Trachemys scripta elegans

Photo by Electronish (Jason)
Click on thumbnail to view larger picture


General Description: The Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is a medium-to-large sized turtle capable of reaching straight carapace lengths of 7 to 9" in males & 10 to 12" in females (note: in rare cases  larger red-ears have been found). The RES is only one of the 4 subspecies (the others are the Yellow-bellied, Cumberland & Big Bend sliders) making up the single species we call the Slider. The body form is ‘classic basking turtle’ style, with an oval body form (circular in hatchlings), mildly domed on top & flat-bottomed, blunt head with peripherally-placed eyes & a blunt snout, feet with webbed (& clawed) toes & a small tail. The shell has an internal bony foundation on which are overlaid keratin (like your fingernails are made of) plates called scutes. The shell includes a mildly to moderately domed carapace (upper shell) & a hingeless plastron (lower shell); the turtle can withdraw into the shell but the shell cannot close at all (RES rely on deep water for protection; on land they're vulnerable to predators like raccoons). The carapace is smooth (note: captives reared too fast with excess dietary protein may have raised scutes (a 'bumpy' carapace) with concentric rings. This is termed pyramiding). In hatchlings the carapace & skin start out a bright green; the lateral carapace scute pattern is similar to a green fingerprint with lined whorls, & the skin is striped. Behind the eyes are the classic jelly bean-shaped patches from which this subspecies takes its name (but they aren't the ears). The plastron is a bland yellow with black spots or smudges. As RES mature & age they typically develop darker, duller carapace & skin coloration with more subdued/obscured patterns. A minority progress to a condition called melanism where excess dark pigment turns the turtle abnormally dark (some are solid black!). Some adults retain juvenile coloration but most are duller colored.

Carapace: smooth, mildly domed, hard (as opposed to softshell turtles), green in hatchlings but variably darkened into adulthood (sometimes black), with a finger print-like 'whorled' pattern on the lateral scutes with a central streak (pattern often obliterated in adults). Lack the dorsal keeling/knobs of map turtles. Carapace rear mildly serrated.

Plastron: Moderately sized (more developed than in snappers & musk turtles, less so than box turtles), hingeless (can't close like a box turtle's), yellow base color with variable dark spots or smudges (roughly one per plastral scute). Note: The plastron in some may be a darker color due to staining from substances in the environment (iron is suspected).

Head: Blunt face, peripherally placed light green eyes with a horizontal or diagonal bar through the pupil & a short snout (vaguely 'frog-faced'). They typically have a jelly bean-like long, horizontally-placed red patch directly behind the eye (hence the name). The head & neck have plenty of variably green & yellowish striping. Often a horizontal stripe runs up the lower part of the head & forks into a 'Y,' with the lower branch going to the lower jaw & the upper branch to the rear of the eye (this isn't unique to RES; Western painted turtles often have it, too). The lower jaw is rounded moreso than in cooters, painteds & maps3 (Peterson's pages 174-175).

Size & Distinguishing Sex Characteristics: Male RES are smaller (and sometimes less domed) than their female counterparts, reaching ~ 7 - 9" adult SCL. Males have elongated front claws to aid in courtship and mating rituals (moreso than map turtles, less so than cooters) & their tails are much longer than females (but less so than in map turtles); with the tail fully extended the cloaca will be well-past the edge of the carapace. Large females often develop bulky, muscular-looking heads.

Many variations (& intergrades with other slider sub-species) are found in areas where subspecies ranges overlap one another...leading to a blending of characteristics and frustration trying to figure out what sub-species you have. For example, in southwestern KY & northwestern TN many RES have narrower & yellower 'red patches,' suggesting a Cumberland Slider influence. Although rare, hybrids of RES & map turtles have been produced.

There are more 'color morphs' of the RES available than any other turtle species. Albino RES are common in the hobby (hatchlings run ~ $135 - 150 & up), hatchlings start out yellow & progress to creamy white (sometimes with a mildly pinkish, 'plucked chicken' look) & retain the red 'ears' of normal RES. Hatching albino RES often see poorly & require food be place directly in front of their faces for the first few weeks, & outdoor keeping under natural sunlight without natural protective skin pigments is dubious - we recommend albinos be kept indoors until the risks are better known. Pastel RES are abberations with abnormal coloration & patterning, often with red or orange patterning on the shell. Most are female. The specifics of how pastels are produced aren't well known, but it's rumored some are produced via abnormally high incubation temp.s, often have other abnormalities (i.e.: abnormal scute layout) & are prone to early death. While some are attractive they are expensive  Until more is known for sure we recommend against acquiring pastel sliders. There are other color morphs (i.e.: mutants & selectively bred progeny of same) with unusual coloration/patterning (i.e.: ghost RES, captive-produced melanistic RES, etc...). While these are thought to be mutants or produced through selective breeding, you typically won't know to what extent a narrow gene pool of breeders were used to produce them. They are a legitimate option for those desiring a unique specimen.



