How To Take Care Of Baby Red Eared Sliders?

How To Take Care Of Baby Red Eared Sliders

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

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You may have hatched your pet red eared slider’s eggs, or just have bought a baby turtle from the pet shop. Now what? You badly need a care sheet for the baby red eared sliders. Without proper management, the baby turtle will suffer in the long run.

To ensure the best care for the baby red eared sliders, you need to consider the following things:

  • Housing
  • Diet
  • Health

In this following article, I will discuss everything on how to take care of baby red eared sliders. From the housing to the everyday problems, you will get all the solutions and suggestions in this article.

Baby Red Eared Slider Care Sheet

aquatic turtle care sheet

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

How To Take Care Of Baby Red Eared Slider

Red eared sliders are true fighters of nature. They can survive in dirty environments and harsh weather. But when it comes to babies, you have to be really careful. Small mistakes can make the babies sick.

Here are 3 factors that should be your primary concern. Such as,

  1. Housing
  2. Diet
  3. Health


No matter if you are raising a baby red eared slider, you have to prepare the habitat with each supply. Your main goal should be to replicate the wild environment inside the enclosure. This is neither an easy nor a tough task. With proper guidelines, you can provide your baby red eared sliders the best habitat possible.

In this section, I will talk about all the supplies and factors you require to create a perfect home for your baby turtle.


Usually, the baby red eared sliders are born small, not more than 1 inch. With time, these babies may reach 3 to 4 inches. It may make you think any space or a plastic bowl will do the work. But no. A proper tank that is big enough to hold all necessary equipment, should be your target.

There are 2 popular rules for selecting the tank size for the baby red eared sliders. One, multiply 10 gallons with the size of your baby turtle. For instance, you will need a 10 gallon tank for a 1 inch baby red eared slider.

Two, the following formula will lead you to the desired tank size:

DimensionMinimum Size Requirement
Length4*The length of the carapace or shell
Width2*The length of the carapace or shell
Depth1.5*The length of the carapace or shell

This is the minimum requirement for your baby turtle. You can obviously go for a larger space. Remember, the bigger the tank, the better it will be for your pets. Generally, a 55 gallon tank works fine for a fully grown red eared slider.

I suggest providing a robust and sturdy glass tank. But here are some alternatives you can use:

  • Plastic utility tub
  • Stock tank
  • Wading pool

If you ask my recommendation, I’ll definitely suggest to go for the Tetra 55 gallon aquarium kit. Along with the tank, you’ll also get fish food, fish net, filter, heater as well as water conditioners. A pretty good deal if you ask me. Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.


Remember what I have said regarding the purpose of preparing the tank? Yes, your target is to replicate the wild environment as much as possible. In the wild, the baby red eared sliders get an abundant amount of sunlight. But what about in captivity?

Some owners place the tank right beside the window so that the babies get direct sunlight. This is not what I suggest. Why? Because you can not guarantee the temperature rise inside the terrarium. Glass or acrylic may trap the heat inside. Also, in winter, the sun shines poorly, so there will be less heat for the babies.

The best option you have is to install lights inside the baby red eared sliders’ enclosure. You will require two types of light. Such as,

  1. Heating lamp
  2. UV light

You know the sun provides two basic elements, heat and UV rays. So, both the bulbs are important. The heating lamp gives off heat and makes the enclosure warm for the baby turtles. The red eared slider hatchlings may sleep on the basking dock at night. Keeping the heating lamp on at night will keep the babies warm on cold nights.

Again, the UV light has greater significance in the baby red eared sliders’ life. UV light consists of UVB and UVA rays. The UVB exposure assists the hatchlings to generate vitamin D3 in their bodies. It eventually works for calcium absorption.

Both calcium and vitamin D3 are needed for the baby red eared sliders to develop their shells and bones. Moreover, the UVB ray helps the babies to digest. Without the UVB, the hatchlings will not survive a year.

Baby Red Eared Sliders

Do not forget the UVA rays. These exposures keep the baby red eared sliders mentally fit and happy.

