Species group: Sliders, Cooters and Red-Bellied Turtles
Other common names: RES; Red Ear Slider; Common Slider; Pond Slider; Singapore Turtle
Scientific name: Trachemys scripta elegans
Despite having been the world’s most commonly-kept turtle for 50+ years, Red-Eared Sliders are not an ideal choice for novice keepers. In fact, unwanted pets have established breeding populations in foreign habitats world-wide, to the detriment of native species. However, assuming that you plan for its upkeep, size, and 40+ year-long lifespan, the hardy Red-Eared Slider makes a wonderfully responsive pet.
The Red-Eared Slider occurs across much of central and southern North America, from West Virginia to eastern New Mexico and south to Florida and central Mexico. Along the Mississippi River drainage, the range extends as far north as Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. This adaptable species also has the widest introduced range of any reptile, with populations thriving in almost all US states, and over 40 countries as widely-separated as Japan, Australia, Bahrain, Myanmar, and the Netherlands.
Sliders favor quiet, mud-bottomed bodies of water with abundant aquatic vegetation and exposed basking sites, such as swamps, ponds, lakes, sluggish rivers, and marshes. However, they are very adaptable, and have colonized tidal creeks, fast-moving streams, golf course and city park ponds, polluted urban rivers, canals, and numerous other habitats.
Appearance / health:
Red-Eared Sliders bear a trademark red to orange-yellow stripe behind the eye. The rounded carapace may be olive or dark green, or various shades of olive-brown; it is bright green in hatchlings. Older animals, especially males, may darken to near-black with age. The carapace and greenish skin are marked with yellow stripes, and the yellow plastron is blotched with black. Hobbyists have produced numerous color morphs, and natural hybrids occur where the range overlaps that of the Pond, Yellow-Bellied and Cumberland Slider. Females reach 8 inches in length (and a similar width), with a record of 12 inches; males usually top out at 5 inches.
Well-cared-for Red-Eared Sliders are quite hardy, with captive longevities approaching and sometimes exceeding 40 years. Metabolic bone disease is common in animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or UVB exposure. Females without access to a suitable nesting site may retain their eggs. Sub-optimal temperatures, an inappropriate diet, or poor water quality can lead to fungal/bacterial infections of the shell, skin, and eyes, and other ailments.
Behavior / temperament:
Active and eternally hungry, Red-Ears quickly learn to associate people with food, and will paddle over to beg as soon as someone enters the room. They acclimate well to even quite busy locations, feed readily from the hand, and may even reproduce. Like all turtles, they dislike being handled and will bite when startled; their strong jaws and sharp claws can inflict substantial injuries.
An adult female requires a 55-75 gallon or larger aquarium; a male might make due in a 30 gallon, but more room is preferable. Commercial turtle tubs or wading/koi pools are often better options, especially if multiple turtles are kept. Red-Eared Sliders are best kept in bare-bottomed aquariums, as gravel traps food and waste material, and may be swallowed.
Red-Eared Sliders need a dry surface on which to rest and bask. Commercial turtle docks (for smaller specimens) and “tank toppers” or cork bark flats (wedged between the tank’s sides or affixed with silicone) work well.
Powerful filters are necessary unless the enclosure can be emptied and cleaned several times weekly. Even with filtration, regular partial water changes are essential. Removing your turtles to an easily-cleaned container for feeding will lessen the filter’s workload.
Sliders require a source of UVB radiation. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances than do florescent models, and provide beneficial UVA radiation as well. A water temperature of 75-82 F and basking site of 90 F should be maintained. Large individuals may break typical aquarium heaters, so choose a model designed for use with turtles or protect the heater with PVC pipe.
Red-eared Sliders begin life as carnivores but increasingly consume aquatic plants as they mature. The natural diet includes fish, tadpoles, snails, carrion, insects, frogs, shrimp, and aquatic vegetation.
Pets should be offered a diet comprised largely of whole animals such as minnows, shiners, earthworms, snails, pre-killed pink mice, crayfish and prawn, along with kale, dandelion, collard/mustard greens, and other produce. 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. Spinach and various cabbages have been implicated in stone formation, and a steady goldfish diet has been linked to kidney and liver disorders. A cuttlebone should be available to supplement the calcium provided by whole fishes.
Males become sexually mature when approximately 2-4 years old and 4 inches in length; females at age 3-5 and 5 inches in length. Mature males may be distinguished their unusually long front claws, which are vibrated against the female’s face during courtship. Breeding often occurs year-round.