The Red-eared slider has a large natural range, but less so than common snappers & stinkpots. They naturally range from from the south-central to south-eastern U.S. Per Peterson's Field Guide range map (Page 177)3 they range from ~ the eastern 2/3'rds of Texas to the west, up through Oklahoma & part of Kansas through most of Illinois & part of Indiana to the North, then swings back down southward, leaving the East Coast states mostly 'RES-free' although the Yellow-bellied slider ranges from northern Florida over half-way up the East Coast & across part of Georgia & Alabama (in Alabama RES & YBS ranges overlap a great deal). RES extend south to the coast.

Red-eared sliders occur in diverse habitat (in size, content & location) from 'mud holes' of a few hundred gallons in grassy drainage ditches in suburban Arkansas to rather barren-looking farm ponds (where several bask on shore) to streams, lakes & large rivers. Sliders prefer quiet waters with soft bottoms, abundant aquatic vegetation & good basking sites6.

Red-eared Sliders are thought to be far & away the highest volume pet turtle produced world-wide & are often sold to people who believe they get little larger than hatchlings. Therefore they're probably the most widely & often dumped into the wild (both inside & outside their native range) of any turtle species on earth. Therefore the RES is an invasive species in parts of the U.S. (such as Florida) & foreign countries such as Spain (where it's theorized they pose a threat to the native European Pond Turtle) & Australia (where they've been outlawed from the pet trade).


  • Air Temperature:  mid 70's - 80's

  • Basking Temperature:  High 80's to low 90's

  • Water Temperature:  ~ 72 to 76 degrees for sub-adults & adults, 78 to 80 degrees for hatchlings & smaller juveniles.

Red-eared Sliders are hardy & encounter a range of temperate climates across their range, making them excellent specimens for a year-round outside enclosure (if it's deep enough) in most of the southern & central United States & other countries with comparable climate. Since local populations over long time periods may be shaped via natural selection to their local environment, in theory RES descended from populations in the southern part of their range (i.e. Louisiana) may not be well-adapted for winters in the northern part of their range (i.e. northern Illinois). Be mindful of this if outdoor hibernation in the northern U.S. is planned. If you need a similar turtle for year round outdoor keeping further north, consider the Western, Eastern & Midland (but not Southern) Painted Turtles.


Red-eared Sliders are decent beginner turtles for people with large aquariums or outdoor garden ponds (if deep enough) to house them year round. They are hardy, tolerate a range of conditions (not picky about water temp., pH or hardness), are comfortable around people & vigorously beg for food (some are at ease to handle, some aren't), & take readily to both commercial & natural foods. Males get fairly large & females quite large and put a strain on housing. They may out-compete other species in the tank, are larger & stronger than painted turtles & are more active & driven than cooters. Males are prone to harass females so incessantly permanent separation is often necessary. As with any turtle species, an individual may be naturally aggressive or a pair incompatible. That said, there are other good species who stay much smaller (i.e.: southern painteds, Texas maps & stinkpots).


Throughout their lives, Red-eared Sliders are omnivores progressing from predominant carnivory as juveniles to predominant herbivory as adults. That said, even adults prefer meaty foods when carnivorous & herbivorous fare are offered simultaneously. Their raw drive to gorge on higher protein foods makes it easy for keepers to feed too much protein (causing very rapid growth & a pyramided shell, & suspected to cause liver & kidney damage & shorten life span). Keep a check on the turtle's diet and ensure it gets a low-volume well-rounded diet. There are many foods they eat: Mazuri and ReptoMin, Reptile/Pond 10, Cichlid Sticks, feeder fish, feeder crickets, earthworms, krill, blood worms, occasional crayfish & ghost shrimp, aquatic plants (such as Water Lilies, Water Hyacinth, Duckweed, Anacharis, Water Lettuce, Water Fern, Pondweed, Water starwort, Hornwort, Water milfoil, and Frogbit), some vegetables (such as Zucchini, Squash, Collard Greens, Beet Leaves, Endive, Romaine, Red Leaf Lettuce, Kale, Escarole, Mustard Greens & Dandelions) and some fruits (i.e. Banana). Many keepers use a good brand name commercial diet (usually Mazuri or ReptoMin Aquatic Turtle Diets) for a substantial portion (say, 25 - 80%) of the carnivorous portion of the diet, & round that out with treats of crickets, earth worms, crayfish, ghost shrimp & krill, & use Romaine lettuce (chosen over iceberg for higher fiber) & Anacharis as mainstays for the herbivorous portion of the diet. Since wild RES likely don't encounter fruits often we don't recommend use of Bananas & other fruits except as rare treats. Some people offer hairless mouse pups to turtles on occasion; never feed hairy animals to animals who don't naturally eat them (like RES) since hair is poorly digestible & can form trichobezoars (hairballs) & cause G.I. obstruction in some animals (so in theory perhaps RES).

