Red-eared sliders are among the most common turtles kept as pets and for good reason! These turtles are easy to take care of and are quite hardy, but you’ll still need to make a modest investment getting started to ensure that your turtles are happy and healthy.
So, what are the basics for red-eared slider cost calculation?
Well, while the cost of buying the turtle is low, you’ll also have to factor in the cost of food, lighting, heating, the enclosure, water filtration, and veterinarian checkups — and all these add up!
The initial costs can be high if you start from scratch, but the good news is that after the enclosure has been set up, your turtle’s maintenance costs are low. If you are considering giving a red-eared slider a new home, then today we’re going to help you prepare and create an estimate of the starting costs.
So, get a notebook handy or open a notepad file on your PC, and let’s talk about red-eared slider costs and what you need to know!
Table of Contents
Red-Eared Slider Cost
First things first, what is your actual turtle going to cost? Oddly enough, this is one of the smallest expenses – that beautiful turtle that will live with you for the next 20 or 30+ years will only cost you about $10 or less!
If you are looking for some more distinctive coloration, there are also rare ‘morphs’ out there, which are simply genetic variants that have a different/unique appearance than the regular specimens. That can affect your startup costs a little or quite a lot –some of the rarest RES morphs can cost up to $2000!
Turtle Cost – $10
The Turtle’s Tank
Red-eared sliders are aquatic/semi-aquatic and as such, they’re going to need a lot of water! If you have a large enough outdoor space and the local climate is conducive to it, then you can house the turtle in a pond with the space needed to bask.
Just keep in mind this won’t be an option for MOST locations – you need to factor in how cold it gets every year and also local predators that might find your sliders tasty (and how to keep them at bay).
This means that for most of us, it’s going to be safest and most practical to house them in a tank. This can be an aquarium, a cattle watering tank, or even a commercial stock tank – so there are choices that can fit a wide range of budgets and designs.
If you do decide to go with a cattle watering tank, we don’t recommend a metallic one, as the slider will be bumping against the sides of the tank quite often, making rubberized options safere and more practical.
The size of the ideal enclosure will depend on the size of the slider, as well as the number of individuals you wish to house inside the tank. For a single turtle, you’ll need 10 gallons of water, plus an additional 10 gallons for every inch of length.
So, if the turtle is about 5 inches in carapace length, the tank should contain about 50 gallons of water.
For any additional turtle, use the same principle, but half it. That means with two 5-inch sliders, the water within the tank should be about 75 gallons. The water in the tank can be more than recommended and you should always do that if you can, but the minimums are okay if you’re on a tight budget for now.
We’d recommend a 55-gallon aquarium for an individual turtle for best results. The Tetra Aquarium Kit is an excellent choice and it costs around $416 at the time of writing this article. For two to four individuals, we’d recommend the Starfire Glass Aquarium. It’s a 150-gallon aquarium, priced around $1800.
As you can see, the large tanks can be a tad costly, but don’t worry — you could always go with a stock tank. They get the job done nicely, they’re just not as pretty as aquariums unless you put a little more work into them.
Add a little colorful scenery and some lush aquatic plants, however, and you’ll be surprised just how delightful they can look and how happy they’ll make your turtles. The Rubbermaid Commercial Stock Tank costs between $207 to $335, depending on the size, and available sizes range from 50 – 300 gallons.
Tank Cost – $207 to $1800.
For more information on tanks, check out our informative guide on semi-aquatic turtle tanks here when you’re done!
The water within the enclosure needs to be clean and to achieve this, the water has to be continuously filtered. That means you’ll need an aquarium filter and as turtles are messy creatures, you’re going to need a strong one!
To ensure that the filter will be up to the task of keeping your messy turtle’s water clean, we recommend a filter that is rated twice the size of your slider’s tank. So, for a 55-gallon tank, we’d recommend a filter marked for a 100-gallon tank.
There are three different types of filters to consider – the canister filter, the hang-on-back filter, and the submersible filter. The canister filter has the filter outside the tank, that you would place on the floor or a table near the tank.
The hand-on-back filter has the filter hanging to the back of the tank and the submersible filter is just what it sounds like – it’s submerged inside the water in the tank.
We would recommend the canister filter, as they are generally more capable of filtering more water. They also take up little space within the tank, which means more space for your turtle to live in.
