How To Take Care Of A Red Eared Slider?

How To Take Care Of A Red Eared Slider

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

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Red eared sliders are among the most popular pet animals in the world. They are relatively easy to take care of and can live long and happy lifespans provided that you can follow a few simple rules. So, how to take care of a red eared slider?

The care sheet of a red eared slider includes 4 basic rules. Such as:

  1. Ensuring a spacious habitat with necessary supplies
  2. Maintaining suitable temperature, humidity, and hygiene inside the habitat
  3. Feeding the red eared slider a balanced diet with the right amount of supplements
  4. Taking care of the turtle’s health

This article is all about these tiny little animals and how you can take care of them in a proper manner.

How To Take Care Of A Baby Red Eared Slider

A baby slider is one of the cutest animals that you can find, and so you should leave no stone unturned to nurture them with love and care. Red eared sliders can survive in harsh conditions where the environment can be unforgiving at times. Although that may be the case, you have to buy a healthy slider and ensure that it gets a clean and friendly environment for it to thrive upon.

The red eared slider is a slightly medium-sized turtle that can be found in the freshwaters of North America, and sometimes Mexico. These turtles have also spread across other rives in the world, and the average lifespan of these turtles can range anywhere between 30 to 50 years.

It is pretty easy to care for these turtles. Once you know about some basic information regarding these red eared sliders, you can help them sustain and thrive in their habitat for a long period. Keep reading below to find out all about these wonderful little animals.

The Diet Of A Baby Red Eared Slider

Although the size of a baby red eared may be tiny, its diet can be surprisingly voracious. The table below lists the dos and don’ts of a baby turtle diet:

Do’s For A Baby Turtle DietDon’ts For A Baby Turtle Diet
Tiny Crickets fed on vegetablesTurtle pellets
Small fishRaw meat
Chickenwild caught fish
Green vegetablessweet or dairy treats
Small insects
Worms (mealworm, waxworm, earthworm)

As you can see from the table above, baby sliders require a lot of protein for growth. So, they need a diet that is filled with rich sources of protein such as chicken, fish, and insects. A healthy dose of protein will help them to grow quickly and sustain themselves.

Red eared sliders also love to dine on green vegetables. Foods such as carrot and broccoli can be a great item for baby sliders as these help them to get the necessary nutrients from foods.

You may be tempted to feed your baby sliders with turtle pellets, but it is highly advisable not to do such a thing. The turtle pellets have a lot of protein inside them which may enable your baby sliders to overdose on protein and stunt their growth. Too much of a good thing is also bad in some cases and you should not feed these pellets to your pet turtles, especially when they are very young.

After a few months, you can feed your baby turtles with a pellet every other day, which can be a better strategy for its diet. Follow the food percentages to prepare a balanced meal for your baby red eared slider:

Animal Matter Green Vegetables Pellets
70 to 75%20 to 25%5%

Sprinkling meals with vitamin D3 and calcium supplements will prevent any deficiency in the baby. Also, these minerals will strengthen the baby’s shell and bone.

So, what about the meal frequency? Three or four times a day should be good enough, and the quantity of the food should be small for a young turtle. It will work as long as you do not overfeed the baby. For measuring the quantity, follow either the 15-minute rule or the head method.

One thing you should keep in mind is that your turtles prefer foods that are rich in protein. One reason for this is protein-rich foods are hard to come by in the wild, where it is used to living in. Thus, baby sliders rarely eat any vegetables, so you should wait until your red eared sliders are a few months old before you start giving green vegetables to those turtles.

If you want to know more about red eared slider diet, click here to read my detailed guide on it.

Red Eared Slider Care Sheet

You have to treat a red eared slider hatchling the same way you take care of an adult. From providing the baby with a decorated enclosure to ensuring regular health care, do everything in your hand for its healthy growth. Check out the detailed guide on how to take care of a baby red eared slider from here.

aquatic turtle care sheet

For a printable version of this amazing care sheet, click here!

How To Take Care Of A Red Eared Slider (Youngs & Adults)

I have already mentioned the factors you need to tackle to ensure healthy growth for a red eared slider. The perfect care sheet for these turtles includes habitat setup, balanced diet assurance, and medical backup. In the upcoming subsections, I will discuss everything you need to raise your pet red eared slider.

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The Habitat Of A Red Eared Slider

Your red eared sliders must be placed in an environment that is conducive to their growth and healthy living. These turtles have a specific set of requirements that need to be adhered to if you want your turtles to live a long and healthy life.