One critical point: if you keep your turtle indoors & don't provide UV-B lighting (i.e.: a ReptiSun 5.0 or 10.0 fluorescent bulb), be sure you provide adequate dietary Vitamin D3. This involves either using a commercial pellet food that includes it, or a powdered supplement like Rep-Cal for feeder insects. Beware using large amounts of food containing Retinol, a form of Vitamin A that (unlike β-Carotene) can interfere with Vit. D3 absorption in the body. UV-B doesn't penetrate glass well so sunlight coming through a window won't do.

Another critical point: you must provide adequate dietary calcium. The ratio of calcium to phosphorous (preferably 2 or more to 1) is important. Typical feeder insects have a poor calcium to phosphorous ratio, meal worms have a terrible ratio, & it's thought by some advanced keepers calcium-containing 'gut load' feeds may not add enough calcium to feeder crickets.

Insufficient Vit. D3 or calcium over time can cause soft shell & skeletal disfigurement (Metabolic Bone Disease).

We've a nice research base of wild Slider dietary intake to inform captive care. Sliders are opportunistic omnivores with a wide variety of habitats. Initially predominantly carnivorous but progressively herbivorous as they mature.  Turtles of the United States and Canada1 cites research6,14,15 showing they start out strongly carnivorous which continues into the second year but drops during the first year of growth14; it’s thought the juvenile diet is calcium-rich & may aid shell-hardening14. It's been suggested high-protein = fast growth & increased resistance to predation based on size. The percent animal material in the gut (dry weight) drops to between 0 & 10% at a plastron length around 4 – 6 cm1 (Page 313). Louisiana juveniles start out largely eating insects (mostly hemipterans and dragonfly nymphs) but gradually shift to plants15, paralleling a move from foraging in shallow to deeper water. However, adults still prefer animal material when available14. Note: the Red-eared Slider is currently classified as genus Trachemys, species scripta, subspecies elegans, so Trachemys scripta elegans. In the past sliders were classified as genus Pseudemys, which includes the cooters. Researchers often don't discriminate at the subspecies level, so some slider research was done on Yellow-bellied Sliders (which we assume to be identical to RES excepting cosmetic distinctions).


For the first 6 months of life, feed commercial pellets and/or other 'meaty' foods (such as earthworms, crickets or fish) once daily, enough to diminish appetite but not gorge the turtle. After 6 months, switch to every other day feeding. Romaine lettuce & other leafy greens may be offered daily for graze at will. Over time adjust diet content & schedule accounting for growth, activity level & appetite. Overfeeding high-protein foods causes rapid growth, shell deformities (pyramiding) & is believed harmful to the liver & kidneys. If the carapace scutes develop a prominent concentric ring pattern &/or thicken, making the carapace bumpy, cut back strongly on protein in the diet or your turtle will have a permanently pyramided shell. While growth rate varies amongst different hatchlings, at 1 year of age we want to see an SCL of 2 to 3.5". At all ages recommendations on the amount of meaty food to offer vary; some suggest enough to fill the head back to the rear of the red patches if it were hollow, others let the turtles gorge but only feed twice per week, & some simply feed enough to slake appetite a bit. For a 50 cent piece-sized hatchling, 1 or at most 2 regular ReptoMin pellets per day are sufficient.


