Frequently Asked Questions About 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 by far the most common pet turtle in the USA. They have a striking physical appearance which attracts many turtle owners. Moreover, Red-eared sliders are not very demanding, so taking care of them is not that tough. However, there are many conceptions and questions about red-eared slider. In this article, I’ll try to answer broadly most of the frequently asked questions about red-eared sliders. Read the whole article and you may find some useful information!

Let’s get started with the questions!

Are Red-Eared Slider Turtles Good Pets?

It depends. I can’t answer it shortly. In most of the cases, people generally buy a pet turtle because they look so cute in the shop. They don’t know anything about keeping turtles. As a result, within a short period of time, they find out that taking care of a pet turtle is too much for them. This type of situation is really frustrating. If you are not committed to spending at least half an hour of your time every day for your turtle, then red-eared sliders might not be a good pet for you.

Now, if you actually have made a thorough research on red-eared sliders, learned about how to take care of them, then red-eared sliders can make a great pet for you. Keeping red-eared sliders will feel like a breeze to you if you actually know what you are doing. They don’t need much attention from the owner. Even you don’t have to feed them every day when they become older. You just need to ensure certain parameters are right when keeping red-eared sliders such as:

Providing Enough Space:

Red Eared sliders do not stay small. They can get considerably large within a very short period of time. Female red-eared sliders can get about 12 inches in length when they are adult. Males generally get about 6 inches in length. So, when you are getting a red-eared slider, you have to ensure that you can provide sufficient space for the turtle.

Many owners often buy a baby red-eared slider and think they will stay that size for their whole life. I have found this to be one of the most common misconceptions regarding turtle keeping. You need to keep in mind that, turtles can get larger very quickly. You’ll always have to think about if you can provide enough space when your turtle gets matured.

An adult female red eared slider must need an aquarium glass tank which is at least 75 gallons. You can also use a commercial turtle tub or wading pool.

Powerful Filtration:

Turtles are by far very messy animals by nature. They make the water dirty very quickly. Especially aquatic turtles feed in water and make the water quality worse. That’s why turtle habitats need very powerful filtration systems. You have to think about getting a powerful canister filter which can keep your turtle tank clean. Moreover, even with a powerful filtration system, a weekly water change is a must. So, be prepared for all of these before getting a red-eared slider.

Overall Cost:

I have seen many owners giving their red-eared sliders on adoption because they can’t keep up with the upkeep cost. On the other hand, many novice owners get these red-eared sliders very cheap from the adoption centers. They don’t understand that the price of the turtle is the smallest among all other expenses.

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When you are thinking about getting a red-eared slider, you’ll have to be mentally prepared for buying a 75 to 100-gallon glass aquarium, powerful canister filter, UVB light fixture, heat lamp, basking place etc. Buying turtle foods, minerals, and other supplements will be an ongoing process. You’ll also need to pay for vet care, electricity use etc.

Vet Care:

Vets for reptile are very rare these days. In fact, many regions in the USA do not have a specialized reptile veteran yet. It can be quite problematic if you don’t have a trustworthy reptile vet around your area as red-eared sliders may often need medical attention.

Moreover, the veterinary cost for reptiles is not less than what is charged for cats or dogs.


Generally, red-eared sliders can live for up 20 years in captivity. In most of the cases, they live much longer. So, when you are getting a red-eared slider, you have to accept the fact that it can be a lifetime pet for you. So, only get one if you are prepared to take care of her for her whole life.

Here is an interesting fact, I have also seen some red-eared sliders live up to 50 years in captivity. That is really amazing!

Diseases from turtles:

Many pet turtles contain a bacteria named Salmonella in their digestive tracks. It can cause illness to people. However, you won’t get affected only by handling the turtle, as the bacteria can only harm when it is ingested.

You can easily avoid salmonella by maintaining proper hygienic measures. However, as children and elderly people have a poor immune system, it can be a concern for them.

So, to sum up my thoughts, the Red-eared slider can be an excellent pet for you only if you are prepared to take care of it. You need to provide them a large area. Do not ever purchase a turtle just because you saw one and think they are cute. Without proper research and determination, keeping a red-eared slider may prove to be very difficult for you. They can be a life-long friend for you. So, only buy one if you are prepared for all the care and upkeeps.

