Yellow bellied slider is not less popular as a pet than the red eared slider turtle. This semi-aquatic species spends most of its time in water and occasionally comes out to bask.
The care sheet of a yellow bellied slider has similarities with the one of a red eared slider. As a beginner, the yellow slider can be the right option because it is unique, a great addition to the aquarium, and easy to take care of.
How to take care of yellow bellied slider? Here is what to ensure:
- A tank of minimum 100 gallon water capacity.
- Basking platform with UV lamp
- Strong water filter and a tank heater.
- Balanced diet
- Regular health checkup
If you want a detailed care sheet for your yellow bellied slider, then continue reading.
How To Take Care Of Yellow Bellied Slider?
Starting the turtle keeping journey with a yellow bellied turtle can be rewarding. As a newbie, you will learn how to handle a semi-aquatic species, which requires two different setups in a single tank. Caring for a yellow bellied turtle is not hard, but yet you may face a few challenges.
With the proper environment and care, a yellow bellied slider turtle can adapt to the captive situation in no time. It is important to gather as much knowledge as possible on its natural habitat to understand the turtle’s basic housing requirements.
Take a quick look at the geographic distribution of yellow bellied slider turtles in the wild: The species is native to North America and usually lives in Alabama and Virginia. These areas are marked as humid subtropical lands. It means the yellow bellied sliders are comfortable with hot summer and mild winter seasons.
The species live in slow moving water bodies, swamps, marshes, and wetlands as well. They enjoy both swimming and basking under the sun.
Keeping in mind the wild environment of a yellow bellied slider, here are things you should consider while preparing its care sheet. Such as,
- Tank size
- Tank set up (Lightings, filter, heater, basking dock, decorations, etc.)
- Health issues
Let’s discuss in detail.
Tank Size And Basic Requirements
In the wild, the yellow bellied sliders live in slow moving rivers, ponds, or marshes and bask on the logs or rocks. Experts suggest replicating the natural habitat in the enclosure as much as possible. So, a small congested tank will definitely not work for raising yellow bellied sliders.
An adult male yellow bellied slider grows about 9 inches long, while a matured female reaches 13 inches in length. Hence, it goes without saying that this species requires a spacious tank to live.
For a single adult yellow bellied slider, a tank of at least 100-gallon water capacity is best suited. Some turtle keepers use a 75-gallon tank for raising adult male yellow sliders. However, I strongly recommend buying at least a 100-gallon aquarium for your pet yellow bellied slider turtle. Having extra space never bothers these turtles.
Follow the dimension of 48 inches long and 12 inches high while choosing the aquarium. One-foot depth is perfect for the baby and young yellow bellied sliders. However, the adult specimen may prefer a 16 to 18 inches deep tank.
If you are thinking about housing multiple yellow bellied turtles, you have to get a larger aquarium. According to the traditional rule, multiply the carapace length of the existing turtle by 10 gallons. Then do multiplication of 5 gallons with the second turtle’s carapace length. The total sum result is the minimum tank size you require to house your multiple yellow bellied sliders.
The yellow bellied sliders are polite and innocent creatures. But do not expect too much decency from them. If these pets get a way out of the enclosure, they will grab the chance without a second thought. Like all other species, the yellow bellied sliders try to escape the tank out of curiosity and excitement. Hence, covering the aquarium head is a must, especially at night.
Raising the yellow bellied sliders in an outdoor pond is an excellent option. The outdoor habitat comes up with a more natural environment for the pets. A turtle pond is a reliable choice for you if you have enough space in your backyard and you have multiple specimens.
However, for preparing an outdoor habitat for a yellow bellied slider, you have to consider the weather. During winter, keeping the yellow slider turtles outdoor will force the pets to hibernate. Also, it is not advisable for most captive pets. So, you can only allow your yellow bellied turtles in the outdoor pond during the summertime.
Another downfall of an outdoor yellow bellied slider pond is the security issue. When your turtles are outside, they are exposed to predators. To solve this issue, you have to establish secure fencing around the pond.