Red-eared Sliders are avid baskers, so a basking platform  with a heat lamp to maintain daytime temp.s around 85-90°F is needed (platform should dry completely for plastron health). Note: Small enclosures (i.e.: 10 to 20 gallon tanks) are easily overheated by basking bulbs, so monitor temp.s closely. We recommend also using UV-B lighting since UV-B provides the means to convert a precursor to Vitamin D3 in the skin, used to process calcium (& lets them auto-regulate Vit. D3 levels, which dietary Vit. D3 doesn't enable), & recommend ReptiSun 5.0 or 10.0 tube fluorescents for the beginner. A submersible heater is recommended to keep water temp.s in the proper range (turtles are rough & at risk to get burned; use a Tronic heater guard or a home-made version on glass heaters, or a steel heater to prevent breakage). Note: Always unplug the heater before lowering the water level; they get dangerously hot very fast in air. Red-eared Sliders are excellent swimmers and should have water as deep as possible without permitting escape (at least equal to SCL). Aquatic substrates are optional, ranging from a bare bottom (easiest to clean during water changes) to sand, river rock or any size gravel. There are reports of rare cases of G.I. obstruction or intestinal prolapse due to ingesting gravel, so some keepers use River Rock too large to swallow. We recommend you provide submerged driftwood or other means for the turtle to rest near the surface, especially juveniles. It's hotly debated whether leaving the tank lights on 24/7 is problematic vs. turning them off at night. Some other animals have internal circadian rhythms influenced by 'photo-period' (day length), & in nature they experience day & night, so we recommend using a timer for a consistent day/night cycle with 'lights on' ~ 12 hours/day (the convenience of a timer will surprise you). Aquatic turtles excrete nitrogen-containing wastes including ammonia, & a powerful filter is needed to convert ammonia to nitrite to nitrate (called 'biofiltration,' which isn't in effect until the filter 'cycles' over ~ 4 to 6 weeks. Add some old biomedia from an established filter to your new one to speed the process). The impact of ammonia & nitrite on turtles aren't yet clear but they can kill fish so we recommend a filter rated for at least double the enclosure size (i.e.: a FilStar XP3 rated for a 175 gallon tank does well on a 75 gallon) to ensure rapid breakdown. Nitrates & other dissolved wastes are kept dilute via water changes; you've got a lot of choice here. A 25% water change weekly in a sparsely populated tank may be okay. A large (50 - 90%) water change every 2 to 3 weeks using a Python system to gravel vacuum, remove old water & replace with new is easier - the sudden shift in water temp. & pH shouldn't hurt the turtle but may kill delicate fish. We've had reports of turtles acting like chlorine irritated their eyes, & chlorine could damage your filter's beneficial biomedia bacteria, so we recommend you use a dechlorinator (that also handles chloramines, since they're much more stable over time & some cities are switching to them).


Barring the larger exceptions, single adult male RES could do okay in a 75 gallon aquarium. Single large adult females need a minimum of a 125 gallon tank. This allows them decent room (quality of life) in addition to plenty of water to assist in good health and filtration. Basking areas can be made of dirt, sand, gravel, smooth rocks or flat rocks, driftwood or anything that will support their weight and is non-abrasive. Adult RES can be kept in smaller enclosures, but the setups tend to resemble cells with inmates.

For adding additional RES we recommend you increase the size of the tank accordingly by half  for each (actually 2 can share a habitat suitable for one, but males are apt to sexually harass females & may require separate housing). Large stock tanks are cheap, sturdy alternatives to glass and acrylic aquariums.

Hatchlings can start out in a 20 gallon long glass aquarium if need be, although the total setup cost will likely run ~ $350 (tank, stand, hood, UV-B bulb, basking lamp & bulb, filter, submersible heater, substrate) & a 75 gallon setup ~ $1,000 or a 125 gallon setup ~ $1,600 (see How To Set Up Your First Turtle Enclosure).

You'll need a sizeable enclosure, basking lamp & bulb, UV-B lighting (typically a fluorescent hood & UV-B bulb), basking platform, submersible heater (or 2; you want 3-5 watts/gallon), powerful filters (rated for at least double maximum tank size) & a substate (if you wish). A sample adult setup (prices rough estimates, high to reflect tax &/or shipping, but are consistent with online vendors (except tank combo. & stand). Buying the whole system local retail will cost a lot more):

Example Glass Aquarium Setup for up to 2 Red-eared sliders, sized to accommodate adult females.

