Yellow Bellied Turtle Overview & Care Sheet
The yellow belly turtle, also known as the yellow bellied turtle, or yellow belly terrapin is a perfect beginners pet turtle, though compared to map turtles they can get considerably large. As long as that isn’t an issue for you they do make for some great display pets though.
If you have kids who want a pet turtle in the house and you don’t know which one to get, a yellow bellied turtle can be a great choice. They’re easy to care for, fun to watch, and they can make excellent display pets if you don’t hold them or try to play with them too often.
Typically you can find these turtles in the Eastern United States, but they can also be found in the UK.
Below you will learn all about the yellow bellied slider including basic facts like where they are found, what size the grow to, what predators they have as well as the full breadth of what is needed and involved for caring for one of these as a pet.
We have invested a lot of time into this guide and would love to hear your feedback in the comments at the bottom including if there is a way for us to improve this article.
Yellow Bellied Slider Turtle Facts and Information
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Emydidae
- Scientific Name: Trachemys scripta scripta
- Other Names: Florida yellow belly turtle, yellow belly turtle,
- Adult Male Size: 5 to 8 inches (13cm – 20cm)
- Adult Female Size: 8 to 13 inches (20cm – 33cm)
- Average Lifespan: 25 years
- Average Price Range: $35.00 – $75.00
- Where to buy: Tortoisetown.com, Cbreptile.com
How big does a yellow bellied slider get?
Female yellow bellied turtles are normally larger than the males thus making it a bit easier when identifying the gender of these animals.
The adult males are generally in a range between about 5 to 8 inches (13cm to 20cm) long while the adult females are around 8 to 13 inches (20cm to 33cm) long.
This video gives a great overview of the turtle itself and also shows a female out in the Florida Everglades.
Yellow Belly Habitat
Yellow belly sliders are native to the Southeastern United States from Florida up to Southern Virginia.
You can usually find them in a variety of places including swamps, marshlands, slow moving rivers, ponds and seasonal wetlands.
While they are aquatic turtles and will spend the majority of their time in water. Like other aquatic turtles you will find them coming out of the water on a regular basis in order to try and soak up some sun.
Sometimes you will see them in a large group and usually if the basking spot is small they will even stack on top of each other in an effort to get closer to the sun.
A basking spot is a key part of a yellow belly turtles setup and we will get more into that below in the care sheet.
Yellow Bellied slider lifespan
Yellow bellies can live for 100 years and up, especially when properly cared for, though their average lifespan is currently around 25 years or so.
What do yellow bellied sliders eat
These turtles are omnivorous and as they age will become more herbivorous. Males are usually more carnivores than adult females which are typically more herbivorous.
In the case of young turtles, they tend to feed more on meat as protein is important for early development. As they get older and grow to become adults, vegetation tends to become their preference.
Some things they like to eat in the wild include amphibian larvae, snails, insect larvae, fish, and small crustaceans along with land and water plants including algae.
If you are keeping or planning to keep a Yellow belly as a pet, then this will require a bit of focus. Commercial food is of course an option and does cover everything nutrition wise, but combining both a natural diet and commercial one is definitely something the turtle won’t mind.
We will cover food more in the care guide below as well.
Yellow Bellied Turtle Predators
Young turtles can be easily eaten by herons, big fish and even larger turtles due to an imbalanced shell.
Other predators include larger mamals such as foxes, racoons and even domestic dogs.
Both cats and dogs can live with turtles, but you should always supervise them with any direct interaction at all.
Since these are aquatic species there really won’t be any interaction whether you have an outdoor turtle pond or are keeping them indoors.
Yellow bellied slider vs Red eared slider
The difference between a yellow belly slider and a red eared slider is really just their color and trinomial name since they are both subspecies of pond sliders.
Care for these turtles is going to be basically the same.
Yellow Bellied Slider Care Guide
This yellow bellied slider care sheet covers everything including tank setup, water treatment, water heating, UVA/UVB lighting, basking spot, water and basking temperatures, feeding and more.
At the end of the care guide there is also a frequently asked questions section which has some other questions being answered about the yellow belly.
Yellow bellied slider tank setup
The below setup is what we recommend for a complete indoor setup for a yellow belly turtle. If you plan on having multiple turtles, you will either need to have separate tanks, or to have an outdoor pond setup.