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 pets may produce 3-5 clutches each year. The 2-30 eggs may be incubated in a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 82-85 F for 55-80 days.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
Great pets, beautiful turtles, great starter turtles, hardy animals, Low cost
bigger enclosure, MESSY MESSY animals, long term commitment, children, boring pets, salmonella
tiny colorful hatchlings, calcium levels, artificial heat lamp
A Little Friend in Need
I wasn't expecting to see little eyes peering back at me as I began to water my houseplant, but here I was stuck wondering how a turtle seemed to find its way into my flower pot. Thinking back to that week I remember adding soil to my flowerpot from out of my parents' garden, and now I can attest as to how hardy little turtles can be. Reptar had probably hatched late in the fall and had remained in a dormant state underground waiting for spring to warm up his environment enough for him to finally emerge from the ground. Instead, I had dug him up late in the winter and had (accidentally) planted him with some seeds into a pot that I had brought to my apartment. Reptar, as I came to call her ( It took me a while to determine whether or not she was male or female), was definitely the best and cutest thing that I added to my apartment. Although, I wasn't expecting to have a pet I was quite happy to have this turtle. It wasn't long before I was doing research on red-earred slider turtles and I figured out the cheapest way to efficiently and properly care for my new friend. Instead of buying a large aquarium which would have been quite expensive I compromised by buying a very large clear tote for about $14. I bought the largest I could find because I knew my turtle would grow. I also bought two large aquarium water filters, so I wouldn't have to change out the tote's water as often. Turtles also require a heat source (in my case I bought a cheap clamp lamp with a regular 150 watt bulb), a bulb that is specific for reptiles (It provides UV light which is needed for good health. It was also put into a cheap clamp lamp.), and a place that they can completely get out of the water and bask in the light to warm themselves (Reptiles are cold-blooded.). Turtles are easy to feed because they are omnivores so you can feed them turtle pellets and they will also eat fruits, vegetables, bugs, small fish, and small crustaceans. It wasn't long before someone else had rescued another turtle and brought it to me. I named her Kermit. Together my turtles grew to be pretty good size. I raised them in as close to a natural environment as possible by providing mosquito fish, crawfish, and grass shrimp for them to chase in their tote. When they became large enough that I thought very few predators would be able to catch them, I released them into our pond where we throw pellets out to feed them. If you are looking for an interesting and fairly easy pet to care for, then a turtle is a great choice! They become accustomed to being fed, and they will follow you while they are swimming in their tank and they will also eat food from your fingers. Children really enjoy turtles, but keep in mind that turtles do not really like to be held up in the air or out of the water too much. They can claw you with their nails unintentionally and may be dropped. They also can bite, but like any other animal they will only do this when they are hurt or threatened. Last of all, always was your hands after handling your turtle! I wish you all the best in choosing your new pet! Allison.
From FunfettiSpaghetti Apr 8 2017 5:22AM
Just Say No to Red-Eared Sliders
I adopted four baby red-eared slider turtles on Craigslist. I was appalled when I went to get them. There were no sun or heat lamps. The water was cold and shallow. They had a vegetarian diet, which is fine for adults, but babies need meat. They were under-sized and lethargic. I got a larger tank. I dropped them in and they panicked, splashing water everywhere, because they couldn’t to swim. I drained the tank most of the way and then added water slowly. They learned how to swim and climb out of the water and lay on the platform, basking under the sun lamp with their necks stretched out. Sometimes on top of one another. Most red-eared sliders in captivity die within a year, but because people bring them home and don’t know how to care for them. Two turtles died early on. One of unknown causes, and the other drowned when he knocked the guard off the intake tube to the filter and his leg was trapped. I recommend gluing the guard in place. Red-eared sliders can live for 20-30 years and grow over 15” long. My turtles grew quickly, soon there was not enough room, and they began fighting. I had to separate them. Re-homing a 6” long turtle with a history of violence is difficult. They’re not cute and cuddly and the equipment is expensive. The turtle can’t be released outside because it will out-compete native turtles. Many reptile rescues (even those devoted to turtles) won’t take them. I was advised to euthanize one of them. Eventually, I found someone who wanted my violent turtle. The turtle was named Rosie and, last I heard, Rosie was still doing great. That left me with one turtle: Zen Turtle (ZT for short). ZT loved carrots, bananas, and goldfish. He hated having his claws trimmed. His shell scraped against the plastic as he climbed onto his turtle topper. Then he would make a cumbersome U-turn and slide back into the water on his belly. He learned how to climb out of the tank, fell to the floor, and chipped the edge of his shell. I stacked books on the tank cover. He lived with me until I couldn’t keep a large enough tank for him. I found a family with a large house and a large turtle collection to take him. Last I heard he’s going great. I recommend against these pets because I never felt like they were content living with me. Sometimes they would scratch frantically against the side of the tank as though trying to swim out. They didn’t need much day to day care, but when it was time to clean the tank and the filters that took a long time and wasn’t fun. Especially if bananas had been on the menu recently. Bananas turned the entire tank into a frappe. Also, I twice managed to flood my living room while refilling the tank…. How can one tell if a turtle is happy? All I know is that it seemed like they wanted more space than I could give them. .
From Ali Rodriguez-Carlson Sep 2 2016 10:29PM
I ended up with these turtles because a friend of mine made the irresponsible birthday gift purchase for another friend. Being the pet fanatic I ended up with Hans, then a week later bought him a friend (Lily) to swim with. Pros: - cute to look at & study Cons: -proper tank was huge -cleaning large tank was a big process, usually took two people -food and waste made tanks very messy -weren't very active - required adequate lighting -had to wash hands after handling -smelly tank -not affectionate creatures -filters constantly broke which stunk I would not recommend to anybody that is not up for a lot of maintenance. .
From ant_trip Jan 18 2017 8:21PM