1.) 125 Gallon glass aquarium combo. with fluorescent light hood & glass canopy:  ~ $650.
2.) Oak Stand Cabinet:   ~ $450.
3.) Black Clamp Lamp with Ceramic/Porcelin socket for heat bulb:   ~ $20.
4.) 2 200 watt Stainless Steel submersible heaters: ~ $40.
5.) 2 Rena FilStar XP3 Canister Filters with additional purchase of biomedia: ~ $200.
6.) Large Turtle Ramp (for female RES or big males plan to build your own platform): ~ $30.
7.) Digital Thermometer: ~ $10.
8.) 1 Can ReptoMin Aquatic Turtle Food: ~ $10.
9.) Python System for water changes: ~ $30.
10.) 3 Bags of 'River Pebbles' from Lowe's (cheaper than pet store gravel): ~ $25.
11.) 100 watt Ceramic Heat Emitter (more expensive but longer lasting than light bulbs) ~ $25.
12.) 1 ReptiSun 10.0 tube fluorescent bulb for UV-B: ~ $25.
          (Use in place of one of the fluorescent bulbs that came with your tank combo. with this bulb, nearest the basking platform).  
Total:  ~ $1,500.

Budget Options: use a PondMaster 1700 or similar pond filter (noisier but cheaper & good mechanical filtration for water clarity), a single 300 watt stainless steel heater (no fall back if one fails), build your own basking platform, use a regular 100 watt light bulb for basking heat & a large stock tank (warning: stock tanks look 'smaller' for their volume than glass aquariums & you can't see through the walls. A 140 gallon Tuff Stuff stock tank seems smaller than a 125 gallon glass aquarium).

Note: While not as common a safety practice as it should be, we recommend using a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Using electrical equipment around water entails some risk & even a GFCI can't eliminate that completely, but it may help.


Red-eared Sliders are fine swimmers. In the wild, hatchlings tend toward warmer, well-vegetated, invertebrate-rich shallow water habitat, and adults more to deeper water. For hatchlings, I personally recommend relatively shallow water (4 to 6 inches, you can go deeper after they have gained more strength.) with plenty of structure to rest on should they tire of swimming. Older juveniles and adults can be housed in much deeper water as long as a submerged rest area is provided. They require a haul out area/basking platform, which should be large enough to offer both a warmer end nearer the heat lamp & a cooler end for resting without heating up.


RES make decent community inhabitants with other similar-sized species from the same region, provided that adequate space is given. Do not mix with snappers & be careful mixing with softshells (mainly that the softies don't get scratched up or their noses bitten). Males may sexually harass females & thus be incompatible. Sliders are strong, vigorous & may out-compete tank mates so take care to insure everyone eats well & nobody hogs the choice basking areas all the time. Sliders have fairly powerful jaws and can injure smaller turtles (i.e.: biting hunks out of the shells of hatchlings, permanently disfiguring or killing them), so only turtles of comparable size are recommended (exception: adult musk turtles such as stinkpots & razorbacks can be kept with sliders).




Note: Red-eared Sliders are extremely abundant in the turtle market, both domestically & in foreign markets. Due to their large numbers, cheap prices, small cute hatchlings & far larger, duller colored adults, they are also frequently dumped into the wild & at animal shelters. Significant numbers are hard to find good homes for. With the exception of albinos & color morphs for which a good market demand exists to provide good homes, we strongly recommend against breeding Red-eared Sliders.

This is Timdog's technique for breeding Midland Painted Turtles. This technique should also work for Red-eared Sliders, which also use the 'fluttering fore-claws' maneuver to express interest in mating. Per Tim:

Midland Painted Turtles breed readily in captivity; courtship in this species involves the male facing the female and using his elongated claws to tickle or rub her face. This courtship behavior can last for hours or days before the female will finally give into his advances and allow him to mount. (Note: fore-foot flickering is occasionally done for unknown non-reproductive reasons, including by females. It's not a reliable way to sex juveniles). Two or three weeks after copulation the female should be palpitated for eggs (you can do this by gently inserting a finger  into the carapace in front of the rear legs. If she is indeed gravid, you will feel several lumps. At this time provide a laying area.

Provide an area of damp sandy, loamy soil several inches to a foot deep. The female will restlessly search out a suitable area, possibly digging several ‘test nests’ before choosing a spot to lay. The egg chamber is constructed with alternating scoops of the hind feet and once laying starts, the female may take time to rearrange the eggs before covering them back up. If laying is not witnessed, look for recently disturbed ground and carefully look in that area for eggs. If you have doubts that she has laid eggs, just palpitate her again. She should feel considerably lighter.

Clutch size for Red-eared Sliders ranges between 2 and 23 eggs7,8,9,10,11,12, & a single female can produce up to 5 clutches per year13.

