What you need to know before getting your red-eared slider turtle

Red-eared slider turtle facts

If you’re looking for a pet turtle, you may want to consider the red-eared slider turtle. Red-eared sliders are strong adaptive pet that prefers warm habitat and can easily thrive in a large tank community. In fact, the name “red-eared slider” comes from the red-line that runs along its eyes as well as the smooth sliding motion as it maneuvers itself into the water from a platform. Under proper care, the red-eared slider can easily survive for up to 30 years or more. This makes the red-eared slider turtle an ideal lifelong companion as well as a great friend to have!

Red-eared slider facts

The care and maintenance of the red-eared Slider turtle is not too difficult for anyone who have large aquarium tanks or a deep enough pond in their backyard for them to live in. In fact, the RES is one of the easiest to keep among all the other turtle species. They are very hardy and can tolerate various range of conditions. Although there are ideal PH, water hardness and temperature to house red-eared sliders, they are generally able to adapt just fine under deviation.

Red-eared slider turtle are very strong swimmers and they will spend huge amount of their time swimming in the water. However, apart from swimming, the most favorite activity of all time would be basking. Red-eared sliders LOVE to bask. And they do so a lot. During warm, sunny days, Red-eared turtles will climb up from the water and stack on top of each other while they enjoy the warm sunlight.

Red-eared sliders can also be very personable and will often swim towards their owner and beg for food. While this may be a very cute sight, don’t be fooled by their greediness. Fact is, red-eared sliders often do not know when they are full and will continue to gobble up whatever is offered to them. This can easily result in overfeeding of your turtle which can be very detrimental to their well-being. We will explain more on their diet in the later part of the article.

Red-eared sliders as pets

Red-eared slider turtles has been popular domestic pets for a long time. They have been kept for many years by many hobbyists, both veterans and beginners. The cost of purchasing an RES is also very cheap even today. Anyone can easily visit a local pet store an and walk out with a cute little turtle for a few dollars. This however, has led to many thoughtless and reckless purchase mainly by children who soon got tired of them and either fail to provide the proper care or just release them in the wild, which is a very ill-advised thing to do.

Fortunately, the public is beginning to be more educated and aware of the nits and grits of keeping a pet turtle. Hence captivity RES now has a much higher chance of survival with proper care. You should only buy a red-eared slider turtle as pet only if you are prepared and ready for the long commitment it involves. 

Before you do anything.

Red-eared sliders are undeniably adorable. But before you rush off to your local pet store to get yourself one, please take some time to truly consider all the facts before making your decision. What you can do is to learn more and do some research about red-eared slider turtles. Ask around to see if any peers who have experiences red-eared sliders. You consult them about the pros and cons of keeping a pet turtle, as well as the challenges they faced. If you don’t know anyone who has such experience, feel free to step into the pet store (NOT YET! PUT YOUR MONEY AWAY!). What you should be doing is to speak to the employees who are more familiar with the turtles. You can also spend some little time interacting with the turtles at the store. Make sure you’re fully aware of what is involved in caring for a turtle.

Here are some things you should keep in mind before making your purchase 

1.       The size of red-eared slider

At hatchlings, they may look adorable. But don’t be fooled by its cute baby appearance. Red eared slider turtles can grow up till approximately 12 inches as an adult. It will only take them a few years to reach to their full potential size. So if you are keeping your baby slider in a tank like this one (which we STRONGLY advise against), the turtle is going to outgrow your tank faster than you think. A popular gauge of how much real estate is required is by 10 gallons per inch of the turtle. Hence, we recommend that you go straight up for a tank that holds at least 100 gallons of water. This will ensure that your red-eared slider can live and swim comfortably even when it reaches its adult size. It also saves you the trouble and cost to purchase several tanks.


2.       Commitment

A properly cared red-eared slider turtle under captivity can live up to 30-50 years. That is way longer than your average domesticated animals.

Unfortunately, a huge number of such red-eared sliders never live long enough to withdraw their social security as they are not appropriately cared for. 30 years’ commitment is much longer than most people are prepared for. So please bear in mind that if you decide to get yourself a turtle, you are essentially making a huge commitment to take care for that turtle across its whole life. You must make sure that your future lifestyle can adequately adapt to incorporate such a long-term commitment to take your red-eared slider turtle as companion. If you’re just getting a turtle for your child to have a pet to play with, understand that the turtle will be your responsibility for a long time to go.

