Red-eared Slider - Trachemys scripta
In the US, sale of red eared sliders under 4 inches in length is banned. The ban was a result of Salmonella infections linked to pet turtles. In order to properly maintain a red eared slider, you must do work. They are diurnal so they DO need UV lights etc to help them process calcium. They are messy - really messy so they need to be cleaned frequently. Letting their area get and stay dirty will promote disease - not only to your turtle but possibly to you as well. However, they are active animals and "hand feeding" is a lot of fun.
This is a medium difficulty animal in my estimation.
Average Size - A full grown red eared slider can reach 12 inches in length (measured as the carapace, or top shell, length). Males tend to be smaller than females, but have large claws on the front legs and longer tails than females.
Life Span - Red eared sliders can live 15 to 25 years.
Diet - Red eared sliders are omnivores, meaning they eat a mixture of animal and plant material. Younger turtles eat more animal protein than adults, though. Juveniles should be fed daily, but adults can be fed every 2-3 days.
Turtles can be fed a mixture of prepared commercial food and fresh food. Special food formulated for turtles can be used, but this should not make up any more than 25% of the total diet. Another 25% of the diet should be made up of animal protein, and can include live feeder fish, earthworms, crickets, waxworms, cooked chicken or lean beef, andaquatic snails. Young turtles can be feed smaller feeder items such as blood worms, shrimp, dapnia and krill. The remainder of the diet (up to about 60% of the adult diet) should be made up of fresh greens, vegetable, and fruits. Good choices for greens include collard, mustard and dandelion greens, butter lettuce and other leaf lettuces (but never iceberg lettuce). Carrots (tops are fine too), squash and green beans can be shredded and offered. Fresh fruits can be given too, shredding hard fruit like apples and chopping softer fruits such as bananas and berries. Cantaloupe can be given with the rind on as turtles seem to enjoy gnawing on the rinds.
Habitat - Red eared sliders need an adequate amount of water to move about and swim a bit. The water should be at least to 2 times as deep as your turtle tall. The length of the water area should be 3 - 4 times the length of the turtle, and the width should be at least 2 - 3 times the length of the turtle. The land surface of an aquatic terrarium should comprise both soil and gravel. This is essential; decorations may then be added in the form of logs and plants. These not only look attractive but they provide cover and an important sense of security for the turtles.
Lighting - In addition to the basking light, a full spectrum reptile light should be provided. Exposure to a full spectrum reptile light is necessary for proper calcium metabolism. It is also nice to take your turtle out into natural sunlight in warmer weather.
Temperature - A submersible heater should be used to keep the water at 75 - 86 degrees F. Get a good aquarium thermometer and monitor the water temperature. Make sure you protect both the thermometer and heater from your turtle. A heated basking spot should also be provided in the area provided for the turtle to get out of the water. An incandescent bulb or ceramic heater can serve this purpose, make sure there is no way the turtle can touch the light or that the light can fall into the water. The temperature at the basking spot should be 85 - 88 degrees F.
Feeding - Feeding can be every other day. Make sure that all food items are removed. A good quality complete reptile vitamin and mineral supplement should be added to the food once or twice a week. In addition, extra calcium can be provided by giving turtles a cuttlebone (break into pieces and float in the water) or calcium block to nibble on.
Housing - A 20 gallon tank is considered a minimum, though larger turtles will need a larger tank to provide ample swimming room, so even if you have a smaller turtle you might want to invest in a larger tank to allow room to grow.
Substrate - gravel (large) or even slate for water area. Soil, potting soil, gravel (small) for land/basking area
Habitat Maintenance Change at least 1/2 the water twice weekly. Thoroughly clean the tank at least once week: set turtle aside in a secure habitat; scrub the tank and furnishings with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, removing all smell of bleach; dry the tank and furnishings; and add clean substrate
Filtration - One of the most common problems with keeping an aquatic turtle is keeping the water clean. Dirty water carries bacterial and parasitic diseases - it also stinks. Regular water changes as described above are one way of doing this. Another method is to use a filter system similar to one that would be used for a fish tank. Even if you implement a filtration system, you will need to replace at least 25% of the water each week and fully change the water once every other week. Ammonia, nitrates, nitrites and bacteria will still buildup causing health problems. These are available in three main types:
Undergravel filters I would not use an undergravel filter. They are meant to create a biological filtration system in lightly stocked fish tanks. They do not clean out waste, rather they draw waste down into the gravel and ultimately below the gravel. They need periodic total breakdowns - and that is a pain. Even if you use reverse (powerhead blowing water under the filter which then comes up through the gravel) in my estimation it just is not worth it.
Internal canister filters These are relatively cheap and can be highly effective. Use the largest size you can install in your tank. The best filter medium is foam. This can be taken out and washed whenever it becomes clogged.
External canister filters this filter is superior. The filter and pump are outside the water, only the inlet and outlet tubes are exposed in the water.
- Habitat with secure lid
- Humidity gauge
- Book about turtles
- Light timer
- Undertank heat source
- Uncandescent light or ceramic heater
- Full spectrum lighting source
- Filtration system
Grooming and Hygiene Don't handle unless necessary; wear latex gloves. Wash your hands after handling the habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases.
Signs of a Healthy Pet:
- Clear eyes
- Clear nose and mouth
- Body is rounded shell is hard
- Active and alert
- Eats regularly
- Healthy skin
Common Health Issues and Red Flags:
Overcrowding in tanks is a major contributory factor in the incidence of disease. It is far better to under-stock a tank than to over-stock it. A tank which is crowded will become fouled, smelly and probably loaded with bacteria. Good filtration helps, but is not a substitute for common sense in stocking. The more water volume and fewer turtles you have in a tank or pond - the better.
- Soft shell
- Discharge in nose or mouth
- Abnormal feces or urine
- Decreased appetite
As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area.
Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet.