Red-Eared Sliders Are red-eared sliders/aquatic turtles great pets?

If you are looking for a long-life pet that is cheap to acquire, then a red-eared slider is your ultimate choice. These excellent swimmers love basking in the sun on rocks, logs, and so on. However, these aquatic turtles require more care than a vessel of water and rock despite them being wonderful pets.

There are some things you need to know before committing. The turtle hatchlings for example are so adorable but they will not remain young forever. As they grow, their demands and maintenance needs change. They will become big, live long, and be conceivably messy. Therefore, it’s advisable to be fully aware of what you are signing up for from the beginning.

Temperament and Behavior

Red-eared sliders enjoy diving, and they're excellent swimmers. Caged red-eared sliders are quite outgoing and friendlier compared to wild turtles. The aquatic turtles born in the wild tend to disappear underwater or into their shells when they see or hear anything approaching.

However, the captive-born slider turtles are likely to swim towards you as they expect a treat from you. Learn the behaviors of your newly-acquired pet and learn what makes it comfortable.

red eared slider terrapin pond

Keeping the Water Clean

Aquatic animals spend a lot of time in the water, and the red-eared turtle is no exception. Therefore, clean water is imperative. More so, turtles can be messy, so their water should always be clean. Smelly and cloudy water in a red-eared slider vessel is a norm. However, that water might harbor nitrites and ammonia, which is hazardous to your pet's health.

Quality Water Should Be Maintained – turtles are generally insensitive to water quality challenges, but it can be prudent if your turtle tank is well-maintained just like a fish tank. Once the waste products break down, ammonia gets automatically formed. It can irritate the turtle. To some extent, ammonia can get broken down into harmful nitrites.

Chlorine is of Great Concern – Chlorine might not be as much of an irritant to turtles as it is in fish, but it can still cause irritation to the eyes. Furthermore, it might also destroy beneficial bacteria which will lead to a breakdown of waste products.

Tank Size Matters – The hatchlings will grow into bigger pets. So, you will need to move the red-eared slider into a bigger tank for easy and better maintenance. With small turtle tanks, waste products will have a high concentration while in a larger container, the by-products will get diluted to make the habitat more bearable.

Invest in Testing Kits – If you visit pet stores, you will get water testing kits for nitrites, ammonia, and nitrates. Testing for these components will help you know the condition of the water in the tank, which might cause irritation or harm your turtle. The kits come with an instructional manual to give you guidance on how to use them. The manual will also guide on dangerous and safe levels of the chemicals in the turtle tank.


Changing Water – Often replace water with fresh water. It helps in removing and diluting waste products. Partial water changing will also depend on several factors like the filter, the size of the turtle, the level of chemicals, and the size of the tank. It's advisable to change the water every week.

How to Choose a Healthy Red-Eared Slider

Choosing a healthy reptile can be confusing and taxing. This is because they tend to be ill and quite stressed. You should then be cautious when it comes to picking your red-eared turtle pet. We have outlined the following tips to guide you and enable you to access the health potential of the pet and the level of its stress.

Check the Overall Body Condition – If you want to choose a healthy red-eared slider, then ensure the pet is full-bodied. More so, when you pick it up, it shouldn’t feel underweight or like an empty shell. Furthermore, it should not have rolls of fat and skin around the legs, and the shell should be smooth and intact.

Check the Eyes – The eyes of a healthy red-eared slider should be open, clear, free of crusted material or discharge, and should be clean. A swollen eye(s) is an indication of illness.

red eared slider pet

Assess the Demeanor – Red-eared sliders are known to be active and pretty aggressive. If you’re aiming at getting a healthy pet, ensure it appears responsive, bright, and alert. Once you pick the slider, it will likely pull back its legs. If it seems unresponsive and lethargic, it's likely to be weak and ill.


Pay Attention to the Shell and Skin – Getting a healthy pet turtle means a supple skin with a shell that's free of bits. However, you may find loose handling due to shedding, but it should appear normal. Turtles should have smooth, hard shells with no scratches or any other defect. Abrasions, cuts or sores might get infected; while on the other hand, soft shells may be an indication of metabolic bone disease. Furthermore, do not choose a red-eared slider that has a broken or cracked shell as it can lead to serious health hazards.

