Taking Care of a Red-Eared Slider Turtle

One of the most fun and amazing pets to have would be a Red-eared slider turtle. These unique creatures are fun to watch and interesting to take care of. First of all, you may be wondering what a red-eared slider turtle is exactly. These tiny turtles are found throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Believe it or not but these turtles are one of the most often sold pets in the U.S. and even international. They are wonderful small green turtles with reddish stripes behind their eyes. Their native habitat is in fresh warm waters. Don’t be fooled, these turtles are great swimmers but they spend much of their time basking in the sun on warm rocks or logs. Red-eared sliders are considered to be omnivores because they eat both animal proteins (i.e. crickets) and also vegetable matter. The baby turtles will need up to 40% of their food from strictly protein sources, however, when they grow up to be adult turtles than they will usually eat vegetation. These turtles mostly feed on small fish, water snails and plants growing underwater, when they are out in the wild. When they are kept as pets, small turtle food pellets will work just fine.

Currently in the U.S. it is illegal to sell any turtle that is less than four inches in length. Male turtles usually reach this length in 2-4 years and female turtles usually reach this length between 5-7 years. You can tell the sex difference in your turtle because male turtles are smaller than the females but they have longer tails.

If you have small children than you should not consider buying a Red-eared slider from a pet store. Often times these creatures are under lots of stress in the pet store had have become susceptible to bacterial infections and protozoan. Salmonella is one of the biggest problems that these little turtles carry, which can easily be transmitted to small children. Often times they are dehydrated due to long periods of time without food or water and also if they are held in cold areas they will not want to feed. When they are frightened they will not eat either. If you do decide to buy one from the pet store than you should take a sample of your turtle’s poop to a reptile veterinarian so that they can determine if the turtle has any nutritional deficiencies, topical bacterial or fungal infections. Besides these infections, eye and respiratory infections are very commonly found in wild-caught turtles. You must make sure that you give your turtle the medication that is prescribe to him and if you are afraid to give it to your turtle than you can always take him back to the vet to have a professional do it.

If you take care of your turtle right and make sure that it is well fed and kept at the correct temperature, he might just out live you. Many turtles have lived beyond 100 years.

You want to make the perfect home for your new friend and sliders need a warm, dry place with a large warm pool of water to call home. You will have to provide a warm enclosure with heated water and a warm place for your turtle to bask. You have to remember that their natural habitat is located where the sun easily warms the water. You have to make sure that you keep the water clean. You do not want old rotten food or poop to accumulate in your tank because this will be a very unhealthy environment for your turtle. You will probably want to clean the water daily to ensure a clean home for your turtle.

If you have a turtle on the smaller side, than you can start out with a tank that is at least a 30-50 gallon sized aquarium. You can now place colorful aquarium rocks at the bottom to build a slope from the pool to the dry land. You can either purchase a warming rock from your local pet store or place Plexiglas to make a platform so that your turtle can relax and stay warm. You should not use rough rocks in your tank because they can scratch the turtle’s shell that can allow bacterial and fungal infections to go into the turtle’s body.

You want to make sure that your turtle has enough water to swim in. You also have to remember that larger turtles will need more water than a smaller turtle. The water should be at least 2 times your turtle’s length and in depth you should have at least several inches of air space between the surface of the water to the top of the tank so that your new friend cannot escape. For example, a turtle that is 4 inches long you should at least give them a minimum of 6 inches deep, and 16 inches in width of water. You also want the land area to be bigger than the pool area. You have to also make sure that your turtle will have room to grow. When you see that your turtle is growing efficiently than you must make sure that you plan ahead on building him a bigger environment.

You should really consider investing in a water filter for your tank. This way you can go up to a week before changing out the water that will save you the daily hassles. If you buy a powerful filter system and feed your pet in another tank than you can probably get away with replacing a quarter to half of your water each week for two or three weeks and emptying and cleaning out the tank every 3-4 weeks. Make sure that the water is always warm when you replace it. The best thing to do is to consult a pet store about the proper filters to support your Red-eared slider.

The best recommended filters would be:
Fluval 4 Internal Canister Filter
Fluval 403 External Models
Eheim Canister connected to an undergravel filter
Magnum 350 Deluxe with an undergravel filter
Magnum 350 Pro with Bio-Wheel

Keeping the water warm is very important for your turtle’s new environment. You should buy a water heater and thermometer to make sure that the turtle is kept at a good warm temperature. If you turtle is too cold he won’t eat his food and if he is too hot than you might end up killing him so make sure that you have good heating instruments and monitor them regularly.

