Do Red-Eared Sliders Need Water?

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Red-eared sliders have become one of the most popular pet turtles. These turtles are hardy and low maintenance. So, many people want to have them as pets. If you have plans to get a red-eared slider, you must have many questions about its lifestyle and habit to build the perfect tank for it. For example, “Do Red Eared Sliders need water?” 

Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic turtles. It means they need both water and land to survive. They are excellent swimmers and enjoy swimming in deep water. Besides, drinking fresh water is essential for turtles to maintain their metabolic health. 

In this article, I will talk about how important water is for red-eared sliders. You will also learn how to set up the water tank for your pet turtles to keep them healthy and happy. 

Do Red-Eared Sliders Have To Be In Water?

As mentioned above, red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic turtles. Both aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles need water to survive. Red-eared sliders can spend hours on land but spend most of their life in water. 

Red-eared sliders prefer to swim in water deep enough for them to swim. They can get thirsty too. So, they need fresh water to drink. Most importantly, turtles need water to eat food since they cannot produce saliva. 

So, yes, red-eared sliders have to be in the water. It does not mean they cannot live on land. They come out of the water for various reasons. Red-eared sliders come to land to bask under the sun or basking light for hours. They also need to spend time on the land for reproduction and nesting. 

Do Red-Eared Sliders Prefer Land Or Water? 

Like any other semi-aquatic turtles, red-eared sliders need both water and land area to live a comfortable life. However, they spend more time in the water than on land. When they are not swimming in the water, they may just soak in the water and rest. Sometimes, they sit on rocks and logs half submerged in water. 

Red-eared sliders enjoy eating their food in the water. They often munch on aquatic plants under the water or plants around the water source. So, you should give them food in the water. When you give your turtle food on the land, the turtle might drag the food into the water. This is because they need water to chew and swallow the food. 

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Now, do not ignore the importance of setting up a proper land area for your pet red-eared slider. They will need to come to the land after a long swim in the cool water to dry their body. Otherwise, they can catch a cold. Respiratory problems can be life-threatening for a turtle.

In the wild, red-eared sliders choose a sunny spot and bask to get dry and warm. Similarly, pet red-eared sliders will visit a basking area and bask for 4 to 6 hours. They also come to the land for hunting foods like insects, worms, snails, fruits and plants. 

Besides, red-eared sliders come to the land to mate with their partners. After a female red-eared slider gets pregnant, it will build a nest on the soil or sand. However, it leaves the nesting area as soon as it finishes burying the eggs. 

How Much Water Does A Red Ear Slider Need?

If you have bought a red-eared slider, remember, it needs plenty of water in the tank. How much water should you put in the turtle tank? That’s easy to calculate. For red-eared sliders, follow the 10 gallons of water per inch method. 

So, if your turtle is 4 inches long, the tank should have 40 to 55 gallons of water. Red-eared sliders do not stay small all their lives. Eventually, they get bigger. In fact, a female red-eared slider can get 10 to 12 inches long! Then you will need a 120 to 150-gallon tank for the turtle. 

What Will Happen If Red-Eared Sliders Don’t Have Enough Water?

As you can see, red-eared sliders need plenty of water in their tank. But can they live in small tanks with less water?

Yes, red-eared sliders can live in shallow water, but it will not be healthy for them. Turtles are messy eaters, and they poop a lot. Hence, the water will get dirty too soon. Cleaning a small tank can also be difficult. 

Besides, turtles produce a lot of ammonia. They need friendly bacteria that thrive in a good amount of water to keep the level of ammonia in balance. The level of ammonia can get quite high in inadequate water, and the bacteria cannot fight them. Thus, ammonia can cause serious health issues in red-eared sliders. 

Moreover, red-eared sliders need deep water to swim around. Swimming is an essential physical activity for them. If they cannot swim every day, they become physically weak. 

Shallow water is dangerous because a red-eared slider may get flipped on its back accidentally and cannot turn back. When a turtle remains like that for a long time, it can have breathing problems and die. 

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What Kind of Water Do Red-Eared Sliders Need?