3.       cost

Red-eared sliders can be easily purchased from your local pet shop for as low as a few dollars. But the cost doesn’t stop there. You will need to think about all the necessary equipment and supplies that you will have to purchase. The main and possibly the highest cost would be your tank setup, which includes not only the tank itself, but also other things such as things a good water filtration system, lightings that provides UVA & UVB output, fixtures and decorations like the basking platforms.

There are also much smaller but running variable costs to take into consideration when keeping a red-eared slider. Stuffs like electricity to run your filtration and heating system, disposable filter media that needs to be replaced such as foam, cotton as well as activated aquarium charcoal that removes contaminants and impurities from the water.

Finally, there are expenses for consumables for your turtle. Bear in mind that turtle pellets alone are just simply not adequate to provide a well-balanced diet. Red-eared sliders need a wide variety of food such as leafy greens, plants and live preys such as bloodworms and feeder fish from time to time. Not only that, there are also supplements like vitamin D and calcium to ensure strong and healthy shell and nails. Even though the upfront price of buying a red-eared slider may be low, the total cost of providing for your pet is not as cheap. 

4. Risk of contracting salmonella

We may be living in the 21th century, but the threat that turtles may still harbor salmonella and pass on to humans still exists. Turtles may have salmonella and not be displaying any symptoms, which makes it even easier for people to get infected as we handle the turtle without putting much thought into this.

To prevent this, personal hygiene is a must. Always wash your hands with soap or disinfectant before and after touching your turtle. Remember, germs can pass both ways. Also, you will need to keep a separate set of tools for anything that is use for your turtle. They should be kept separately from all your other household utensils, which are kept washed and disinfected away from other household items.


How to Choose RES

Often when you step into the pet store, there’s a good to fair chance that the living conditions of the turtles sold are far from ideal. The most common problem would be overcrowding.  It’s not uncommon to see as much as 30-50 little sliders living in the same tank. This makes the turtle prone to being very stressed and ill. In an overcrowded tank, not only do the red-eared sliders must compete for space and food, diseases can easily spread from one to another.

When choosing your first red-eared slider turtle, there are certain specific points to look out for. This will help ensure your baby pet turtle isn’t in ill condition before you even get it home. The following pointers should be observed to help you determine the level of stress and health condition of a potential new red-eared slider turtle.

Behavior of the red-eared slider

Assess the red eared slider’s behavior. A healthy red-eared slider should appear active, alert and responsive. When you pick the turtle up it should either move its limbs around or immediately pull all its limb into its shell for as a natural reactive measure towards threats. If the turtle is not responsive and appears lethargic, there’s a good to fair chance that it is not in the best of health.

Physical Condition

Observe the overall physical condition of the red-eared slider. A healthy red eared slider should feel full bodied and firm when you hold them up instead of the hollow feeling of a malnutrition turtle. However, they should not appear to have rolls of skin and fat layer surrounding their limbs and neck. The shell should also be hard and not easily pressed down. You should also be checking for any physical wounds around the body, one way to quickly assess this is to look around the tank for that sharp object that may pose harm to the turtles.


The skin should feel supple and free of bites and scratches which could form abscesses if left untreated. While there may be a bit of loose skins hanging off while shedding, the overall skin should still look healthy and not too wrinkly.


The shell of a healthy red-eared slider turtle should be hard and smooth with no cracks or chips along the edges. Things like sores, cuts, or abrasions on the shell could result in infection.

Soft shells are a certain indicator of metabolic bone disease. If the turtle’s shell is softer than how it’s supposed to be, this could mean that the slider is not getting enough natural sunlight or from the overhead light which provides UVA & UVB.

Overall, you should avoid getting any turtles with broken or cracked shells since these injuries are often very serious.


Next, you should check the eyes of the turtle. The eyes of a healthy slider should be wide open and clean, clear and free of discharge or crusted material. Turtle with swollen eyes or eyes often remain shut or struggling to keep their eyes open are classic tell-tale signs of illness or diseases in a red-eared slider. Closed or swollen puffed up eyes are symptoms of eye infections. There may also be pieces of tissues surround the lids. If you have a turtle like this, you should bring it to be inspected by a vet.

Mouth area

Now to the mouth. The inside of a healthy slider should be bright pink and smooth. If the color is too pale or even appear white or yellowish, or even with green patches, it could mean that they are suffering from illness. The beak of the turtle should also be smooth and firm with no signs of chip or rotting.

