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What is a Red-Eared Slider?

A Red-Eared Slider is a semi-aquatic turtle, easily recognized by the distinctive red marks near its ears. Adaptable and popular as pets, these reptiles are native to the southern United States but have spread globally. Their care requires commitment, as they can live for decades. Wondering how to create the perfect habitat for a Slider? Let's uncover the essentials together.
Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards

Scientifically named Trachemys scripta elgans, the red-eared slider is one type of the common pond slider. The bright red or orange stripe behind its eyes is where this turtle gets its name. This semi-aquatic turtle found around the world will spend much of its life in the water. During sunny weather, however, these turtles can be found basking in the sun on land. They are considered to be very fast, and they are known to quickly slide off of their perches when frightened.

When it is born, the red-eared slider is roughly 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. The green skin of its head and appendages is usually covered with bright yellow stripes, except for a small area behind its eyes, which is a reddish color. The shells of baby red-eared sliders are typically green with yellow or dark green marks. As these turtles get older, their shells generally change to a yellow or brownish green color, and the markings will often darken and may even disappear altogether.

Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

Depending on the gender of the turtle, an adult red-eared slider can grow to be 10 to 13 inches (25 to 33 cm) long. Females are typically a little larger and bulkier than males. The stripes behind their eyes are also a much brighter red, while the stripes on male sliders are more of an orange color. Females usually have smaller claws and tails too.

Gender of a red-eared slider can generally be recognized roughly seven months after it is born. When it comes time to lay eggs, a female red-eared slider will leave the water to lay her eggs in the sand. Larger females can lay up to 30 eggs at a time.

These turtles are considered to be omnivorous, eating a variety of plants and animals. Younger turtles typically eat more animals as foods, including worms, small fish, and tadpoles. As they mature, more plant material is added to their diets.

The red-eared slider is native to the southern United States, but has become a very common, inexpensive pet and can be found in most parts of the world living domestically and in the wild. Since 1975, the United States Food and Drug Administration has regulated the sale of turtles. To reduce the risk of spreading salmonella, which the turtles can carry, the animals must be at least 4 inches long before they can be sold.

Red-eared sliders can be considered a threat to the environment in places where they are not native species. In Australia they are completely banned. Owning or breeding these types of turtles can result in hefty fines and jail time.

Because they can get quite large and prefer lots of room to roam, these turtles do best in a large aquarium or terrarium. The water should be kept clean and warm, and owners are strongly encouraged to replace at least a quarter of the water once a week. A UVB light should also be provided, along with some sort of platform for the turtle to bask on. Under the right conditions, red-eared sliders, like many other turtles, can live to be almost 100 years old.

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Discussion Comments


@christym: Red-eared sliders are fascinating to watch in a pond. Every time that I feed them, they swim up to the surface. My turtles love fruit. I have fish in my pond as well. Once, I saw a dead fish floating in the pond and it was just minutes before the turtles came and tore the fish apart and ate it!

They will also eat tadpoles.


@christym: I also have turtles in my outdoor pond. We added branches and a bridge to the pond and the turtles love to hang out under the bridge. I give the turtles Mazuri koi pellets every day. I throw several handfuls in the pond every morning.

The turtles need their fruits and veggies too. Every week, I throw in some lettuce, shredded carrots, bananas, strawberries, tomatoes, green beans and some red wriggler worms. You have to cut the food up in small enough pieces for the turtle to be able to eat it. I also occasionally throw crickets in there.


We have a small pond in our back yard. My husband wants to add some red-eared sliders to the pond. I would love to have the turltes in the pond but I am not sure how to care for them. Do they eat the same thing as an indoor pet turtle would eat? Is special care required for them since they would be in a pond?

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    • Veterinarian with a puppy
      Veterinarian with a puppy