Red-eared Slider

Family: Emydidae Picture of a Red Eared SliderTrachemys scriptaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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My 2 month old RES lives in a 40 gallon long aquarium. He has a basking light, uvb light, a ramp for basking, a water heater and powerful filter (200 gallons per... (more)  Chelle

   The Red Eared Slider has been a favorite household pet for many years!

   Because they can can tolerate a wide variety of conditions and become quite tame in captivity, Red Eared Sliders make wonderful pets. They are quiet, and when tame are calm and generally slow-moving. Consequently they don't instill the cautious concerns that some folks have when dealing with other types of reptiles. They can be quite hardy when provided with the right environment, have fairly modest requirements, and live a long time.

   These are some of the most prolific and widespread species of freshwater turtles in the world. In addition there are several beautiful color morphs of the Red-eared Slider available; including albino, pastel, and leucistic.

For more Information see:
Selecting and Caring for Your Turtle or Tortoise

Geographic Distribution
Trachemys scripta
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  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Testudines
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Genus: Trachemys
  • Species: scripta

Distribution:    Red-eared Sliders are found in the United States from Virginia to Florida and west to Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. They have also been introduced into habitats throughout the world. Fourteen other Trachemys species and subspecies are found throughout Central and South America.

Status   The Common Sliders Trachemys scripta are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: LR - lower risk.

Description:    Over their incredibly large range in nature, Red-eared Sliders are quite variable in patterning and color. They can be grayish green, bright lime green with wonderful yellow spots and squiggles, or dark green with dark markings. They all have the typical red "ear" coloration that runs from the eyes to the back of the head. This coloration can have a variety of shapes and a range of color, but all true Red-ears have this characteristic.
   Males of all populations of Red-ears become darker as they age. Some become an entirely black turtle with the pattern and even the red "ear" difficult to see. Males are usually smaller than females and with larger front claws and longer tails. This species generally ranges between 8 to 10" (20.3 - 25.4 cm) with a maximum recorded size of 11.4" or 28.9 cm (Conant and Collins, 1991).

Care and Feeding:    Red Eared Sliders exhibit a feeding pattern typical of many freshwater turtle species. As young, they are carnivores, eagerly consuming insects, insect larvae, and a variety of other invertebrates. As they grow, they begin feeding on a variety of plant matter in addition to the live prey. As they reach adulthood, most sliders will continue to feed on animal matter in the form of fish, worms, and insects.
   In captivity, most sliders will eagerly eat commercial turtle food and will eat large amounts of the aquatic plants found in their enclosures. Respect their need for a varied diet as young sliders are prone to shell defects and abnormal growth due to insufficient diets.

   A basic setup in a large tub (48"w x 84"l x 20"d) or stock tank will be sufficient to hold three or four adult Red-eared Sliders. Add an efficient filtration system, a shop light fixture with UVB-emitting bulbs, and at least one basking spot with a 100-watt spotlight mounted above.
   Add a variety of floating and submerged aquatic plants to the slider enclosure. In addition to helping keep the water clean and healthy, plants will add some variety to the sliders' diet.

Picture of a baby Red Eared Slider
Baby Red Eared Slider
Photo © Animal-World
   A good beginning home for a small or baby Red Eared Slider is an aquarium. Purchase at least a 20-gallon aquarium. Also required are a filter, a heater, a pump and airstone, a sandy or gravel substrate, live aquatic plants, chlorine remover and other water conditioners, and a small bulb to provide a basking spot for the young turtle.
   None of these supplies can be left out of the proper baby turtle enclosure. Fortunately, these turtles are typically very hardy captives and thrive in proper conditions.

   The Red Eared Slider does very well in outdoor ponds. It can thrive outside in warmer climates and is active year-round. It will hibernate in more severe environments and can tolerate cold winter conditions, often hibernating under the ice.
   They love to bask, so at least one large basking spot per enclosure should be available. Outdoors, ponds and pools must be secure as Red-eared Sliders will usually leave unfenced areas quickly – The "Call of the Wild" pulling them to the local farm pond or nearby river.
   Care must be taken that these, and any turtles, are not released into a wild habitat. The reasons are many. The introduction of non-native species can lead to the introduction of diseases and can lead to hybridization of introduced and native species. In addition, many turtles raised in captivity and released into wild situations are confused, unable to cope with extreme weather changes, and many surely fall prey quite quickly to the wary predators they may encounter.

Handling:    Red Eared Sliders become very tame in captivity and will tolerate some handling. They will readily swim up to the keeper and take food out of his or her hand. They become quite curious and will watch anyone in the room with them in hopes of getting a free handout.
   Older sliders and those kept in ponds tend to be more nervous and will scratch and flail when removed for handling or cleaning.

Breeding:    Adult males of many species of sliders are characterized by the growth of long claws on their front feet. In addition many male sliders grow darker as they age. This appearance of long claws and the trend toward melanism can aid the slider keeper in identifying his males and females at a glance.
   Captive breeding is simple and straightforward in most sliders. The male engages in an elaborate courtship ritual that involves swimming above the female, scratching her carapace with his elongated nails, head twitching, and more. If their environment is healthy and females are given access to a proper laying area, sliders are quite prolific producers. Adults breed throughout the spring and a female can lay up to three clutches of 6-10 eggs each year. This species exhibits temperature dependent sex determination; eggs incubated at less than 80° F (27° C) produce males, 82 to 84° F (28° to 30° C) produce a mixed ratio, and those incubated at 86° F (30° C) produce females.
   Be aware that adults eagerly consume hatchlings if a nest hatches within the adult's enclosure. Care must be taken to remove the eggs for incubation or to protect the nest with a wire cage if it is to be incubated on-site.
Hatchlings thrive in the proper environment with good water quality, UVB and heat, and a varied diet. Babies relish invertebrates such as blackworms, small redworms, and even crickets as well as commercial pelleted food. They grow quickly and can reach breeding size in 3-4 years.