Also, you should look out for any discharge or mucus-like substances that appear stringy or thick. Such mucus discharge around the mouth and nostrils area suggest signs of respiratory diseases. While it may not always be easy to identify this since the tank is filled with water, a good alternative to tell if the turtle is experiencing respiratory problem is to check for open-mouthed breathing, or if they make a bubbly sound when the slider breathes.

Another common sign of bacterial infection at the mouth area would be the presence of Fur.

Overall head geometry

 After you inspect different feature of the turtle’s face, take an overall good look at the whole shape and structure of the head. The shape of a regular turtle should be symmetric. Any swelling of swelling or an asymmetric area around the skull is another obvious symptom of metabolic bone disease. Any lumps or swelling may be the result of abscesses.

Movement of the red-eared slider turtle

After you have carefully inspected the overall physical appearance of the turtle. It’s now time to observe the red-eared slider’s movements. The movement of a healthy and fit turtle should be strong and smooth on land and in the water. If the turtle’s movement is slow and lethargic, it suggests that the turtle may be subjected to metabolic bone diseases. You should also watch out to ensure there is no signs of shakiness, twitches, and tremors in its movements.

Turtles that are swimming lopsided or constantly maintaining its head position at an awkward angle are also indicators of respiratory infections in common among turtles.

Living conditions of the turtles

Besides checking out the physical condition of the turtle itself, you should also inspect the overall cleanliness and living condition in the tank of the red-eared slider you are potentially purchasing. Is the turtle a victim of overcrowding? Turtles kept in too crowded or unsanitary living conditions may be stressed and more prone to illness, and often appear more lethargic. If you are not comfortable with what you see, just walk out and visit another store.


More Tips for Choosing a Red Eared Slider

Never catch a turtle from the wild. That’s cruel!

When you finally decide on keeping a red-eared slider as a pet, you should always purchase the turtle from a pet store. You should never take a turtle from the wild. By doing so, you are abducting the poor turtle from its friends and family, and away from its natural habitat. Not only is this cruel and unfair to the turtle, it will also cause tremendous stress on the turtle. The change in environment is too drastic for the turtle to adapt. Not only that, wild turtles also have a higher chance of carry more parasites that will cause a lot of harm to your overall aquarium community.

The best thing you can do is to adopt your turtle from someone that is no longer able to provide care for it. You can always check out availability of red-eared sliders put up for adoption at your local animal rescue organizations.

Are the animals in the store well taken care of?

When purchasing your pet red-eared slider, not should you be looking at the turtle, you should also be aware of the pet stores that houses the turtles. Are the turtles given adequate care? A good telltale sign is to look at the overall condition of all the other turtles in the tank. Even if you have spotted a red-eared slider that looks perfectly fit and healthy, if it is surrounded by number of other ill and sickly turtles, there may be a chance that your potential might have also caught similar diseases but have yet to display any symptoms.

 Cleanliness is very important

The cleanliness of the habitat should also be diligently inspected. There should not be any moldy stains on the surface of the tank. The water in the tank should also be reasonably clear and emits no odor. An ideal tank habitat should be cleaned regularly. If the red-eared slider turtle appears to be in good and healthy condition but is being kept under dirty and smelly water or overcrowding. The trauma of improper care may result in the turtle being more prone to sickness. This might not be noticeable until after you bring the turtle back home.

Look for online reviews

Another great way to know if the shop you will be visiting can be relied on to provide adequate care for those baby sliders is to conduct your own research online. Look out for review sites and your local forums to see if there are any complaints on the shop. Not just on turtles, but on all the other pets that are available for sale in the store. If there are many reviews on the internet on how the shop owner is mistreating their fishes. What are the chances that they will treat turtles differently? The shop owner’s attitude should also be taken into consideration.

If the shop owner is often reported to be rude and indifferent, chances are that he is not genuinely passionate about animals and is just doing so for profit. If that is the case, he may not be as concerned about the well-being of the animals as you might like.


Set up everything BEFORE you bring your turtle home

Before you even head out to get your pet red-eared slider, you should already have all aspects of your turtle habitat you need already set up completely at your home. Relocating to a new environment is very stressful. You don’t want to be figuring out the tank setup and such as setting temperatures and water hardness only after you bring your turtle back home.