An incandescent light or spotlight is great to heat the basking area if the room you keep the turtle in is 75 degrees or more. Red-eared sliders need a full spectrum light that emits UVB to process the proper nutrients of food that you will provide it with. Vitamins are absorbed through direct exposure to this type of light. With this light your turtle will have proper bone formation and shell health. Reptisun 5.0 or the Iguana lights 7.0 are the best-recommended lighting systems. They are both made by ZooMed. You can also use a 60-watt light bulb to provide a warm enough environment for your turtle.

Note: Black lights are not to be used for your turtle’s tank. They may look cool, however, these light emit a very dark purple beam that will end up damaging your turtle’s vision from the high intensity. Please do not use this type of light.

Decorating your turtle’s new home can be fun, but you have to make sure that your decorations will not harm the turtle in any way. You should make sure that the plants that you add are not poisonous. You should also consider not using plastic plants because your turtle may mistake them for real plants and eat them. Once again as mentioned before, do not use sharp rough rocks, these can easily scratch your turtle’s shell. You shouldn’t use small rocks or gravel because your turtle may swallow these, which can cause very serious intestinal problems.

Be very careful when using any type of electrical devices in your tank. You can accidentally electrically shock yourself or the turtle. You need to make sure that all electrical cords are connected to a ground-fault interrupter, which will cut off the current if anything does happen. You can find these at a hardware store. Do not use light bulbs with higher voltage than your light fixture is made for. You should secure your water heater behind a wall so that your turtle does not run or bump into it.

You want to ensure that your turtle has the best possible diet so that it will receive the proper nutrition and vitamins for a healthy growth. Younger turtles must be fed every day and adult turtles can be fed every 2-3 days. You should be careful not to feed them more than they can eat; the food that they do not eat will end up going to waste and can cause bacteria to grow in the water.

You can buy your turtle’s food from your local pet store. Trout Chow, commercial floating fish, reptile or turtle food pellets, sticks, or tablets are formulated for your reptile and they don’t decompose as fast as other food would in the water.

Animal protein such as live feeder fish makes a great diet for your turtle. Do not use any frozen feeder fish. Earthworms from a reptile or aquarium store are also good for your turtle. You shouldn’t use the ones that you find in your backyard because they can carry bacteria, parasites, and pesticides. Raw lean beef; beef heart and cooked chicken are okay for your turtle to eat. Be careful because raw beef and chicken can have salmonella, E. coli and other organisms. You can also feed them high quality dog food (kibble) occasionally as a treat. You cannot use dog food as a sufficient diet for your turtle only as a treat.

Your turtle will love vegetables and green leaf plants to snack on. You can offer your slider dark leafy greens such as collard, mustard and dandelion greens. Shredded carrots squash and green beans. You can thaw out some frozen mixed veggies occasionally; do not use them all the time because they can destroy the B vitamin. Fruit can be offered to your turtle either shredded (apples and melons) or chopped (berries).

You should give your turtle vitamin supplements twice a week. You can use a good reptile multivitamin. Your slider must be provided a sufficient amount of calcium.

Always watch your turtle’s health. You should check for signs of illness by monitoring if it has cloudy, closed or swollen eyes, swollen cheeks, open mouth breathing, bubbly mucus around its mouth or nose; runny poop, a loss of appetite; listlessness; strange spots on the bottom of its’ shell carapace or body; a softened shell or excessive shedding.

If you do have small children and you have a slider turtle you must wash your child’s hands thoroughly by rubbing their hands with soap between the fingers and under and around their fingernails for about 1-2 minutes. You can decrease the risk of an infection by using liquid antibacterial soap instead of a bar of soap. Dry their hands with a paper towel instead of a regular bath towel. Use a napkin to turn off the facet. This will help your child from getting Salmonella poisoning.

Once you place your slider into the tank, you must let it get used to its new environment for a few days. You can place fresh food for the turtle inside of the tank daily until the turtle feels comfortable with its’ new home. When handling your new friend make sure that you support its body with both hands. Your turtle will feel secure when it feels that something is beneath its feet, when you let it swim in the air, this can be very stressful. So make sure that your hands or fingers are beneath its feet. This will also help to protect your turtle from falling.

You can teach your children the proper way to carry the turtle. You must let your children know that the turtle is a living thing and that it has feelings too. You should make sure that they ask for permission before going into the tank and grabbing their little green friend.

Your turtle may get lonely and you will be surprised at the impact of giving your turtle a new friend. Two or more turtles can be a fun and amusing sight for you and your family.

I am no super turtle expert, however, I hope that you find these simple tips very helpful. I hope that God-willing you will enjoy your new little friend. Just make sure that you take good care of him.

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