The filtration media within the filter can be biological, chemical, or mechanical. Biological filtration media uses filtration options such as bio-wheels, bio-sponges, or bio-rings, while chemical filtration media uses activated carbon (such as activated charcoal) to remove discolorations and odors.
Mechanical filtration media uses screens to catch and filter out particles such as debris and dirt.
The Penn Plax Cascade CCF3UL Canister Filter will set you back $135 and the Penn-Plax Cascade 1500 Canister Filter costs around $155. If you wish to go with a hang-on-back filter, then we’d recommend the Marineland Penguin Power Filter, which costs approximately $55.
If you wish to go with a submersible filter, we’d recommend the Marineland Magnum Polishing Internal Canister Filter, available for around $85. Both the Marineland Penguin Power Filter and the Marineland Magnum Polishing Internal Canister Filter will work nicely for a 55-gallon tank.
Filter Cost – $55 to $155
The water temperature needs to be around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while your turtle’s basking spot should be around 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. These ranges are important – turtles are cold-blooded, so they cannot regulate their own body temperatures.
If temperatures are too low, then the turtle will become inactive and enter into brumation (a state that resembles hibernation). High temperatures, on the other hand, can cause the turtle to have a heat stroke, so it’s vital to maintain and constantly check internal temperatures in the tank.
An incorrect temperature range can cause other issues, as well. For instance, if water temperatures are too high, the turtle may refuse to bask, and this can lead to health complications such as shell rot.
To maintain the correct water temperature, you’ll need to install an aquarium heater. The Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater is affordable and has excellent reviews. It comes with a thermometer and the temperature can be easily adjusted, and it’s suitable for a 55-gallon tank.
If the tank contains 100 gallons of water or more, then you’ll want a more powerful aquarium heater. This, of course, will be more expensive. The Fluval E300 Advanced Electronic Heater is a good option to use that works well for a large tank.
The Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater costs about $40. The Fluval E300 Advanced Electronic Heater costs around $70, so they’re really quite reasonable and budget-friendly.
Apart from the aquarium heater, you also need to install a heat lamp to warm up the basking spot. You can go with a ceramic heat lamp or a mercury vapor bulb. We recommend pairing the UV light with a ceramic heat lamp, as the ceramic heat lamp doesn’t produce light.
This setup allows you to dim the heat lamp without having to dim the lighting. The ceramic heat lamp we’d recommend is the BOEESPAT Ceramic Heat Emitter and it costs around $12.
The mercury vapor lamp also works well and it allows you to simplify your setup, as you don’t need to maintain both a heat lamp and a UV lamp. A great example is the REPTI ZOO Reptile Heat Lamp (100W), which retails for approximately $30.
It is a good idea to pair the heat lamp with a thermostat or temperature controller, to ensure that the enclosure doesn’t overheat. This controller will dim or turn the heat lamp when temperatures are too high and you can set the desired range for the temperature yourself.
A good temperature controller is INKBIRD ITC-308 Temperature Controller.
It is advisable to have a thermometer so that you can easily and regularly check the temperature within the enclosure. If you have a glass aquarium, then you can invest in a stick-on thermometer that adheres to the outside of the aquarium and displays the water temperature at all times.
You can measure the temperature of the basking spot using a stick-on thermometer, such as the Capetsma, and we would also recommend that you invest in an infrared thermometer gun such as the Etekcity Infrared Thermometer Gun.
You can use this to quickly determine the water temperature and the basking spot temperature independently, just to be absolutely sure that temperatures are ideal. The Etekcity Thermometer Gun costs about $21, which is quite reasonable for the extra safety and peace of mind.
Heating Cost – $82 to $140
Didn’t see a heater you like? Learn more about what you’re looking for and see other excellent heaters here!
Lighting is optional if you are housing the turtle outside. If you are housing the turtle outside, however, you should avoid housing them in glass or metallic containers as these heat up quickly. The water in the tank can easily become too warm for the turtle, which could prove to be fatal!
If the turtle is housed indoors, then you’ll need to install a UVB light over the aquarium. These lights need to be on for about 12 hours each day and off for the remaining 12. Turn the lights on when the sun rises and then off when the sun sets or simply set alarms on your phone and stick to the schedule.
You can even invest in a timer, if you like, to do this automatically.
We do not recommend having a bulb that produces both heat and UVB rays. Instead, have a heat lamp that produces no light such as ceramic heat lamps, and a UV light bulb that doesn’t produce heat. This allows you to have the heat lamp on during cold nights when temperatures require it.