I guess you have understood the significance of both heating lamps and UV bulbs. You own the choice of buying both lamps separately. Or, go for the full spectrum of incandescent lights, which provide both heat and UV rays. Do not buy usual bulbs to save money. This will do no good to your baby red eared sliders.

A baby red eared slider does not need UV light and heat all day and night. Keeping the lights for 10 to 14 hours a day is always recommended by the experts. There is no need for light during the night. As red eared sliders are diurnal species, they sleep at night.

Some owners set up a night light in the hatchlings’ enclosure. Baby turtles can see in the dark and do not require any light to move in the tank. Also, the bright lights may irritate their eyes and mess with the sleep cycle.

See also  How To Take Care Of A Red Eared Slider?

But installing night lights has benefits too. It provides heat on cold winter days and keeps your hatchlings warm. Always choose the red or blue night lights that provide only heat without brightness. You can set up viewing lights too, just to observe your lovely baby pets from time to time.

Given the plethora of choices in the market, it is challenging to select the best light for your baby red eared sliders. Check this article to get the basking light buying guide for your hatchlings.

Whether you’re keeping a baby turtle or an adult one, you’ll need a very good lighting setup. Reptiles like turtles need basking light to absorb vitamin D3. If you want my recommendation, I’ll suggest getting the Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB Lighting Kit. With this one kit, all of your turtle lighting requirements will be met.

I particularly love this kit because of the polished aluminum domes. These domes increase the light & UV output up to 30%.

Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.

Baby Red Eared Sliders basking

Basking Dock

Imagine you have set up both the heating and UV lamp. But there is no basking dock in the enclosure. Will it work for the baby red eared sliders? Of course not.

Basking platforms are important even if you have hatchlings. Turtles bask to dry their wet bodies, absorb the UV rays, and rest. Sometimes, the hatchlings may sleep or take naps on the dock. Basking boosts the baby turtle’s metabolism and prevents shell or skin infections.

You can either buy a basking dock or make one by yourself. Metal sheets, foam, plastic, ceramic tiles, wood, and even rocks can be used as a DIY basking platform. Make sure the station is strong enough to bear the weights of your baby turtles and there is a rampage for the pets to get on.

However, the commercial basking docks come in handy. You have to pay a little extra money and you will get the complete package. Get a complete guide on how to buy a good basking station from here.

Without any question, my favorite turtle basking dock is the Penn Plax Turtle Tank Topper. Why?

It doesn’t take any space inside the aquarium. Also, the turtles get to enjoy the basking light much more effectively. Moreover, your whole turtle tank setup looks much cooler!

Click here to check out the latest price on Amazon.

Water Quality

The baby red eared sliders are aquatic species and spend most of their time in the water. If the water is not clean, it will affect the babies. They will suffer from bacterial or fungal infection, shell or skin rot, mouth rot, eye irritation or infection, and so on.

You will find all kinds of filth in the baby red eared slider’s tank. From the food scraps to feces, everything is there. How will you keep the terrarium clean and hygienic? Simple, by setting up a water filter.

This device sucks out the garbage and keeps the water neat for the babies. It also maintains the pH level in the water. If your tank water has high chlorine content, you have to dechlorinate it with drops.

I know the water filters are great. But you can not rely on this device completely. From time to time, you have to do proper cleaning of the enclosure and change the water. How often do you ask? Depending on the water quality, the number of pets, once a week will be fine.

For a total tank clean up, schedule once a month or every other month. While changing water, follow the shipon filtration rule. You need to vacuum 20 to 25% of water including the waste and debris. Python filtrations are also popular for water changing in the turtle tank.

Are you looking for baby red eared slider tank filters at reasonable prices? Then these 7 turtle tank water filters should be your consideration. Check them out now.

Tank Heater

Like most other species, the baby red eared sliders are ectothermic. It means they depend on the surroundings, which is water, to regulate their body temperature. What will happen to the hatchlings if the water temperature is not accurate?

