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.

Life span: The Red-eared Slider can live 50-70 years.


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.

Real estate

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.


Dimension Formula for Minimum
Size of Water Area*
4-inch Turtle
12-inch Turtle
Length 4xL 16 48
Width 2xL 8 24
Depth 1.5xL 6 18
Typical Aquarium Size (gal) 20 High 120
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.


Juveniles are mainly meat-eating, and become more omnivorous as they reach adulthood. The diet ought to be balanced and consist of a range of meat-based protein sources and fresh plant product. Do not rely merely on business diets. Juveniles should be fed daily, whereas, grownups can be fed each day. Turtles are unpleasant eaters so it is best to move the turtle to a different feeding tank. This may also help in reducing the amount the turtle defecates in the water of his cage. Allow the turtle to eat for 15 minutes before moving it back to the aquarium.

EACH meal should contain ingredients from the following categories:
Commercial diets
(Less than 25% of the diet)
  • Trout chow
  • High quality, reduced-fat, dog kibble (occasionally)
  • Commercial floating pellets or sticks for fish, reptiles, or turtles
Animal protein
(Less than 25% of the diet for adults)
  • Live feeder fish (occasionally)
  • Earthworms
  • Finely chopped raw lean beef or beef heart
  • Cooked chicken
  • Snails
  • Tubifex worms
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworms
  • Pinkie mice
  • Crickets
  • Bloodworms
(50% or more of the diet)
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Dandelions
  • Carrots (shredded root and top)
  • Squash
  • Green beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apples (shredded)
  • Melon
  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Plums, peaches, nectarines (NO PITS)
  • Dust all foods at each feeding with a general high ratio calcium-mineral supplement containing Vitamin D-3 such as Rep-Cal or Miner-All
  • Use a vitamin supplement twice a week
  • Offer cuttlefish bone as another calcium source


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.

Also read: Tortoises or Turtles as Pets


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