The height of the fence must be 2 or 3 times the carapace length of your yellow bellied slider. Also, sink the wall so deep into the ground that it can not be uprooted. This way, neither your pets can escape the area, nor, any predators can enter. And yes, an overhead covering with chicken wire will double the protection.
Yellow bellied sliders are semi-aquatic, which means the species enjoys basking a lot. It prompts the necessity of a basking platform in the enclosure multiple times. Without a proper basking spot, your yellow bellied sliders will suffer from the following health issues:
- Due to the lack of dry area, the yellow sliders will spend more time in the water. It will lead to respiratory illness.
- The damp shell and skin create a more welcoming environment to the bacteria and fungus. Hence, the yellow bellied sliders may get infected by them.
- Shell rot, white or black patches on the skin, or shell are common problems when your pet turtles do not get a basking station.
I hope you have understood why all experts suggest providing a basking dock in the yellow bellied slider’s enclosure.
While selecting a basking platform for your yellow bellied slider, you have two options. Either build one at home or go shopping. For a DIY basking dock for your yellow slider, you can select any of the following materials:
- Metal sheet
- Ceramic tiles, etc.
You have to make sure the edges of the basking station are not sharp. Also, make the station sturdy enough to hold your turtles.
If you do not want to get into all the DIY stuff, buy a commercial readymade basking dock for your yellow bellied slider turtle. Given the plethora of choices available in the market, selecting the right basking platform can be a bit challenging. To ease your difficulties, I have sorted the top 3 basking stations for your yellow bellied turtle. Here is the list:
I, personally, have used all the 3 basking docks, and they have served well. I have also reviewed these products from my own user experience. Give a click here to find out all the pros and cons of the basking platforms.
No matter if you want to buy or build a basking dock, you should consider a few things. Such as,
- A rampage to the main platform is a must. Otherwise, the turtle will struggle to get on the dock. You already know the yellow bellied slider turtles are not so good at jumping.
- The basking dock should be spacious so that the yellow bellied slider can move around.
- Make sure the basking station is sturdy, as a yellow slider weighs between 4 to 8 pounds.
- The dock should be at such a height that water does not splash on the floor. You can keep the ramp submerge to make it accessible to the yellow bellied sliders.
- Avoid slippery floored basking platforms. Your pet turtles will not be comfortable with the texture.
- Finally, make sure the dock is in the right proportion with the tank. If the platform covers most of the water, then you should get a bigger tank.
In the case of an outdoor yellow slider turtle pond, a basking platform is still necessary. Log, brick, rock, or plank will make a wonderful basking station in an outside habitat.
Yellow bellied sliders are ectothermic and diurnal species. Allow me to break down the meaning of these words and the relation of these two terms with the lighting arrangements in the turtle enclosure.
The term ectothermic refers to cold blooded creatures. Like all reptiles. The yellow bellied slider turtles also fail to generate heat in their bodies. For warming up, these turtles solely depend on the surrounding temperature.
On the other hand, the diurnal indicates the most active period of the yellow bellied slider’s day. These turtles usually do all their activities, swimming, eating, and playing from dawn to dusk. During the night, the yellow sliders sleep peacefully.
To satisfy these two characteristics of a yellow bellied slider, you have to set up two different lights in the enclosure. Such as,
- Heating bulb
- UV bulb
Set both the bulbs in such a manner that they cover the basking area. When the turtle gets on the dock, it should feel the heat of the bulb. This way, the pet will not be cold, and its body temperature will always be in the suitable range.
UV bulbs are designed to generate artificial UVA and UVB rays. Both the exposures play significant roles in the yellow bellied slider’s life. Such as,
- The UVA rays boost the turtle’s activity, mental relaxation, mating behavior, feeding necessity, and other behavioral factors. Experts suggest that without UVA exposure yellow bellied sliders may feel anxious or mentally stressed.
- The UVB exposure has a direct link to the yellow bellied slider’s digestion and physical health. Without these rays, the turtle can not maintain a balanced vitamin D3 production. Consequently, it hampers the process of calcium absorption, and the turtle suffers from shell/bone deformation or MBD diseases.
For all these reasons, setting up a UV lamp in the basking area is mandatory for indoor yellow slider enclosures. In the case of outdoor habitats, the sun will fulfill both the needs of the heat and UV rays of your pets.
