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Red Ear Slider Turtle Facts

The red ear slider turtle, a small, vibrant freshwater creature, is a fascinating specimen from the animal kingdom. Native to the Mississippi Valley in the southern United States, it’s an intriguing species with a remarkable lifestyle, intriguing behavioral patterns, and a unique dietary regimen. This comprehensive guide delves into intriguing Red Ear Slider Turtle Facts, enhancing your understanding of this charming reptile.

Description of Red Ear Slider Turtle

The red ear slider turtle is a small freshwater turtle native to the Mississippi Valley in the southern United States.

Red eared sliders are a medium-sized freshwater turtle, generally 125–200 mm long, but can grow up to 350 mm long. Females are usually larger than males (plastron length 150–195 mm, compared to 90–100 mm for males).

The carapace and skin is olive to brown with yellow stripes or spots. While specimens in captivity tend to have neat shells, usually the shells of wild species are covered by a layer of algae, hide their distinctive patterns and colors.

Red-Eared Slider Size

The red-eared sliders are a medium-sized turtle, generally measuring between 125-200 mm in length. However, some individuals can grow up to 350 mm long. Typically, females are larger than males, with a plastron length between 150–195 mm, compared to 90–100 mm for males.

Where are Red-Eared Sliders From?

The red-eared slider is a native species from the Mississippi Valley, covering states including Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia in the southern United States.

However, due to their popularity in the pet trade, they have been introduced globally and can now be found in every continent except Antarctica. They adapt well to different environments, thriving in man-made canals, brackish marshes, and city park ponds.

Red Ear Slider Turtle Habitat

red eared slider

Preferred habitats include a range of slow-moving or still freshwater lakes and ponds (rarely in flowing water).

Red ear slider turtle readily tolerate artificial ponds and lakes, and often thrive in dams that have been polluted by excessive organic matter. They can tolerate human-made canals, brackish marshes, and ponds in city parks.

Red-Eared Slider Lifespan

Red-eared sliders have quite a long lifespan compared to other turtle species. In the wild, their maximum lifespan is generally between 20-30 years. However, it’s important to note that only about 1% of hatchlings survive to reach this age due to predation and disease.

Some references claim that they can live up to an impressive 75 years! In captivity, where threats are minimized, red-eared sliders can live for up to 50 years.

What do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Eat?

Red-eared sliders have a versatile dietary routine. As juveniles, they tend to be more omnivorous, with a diet consisting of both plant and animal matter. They’re opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of mollusks and invertebrates such as snails, worms, shrimp, insects, and their larvae, and crayfish.

As they mature into adults, red-ear turtles tend to lean more towards a herbivorous diet. They consume a variety of aquatic plants and algae, including potentially harmful aquatic weeds like water hyacinth.

While they are capable of consuming small vertebrates – including small reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish, and birds – these animals very rarely make it into their diet. Interestingly, they are known to eat fish, frogs’ eggs and tadpoles, and even water snakes!

Red-Eared Slider Behavior

Red-eared sliders are known for their social nature. They are usually found basking in the sun on rocks or logs, often stacked on top of each other. They are quick to dive into the water when they sense danger, a behavior that showcases their alertness and sensitivity to their surroundings.

At the onset of the breeding season, males can be seen engaging in a unique courtship display. They vibrate their forelimbs in front of the female’s face. If the female is receptive, she will sink to the bottom of the water body for mating.

When it comes to fun activities, red-eared sliders love to explore their surroundings, swim around and, most notably, bask in the sun. They also have a penchant for digging and often burrow in the substrate at the bottom of their enclosures.

Red Ear Slider Turtle Reproduction


Sexual maturity is reached at 2-5 years of age. Maximum life-span is generally in the order of 20-30 years, although only 1% of hatchlings reach this age.

Some references claim maximum age can be up to 75 years. Red ear slider turtle can wander up to 9 km from water to find suitable habitat, search for a mate or lay eggs.

Nests are dug well above water level, usually within 500 m of water, but sometimes up to 1.6 km away.

Females can produce viable eggs for up to 5 years after mating although fertility drops to 20% or less after the first year. Females can lay up to 3 clutches (approximately 75 eggs) per season.

Red Ear Slider Turtle Care


Red eared sliders are popular pets due to low price, small size and easy maintenance. However, they can live for up to 50 years in captivity. Preferred climate is perhaps best described as temperate.

However, the species is very adaptable and readily tolerates tropical and subtropical areas, generally where temperatures are between 10 and 37 degrees Celsius.

In cold climates, red ear slider turtle can overwinter in their nests. Adults can survive severe winters (-10 degrees Celsius for extended periods) by hibernation. Even, they become active when necessary for food or water, or to bask if temperatures increase.