Recommended Basic Products
The below is a basic product setup list of everything you will need for a solid basic setup. We didn’t include a substrate (gravel) or any plants because they are optional and you can choose to add those later.
We also recommended a 150 gallon even if you have a male, since a little more space is never a bad thing and also offers you the option to get additional turtles or fish later.
- Tank & Stand: SC 150 Gallon Aquarium
- Water conditioner: API Tap water conditioner
- Water heater: AQQA Submersible heater
- 2 Water thermometers: Vivosun aquarium thermometers
- Combo UVB/UVA (heating) Lighting: Zoo Med PowerSun UV UVB (160 watt)
- UVB test cards: Reptizoo UV test cards
- Light Fixture: Zoo Med Wire Cage Clamp Lamp
- Timer: Zoo Med Timer
- Thermometer (basking spot): Exo Terra Thermometer
- Laser thermometer for setup and spot checks (optional): Etekcity Lasergrip
- Filtration: SunSun HW-404B (525gph filtration)
- Automatic Feeder: Zacro Automatic Feeder
For a tank the size you need is going to depend on whether you have a male or female yellow belly slider. Females are significantly larger than males.
The rule of thumb is 10 – 15 gallons per inch of shell and an extra 5 – 10 gallons per turtle added.
A typical male will get to an average of 7 inches (18cm) in size and would need a 70 – 100 gallon tank to live comfortably.
A female yellow belly will get to 11 inches (28cm) in size and would need around a 150 gallon tank.
If you are planning on having multiple yellow bellies, the recommendation is to add 5 to 10 gallons per turtle.
An alternative option to having these turtles since they get so large is to put them in an outdoor pond setup. This changes your requirements and we have a separate guide on how to build an outdoor turtle pond.
Treating the water for your tank is important as well since if you are using tap water it likely has chlorine and other chemicals in it which are not great for turtles. API makes a great one that is easy to add and use.
Water filtration is a big one for yellow belly sliders. Turtles are significantly dirtier than fish so whatever filter you choose should one that is rated for two times the size of your current setup.
For reference a canister filter rated for 350 gallons per hour is rated to handle a 200 gallon aquarium. Our target is 300 gallons in this case.
Both of those should be good options, and if you don’t want to buy 1 large filter you could buy two smaller filters. My recommendation would be to start with one and see how it goes. Then if you still need additional filtration look at getting a second.
The water of the tank will most likely need to be heated and should be maintained between 76-84 F (24-29 C).
You can do this with a simple submersible water heater, just be sure to select one for the size tank you have. You may even need two and to distribute them on either side of the tank.
As with any aquarium setup you are going to need a place to put it. Here you have a few options, you can build one, buy a stand specifically for a tank, or you can use some other alternative like shelving or a table.
SC aquariums does offer one in a package kit with overflow tanks, but it becomes very expensive.
An alternative option to that could be buying something like a work bench. The size of the tank is 72 inches x 18 inches (183cm x 45cm), so it will need to be large.
Don’t forget to think about the weight capacity of whatever you use. It should be able to hold a minimum of 1200lbs (around 550kg).
There are two types of lighting you will need in this case, one is a UVB light which helps turtles process their food and absorb nutrients, and the other is a basking light.
A uvb bulb produces ultraviolet light and is critical to have because if they aren’t able to properly absorb their nutrients and vitamins can cause metabolic bone disease.
If this happens then the turtle will develop shell deformities such having a weak shell or even pyramiding.
UVB is something that you can’t see or feel, but you can test using a UVB card. You will need to do this since UVB bulbs are usually only good for 6 months and need replaced regularly.
The second is UVA light also known as a heat lamp. It’s pretty straight forward in that it just produces heat. Be sure to set the distance correct so you don’t make it too hot for the turtle.
Best UVB and heat lamp for yellow bellied sliders
The best lighing you can buy in our opinion is a combination bulb such as the Zoo Med PowerSun mercury bulb. The reason we like this is because it has both UVB and UVA in one.
You can use a cage style fixture like the one pictured above from Zoo Med.
Having one bulb instead of two means two less cables as well as one less cable to worry about pluging in.
To simulate daytime you can also add a Zoo Med timer so that the light comes on and off automatically.
If you are wondering about the temparature and what you should do to monitor it, you won’t really need to worry after the initial setup. We explain it more in the basking platform section.
Do yellow belly turtles need a heat lamp?
Yes, yellow bellied sliders housed in indoor enclosures with no exposure to natural sunlight and heat will need a heat lamp.
Reptiles are cold blooded and thermoregulate from outside heat sources. They can raise their metabolism by raising their body temperature or lower it by cooling off.
Best Basking Platform for yellow belly sliders
Commercial basking platforms are relatively hard to find for larger turtles like the yellow bellied slider.
We recommend building a basking spot yourself for your turtle. Check out our diy guide for some different options.
Assuming you already have a basking area the below video gives a great explanation of setting up the lighting for your yellow belly.
One tip he mentions is using a laser temp gun which I find just super handy to have for the setup and then later using periodic spot checks to ensure the temperature is always correct.
Now that you understand why lighting is so important, let’s jump into the specs. The temperature for the basking spot should be between 82-88 F (28-31 C).
Use that laser temp gun to check it or a manual thermometer if that is all you have available.
For ongoing monitoring we suggest having a thermometer (Zoo Med Thermometer) present as well on near the spot so you can see the temperature during your daily routine.
You can use the laser gun occasionally just to make sure things are right since sometimes thermometers fail over time.
If you are starting out with a juvenile yellow belly and have a smaller setup while your turtle is growing, you could check out our reviews on the Penn-Plax turtle topper, Penn-Plax floating pier and the Oasis turtle ramp for more information about using a commercial basking area.
But again, these will most likely not be able to support your turtle as it grows and becomes an adult.
Alternatively, etsy has some where people have built them out of pvc pipe, but for the cost I think you could build your own for less and as good, if not better since it will be specific to your setup.
Yellow belly slider turtle food
Yellow belly slider food is pretty easy to come by since there are plenty of commercial options available.
The below 3 are the best food for yellow belly turtles that are commercially available.
Reptomin is produced by Tetra and has been around a long time. It’s shaped sort of like worms so the turtles happily eat them. They also provide the calcium needed for turtles to complete their diet.
Mazuri turtle food for aquatic turtles is another complete diet option whereby they claim that no extra food is needed to complete the diet. It even takes care of the carnivorous side of things.
You can see their full product fact sheet here.
When feeding your yellow bellied turtles you will want to add the commercial food in for 5 minutes. So basically give them as much as they can handle for that period of time.
Afterwards, you should remove any remaining food from the tank. This helps keep your tank a little cleaner since eventually it will all settle at the bottom of the tank.
While the commercial foods above are enough, live food is also an option and can include crickets , mealworms, wax worms, blood worms, and daphnia.
You can also add some small minos into the tank if you want to give them some exercise.
Lastly another option is to automate feeding your yellow belly. You can buy an automatic feeder like this one from Zacro and can program it to automatically feed your turtles.
The only downside to this is that you can’t remove the excess, but you could test the quantities that are dispursed as you go and adjust them accordingly.
Yellow bellied slider eggs
If your yellow belly slider lays eggs and is alone in the tank and has never been around a male then they will likely never hatch since they have never been fertilized.
As a precautionary measure, if they have laid them in the tank and you do not have a nesting box, then it would be a good idea for you to build one at this stage, or to move the eggs to an external one where the environment is appropriate.
If you move them make sure not to turn the eggs at all.
The eggs need to remain in the exact same position you found them in. If you turn them, you will kill the embryo if there was one.
Normally a turtle won’t lay eggs unless it has a place to lay them where they can be buried, so this would be an unusual situation if you have an indoor setup.
The below video shows a yellow bellied slider laying its eggs, which is pretty cool to see.
Yellow bellied slider hatchling care
Assuming you have some new hatchlings who were just born, you need to take extra care with them.
They should be moved to their new home which has been set up with clean water and dry area with heating provided.
If it is taking a bit of time to break out of the egg, you can already move it and place it on a wet paper towel in it’s new enclosure.
I think it goes without saying that you don’t need to put a hatchling in a 150 gallon enclosure. It should be in something smaller and more manageable.
For more about breeding water turtles and caring for hatchlings, check out our turtle breeding guide.
Frequently asked questions
How to tell the age of a yellow belly slider
Telling the age of your yellow belly can really only be an approximation unless you know when it was born. Assuming you don’t know there are a few things you can check.
You can check its shell rigidity, length and width, count the rings of a scute, check its sexual maturity, and lastly if it is no longer living do a skeletochronology test.
To see how you can do these steps, have a look at our full guide on telling a turtle’s age.