In the indoor basking dock, the temperature should be around 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. For this purpose, a 60 watt or 80 watt bulb will serve alright. While selecting UV lamps, the ones with a 2.5 to 5 percent UVB are perfect for yellow bellied sliders.
You need to keep the light on for only 12 hours a day as the yellow bellied sliders are diurnal. During the night, turn off both the UV and heating bulb unless your hatchlings sleep on the dock. Also, replace your UV bulbs every six months to maintain the ray quality.
Now, many people ask me if yellow bellied slider turtles need a night light in their enclosure or not. See, no turtles require light while they are sleeping. You may be surprised to know that these turtles can see at night. So, the answer is no, the turtles do not require special bulbs, and they can sleep in the dark.
However, you can still set up dim night bulbs or viewing lights in your yellow slider tank for the following reasons:
- Yellow bellied sliders, especially the newly bought ones, tend to escape the tank at night. The bulbs will help you observe your pet from time to time.
- Some night lights spread off the heat with no or minimum brightness. On cold days, these bulbs can be helpful to keep your pet turtles warm.
It is up to you whether you want a night lamp in your yellow slider’s tank or not. Just make sure the light is not so bright for the turtle’s eyes. Otherwise, it can irritate the pet’s eyes and mess up its sleep cycle.
Setting up two or three lights in a single tank can make the enclosure look crowded. To please both your eyes and the turtle’s requirements, you can buy mercury lights. These lights provide both heat and UV rays.
When it comes to selecting a UV lamp or heating bulb, beginners often get confused. Here is a buying guide, and it will help you get the right light for your yellow bellied slider turtle.
Water Quality Assurance
As a semi-aquatic turtle, the yellow bellied sliders enjoy the water more than the land area. A study says that these creatures spend around 70 to 75% of their life swimming in the water. You can imagine how significant the water quality is for the yellow sliders.
Like most other turtles, yellow bellied sliders lead a messy lifestyle. The water fills with their foodscapes and fecial matter within days. Though these turtles can adjust to the filthy environment, it is not healthy at all.
Unhygienic and dirty water entices bacteria and fungus to grow their population. Eventually, the yellow sliders will get an infection. Any severe disease can take years from their life expectancy. As a turtle owner, you can not let that happen.
The best way to keep the water clean is to set up a tank filter. The device draws the filthy water inside and provides hygienic water. A good filtration system is one of the basic needs of a yellow bellied slider’s enclosure. Even in an outdoor turtle habitat, you have to set up a pond water filter.
Do not think setting up a tank filter will free you from cleaning the enclosure. You still need to replace the tank water and clean the whole aquarium once or twice a month. Besides, weekly partial water change is a must. Also, you may have to clean the filter media once or twice a year.
Experts suggest applying a conditioner in the tank water before placing the turtles. Conditioners remove chlorine, ammonia, or any other harmful chemicals from the habitat. These elements can irritate your yellow slider’s eyes and skin.
If you are confused about which tank filter model will suit your yellow bellied slider’s tank, then I have the perfect answer for you. Here I have reviewed the top 5 Canister filters based on my usage experience. You can choose any of those according to your budget and requirements.
A good filter undoubtedly cleans out every dirt and harmful element from the water. But this is not the only water requirement of the yellow bellied sliders.
I have already mentioned that yellow bellied sliders are ectothermic species. A heating lamp covers the basking area and keeps the turtles warm there. But the turtles need another heating source that will assist them to generate temperature in the water. A tank heater is a perfect product that serves the purpose.
The tank heaters generate temperatures (75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and keep the water warm for the turtles. In cold water, turtles may catch a cold or suffer from respiratory infections. Even your pet yellow sliders may decide to hibernate if the water is chilly. The heaters solve all the issues in one shot.
Turtle tank heaters come in with different qualities. The digital ones serve better because those devices can track the temperature. On the other hand, the analog tank heaters may generate more heat than necessary or stop working in the middle of the night. Buying a digital device with a thermometer will offer a better and long service.