Have everything ready to go so that once you bring the turtle home, it can immediately settle and adapt into its new home instead of having to spend additional hours in a plastic tub. This means you’ll have to first conduct your research thoroughly for everything you need. Your research should also include reading through the user manual on how to ideally set up everything in your tank such as the water filter, lighting and temperature regulator.


How to differentiate between male and females

It is extremely difficult to definitively determine the gender of a baby red-eared slider until it is matured at around 2 years old at the very least. When your baby turtle reaches a certain size, a good place to look at would be the nails of the turtle. The male red-eared slider will generally have longer and sharper claws compared to females. The elongated front claws of the males are used to display courtship and mating rituals to attract a female. It’s almost like a mating dance. Male red-eared slider turtle will also generally have longer tails than female’s turtles.

Another probable indicator to determine the sex of your red-eared slider will be the size. Female red-eared sliders usually appeared to be bigger size compared to its male counterpart of similar age.

However, the above-mentioned points should only be taken as a reference to predict the gender of your turtle. It may not be 100% accurate all the time. A male slider with a more aggressive and greedy personality may end up eating more food than their female partner and outgrow them in size. On the other hand, a diet with unbalanced nutrition such as lack of calcium can also inhibit the growth of the red-eared sliders claws.

Can I breed my red-eared slider?

The gender of your turtle should not impact much on your decision to care for a red-eared slider as turtles of both genders should be subjected to the same level of love and care. We also discourage the breeding of red-eared sliders as the species population is already so massive worldwide. If you genuinely want another baby slider after some time, we would very much prefer you buy or adopt another one instead of breeding one.

RES tank setup

Red-eared slider is semi-aquatic reptiles. This means that spends significant time on the land. Their most enjoyable past time would be basking in the sunlight. For an ideal tank setup, you will need a tank that is big enough to have space for both water for the turtle to swim in. A large enough surface area for your red-eared slider to climb out and bask is also important. Heat and lighting are also essential if you house your turtle indoors or you live in colder climates.

Tank Size

As a rule of thumb for every inch of turtle shell, you will need 10 gallons of water. We recommend that you go straight for a tank that holds at least 100 gallons of water. Or else, get the largest tank that you can afford without burning a hole in your pocket.

In our opinion, it is not that practical and cost saving to buy a cheap 20-gallon tank for your baby turtle. The reason is that the turtle will very quickly grow up till 10-12 inches, where the 20-gallon tank will simply not be big enough to house your turtle. You would have to spend extra money to purchase another bigger tank, leaving you with an extra redundant tank.

Tank material

While an ideal tank you can get is a large glass aquarium. We understand that it can be expensive. A cheaper alternative you can get is a stock tank. A stock tank that holds 100 gallons of water is generally much cheaper and readily available. Though it may not be as pleasant looking as a glass aquarium. We do not advise on purchasing acrylic tanks. Sure, an acrylic tank is much cheaper. But on the other hand, they can be easily scratched by the claws of your turtle. Cheap plastic containers and tubs should also be avoided as they may release Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical compound that is released by plastic that may be detrimental to the health of your turtles.

If you are lucky enough to be residing in a warm climate region and have a backyard, you can always take a shovel and dig your own pond. While this will give your turtle a more natural environment, they will also be subjected to the changing environmental conditions.

Water Area

You should have enough water in your tank to allow your red-eared slider turtles to swim freely in. At a minimum, the water should be at least approximately 1.5 to 2 times the length of your turtle shell. With a 100-gallon tank, you should have enough space to fulfill these requirements. However, you should ensure that the water is not to filled to the point where your turtle can climb out of the tank through the basking platform. You do not have to worry that your turtle might drown with too much water as they are very strong swimmers.

Filtration System

It is no secret that turtles are very messy creatures. Not only do they create a whole lot of mess when they feed, the waste they produce is also a huge concern if left uncleaned. An ideal turtle tank setup must include a good filtration system. There are several good variations of filters in the market such as power filter or canister filters. Whatever type of filter you choose, you would probably want to get something that is rated for more than the amount of water you will be using it for.

The specification on how much water the filter is designed for would usually be featured on the box. If you are unsure, you can always do your research on the internet beforehand or just ask the shop owner. Adequate Filtration will reduce the how often you will need to change the water. But no matter what, you are still required to perform a 20-25% water change every week or so. A thorough cleaning is also should also be performed as and when it is needed. We would also recommend that you buy a filter that can house multiple media.  So that not just physical waste is filtered, harmful chemicals and substances such as ammonia and nitrate can also be effectively neutralized.

