How NOT to care for your red-eared slider

How NOT to care for your red-eared slider

Most of the time, improper caring for your red-eared slider are associated with either the setup of its habitat or in relation to your turtle’s diet. Today we will explore what are the main problems that are associated with this 2 categories and how we can prevent them.

1.Improper Tank Setup

Having a tank that is too small.

As far as improper tank setup is concerned, one of the most common mistakes would be having a tank that is too small for the turtle. Turtles spend a large amount of their wake time in the water. So, you will have to ensure that your tank is big enough so that your turtle has adequate swimming space.

As a general guideline, for every inch of your red-eared slider shell, you should have at least 10 gallons of water. With that said, we would recommend that the best option would be to get a tank that can hold at least 100 gallons of water. If that is too expensive, get the largest tank that you can that is within your budget.

Turtle Lagoon? More like turtle lockup!

Below is a prime example of what you should NEVER get for your red-eared slider. Even if your turtle is just a hatchling, this is not suitable habitat for them. Period.

Lee's Deluxe Turtle Lagoon, Oval w/Tray and Plant
Click to find out more


It is not that practical and a waste of money get a cheap 20-gallon acrylic tank for your hatching turtle. Turtles can quickly grow up to 10-12 inches, where the 20-gallon tank will simply not be enough. By then you would need to fork out extra money to get a bigger tank.

A cheaper alternative to glass aquarium tank would be a stock tank. A stock tank can easily hold 100gallons of water and is much cheaper and readily available.

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.

Poor filtration

Red-eared sliders have a reputation of being a very hardy creature. They can survive under variable water condition. Often you will see turtles living along the river that’s filled with murky water. This, unfortunately, creates a misconception among some people that you don’t need a filter for your pet turtle. This could not have possibly been more wrong.

In fact, a good and proper filtration system is important to turtle more than other aquatic animals. Red-eared sliders excrete waste constantly throughout the entire day. This will result in build-ups of ammonia and other toxins that are very harmful to your turtle’s health. If these unwanted wastes are not removed promptly, the ammonia will penetrate your red-eared slider’s body and will quickly build up to a fatal point, known as ammonia stress or ammonia poisoning.

Learn everything you need to know about filtration system here!


Unnecessary Clutter in your tank

Very often when setting up the tank for a new red-eared slider, people tend to get overly excited. They get carried away and start adding in all sorts of items into the tank.

shipwreck ornaments, sea monster cave, or even Buddha statue. You name it, we’ve probably seen it. While it’s fun to add some personal touches to your turtle tank to keep things interesting (for yourselves), overdoing it can be harmful to your turtle.

When you have too many items in your turtle tank, it may hinder the water flow of your filtration. This will result in ineffective water filtration whereby water from the same area are being re-filtered whereas water at certain areas become stagnant.

Having too many stuff in your turtle tank also increases the risk of your turtle being trapped and drown. (Yes! turtle can drown!)

Coloured Gravels

Speaking of decorations, another thing that we strongly advise not to place in your tank would be those coloured gravels. We have several good reasons for this.

Even though these gravels are marketed for aquariums, we personally do not believe that the colourings are not harmful to aquatic life.

Don’t believe us? Try rinsing a bag of coloured gravels in a white pail. No matter how many times you wash them, there will always be coloured particles coming off from the pebbles. How would you like these particles to build upon your turtle’s inside?

Another reason would be the size of these gravels. For this reason, not only do we not recommend coloured gravels, you should avoid putting any items in your turtle tank that is small enough to fit inside your red-eared sliders mouth.

As we always say, whatever that can fit inside your turtle’s mouth, will end up inside your turtle’s mouth.


Infrequent water change

Maintaining clean and clear water in your turtle tank is not just about setting up a filtration system. As mentioned in our previous article on red-eared slider filter, one of the filter’s main function is biological filtration. The biological function breaks down ammonia into nitrites, and subsequently to nitrates. The product nitrates is not without harm to your turtle. It is just the least evil of the 3. Frequent water change is still needed to lower the concentration of nitrates in your water tank. You should perform a 20-25% water change every week or so and a thorough cleaning as and when it is needed.