For a 75 gallon yellow bellied slider enclosure, a 300 watt tank heater will work fine. You have the freedom of using either a single or multiple heaters in the habitat. This device is a must in the winter season.
A water heater can cost you a good amount of money. If you are looking for a budget heater with moderate features, check this article here.
Temperature And Humidity
You have to be careful in maintaining the right basking and water temperature. A drop or rise in the temperature will make the yellow bellied slider uncomfortable and stressed. Here is a chart showing temperatures of different areas in your turtle’s enclosure:
|Water Temperature||Basking Temperature||Air Temperature|
|75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit||80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit||75 degrees Fahrenheit|
The yellow bellied turtles belong to subtropical areas, but you do not have to do anything special for maintaining the right humid level. The large water area will take care of the humidity.
Layering up the bottom of your yellow bellied slider’s tank is totally your choice. This species mostly needs water in the enclosure. These turtles do not care whether there is a substrate or not.
The downside of putting substrate is that the water gets untidy and hazy. Poops and food get trapped in them and rots there. Moreover, the yellow sliders eat the substrate, which is unhealthy and cause gastrointestinal impaction.
If you really want to put substrate in your yellow bellied slider’s tank, go for sand or fluorite. Gravel, pebbles, or dirt are not safe. Also, experts advise installing a high power filter to keep the environment clean and healthy.
Decorations And Other Needs
In the wild, yellow bellied sliders live in water sources with low vegetation. You can replicate the environment by adding live plants in the aquarium. Plants make the habitat look more natural, appealing, and aesthetic.
There is a wide range of live planting options available. You can culture plants that do not need any substrate to thrive in the tank. Here are some safe live plants choices for your yellow bellied slider’s tank:
- Marimo moss
- Red Ludwiga
- Java moss
- Dwarf hairgrass
- African fern
Taking care of both the turtle and the plants can be difficult for beginners. In that case, using artificial plants is a smart move. However, adding live plants provides some advantages, for example, an extra source of oxygen, natural filtration, algae reduction, etc.
Get all the drawbacks and benefits of adding live plants to your yellow bellied slider’s tank by clicking here.
Plants in the yellow slider’s terrarium not only work as decor but also as a hiding spot. You know each turtle enclosure should have several hiding places, especially when you are raising multiple turtles.
Like all turtles, yellow bellied sliders need personal space and privacy. When these turtles feel stressed or anxious, they simply hide behind rocks or other spots. The hiding places work as a mental shield for the turtles. Hence, providing hiding places is mandatory in both indoor and outdoor yellow slider enclosures.
Turtle keepers often install an airstone, waterfall, or fountain in the yellow slider’s tank to improve the oxygen level. If you have live plants in your turtle’s aquarium, you do not need an additional source of oxygenation.
However, in severe cold, the outdoor pond water can get frozen. During that period, a fountain or airstone in the enclosure will keep the oxygen level healthy for the hibernating turtles. Also, remember, hibernating your captive turtles is not advisable at all.
What Can I Feed My Yellow Belly Slider?
A care sheet is not completed without the planning of a balanced diet for the turtles. The daily meal of yellow bellied sliders contains the following items,
- Green leafy vegetables (50-60%) like kale, roman lettuce, collard green, etc.
- Animal protein (20-25%) like insects, fishes, and worms, etc.
- Pellets (25%)
- Fruits as an occasional treat
- Vitamin and calcium supplements
The yellow bellied sliders are primarily carnivorous. At the early stage of life, they live on the aquatic insects, small fishes, worms, etc. As the turtles grow, their food habit becomes more like an omnivore species. An old yellow bellied slider’s meal is centered around plants and vegetables.
Here is an average diet chart of a yellow bellied slider:
|Vegetables (50 to 60%)||Animal Protein (Occasionally 20 to 25%)||Commercial Foods (25%)||Fruits (Occasional Treats)||Supplement (Three Times A Week)|
|Parsley Collard greens Turnip greens Dandelion green Green beans Kale Red bell pepper Waterweed Duckweed Water lilies Roman lettuce Stem Root Algae||Small cricket Mealworm Wax worm Cockroaches Small fish Small shrimp Tadpole Snail Spider Crayfish Bugs||Pellets Foods at the pet store||Carrot Apples Strawberries Blueberries||Calcium and vitamin D3 supplement|
Remember, this chart only shows the diet plan of an adult yellow bellied slider. For hatchlings, the animal protein portion will increase, and ⅓ of the meal should contain green vegetables. On the other hand, for old ones, the diet should include more plant percentage.
