Red-Eared Slider

Red-Eared Slider
Scientific NameTrachemys scripta elegans
Common NameRed-Eared Slider
Care LevelIntermediate
Lifespan20-30 years, with some reaching up to 40 years
Adult Size6-12 inches in shell length
OriginSouthern United States and Northern Mexico
TemperamentGenerally docile but can be aggressive during breeding season

About the Red-Eared Slider

The Red-Eared Slider is perhaps one of the most recognized and widely distributed turtles in the world. Its popularity as a pet began in the mid-20th century and has remained consistent ever since. Named for the distinct red stripe behind its eye, the Red-Eared Slider is an adaptable and hardy reptile. However, while many might consider it a beginner’s pet due to its widespread availability, its care requires diligence and understanding, particularly as it grows from a small, palm-sized juvenile to a substantial adult.


Red-Eared Sliders experience a considerable growth trajectory from hatchling to adulthood. Initially measuring a mere inch or so upon hatching, they can rapidly grow under proper care and nutrition. Adult males usually range between 6-8 inches in length, while females, generally more substantial, can measure from 8-12 inches. Their size and potential for growth are crucial factors to consider, especially when planning their habitat.

Unique Features

Apart from the characteristic red patch or “ear” on both sides of their head, Red-Eared Sliders possess a greenish-yellow carapace (upper shell) adorned with unique yellow stripes and patterns. These patterns fade somewhat with age, leading to a darker appearance in older turtles. Their plastron (lower shell) also features a yellowish hue with dark, symmetric patterns, which can sometimes be used to identify individual turtles.

Behavior and Temperament

In the wild, Red-Eared Sliders are commonly seen basking in groups on logs or rocks, often stacking atop each other. They are skilled swimmers and can often be observed gracefully navigating their aquatic environment. While they’re typically calm, they can display aggressive behaviors, especially during the breeding season or when their territory is challenged. However, with regular, gentle interaction, sliders can become more accustomed to human presence, displaying more of their naturally inquisitive nature.


It’s essential to approach handling Red-Eared Sliders with care. While they can become accustomed to human interaction, sudden movements can startle them, prompting them to retreat quickly into their shell or even bite in defense. When picking up a slider, it’s crucial to hold both the front and back parts of the shell gently but securely. Avoiding frequent handling and ensuring that they’re supported when out of the water minimizes stress and potential injury.

Diet & Nutrition

Young Red-Eared Sliders are primarily carnivorous, feeding on small aquatic invertebrates, insects, and fish. As they mature, their dietary habits shift towards herbivory, relishing aquatic plants and vegetation. In captivity, a balanced diet is key. Commercial turtle pellets serve as a robust nutritional base, but it’s advisable to supplement these with fresh leafy greens, occasional fruits, and protein sources like crickets, mealworms, and small fish.


Proper temperature regulation is vital for the health and wellbeing of Red-Eared Sliders. Water temperatures should hover between 75-80°F (24-27°C) for adults and 80-85°F (27-29°C) for hatchlings. A basking area, which they’ll frequently utilize, should be kept at 85-90°F (29-32°C). UVB lighting is also crucial, as it helps them metabolize calcium and prevent health issues related to vitamin D3 deficiency.

Common Health Issues

Red-Eared Sliders, like all reptiles, can suffer from a range of health issues, especially if their care requirements aren’t met. These can include metabolic bone disease due to inadequate UVB exposure or nutrition, respiratory infections from poor water quality or incorrect temperatures, and shell issues like rot or pyramiding. Regular check-ups with a qualified reptile veterinarian and diligent care can help prevent many of these concerns.


Red-Eared Sliders can be bred in captivity, although it demands an environment that simulates their natural habitat to induce breeding behaviors. This involves providing them with a nesting area filled with soft, sandy substrate. Before the breeding season, some keepers opt to brumate (a reptilian form of hibernation) their turtles, although this isn’t strictly necessary.

Mating Habits

Male sliders court females with an intricate display where they flutter their long claws in front of the female’s face. If receptive, the female will allow the male to mount her for copulation. After mating, the female will seek a suitable spot to lay her eggs, often returning to the same location year after year in the wild. In captivity, monitoring nesting behaviors and ensuring the female has access to a suitable egg-laying substrate can result in successful breeding outcomes.

Red-Eared Slider FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)