How To Set Up A Red-Eared Slider Tank?

How To Set Up A Red-Eared Slider Tank

Red-Eared Sliders are naturally semi-aquatic. They like to spend time both in water and out of water. While basking in the sun seems nothing important to us, it’s not that unnecessary rather mandatory to keep your Red-Eared Sliders’ health perfect.

To keep Red-Eared Sliders as pets, one needs a tank attached with both the privileges of water and sun so that they can swim and dry off basking under the sun in comfort. Now the question is how can you set up a perfect tank for a Red-Eared Slider?

In this article, I am going to give you all the information you need to set up a tank for Red-Eared Slider. On top of that, I’ll also let you know other tips regarding the care and maintenance of your Red-Eared Sliders.

Talking no more, let’s begin now.

Steps To Set Up A Suitable Red-Eared Slider Tank

There are some important things that you should never mess up with. Here are some of the steps you should religiously follow to get a tank ready and livable for your favorite Red-Eared Sliders.

1. Choose An Appropriate Tank

The first step is to select a properly sized tank or aquarium. You should have 10 gallons of water for each inch of turtle. That means, for a four-inch turtle you’ll need 40 gallons of water. You have to provide more than 55 gallons of water for an adult Slider.

If you want to keep several Sliders together, add 10 gallons of water for each.

The ground area of the tank must be at least 2 square feet for a single turtle. For additional turtles, add 1 square foot for each.

When the question of depth arises, it should be twice as much as the turtle’s length because Red-Eared Sliders love to swim. Just ensure that there’s nothing in the water where the Slider can be trapped.

2. Basking Area

The basking area is very much important because it lets the Sliders to increase its body temperature that’s necessary for digestion, immune function, metabolism, and shell health.

You can create a basking area by a partially submerged smooth rock or a float made of cork bark. Rocks are often hazardous. It can scrape the Slider’s shell and eventually infect. It can also trap turtle underwater if, somehow, it’s been knocked loose.

Wood and plastic “turtle dock” can be used for basking. Whatever you use, it won’t trouble unless the Slider can easily access the basking site and its shell won’t be scrapped.

If you want my recommendation, I’ll highly recommend you to try Penn Plax tank topper. I’ve been using this basking place for a long time and I am really pleased with it. If you want to read my detailed review on this basking platform, click here.

3. Decorate Your Tank

Everyone loves beauty and so do you. Definitely, you’ll want your tank decorated. But cleanliness gets the preference. If you grow live plants in your aquarium, it will create havoc. A slider will dig them up.

But if you intend to feed the Slider with plants, you can grow live plants. Artificial plants can be used because they look realistic. But there’s a problem regarding plastic plants. They are difficult to clean and make the aquarium dirty.

The best things to design aquarium are larger rocks, stones, and driftwood. When using driftwood, make sure that it’s parasite-free or it will backfire.

4. Appropriate Plants For The Aquarium

If you adorn the aquarium for Red-Eared Slider with plants, they would get a homely and natural environment there. Those plants can also work as good hiding places for them which is beneficial for the mental health of the turtles. However, unfortunately, the live plants will not last long there as the Red-Eared Slider turtles would eat them away or dig them up.

By the way, if you intend to create some plants for them to eat, that’s also a good idea. Aquatic plants like hyacinth and anacharis are two of their favorite foods.

If you are looking for something that would last long in the tank, you can choose from a variety of artificial plants. They are less costly and comes with plenty of colors that suit well in the tank.

5. Ensure Proper Heat

The ideal temperature for the water of Slider aquarium is between 74 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. For hatchlings it can be up to 80 degrees F. The air temperature at daytime should be 75 to 80 degrees and in basking spot, it should be 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, the basking spotlight can be turned off and the air temperature can be as low as 60 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Fix a reptile heat lamp over the basking area to manage the temperature but be sure that your turtle can’t touch the light or the light does not fall into the water.

If proper temperature can’t be maintained by lighting, a submersible water heater might be used. It helps to keep the temperature up to the mark always. The heater should be kept under proper protection so that no accident happens to the Sliders. Unprotected, the heater can be lethal to Sliders.

This aquarium heater is currently labeled as the “#1 Best Seller” in Amazon. I’ve also found this heater pretty reliable for my turtle tanks.

A water thermometer must be used to monitor the temperature of the tank water.

This is my favorite thermometer for aquarium. I’ve always got a pretty accurate reading from it.

6. Provide An Ultraviolet Light

Along with the basking light for heat, install a reptile ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) light. It is essential for sufficient calcium metabolism of your turtle. It also has positive impacts on the turtle’s health such as increased hunger.

You need a proper placement of the UV bulb. UV rays lessen with distance so it’s necessary to set the bulb where the turtle can have the best benefit.

If you want to minimize the lighting hassle and want a single kit that provides both type of lighting for turtles, get Zoo Med’s UVB and Heat Lighting Kit. This is undoubtedly the best lighting solution in the market right now for turtles.

7. Keep The Water Clean

One of the most important jobs for a Slider owner is to keep the water clean. It’s not that much difficult but should be done regularly depending on the nutrient level of water. The water testing kit is useful in evaluating the nutrient levels in the water.

