Taking Care of Red-Eared Slider Turtles as Pets: A Guide

Red eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) standing on wood, Texas, USA

The red-eared slider turtle makes a good pet. They frequently get along well with their owners and have gorgeous yellow and green patterns on their shells and skin in addition to recognizable red patches behind their eyes. However, when it comes to their upkeep, they are a very significant endeavor.

What is a red-eared slider?

Native to North America, red-eared sliders are a particular kind of turtle. These energetic swimmers are frequently kept as pets because of their striking red coloring and swift ability to "slide" into their native ponds.

The adorable hatchling turtles you see for sale will develop into big, long-lived, and occasionally dirty aquatic turtles. Be ready for the amount of room and cleaning they will require. The red-eared slider, like the majority of reptiles, is a poikilotherm that can't control its own temperature, thus it's crucial for the owners of these pets to offer the ideal settings with heat lamps to maintain their wellbeing.

Species Overview

Common Names: Red-eared slider turtle, red-eared slider, red-eared terrapin, red-eared turtle, slider turtle, water slider turtle

Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta elegans

Adult Size: Around 12 inches long

Life Expectancy: 20 to 30 years

Red-Eared Slider Turtle Behavior and Temperament

Active pets, red-eared slider turtles like to swim and dive. Red-eared sliders born in captivity are typically kinder and more gregarious than those born in the wild. In fact, whereas captive-bred slider turtles can swim up to you anticipating a reward, wild turtles are more likely to hide into their shells or underwater when they hear or see anything (or anyone) approaching. Avoid buying wild turtles that are sold as pets since the stress of the lifestyle transition can cause them to develop major health issues or possibly pass away before their time.

When you pick up a red-eared slider, it's possible to discover one that is eager to connect with you, but it's more probable that your pet will get uneasy and either retreat inside its shell or nip. Generally speaking, it's better to respect your turtle's space and remain still when around it.

Housing the Red-Eared Slider Turtle

Be prepared to invest a few hundred dollars on a suitable habitat because it costs money to set up sufficient home for a red-eared slider turtle. No matter what the salesperson at the pet store tells you, your hatchling turtle won't survive in a little plastic container. Even for the youngest hatchlings, get an aquarium. If you must, start with a 10-gallon tank, however a 20-gallon tank is preferable. However, keep in mind that your turtle will develop rapidly and require a larger tank.

You must also supply a dry docking place, full-spectrum UV lighting, and a basking heat light. The docking place should provide a stable space where the turtle may bask in the light to absorb heat and ultraviolet rays as well as a readily accessible ramp out of the water.

Red-eared sliders may also be rather filthy since they feed and excrete waste in their watery habitat. Install a tank filter that is rated for two to three times the quantity of water in your tank for maximum cleaning. Aquatic turtles are filtered using both submersible and canister filters. Without a filter, you will have to do time-consuming and untidy weekly partial water changes and water quality checks. The water might become unhealthy for your turtle if you let it stay that way.

In warm areas, certain red-eared slider turtles can survive year-round in an outdoor pond. However, it's also important to consider maintaining a healthy pond habitat and safeguarding your turtle from predators, extreme temperatures, and chemicals.


It's crucial to offer a climate between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit for turtles since their health might suffer if they are not kept warm enough. The temperature of the turtle's basking area should range from 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Monitor the temperature of the water with a thermometer. Add a basking light or another heating source if it drops too low.


Full-spectrum UV lighting is necessary over your turtle's aquarium to mimic the benefits the turtle would get from natural sunlight. Leave the light on for 10 to 12 hours per day.


The substance utilized as the aquarium's substrate is substrate. It can provide your animal with something to burrow into in addition to having an aesthetic quality and frequently imitating the animal's native surroundings. To make easier, you may leave the bottom of your tank empty. To line the tank bottom with a substrate, use gravel or rocks that are too big for the turtle to eat.

Food and Water

Red-eared sliders consume leafy greens, dried shrimp, krill, and insects in addition to vegetables and animal protein. It's acceptable to give your turtle a commercial brand of food, as the majority of them are designed expressly for comprehensive nutrition. To keep your turtle at a healthy weight for its size, heed the feeding advice of your veterinarian. Beyond what is already in the tank, no additional water is required.

Red-eared slider owners frequently choose to feed their pets in a water container outside of their normal tank. This method can aid in maintaining clean water in addition to effective filtration.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

Salmonella and other infections that may infect people are frequently carried by turtles and a variety of other animals, including hedgehogs. This shouldn't necessary deter you from acquiring a turtle, but you should be aware of the hazards and practice adequate hygiene measures (unless you happen to have small children or immunocompromised persons living in your home). It's important to wash your hands both before and after handling your turtle or its environment.

Additionally, be on the lookout for intestinal parasites in your red-eared slider. Poor appetite and unusual feces are symptoms. Additionally, these turtles are vulnerable to respiratory diseases, particularly in cold environments. Sneezing excessively, breathing through the mouth, and having an infection are other symptoms. Plus, they might get shell rot or ulcers, like many turtles and tortoises. This frequently manifests as odd or off-smelling patches on their shell and is caused by an unhygienic environment or a poor food.

When these turtles feel at ease in their surroundings, they behave in a generally pleasant manner. To lessen their tension and the likelihood of violent behavior, such biting, if you must handle them, do it slowly and carefully.


Choosing Your Red-Eared Slider Turtle

Red-eared sliders are frequently found in pet stores, but it's preferable to search for a turtle through a reputable breeder or rescue organization that can provide you with in-depth details on the turtle's history and health. A red-eared slider costs about $20 on average in pet stores, although a reputable breeder would probably charge a bit more.

Select a turtle that is aware and active, and make sure it is consuming food. Be on the lookout for any warning signs including lethargy, unusual excrement, shell discolouration, swelling, or an abundance of mucous. Additionally, take note of the surroundings the turtles are housed in at the pet shop, breeder, or rescue. There is a possibility that the turtles will experience health problems if the water is unclean or the temperature is too low.

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