct contact with the bulb.


If possible, offer direct exposure to direct sunlight, but guarantee the temperature within the cage will not end up being too expensive. NEVER place a glass or acrylic aquarium in direct sun, as it might end up being too warm. If the outdoors temperature is within the turtle’s comfort zone, it might be put in an outside tub. Make certain it can not escape which it is safe from kids, pets and predators.

Complete spectrum ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) fluorescent lighting ought to be used to enhance the turtle’s production of Vitamin D-3, and offer it with a more natural environment. Bulbs need to be replaced after 6 months, as their capability to produce true full-spectrum light lessens in time. The source of light should be within 18-24 inches of the turtle. The light must shine directly on the turtle, and not be infiltrated glass or plastic. It should be on a timer so the turtle has a normal day-night cycle.


Red-eared Sliders require a water temperature of 75-86°F. Remember, they are cold-blooded animals and their metabolism will slow and they will end up being inactive if the temperature is too cold. This can likewise have an adverse result on their gastrointestinal systems and lead to severe health issue. Water temperature can be kept through using a submersible aquarium heating system, which is on a thermostat. In general, quote that you will require 5 watts per gallon of water. Make sure the thermometer is below the water line, and turn it off when getting rid of water from the fish tank. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to avoid the risk of electrocution. A precise thermometer needs to be immersed in the water so the temperature can be kept track of daily.

Water quality is critical to the health of the turtle. Because leftover food items, urine, and feces can pollute the water, it becomes a very appropriate place for bacteria and other organisms to grow. This is unhealthy for your turtle, and not very aesthetic for you, because the fish tank will smell. The aquarium will need to be cleaned, and the water removed and changed on a regular basis. Make certain, when altering the water, to have it at the right temperature prior to positioning your turtle back in the fish tank. In addition, a dechlorinating representative should be used to treat the water prior to including it to the aquarium.

How frequently the water has to be altered depends, to a big part, on whether the turtle is fed in the fish tank or transferred to a different feeding tank, and if there is a filtration system in the tank. If moved for feeding, the water will typically require altering weekly. To accomplish this, a siphon is used to remove a portion, generally 25-50%, of the water. The siphon can be used like a vacuum, to eliminate debris from the bottom while it is siphoning water. Every 1-2 months, relying on the conditions, the entire fish tank needs to be drained pipes, cleaned, and filled up. Never ever start a siphon with your mouth.

There are a variety of aquarium filters which can be used to remove some of the debris and chemical buildup from the water in the fish tank. Relying on the design and size of your fish tank and turtle, an external container, internal container, or an undergravel filter are most typically used. External filters permit more space for your turtle inside the aquarium. Just like the size of aquarium, the bigger the much better; never skimp. The use of an air stone may help to move water and enhance purification.

Including water plants can assist in getting rid of wastes from the water, but likewise may be eaten by the turtle, and hence produce more waste. You may need to explore your very own turtle, to see if plants help or hinder the maintenance of water quality.

Heaters, lighting, and filters must be plugged into a ground-fault interrupter, which will reduce the risk of electrocution if the equipment breakdowns, or if it is nonsubmersible and ends up being wet. To avoid the possibility of water diminishing the power cable into the receptacle, either have the interrupter higher than the aquarium, or form a drip loop so that part of the cable is listed below the receptacle on the interrupter.

Feeding Red-eared Turtles

Omnivores that eat a variety of foods. Variety is important because it keeps the turtle healthy. Feed: Turtle food, aquarium fish food, vegetables, aquarium plants, insects, fish, invertebrates. In addition to variety, it is important to give a balanced diet high in calcium. Like all wild animals that live at home, there is a tendency to overeat.

The composition of specialty foods is chosen to give turtles all the nutrients they need. The high protein content of commercial foods allows them to be given in small portions.

To make the food more balanced, add calcium and plant foods and your turtle will be quite happy. Keep in mind that commercial foods most often have calcium supplements already in them, read the labels on the package.

Red-eared turtles need water to swallow as they do not produce saliva. They can take food on dry land, but will drag it into the water to eat it. You can use this to your advantage and feed them in a separate container, so the water in the aquarium will remain cleaner for a longer time.

