Red Eared slider Turtle Habitat, Diet and Care Tips


Are you considering having the red-eared slider turtle? Here is an insight into their habitat, behavior, diet, tank setup, breeding, and health concerns.

Red eared slider turtle

Red eared slider turtle

The red-eared slider is predominantly aquatic turtle that will emerge out water from time to time to bask in the sun. It originated from North America and derived its name due to its distinctive red streak on the side of its face, and “its habit of sliding off rocks or logs into the water when it is startled,” states Environment.bm

Facts about the red-eared slider

This red-eared terrapin is the most popular pet turtle in the US and the rest of the world. They are thus the most traded turtles in the world too. The scientific name of red-eared slider turtle is Trachemys Scripta elegans, and it belongs to the family Emydidae. It has a greenish brown shell and can grow up to 8 inches long.

They are usually kept as pets, and it’s due to careless pet possession that these terrapins have ended up in Bermuda and other parts of the world.

On their ideal habitats, these reptiles make their homes in ponds and bury their eggs in the sand dugouts. They are included in the list of global 100 worst invasive species according to the IUCN.

When compared in size, the females are usually larger than the males, and their lifespan is between 20 and 40 years. However, a few have lived more than 50 years.

Since these animals can climb and burrow, they can be able to escape from poorly built enclosures. According to Environment.bm, “if they are kept in crowded conditions or cannot find a mate, they will escape finding a more suitable home.”

It believed that red-eared slider could smell a freshwater and follow the scent of such pond or lake.

Their main food is the aquatic plants. However, this would change if you want to keep them as a pet since they are omnivores.

Natural habitat

As we had highlighted earlier, red-eared terrapin is primarily aquatic. According to several studies, the life expectancy of red-eared terrapins is shorter when they are kept in captivity. Therefore, it is worth to note that their lifespan and wellbeing depend on quality care.

In nature, they inhabit locations with a source of calm, warm water such as ponds, lakes, swamps, rivulets, streams as well as slow flowing rivers. They usually leave the water by climbing on rocks or logs to warm up in the sun.

Red-eared sliders are poikilotherms meaning that they cannot regulate their body temperatures independently. Therefore, they entirely depend on the temperature of the environment.

Red-eared slider pet

If you want to have the slider as a pet, a baby red-eared slider for sale is available in many markets. However, before you even ask for the price, you must understand the fundamentals of red-eared slider turtle care. Also, you should understand their perfect habitat and diet.

Let us explore the recommended housing, tank, diet and health care for the red-eared terrapins where they can thrive well as pets.

Red-eared slider tank setup

Bigger tanks are always recommended. Generally, you should provide an area with water that is five times longer than their size, four times wider and 1.7 deeper than their longest dimension.

If you are going to keep several of them turtles then, you will be required to increase the dimension by 24% for additional pet.

The tank can be made of plastic, but a glass one is even better. This will allow you to watch their movement. To mimic their natural habitat, the tank should also have some aquatic plants where these turtles can hide and have some privacy.

Whether it is an indoor or outdoor tank, ensure you don’t subject these pets to direct sunlight. However, plenty of light is also a critical aspect.

As we said, they are poikilotherms and heat and light are very important. Consider installing fluorescent and UVB bulbs to help provide some warmth and light. Buy Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB Heat Lighting Kit.

If your tank is made of glass, note that UVB cannot penetrate the glass, you need to install UVB bulbs inside the tank and not outside, but they should be high to ensure your pet so that they don’t burn.

NOTE: Proper maintenance of the habitat is recommended. You should clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week.

Red-eared slider diet

These terrapins are omnivores, and their foods include a mix of vegetables, insects, meat, fish, and earthworms. This pet would only feed well if their security and safety are assured.

Also, providing them with the ideal temperature is another essential aspect for the sliders to feed. They might not be able to eat if its so cold as they will tend to be inactive.

On their diets, as Petmd.com states, “often, turtles’ diets vary according to their local environments.” Therefore, when you buy them foods, inquire so that you familiarize yourself with the diets that will suit that location. Remember, the diets may vary from one place to the other.

During the feeding, remember that turtles need to be fed daily in fresh, clean and chlorine-free water.

Usual behavior

Usually, turtles hate frequent handling and may bite when terrified. They are perfect swimmers and will regularly bask under a heat lamp in a dry and warm area. Therefore, provide a basking area in their habitat.

Also, “add clean, dechlorinated water with a temperature range from 70 to 75°F before returning the turtle to its tank,” advises Petco.com.

Finally, note that when these reptiles are approached, they lithely “slide” in the water to avoid harm. Freshwater turtles usually, replace their scutes as they grow.

Slider health care

Turtles just like many other reptiles and amphibians are frequent carriers of Salmonella bacteria. These bacteria cause salmonellosis and gastrointestinal disorder that would result in vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. In rare scenarios, the bacteria can spread to your blood, bones, and brain.

Some infestations and infections can harm these turtles. They are prone to the following health conditions:

  • Shell rot/ulcers
  • Eyes Infections
  • GI tract parasites
  • Algae causing cell injuries
  • Cell injuries from other roots
  • Respiratory infections

If you, therefore, want to be a good pet owner, then you should understand the symptoms that will indicate this reptile pet is not okay. They would include the following:

  • Nose, mouth or eye discharge
  • A runny nose or sneezing
  • Uptight swimming
  • Overgrown beak
  • Discoloration or the shell or skin
  • Swelling behind the tympanum
  • Lethargic

Kindly seek for the help of veterinarian if you notice any of the symptoms above.


If you want to breed the turtles, you must be mindful of the law in your country. To reproduce the sliders, you will be required to bring together a healthy and sexually mature pair of male and female.

Usually, male sliders mature around 3 to 6 months old while females mature from 4 months to 6 months old.

Breeding can be enhanced by placing the sliders in a cold room (48 to 62 °F) during winter and reducing light in the basking area to 9 hours. Keep them there for 6 to 8 weeks and then return them to normal temperatures.

You will know when the female sliders want to lay eggs by paying attention to their behaviors. They will stop eating and become hyperactive.  When they are ready to lay eggs, place them in a new habitat, they will do so in a couple of days.

The eggs need to be incubated in a moistened vermiculite at 60 °F. Keep the eggs moist by spraying water onto them frequently. They will hatch, after 55 – 65 days.

How to get healthy sliders to keep

Depending on your country wildlife laws, acquiring pets from the wild by yourself may be illegal and not safe since they carry several diseases as we already mentioned. Therefore, you will be required to go to rescue centers or dealers who have a red-eared slider for sale.

You can consult a vet before the purchase to know how to determine a healthy baby slider.  This is because “a turtle that has not been cared for properly could have health issues that may not become apparent until you get home, or it might die prematurely. You can improve your luck by examining the turtle first, preferably in the store (or breeder/dealer),” notes Allturtles.com.

Avoid buying baby sliders from street vendors and instead go to professional reptile breeders who are likely to be most informed since they keep the records of the animals.

You are tired of your pet

Taken into consideration that turtles are the longest living pets, you may be fed up with them, or you may be unable to care for them any longer.

In such a case, you should not dump your pet in a nearby local pond or dam. In many countries, this is illegal and not a good way of handling any animal. The slider can result in long-term damage to the ecosystem.

Instead, take the turtle back to the pet store or local rescue center or advertise it online as you may find someone who is willing to buy it. You can also seek the attention of your local herpetological or turtle societies or local humane society as they may be able to help your situation.