How To Set Up A Red-Eared Slider Tank? [Start to Finish]

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

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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.

What Kind Of Tank Do Red-eared Sliders Need?

Red-eared sliders won’t spend the entire time in the water but rather take an excursion to land. Whenever they feel the need for basking, they will simply come out of the water and move toward the land.

The reason why we’re telling you this is because the tank you choose should be large enough to be able to give your slider both environments. It should consist of a higher percentage of water than land. If you’re unsure of the type of tank to get for your little one, you can take a look at the information below.

1. Glass Aquarium

The most common choice for many slider owners is a glass aquarium. Such aquariums are not only aesthetically pleasing when filled with decorative items, but also they are resistant to scratches.

The bottom of most aquariums is made of tempered glass so as to hold the weight of the water, substrates, and other items. Unlike acrylics, the transparent casing won’t even discolor over time. Plus, they are a cheaper option for housing your pet.

If you’re going to decide on a glass aquarium, know that there are two varieties- regular glass and low-iron glass. Regular glass features about 0.1% of ferric oxide, which is why it is tinged with blue or green. Also, the contents of the aquarium don’t appear much clear because of lower visible light transmittance.

In comparison, low-iron glass contains only 0.01% ferric oxide and higher visible light transmittance. So, the tank contents will appear clearer and brighter.

The major downside of glass aquariums is that they are heavier than acrylics. Unless you’re using an aquarium of fewer than 20 gallons, it is recommended that you use a tank stand for adequate support. You can choose MDF, plywood, or metal stand depending on the size and weight of the tank.

2. Indoor/Outdoor Pond

If you own a bale of turtles, you might want to consider putting them in an indoor or outdoor pond. They will appreciate the pond because its opaque walls will give them a sense of security and a reduction in stress.

Custom-made indoor ponds are generally less expensive than aquariums, and also they require little maintenance. You will also want to keep your little pet in an indoor pond if the outside temperature is low.

If you want to let your slider feel as if it’s existing in its natural habitat, an outdoor pond is a perfect option. The warm weather and the fresh air will keep your slider stress-free. It will swim around with content.

However, just like any other pets, sliders can be a victim of predators when they are kept outside. Keeping that in mind, it is recommended that you put up fencing around the pond. Additionally, enclosing the top of the pond with wire fencing will provide utmost protection from predators.

What Size Tank Is Good For A Red-eared Slider?

Red-eared sliders can grow as big as 12 inches. Confining it in a small space will make it feel uncomfortable, for it won’t be able to swim properly.  So, it is recommended you give it an enclosure big enough to freely swim around and relax.

As a rule of thumb, you should provide 10 gallons of water per inch of your slider’s carapace length. For instance, if your slider’s carapace measures six inches, it requires 60 gallons of water. The depth of water should also be taken into consideration. It is recommended that you provide a water depth of at least the carapace length.

A smart option would be to choose an adult-sized tank, even if your slider is very young. That way, you can save costs on getting different-sized tanks according to their growth.

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.

See also  What Are The Required Vitamins For Red-Eared Sliders?

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.

Red Eared Slider Turtle Tank Setup: Problems & Solutions

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.
See also  Are Red Eared Sliders Invasive?

Red-eared Slider Tank Kit Review: Tetra 55 Gallon Aquarium Kit

If you’re looking for a 55-gallon slider tank, which is basically the minimum recommended size for sliders, you can take a look at this tank kit by Tetra.

This 55-gallon aquarium kit contains everything you need to set up your slider’s habitat. Alongside a large tank, you’ll be getting a heater, a digital thermometer, fish net, de-chlorinator, and many more. The hood of the tank is even integrated with bright LED! There’s simply no need to run to the hardware store to purchase items separately.

Speaking of the tank itself, it is constructed of low-iron glass that offers the clearest view possible from all sides. It is sturdy as well. The tank isn’t too big or small, but rather big enough for housing small to medium-sized sliders. Since the tank can get heavy due to its contents, you can set it up on top of a well-built stand.

Lastly, the kit includes a guide that clearly explains the setup process as well as maintenance of the aquarium. Anyone, including beginner aquarists, will find it helpful.  


  • Large size offers convenience to red-eared sliders as well as their tankmates
  • Includes all the necessary items for setup
  • The LED integrated with the tank hood is bright enough to make the tank stand out
  • Suitable for beginner aquarists
  • The tank has a lifetime warranty


  • Once the aquarium is set up in a particular place, it can be hard to relocate due to heaviness

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.

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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’.

Do Red-eared Sliders Need Rocks In Their Tank?

Red-eared sliders don’t usually require substrates in their tank. They are good with a bare space. But, if you want to improve the aesthetics of your tank, you can level the bottom with sand, river rocks, or gravel. It is worth noting that each of these has benefits and drawbacks as well, which we are going to explain below.


Sand is the most common substrate used in most turtle tanks. It doesn’t allow any waste to pass through. But you can’t use just any type of sand for your turtle tank. Those that have bigger grains are recommended because smaller grains are lightweight and can easily make the water cloudy as your slider swims. Also, when it gets inside the filtration system, it can affect the impeller.

If your slider accidentally eats sand, it won’t have any impact on its digestive system. Even if you’re fascinated with having a bed of colorful sand in your tank, you can go for it without worrying about your slider’s health.

River Rocks

River rocks are a good option for use in turtle tanks. They have a smooth texture and come in different earthy colors. The size of these rocks ranges between 0.75 inches and two inches. Due to the size (including the smallest one) being larger than a slider’s mouth, there’s no risk for consumption. Also, the rocks are heavy enough to let your slider swim without moving them.

The only drawback of river rocks is that they leave large gaps where waste can easily settle. As a result, the water can get dirty and the tank needs to be cleaned often. If you don’t mind going through the hassle of cleaning, you can choose these rocks.


There’s no doubt that the colorful mixture of gravel can make the bottom of an aquarium look attractive. Alongside, it facilitates the growth of beneficial bacteria so that accumulated waste and debris can be broken down.

Although you’ll see gravel in many fish tanks, it isn’t an ideal option for turtle tanks. That’s because sliders can easily mistake it for food just by looking at its well-rounded shape and size. As gravel is about the same size as their food, it can easily fit a slider’s mouth.

Consumption of gravel is dangerous for sliders because it blocks their digestive system, often resulting in death. Even if get somehow gets out of their stomach, there’s still a possibility of internal damage that can lead to infections. Therefore, we strongly suggest you stay away from gravel.

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!

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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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