Baby Red Eared Sliders

Are Red Eared Slider Turtles Smart?

Turtles, especially red-eared sliders can be very smart. Each red-eared slider turtle has its own unique personality and characteristics. You may be amazed at how smart they actually are. You can even train a red-eared slider to some extent like a cat or dog. I have seen owners who trained their turtles to come near them when they are around. I have also seen some red-eared sliders responding to voice commands such as ‘come’, ‘food’, ‘down’ etc.

Never underestimate the personality of a red-eared slider. Each one of them has different characteristics of their own. Some may enjoy being handled, some are calm and peaceful while others can be playful and adventurous.

Even many owners think now that you can train a red eared slider to sit calmly on your hand. Turtles may not be like cats or dogs, but they sure have a lot of personalities than we think.

Are Red Eared Slider Turtles Friendly or Aggressive?

Generally, Red-eared sliders are not a captive turtle. They can have wild instinct. However, ever red-eared slider has its own unique personality which brings out individual behavior. After many studies, researchers have found out that red-eared sliders are friendlier than many other types of pet turtles in most of the cases. I have seen many owners feeding their turtles by hands. If your turtle bites your finger when you are feeding her, don’t think your turtle is being aggressive. It might be that she thought your finger a food.

With time, red-eared sliders get accustomed to their captive habitat and recognize their owners. However, they only show interactive signs for begging food or when they find something exciting. Wild red-eared sliders may not show this type of behavior.

Some red eared sliders do not like to be handled. In such a case, they may even bite if you try to handle them. Sometimes, they also open their mouth in an aggressive manner and make a hissing sound if they feel threatened. Red-eared sliders also withdraw themselves into their shells if they are scared.

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Are Red Eared Slider Turtles Illegal?

In the present condition, the government of the United States has forbidden the sale of red-eared slider hatchlings. However, they are still raised in the country for selling in other countries.

According to the recent law statements in the United States, it is not permitted to sell a red-eared slider that has a shell size less than 4 inches. This is because baby turtles are known to carry salmonella.

Never ever collect a wild red-eared slider. It is not only illegal but also considered to be cruel. It is better to collect a red-eared slider from a turtle rescue center or an adoption center.

Are Red Eared Slider Turtles Social?

To us, social behavior involves forming friendships, to be in a relationship, raising a family, playing with friends, watching a movie together etc. However, social behavior also consists of rituals that are mutually beneficial between two individuals.

According to most researchers, turtles are not an actively social animal. However, that doesn’t mean they spend their entire life solitarily. Turtles engage in many mass rituals throughout their lives such as mating, laying eggs, burrowing, feeding and basking.

Obviously, in the mating season, male and female red eared sliders get together. This is one of the most visible social behaviors of red-eared sliders. At this time, the males engage in a fight too to win over a female. It is also seen that some species of turtles like to nest together with each other.

Turtles also bask and feed together in captivity. It can also be regarded as a social sign.

Are Red Eared Sliders Nocturnal?

No, red-eared sliders are not nocturnal at all. They are active during the day and sleep at night like us. Red-eared sliders bask under a UVB light and heat lamp to dry itself completely. Though it seems a turtle is sleeping when basking, but she is still aware of her surroundings.

Do Red Eared Sliders Need To Be In Water All The Time?

No, the red-eared slider doesn’t spend all of its days in the water. Red-eared sliders are an aquatic turtle. Like most other aquatic turtles, they need to bask in a dry place. it is extremely crucial for the healthy growth of a turtle. so, always place a basking spot for your turtle in its enclosure. Make sure the basking spot is always dry and there is a UVB and heat lamp on the basking spot.

How Long Can a Red Eared Slider Turtle Go Without Food?

Here is a short answer that may come as a shocker:

An adult, healthy red-eared slider can on months without eating anything. In fact, wild turtles do exactly the same when they hibernate. When turtles get into hibernation, their bodies get into a state of very low activity with low metabolism rate. This typically occurs during the winter.

However, red-eared sliders in captivity do not hibernate generally as they get a constant supply of food from their owners. Also, the temperature inside a captive habitat doesn’t change drastically like outside. There is also a regular supply of consistent UVB light. That’s why red eared sliders do not tend to hibernate in captivity.

Red-eared sliders can go on weeks without eating safely if it has access to pure, safe water for swimming and drinking. This happens in wild all the time. It can survive without food for months if there is a well-setup basking area in the habitat. The basking area needs to be dry with UVB and heat light.

Do Red Eared Slider Turtle Bite?

Yes, a red-eared slider turtle can bite, if only it feels threatened, scared or irritated. In most of the cases, the bite will only hurt, it won’t spread any infection or disease. However, children with small fingers can really get hurt by their bite. That’s why I never recommend children handling a red-eared slider or any other species of turtle in general.

Is My Red Eared Slider a Boy or Girl?

Here is a quick guide to identifying the sex of a red-eared slider:

  • The male red-eared sliders have a longer tail which is also thicker than the females (clearly shown when they are adult).
  • The position of the cloaca is different in male and female red eared sliders.
  • Female red-eared sliders generally have short nails. On the other hand, the males have longer and sharper nails on their front feet.
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Can Red Eared Slider Turtles Breathe Underwater?

Yes, red-eared slider turtles can breathe underwater. Rather than holding their breath underwater, red-eared sliders have the ability to absorb the dissolved oxygen in the water. This process happens through their cloacal cavity which is located beneath the tail.

Red-eared sliders can go on months underwater without needing to surface up. They do this often in the wild the when the temperature is cold.

How Long Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Live for?

There is no a definite answer on how long a turtle can live for. However, generally in the wild, a red-eared slider can live for more than 30 years. However, in captivity, with proper care, a red-eared slider can easily live for up to 20 years.

Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Hibernate?

Yes, red-eared sliders hibernate, especially in the wild. When the outside temperature drops down in the winter, almost all aquatic turtles include red-eared sliders go into hibernation. During the hibernation period, red-eared sliders can go on without food for months because of the low metabolism rate.

Though hibernation is a common event in the wild for red-eared sliders, it might not happen in captivity. It is because, in captivity, the temperature doesn’t go through a major change. Also, the turtle enjoys a consistent supply of food and UVB light from the owner.

Do All Red Eared Slider Turtles Have Salmonella?

All turtles, including red-eared slider shed salmonella just as humans shed skin. Salmonella bacteria can be very fatal and it can cause death.

Each year, about 400 people die due to salmonella in the United States. Most of the salmonellosis involve persons who had indirect or direct contact with a reptile. Red-eared sliders are present in more than 50% of them.

Handling red-eared sliders can be very dangerous for people who have a weak immune system. Especially, children and infants should never handle any kind of reptiles.

Do you need a heat lamp for a red-eared slider turtle?

Yes, you must have a heat lamp for a red-eared slider. Heat lamps are a must for all types of aquatic turtle enclosure. They help the turtle to dry its body completely. It is very important for the healthy growth of a red-eared slider. Along with heat lamp, you also must have a UVB light fixture. UVB is a necessity for the shell growth of red-eared slider.

Can a red-eared slider turtle drown?

Red-eared sliders are very good swimmers. As long as you have provided a way to get out of the water, you don’t have to worry about the turtle getting drowned. Make sure that your turtle is not trapped underwater. Always provide a basking place so that your turtle can get out of the water when she pleases.

What is the water temperature for red-eared slider turtles?

The temperature of the water should range from 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Always ensure that the water has proper temperature before you put in your turtle. The temperature mustn’t fall below 74 degrees. If the weather is too cold, buy a reputable aquarium heater. Also, invest in a good thermometer so you can always track the temperature of the water.

What kind of fish can live with red-eared slider turtles?

I don’t recommend keeping any fishes with red-eared sliders as they will try to eat the fishes. However, large koi fish may survive with them. But there is always the chance of the turtle nipping the tails of the Koi fishes. Small fishes like guppies may also survive with them, but they can overpopulate the tank very quickly.

How much does it cost to get a red eared slider?

It generally depends on the location. The price of a red eared slider will vary from place to place. it also depends on the size and age of the turtle. in the United States, most pet stores sell red-eared sliders for $20 only. If you want to get one from a breeder, it may cost a bit higher.

So, I hope after reading this article, most of your questions regarding red-eared sliders have been answered. If you still have an unanswered question, do not hesitate to comment below. I will check it out as soon as I can.

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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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