Species group: Sliders, Cooters and Red-Bellied Turtles
Other common names: Cumberland Turtle
Scientific name: Trachemys scripta troostii
The Cumberland Slider is found only in the upper reaches of the USA’s Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, from southeastern Kentucky to northeastern Alabama, but is widely bred in captivity. Largely aquatic, it spends much time basking on logs and rocks, plunging (or “sliding”) into deep water when disturbed. Like other sliders, the Cumberland feeds only in water, and, except when nesting, rarely travels far from shore.
Appearance / health:
The Cumberland Slider is one of the 15 subspecies of the Common Slider, and is somewhat similar in appearance to its popular relative, the Red Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). It does not grow quite as large, however, with females averaging 7-8.4 inches in length, and males topping out at 5-6 inches. The carapace is olive brown in color, and marked with yellow blotches along the edges. A stripe that begins as yellow and changes over to orange extends from each eye; yellow stripes decorate the rest of the head.
Behavior / temperament:
Cumberland Sliders make hardy, wonderfully responsive pets; longevities in excess of 30 years have been recorded. In time, most will rush over for food when you approach the aquarium. All turtles are capable of administering powerful bites and scratches when frightened, and must be handled with care. Cumberland Sliders can be aggressive towards other turtles, and must be watched carefully if housed in groups. Males often harass females with mating attempts, and may stress or bite them in the process; 2 males cannot be kept together, as they will usually fight.
These active turtles require an aquarium of at least 55-75 gallons capacity, or commercial turtle tubs and ponds. The smaller males might get by in a 30 gallon aquarium, but more space is preferable. Bare-bottomed enclosures are preferable, as gravel greatly complicates cleaning. The aquarium should be equipped with a dry basking site, UVB bulb, heater, and powerful filtration. Ambient water temperature: 72-80 F; Basking temperature: 85-90 F
Turtles are messy feeders, and quickly foul even well-filtered aquariums. Removing your pet to a plastic storage container at feeding time will lessen the filter’s workload and help to maintain good water quality. Partial water changes (i.e. 50 % weekly) are also very useful. Filters designed specifically for turtles, if serviced regularly, are usually preferable to those marketed for use with tropical fish. Some folks find it easier to maintain their aquatic turtles in plastic storage containers that can easily be emptied and rinsed.
Cumberland Sliders begin life as carnivores but increasingly consume aquatic plants as they mature. The natural diet includes fish, tadpoles, snails, carrion, insects, frogs, shrimp, small water snakes and aquatic vegetation such as duckweed. Pets should be offered a diet comprised largely of whole animals such as minnows, shiners, earthworms, snails, pre-killed pink mice, crayfish, prawn, along with kale, dandelion, collared greens and other produce. Spinach and various cabbages cause nutritional disorders and should be avoided. Goldfish should be used sparingly, if at all, as a steady goldfish diet has been linked to kidney and liver disorders in other turtle species. Super mealworms, roaches, crickets and other insects may be used to add variety to the diet. A high quality commercial turtle chow can comprise up to 50% of the diet. A cuttlebone should be available to supplement the calcium provided by whole fishes and similar foods.
Gravid (egg-bearing) females usually become restless and may refuse food. They should be removed to a large container (i.e. 5x the length and width of the turtle) provisioned with 6-8 inches of slightly moist soil and sand. Gravid females that do not nest should be seen by a veterinarian as egg retention invariably leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis). It is important to note that females may develop eggs even if unmated, and that captives may produce several clutches each year. The 2-30 eggs may be incubated in moist vermiculite at 82-85 F for 55-80 days.
Written by Frank Indiviglio