What kind of filter is most suitable for my turtle?

As far as the type of filters go, we will recommend having a filter that is outside your tank. Examples are hanging filter or an external canister filter. With the filtration system sitting outside your tank, you can easily clean or replace the media of the filter causing minimal disturbance and unnecessary stress on your turtle. They may be more expensive. But, such filters are usually much more powerful and capable of effectively filtering all unwanted contents in your turtle tank.

Read more on how to choose a good filtration system.


The ideal water temperature of housing red-eared slider turtles should be between 75-78 F (23-26 C). And 78-80 F (26-27 C) for baby turtles. The external environment in the tank would be between 75-80 F (24-27 C), with a basking spot at 90-95 F (32-35 C)

You can use a submersible heater to keep the water heated if it is necessary. When it comes to choosing your submersible water heater, go for high quality heaters from reputable manufacturers. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. You don’t need to be a scientist to know the consequences of having a leaked electricity in a water tank. Although you may be smart rough to know that, your turtle might not. You should always cover up any exposed areas. This can be done by using something heavy such as bricks to cover up these exposed areas.

Along with a temperature regulator, you should also acquire an aquarium thermometer to monitor the water temperature and ensure that the heater is working properly. Don’t rely on those pieces of sticker strips sold in the dollar store. Heated lamps and bulbs are also another alternative to provide heat to your tank.

Basking Area

There are many ways to provide a basking area for your turtles. You can make your own basking area by stacking rocks and large gravel on one side of your tank to create the depth. Wooden or plastic plank is suitable as the surface land area. Be sure to take into consideration not to make a gradient too steep so that your turtle can easily climb up. You are only limited by your own creativity. If making your own basking area is too much of a hassle, you can always purchase one off the internet and have it delivered to your doorstep the next day!

The basking spot should also be heated across the whole platform under a suitable UVA & UVB light so that your turtle can bask and obtain the necessary health benefits.

Red-eared Slider turtles under captivity spend a lot of their time basking. You do not need to worry about your turtle spending too much time outside the water. If it appears to be healthy with no obvious health issues, let them be. However, if your turtle always struggles to climb out of the water the moment you put it in. It may suggest that there may be something off with the water condition and further investigation will be required.

Find out more on turtle basking platform

UV Lighting

Turtles rely on UVA and UVB lights for calcium metabolism and various vitamins needs. UV light is not able to travel through glass panels. A UV lamp with 5% of more UV rating is essential.

A full spectrum reptile UVA/UVB light is highly recommended for the basking platform of your red-eared slider. Exposure to UVA/UVB is necessary to ensure the turtle obtain its necessary calcium. Basking under such optimum condition will also help with various health aspects of your turtle such as its mood and appetite.

A full spectrum reptile light can help to give such benefits. It would also be great if you can bring your turtle outdoors if you can to let the turtle absorb some natural sunlight and experience the fresh air.

Pay extra attention to the placement of your light bulb.

The light should be placed at a suitable distance from the tank. This provides adequate heat and UV exposure across the whole basking platform. Do note that UV ray will dims over distance. Placing the bulb too far away will reduce the benefits the turtle can get. Yet so, it should not be too close that your turtle will be able to come into direct contact with the bulb.

If you do not know it yet, turtles are not that good at identifying hazards. If you put the bulb too close, the turtle may bump onto it and hurt itself if the bulb is too hot. The bulb itself may also be damaged as the copper filaments inside is very soft when heated and may break if it is shaken. A good way to gauge this is by measuring the temperature on the basking platform vs the water temperature. The basking platform should be around 10degrees higher than the water.

Also, please make sure your lamp is stable and secured on top of your tank so that it will never accidentally fall into the water.

UV bulbs have an average lifespan of 6 months. So, it will have to be replaced every now and then. There is really no way to tell if the lamps are still emitting UV ray with the naked eye. The bulb will still appear to be shining bright thou it may no longer be giving out any UV rays. The only reliable way is to use a professional UV tester.

Read more on Basking lamps for your red-eared sliders



Now, finally, we are getting to the fun part. Decorations! Decorations can add diversity and make your turtle’s habitat look more appealing and interesting. Before you start putting all sorts of ornaments in your turtle tanks, there are certain things to be kept in mind.