Most importantly, you can dim the heat lamp without having to dim the lighting, so keep that in mind when you’re deciding on your tank accessories!
The lighting we’d recommend is the ReptiSun 10.0 UVB T5 HO Lamp. This costs about $25 or you can pay $50 for a two-pack. You can also go for the mini compact fluorescent lamp like the Reptisun 10.0 Mini Compact, which costs about $13 for a single and $25 for a two-pack.
If your tank doesn’t come with a lamp fixture, then you’ll need to install one or obtain a lamp that you can position as needed. We also recommend changing these lights every six months, as they lose intensity over time.
Even if the bulb isn’t dim, it may not be producing the required amount of UVB light which is invisible to the human eye, so this is important to keep in mind.
Lighting Cost – $13 to $50
While we’re on the subject, we’ve got the 9 best UVB bulbs for turtles listed here that you can check when you’re done if you’d like a few more options.
You’ll need a basking platform to position underneath the UV light and heat lamp. Red-eared sliders bask daily and spend most of the day doing it, as it allows them to dry off, maintain an adequate body temperature, and produce vitamin D3 naturally to help them absorb calcium.
If the water within the enclosure is too warm, the turtle may refuse to bask, so be sure to keep the temperatures within optimal range so that healthy basking is encouraged.
The basking platform should be large enough to support the turtle and easy for them to climb onto. While you can always build your own basking platform, prefab ones are available if you are not DIY inclined and they are nice and quite affordable.
Some good examples include the Zoo Med Turtle Dock (Extra Large), the Zoo Med Turtle Dock (Large), and the PENN-PLAX Reptology Turtle Basking Platform Ramp. If you have several turtles in the same enclosure, then go with the Zoo Med Turtle Dock (Extra Large) to accommodate them.
The Zoo Med Turtle Dock (Extra Large) costs around $75, while the Zoo Med Turtle Dock (Large) costs about $45. The PENN-PLAX Reptology Turtle Basking Platform Ramp is quite cost-effective, as it costs approximately $27.
Basking Platform Cost – $27 to $75
The enclosure doesn’t require substrate and, in fact, substrates make the tank more difficult to maintain. Substrates tend to trap organic particles, such as bits of food, which will decompose over time and contaminate the water. These trapped food particles can be quite difficult to clean, as well.
The slider may also swallow the substrate, so if you must have substrates, it’s best to go with something like aquarium sand or aquarium pebbles.
The aquarium sand we’d recommend is the Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Gold Sand and it costs around $4 per pound or about ($0.40 / Ounce). Since the smallest bag is the 5-pound bag, it should cost you about $20.
There is also the white sand version called the Carib Sea Super Natural Moonlight Sand and this costs $0.12 / Ounce. It comes in a pack of two, which costs around $19 on average.
If you want pebbles, Royal Imports decorative ornamental river pebbles are a great option that will only set you back around $15($0.19 / Ounce).
Substrate Cost – $0 to $19
It’s always a good idea to ensure that the water used in the tank is free of harmful chemicals. The pH levels also need to be within the right range, which for sliders should be between 6 to 8. The nitrate level of the water should be less than 40 ppm.
The nitrite level should be less than 0.5 ppm and the ammonia, chlorine, and chloramine levels need to be 0.
If you are using tap water to fill the tank, then you may need to test the water and correct the chemical levels. You can do this using a test kit such as the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, which costs about $31, or you could go with something like these JNW Aquarium & Fish Tank Test Strips, which run around $12.
The API Freshwater Master Test Kit costs more since it contains more test strips – just an FYI!
You can correct the chemical levels using a water conditioner such as the API TAP Water Conditioner. This gets the job done nicely and costs about $7. If you are using tap water for your slider’s habitat, then it may be wise to dechlorinate the water using a water conditioner -just to be on the safe side!
Water Conditioning Costs – $0 To $40
Feeding the red-eared slider isn’t expensive, as it doesn’t eat much. At most, you will need to feed it daily. The amount of food to offer within a feeding session should be about the size of it’s head.
You should offer commercial turtle pellets, green leafy vegetables, and animal proteins such as krill, shrimps, and insects. Unless you have many sliders in the same enclosure, we don’t recommend buying veggies and fruits exclusively for one turtle as it will only eat a tiny portion — the rest will go to waste.
Since humans can eat these leafy greens and fruits, you can also share from time to time and your turtles will appreciate it, just make sure that fruits aren’t a daily thing — they’re too high in sugars to be a regular part of your slider’s diet.