Is my Yellow bellied slider male or female?
Telling if your yellow bellied turtle is a male or female can be fairly easy if it is already an adult. Adult females are significantly larger than males.
There are other things to check which include the length of their claws. Males claws are much longer than females as they tickle the female during mating with them.
Tails are another thing to check as the female will have a short stubby tail with the opening closer to the shell than a male.
Another tell tale is the plastron. Males will have a concave plastron (meaning it goes inward or dips into the body) whereas females will have smooth plastron.
For more on figuring out your turtles gender look at our in depth guide.
Where can I find a yellow bellied slider for sale?
When buying a yellow belly, you should always check that your breeder is a captive bred breeder. The two above both specialize in breeding turtles captively.
That means that none of the turtles are wild caught. Turtles that are wild caught can carry diseases or parasites and will not be happy becoming a captive pet since they are used to being free. This type of behavior can also be noticed in other pets, as animals that are used to the wild don’t thrive as pets and are prone to anxiety, stress, and health issues.
Additionally taking turtles out of the wild is bad for the ecosystem and reduces wild populations to extinction.
Always check that wherever you are buying your turtle from is selling captive bred turtles. Many pet shops and online stores are selling wild animals, so it is something to be aware of. This wouldn’t be safe for either you or the turtle.
Diseases are another aspect of having a pet turtle that you need to consider at all times. Wild turtles can carry bacteria like salmonella, which can affect humans, as well. While salmonella usually causes short term symptoms like fever, upset stomach, and diarrhea, it can adversely affect people in rare cases where you might even be hospitalized.
To prevent the spread of this bacteria, very small turtles are banned from sale in the United States.
How much is a yellow belly slider?
You can expect to pay around $35.00 for a hatchling and around $100.00 for a yearling. The benefit of buying a yearling is that they will have been raised and should have a lower chance of mortality.
How do yellow belly turtles mate?
Yellow bellies will do a little mating ritual to entice the females by waking their long claws in front of the females face in an effort to entice the female into mating.
For a more in depth guide about reproduction, check out our turtle breeding guide which walks through the entire process of breeding turtles.
Are yellow belly sliders illegal?
Yellow belly sliders are legal in most states, however there are some states where no turtles are legal. In Hawaii for example non native turtles are illegal.
Additionally federal law in the US states that turtles cannot be sold below 4 inches in shell size.
Check our in depth Turtle Laws guide for a breakdown of each state’s laws.
Lastly, it is illegal to release turtles into the wild. Turtles that are not native to a location ecosystem can devastate an entire ecosystem. Red ear sliders for example are classified as one of the most invasive species because of exactly that.
One aspect of releasing a turtle into the wild is that it’s cruel to release a domesticated animal in the environment. If the turtle has been a pet for too long, it might not have the necessary resources to survive properly and might end up being devoured or injured.
If you bought your turtle from a store, it might carry some diseases and germs that might not affect it directly but could be transmitted to other turtles in the area. Even if your turtle is from the same ecosystem, it’s irresponsible to release them in the wild as they might pose a danger to other animals in the area.
What fish can live with yellow bellied sliders?
Yellow bellied sliders can live with a variety of fish including plecos (great for algae control), Koi, catfish, Tetras, Guppies, and more. This makes them great pets if you have an aquarium, as they can thrive well with other types of fish.
Check out our guide on what fish can live with turtles to learn more about managing their habitats and how to prolong the life of the fish by providing hiding places.
Yellow bellied turtles can make good pets, but they do get quite big and also live a long time. Once setup the are fairly low maintenance and care can even be automated. For people who want a decent sized turtle for their home as a display pet, these turtles can be a great choice.
They’re also very easy to care for, which makes them the perfect pets for beginners who don’t have a lot of experience in caring for these animals.
Although these turtles don’t require a huge amount of effort once set up, you need to keep in mind that they have much longer lifespans than other pets. If you decide you want one of these, make sure you are ready for the commitment that comes along with it.
Don’t forget to leave any questions or comments in the comment sectiIn this yellow bellied turtle overview & care sheet, we’ve outlined everything you need to keep in mind to ensure that your pet lives a long and healthy life. Don’t forget to leave any questions or comments in the comment section below!
If you’re interested in similar topics pertaining to turtles and how to keep them as pets, we have a large number of informational articles on our website that cover their lifestyle, diets, and other things you need to keep in mind. Feel free to check them out, as well!