When decorating your red-eared slider tank, don’t forget to ensure that the tank remains relatively easy to clean. The decorations should not obstruct your cleaning routine of the tank. Also, remember that while these pirate ships and treasure caves are very appealing to us humans, turtles might not necessary be able to appreciate the beauty. Chances are they will just push and knock over these fixtures. While that may help create a more realistic shipwreck scene, it is not ideal. Your turtle must still be allowed to swim freely in the water. And most important, there should not be any areas that can potentially get your red-eared slider trapped. While they are great swimmers, they can still drown if they are stuck over prolonged periods under water.

Type of decorations

I know there are some pet owners that will put their favorite toys into the tank as decorations. However, before you do that, you will need to consider what material the item is made from.

As mentioned previously, plastics may have the tendency to produce harmful chemical compound such as BPA. If the color is painted or sprayed on, it will also fade over time and mix into your water.

Also, if there are screws or nails on the item, it is also subjected to rust. These will adversely affect the water condition. If it is not obvious enough, soft toy is also an extremely bad idea. The reason is because the soft toy will absorb water and quickly accumulate harmful bacteria. Also, the fur of the soft toy may cause your turtle to suffer from respiratory health issues if it gets into its body.


Plants in your turtle tank can be a nice touch and provide additional food option for them. That means that the plants will need to be replaced from time to time. Having some plants in your tank is also a great way to keep your red-eared slider well fed if you are going on holidays for a few days. Otherwise, there is also the option of an auto feeder.

If you are thinking of adding plants in your tank for your red-eared slider, you may want to consult your local aquarium shop owner first on what kind of plants to get as there are some ferns that fall easily when pulled. Red-eared sliders are really messy eaters and having such plants will result in a lot of stray leaves floating around and end up choking your filter.


Substrate is perhaps the most popular decorative item to be placed into an aquarium. It covers up the boring black surface at the bottom of the tank and can completely change the feel of your tank appeal when done right. There are also several considerations you need to take note if you plan to have gravels in your red-eared slider tank.

The size of the gravels should not be too small. The gravels should be large enough so that your turtle will not be able to swallow it. Here’s a general rule of time on what your turtle will eat:

Whatever that can fit inside your red-eared slider’s mouth, will probably end up in its mouth.

Also, when buying gravel for your turtle tank, to avoid rainbow colored stones and pebbles like a plague. These are all artificially colored stones and will fade or chip over time. The little paint particles will ultimately end up inside your turtle’s body and have an adverse health impact. Only go for gravels that are natural and unpainted.

While sand can be an alternative to gravels, bear in mind that some of the sand will be sucked into the filter and might choke your filter or make it much harder to clean.


Red-eared slider turtle Diet

Red-eared slider turtles require a diet that consists of a mixture of both meat and plant. In their early years, they tend to prefer meat as they are still growing. Hence, they require more animal protein at this stage. With that, some leafy greens would still be needed to provide fiber so that for a healthier digestive system. In some cases, baby turtles may refuse to eat the plants provided. You do not have to worry too much about that. They will naturally start eating plants when they feel the need. There is no need to force feed them on vegetables.

Adults and older red-eared sliders, on the other hand, will eat a diet that consists of significantly more greens. This is because protein found in animals are much harder to digest for a turtle of older age.

A proper diet for red-eared slider turtles should contain a balanced combination of vegetables and water plants making up more than half of its diet, With the rest being commercial pallets with the occasional treat of live feeds. Red-eared sliders are typically not fussy eaters and will gladly gobble up whatever it is you offer them.


Most commercial pellets sold in your local pet stores are nutritious. A good quality turtle pallet should contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals necessary for your turtle. You can determine the quality of the nutrition’s provided by reading the labels and list of ingredients at the back.

Turtle pallets are also the most convenient form of food for your turtle. Hence it is the most popular and usually the staple food for most domesticated turtles. However, Pallets should not be the only food that you feed your turtle. As much as possible, you should always give your turtle a wide variety of food not just for fulfilment of dietary requirements, but also to make things more interesting for your precious turtle.

Live Feeds

One of the richest forms of animal protein would, of course, comes from animals itself. There is a wide variety of live feeds suitable for red-eared sliders of all ages.

You can give young red-eared sliders feeds that are easier to swallow and less agile if it is alive so that your hatchling turtles will not have to spend too much effort to catch it. Live feeds such as bloodworms, earthworms and crickets are great sources of animal protein for a hatching red-eared slider.