Foods You Should Avoid Feeding The Yellow Bellied Slider
You can not feed your yellow bellied slider whatever you want. Some items can upset the turtle’s tummy. Here is a list of foods that you should avoid feeding your yellow slide:
- High protein food
- High fatty food
- Raw meat
- Feeder fish
- Potato green
- Iceberg lettuce
- Rhubarb green
- Fast food, etc.
How Much And How Often Should You Feed Your Yellow Bellied Slider?
Yellow bellied sliders are opportunistic feeders. They will eat even if they have a full stomach. But overfeeding is as bad as underfeeding for the pets. Therefore, you should know the exact quantity of food to serve the yellow bellied sliders.
To ensure the right amount of food, experts suggest following the 15 minutes rule. As per the rule, you have to provide more than enough food in the enclosure and let the yellow slider eat for 15 minutes. After that, remove the leftovers. This method is well accepted worldwide.
When we talk about the frequency of the meals, here is the rule. For the first 6 to 12 months, feed the yellow sliders twice a day in small portions. After that period, once a meal every day will work. When the turtle grows old, feed the turtle every other day.
Usually, yellow bellied sliders have more appetite during the morning and late evening. Try feeding them at those hours. These turtles may feel more comfortable having a meal at the dock or in the water. You can install an automatic yellow slider turtle feeder if you are too busy to track your pet’s feeding schedule.
How Long Can Yellow Belly Turtles Go Without Food?
A yellow belly slider can go a few weeks to several months without food. Turtles have a slow metabolism rate. It means they can cut down their energy consumption and stay alive for a long time without eating any food.
During the cold season in the wild, the yellow belly turtles slow down their heart rate, oxygen requirement, and energy usage. The process is called hibernation, and the turtles do it to adapt to the severe cold weather. Hibernation usually refers to a sleeping state of turtles when they do not need anything to eat or drink.
Depending on the weather, a yellow bellied slider may hibernate for 4 to 6 months. It means the turtles will survive all those months without any food.
On the other hand, in warm seasons, the yellow bellied turtles may go without food for only a few weeks. Because, during those periods, the turtles continue their usual activities and spend their stored energy.
On a serious note, you should always remember that putting your captive yellow slider turtle in hibernation is not recommendable. If you want your pet to hibernate, consult a vet and prepare the turtle for the process. And, of course, do not starve your turtles on purpose.
Yellow Bellied Slider Common Health Issues And Care
Yellow bellied sliders can survive rough conditions in the wild. But in captivity, these turtles are prone to diseases. Here are some potential health issues of the yellow belly sliders:
1. Shell Rot
The rotting starts with a simple cut or scratch on the shell. Harmful bacteria take the advantage and start growing on the shell. Eventually, the wounded scute turns black, slurry, and spreads a bad odor.
In the worst conditions, bacteria make a way into the body and live off the bones. Sometimes the scutes fall off if the rot spreads too much.
During the primary stages, the shell rot is curable. Healing creams and antibiotics can recover the yellow slider within weeks. Get the symptoms and detailed home treatment of shell rot from this article.
2. Respiratory Infection
A dirty enclosure is a perfect place for the bacteria to grow. A bacterial attack on the yellow bellied turtle’s lung can cause respiratory infection. Vitamin A deficiency can also lead to this condition.
The symptoms of respiratory infection in turtles are loss of appetite, weight loss, nasal discharge, coughing, open-mouth breathing, and wheezing. Another visible sign of this disease is the floating condition of your yellow bellied turtle. Prolonged respiratory infection turns into pneumonia and makes your turtle unable to swim underwater.
A clean habitat and prescribed medicines can make your turtle feel better. Check this article to get an insight into the causes of why a turtle floats.