Health Complications Associated With Red Ear Slider Turtles

Physical Complications

Turtles often carry a pathogen called Salmonella along with a few other bacteria. The sad part is these pathogens can spread and affect humans and result in diarrhea and stomach pain. 

However, unless you have children or sensitive people in your home, you have nothing to worry about. You just have to observe basic precautions and maintain your hygiene. One of the most basic, yet essential, things is to wash your hands well each time you touch your turtle. 

It’s easy to spot the presence of these bacteria in your turtle. If they suddenly lose their appetite or start defecating abnormally, you should definitely get in touch with a vet.

Another major issue with these turtles is that they’re prone to respiratory issues, especially if they’re kept in weather too cold for them to bear. The symptoms include excess mucus production, constant sneezing, and open-mouth breathing. 

You should also be very careful about their diet and hygiene. 

Most turtles, including the red ear sliders, are very fragile. If you don’t take care of their diet or wash them properly, they’ll develop ulcers in their shells, and the shell will begin to rot. You’ll be able to identify this through the foul-smelling patches that will soon cover their shells. If not catered to, they might even lose their life to it.

Mental Health Complications

Physical issues aren’t the only health problems these turtles face. When turtles are separated from their natural habitat, there are two types of mental health issues that they meet:

  • The stress of adjusting to the new environment
  • Aggressiveness against owners

If a turtle remains under constant stress, it will lead to health problems which might escalate to such levels that they die. They can also get a little aggressive and try to bite at you.

FAQs About Red-Eared Sliders

What are the unique traits of a red-eared slider?

Red-eared sliders are characterized by a small red stripe located behind their eyes, which looks like a red “ear,” hence the name. They are agile swimmers with a strong sense of sight and smell. One unique trait is their ability to remain underwater for extended periods by absorbing oxygen from the water through their skin.

Do red ear turtles sleep underwater?

A: Yes, red-eared sliders often sleep underwater, lying at the bottom or floating at the surface. They can stay submerged for several hours while sleeping or hiding from predators.

How big do red-eared slider turtles get?

A: Red-eared slider turtles can reach up to 350 mm in length, with females generally larger than males. Females have a plastron length between 150–195 mm, compared to 90–100 mm for males.

How long do red-eared slider turtles live?

In the wild, red-eared sliders can live between 20-30 years. However, under optimal conditions in captivity, they can live for up to 50 years.

Unveiling these Red Ear Slider Turtle Facts showcases the intriguing existence of this small freshwater turtle. Its adaptive nature, long lifespan, and unique behavior make it a fascinating species to explore and understand.

The red ear slider turtle is a small freshwater turtle native to the Mississippi Valley in the southern United States.


If you are looking to get one of these, or already have one and need some additional care advice. Check out the complete care guide for a red eared slider.

We went through and broke everything down in detail. Feel free to leave any questions or comments in the comment section below too!

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Paula Hailey

Thursday 16th of November 2023

I have 2 red ear sliders. One male & one female. The male has been attacking the female by the neck and holding on to her where he swings her around and won’t release!! I put him outside in a baby pool and she’s inside in their 75 gallon tank. What is happening?? Help


Thursday 18th of March 2021

I am desperate to find a new forever home for my two RES turtles that I’ve had for twenty years due to a pending divorce and relocating I’m in dyer need to get them a safe and happy home!! They will come with everything!! Please email me @ [email protected] I live in East Tennessee an hour from Knoxville and will need them and their aquarium picked up Thankyou Bobbie

[email protected]

Thursday 6th of January 2022

@Bobbie, I’ll take them!! I recently lost my red ear slider after 15 years looking for a replacement kids are deeply disappointed especially after their stepdad died a month late. So if you or anybody else is getting rid of adult ready at sliders or painter turtles I have a huge set up


Thursday 18th of March 2021

@Bobbie, Post it here in the comments as well.


Saturday 29th of August 2020

If you need help on the care & health of your Red Eared Slider there is a very helpful and informative group on Facebook you should join!! Huge community of people. It’s called RESTO-Aquatic Turtle Owners.


Tuesday 14th of May 2019

How Do I Prepare My Aquarium So I Can Mate My Red Ear Water Turtle


Wednesday 15th of May 2019

Have a look at the care guide in the breeding section

"You can encourage breeding by placing your turtles in a cool room (50 to 60 °F) during winter and reducing the light over their basking area to ten hours.

Keep them there for 6 to 8 weeks to give them ample opportunity to mate. Once the 6-week to 8-week period is over, you can return them to normal temperatures. The female will lay eggs from spring to summer."


Tuesday 10th of July 2018

Teddy, my baby red-eared slider has quite collection of sounds he makes. He hisses, chirps, squeaks, and all kinds of funny little calls. Does anyone know what these sounds mean? He's healthy and everything... but just seems strange, because I didn't think turtles made noise.