Although red-eared sliders are popular as pets, there is still a lot about these animals that you probably don’t know. This is the amazing red-eared slider!
About the Red-eared Slider
Red-eared sliders are one of four subspecies of sliders, the others being; yellow-bellied, Cumberland and big-bend sliders.
They are named “sliders” because of their propensity to ‘slide’ into the water at the slightest hint of danger when out basking.
The red-eared slider, or red-eared terrapin, also goes by another name in the United States; the dime-store turtle.
Common Name: Red-eared slider / dime-store turtle
Type of Eater: Omnivore
Size & Weight: 6-8 inches / 8 oz
Distribution: Eastern United States
Unique Feature: Red stripe behind the ears
They were named this because the species was extremely common to find in dime stores. Dime stores were basically the really old version of dollar stores.
In fact, red-eared sliders are now so popular that they are one of the most popular pet turtle species not just in the United States, but the rest of the world as well.
In the wild, they are known to be quite shy and fearful around humans. However, when bred in captivity they can become quite personable and have no qualms walking up to humans to beg for food. When cared for properly, they can easily live for more than 20 years.
Red-eared sliders are considered “classic basking turtles”. When babies they have a circular-domed shell (or carapace) and as they grow older, it becomes more oval-shaped.
The females are a bit larger and heavier than the males, sometimes growing up to 12 inches in length, whereas their male counterparts typically reach sizes of 7-9 inches.
Red-eared sliders invariably get their name from the narrow red stripe that starts behind their ears and runs along either side of their head. And just to quickly point out, nope, those aren’t their ears!
Typically thought to be ‘frog-faced’, red-eared sliders have a small, stout nose with green eyes that have a horizontal or diagonal band that goes through the pupil.
An easy way to tell the difference between a male and a female is by looking at their claws and tails. Males have elongated claws and tails. Females, on the other hand, possess much shorter claws and tails.
In hatchlings and baby red-eared sliders (or RES), their shell (carapace) and skin will be bright green, which will dull and darken as they grow older.
The plastron (underneath their shell) is usually a darker, duller yellow with blotches of black or brown.
RES’s are exceptionally strong swimmers who prefer to spend the majority of their time in the water.
On warm, sunny days they really enjoy coming out into the sunshine to bask on stones, rocks, and ledges. As stated before, when bred in captivity they also don’t seem to show much fear, coming up to humans to beg for food!
Distribution and Habitat
The native habitat of the RES is roughly the area of large portions of the eastern and central United States. They are widespread elsewhere because they have become an invasive species in other parts of the country (and world). This is mostly due to people buying them and releasing them into the wild, where they can disrupt the native habitat.
They are mostly found in ponds, lakes and slow-moving rivers in forested-areas.
Red-eared sliders are omnivores with a strong preference for meat, bugs, and worms when they are younger.
In the wild, they will eat about anything, from dead mice and other animals to aquatic vegetation, small fish and insects.
In captivity, their diet should be balanced, between leafy-green vegetables and aquatic plants, to commercial turtle pellets which will ensure they get enough protein, minerals, and vitamins, to other sources of food such as krill, shrimp (unsalted), cooked meats like beef or chicken, feeder fish, crickets and worms.
I wrote a really simple to follow guide on just how often and what to feed these amazing turtles, which you can find right here:
If you just got a baby slider, you should check out my article on baby red eared slider care.
Proper Housing And Care
As a general rule for pet turtles, you should always provide at least 10 gallons of water for every 1 inch of carapace (shell).
As female RES’s can grow up to 12 inches, just be aware that you may need a very large tank to properly hold them!
Primary housing necessities also should include things like;
- A water heater to keep the water temperature from 75 to 85 F.
- A water filtration system to keep the overall water clean (turtles are very messy!).
- A docking area or place where they can come out of the water to bask.
- A UV and heat light to ensure they get proper amounts of sunlight.
Temperature and lighting are extremely important in order to prevent red eared slider shell rot.
For a list of specific products, I have compiled a list of my favorite filters, water heaters and more which you can find right here:
Overall, the red-eared slider or terrapin is not one of the most common pet turtles for nothing.
As long as they are properly cared for, they will provide a good source of entertainment for you and yours for a long time!