3. Metabolic Bone Disease
MBD or metabolic bone disease is a common problem for yellow bellied sliders. The condition occurs due to the imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the body. The root of this issue is a low quality UV arrangement in the enclosure.
The victim yellow bellied slider will suffer from shell or bone deformities. With a high quality UV bulb and diet supplements, the sick turtle may recover a bit.
4. Vitamin A Deficiency
The lack of vitamin A in the meal causes hypovitaminosis A or vitamin A deficiency. Lethargy, swollen and puffy eyes, runny nose, etc., are the symptoms of this disease. A balanced diet of carrots, green leafy vegetables, and salad will cure this disease. Sometimes vets prescribe Vitamin A shots or antibiotics for quick recovery.
5. Shell And Skin Conditions
Your yellow bellied slider can suffer from other shell and skin diseases too. Such as,
- White patches on the shell
- Black tint on the shell
- Cracked shell
- White spots on the skin
- Skin allergy
- Mouth rot
- Pyramiding, etc.
The spots on the shell occur due to the fungal or bacterial attack. Pyramiding refers to the deformation of the shell because of overfeeding of high protein. All the conditions are curable with proper medicine and lifestyle changes.
A healthy yellow bellied slider eats lots of food and stays active all day. With proper handling, this species can have a lifespan of more than 40 years. Here are some tips that will help you provide great health care to your yellow bellied slider:
- Keep the enclosure and water of the yellow bellied slider clean.
- Regular meals of the pet must contain vegetable, animal protein, pellets, and other necessary elements.
- Set up high quality UV light, heating lamp, tank heater, and water filter.
- A proper basking area plays a significant role in building up a solid immune system for the yellow bellied turtles.
- Look for the symptoms and change of behavior in the turtle. Lethargy, runny nose, coughing, refusing to eat, spending more time basking, etc., are the signs that something is wrong with the turtle. In case of any symptoms, take the turtle to the vet.
- A regular health checkup will also benefit you to fight any unexpected diseases of the yellow bellied slider.
Do Yellow Belly Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?
In an indoor setup, a heating lamp is mandatory for the yellow belly turtles. It is the only source of heat for them. For an outdoor enclosure, the yellow belly turtles bask directly under the sun. So, they do not need any additional heating lamp or UV light.
In the previous section, I have discussed the necessity of a heating lamp in the yellow belly turtle’s enclosure. Owners often try to replace heating lamps with usual watt bulbs because those lights cost less. The bulbs we use in our homes will definitely provide heat but are not recommended for the yellow sliders.
Another thing, people always ask me if they should keep the heating lamps on 24/7. The answer is no. The yellow belly turtles are diurnal. So, keeping the lights on only for 12 hours a day is advisable.
When the turtles sleep, turn the light off. Getting extra heat will not allow them to sleep underwater for a considerable period.
Do Yellow Belly Sliders Need Water?
Yellow belly sliders are semi-aquatic species, and so, water is the basic requirement of these turtles. These pets spend 70 to 75% of their life swimming in the water.
An ideal enclosure of yellow belly sliders contains both water and land areas. Without water, these turtles will survive one week or a few more days at best. After that, the pets will start getting weak and eventually die.
Can I Put Fish In With My Yellow Belly Slide?
Yellow belly slide will get along with fishes as long as it gets enough space and food. Koi fish, guppies, goldfish, minnows go well with the yellow belly sliders.
There are some disadvantages of keeping fish with your yellow belly slide. For example, the koi fish often nip the turtles, and the guppies can overpopulate the enclosure. Also, sometimes your pet turtle ends up having a feast on the small fishes.
You can also try housing your yellow belly slide with other turtle species such as red eared slider, cooters, painted turtles, mud turtle, musk turtle, etc. If you want to introduce a new tank mate, you have to go for a larger habitat and a few changes in the tank.
Check this article to get a detailed guideline on housing fishes or turtles with your yellow belly slider.
The yellow bellied sliders have a calming nature and are easy to care for. Yet harsh touch, congested space, sickness, crowded habitat, insufficient food can make the pet stressed and aggressive. While anxious, these turtles can bite or attack the opponent. To keep your yellow belly turtles relaxed, handle them gently and fulfill all basic life requirements.
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