Red-eared sliders live mostly in freshwater. They are highly adaptive. Thus, they can also live in slightly brackish water. For your pet red-eared sliders, you can simply use the tap water. 

However, first, make sure the tap water is safe for turtles. The tap water in some areas can contain chlorine. The friendly bacteria cannot grow in chlorinated water. As a result, ammonia and waste can build up fast in the tank. 

In addition, chlorinated water creates a pH imbalance in the water. The pH level should be between 6.0 to 8.0 for red-eared sliders. 

What if you do not have any water source rather than the chlorinated tap water? In that case, you can try de-chlorinating the water. For that, fill the tank with water and leave it for 24 hours. This will dissolve the chlorine in the water.

The second way to make the tap water safe is using a water conditioner. Use a good water conditioner to instantly neutralizes chlorine, chloramines, ammonia and heavy metals from the water. 

My favourite is the Zilla Reptile Terrarium Aquatic Water Conditioner. You can get it at an affordable price. Just a few teaspoons of the conditioner can treat gallons of water. You can use it for both aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles. 

How Long Can A Red-Eared Slider Be Underwater?

Red-eared sliders love to swim in the water. An average adult red-eared slider can hold its breath underwater for 35 to 45 minutes. Then they will come to the surface for a few seconds and dive again. Baby red-eared sliders cannot hold their breath for so long. They need to take in oxygen in about 20 to 25 minutes. 

During hibernation, adult red-eared sliders can stay underwater for up to three months. This is possible because their metabolism slows down, and they need less oxygen to survive. Besides, they use their cloaca to absorb oxygen from water. 

How Long Can Red-Eared Sliders Go Without Water?

Red-eared sliders need to swim in the water every day to stay healthy. They stay out of water maximum of 8 hours per day and spend the rest of the time in the water. 

Hopefully, you do not keep your turtle out of water for long without a valid reason. Sometimes, turtles can escape and hide in the corners of your house. In that case, you might get concerned, and wonder how long your red-eared slider can survive without water. 

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At moderate temperature, an adult red-eared slider can stay out of water for about a week. In cool and humid weather, a turtle can survive even longer. However, do not expect to find your turtle healthy after being deprived of water for so long. 

Also, baby red-eared sliders cannot live without water this long. They need water more than adult turtles for healthy growth. So, they might survive only a few days without water. 

Red-eared sliders can go without water for 14 weeks but only when they brumate. Some red-eared sliders brumate deep underwater where the temperature remains constant. Others burrow under soil or dead leaves to brumate.

 When they brumate in winter, they become almost inactive. Their metabolism slows down. Hence, they require less food and water to survive. Thus, they can survive without water for such a long time. 

Why Is My Red-Eared Slider Not Going In Water?

Is your red-eared slider avoiding the water? Red-eared sliders are supposed to spend more time in the water than on land. If your turtle spends too much time outside water, it can become dehydrated. But there must be a reason why your turtle is not diving in the water. 

Red-eared sliders will avoid spending too much time in the water when they find the water too cold or warm. So, check the water temperature of the tank. 

The correct water temperature for adult red-eared sliders is 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Baby red-eared sliders need a bit higher temperature. Keep the temperature at 80 degrees Fahrenheit for them. 

Therefore, keep the turtle tank in a room where the temperature is between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the room temperature goes below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, use a water heater to maintain the water temperature. 

Buy a water heater according to the size of the water tank. The bigger the tank is, the more powerful the water heater needs to be. Buy a high-quality water heater as a low-quality water heater can cause accidents.

I use a 150 Watts EHEIM Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater. The heater is also available in 25 to 300 Watts power. So, you can choose one depending on the size of the tank. The heater is easy to install and regulate. It is made of shock-resistant and shatter-proof glass, which is safe for your pet turtles. 


So, Do Red-Eared Sliders Need Water? Yes, certainly! A red-eared slider needs regular access to fresh and clean water for swimming and drinking. They must stay hydrated to stay healthy and happy. As an owner of these beautiful turtles, it is your responsibility to provide quality water at an ideal temperature.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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