Fully developed red-eared slider turtles can be given larger preys such as tadpoles, baby frogs, and other feeder fishes. feeding Goldfish to your red-eared sliders is inadvisable as the fat content in goldfishes is too high. Red-eared sliders are also very messy eaters so the scales and flakes from the goldfish will adulterate the water.

Feeder fish carries the risk of having parasites and bacteria, which may be passed on to your turtle if it eats them. A red-eared slider under proper care should develop an immune system that is strong enough to deter these diseases. However, live feeds should only be given very occasionally and should not make up your turtle’s staple diet.

Raw & Cooked Meat

Another alternative of animal protein would be to cut meat into smaller pieces so that it can be eaten by smaller sized turtles. However, if you are doing so, you will need to ensure that whatever raw meat you are using is as fresh as possible. Raw meat that is stale and left at room temperature for too long carries a lot of bacteria and disease pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria, or parasites. This is especially true for chicken.

Just stick to fish and shrimp if you are giving raw meat to your turtle. It is best advised to give in small amounts (piece by piece). Any leftover meat must be removed from the tank to avoid contamination of the water. Overall, feeding raw meat to red-eared sliders is generally something I would avoid as much as possible.

A good way of killing all the harmful bacteria would be to cook the meat thoroughly before feeding it to your red-eared slider. All you must do is boil the meat in hot water until it is perfectly cooked. There is NO need for any oil or seasoning.

As far as what type of cooked meat can you feed your red-eared sliders. I’d personally only stick to the following: Chicken or Turkey breast, fish, and shrimps. There really isn’t any need to be giving any other meat like beef or pork. They tend to have higher oil and fat content that may not be good for your turtle.

Variety may be good, but simplicity is the key.


Vegetables and Plants

As your red-eared slider turtle grow older and mature, Vegetables and plants should make up the majority portion of their overall diet. This is because turtles are like humans. As they grow older, their digestive system will not be as strong as when they were younger. Besides, Protein is the main nutrient for growth. Since older turtles are already at the stage of full maturity, they naturally do not require as much meat in their diet.

Red-eared slider turtles generally prefers green leafy vegetables such as mustard greens, collard greens and Kale. Lettuce are also a great option to add into the variety of vegetables to feed your turtle. Some turtle keepers will strongly advise against feeding iceberg lettuce to your turtle due to its low nutritional value. We feel that the claim is unwarranted and honestly.. Stupid.

What about iceberg lettuce

The Internet is no short on debates on whether you should eat iceberg lettuce. Although iceberg lettuce may be lower in nutrients compared to other types of lettuce. They are still a good source of some essential nutrients. Besides, there is also no harmful content within iceberg lettuce that may be detrimental to our turtle’s health. So, there’s no harm at all to feed it to your turtle. You shouldn’t rely solely on iceberg lettuce as the only source of leafy greens for your red-eared slider. But it is definitely OK to include them in your turtle’s diet on a regular basis.

Very importantly, be sure to thoroughly wash all the vegetables clean before you feed them to your turtles.

Most mainstream fruits and vegetables contains pesticides. This is true even for organic vegetables. A common misconception on the difference between organic and conventional vegetables is the organic vegetables do not contain pesticides. When the vegetable is organic, it simply means that it is not subjected to genetic modifications (GMO). It does not necessary meant that they are pesticides free.

Putting some plants in your aquarium is a great way to add variety to your red-eared slider’s diet. water plants such as anchariids, water hyacinth and water lettuce are ideal. Red-eared sliders love to snack on these greens during their free time. Aquatic plants also serve as a nice decoration that gives your aquatic community a livelier feel to it.

Apart from leafy greens and plants, it is also fine to occasionally feed your red-eared sliders other fruits and vegetables. Carrots, apple, strawberries and bananas are great additions to your turtle’s diet.

Nutritional Supplements

Red-eared sliders, like humans, requires vitamin D to effectively absorb calcium. One way for red-eared slider turtles to produce vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. Turtles kept in captivity indoors do not generally have direct exposure to sunlight.

You may have placed a UVA/UVB lamp to simulate the presence of the sunrays. However, additional nutritional supplements for reptiles such as multivitamins with vitamin D3 and calcium should be incorporated into your pet turtle’s food every now and then.

Another great way of adding more calcium to your turtle’s diet is to feed them cuttlebone. cuttlebones are often used by bird owners as an alternative calcium supplements for birds and as a beak trimmer. So, you should probably find one in the bird section in your local pet shop.

