Red-Eared Slider

Red-eared Slider - Trachemys scripta elegans

Basic Facts

Originally from the southern United States

Red-eared sliders get their name from the distinctive red patch of skin around their ears. The "slider" part of their name comes from their ability to slide off rocks and logs and into the water quickly.

  • Males: 8–10 inches in length
  • Females: 10–13 inches in length
Life span: In the wild generally about (average) 20 years and older, however in captive settings it can be closer to 40 years with proper care.
Diet: Omnivorous
Puberty: The rough estimations for captive RES are: 2-4 years for males with a SCL (Straight carapace length) of 4” and 3-5 years for females with a SCL of around 5”.
Eggs: Eggs hatch 60-90 days after being laid

Some reasons why Red-eared Sliders make great pets

Great long term pets with the proper care
They are resilient, as far as turtles go, so they are a good choice for first time turtle keepers.

Zoonosis: Salmonella bacteria is easily spread between reptiles and humans:


Housing: Red-eared sliders are almost entirely aquatic, but leave the water to bask in the sun and lay eggs.
  • A guideline to determine this size used by many keepers, as a minimum, is 10 gallons of tank per each inch of shell length (refer to SCL for correct shell measurement). Therefore, a single adult RES will require anywhere between a 90 to a 120 gallon tank.
  • Full spectrum lighting- UVA/UVB
  • This is necessary for Vitamin D3 synthesis which is needed for calcium metabolism
  • These bulbs are generally effective for about 6-10 months and will need replacement afterwards. Fluorescent UVB bulbs do not project UVB very far, so it is necessary to have it positioned closely - 10 inches above the basking area would suffice.
  • Any plastic in the aquarium hood or in the light fixture will impede UV light and will need to be removed
  • Water quality is very important
  • For adults- Canister filters provide good water quality and the filters are easily cleaned, they are more expensive than the other types of filters however, they do provide excellent mechanical and biological filtration.
Temperature: 70-78 F with a basking area of ~90F
  • Haul out spots – ramps or partially submerged, with light source for basking
Diet: Red-eared sliders are omnivores and eat a variety of animal and plant materials
  • Be careful not to over feed, recommend feeding 2-3 times per week for adult turtles
  • Vegetables: mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion, spinach, carrots, Zucchini
  • Also insects, worms, and fish
  • In limited amounts: Feeder fish: Guppies, Rosy red minnows, Insects: Crickets (Pinhead) (preferably gut-loaded or dusted), Earthworms, Silkworms
  • Do not use insects caught from outside due to the risk of pesticides
  • Commercially available diet: Mazuri Fresh Water Turtle Diet, Fluker’s Turtle Diet for Aquatic Turtles - the amount of pellets to be in proportion to the size of their heads (excluding their necks).
  • Rep-Cal Calcium - A phosphorus-free powder to dust pellets, vegetables and feeder prey. Contains no Vitamin D3 supplement, which would not be necessary for turtles with adequate UVB/sun exposure.
  • Rep-Cal Herptivite Multivitamin (Vitamin A, Amino Acids) – A beta-carotene supplement that allows for a turtle to naturally convert this into Vitamin A.

When should my Red-eared Slider see the Veterinarian?
  • Any new pet should be examined by a veterinarian, then have yearly check-ups with a veterinarian as long as they are healthy
  • Below are some common problems seen in Red-eared Sliders and recommendations of when to see your veterinarian. If you are ever concerned about the health of your pet do not hesitate to call.

Common problems with Red-eared Sliders’s and Signs to watch for
  • Drowning: See below
  • Metabolic bone disease (MBD), also known as soft shell syndrome. . It is a serious but preventable disease brought on by deficiencies of calcium and/or vitamin D3. Early cases are treatable but advanced cases may be too difficult to overcome. It is possible that MBD may have incurred other diseases due to poor diet and conditions.
  • The shell may be soft in certain areas or all around and may appear deformed. Areas of white discoloring may develop on the shell and shell rot may take hold. The RES may refuse to eat or appear weak and lethargic. Tremors and reflex problems can also be symptoms.
  • Respiratory infections are common and deadly illnesses that affect many captive turtles. It is a contagious illness that can spread to other turtles and often requires medical attention. Improper basking and water temperatures as well as exposure to drafts and breezes greatly increase the chances of an infection.
  • The most obvious symptom is listing which refers to swimming in an irregular manner, such as swimming in circles, unevenly or lopsided and even swimming upside down.
  • Shell ulceration/Rot: can form when there is an injury to the shell in which the damaged area becomes infected. The initial injury could be minor and not easily noticeable or could be very obvious. It may have occurred in the form of an abrasion, scratch or even a burn. If left untreated or improperly cared for, this lesion could be penetrated and lead to a number of diseases such as fungal and bacterial infections and septicemia. Poor habitat conditions greatly encourage shell rot development.
  • Trauma: fall, drop, or animal attack (Dogs mistake turtles as chew toys)
  • This list contains the most common problems seen in pet Red-eared Sliders. If your Red-eared Sliders is not eating, is acting lethargic, or if you are at all concerned call your veterinarian, they can assist you in determining if and when your pet should be seen.

This document may be freely distributed for non-profit use, provided this notice is included.

The following information is compiled from a variety of articles in various newsletters. I have tried this myself, too.

Both water turtles and box turtles can drown. Even a drowned turtle that looks quite dead might just be waiting for you to help it get its breath back. Remember that turtles can be without oxygen for a long time, especially in cool water, before the damage is irreversible.

First and foremost: NEVER TURN THE TURTLE/TORTOISE ON ITS BACK. Turning it on his back might remove the little airspace still left in the lungs.
  1. Grasp the turtle's head behind the ears (base of skull) and extend the neck completely.
  2. Turn it head-down/tail up and open its mouth. Usually, some water will flow or drip out at this point. Wait until the dripping stops.
  3. Place the turtle (belly down) on a flat surface with its neck extended. Stand in front of the turtle.
  4. Straighten his front legs and pull them straight toward you as far as they will go.
  5. Keeping the legs straight, push them in as far as they will go. Do not let the legs bend at the elbows.
  6. Continue pulling and pushing until water stops coming out.
  7. Now it's time to take your turtle to the veterinarian. The veterinarian will insert a tube and start providing the turtle with pure oxygen. He may give a respiratory stimulant and a drug that will help the turtle excrete the water accumulated in its tissue. After this, the turtle will probably regain consciousness and start moving. Since some turtles develop pneumonia after drowning, the veterinarian will most likely recommend a course of antibiotics.

A note on mouth-to-mouth (or straw to mouth) breathing. I've seen it described in one place. I don't know whether it works, and I don't know whether the risk of blowing in too hard and damaging the lungs is worth it. The above instructions are proven to work in many cases.

A note on baby turtles: The smaller the turtle, the harder it is to help the animal, simply because of its small size.
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