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Basic Care for a Red-Eared Slider

Updated on June 28, 2017
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Brittany Banks loves animals. She has experience with this type of animal and likes to share how to take care of it.



Red-eared sliders are known for their name, because of the red ear patch on each side of their head. This type of turtle will spend the majority of the time in water and will come up to bask. They require certain care and they can live up to 20 years or more. They do prefer to live alone, so never buy your turtle a friend. In the U.S., it is illegal to sell a turtle that is less than four inches in length. Always do your research and be prepared before bring your red-eared slider home.

Housing Requirements

For every inch of shell length requires ten gallons of water. Adults will grow up to 12 inches, so you will need a large tank. Some people make an indoor pond and that is fine as well as long as it has the requirements that your red-eared slider will need. A lot of people use an outdoor enclosure as well, but this requires it to be warm outside. Any housing you do, you need to make sure they are all escape proof.

What ever type of housing you use, you will need a water filtration system. A water filtration system will keep the water clean and free of old food and waste. You will need to find a system that can at least filter out double the amount of water. You will need to check the system often to make sure it is still working. Clean the filtration system out once a month. 75% of the housing should be made up of water. Fresh, clean, chlorine free water needs to be provided.

You will need to purchase a water heater. Keep the water between 75F and 85F. Use a water guard to protect it, so it doesn't break. Always check the heater often to make sure it is working properly.

Red-eared sliders will come out to bask. Pick a corner of the housing to place a basking area. You can purchase a ledge at your local pet store or you can make one yourself. You can use tiling, but make sure it is sturdy enough to prevent your turtle from falling off. You can use rocks from outside, but make sure you clean them really well to prevent bacteria or disease. People have found Astro Turf make a good basking spot as well. The temperature needs to be 85F to 90F in the basking area.

To achieve proper temperatures in the basking spot, you will need a heat source. Ceramic Heat Emitters are great to use, but make sure you use a thermostat with one of these. To make sure your red-eared slider stays healthy, you will need tube lighting that has UVB and UVA rays. This is required so they can bask and it mimics sunlight. Your turtle will need to come out and bask to maintain proper growth as well. 10-12 hours of light is recommended.

For the bottom of the housing, use rocks that are large enough that your red-eared slider can't eat. Purchase enough that can cover the entire bottom. Some people don't even use a substrate at all. This is your choice.

A lot of people will use plants in their turtle's tank. That is fine, but your turtle will eat the plants. Safe plants include: Hornwort, Java Fern, Anubias Barteri, Amazon Sword Plant, and Anacharis. To keep plants alive, do some research or visit your local plant nursery. You can find these plants at Pet Smart or at a local plant nursery. Plastic plants are great to use as well and will give your red-eared slider some places to hide. Place these plants in the water. You will need to change out these plants often to prevent algae build up.

Certain fish are one of the only different species you can house with this animal!



Young red-eared sliders intend to have more protein in their diet. As they become adults, their diet will contain more plant matter. An adult diet should have no more than 25% commercial pelleted food. 25% protein and 50% or more plant matter is essential for an adult. Feed your turtle a good multivitamin as well. You should do this by sprinkling it on the food when it is served. Calcium blocks or cuttlebone are a great source of calcium that is needed for your turtle to grow. Feed about two tablespoons of food to your turtle every day. Crickets, super worms, and small fish are a great source of protein. Feed fresh fruit and vegetables that are chopped up and prepared. Avoid avocado, banana, processed meats, onions, garlic, leeks, junk food, and fireflies. Carrot, sweet potato, green beans, broccoli collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, dandelion and check weed are great plant matter and vegetables to feed your red-eared slider. Some fruits that are safe are: apple, pear, berries, melon, mango, and peaches. Dust all foods with a multivitamin containing calcium D3 and place the food in the water


Handling And Cleaning

Red-eared sliders can and will bite when threatened. Do not force them to do anything. Gently pick them up by the shell and do not keep them out that long. They need to go in the water frequently.

Even though you will have a filtration system, you will need to clean the entire housing once a month. Empty old water out, but leave 25% of the water in the tank. If you how to cycle a fish tank, you will the same thing for a red-ear slider tank. If you do not, do some research of your own. Rinse the rocks and clean them to remove any old food or waste. Wipe down the entire tank to remove any algae build up. Replace the filter or clean it every 1-2 weeks.

Information Collected From:

Facebook Group: Reptile Connection

Facebook Group: Reptile Enthusiasts

Rich Jennet: member of The Reptile Circle Facebook Group


"Home." All Turtles. AllTurtles, 2001-2016. Web. 27 June 2017. <>.

"Reptiles Magazine, your source for reptile and herp care, breeding, and enthusiast articles." Reptiles Magazine. Lumina Media, LLC, 2017. Web. 26 June 2017. <>.


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