Red Ear Slider turtles (RES turtles) have the scientific name Trachemys Scripta Elegans.
They are an aquatic, basking turtle. They are usually a colorful, green and yellow colored turtle – although there are melanistic, albino, and pastel RES variations available. Red ear sliders have a distinctive red/orange colored bean-shaped marking on the sides of their heads, which gives them their name, Red Ear Slider. Click here to see the internal organs of a Red Eared slider.
Male red ear slider turtles will grow to a max of 8″ SCL and females to a max of 12″ SCL.
Males have longer claws on their front feet and a much longer, thicker tail than female RES turtles. These differences will manifest themselves only after they have reached at least 4″ SCL. RES Hatchlings are very difficult to sex. Especially after they’ve had too much to drink.
Red Ear Slider Turtle Care Sheet
Red ear slider turtles originate from North America. Because Red Ear Sliders breed easily and are very attractive as hatchlings, the pet trade has introduced this turtle all over the world. Pet RES can be found in the wild all over the world, and whenever they have been released into the wild, have become a non-native, invasive species.
Because red eared sliders are a non-native, invasive species, they have been banned from Australia.
Pet red ear slider turtles can be housed in a variety of habitats including but not limited to aquariums, indoor/outdoor ponds, stock tanks, and bathtubs.
Red ear slider turtles are an aquatic turtle and thus they need to have as much water to swim and live in. The rule of thumb for aquatic turtles is to have 10 gallons of water for every SCL inch of shell. This means that a 1″ hatchling will do well with 10 gallons of water and a 2″ hatchling will do well with 20 gallons of water. Since a pet hatchling can grow to be either an 8″ male or a 12″ female, 80 – 120 gallons would be needed for one RES turtle. Each additional pet turtle will require 5 gallons of water for every inch of turtle shell. Two 6″ turtles will then need at least 90 gallons of water (60 gallons for the first turtle plus 30 gallons for the second red ear slider turtle.
Red ear sliders prefer an optimal water temp of 70-75F degrees. The basking area should be at 85-90 degrees
Pet red ear slider turtles need UVB lighting. This can be provided by direct sunlight (not filtered through glass windows, UVB florescent tubes and compact florescent bulbs, Mercury vapor bulbs with UVB, and other reptile UVB bulbs. Full spectrum lighting does not have UVB and is not sufficient for RES and other pet reptiles.
Highly debated, it is preferable not to have gravel in a turtle habitat. If a pet turtle (and they will) eats gravel, it can cause impaction in their digestive tracts. What is a clear fact is that gravel collects dirt and waste, which turtles produce a lot of – a tank will be much cleaner without it.
The use of filters is highly recommended for use with pet turtles. The use of mechanical (usually sponge filters) and biological (usually ceramic rings) are all that is needed to properly filter turtle water. Any other filter media can be used as needed.
Strong filters are recommended. One or more filters must be able to completely cycle all the water in the aquarium at least twice an hour. More is better.
Red ear sliders are omnivorous, they will eat both animal and plant matter. As hatchlings RES start out being more carnivorous (meat-eating) and will grow to be more herbivourous (plant-eating) as they mature. Regardless of age, these turtles will pick meat when presented with a choice.
Amount and Frequency
Red ear sliders should be fed an amount of food equivalent to what would fit inside its head from the tip of its nose to the “red ears”. Hatchlings should be fed everyday, bigger pet turtles should be fed every second day, and adults should be fed every third day. There is no established guideline for when to change their feeding schedule. Some sources state that hatchlings up to 2″ should be fed everyday, turtles up to 6″ be fed every other day, and larger turtles be fed every third day. Discipline should be enforced when feeding RES – they are opportunistic eaters in the wild and will eat whatever they can, whenever they because they do not know when they will get the chance to eat again. Care should be taken not to overfeed your pet turtles.
Commercial diet food
Commercially prepared pet turtle food is best, as unlike live food there is no risk of transmitting bacteria to your turtle. Pellet food is readily accepted by all RES. Many commercial diets contain a high amount of protein, which contribute to faster growth and shell pyramiding.
Turtles also readily eat live food.
The best feeder fish for pet turtles are feeder guppies. Unlike feeder goldfish and minnows, guppies do not contain ???, which is not good for a turtles health. Also, feeder goldfish have long, bony fins which could potentially injure a turtles insides.
Anacharis is a pet turtle favorite and is readily devoured. Duckweed is also enjoyed.
Because of the pet trade and mass production of red eared slider turtles, it is not recommended to breed Red Ear Sliders.
RES turtles are very difficult to sex as hatchlings. Identification is easily made when they grow to 4″ SCL, which is when external physical difference start to appear. These external appearances are af unction of time and not of age.
Male red ear sliders are characterized by long claws on their front legs and a thick, long tail.
Female RES turtles will have front claws as short as their rear claws, and they have a smaller, thinner tail. Also, a female’s plastron (bottom of the shell) will generally be flat. The male’s plastron will be concave for breeding purposes and usually have longer tails than the females.
NEVER give a RES iceburg lettuce. It contains no nutritional value for your turtle. Feed romaine and other leafy vegetables.