The table below outlines some of these major requirements:

Captive Habitat RequirementsReasons
UV light sourceTo simulate the feeling of staying under sunlight
Water tankTo stay near a water source
ThermometerTo check the temperature of the habitat and water
A heat sourceTo let the turtles bask under the heat


The number one requirement for your captive turtle enclosure is to have a UV light bulb. Ultraviolet light helps the turtles to feel like they are underneath the sunshine, which is something they often do in the wild. Red eared sliders also like to bask under sunlight, for which you need to install a heat source inside your pet turtle enclosure.

The significance of UV light and the heating lamp is not limited to simulating the wild vibe in the captive environment. Each of these two bulbs plays a deciding role in the red eared slider’s health and growth. Let’s focus on the UV bulb first.

You know vitamin D3 and calcium play as a wild card in developing a red eared slider’s bone and shell structure. Food is indeed the ultimate source of vitamins and minerals. But your little pets can not always make the best use of those, and most of the time, the foods lack nutrients.

A UV lamp is installed in the red eared slider’s habitat to resolve the above issues. The bulb spreads two rays, UVA and UVB. Here, the UVA simulates the turtle’s mental health and helps it stay in a chill mood.

On the other hand, the UVB exposures produce vitamin D3 in the red eared slider’s body, which eventually aids in calcium absorption. What will happen without UV light? The pet turtle will have a weak body structure and suffer from metabolic bone diseases.

Setting up a heating lamp is similarly significant in a red eared slider habitat. You know this species is aquatic and spends most of the time swimming. From time to time, the turtle comes to the land area to dry its soaked body.

In the wild, red eared slider basks directly under the sun. But in captivity, an artificial heating source needs to be considered. The lamp serves several purposes. Such as,

  • Prevents infectious and cold diseases in turtles by regulating their body temperature and drying the wet body.
  • Boosts appetite and builds immunity in the red eared slider

Filtration & Clean Water

The second thing that you need to ensure is to have a water tank so that your turtles can have access to a source of clean drinking water at all times. For a red eared slider’s habitat, the ideal portion of water and land area is 80/20 or 75/25. So, you can understand the role water plays in the species life. A report claims that red eared sliders spend 70 to 75% of their total time in the water, swimming, or doing other activities.

Red eared sliders are the survivors of nature, yet they require a freshwater source for living. In the wild, the water gets purified naturally. However, in captivity, you need to set up an artificial source to ensure hygienic and crystal water to the turtle tank.

Install a water filter that will be able to purify and filter the water from the tank. Thus, your pet turtles will never get sick from drinking water.

It is tough to choose the right tank filter for your red eared slider habitat. Customers often can not match their requirements and budget limitations. Check out my latest picks to find out water filters according to your budget.

Buying all these equipment for your pet turtles can cost you a lot of money, and so many people opt to go for cheap water filters that are bad at filtering out all the impurities from the water source. Red eared sliders are messy little animals and they can often make the water tanks dirty. Do not skimp on this vital piece of equipment as this might enable your pet turtles to get sick.

Proper Temperature

As per the chart, the third requirement of the captive habitat is the thermometer. A thermometer is also required so that you can check the temperature inside the captive enclosure and maintain a suitable environment for your turtles. The thermometer will also help in ensuring that the temperature of the water is at an optimum level for your pet red eared sliders.

You should remember that the temperature is a big determinant of growth for these tiny little animals, and ensuring an optimum environment is maintained at all times will help your pet turtles to grow to their full potential.

The temperature of the water should be kept at a minimum of 76 degrees Fahrenheit, and the basking area at a minimum of 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Basking Area

The basking area should be far away from the UV light source and should be set between 85 and 90 degrees. A water heater should also be installed to heat the water source after the water filtration happens. A heater keeps the water warm and helps the red eared sliders regulate their body temperature. It also shields the turtles from disease and other vulnerabilities.

Do not ever think providing a basking dock is optional. The station is the only link to a land area that the captive red eared slider has. The basking area should be bigger if you have more than a few turtles.

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Proper Enclosure Size

It is also important to get the size right for the housing of your turtles. You don’t need a large space to set up the enclosure. An adult slider requires at least a water tank with a 55-gallon capacity. If you have more than one turtle, you should have a bigger water tank. The UV light should be a 60 or 75-watt bulb that needs to be kept on for around 12 to 14 hours a day.