This is Timdog's technique for incubating North American turtle eggs shown to work for common snappers, common map turtles, Alabama map turtles, painted turtles, musk turtles, softshells & box turtles; it should work well for Red-eared Sliders. Per Tim:

 The easiest way I have found to incubate the eggs is to place them in a plastic container with a mixture of peat moss and cactus succulent potting soil or vermiculite (punch a few drainage holes in the bottom of the container with the eggs to prevent moisture from pooling). The eggs should be buried in the substrate with only the top of the egg exposed (mark the top with a pencil in case they need to be moved for candling) The container is then placed on a wire rack inside of a cooler with a few inches of water at the bottom. Heat is provided by an aquarium heater set to 78 to 83 degrees F. This will also maintain a humidity level of 75 to 85 %( Midland eggs are leathery and will dent or collapse and die if relative humidity is not maintained at 80% or better.) Incubation at 83 F will produce hatchlings in as little as 50 days. 78 F, 55 to 60 days. It is important to keep the substrate choice slightly moist, not damp and the eggs should be covered by a layer of moss or a slanted lid to prevent condensation from dripping directly on the eggs. In the last 2 weeks of incubation watch moisture levels closely, too much and the egg can rupture prematurely. When the eggs start hatching you can help the turtle hatch if it appears to be having trouble doing so on its own. The neonate will slice the egg with the egg tooth and use its front legs to peel back the rest of the egg. If the front legs are all that emerges you can gently remove the shell in front of the neonates head. This can prevent drowning in the egg. The Neonate will remain in the egg for several hours or up to 2 days before absorbing enough of the yolk sac to emerge. It will then promptly bury itself in the substrate to finish absorbing the yolk (they should be then placed in another container inside the incubator to avoid them disturbing any unhatched eggs. They can be introduced to very shallow water as soon as the yolk sac is almost completely healed. They will accept food within 5 to 6 days of absorbing the yolk.

Review of other sources suggests Tim's estimate of 50 to 60 days is roughly accurate for slider eggs incubated artificially. The cooler the temp.s the longer they take to incubate. Red-eared Sliders exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination, & turtles produced by specifically incubating to produce an all-male or all-female clutch are called 'temp. sexed,' a common practice in incubating albino RES but rarely used for other Sliders.

Males are produced when incubation temps are maintained at temp.s under 81° F (27° C)5(Highfield Page 255).

Females are produced at a maintained temp. of 86° F (30° C)5(Highfield Page 255).

Mixed genders produced between at intermediate temp.s.

Sexual maturity is mainly size-dependent; in Oklahoma wild males matured at plastron lengths of 9-10 cm (~ 3 years old) & wild females at 17 cm (~ 4 years old)16. RES typically grow a good deal faster in captivity (often too fast) & may reach sexual maturity earlier.



Comparison between a roughly 50 cent piece sized hatchling RES & a large adult female at 12.1" SCL.

Photo by H15A5H1.


A hatchling's captive habitat should mimic that of an adult. The requirements are the same pertaining to lighting, heat, basking and water depth. Some keepers worry that their turtle might drown in a deep water aquarium and opt to give the hatchling a shallow habitat. That is completely inaccurate. Hatchlings - even fresh day old hatchlings - can tolerate deep water. However, in the wild they stay in fairly shallow, well-vegetated water, so provide numerous plants (artificial or live) for stability, hiding and climbing. The temperature range for hatchlings and yearlings onward is a bit different due to shallower waters being warmer in nature & to optimize immune system function (conventional wisdom is turtle immune systems work better at warmer temp.s, & hatchlings are more delicate than older turtles). Hatchlings and yearlings should be maintained in the same range as the daytime and basking temperatures listed above, but their water temps should be kept between 78° and 80°F. Wild RES use the UV-B content of natural sunlight shining on their skin to convert a precursor in the blood into Vit. D3. This process is self-regulating to prevent overdosing. Dietary Vit. D3 supplementation is not self-regulating & gross over-supplementation can cause toxic effects. Therefore we recommend providing brand name UV-B lighting (i.e.: ReptiSun 5.0 & 10.0 tube fluorescent bulbs) & a diet containing at least some Vit. D3 (most good brand commercial aquatic turtle diets do).


Covered under 'Recommended Feeding Schedule' in the adult section. RES vary in growth rate. You're looking to see yearling SCL ~ 2 to 3.5", & a smooth carapace without raised, bumpy scutes or concentric rings on the scutes (a few slight 'ripple' waves near the scute bottom are okay). You can feed larger volumes of natural prey items (i.e.: feeder insects) than commercial turtle pellets since the latter are nutritionally 'denser' due to much lower moisture content. However, if you feed a hatchling exclusively on feeder insects (i.e.: crickets & mealworms) without vitamin supplements & keep it indoors without UV-B lighting, it'll be calcium & Vit. D3 deficient, that soft hatchling shell won't firm up, the turtle will develop metabolic bone disease & pyramiding of the shell, & it'll eventually die from bad care. We strongly recommend a good brand name commercial food comprise at least 50% of the carnivorous portion of the diet, & that you provide UV-B lighting.



