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American Red-bellied Turtle

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Species group:

Other common names: Northern Red-bellied Slider; Red-bellied Slider; Northern Red-bellied Turtle; American Red-bellied Cooter; Eastern Red-bellied Turtle; Eastern Red-bellied Cooter; Red-bellied Cooter; Red Belly Turtle; Red Belly Cooter; Plymouth Red-bel

Scientific name: Pseudemys rubriventris

The basics:
The Northern Red-bellied Turtle is found in deep and large bodies of water that are slow moving with sandy or muddy bottoms and lots of aquatic plants. Their range extends along the rivers and ponds along the northeastern U.S. from New Jersey to South Carolina and as far west as West Virginia. Due to a slow maturity rate, and low survival rate as well as human encroachment, their population is in decline.

As some Pseudemys rubriventris subspecies are listed as endangered species, it is highly recommend that you check with your state’s natural resources department on the legal possession of an American Red-bellied Turtle prior to obtaining one as a pet.

Appearance / health:
Northern Red-bellied Turtles have a dark carapace with a red-orange horizontal band in each marginal scute. They have a mostly red orange plastron with dark blotches and dark olive to grey skin with bright yellow stripes. The middle yellow stripe runs from the neck, around the eye, and to the nose. They do darken with age loosing much of their colorful markings. The subspecies P. r. bangsi has a taller carapace. There is still a current debate as to whether this is just a regional variation or an actual subspecies.

AVERAGE ADULT WEIGHT: 9-10lbs

AVERAGE ADULT SIZE: 12- 16 inches

Behavior / temperament:
These turtles will often live in groups peacefully.

Housing:
In most climates these turtles can and should be housed outdoors, at least in the summer. To maintain a healthy environment for an adult Northern Red-bellied Turtle a minimum tank size should be no less than 90 gallons for one turtle. This gives ample room to provide the turtle with a naturally designed habitat that includes large stones as a substrate, a rock outcropping for basking, and have clean water. They will also need aquatic non-toxic plants and hiding holes. They are messy creatures, preferring to eat and defecate in their water. The tank or pond must have a highly efficient filtration system. Weekly partial water changes are necessary in between the monthly complete water change and tank clean up. When housed indoors they will need a basking lamp and UVB lamp. Make sure to predator proof and escape proof any backyard habitat.

LIFESPAN: 30 – 40 years

TEMPERATURE/HUMIDITY: These turtles are tolerant of most temperatures. They will need a basking area that is around 90° F.

HIBERNATION / ESTIVATION: These turtles will hibernate at the bottom of rivers and ponds in the winter. If pet Northern Red-bellied Turtles are housed outdoors they will naturally seek out a hibernation spot for the winter.

HEALTH CONCERNS: Northern Red-belleid Turtles can carry salmonella and internal parasites. The most common illnesses of pet turtles are due to poor care and nutrition. As a result they can suffer from Metabolic Bone Disorder (improper calcium/phosphorous amounts), Gout, and Pyramiding. Pyramiding is the overgrowth of the shell from too much protein in the diet. They can also suffer from respiratory illnesses; symptoms will include runny eyes and nose, and swimming erratically or floating lopsided.

Diet:
Young Northern Red-bellied Turtles are omnivores while adults eat more vegetation than meat. In the wild most of their adult diet are aquatic plants. They can be fed a commercial turtle pellet supplemented with duckweed, mealworms, crickets, live feeder fish, fruit, dandelions, mustard greens, or mushrooms. If their aquarium is well planted with edible plants they only need to be fed once or twice a week.

Breeding:
These turtles are exceptionally slow to mature. Females don’t reach sexual maturity until 10 – 15 years of age. They will lay 5 -17 eggs per clutch in the spring.