Red-eared Slider

Family: Emydidae Picture of a Red Eared SliderTrachemys scriptaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I have had a red eared slider now for 20 years. My dog found him on a walk and carried him home. He was about the size of a quarter. Tort is quite a picky eater. ... (more)  Susan

   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

  • 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

Susan - 2020-05-30
I have had a red eared slider now for 20 years. My dog found him on a walk and carried him home. He was about the size of a quarter. Tort is quite a picky eater. He will only eat his one type of pellets. When I run out and give him a different type, he will just swim away and not eat it. He is about 9 inches long now. We take him for walks in the yard and I now know why the hare lost the race. Tort can move fast when he has a goal. He is very easy to take care of. Spends most of the time in the water but he loves to bask on his rocks.

Tony Dai - 2009-11-11
I had a red eared slider for 5 years. We've been through alot. First I purchased him he was 2 inches and he was placed in a tiny plastic container with no heating source, I only put him by the window for natural sunlight. The tank only had 1 cm of water and one small rock. It was a very poor habitat and I kept him there for a few months and he survived. Then I put him in a 9 gallon aquarium with 1 cm of water and the same rock. Still no heat source. He was fed pellets and shrimp. After a few years I went on the Internet and searched information on how to take care of them, and I found out they need a very large tank, a basking area, UVB basking bulbs, very clean water and a very strong filter, and lots more. Then I realized the mistake. I quickly told my parents how to take proper care of them. I always try to tell them how to take proper care of red eared sliders but they think its unnessecary. So I still had him in a poor habitat. But the past few months I tried my hardest to give him a proper habitat by myself. Right now he's still in a 9 gallon, but he has a turtle dock, a water depth of 4 inches, and a desk lamp for basking (I put him under the window on warm days for UVB). He is currently 5 inches and although he was in a terrible habitat for such a long time, he survived and for some weird reason shows no sign of illness. Now I'm going to give him a very large tank with a large basking area, a UBV basking light, a filter and water changes. I just wish my parents could be more considerate and put more effort into taking care of pets as they are a huge commitment. I'm only 11.

  • Allyson - 2010-07-20
    WAY TO BE Tony! I hope your slider is doing well. I too, had a poorly cared for pet as a child. It was a collie named Mikey. I felt so sad. I loved that dog so much, but I was too young to do anything about it. Unfortunately, he died before I was old enough to take care of him. I now make up for his loss by taking the best possible care of the pets that I love now. I hope he forgives me.
  • A. N RAO - 2010-08-17
    I also have 3 red eared but I am confusing about how to design a comfortable tank for them. If you have any idea on it give me details I arrange it asap "A N RAO"
  • Diana - 2010-11-22
    I think, you are trying to do the right thing, but you should try to tell your parents that you will work around the house to pay for a better tank, tell them that even that it's not important for them, it is important for you that your turtle is happy. I have one for three years now, and I just upgraded her tank, to a 75 gallon one and she is very happy. Try to buy a used one on craig list with a good filter, and you can clean it every month. Good luck
  • murray brown - 2011-03-15
    Sounds like your turtle is very lucky to have you as his/her human--good job!
  • MS.Donna - 2013-07-26
    Tony I am sure that your parents probably have a lot of bills to pay and may not be able to keep you and your turtle fed or in a house or have lights and gas. SO since I am reading this a few days before my own birthday, I will send you a Petland gift card IF YOU EMAIL ME WITH YOUR PARENTS PERMISSION. I DO not WANT TO HAVE ANY PROBLEMS with the law for trying to do a nice thing. EMAIL SUBJECT: MR TURTLE's friend okay.
Anonymous - 2016-01-06
I have a Chinese water dragon. Is there any other lizards( like green anoles or day gecko ), frogs( like arrow frogs and red eyed tree frogs ), turtles( like box turtles or map turtles ), and my tank also as a big water area could I put fish( like cichlids or archer fish )?

Amanda - 2015-05-27
I recently was given a red eared slider from my in laws. It's about 5-6 years old and has lived in about 3 inches of water in a 15-20 gallon tank with no lights or heaters of any kind. I immediately did research and figured out that he needed a lot of stuff. I bought the uva and uvb lights above his basking rock right away and he now has about 5 1/2 inches of water. I'm not sure if I should fill the tank most of the way. I have read a lot of information online but not sure how deep the water should be r if there is something else I should be doing. Also how big of a tank should I have? He is about 5 inches long and about 3 wide. Gave him some minnows and he had so much fun catching them. Please help!

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-05-31
    These turtles get to be about 8-10' in length. I have 3 adult sliders (about 18 years old now) and keep them in an outdoor pond. Read about the indoor setup above, a large tub  that's 48'w x 84'l x 20'd will be needed indoors. As far as food, they do like some live prey, but they also need a lot of vegetable matter. I alway feed turtle and pond pellets and they feed on the aquatic plants too.
  • Paul C - 2015-12-29
    A RES turtle's water depth should be at least equal to the length of their shell as they need this to swim that they enjoy. So a RES with a 5' shell needs water that is at least 5' deep.Got 2 in July 2011 around 5' long and kept in a 20G long tank they outgrew within a year. Now in a 45G long that is half filled, same as a 55G but couple of inches shorter, both turtles are about 7' now. Never fed them live fish, they have been fed and eat varieties of turtle pellets, floating sticks supplemented with freeze dried mealbworms and krill. On sunny days from mid spring to early fall, put them in a plastic kiddy pool with a large rock island during the daytime for their dose of vitamin D.
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?