Activity Cycle: Red-eared Sliders are a diurnal species and their activity varies by climate. In nature during cooler seasons they spend more time basking to warm up than during the heat of summer. In captive enclosures some juveniles seldom bask if the water is quite warm (i.e.: 80-82º). Captives often bask underwater but some captive turtles may sleep on the basking platform.

They wander on land occasionally looking for new habitat, mates, nesting sites or migrating from inhospitable conditions (i.e. drying lakes or marshes). Due to their inability to close the shell like a box turtle they are vulnerable to raccoons & other predators. Dogs can chew through turtle shell fairly quickly.

Hibernation occurs throughout much of their range but RES may be seen basking off & on through the winter.

Personability & Issues Interacting with Humans:

Red-eared Sliders make great pets if you can meet their care needs. The need for a large enclosure is the main hurdle many keepers face. Most juveniles acclimate shortly to a human presence, associate the human with food & vigorously beg for food (which can get annoying). Like most turtles they are prone to bite fingers & hands in their tank due to associating humans with food. Long term captives are often first at the glass of the tank, begging for food. They are behaviorally similar to painted turtles, lack the reputation for skittishness of some map turtles & are less 'laid back' than cooters.

Wild Red-eared Sliders are frightened of humans & dive in from basking sites quickly (the more accustomed they are to seeing humans, the closer you can get). If handled they withdraw into the shell, may hiss &/or void the bladder, & offer to bite. Most won't lash out (as common snappers do) but a finger put closely in front of the face may be bitten hard.

Red-eared Sliders, like other reptiles & a number of non-reptile pets (including dogs & cats), can transmit Salmonella bacteria, which can cause the disease Salmonellosis in humans. Research this condition, become familiar with it & practice hygienic pet care to minimize risk of contracting it. Always wash your hands with a bactericidal hand sanitizer after contacting any reptile, its enclosure, water or items that have contact with same. If a Python water-changing system will only fit your kitchen sink, not your bathroom sink, you must decide whether to use it & what precautions to take (i.e.: disinfecting the sink with bleach after a water change). The same concern is raised if you wash tank accessories (i.e.: clean the filter) in the sink. Austin's Turtle Page, & our ITTN affiliates are not medical sites & do not offer professional medical advice regarding Salmonellosis, risk, diagnosis or treatment although individual community members may express good faith lay opinions & their practices. Ultimately, the responsibility for decisions regarding disease risk management rests with the pet owner. See our Useful Online Resources section below to start learning.


Red-eared Sliders bask extensively in captivity. As long as there are no signs of obvious health problems (swollen eyes, runny nose or gaping) and your turtle is active, eating & willing & able to enter the water, swim & submerge, frequent & extended basking is normal.

    1.) Designing Your First Turtle Enclosure - our ATP article on planning a freshwater aquatic turtle setup, including different size classes, budget options & cost.

    2.) Crash Course in Baby Water Turtle Care - A concise setup guide for people who have a hatchling water turtle (including RES) in hand & need to get a starter setup together right now.

    3.) Rubbermaid Tubs vs. Aquariums as Enclosures - exploring a budget option for people keeping juvenile on up to smaller adult male-sized RES.

    4.) Choosing Your First Turtle - please read thoroughly before you buy. RES are not the best starter turtle for most keepers. There are excellent options such as southern painted turtles & stinkpots who stay much smaller & have similar care requirements.

    5.) Concise Guide to Choosing North American Turtles as Pets - a 'window shoppers' guide' to what's out there, with photo.s & basic facts.

    6.) Where to Get a Turtle - an article introducing you to the market & how to get what you're after.

    7.) Filtration - get up to speed on mechanical, biological & chemical filtration & the popular aquarium filter models keepers are using. Also check out ATP Product Reviews - Filters, and our Comparison of the FilStar XP3, Fluval 404 & Eheim Pro II 2028 large canister filters.

    8.) ATP Guide to UV-B Lighting - if you want to really get into this complex topic.

    9.) What to Keep with Turtles - a review of animals & fish you might try with your turtle.

