Turtles can be fairly easy to take care of, provided you follow a few good rules. This is what you need to know regarding baby red eared slider care.


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 on a baby slider, you would be wise to ensure it is healthy first, before it ends up giving you a ton of problems.

What to Look for When Buying a Red Eared Slider Baby

First, look at the turtle’s shell. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 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. This isn’t necessarily a sign of poor health, as hard-water will not negatively affect your turtle.

Secondly, the shell should look healthy. There shouldn’t be any exposed or broken parts. If there, this could be a sign of an 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 yellow or red tinge 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 few turtles that simply won’t be able to live out their full lives.

This has nothing to do with whether or not you are a good caretaker. It’s 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 Look for Buying Red-Eared Slider

What to Feed a Red Eared Slider Baby

A baby red eared slider’s appetite is voracious.

Your baby red eared slider’s diet should be primarily protein focused.  NOw, you may be tempted to use solely turtle pellets to constitute your turtle’s diet. Don’t do this. Turtle pellets are jam-packed with protein, which is great, but if you feed them too much you can easily over-feed your baby (check the article here for pellet recommendations).

Instead, use other meat and insect sources to supplement the pellets, such as:

  • Mealworms
  • Earthworms
  • Gut-loaded crickets (crickets that have eaten carrot or other vegetable)
  • Small fish
  • Dried shrimp
  • Other small insects

For the first few months, use these food sources to constitute your baby turtle’s food.

Giving them turtle pellets every other day or every few days instead of  every day is a better strategy.

And what about meal frequency?

Older RES’s (red eared sliders) should be fed every 2-3 days, or 2-3 times per week. Baby red eared sliders on the other hand can, and should be fed, every day.

Here’s how much to feed them.

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.

Another common strategy is to feed them as much as they can eat in 5-10 minutes. I would not recommend any longer than this, as this could lead to overfeeding.

What if My Baby Red Eared Slider Won’t Eat?

Let’s just get something out of the way.

Virtually all turtles prefer protein-based foods, as these foods are often few and far between in their natural environment. So, it’s highly unlikely your baby slider is going to be eating any vegetables that you give it, especially if you are also feeding it a protein-source.

This is completely normal.

As your slider gets older, you’ll need to start balancing out its diet in favor of dark, leafy-green vegetables. In fact, eventually you’ll be feeding it a protein source just once a week.

So, expect your slider to refuse or ignore vegetables and go for the protein.

But, what if your baby slider is also ignoring the protein?

This often suggests a problem.

Here’s my advice if your baby red eared slider won’t eat.

  1. Offer your baby slider a variety of different proteins, such as mealworms, worms, crickets, small fish, small shrimp, turtle pellets, etc. It may simply be a very picky eater.
  2. If your baby slider isn’t eating anything, this suggests some type of illness. Check for signs of common illnesses. After you find the most likely culprit, treat accordingly.
  3. If you see no visible signs of sickness, your baby slider may simply be stressed from its new environment. Consider making alternations to your baby red eared slider’s habitat, such as; moving it away from high-traffic areas, checking the temperature, UV light, etc.
  4. Give it time. If you’ve checked for signs of illness and checked it’s tank for anything which may be causing it stress, you may simply need to give your baby slider some more time. It should start eating something within a week.
  5. If after a week or so it is still not eating, try calling your local vet for further instruction.

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 for a suitable red eared slider habitat:

  • 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.

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 UV-A and UV-B light
  • steer clear of any UV lights with less than 5-10% UV-B output, as it won’t be strong enough
  • for your heat source, measure the basking area and put the heating lamp as far away or close to ensure the basking area is between 85 to 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!

Your Water Filter

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, Plenn Plax and Fluval are my go to brands. I’m a bigger fan of Fluval, however Plenn Plax 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.

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:

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, full of germs and carry salmonella)
  • As much as you want to, don’t play with your turtle like you would a pet cat or other animal. Turtles generally do not like touched or held, it causes them lots of stress and anxiety.
  • If you do need to pick up your baby red eared slider, do it by scooping him so that he or she is sitting on your hand. This will give him a sense of stability and he or she won’t kick his or her feet everywhere.
  • As much as you want to, try not to rub his shell. 99% of turtles do not like this. Their shell is an extension of their skeleton. Imagine if somebody was rubbing on  your rubs. It would feel like that!
  • Be careful when putting your hand in the tank. RES’s don’t have hurtful bites, but they do sometimes bite their handler, almost always when they mistake your finger for food!

That is really all there is to red eared slider baby care!

Essentially, if you adhere to everything posted on this page, your baby red eared slider will live a healthy, prosperous and boisterous life!

About the Author

Hi, I'm J and I'm the chelonian-obsessed creator of this website. Feel free to leave a comment below, as unlike a snapping turtle, I promise I won't bite!

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