The babies will slow down their metabolism and daily activities. They will prepare for hibernation, which is unhealthy for the hatchlings. Also, the cold water can cause respiratory infection, coughing, and other medical issues among the baby’s red eared sliders.

The best way to manage this condition is by installing a water heater inside the enclosure. This device maintains a warm water environment, not too cold or nor too hot. No matter what the weather is, the babies will be able to pass severe cold weather without even noticing.

The digital water heaters offer automatic temperature tracking. It will keep track of the water temperature without falling or raising it. On the other hand, analog heaters have some disadvantages. For example, sometimes the water gets so hot that it becomes unbearable for the babies.

I suggest buying a good water heater as this is a long time investment. Different kinds of tank heaters are available. You also have the option of installing multiple heaters inside the tank.

Click here to get the unbeatable tank heater for red eared turtle hatchlings.

Other Supplies

I have covered all essentials you need to set up a baby red eared slider’s tank. You can stay happy with that or borrow some ideas to make the terrarium look gorgeous and elegant. With a few supplies, the tank makeover is possible. You will need rocks, pebbles, plants, and substrates.

Layering a substrate is not needed for raising baby red eared sliders. Only put a substrate if you are planning to plant herbs in the enclosure. Water hyacinth, duckweed, etc are safe for the red eared slider hatchlings. However, experts suggest avoiding substrate in the red eared slider tank. Because these turtles may taste the material and end up getting sick.

Providing pebbles and different sized rocks is a great idea. It hides the feces of the baby red eared sliders. Also, the hatchlings can use the rocks as visible barriers or hiding places. Remember, you must set up visible barriers in case you are raising more than one baby red eared slider. Why?

See also  How Long Do Red Eared Sliders Brumate? [4+ Months?]

I know turtles are shy and calm in nature. But when it comes to territory or food, they can be a real bully. Also, turtle fights are not uncommon. The hiding places provide the weak hatchlings a place to escape or protect themselves.

Temperature Requirements For Baby Red Eared Sliders

An elegant and well decorated tank will be of no good if the internal temperature is not suitable for the hatchlings. Turtles are cold blooded or ectothermic species. They solely depend on the temperature outside. If it is too cold, they will hibernate, which is unhealthy for the captive hatchlings.

If you have set up a water heater, UV light, and heating bulb, then regulating the tank temperature is easy for you. You just have to adjust the nob. Here is the chart of suitable temperatures depending on areas in the tank:

Air TemperatureBasking Dock TemperatureWater Temperature
75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit78 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit

Do not forget to set up a digital thermometer in your baby red eared sliders’ tank. This will help you track down the temperature.

Baby Red Eared Sliders care


Diet plan plays a crucial role in raising the red eared slider hatchlings. Without proper nutrition, the babies will grow weak and fall sick continuously. Red eared slider babies are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animal matters. But at an early stage, they act like carnivores.

Here are some food items that can be on your hatchling’s diet list:

  • Gut loaded cricket
  • Mealworms
  • Waxworm
  • Earthworm
  • Small fishes
  • Small insects
  • Dried shrimps
  • Pellets
  • Snails
  • Minnows
  • Small tadpoles
  • Dark and green leafy vegetables
  • Squash
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrot 

In captive situations, the pellets become the staple food for the babies. Because this is the easiest to get and handle. But that is a huge mistake. See, pellets contain excessive amounts of protein, which can lead your baby red eared sliders to obesity and pyramiding. You may question why I have added vegetables to the list if the baby turtles are carnivorous.

Well, it is true that for the first couple of months the hatchlings do not eat any vegetables. But after that age, you can try feeding it healthy greens, especially the ones enriched with vitamin A. Here is how you should organize each meal of your turtle hatchlings:

  • Pellets – 5%
  • Vegetables – 20 to 25%
  • Meat or animal matter – 70 to 75%

Sprinkle vitamin D3 and calcium supplements on each meal. This will ensure your turtle does not get MBD and its bone and shell develop properly.