For hatchlings, Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle Dry Food, Hatchling Formula is nutritious and should be well-received, and this costs about $3 per 1.6 oz. For subadults and adults, however, we’d recommend MazurI Aquatic Turtle Food. this costs about $13 for a 12 oz bag.
We should note that dietary differences between hatchlings and adults are fairly pronounced, as hatchlings and juveniles tend to be more carnivorous, while adults eat more plants than live food.
As such, keep this in mind when you’re planning their diet and avoid feeding hatchling food to adults and vice versa!
Feeding Costs – $12
High-quality commercial turtle pellets come with all the needed nutrients and as such, you may not need to supplement the diet. Most of the time, supplements become necessary when you do not feed your slider commercial turtle pellets – it’s hard to manage a balanced diet, after all.
We’d recommend checking with your veterinarian before offering your turtle supplements, as too many vitamins can have ill-effects just as too few of them can, although there is one exclusion to this — Calcium with vitamin D3.
An excellent vitamin D3 and calcium supplement is Repti Calcium with Vitamin D3 and it will only set you back about $12 for an 8 oz container that will last a long time.
Supplement Cost – $0 to $12
Total Costs – Breaking it down
The initial cost of owning a red-eared slider may be as low as about $411 or as high as over $2000. This cost doesn’t include veterinarian checkups, but this gives you a general idea of your starting investment.
While it may seem like a lot at first, don’t forget that the initial costs are really the biggest ones – once you’ve gotten those, your turtles should be fairly cheap to maintain and keep in good health. Below is a breakdown of costs again, just in case you didn’t have your notepad handy:
|$10 to $50
|$207 to $1800
|$55 to $155
|$82 to $140
|$13 to $50
|$27 to $75
|$0 to $19
|$0 to $40
|$0 to $12
|$411 to $2,343 (Minimum amount takes into account using a mercury vapor lamp for both heating and lighting)
There are optional costs that you can incur that are not technically needed for your red-eared slider to thrive. A good example is the cost of decorating the aquarium. Since the red-eared slider is a display pet, you may want to add to the aesthetics by decorating the enclosure and they certainly seem to like it.
Just be sure to carefully select what you put in the tank, avoiding sharp corners or other features that might be dangerous to your turtles.
Some objects you can decorate the aquarium with include fake plants, driftwood, and even rainforest stickers for the back of the tank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are red-eared sliders easy pets?
Red-eared sliders are relatively easy to care for as they are hardy animals. They tend to thrive, even in poorly kept environments, and this strong survival trait has actually led to them being classified as oneof the most invasive species around the world!
Regardless of this, the red-eared slider is still an aquatic turtle, so the initial setup of their environment may be quite expensive. Just remember that once you’ve done that, they are actually quite cheap to keep happy and healthy!
How expensive is a red-eared slider turtle?
Red-eared sliders are inexpensive, usually costing about $10 to $15, unless you are investing in a designer morph – those are specially bred for specific traits, and of course, the price will change to reflect the rarity of the traits produced.
Are red-eared sliders good pets?
The red-eared slider is one of the best turtles to get as a pet! They are very easy and inexpensive to obtain and take care of. They are also quite active, have robust constitutions, and aren’t as shy around humans as other turtles. This makes them a good pet for children as well, with a little supervision.
How big do red-eared sliders get?
Male red-eared sliders are smaller than females and will reach a mature length between 5 and 9 inches. By contrast, the females will grow to be 8 to 11 inches when fully matured.
Where can I buy red-eared sliders?
The red-eared slider is quite common in the pet trade, so they may be found in most pet stores that sell aquatic animals. You can also contact a breeder online, although we don’t recommend this unless you are looking for a specific morph — after all, you cannot physically inspect the turtle before buying it!
Red-eared slider costs are comparable to other aquatic pets – with the heaviest investment being their actual enclosure and the gear to maintain it. The slider itself is usually the lowest cost, but you’ll need to invest in heating, lighting, and a conducive aquatic environment.
When all the costs are added up, it can be as low as about $420 or over $2000, but remember that stock tanks and DIY options can also save you a pretty penny and still result in an amazing environment for your sliders.
Now that you know the general costs, it’s time to start designing and pricing the perfect enclosure for the number of turtles that you have in mind and after that, start saving! Once you’ve properly housed them, the rest is a piece of cake!