Ailments / Health Problems:    Not many, but shell and skin infections arise from poor nutrition and ear abscesses are occasionally seen in sliders kept in poor quality water with abnormally high levels of bacteria. These injuries can be treated by removing the turtle from the water. The infected area should be dried and an application of Betadine followed by a layer of silvadene cream should be applied. The turtle should be kept warm on a towel in a tub for several hours before it is returned to the water. This should be repeated every day for a week while the area heals.
   If the turtle's water is not clean and aerated the problem will recur quickly. If the turtle is being bullied or too many turtles are kept in a small enclosure, this and other problems will occur until the situation is corrected.

Availability:    Red-eared Sliders are commonly available throughout the U.S. in pet stores, at reptile shows, and on-line. They are usually inexpensive to purchase but one must realize that the expenses of setting up a proper environment are considerable.

Author: Russ Gurley
Edited by Animal-World.
Lastest Animal Stories on Red-eared Slider

Chelle - 2008-03-01
My 2 month old RES lives in a 40 gallon long aquarium. He has a basking light, uvb light, a ramp for basking, a water heater and powerful filter (200 gallons per hour). He lives with 3 rosey red minnows and 6 zebra danios. I made the mistake of feeding him dried shrimp treats and then he wouldn't eat anything else. I have some advice on what to do if this happens to anyone else: Buy baby turtle floating food sticks, grind them down to a powder, add a little calcim/vitamin powder and a drop of water. Add a tiny bit of the dried shrimp (for the smell) and mix into a paste like texture. Then I put a dab of the mixture on the tip of my finger and hold it just above the water so he can reach up and get it. This is working great and he is thriving. I also have a small piece of cuttlebone floating in the water and have ordered water lettuce and water hyacinth. I haven't seen him bite the cuttlebone yet. He does try to bite the fake plants, this is why I ordered the edible water plants. I hope this info might help someone else out there with a picky eater like mine.

  • Sarah Wheeler - 2014-07-23
    My turtles wouldnt go back to regular food too after some treats, but a few days they strated eating when they wer hungry. But congrats on keeping ur turtles AND fish, all my turtles will eat fish excpet 1 of them(i have 5)
Wendy Hall - 2014-06-02
I just acquired 2 red-eared sliders from a friend who had them in an aquarium at his home.  I have had them at my home in their own pond now for 2 weeks,  they seem to be adapting well.  Today I came home to find one of them laying upside down, but not like she fell that way, in a flat area, upside down.  Is this a sign of sickness and what can I do?  I turned her right side up and will continue to observe for now.

  • Emma - 2014-06-03
    Take him to a vet.
Richele - 2013-09-17
I have two young (under a year) RES. Unfortunately early on they learned about dried shrimp and krill, so now I can't get them to eat anything else. They do eat some dried meal worms though. I spray a hearty amount of multiple vitamins as well as calcium on their food before giving it to them. Occasionally they'll eat small pieces of carrots or green leaf lettuce, but not as often as I think they should. Any suggestions on how to get them to eat a better variety of food? Oh and I feed them in a seperate tank which they stay in for about 20 to 30 minutes, so they don't free feed.

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-09-26
    As adults these turtles are primarily vegetarians. My two red-eared sliders are about 18 years old, but when I got them (at 8 years old) the lady who had them fed them only shrimp! Well, I put them in my pond and began to feed them a commercial turtle food, and sometimes a pond Koi food. There are also some plants in the pond.  When that was all they were offered, they began to eat it. They will still come up, hoping for a shrimp treat, and I give them some once in awhile. But they now know it is just that... a treat.
dottie - 2013-07-31
Was given a red ear slider, he was raised in a small tank. Got a 50 gallon tank and got new stones. Fill tank half way with water, put turtle in and he acts like he can't swim. Did I put too much water in? He was trying to eat stones just digging does he like his new home? Help can't sleep keep checking on him.

  • Jasmine Brough Hinesley - 2013-08-01
    Make sure there is an area of rocks/sand that he can get up on to to bask and that it isn't all water. Was he kept in water at his old home? He may just not be used to so much water. Turtles will dig sometimes, but you might want to get a hiding place like a log or cave that he can retreat to. It might take some time to get used to his new home.
April Ferrell - 2012-02-27
I have found a Red-Eared Slider Turtle and I believe she is a female. She is about the size of a dinner plate and I don't believe she came from the wild because she has no scratches or any kind of damage to her shell. She seems like she is used to people handling her, and she likes to cover herself up with the towel. I am unable to keep her and want her to go to a good home. Please contact me as soon as possible so she can get the care she needs. I do not know how to care for her properly and don't want anything to happen to her because I am doing something wrong. I have been trying to feel her lettace. Please let me know if someone would like to take her or where I might take her. Thanks

  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-02-28
    Bring her to a pet shop and donate her. Some times your local shelter will always take turtles and and be better suited to care for the turtle. Good rule of thumb, if it is out in the wild leave it there. Turtles adapte very well.
  • shirley Mirenda - 2012-03-22
    I would love to have this turtle and would give her a very good home. I have always loved turtles and frogs and have had several over the years.
  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-03-22
    If she isnt eating get some fish for it. They need meat as well. Iceberg lettuce doesn't have the needed nutrition.
  • peter lamborn - 2012-04-26
    If you haven't placed her yet, I'd like to have her if she's still avaliable. I live in Florida, but shipping shouldn't be a problem. Please reply whatever the answer is.
  • georgia gomes - 2012-10-23
    i have a turtle and i dont know if it is a girl or a boy how can i find out?