The best red-eared slider tank needs to be fairly large and deep as these turtles spend most of their lives in the water. These are what I would recommend.
Do Red-Eared Sliders Need To Be In Water All The Time?
If you have or desire to raise a red-eared slider, you need to be aware of the fact that these animals thrive in water.
In fact, the typical red-eared slider will live around two-thirds of his or her life swimming, floating, eating and sleeping in water. The remainder of his or her time is usually spent basking in a warm spot somewhere.
Thus, it is crucial that the habitat you build for him or her mimic this split. Time and time again I have seen photos of friends and family members’ sliders, and the poor thing is trapped in an aquarium that is too small, or doesn’t contain enough water, or worse yet, isn’t given any water in which to freely swim.
This begs the questions, what is the minimum size tank that you need?
Red-Eared Slider Tank Size
Let’s get to it. Tank and water size.
The rule is simple.
Your tank or aquarium size should be at least 10 gallons per carapace (shell) length. Thus, if your slider is 6 inches, you should aim for a minimum 60-gallon tank.
In my opinion, it’s best to simply get the biggest tank you can afford as soon as possible, even if your turtle is still a hatchling. It doesn’t take long for sliders to grow to their full-size of around 8-10 inches.
That means you should be looking at bigger tanks, around 80-100 gallons. Can you get a smaller tank? Yes, a 55 gallon will do, and it’s certainly better than a 25 gallon. But it’s not optimal.
There’s a second reason that you need to get the biggest sized tank that you can.
Your tank needs to be filled with enough water so that your turtle will not drown.
This means that there needs to be enough water in the tank so that your slider can rotate 360 degrees, all the way around, while still being totally submerged.
Sliders can sometimes drown when they fall or slip onto their backs and are unable to turn themselves back over, while still being under the water. Thus, you’ll want to avoid any tank that is under 55 or so gallons.
Glass Turtle Tanks
Advantages of a glass tank:
- A lot more aesthetic and pleasing to look at, you can more easily see what your turtles are doing.
- A bit easier to set-up equipment, as most equipment is built with glass tanks in mind
- They come in a variety of sizes AND shapes.
Glass tanks are a good option if you are primarily looking for something more pleasing to look at. Form, rather than function, takes priority with these.
These can be a bit pricy, so I have down a bit of searching and tried to find some good, well-reviewed glass tanks that are not going to cost you your entire paycheck. If you’re looking at glass tanks, check out and see if some of these are up your alley:
- Tetra 55 Gallon Turtle Tank (click here for current price on Amazon) – In my opinion, this is the minimum tank size I would recommend for a single red-eared slider. If you’ve got more than one, it might get a little cramped inside, however, if you’ve just got one and you want to go with a bare-bottom (no substrate), this will definitely suffice. It’s super affordable, reliable and best of all, has really good dimensions for a red-eared slider environment (a bit wider and shallow than tall).
- 90 Gallon Seapora Turtle Tank (click here for the current price on Amazon) – To be honest, I don’t have any personal experience with these products. However, if you are looking for something a little bit bigger than the smaller 50 and 55-gallon tanks, but not as large as the 100 gallons, this could fit the bill. It’s pretty inexpensive for an 80-gallon tank and has really good dimensions for a turtle environment (48 inches long by 24 inches wide by 16 inches tall).
With traditional glass tanks, your options are more plentiful. Besides coming in a lot more sizes, literally from a single gallon all the way up to 400+, you’ve got more options with regard to shape, as well.
Besides a good looking tank set-up is absolutely amazing to look at, there is an added benefit; usually, it is a bit easier to hook-up equipment in these types of tanks.
Most aquarium equipment: filters, water heaters and more, are built with these types of tanks in mind. A good example of this is the Turtle Topper, which is a snap to install on a traditional rectangular tank, but on anything else, you would have to do a bit of amending.
Disadvantages of Glass Tanks
With every advantage comes a disadvantage, however, and with these kinds of tanks, there is a big one; price.
The bigger your tank, the more you are going to shell out in the way of big bucks. These tanks easily cost hundreds of dollars, with some going well over $1,000. If you are dead-set on getting a tank but a little cash-strapped I would suggest checking out second-hand goods websites such as Craigslist to see if anyone is selling one for a decent price. You can usually get them quite a bit cheaper that way.
Otherwise, you’re probably going to end up shelling out at least $400 to $500 just on a tank.
The other big disadvantage with these tanks is their propensity to break somewhat easily.
Now, when they are all set-up, in a stable, good location they are quite reliable and safe. It’s when you are moving it that they can be easily liable to break. I’ve had two different tanks break on me when I moved. It’s not a fun experience!
Rubbermaid Turtle Tanks
I would not recommend these to most people, except for people who don’t really care about the aesthetics of your turtle habitat. They aren’t necessarily pretty, but stock tanks are durable, super-easy to clean and deep enough for your turtles to swim in.
Advantages of these Rubbermaid tanks:
- Good quality, durable and will not smash easily like a glass tank.
- Easy to drain water.
- It comes in a variety of sizes, from 50 gallons all the way up to 300.
- Deep and wide, giving your turtles a lot of space to swim.
Rubbermaid stock tanks (or otherwise like these) are a good option if you are looking more for function over form. If aesthetics aren’t particularly important to you, and you simply want something comfortable for the turtles, and easy for you to keep clean.
They come in a variety of sizes: 50, 70, 100, 150 and 300 gallons (although I would probably not opt for the 50 gallon simply because it is not deep enough, at around 12 inches).
The build quality is very good. These are thick, tough Rubbermaid tubs that are built to last. They are built for human bathing and commercial use, so they will not break easily.
Another pragmatic feature of these tubs is the conveniently placed oversized drain plug, which lets you quickly drain water for changes and cleanings.
Drawbacks of Rubbermaid Stock Tanks
There are a few drawbacks to tubs like these.
- Firstly, they aren’t exactly eye-pleasing! If you are thinking of placing your tank or aquarium in an area of your house which often receives guests, such as your living room, it’s probably going to be a bit of an eye-sore. These tubs are generally better suited for basements or a place away from the general area of your house.
- Secondly, you will need to do a little bit more work in terms of outfitting the tub with all the necessary gear your slider needs; such as a water heater, filter, UV lamp, and basking area.
In particular, the basking area might be problematic for you if you aren’t at all inclined to rig up or build things yourself, as you are generally going to be limited to a floating type of dock that you will need to create yourself.
Comparing Stock Tanks to Glass Tanks
Overall, the choice that you make should depend on what are the most important factors for you.
- Easier to drain and clean
- Much more durable
- Much deeper and wider than most tanks, allowing your sliders to have a bigger swimming area
- Not really aesthetic at all
- They will require a bit of handy work in order to install things like your basking tank, filter, etc.
- Much more pleasing to look at, won’t “trash” up your living area
- Easier to hook up equipment with, and fit things like basking tanks with no modifications
- Comes in a lot more variety in terms of sizes and in particular, shapes
- More expensive
- Much, much easier to break, very fragile
Personally, I have opted to use a larger, glass tanks now, as my turtles are housed in one of my spare bedrooms, however if I had the option and had a dedicated room in the basement or elsewhere, I probably would’ve purchased one of the larger tubs, as they simply provide a better environment for your sliders to swim in, and it would just be really fun to customize.