If you are a newbie, you may get confused over the feeding quantity and schedule of a baby red eared slider. Babies always require more nutrition than adult ones. Because early life is the best time to get strong bones and shells.

Feed a red eared slider hatchling every day for the first 6 months. Then you can move to the every other day schedule. You can half the whole amount and feed the baby twice a day. It totally depends on your availability.

For the feeding quantity, you can follow 2 rules. Such as,

  1. The head method
  2. The 15 minute rule

Head Method:

Imagine a bowl about the same size as the baby’s head if it were empty. Now fill the bowl with all the necessary diet items and feed your hatchling. Experts believe it is quite an efficient way though you might combine your imagination power here.

15 Minute Rule:

Provide the baby red eared slider with more than enough food and leave it for 15 minutes. Then remove the leftovers from the feeding space. It is believed that a turtle will have its necessary share in the first 15 minutes of providing food. After that, it will eat out of greed.

In the wild, turtles do not get to eat every day. So, when they have food, they eat more than they need. You know even the baby red eared sliders have wild instincts. Thus, they may overeat sometimes. The 15 minute rules include food wastage, and so, some owners suggest avoiding it.

Another thing, the baby red eared sliders are aquatic in nature. So, they might prefer eating in the water. Some may eat on the dock. Install an automatic turtle feeder to be less trouble free. Check out the best 7 automatic turtle feeders by clicking here.


You can not compromise with the baby red eared sliders’ health. The newborns tend to get sick more often and easily as their immunity is not developed that much. You may face several physical conditions with your baby pets. In this section, I am going to include all of them.

1. Shell Rot And Other Shell Conditions

Shell is one of the important body parts of your baby red eared slider. A tiny scratch on the scutes can lead to shell rot and other shell infections. A small crack on the shell will let the bacteria and fungi enter into the scutes and grow. In a short period, the area around the crack or wound will start rotting. In the worst case scenario, the bones get the infection too.

Black spots, pale lesions, loose scutes, bone cavity, the gross smell from the shell, all of these are the symptoms of shell rot in your baby red eared slider. Removing the damaged tissues and cleaning the wound with betadine, Gentian violet, and keeping the pet in a dry space can be a home remedy for shell rot. For more treatment methods, check this article here.

Some other shell conditions for baby red eared sliders are:

  • Cracked shell
  • White patches on shell
  • Black spots on the shell
  • Soft shell

Cracked Shell: The turtle’s shell is undoubtedly strong and hard to crack. But compared to the adult ones, the baby turtle’s shell is not that developed yet. So, if the hatchling falls from a height or gets into an accident, the shell might crack or get damaged.

See also  Why Do Red Eared Sliders Eat Their Poop?

If your baby pet has a cracked shell, take it to a vet for treatment. The expert will repair the damage with healing materials like epoxy resin and fibrous glass. Letting the condition go untreated will make the pet suffer a lot.

White Patches On Shell: The babies often have small white patches on several scutes. It may indicate they are shedding, which is healthy. Because shedding means the shell is getting bigger and the baby is growing.

Again, the patches may be a sign of fungal infection. In case of infection, dry the shell and apply silver sulfadiazine cream on the wounds. Apply the cream for several days.

Black Spots On The Shell: Black spots appear the same as the white patches. It can happen due to shell rot or bacterial infection. Apply a prescribed cream on the black spots if any bacteria is responsible for the spots. Or, follow the treatment for shell rot that I have described above.

Soft Shell: This is a critical condition for the baby’s red eared sliders. It happens due to insufficient calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus in the food. The main reason responsible for the hatchling’s soft shell is MBD or metabolic bone disease.

A baby turtle with this condition will have trouble moving, eating, and even pooping. The pet will look tired all the time. Diet food and proper UV setup will work as a treatment. Besides that, follow the instructions of your vet.

For more shell conditions of baby red eared sliders, click here.

2. Skin And Eye Infections

If a turtle tank goes uncleaned for weeks, bacteria and fungus start growing there. Do not think these creatures won’t affect your baby pets. The hatchlings may get infected by those fungi and bacteria and suffer from various infections. For example, eye infection and skin infection.

