Species group: Sliders, Cooters and Red-Bellied Turtles
Scientific name: Trachemys scripta venusta
The Meso-American Slider ranges from southern Mexico (Veracruz) through Guatemala and Belize to El Salvador and Honduras. It inhabits large rivers, ponds, canals and marshes, and favors areas with abundant aquatic vegetation. Largely aquatic, it spends much time basking on logs and rocks, plunging (or “sliding”) into deep water when disturbed. Like other sliders, the Meso-American feeds only in water, and, except when nesting, rarely travels far from shore.
Appearance / health:
The Meso-American Slider is the largest of the 15 subspecies of the Common Slider (Trachemys scripta), with females sometimes topping 19 inches in length. It is also the most beautifully-colored of the group, and indeed is one of the most spectacular of all American turtles. The carapace is olive to bright green in color, and marked with numerous dark-centered, orange-ringed spots; a great many yellow stripes decorate the head and legs. The brilliant hatchling coloration dulls little if at all with age.
Behavior / temperament:
Meso-American Sliders are very much in demand due to their brilliant coloration and the fact that they are as hardy and responsive as other sliders. Most feed readily from the hand, and adapt well to busy households. Of course, all turtles are capable of administering powerful bites and scratches when frightened, and must be handled with care. Meso-American 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 large, active turtles require spacious aquariums. While a 55-75 gallon aquarium might suit a small male, females, which grow larger, need tanks of 100 gallon capacity, or commercial turtle tubs and ponds. 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: 90-95 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.
Meso-American 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