8. Change Your Aquarium Water

Do not forget to change the aquarium water frequently. The process is almost the same for every kind of setup. For small tanks, remove turtles and all the appliances from the tank and then remove the water. Dry off the tank with a fresh towel and refill the tank with clean water. And then, restore turtles and the appliances.

In case you have a large aquarium, you may need a siphon. You can also use a mechanical pump to remove the tank water.

9. Establish A Perfect Filtration System

A filtration system is very essential in keeping the tank water clean. Filtration can be of three kinds: Mechanical, Biological, and Chemical.

Mechanical filtration simply filters out the largest pieces of garbage whereas biological filtration creates useful bacteria to keep the water clean and germ-free.

Chemical filtration works with activated carbon but it loses its effectiveness rapidly.

No matter which filtration you use, it’s necessary to keep the filter clean. Red-Eared Sliders are very messy and they give extra force on the filter. That’s why you always need two times a capable filter for the water.

I’ve been using the Aquatop CF500UV canister filter in my turtle tanks for many years. I am extremely pleased with the performance of this canister filter. It literally keeps the water clean and fresh for up to 1-2 weeks (depending on the number of turtles you have in the tank).

In fact, I’ve written a detailed review of this filter. If you are interested to know more, click here to check out the review on Aquatop CF500UV canister filter.

The Problems You Might Face During The Tank Setup And How To Solve Them

When you set your tank, you may face some problems. Do not worry if you face these common problems of tank setup. You can easily solve the problems and avoid them if you follow the tips given below:

  • If you intend to use gravel in your tank, it is obvious that you may find the tank very hard to clean. On top of that, make sure that the pebbles are not of a very smaller size. Otherwise, those might be swallowed by your red-eared Sliders accidentally.
  • It is a very common mistake that many people do is they buy a tank that is too small in size. Before going to buy the tank, measure the sliders and get a tank big enough for them to move and swim in comfort.
  • If you do not know how to feed your red-eared Sliders properly that will create a mess. It is great if you can manage a container to feed them so that the workload on the filtration system gets reduced.
  • Water discoloration is a common problem that you may face during the time of the tank setup. If you decorate your tank with driftwood, there is a chance that the water can turn into brown as a result. To make sure that the water is not discolored, the driftwood should be soaked separately in a bucket of water before you put them in the tank.
  • You can also consider adding a carbon media to avoid the discoloration of water. But, if you use the carbon media, you have to keep in mind to replace that after a certain period. It is best if you can replace that carbon at least once a month.

Food Management For Your Red-Eared Slider

Well, it is important to know about the amount of food you should provide for your red-eared Sliders. Here are some of the tips regarding the food management issue for the red-eared Sliders:

How much and when: In their natural habitats, Red-Eared Sliders eat whatever they find. The adults like plants most. So, when you keep them as pets, they should be given similar foods. Juveniles and hatchlings should be fed every day while the one-day gap is required for adult Sliders.

To fix the quantity just follow how much they eat. You can follow another rule. Just give them as much as is equal to their head in size.

Where to feed: As Sliders are semi-aquatic animals, they like to have foods in the water. So, to fulfill their demand and to keep the tank water clean, you can manage an alternative container with some inches of tank water. Feed them in the container and when they finish, restore them in the tank.

Ideal foods for Sliders: A proper mixture of food for a Red-Eared Slider should contain 50% of vegetables and water plants, 25% commercial food and 25% live protein.

  • Dandelions (without pesticides), mustard greens, carrots, romaine lettuce, squash, pumpkin, broccoli, green beans, and bell pepper can be a good choice of vegetables for your Slider. If your red eared sliders are not interested in vegetables, read my guide on how to feed vegetables to red eared sliders.
  • The best leafy greens for Red-Eared Slider are kale, spinach, collard greens, hornwort, duckweed, Frogbit, etc.
  • Red-Eared Sliders commonly don’t eat fruits. But you can give those fruits as a special treat. Apples, bananas, berries, melons are perfect to give them.
  • Commercial foods should be of low protein and low fat. Mosquito larva, boiled meats, boiled shrimp, live fish are god choices.

Don’t give your Slider dried shrimp, processed meats, chocolates, avocados, and onions.

Here is my detailed guide on how to feed red eared sliders properly.

How To Manage The Health Issues Of Red-Eared Sliders In The Tank

Always keep a careful look at the Sliders so that they are not infected with diseases. Once they are infected, they might die quick. So, here prevention works better than cure. Try to keep your red-eared Sliders free of disease. If one or two get infected, remove them immediately from the tank and treat them properly so that the remaining ones do not get the same disease.

Several diseases can attack a Red-Eared Slider if the tank water is filthy. Always keep an eye and take proper steps. Here are some of the issues you should never neglect:

  • Infectious eyes: Eyes will remain closed or seem to discharge. These infections are because of bacteria. If this happens, you should take your turtle to a vet and upgrade the filtration system.
  • Shell problem: If your Slider’s shell is softer than the ordinary, it may be because of insufficient light or small dock or deep water. It can also indicate metabolic bone disease. If it occurs, consult your vet.
  • Indigestion: If your Slider refuses to eat, it has a bacterial infection and should be cared for by the vet.
  • Wounds: If your Slider is wounded, check if there are sharp objects or a fighting mate in the tank. Solve the problem and treat the injury. Keep the wounded place clean so that there can’t be any infection.

