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Red Eared Slider Care Sheet

Red-Eared Slider

trachemys scripta elegans

Originating in North America, the red-eared slider is named for the distinctive red streak on each side of its face. The Red-Eared Slider is primarily aquatic and will emerge from the water for basking.

Red-Eared Slider

Red-Eared Slider Facts

Scientific Name: trachemys scripta elegans
Average Adult Size 6 to 12 inches long
Average Life Span 20 to 40 years with proper care
Diet omnivore

Will reach adult size in 12 to 18 months under ideal conditions; upgrade habitat size as your turtle grows.


A well-balanced red-eared slider diet consists of:

  • red-eared sliders need a pelleted commercial diet.
  • Commercial turtle treats and freeze-dried krill may be given as treats.
  • Non-toxic aquatic plants (anachris, water lettuce), dark leafy vegetables and sliced vegetables such as squash and carrots.
  • Comet goldfish, earthworms and insects may be offered as treats.


Things to remember when feeding your red-eared slider:

  • Fresh, clean, chlorinefree water should be available at all times.
  • Feed all turtles daily; need to be fed in water to eat.


  • Size - Appropriately sized habitat, at least a 40 gallon breeder tank with a screened lid so the turtle can’t escape. A good rule of thumb is 10 gallons per inch of turtle; adult turtles will require more room.
  • Be sure the habitat selected is wide enough o give the turtle room to comfortably turn around.
  • Habitat - Aquatic turtles drink the water they swim in, so it needs to be changed frequently.
  • Substrate - Slate, rock or gravel that is too large to eat is optional; water for swimming area; some aquatic turtles require a shallow area they can rest in the water with their head sticking out. Red-eared sliders require a turtle dock area to bask out of the water; create basking areas for easy entry and exit to water.
  • Temperature - Temperature gradient (95°F for the warm end/basking area and 75°F for the cool end/water); use a basking bulb and submersible heater as primary heat source.
  • Lighting - UVB rays with full spectrum lighting for 10 to 12 hours a day is required. Incandescent lighting is needed for basking area.
  • House adult aquatic turtles alone and do not house different turtle species together.

Normal Behavior

  • Turtles do not like frequent handling and may bite when frightened.
  • Aquatic turtles are excellent swimmers.
  • Turtles will bask regularly under a heat lamp in a dry, warm area.

Habitat Maintenance

  • Keep the habitat clean and remove uneaten food and feces right away.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week: place turtle in a secure habitat; scrub the tank and furnishings with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, removing all traces of bleach smell.
  • Add clean, dechlorinated water with a temperature range from 70 to 75°F before returning turtle.

Grooming & Hygiene

  • Aquatic turtles occasionally replace their individual scutes as they grow.


Signs of a Healthy Animal

  • Active and alert
  • Eats regularly
  • Healthy, hard shell with no lesions
  • Clear, bright eyes with no swelling
  • Healthy skin with no sores
  • Clear nose and vent

Red Flags

  • Eye, nose or mouth discharge
  • Discoloration, bumps or spots on shell or skin
  • Lethargic
  • Frantic swimming
  • Abnormal feces
  • Sneezing, runny nose
  • Overgrown beak
  • Swelling behind the tympanum

If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.

Common Health Issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue GI tract parasites Symptoms or Causes Poor appetite, listlessness, possibly diarrhea and anal prolapse. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Health Issue Respiratory infection Symptoms or Causes Open mouth breathing, eye, nose and/or mouth discharge, sneezing; can be caused by a cold habitat. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and ensure habitat is the proper temperature.
Health Issue Shell rot/ulcers Symptoms or Causes Discolored or foul-smelling patches or pits on the shell that can become infected; may be caused by an unclean habitat or improper diet. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and ensure daily cleanings and/or diet changes.
Health Issue Eye or respiratory infection Symptoms or Causes Swollen eyes and sides of head; may be caused by a vitamin A deficiency. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian and use a vitamin supplement.


Ask a store partner about Petco’s selection of books on red-eared sliders and the variety of private brand products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All private brand products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider not having a reptile as a pet.

Go to for more information about reptiles and disease.

This Care Sheet can cover the care needs of other species.

Note:The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, contact your veterinarian as appropriate.

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.