In any of these cases, you need to take your baby red eared slider to the vet and take instructions. The expert may suggest disinfectant along with tank cleaning. Take immediate actions because eye infections can affect the baby’s sight.

Here are some other eye conditions for baby red eared sliders:

  • Puffy eyes
  • Swollen eyes
  • Closed eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Sunken eyes

Vitamin A deficiency, bad water quality, and infections are responsible for these eye conditions. A proper diet, well managed enclosure, and regular cleaning can prevent eye and skin conditions among red eared slider hatchlings. The vet may suggest some meds for quick recovery.

3. Vitamin Deficiency

Though it is unlikely for your baby red eared sliders to suffer from vitamin A or D deficiency, it will not harm knowing. The sick turtle will show some symptoms. For example, eye conditions, weight loss, lethargy, etc. Vitamin shots along with a proper diet will recover your baby red eared sliders.

4. Metabolic Bone Disease

The abnormal development of bones or shells is referred to as metabolic bone disease or MBD. It happens if the diet does not include sufficient amounts of vitamin D3, calcium, phosphorus, and the baby turtles do not get enough UV rays.

Adding calcium, vitamin, and phosphorus enriched food is considered a part of treatment. Besides, a high quality UV light is a must inside the terrarium of the baby turtles.

5. Respiratory Illness

Respiratory diseases can be severe among the baby red eared sliders. Vitamin A deficiency, cold temperature, and bacterial attack are responsible for respiratory infection among the hatchlings. The sick pet will exhibit some symptoms of this condition. For example, nasal or mouth discharge, lethargy, mouth breathing, coughing, appetite loss, etc. Take your pet to the vet and follow his treatment properly.

6. Baby Turtles Not Eating

This is a common problem many turtle owners face. Several things can cause this condition. Such as,

  • A boring meal plan
  • Unplanned feeding schedule
  • Sickness
  • An improper habitat

If your baby turtle is refusing to eat, here is what you should do:

  • Bring varieties in the pet’s diet.
  • Feed the pet early in the morning or early in the evening. The babies are the most hungry at these periods.
  • Provide food in the water area.
  • Make sure the water and basking temperature is suitable for the babies.
  • Look for any signs of illness. If you find any, take the pet to the vet.

The babies will grow weak if they ignore food for a long time. Consult a vet if these tricks fail to feed the pet. For more details, click here.

7. Baby Red Eared Sliders Do Not Bask

I guess you already know the importance of basking for the baby red eared sliders. In some conditions, the hatchlings may refuse to bask at all, which is unhealthy. Here are the reasons why your baby turtles will not bask:

  • The basking dock is high and the babies can not get onto the platform. So, they end up not basking at all.
  • A stressed or scared baby will not come out of water. And so, it will not bask.
  • Temperature is a great factor while basking. If the basking platform fails to provide a suitable temperature, the babies will not bask.

You can make your hatchlings bask again, by solving any of these conditions.

Challenges And How To Handle A Baby Red Eared Slider

The baby red eared sliders will try adapting to any captive environment you provide them. But yet, raising babies is challenging. I have been keeping turtles for years, and here are the 2 problems I have faced raising baby red eared sliders. Such as,

  1. The shells of the hatchlings are not developed yet. So, they are hard to handle.
  2. The babies have low immunity. It makes them more vulnerable.

Here are the tips to handle your turtle:

  • As baby red eared sliders may contain Salmonella bacteria, wash your hands before and after touching them.
  • Do not irritate the babies. Also, make sure the tank is in a quiet place in the house. Continuous touch and chaos will stress the hatchlings out and make them scared.
  • Try not to touch the shell too much. Some people think turtles do not have sensation on the shell, which is not true.
  • Do not put your fingers in front of their mouth. Or you have to take the bit of your hatchling.


Baby red eared sliders can make excellent pets. They just need a bit of your attention. Provide all the care these hatchlings need and these babies will grow into healthy, young 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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