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Red Ear Slider Turtle Facts

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

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 Ear Slider Turtle Habitat

red eared slider

Red ear sliders are native to the Mississippi Valley in the southern United States, including Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

Of course, naturalized populations exist in every continent except Antarctica, including Asia and Australia. 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 Ear Slider Turtle Diet

Adult red ear turtles tend to be herbivores, and juveniles tend to be more omnivorous. Both prey on mollusks and invertebrates opportunistically – notably snails, worms, shrimp, insects and their larvae, and crayfish.

They are known to eat fish, frogs’ eggs and tadpoles, and water snakes.They eat a variety of aquatic plants and algae, including a number of harmful aquatic weeds such as water hyacinth.

While capable of eating small vertebrates – including small reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish and birds – fish and birds are very rarely part of their diet.

Red Ear Slider Turtle Breeding


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.

Red Ear Slider Turtle Behavior and Personality

The exact nature and personality of the turtles depends on their habitat and the conditions in which they were born. Classified based on birth, there are two types of red ear slider turtles: wild & captive-bred.

The wild turtles don’t enjoy human interaction. They’re pretty active and love swimming in their own region. However, the moment they see anything or anyone unfamiliar to them, they’ll hide in their shells or disappear underwater. They feel nervous and unprotected in others’ company, except for their own kind.

That’s why it’s always advised not to adopt or keep wild red ear slider turtles as pets. Although it’s generally the captive-bred ones sold in pet shops, sometimes even the wild ones are unintentionally mixed with the group. The sudden change of habitat can be too distressing for them and lead to severe health complications, which may even result in premature death.

On the other hand, captive-bred red ear slider turtles are very friendly. They generally love to interact with and even swim with people. Unlike their wild counterparts, they won’t hide or swim away when you approach them. 

They might even swim up to you, expecting a treat. However, initially, even captive-bred turtles will be a little skeptical about interacting with you. It’s best to let them open up on their own instead of invading their personal space.

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.


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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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.


Monday 9th of July 2018

My pond turtle ( red ear) has walked out and part way down the driveway twice in the last month, anybody have any answers as to why she would do this after living in the same pond for 18 years?