The Red-eared Slider turtle, scientifically known as
"Trachemys scripta elegans", can be most easily identified
by a red stripe behind its eyes. The name "slider" comes
from the turtle's tendency to slide quickly off a rock or
log and into the water when startled.
Red-eared Sliders are found in the United States from
Virginia to Florida and west to Kansas south and New Mexico,
in ponds and lakes.
Red-eared Sliders have a dark green shell and green skin
with thin yellow stripes, while the younger ones also have
yellow markings on their shells. And of course there's the
trademark red stripe behind each eye that fades as they get
The Red-eared Slider ranges in size from about 1 1/2 inches
as a hatchling up to about 12 inches as a full grown adult
turtle. Their size is measured by the length of the
carapace. These turtles have an estimated life span of about
30-40 years, although an improper diet and bad living
conditions, along with other health factors, can greatly
reduce their lifespan.
Sliders are omnivores, which means they eat both animal
protein and plants. When they are young they need for about
40% of their food source to be protein, however adult red
eared sliders feed mainly on vegetation. When they are
younger they will need to eat daily, but as adults they
generally eat every 2-3 days.
Red-eared sliders are strong underwater swimmers, though
they normally spend most of their time basking in the warmth
of the sun on rocks or logs. All red eared sliders need both
a large amount of warm water to swim in and a warm, dry area
in which to rest and bask. It is also best if they get
direct sunlight (not through glass), such as spending time
outside to bask and play in a protected and secure area.
The natural UVB from the sun is required for the turtle's
body to manufacture the pre-vitamin D that it needs for
adequate calcium. Without enough calcium and vitamin D, it
may suffer from ailments from malformed shell or legs to
kidney or liver failure and death. Food supplements are
available and will help if you cannot get your sliders
While it is great to allow your turtle to bask in the sun,
it is also very important to make sure it does not get
overheated, by providing it with a cooler area (preferably
with both water and shade) to retreat to when the turtle
feels it is getting too hot. Remember that turtles are cold-
blooded, and must move about in their environment from cool
to warm and back, to regulate their body heat. Too cool, and
the turtle may be too sluggish to eat, too warm, and it may
sicken and die.
The differences between male and female red ear sliders can
be hard to distinguish to the untrained eye. Some simple
things to look for are that the male slider has longer claws
and a longer tail and tends to be smaller than its female
Red-eared Sliders have long been popular as pets because
they are hardy and easily tamed. For that reason thousands
of baby Sliders were once sold in pet stores, given away
with deforming painted shells at carnivals, and the like.
Their lives were usually neither long nor happy.
Consequently laws were passed in the USA to regulate the
sale of baby sliders. But in most if not all states, Sliders
may still be purchased as pets, and at very low cost, but of
course the cost of providing a good habitat for them can be
considerably higher. However, if you do your homework first,
learning about their native habitat and needs, and prepare
for your new pets arrival, you and your turtle can have a
long and enjoyable life together.