Red-eared slider turtles are in their native habitats, which means they spend a lot of time in the water and a lot of time basking in the sun. Although it may appear that the turtle is simply relaxing, the animal's health depends on this sunbathing.
A red-eared slider kept as a pet needs a tank big enough to include both swimming space and a place to dry off and enjoy the sun. Red-eared sliders may live a very long time (over 30 years!) and make excellent pets if they are given the necessary care and the right tank environment.
Before You Begin
As a general guideline, allocate 10 gallons of water every inch of the turtle, with a minimum tank capacity of 20 gallons for hatchling red-eared sliders. Remember that red-eared sliders may reach adult sizes of 10 to 12 inches, so you'll probably ultimately want a pretty large tank.
What You Need
Gather a few supplies to set up a tank for your red-eared slider:
- A 20-gallon aquarium or plastic container (minimum size for a young turtle, adults may need 40 gallons or larger)
- Basking area supplies such as rocks, stones, or a plastic floating shelf
- Heat light and ultraviolet light
- Good quality aquarium water filter
As long as you don't mind not being able to see the turtles from the side, large plastic containers or storage tubs are suitable alternatives to aquariums. If the container is tall enough and the basking area is positioned such that the turtles cannot climb out, you won't need a lid.
Fill the Tank With Water
Red-eared sliders require enough water to be able to swim. For a 4-inch turtle, the water should be at least 6 to 8 inches deep, which is almost twice as deep as the turtle's length.
Red-eared sliders are strong swimmers, so you don't need to worry about drowning as long as the turtle can get out of the water and there is no place it can get trapped underwater.
Create a Basking Area
You may create a land area for your turtle's basking place by stacking smooth rocks and sloping huge smooth stones to one side. A "turtle dock" made of wood or plastic is another option. Whatever basking location you decide to build, be sure that your turtle can easily climb onto it and that it enables your turtle to thoroughly dry off.
Add Tank Decorations
It's a good idea to make a tank simple and easy to clean when creating it. Keep in mind that turtles have the ability to move and topple objects. Plants could provide some visual appeal, but turtles would probably eat them or uproot them. It's likely that plastic plants will be pulled up, which will only make cleaning worse.
For a red-eared slider, bigger pebbles, stones, and driftwood make the finest tank decorations. If you decide to use driftwood, make sure to get it from a pet supply shop rather than from the shore. The sort available at the store is free of parasites and won't hurt your turtle.
Maintain Tank Heat
A red-eared slider turtle tank's water temperature should be kept between 74 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, and for hatchlings, up to 80 F. With a basking place over the tank's land area, the daily ambient air temperature in the tank should be between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, the basking spot lighting may be turned off, allowing the temperature to fall as low as 60 F.
If necessary, the water may be kept heated with a submersible aquarium water heater. Large turtles may break glass aquarium heaters, and if the water is heated to a dangerous level, the condition might be fatal.
Place the heater behind something (a block is one suggestion) or create a cover to protect it from the turtles bumping it (a piece of PVC pipe could be used). Install a reliable aquarium thermometer, and keep an eye on the water's temperature.
To keep your turtle warm as it exits the water, place a reptile heat lamp over the basking area. This may be accomplished with a reptile bulb or heat lamp in a reflecting lamp, but make sure there is no way for the turtle to contact it or for it to fall into the water. Make sure the surface of the basking location is attaining the right temperature by measuring it using a thermometer. The air in the tank will also be heated by the basking light.
Install an Ultraviolet Light
Give your reptiles a full spectrum reptile ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) light in addition to the basking light for heat. The correct metabolism of calcium depends on exposure to UVA and UVB, and it also seems to have other physiological advantages, such increasing appetite. If it's warm enough, it's also wonderful to let your turtle bask in the sun outside. Just make sure it cannot escape or overheat in the sunlight!
Purchase a suitable UVA/UVB bulb for reptiles and adhere to the bulb's positioning instructions provided by the manufacturer. The effectiveness of UV rays decreases with distance from the bulb, thus it's critical to locate the bulb near enough to the turtle for maximum benefit. Since the amount of UV generated with time decreases, the manufacturer's recommendation is to replace the bulb. This light is not essential if your turtle is an outdoor resident.
Cleaning the Tank
Turtles make quite the mess when they eat and urinate. To keep the water clean, your turtle tank should have a decent filtration system, such as a power filter or canister filter. Given that turtles are such dirty pets, pick a filter that is rated for at least double the amount of water you will be filtering. Filtration will lessen the need for frequent water changes, but your turtles will still need weekly 25 percent water changes and at least monthly deep cleanings.
Preventing Problems During Tank Setup
Avoiding common problems during tank setup will help your turtle stay healthy and prevent issues in the future.
- Keep in mind that if you want to use gravel in your tank, it can make the tank harder to clean. Additionally, you must make sure the pebbles are large enough that they won't be accidentally swallowed by your red-eared slider.
- The most common mistake when it comes to creating a habitat for your turtle is using a tank that is too small. Double-check your turtle's measurements and make sure there's enough room for them in the tank. If you're unsure what size tank to purchase, err on the side of giving your pet extra space.
- To help minimize mess, feed your turtle in a separate container to reduce the workload on the filtration system.
- If decorating with driftwood, be aware that it can sometimes turn the water brown. In order to avoid discoloration, soak your driftwood in a separate bucket of water for several days before adding it to your turtle's tank. Adding a carbon media to your filter will also help keep the water clear, but the carbon needs to be replaced periodically, usually once a month.
How do you clean a red-eared slider turtle's tank?
You must first secure your turtle in a secure location before disassembling and cleaning every component of its aquarium. It's crucial to remember that you cannot put soap or detergent in the tank of your red-eared slider. No matter how well you clean it off, a residue may still remain. Both betadine and methylene blue are effective cleaning agents.
Once everything has been scrubbed clean, it can be placed back in the tank and your turtle can be returned.
What kind of fish is good to put in a tank with a red-eared slider?
Red-eared sliders can live with tetra fish, zebrafish, guppies, goldfish, minnows, and koi.
What plants can I have in my red-eared slider tank?
Water hyacinth, hornwort, common waterweed, hornwort, moneywort, dwarf hair grass, java moss, java fern, anacharis, and anubias are just a handful of the many plants you may have in your aquarium.