Check the Moves – Watch keenly on the moves of your potential pet - in water or on land. The movements are supposed to be smooth and healthy. Shaking and weakness may indicate twitches or tremors and illness.

Apart from considering these tips, you should also understand that if you keep your pet red-eared slider in poor conditions like improper lighting, temperatures, or in a dirty tank, it’s survival chances will be minimal.

Ensure you have everything you require before you cage that cute pet. If you don’t have an idea on how to care for turtles, you may seek help from pet professionals or from friends and relatives who have turtles as pets.

Keeping Your Turtle Happy is Essential

Now that you have already bought or are planning to buy a red-eared turtle, you need to learn how to keep it happy. Although turtles need lots of care, exercises and a proper diet are rewarding.

red eared sliders as pets

Design a Happy Home

Turtles enjoy basking in the sun, being active and swimming. Their swimming prowess is thrilling. As they grow, they need lots of space to enjoy these activities. Happy home means a turtle tank that is big enough to accommodate your pet. Do not cram it in a squeezed space. The bigger the aquarium, the happier the turtle. The sliders are reptiles with a massive territory in the wild. When you’re designing the tank, keep that in mind.

Red-eared sliders take pleasure from basking on the rocks or taking time in the water. You should, therefore, create an environment that makes them feel comfortable. Although turtle tanks do not involve much landscaping, you can create an appropriate habitat. Try keeping the water portion deeper to allow the turtle to swim freely. You can also create a basking platform for your pet to enjoy the UVB and UVA heat lamps.

Turtles are known to be messy - defecating, eating, and leaving behind food scraps in water. This requires you to clean the aquarium often, or you may design a separate area where to can feed the slider. Just like the rest of reptiles, red-eared slider shed. Once the scutes on the shell start itching, the shell will clean itself.

Feed the Red-Eared Slider with Healthy Food

What to feed a red-eared slider: Just like humans, turtles need to eat healthily, and the red-eared slider is no exception. Turtles are classified as omnivores with an insatiable appetite. A balanced diet of minerals and vitamins is vital. Get a balanced diet containing live insects, leafy green vegetables, and well-balanced turtle food to keep your pet growing and satisfied.

What you should never feed a red-eared slider: You should not feed a red-eared slider with dairy products since its stomach cannot digest lactose properly. Dairy-free and whole foods are the best.

Turtles take pleasure in chasing their food. This gives them time for entertainment and exercise. Give your pet live mealworms, delicious insects, crickets, and wax worms. Consider adding shrimp and fish.

How to feed your red-eared slider: You love your red-eared slider, and it loves you back. But that does not mean you have to feed it whenever you witness it begging. They have a voracious appetite and are opportunistic feeders. Usually, when sliders see you, they'll hysterically approach you with open mouth since they intimately associate you with feeding.

But do not fall for this. Create a regular feeding routine. Be careful on overfeeding your turtle to prevent it from becoming obese. You should also know that the slider feed under the water. Therefore, water accessibility is vital. To avoid overfeeding your pet, ensure you clear away partially eaten or uneaten food.

red eared sliders terranium

Physical Exercises for Red-Eared Sliders

Although you have invested in a glamorous aquarium that offers freedom and solace to your pet, an added room for working out is essential. Red-eared sliders are incredibly active, and giving them a place to have a wild-like feeling will keep them happy. Walk the pet around the house and keep off any heights to avoid fatal accidents.

You can also place live fish in the aquarium and let the turtle hunt them. Provide toys as well to keep the pet playing.

Red-Eared Slider as a Pet

These turtles are mostly introduced to several areas across the Pacific Islands, South Africa, Europe, Asia, and South America where the turtle has become invasive. Of all the aquatic turtles across the globe, red-eared sliders are the most preferred as pets since they are readily adaptable to new environments. Their life span is around 30 years, which means you'll get a long-life companion, but you must know how to care for a red-eared slider specifically to ensure that you both have a smooth journey.

References and further readings.

  1. Jordan Patterson, 1994, The Guide to Owning a Red-Eared Slider (buy book)
  2. Katrina Smith, 2011, Red-Eared Sliders (buy book)
  3. ScienceDirect, Red-Eared Slider
  4. NSW, Red-eared slider turtle


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