Aquatic plants inside the turtle habitat serve as a source of oxygen and hiding spots for the pets. Also, these plants increase the aesthetic value of the tank. However, red eared sliders are known for destroying plants.

If you are unable to grow aquatic plants for your turtles, you can save some money by planting artificial aquatic plants around the water tank to simulate the feel of living inside a pond. This helps to boost the mental health of your sliders positively.

Want to learn more about how to set up an indoor turtle tank? Click here to read my guide!


You already know the diet deal of the red eared sliders. Even though the baby turtles are carnivorous or prefer animal matter, the scene is opposite for the young and adult red eared sliders. With growing age, this species gets adapted to a more omnivorous meal.

Each meal of a young red eared slider should contain 50% protein and 50% vegetables. When the pet crosses its first year, switch to a 75% plant and 25% animal matter diet. You can still add pellets to the meals 2 to 3 times a week.

Hatchlings require more nutrition for body growth and immunity. So, feeding it every day seems to be a good idea. But for the young and adult red eared sliders, you need to bring some changes to the diet schedule. Feeding the adult turtles every other day or thrice a week is enough.

The diet and enclosure for your turtles are the two most important things that you will require to have healthy turtles. Once you take care of these elements, you are almost set to get started with your pet turtles. But, how can you determine that a turtle is healthy?

How To Spot A Healthy Red Eared Slider?

Red eared sliders are available at local pet stores, wildlife sanctuaries as well as animal shelters and large scale breeders. You can even purchase them from online stores. Your main agenda is to buy a healthy turtle that will be able to accompany you for a long time. You may have several options to buy red eared sliders from, but you should do your research before making the decision.

Turtles can sometimes fail to show any symptom of a disease, and red eared sliders that are neglected may die prematurely. Turtles require proper care and nurture to live long lives, and sometimes neglecting them may result in early death. So, you should perform an in-store physical examination first before you decide to buy a turtle.

If you happen to visit a large scale breeder, they may not know much about their turtles as they handle such a huge volume of these animals. Turtles that have been rescued by animal shelters will also lack any kind of data about their past diseases.

Your best bet would be to buy turtles from a professional breeder as they keep detailed records about every new hatchling. Always stay away from street vendors who may peddle you with some sick turtles.

Once you have zeroed in on a turtle, get ready to perform a simple physical examination to determine a healthy turtle. Red eared sliders are very alert animals, and once you approach them, they should jump immediately to their water tanks.

Gently pick up the slider and see if it is heavy or not. If the turtle feels light on your hands, it may be sick and so you should shy away from it.

You should then gently pull its legs to see how it reacts. A healthy and alert slider will react very strongly to your pull whereas a sick turtle would be less vigorous with its movements. The top, as well as the bottom part of the shell, should be tough, and devoid of any light or dark spots. These spots may indicate that the turtle’s shell is rotting.

Finally, perform a thorough observation to see if there are any open or closed wounds. Spotting a closed wound is fine and normal, but if you see an open wound, then that turtle requires a visit to the veterinarian. You should stay away from any red eared slider that may have an open wound as it may get infected quickly.

How To Prevent Red Eared Slider Infections?

There are many common diseases that a turtle may get infected with, and so you need to know about the cure for such kind of diseases. If you are in a position to help your turtles, why should you wait to go see the vet? No responsible pet owner wants to see their animals suffering.

SalmonellaWash hands thoroughly before handling turtlesAntibiotics
Shell rotEnsure a proper basking spot as well as a heat source with UV lightVisit a vet and then apply antiseptic cream in the infected area
AbscessesTreat an infected turtle immediately before further complications occurIf this does not go after a few days, visit a vet
Respiratory InfectionsProper diet can prevent respiratory infectionIncrease the water temperature and apply antibiotics

Turtles are reptiles, and most of them carry the salmonella bacteria in the wild. It is often hard to distinguish if a slider is carrying this bacteria, and so you should wash your hands every time you come in contact with a turtle. Salmonella doesn’t cause many problems to a turtle, but if it enters the human body, it can cause havoc. Antibiotics can help to cure this disease of a turtle.

See also  Red Eared Slider Shell Problems & How to Treat Them

Red eared sliders may also suffer from shell rot. If you fail to take proper care of your pet turtles, then the growth of their shell will be stunted and it may even start to rot. Red eared sliders depend on basking for their shells, and the heat source also plays an important part in the shell’s development. If your sliders are suffering from this infection, at first you should visit a veterinarian and then put antiseptic cream on the infected area.

