What should you expect from your red-eared slider?
Red-eared sliders are attractive, intelligent and fascinating turtles that require special care. Maintaining them properly demands dedication and knowledge. In a well-designed habitat, turtles will delight their owners with their appearance and remarkable behaviors.
What should my turtle eat?
In the wild, red-eared sliders are omnivorous, eating both animals and plant sources of food. However, juveniles are mainly carnivorous and become more herbivorous as they mature.
In captivity, the diet for juveniles should consist primarily of a commercial aquatic turtle pellet. Hatchlings and juveniles should be fed on a daily basis; however, they should be offered no more than they will consume during a single session to minimize water contamination. The diet can be supplemented with occasional live fish of an appropriate size (guppies, goldfish), tubifex worms and earthworms. Plant matter, in the form of chopped leafy greens or finely chopped mixed vegetables, can be offered once weekly but may not be readily accepted until they grow older.
For adults, 50% of the diet may consist of commercial turtle pellets and animal-based protein as per the juvenile diet. The remaining 50% should consist of chopped plant matter, such as kale, romaine, red leaf lettuce, mustard greens, dandelion, watercress, parsley, swiss chard, shredded carrot, shredded squash, thawed frozen mixed vegetables and miscellaneous fruits. Adults can be fed every two to three days.
How should I house my red-eared slider?
The minimum enclosure size for a hatchling red-eared slider should be a 20 gallon aquarium. As a general rule, the water depth should be at least 1.5 to 2 times the turtle's carapace length, with several extra inches of air space between the surface of the water to the top edge of the tank to prevent escape. For 4 to 5 inch long sliders, the recommended minimum enclosure surface area is 2.5 square feet with an extra square foot for each additional turtle.
Water Quality and Filtration
Sliders are voracious feeders and tend to foul the water quickly with their messy eating habits and frequent defecation. Therefore, a system needs to be in place for management of water quality. Partial to full water changes can be performed. Many different filtration systems are available.
Basking areas, where the turtle can emerge from the water to bask under a heat source, can consist of either islands or platforms established at the water line of the tank or of areas built from the bottom of the tank (bricks or stones) and emerging from the surface.
How can you keep your red-eared slider healthy, happy and safe?
- Take a newly purchased red-eared slider to an exotic animal veterinarian, such as those at Saukville Veterinary Clinic, for a wellness examination and fecal check for parasites.
- Feed turtles in a separate container from their living accommodations to reduce fouling of the water.
- Keep the water clean using a filter and weekly water changes.
- Provide heat with a daytime basking light and a submersible heater.
- Allow exposure to UVB lighting during the day.
- Offer 12-14 hours per day of basking light in the spring and summer to stimulate a natural photoperiod.
- Offer 10-12 hours of daylight in fall and winter.
Housing for your red-eared slider should:
- Be at least a 20 gallon sized enclosure for juveniles.
- Have at least 2.5 square feet surface area for 4-5 turtles, with an extra square foot for each additional turtle.
- Provide at least double the recommended requirements for turtles 8" long or greater.
- Be escape-proof and predator proof.
- Include an area where the turtle can crawl out of the water and bask.
- Be easy to clean with good filtration.
- Maintain a proper water temperature of 82-85 degrees for hatchlings or 75-85 degrees for adults with an air temperature of 85-90 degrees under the basking light.
Things you must keep away from your red-eared slider:
- A little plastic island bowl for housing
- Water temperature below 75 degrees
- Habitats lacking a dry basking area
- Shrimp or muscle meat as the staple diet
- Cats, dogs, or other predators
- Dirty water
- The top of the enclosure (make sure your turtle doesn't get too close)
For more information: Association of Reptile & Amphibian Vets