veterinarian holding red-eared slider turtle.

Red-eared slider turtles can be found in wetland areas from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. They are fond of calm waters and enjoy sunbathing on rocks or fallen tree trunks, sometimes in groups. They are omnivores, but prefer to eat plants that grow on the water’s edge. While they aren’t always a welcome addition to many different ecosystems, these reptiles can make terrific pets. 

If you’ve ever wondered what caring for a red-eared slider turtle is like, we’ve got your bases covered. 

Food for Thought

Red-eared sliders can live for many decades (between 30-77 years). Enormously popular, they are the most traded reptiles in the world. Unfortunately, it is common for these turtles to be released into the wild where they threaten native species by outcompeting them for space and food. Also known as the red-eared terrapin, this semi-aquatic turtle can be a wonderful pet when their highly specific needs are carefully considered

Let’s Talk About Space

A fully grown red-eared slider turtle can reach up to 12 inches in length. As they grow, their needs might change a bit. You can start with a 20-gallon tank, but to accommodate their needs for both swimming and basking, you will eventually need a larger tank for proper care. The length of the water/swimming area needs to be approximately 5 times the length of the turtle, and about 3 times as wide as their length. 

The water should be about 80-degrees and can be heated with a submersible heater. 

Encourage basking by stacking flat stones next to a slope of gravel or wood for an easy ramp. Water levels inside their tank should be about twice as deep as your turtle is long. A heat lamp can be used to warm their basking spot, but it must be placed so the turtle cannot reach it. 

Hygiene and Diet

Caring for a red-eared slider turtle must include daily attention to sanitation. A water filter is critical to their health. It is also necessary to change out at least a quarter of their water every week. Emptying and cleaning their tank is required at least monthly. 

To reduce the potential mess in their tank, opt to feed them in a separate location. Young turtles enjoy daily food, adults only need to eat every 2-3 days. Turtle food can comprise a quarter of their diet, supplemented by worms, crickets, aquatic snails, chicken, beef, and fish. About 60% of their meal must be fresh veggies, like lettuce, collard greens, carrots tops, and fruit. Calcium is crucial to their health; if not provided through their food, you should give them a mineral supplement.

Caring For a Red-Eared Slider Turtle

When caring for a red-eared slider turtle, it is crucial to wash your hands after handling them. Because they can carry Salmonella, they can be risky to the very young, senior citizens, pregnant women, and immuno-compromised individuals. 

Red-eared slider turtles require special care and consideration. If you ever notice behavioral or appearance changes, please give us a call at (512) 263-9292. 

Your friends at BEEVET are always happy to answer your questions or address any concerns about caring for a red-eared slider turtle.