The red eared slider is one of, if not THE most popular pet turtle in the world. And although they are relatively easy to care for when young, there are certainly a few hard and fast rules you should abide by.
What To Look For When Buying A Red Eared Slider Baby
Red-eared sliders are relatively hardy animals that are able to live, and even thrive, in dirty, unclean environments in the wild. However, before you commit to purchasing or taking a baby slider, you would be wise to ensure it is healthy, and thus won't be problematic in the future.
First, look at the turtle's shell. It doesn't necessarily have to bright, as some sliders' shell color can be dull or darker. However, it should have a "glossy" look to it.
If the shell has white markings or a "dust-like" white substance encased all around its shell, it could be a sign that the turtle has been sitting in hard-water for too long.
Secondly, the shell should look healthy. There shouldn't be exposed or broken parts. If there, this could be a sign of impending infection, or a more serious health problem.
Next, watch how it moves. Does the turtle make slow or exaggerated movements? If so, this could be a sign of an infection or illness of some kind. Check its eyes. Eyes that have an overall tinge of yellow or red could also be a sign of serious illness.
Lastly, if at all possible, make sure that it is able to swim properly. If the turtle has a respiratory infection, it won't be able to dive down into the water, and instead will only be able to float.
Unfortunately, even healthy, vibrant red-eared slider turtles are subject to sudden health problems and even death. Even if you do everything right, there will always be a certain percentage that simply won't be able to fully live out their lives.
This has nothing to do with whether or not you are a good caretaker, and is simply a reflection of nature. Thus, it is crucial that you try to stack the deck in your odds as much as possible, by making sure that your red eared slider baby is already healthy to begin with.
What To Feed A Red Eared Slider Baby
A baby red eared slider's appetite is voracious.
A baby red eared slider should primarily eat protein-rich foods. You may be tempted to use turtle pellets to make up the bulk of your turtle's diet. Don't do this. Turtle pellets are jam-packed with protein, and you can easily over-feed your baby (check the article here for pellet recommendations).
Instead, use other meat and insect sources, such as:
- Gut-loaded crickets (crickets that have eaten carrot or other vegetable)
- Small fish
- Dried shrimp
- Other insects
For the first few months, use these food sources to make up the bulk of your baby turtle's diet.
Sprinkling in a few turtle pellets here and there, instead of feeding them pellets every day, is a better strategy.
And what about meal frequency? Older RES's (red eared sliders) should be fed every 2-3 days to 2-3 times per week. Baby red eared sliders on the other hand can, and should be fed, every day.
A good judge of how much to feed them is to give them enough food that would be roughly the size of their head. So, if you are giving them mealworms, or small fish, use however much would be about the size of their head. It shouldn't be too much, but it shouldn't also be a paltry 1 or 2 either.
Red Eared Slider Baby Tank Guidelines
If you want your baby red eared slider to grow up healthy, it is crucial that the environment that he or she is placed in is proper.
There are a few things you will absolutely need:
- a large enough tank or tub
- a UV-light source
- a heat source for the basking area
- a water heater
- a thermometer
- a water filter to process and purify the water
- a basking dock
A lot of people simply assume that, since their turtle is a baby, they can simply forego some of these things and deal with them later. Don't do this! In fact, it should be the opposite, the sooner you take care of your turtle's needs, the less concern and worry you should have!
For tanks or tubs, there is a very simple rule:
For every inch of shell, you will need 10 gallons of water.
Note; you don't need to follow this guideline precisely. If you are off by a little, it's not going to make a huge difference. From personal experience I can tell you that a 55-gallon tank is more than likely going to be sufficient for a fully-grown RES. Ideally, your 8-inch RES should have at least 80 gallons but if your 55-gallon tank is filled with water, that will leave a good amount of space to swim.
Next, your light and heat source.
I have written a general guide on UVB lights for turtles where you can find more information, but there are a few quick guidelines here, too:
- your UV light should have both UVA and UVB light
- steer clear of any UV lights with less than 5-10% UVB output, it won't be strong enough
- for your heat source, measure the basking area and put the heating lamp as far away or close as to ensure the basking area is between 85-90 degrees
For water heaters, I wrote up a quick go to guide. Essentially, the gist of it is is that there are several types of water heaters, but the one you want (in all likelihood) will be a submersible water heat. They are inexpensive and work very well.
For the basking area, I am a really big fan of the Turtle Topper. It's a little bit more pricey than simply custom building your own dock (which I have done), but I simply love how it sits on the tank, giving your turtle a ton of extra room.
I would definitely recommend either getting a turtle-topper if you plan on getting a 55-gallon tank, or custom building your own above-the-tank basking area if you want to get multiple RES's or a much larger tank. Your turtle will absolutely love it!
Lastly, there is the filter. Your tank and your filter is probably going to be the two most expensive items you will ever have to buy for your turtle, so make sure you get it right the first time. For filters, Sun Sun and Fluval are my go to brands. I'm a bigger fan of Fluval, however Sun Sun filters are usually a tad cheaper and just as good in my opinion. Check out my guide here.
Some people opt to forego pricier filters like these and just get run of the mill, cheap mechanical filters. Please don't do this. Turtles are messy, and yes they don't use filters out in nature, however they also don't sit in still water for weeks on end, like they would in a tank. Nitrate build-up in a tank can be very harmful to your turtle.
Red Eared Slider Baby Handling Concerns
If you have purchased a healthy, vibrant-looking turtle and have the necessary equipment, food and habitat requirements already, you are 99% done doing the things you need to do!
However, that's not all there is to raising a healthy red eared slider turtle. There are a few more guidelines to bear in mind, and these relate to actually handling the turtle.
For this, let's just make a checklist and get right down to it.
- Always wash your hands after handling your turtle (this should be obvious, turtles are very dirty and full of germs!)
- As much as you want to, don't play with your turtle like you would a pet cat or other mammal. Turtles do not like being touched or held.
- If you do need to pick up your turtle, do it by scooping him up so that he or she is sitting on your hand. This will give him a sense of stability and he/she won't kick his/her feet everywhere.
- As much as you want to, try not to rub his shell. 99% of turtles don't like this. Their shell is an extension of their skeleton. Imagine if somebody was rubbing on your ribs. It would feel like that!
- Be careful when putting your hand in the tank. RES's don't have hurtful bites, but they sometimes do bite their handler, almost always when they mistake your finger for food.
That is really all there is to it!
Essentially, if you adhere to everything posted on this page, your baby red eared slider will live a healthy, prosperous and boisterous life!