Species group: Sliders, Cooters and Red-Bellied Turtles
Other common names: Common Slider; Pond Slider
Scientific name: Trachemys scripta scripta
This attractive turtle shares many of the “fine-pet traits” of its close cousin, the ever-popular Red-eared Slider. Labeled by some as “the dog of the turtle world” for its responsiveness to people, the Yellow-Bellied Slider makes a fine pet, but does need a very large aquarium, and so should not be purchased without serious forethought.
The Yellow-bellied Slider ranges from southeastern Virginia to northern Florida, where it dwells in swamps, ponds, lakes, sluggish rivers, and marshes.
Appearance / Health:
Yellow-bellied Sliders bear yellow stripe behind the eye. The rounded carapace is olive to brown in coloration, and bordered by wide yellow stripes. As one might expect, the plastron (“belly”) is yellow! Females reach 8-10 inches in length (and a similar width), while males usually top out at 5-6 inches.
Given proper care, Yellow-bellied Sliders are quite hardy, with captive longevities approaching 30 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:
These curious turtles quickly learn to associate people with food, and will paddle over to beg as soon as someone enters the room. They are always eager to accept food from the hand, but like all turtles, they dislike being handled and will bite when startled.
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. Yellow-bellied Sliders are best kept in bare-bottomed aquariums, as gravel traps food and waste material, and may be swallowed.
Yellow-bellied 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.
Yellow-bellied 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 tempered turtles, good beginner turtles, cute little babies, gorgeous yellow markings
big paddling pool, messy little creatures, special filtered water, messy feeders
feeder fish goldfish, basking areas, gorgeous shell