Remember, shell rot can quickly spread throughout the entire body of a turtle, and so it is paramount that you solve this problem immediately.

If you leave your infected red eared slider untreated for some time, then abscesses may form on the injuries, resulting in more harm if not looked after properly. This means that you need to go and see a vet immediately if this problem persists for a few days.

Many pet turtles suffer from respiratory infections such as pneumonia because their owners neglect them, or simply lack the knowledge to take proper care of them. Red eared sliders require an adequate diet to grow to its full potential, and neglecting their dietary requirements may result in unnecessary complications such as your sliders contracting pneumonia.

If that happens, you need to increase the water temperature of the tanks and apply antibiotics to the infected turtles for treatment.

Remember, infection is not the only problem for the red eared sliders. They can suffer from bone diseases due to the lack of UV rays, fast growth and shedding because of overfeeding, and so on. You should always keep a close eye on your pet’s behavior and usual activities. Lethargy, runny nose, frequent basking, appetite loss, etc., often indicate that the turtle is sick and requires medical attention.

Red Eared Slider Breeding

Are you planning on breeding more red eared sliders? If you know how to take care of a red eared slider, then why not?

To get started, you need a couple of adult red eared sliders, both male and female that are considered to be mature and capable of laying eggs. How to distinguish the sex of a turtle? Naturally, male turtles are a few inches shorter than female turtles, and after a few months pass by you can distinguish the sex of a red eared slider by observing some key physical differences.

Remember, a male slider will mature after about three and a half years while females tend to take longer at four and a half years. These turtles usually lay anywhere between 4 and 10 eggs during the breeding season. To encourage your red eared sliders to breed, you can set the temperature of their housing at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also reduce the light near the basking area, and keep it on for no more than 10 hours.

These temperatures should be maintained at a cool room for almost 8 weeks, giving your red eared sliders ample time to mate. Once this period is over, you can restore the normal temperatures. Mature sliders prefer slightly cooler temperatures to mate. The female turtles usually lay their eggs during summer or spring.

Once the eggs are laid during the breeding season, they should be incubated. You can incubate these eggs by keeping them on the top of vermiculite that is moistened and kept at between 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then you need to spray water on to the vermiculite in a periodic fashion so that the eggs can be kept moist until the baby sliders hatch, which usually takes between 55 to 65 days.

Click here to learn more about turtle breeding and how they mate in my detailed guide.

The Behavior Of A Red Eared Slider

Red eared sliders who live in the wilderness usually spend most of their time submerged in water. These turtles don’t require to be on land, except at times when they need to bask under the sunlight. These cute little animals are amazing to watch, and although they might not be able to show you affection like a pet dog, they will constantly crave for your attention by begging you for food.

Sometimes, you will even see your sliders eat their poop. While it may be surprising for you to see this sight, it is quite common for a red eared slider to eat their poop. In case this happens, make sure that all the turtles inside your enclosure are healthy, as sliders that eat the poop of other unhealthy red eared sliders may get sick.

Keep the enclosure as well as the water tank clean at all times, and clean their poop to not encourage this sort of behavior.

Can Two Red Eared Sliders Live Together?

Red eared sliders make decent tank partners with the same species or similar-sized turtles as long as you provide enough space and food. The male red eared sliders can act aggressively towards the young and female ones. Even the males fight among themselves too. However, the babies and female turtles live in peace.

Red eared sliders have powerful jaws and attack the opponent without any mercy. So, do not mix the turtles taking any risk. A severe injury can cause permanent health damage.

Red eared sliders may get along with the painted and map turtles. You should not put this species with snapping turtles or softshell turtles.


How to take care of a red eared slider? By the end of this article, you should know all about red eared sliders and how to nurture them healthily. It is certainly not the easiest thing to do, but once you know certain things about your pet turtles, you can look after them in the right manner.

Diet and housing are the two most essential things for a red eared slider. Once you set up the proper equipment for its enclosure, and feed your turtles with the right kind of food, they can live long and healthy lives. Some red eared sliders can grow up to 12 inches, and usually, the female turtles outgrow their male counterparts. With a good diet, turtles can grow by an inch every year.

If you are vigilant as a pet owner, your turtles will rarely ever get sick. Red eared sliders can be one of the best companions of a human being, requiring little to no maintenance at all if you buy a healthy turtle in the initial stage. If you follow all the instructions outlined in this article, you would rarely ever need to see the vet with your pet turtles.

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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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