More on Calcium, phosphorus & Vitamin D3 here.


What if my red-eared slider refuses to feed anything?

hatchlings red-eared sliders are very weak and can be easily scared. A sudden change in environment can be a very stressful experience for your new turtle. It is not uncommon for newly bought hatchling turtles to refuse to eat as they are still in a state of stress.

The most important thing you should not do is to constantly pick your turtle out of its new tank. All that will do is induce further stress to an already frightened turtle. As much as possible, you should try to leave him alone to slowly adapt to its new environment.  The red-eared slider should regain its appetite once it is used to its new habitat.

If the red-eared slider still refuses to feed after a prolonged period. You can try offering them commercially dried shrimps available in the pet store. Bear in mind that this should be used as a last resort. We generally advise against feeding dried shrimps to your turtles for 2 reasons.

1.       Dried shrimps offer essentially no nutrients at all.

2.       Dried shrimps are delicious to red-eared sliders. Turtles love dried shrimps so much that if you feed it to them too often, they will start to reject all other forms of food.


How much should I feed my red-eared slider?

Now, on the topic of how much food should you give your red-eared slider. There is generally no hard and fast rule. The amount of food you should feed your red-eared sliders varies for each turtle. If your turtle is extremely active and uses more calories throughout the day, it is natural that it will tend to require more food than one that is comparatively less active.

There are several guidelines that you can follow as a gauge on how much to feed your turtle. For commercial turtle pallets, the general guideline is to offer in volume the size of your red-eared slider’s head. For vegetables and leafy greens, allow your red-eared slider turtle to eat as much as they want for about 10-15 minutes. After that, you should remove all leftover vegetables in the tank.

Water plants can be left in the tank for your turtle to snack on as and when they like to.

How often should I feed my red-eared slider?

There is no definite feeding schedule that you must stick to. It really depends on your personal preference and time management. Remember, Red-eared sliders in the wild do not have any feeding schedule as well.

You can feed your red-eared slider once every 2-3 days or break into smaller servings and feed daily. There isn’t any noticeable difference if you don’t overfeed your turtle.

Important! DO NOT overfeed your turtles

Overfeeding your red-eared slider is a very common and easily committed mistake for new turtle owners. Red-eared sliders do not know when they are full and will continue to eat however much food you offer them. They will also consistently beg you for more even though they have already even more than their fair share of food.

It’s not common for red-eared sliders to be overfed on vegetables and plants. However, too much protein and fats will present liver and kidney problems for your red-eared slider.

Signs of overfeeding includes folds of skin developing around the turtle’s limbs. Another obvious sign that your turtle is overfeeding and outgrowing its shell is the “pyramiding” shape of its shell.

find out more on symptoms and consequences of overfeeding here


More on Red-eared slider turtle diet

If you want to feed your red-eared slider and live prey, buy them from your local pet supplies store. Do not catch them from the wild. You never know what kind of bacteria and parasites lurks in the wild waters.

·        If the vegetables or plants are too big for your baby turtles to feed on, you can try shredding them to smaller pieces. However, please be sure to remove all leftovers when the turtle finishes feeding. Failing to do so may result in little shreds choking your filtration system.

·        As much as possible, try not to feed your red-eared sliders and frozen fish. The process of freezing will destroy some of the vitamin B1.

·        Meat, whether cooked or uncooked can foul the water very quickly. If you have feed meat to your red-eared sliders, we suggest that you feed them in a separate feeding tank.

·        Although we mentioned that younger turtles require more protein, the protein from animal meat like chicken may contribute to kidney problems for your turtle.


Additional Tips on Red-eared slider turtle care

1.       If your red-eared slider is kept indoors and for some reason, you do not have any access to UV-B lights, you must ensure that you provide them with adequate dietary supplements for calcium & Vitamin D3.

2.       Apart from eating calcium supplements, you can also place a slow release calcium block into the tank for absorption.

3.       If you are using a UV-B lamp, bear in mind that UV rays cannot penetrate glass. So be sure to position your lamp on top of the tank instead of the side.

4.      Even if you have a UV lamp. It’s always good to take your turtle outdoors for direct sunlight exposure regularly.  Be sure to set up some form of shading area for your turtle so it won’t overheat.

5.   Spend some quality time with your turtle. A red-eared slider turtle is not just a pet, but a lifelong companion. You can try moving your index finger across the tank and some red-eared sliders will follow your fingers around.