Red-eared Slider

Red-eared Slider

What to Expect from Your Red-eared Slider?

Red-eared sliders are attractive, intelligent and fascinating turtles that require special care. Maintaining them properly demands dedication and knowledge. In a well-designed habitat, turtles will delight their owners with their appearance and remarkable behaviors.

Is Your Red-eared Slider a Male or Female?

Red-eared sliders, especially juveniles, can be difficult to sex. Gender in adults is determined by external physical characteristics and behavior. In comparison to females, males have longer foreclaws (which are used in courtship), a longer tail length, a longer distance from the body to the vent opening, a tail that is thicker at the base and generally a smaller body size and shell length.

Having your Bearded Dragon examined on a regular basis by an exotic animal veterinarian who is familiar with reptiles can prevent many  common disorders.

What Should You Feed Your Turtle?

In the wild, red-eared sliders are omnivorous, eating both animal and plant sources of food. However , juveniles are mainly carnivorous and become more herbivorous as they mature.

In captivity, the diet for juveniles should consist primarily of a commercial aquatic turtle pellet.

Hatchlings and juveniles should be fed on a daily basis; however, they should be offered no more than they will consume during a single session to minimize water contamination. The diet can be supplemented with occasional live fish of an appropriate size (guppies, goldfish), tubifex worms and earthworms. Plant matter, in the form of chopped leaf y greens or finely chopped mixed vegetables, can be offered once weekly but may not be readily accepted until they grow older.

For adults, 50% of the diet may consist of commercial turtle pellets and animal-based protein as per the juvenile diet. The remaining 50% should consist of chopped plant matter, such as kale, romaine, red leaf lettuce, mustard greens, dandelion, watercress,  parsley, Swiss chard, shredded carrot, shredded squash, thawed frozen mixed vegetables and  miscellaneous fruits. Adults can be fed ever y 2-3 days.


The minimum enclosure size for a hatchling red-eared slider should be a 20-gallon aquarium. As a general rule, the water depth should be at least 1.5-2 times the turtle’s carapace length, with several extra inches of air space between the surface of the water to the top edge of the tank to prevent escapes. For 4- to 5-inch (10-13 cm) long sliders, the recommended minimum enclosure surface area is 2.5 square feet (0.23m²) with an extra square foot (0.09 m2) for each additional turtle. Space should be doubled for turtles 8 inch (20 cm) long or greater.

Water Quality and Filtration

Sliders are voracious feeders and tend to foul the water quickly with their messy eating habits and frequent defecation. Therefore, a system needs to be in place for management of water quality. Partial to fullwater changes can be performed. Many different filtration systems are available.

Basking Site

Basking areas, where the turtle can emerge from the water to bask under a heat source, can consist of either islands or platforms established at the water line of the tank or of areas built from the bottom of the tank (bricks or stones) and emerging from the surface.

How to Keep Your Red-eared Slider Healthy, Happy and Safe!

  • Take a newly purchased red eared slider to an exotic animal veterinarian for a wellness examination and fecal check for parasites.
  • Feed turtles in a separate container from their living accommodations to reduce fouling ofthe water.
  • Keep the water clean using a filter and weekly water changes.
  • Provide heat with a daytime basking light and a submersible heater.
  • Allow exposure to UVB lighting during the day.
  • Offer 12-14 hours per day of basking light in the spring and summer to simulate a natural photoperiod.
  • Offer 10-12 hours of daylight in fall and winter.

Housing for your red-eared slider should:

  • be at least a 20-gallon (30” long x 12” wide x 12” high [76 x 30 x 30 cm]) sized enclosure for juveniles
  • be escape-proof and predator-proof
  • include an area where the turtle can crawl out of the water and bask
  • be easy to clean with good filtration
  • maintain a proper water  temperature of 82-85°F (28-29.5°C) for hatchlings or 75-85°F (24-29.5°C) for adults with an air temperature of 85-90°F (29.5-32°C) under the basking light.

It is important for a red-eared slider to avoid:

  • being housed in a little plastic “island bowl”
  • water temperatures below 75°F (24°C)
  • habitats lacking a dr y basking area
  • being fed shrimp or muscle meat as the staple diet
  • cats, dogs or other predators
  • dirty water
  • being too close to the top of the enclosure (they can escape)

Note: Always wash your hands after handling your turtle to reduce the potential for salmonellosis.

Courtesy of Zoological Education Network
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