If you see any of the red-eared Sliders of your tank are infected or injured severely, contact with a vet as soon as possible and use the medication and care as advised by the vet.

Basic Things You Need To Know To Care And Maintain Red-Eared Sliders

Buying Healthy Slider for the Tank

Buying healthy Sliders is the most important thing before setting up the tank for them. You can buy Red-Eared Sliders from the breeders, offline or online pet stores, dealers, and animal rescues.

Most of the Sliders sold by the large-scale dealers come from the southern part of the USA. No matter where you buy these turtles from, you should do necessary research to attain a good idea about a source that is just perfect to supply you healthy turtles within a standard rate.

If these turtles not cared properly by the breeders or dealers, they may either die or have health issues. Though you may not notice them at first sight, you would notice slowly by the passage of time. To avoid the premature death and ill-health of the turtles, it is great if you can get them tested before buying from the breeders, dealers or stores.

In case you buy from the large-scale dealers or rescue operation teams, you might not get the histories of each and very turtles you buy from them. It is because most of the time they do not preserve the information about their age or medical records.

Buying from the professional breeders is relatively safe in this perspective as they hatch the eggs and records the necessary information of the turtles separately. However, I would recommend you not to buy from the street vendors as they are not much reliable or available for you to contact when you need them.

If you buy from an offline store from breeders, carefully observe the environment they are kept and sold from. This will give you the necessary insights into how they are cared for and reared by the sellers. Inspect if they are overcrowded or not supplied with foods properly.

Also, observe the water to see whether that is dirty or clean. Are they being sold being mixed with the other exotic species? Do they seem active and alert? It is very important to remember that the pairing of species from the other continents might cause the transmission of diseases.

However, keep in mind that the Red-Eared Sliders that you buy from the stores or other sources should be at least 4 inches in length. This is determined by the law. Though there is an exception for scientific, educational or exhibition purposes, it is better not to buy the Sliders before they reach 4 inches of length due to the vulnerability the come with.

Red-Eared Slider Lifespan

Do you know the lifespan of a red-eared Slider? You would be glad to know that if they are kept as a pet, their lifespan increases to a great extent if all the necessary conditions for their survival are met.

You will be surprised to know that many red-eared Sliders die in the first two years of their life. Most of the time, it is because of the unfavorable conditions where they live in the wilderness. However, those that can manage to live in the first two years can live longer in the future.

In captivity, they can survive from 20 to 40 years average. However, the maximum lifespan in captivity may extend up to 70 years for some of the strong red-eared Sliders. But as the numbers of the red-eared Sliders that live up to 70 years are not many, you can get most of them dead before that time.

Problematic Signs You Should Be Careful About

If you take care of the Red-Eared Sliders properly and regularly, they can have a healthy life for years. However, they are yet susceptible to some diseases and problematic health issues that should be addressed as soon as they appear.

If you see inactivity or loss of appetite in the turtles, it means that they are not thriving the way they should. It is very important to frequently check the tank and water. The tank should be safe, and the water should be clean and not contaminated.

Also, keep a careful look on the large rocks as those can shift places and thus trap your turtles. Make sure that the stones are properly placed and they are not causing any trouble for the turtles to walk and swim smoothly.

It is also important to remember that the filtration system and basking light also have a chance to shift their position. If something like this happens, your turtles will be in the danger zone. Try to ensure that the basking lights you use do not touch the shell of the turtles. You should also keep that away from the tank water. The inquisitiveness of the Red-Eared Sliders can displace the equipment when they try to inspect them. So, you should keep a regular eye on these things.

Determining The Sex Of Red-Eared Slider

Though it is tough to determine the sex of the Red-Eared Slider during hatchlings, you can do that when they are adult and mature enough. Certain physiological characteristics help to determine the gender of these turtles.

When it comes to determining gender, one important aspect that you can refer to is the size. It is the female Sliders that are bigger than their male counterparts. They can grow up to 10 inches long where the male ones come with a maximum length of 8 inches.

But, when it comes to the length of tails and foreclaws, male Red-Eared Sliders stand first. In the male ones, the cloaca (the opening to the digestive, genital and urinary tracts) is located way further from the main body which is not so far for the female species.

The Behavior of the Red-Eared Slider

Red eared sliders have a pleasing appearance. They like to spend most of their time in the water. They love the places near the shoreline for basking. Without this purpose, they do not use land much. If they are in the land and you try to approach them, they just slide into the water for their safety.

That’s why they are named ‘Sliders’.

Final Words

If you do not know how to set up a Red-Eared Slider Tank, you might get many of the turtles dead. As it is a very sensitive and important issue, I’ll recommend you to study the guide I have provided above very rigorously.

May your Red-Eared Sliders live long!



Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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