As for hibernation, in which the reptile can fall into during the winter, it is desirable to avoid. The thing is that if you are new to keeping this type of turtle, you may not have enough experience in caring for it in this period. Therefore, it is not necessary to stimulate hibernation in this reptile! Firstly, unfavorable conditions may be created for her for this period, and secondly, weakened animals may simply not survive it. To prevent it from hibernating, keep the temperature at at least 77°F (25°C), and the reptile will not even remember the long winter sleep.

Hibernating turtles in natural conditions tend to burrow into plants or silt at the bottom of a body of water that is shallow and large in size. During this period, reptiles remain at the bottom all the time, oxygen is assimilated by membranes located in their mouth, pharynx and cloaca. In addition, the depth of the body of water, the temperature regime and the oxygen level in it are of great importance.

However, it is better, of course, to make a mixture, if possible, yourself on the basis of food gelatin. For this you need:

  • carrot – 2.5 oz (70 g);
  • cabbage – 1.8 oz (50 g);
  • apple – 1.8 oz (50 g);
  • fish fillet – 5.2 oz (145 g)
  • squid fillet – 3.6 oz (100 g);
  • raw egg – 2 pcs;
  • milk – 5,3 oz (150 ml);
  • Liquid vitamin complex for pets – 20 drops;
  • calcium glycerophosphate – 10 tablets;
  • gelatin – 1.1 oz (30 g);
  • water – 150 ml.

To prepare the mixture, pour hot water over the gelatin so that it swells, then warm in a water bath until it dissolves. Chop all ingredients in a meat grinder, mix them with whipped eggs and milk, add hot gelatin.Let the mixture cool down to 86°F (30°C), add the tablets and vitamin preparations and put it in the refrigerator until it hardens. Warm the mixture to room temperature before feeding the turtle, you have enough for 10 feedings.

Caring after Baby of Red-eared Turtles

Most of the turtles coming into the home aquarium are still babies. They are still very delicate and it is important to make sure that they eat well and are comfortable. Baby turtles have a high mortality rate, they are susceptible to disease and may die for no apparent reason.

If you notice something on your turtle’s plastron, it may be a yolk sac. Just hatched turtles consume nutrients from it and it should not be removed or touched. They may refuse food for the first time, and start eating after the yolk sac has completely dissolved.

Try not to hold small tortoises. They are beautiful and elegant, of course, but they can be frightened, stressed and sick. Do not stand over the aquarium and do not knock on the glass, let them a few days to get used to, begin to eat. It is very important that the water temperature and air (land), was stable.

Put the aquarium with a red-eared turtle in direct sunlight or in a draught – can not. Make sure that it has free access to dry land, and this place is heated with a special lamp. The temperature for baby turtles must be slightly higher than for adult turtles! It is 79-80°F (26-27°C) for the water and up to 90°F (32°C) for the dry area. The water should be as clean as possible and if there is no good filter then change the water every couple of days.

What not to do when keeping red-eared turtles

In order for your turtle to live as long as possible, grow up healthy and not bring you grief, you need to follow some simple rules.

  1. Your turtle should not be on the floor as it may be stepped on, eat some small object, catch a cold in a draught or bitten by another pet.
  2. Turtles are reptiles, so they can not be constantly in the water and need dry land, otherwise they just drown.
  3. The turtle’s food should be varied and balanced, it should contain both animal and plant foods.
  4. Water in the aquaterrarium should always be clean.
  5. Do not remove horny flaps and do not brush the shell with a coarse brush if you notice that the turtle begins to grow algae.
  6. Oiled vitamins should be added only in the amount indicated.
  7. Red-eared turtles do not hibernate in winter, very often hibernating without preparation can do more harm to your pet’s health than good.


Red-eared Sliders can make great animals, however keeping them healthy will require time and expense. The turtle, itself, may not be expensive, but remember that properly equipping the environment, providing quality food, and supplying veterinary care will cost cash. There are many turtles offered for adoption because the owners did not comprehend the time and cost essential to appropriately offer a turtle. So, prior to acquiring a turtle, offer it careful consideration, then you might want to call a turtle adoption or rehoming organization, and give an abandoned turtle a much-needed home.

D. Roberts (Junior Expert)/ author of the article

He is a specialist in the field of veterinary medicine, and pet care. Believes that the person responsible for each pet, which was taken into the house, and therefore should study his behavior, means of determining health status and methods of first aid.

Like this post? Please share to your friends: