What Do Red Eared Sliders Do in The Winter?

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

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The red eared is one of the most common species around the world. Even you must have seen one or two turtles of this species in your local pond. But have you noticed all the red eared sliders suddenly disappeared in the cold season? So, where do they go? Or the biggest question is, what do they do in the winter?

The red eared slider is actually cold-blooded and can not generate heat in their bodies. So, the turtles growing up in the wild, outdoor enclosure, or in a tank with insufficient heat brumate during the winter.

In this article, I will discuss what happens to the red eared sliders in the winter. You will also get an overall idea about what you should do to make the pet turtle comfortable during that time. So, read to the end of this article.

Why Can Red Eared Sliders Not Endure Cold Season?

The red eared sliders are not endothermic like us humans. They are ectothermic species, which means the turtles can not generate heat inside their bodies. The pets depend on other sources like the sun or bulb for warmth.

In the wild, or an outdoor habitat, the red eared sliders solely rely on the sun. So, during the winter seasons, when the overall temperature drops, the turtles find no other options to warm their bodies. Hence, the species bring a physical change to cope with the situation.

However, the indoor red eared sliders can also suffer due to severe cold if there is not enough source of heat.

What Happens To A Red Eared Slider During The Winter?

I have mentioned earlier that the red eared sliders are cold-blooded. To cope with a severe cold, the species undergo some physical changes. Now the question is, what those changes are, or what happens to a red eared slider in the winter.

As the turtles can not produce heat, they become extremely sluggish. Their body metabolism drops. Even though the red eared sliders do not eat at that time, they still drink water. Their heart and cardiac rate slow down by 80% to minimize energy usage. This state is called brumation.

Though the whole process sounds a lot similar to the hibernation, it has a few differences. For example, the red eared slider stays awake while brumating. Also, the turtle can move from one place to another during the brumation period.

Here are things you must remember. The red eared sliders do not hibernate, the process they undergo is called brumation. And the species will only brumate if the cold is unbearable for them. If you can create a suitable warm enclosure for the pets, their lifestyle will not change much in the winter. 

Where Do Red Eared Sliders Go In The Winter?

Now you know about the brumation process of the red eared slider in the winter. But the question is, where do they brumate.

In the wild, the red eared sliders brumate underwater at the bottom of ponds and shallow lakes. The turtles can also brumate in stamps, burrows, or logs. In captivity, the brumation spot is at the bottom of the tank.

The red eared sliders absorb oxygen through their skins during the entire brumation period. The interesting part is, the species can survive for weeks this way.

Can Red Eared Sliders Survive Cold Weather?

This is actually a tricky question. The answer can be both yes and no. I have already illustrated what happens to a red eared slider during the cold. If the temperature drops by a few degrees and the turtles do not get any heating source, they will prepare to brumate. But wait, is the brumation process safe for the red eared slider?

There are a lot of reasons why brumating can be dangerous for your pet. You can find various cases where the red eared slider died before entering into or during brumating.

If you want your pet to brumate in an indoor habitat, you must learn about the process first. A simple mistake can cost your turtle’s life. On the other hand, brumation in the wild or an outdoor habitat can also be dangerous sometimes. If the temperature touches the freezing point, the turtles can freeze to death.

Am I indicating cold weather is unsafe for the red eared slider? Absolutely not. Most of the turtles can survive the brumating process in the wild. When it comes to the brumation of the captive red eared sliders, you have to ensure the perfect environment.

If you do not want your pet turtles to brumate, provide them with the best winter care. In case you are unaware of it, and show carelessness during severe weather, the turtles can fall sick or die.

In simple words, no matter if your pet turtles brumate or not, you have to take care of them to keep them healthy and alive. The red eared sliders have the power to extend their endurance more than other species. The turtles can survive both cold water and weather.

The Red Eared Slider Brumation Temperature

If you are raising the red eared slider in your home tank, you must know at which temperature the species brumate. This will help you taking care of the pet during the cold.

Generally, the red eared sliders slow down its activity if the overall temperature falls by 3 or 4 degrees. When the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees celsius, the environment becomes too cold for the turtle. At that point, the red eared slider will surely brumate.

You learn more about the brumation temperature by clicking here.

Can Red-Eared Sliders Live Outside in Winter?

So, can red-eared sliders live outside in winter? The answer is not always the same for all red-eared sliders. While some can survive the cold outside, others may not.

We know that red-eared sliders brumate in the wild. They often brumate at the bottom of a pond or river. Healthy adult red-eared sliders can go through the cold winter seasons through brumation. But turtles that are too your or weak often die during winter.

If you have a pet red-eared slider, you should take extra care of it during winter. In case you keep them in an outside enclosure or pond, you should get your pet inside. Keep them in a well-heated indoor tank. Pet red-eared sliders are born in captivity, so they do not have the same immunity as wild red-eared sliders.

How To Take Care Of The Red Eared Sliders In The Winter

Now you know red eared sliders brumate during the winter. Also, the turtles can die if they do not get the proper care. As a responsible turtle owner, it is your duty to provide your red eared sliders with the best winter care.

Here are some tips you can follow:

  • Maintain the water’s temperature between 78 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. You can set up an automatic water heater for the task. Keep the heater on 24/7.
  • To keep the basking dock and air warm, provide the best quality heating and UV lamps. The heating lamp should be on all day and night.
  • Feed the red eared slider a balanced diet.

Check this article to get the complete winter care for the red eared sliders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Red Eared Sliders Hibernate?

Red eared sliders do not technically hibernate but rather brumate. Brumation is a passive state in reptiles that can occur to varying degrees depending on climatic factors and the individual physiognomy of each animal.

In the wild, red-eared sliders brumate over the winter at the bottoms of ponds or shallow lakes, while pet sliders may not brumate as the temperature inside the house is warm enough.

How Long Can Red Eared Sliders Live In Cold Water?

Red-eared sliders cannot survive swimming for long in cold water with temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C). They do best in water temperatures ranging from 70 to 88 °F (21 to 31 °C) depending on age and health conditions.

Can Red Eared Sliders Live Outside In Winter?

Red eared sliders should not be kept outside in winter in colder climates, as they are not able to tolerate freezing temperatures. They need to be brought indoors or provided with a heated shelter during the winter months to avoid health issues such as respiratory infections, shell rot, and even death.

In warmer climates, however, it may be possible for red-eared sliders to live outside year-round with appropriate care and monitoring.

Are Red Eared Sliders Cold Blooded?

Red eared sliders are cold-blooded reptiles, which means that their body temperature is regulated by the environment around them. They rely on external heat sources, such as the sun, to warm their bodies and carry out their bodily functions.

As a result, they are most active during the day when the sun is out and tend to be less active when temperatures are cooler.

What Temperature Is Too Cold For Red-Eared Sliders?

Water temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C) are considered too cold for red-eared sliders. Although they can still survive at these water temperatures, keeping them for too long in such a cold environment will eventually lead to organ failure which can be fatal.

Turtle Care In Winter Infographic

For a printable version of this infographic, click here!


To ensure the good health of a red eared slider, you have to provide the best care. Throughout the article, I tried to explain what the species undergo during the winter and how to make them comfortable. I hope this information was helpful to you.

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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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