Lack of proper basking platform

Even thou turtles are excellent swimmers and spend a lot of their time in the water, it is extremely important to have a good and stable platform for your turtle to climb out of the water to rest and bask. Without a proper basking platform, your turtle will not be able to bask effectively. This will affect your turtle’s ability to produce vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is important for your red-eared slider to absorb the much-required calcium to promote strong bone and shell growth.

Without adequate vitamin D3, your turtle will still suffer from calcium deficiency no matter how much calcium it is taking through its diet.

find out what are the different types of basking platform.


2.Poor Diet


Overfeeding your turtle is one of the most common mishandlings of your red-eared slider diet. Red-eared sliders, like most other animals, are not really used to fixed feeding schedules and will eat whatever food they can find as they do not know when will be their next opportunity to feed. This I why they will consistently beg you for more even though they have already even more than enough to sustain themselves.

While we’ve probably never seen a red-eared slider being overfed on vegetables and plants, too much of 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 eating too much and outgrowing its shell is the “pyramid” shape that starts to form.

find out more on symptoms and consequences of overfeeding here


Lacking in variety

It is very important to have a balanced nutritional diet with a wide variety of different options for your red-eared slider. Too often we see pet owners give their turtle a diet that is almost exclusively commercial pallets because of its convenience. While a good quality is nutritious and some may contain multiple vitamins and minerals, it is simply not enough to meet all aspects of a turtle’s nutritional requirements. A good diet should also consist of a wide variety of leafy plants and vegetables, nutritional supplements, as well as live feeds from time to time.


Lack Of Calcium / Poor Calcium: Phosphorus Ratio

Calcium deficiency is perhaps one of the most common examples of a poor turtle diet.

Red-eared sliders that are kept in captivity are more subjected to nutritional shortfalls as compared to wild turtles. This is because the dietary range for wild turtles are very vast. Owners must always ensure that their turtle’s diet maintains a healthy Calcium: Phosphorus ratio (Ca:P).

The proper diet for your red-eared slider should contain somewhere between 1:1 to 2:1 ratio. (2 parts calcium: 1 parts phosphorus).

Lack of calcium intake usually results in metabolic bone diseases, a.k.a Softshell syndrome. MDB is the bone abnormalities of your red-eared slider turtle.

Find out more about the impact of metabolic bone diseases and how to prevent them.

Too many treats

Food for your red-eared sliders is generally classified into 2 kinds. Staples and treats.

Staples are food that is eaten routinely by your turtle. It makes up a signification portion of your turtle’s standard diet. Leafy greens and vegetables are the staple food your turtles. And for captive turtles, this would usually include commercial pellets as well.

Treats, on the other hand, are food that is only offered to your turtles very occasionally. It can be due to several reasons. Perhaps the cost is much higher than the usual staple food and it is not economically feasible to be offering such luxury to the turtle highness.

Another reason why such treats are not meant to be fed too often is that as much as your turtle loves them, it might not be as beneficial to their health. For this article, we will be focusing on the latter.

One of the most common forms of treats would be live feeds. Protein is an important part of a turtle’s diet, especially in younger turtles. Live animals such as small fishes however, generally contain very high level of protein. Too much protein is bad your turtle’s health, like liver or kidney problems as mentioned in the previous section of the article.

What about dried shrimps?

Another common treat for red-eared sliders would be commercially dried shrimps like the Zoo Med Sun-dried red shrimps. Dried shrimps offer essentially no nutritional benefits to your turtle. However, they love it like how I love a fine piece of medium rare steak. If your turtle starts getting used to dried shrimps, they may start to reject other forms of food.

Dried shrimps can nonetheless be used occasionally as a reward for them doing nothing much. Welcome to the era of millennial turtles. Otherwise, it can be given to recovering turtles to improve their appetite.


Unsuitable Food

Red-eared sliders originally live in the wild and the food they can eat is very extensive. Wild turtles sometimes even feed on the animal carcass. Wild turtles have over time built up some immunities towards the bacteria and parasites in these foods. However, wild turtles at the same time are much more prone to carrying diseases such as salmonella. As such, they generally have a shorter lifespan compared to captive turtles that are properly cared for.

You should always avoid feeding any unconventional food because there’s really no reason for you to do so. We always advocate that variety is important to a balanced and healthy red-eared slider diet. But by that, we do not mean chicken nuggets and French fries.

Yes, Ninja Turtles loves pizzas. But your turtle is by no means mutant and it’s not a ninja!