    10.) The Basking Spot Page - a multi-page article at our ITTN affiliate ATP Habitats, discussing both commercial basking platform products & ways to make your own.

    11.) Pet Warehouse - a reputable major online superstore for pet supplies. You can often get higher priced items like canister filters, ReptiSun 5.0 & 10.0 UV-B tube bulbs & ceramic heat emitters at drastic savings over retail.

    12.) That Pet Place - a reputable major online superstore for pet supplies. You can often get higher priced items like canister filters, ReptiSun 5.0 & 10.0 UV-B tube bulbs & ceramic heat emitters at drastic savings over retail.

    13.) Big Al's Online - a reputable major online superstore for pet supplies. You can often get higher priced items like canister filters at drastic savings over retail.

    14.) Reptile Direct - a smaller yet reputable online pet store widely popular for rock bottom prices.

    15.) Herp Supplies - A smaller yet reputable online pet store I've found useful for surprising odds & ends like a 2 foot pair of tweezers, backgrounds, steel heaters & other things.

    16.) The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Disease Information Page on Salmonellosis. This link opens the General Info. Page, but click on the Technical Info. & Additional Info. tabs for more information.

    17.) The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Salmonella (Salmonellosis) Infection and Animals Fact Page.

    18.) Pet Owners Beware: Reptiles Can Cause Salmonella Infections - WebMD article by Andrea Braslavsky from Nov. 10'th, 1999. Includes specific CDC recommendations.


1.)  Turtles of The United States and Canada –Carl H. Ernst, Jeffrey E. Lovich and Roger W. Barbour. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London. ©1994. (Possibly the preeminent natural history text of North American turtles – not a care guide but very highly recommended).

     2.) Life History and Ecology of the Slider Turtle. Gibbons, J.W., ed. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 384 Pages. 1993.

    3.) A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3'rd Ed., Expanded. Roger Conant & Joseph T. Collins. Houghton Mifflin Company. South New York, New York. (Probably the most prestigious field guide on the topic covering this large area. Not a care guide, but highly recommended).

    4.) Keeping and Breeding Freshwater Turtles. Russ Gurley. Living Art Publishing. P.O. Box 321, Ada, Oklahoma, USA  74821-0321 300 Pages. ©2003.

    5.) Practical Encyclopedia of Keeping and Breeding Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises. A. C. Highfield. Carapace Press. 295 Pages. ©1996.

    6.) Turtles of the United States. Carl H. Ernst and R. W. Barbour. 1972. University of Kentucky Press, Lexington. 347 Pages. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1.

    7.) The Turtles of Illinois. A. R. Cahn. 1937. Illinois Biol. Monogr. (35):1-218. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1.

    8.) The Life History of the Slider Turtle, Pseudemys scripta troostii (Holbrook). F. R. Cagle. 1950. Ecol. Monogr. 20:31-54. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1. (The slider was reassigned to genus Trachemys at a later date).

    9.) Handbook of Turtles. The Turtles of the United States, Canada, and Baja California. A. J. Carr Jr. 1952. Comstock Publ. Assoc., Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 542 Pages. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1.

    10.) Observations on the Life Histories of Turtles (genus Pseudemys and Graptemys) in Lake Texoma, Oklahoma. R. G. Webb. 1961. Amer. Midl. Natur. 65:193-214. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1. (The slider was reassigned to genus Trachemys at a later date).

    11.) Reproduction in Freshwater and Terrestrial Turtles of North Florida. J. B. Iverson. 1977. Herpetologica 33:205-212. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1.

    12.) Reproduction in the Slider and Other Species of Turtles. J. W. Gibbons and J. L. Green. 1990. In Gibbons, J. W., ed. Life History and Ecology of hte Slider Turtle2.

    13.) Reproduction of Sympatric Freshwater Emydid Turtles in Northern Peninsular Florida. D. R. Jackson 1988. Bull. Florida St. Mus. Biol. Sci. 33:113-158. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1.

    14.) Clark and Gibbons, 1969; Parmenter, R.R., and H.W. Avery. 1990. The feeding ecology of the slider turtle. In Gibbons, J.W., ed. Life history and ecology of the slider turtle, 257-266. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1.

    15.) Hart, D.R. 1983. Dietary and habitat shift with size of red-eared turtles (Pseudemys scripta) in a southern Louisiana population. Herpetologica 39:285-290. Cited in Turtles of The United States and Canada1.

    16.) The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. Stanley E. Trauth, Henry W. Robinson and Michael V. Plummer. The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 2004.