Red Ear Slider – Semi Aquatic Turtle

Red Ear Slider Turtle Information

This species gets its name from the red stripe behind its eye, and its habit of sliding off rocks or logs into the water when it is startled. Red eared slider or red ear slider is semi aquatic turtle that resides in areas with fresh, calm and warm water source like ponds, marshes, streams and lakes. There should also be abundant aquatic vegetation, which is the main diet for adult turtle. These reptiles are fast and excellent swimmers. Wild red ear slider will stay close to water unless it is in search for a new water source or if female needs to nest and lay eggs.

red ear slider

Red ear slider sunning

Because red ear sliders become quite tame in captivity, they make wonderful pets. They are quiet, calm and generally slow-moving animals. When provided with the right environment they can be quite hardy, have modest requirements and live a long time.

These are some of the most prolific and widespread species of freshwater turtles in the world. In addition there are several beautiful color morphs of the red ear sliders available; including albino, pastel, and leucistic.


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Native habitat

The normal range for the red ear slider in the United States is from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, and the East Coast to western Texas. They will thrive in warmer climates, particularly the Southeast quadrant of the United States. Also the pet trade has expanded their range around the world, often at the expense of native terrapins. Therefore, it is not difficult to locate Red eared slider in suitable habitats anywhere around the world.

The natural environment will normally have a few requirements like a freshwater source, basking area, suitable vegetation and an area to nest. The water source, such as a pond or stream, should be calm, warm and quiet. There should also be logs or rocks to provide a level basking area but anything above the surface that is stable and dry will do. Below the surface, a muddy or soft bottom is preferred…

Younger red ear sliders will feed on smaller prey like fish, snails and insects and gradually focus on plant material. Adults diet is mainly vegetation. The native habitat is primarily limited to the area in and around the water body. Turtles will likely not venture far from an established freshwater environment, although females will need to create a nest on dry land.



Physical Characteristics


Anatomyred eared slider turtle

The shell consists of the carapace or top section and the plastron or bottom section. The carapace is divided into sections or plates called scutes made out of keratin. These are similar to scales and are derived from the turtle epidermis. The top layers scutes will fall off when the red earslider sheds. The bridge connects the carapace and the plastron. Bridge is a section of bone in between the fore and hind limbs. Cloaca is on the underside of the tail – the only opening to serve intestinal, urinary and reproduction purposes. The female cloaca is closer to the shell whereas a male, who has a longer and thicker tail, has it further away.

Males have long front claws that are ritually used during courtship and territorial confrontation. The claws of red ear slider are sharp.

Red ear sliders have beaks made of a sharp piece of keratin. So they can easily cut flesh and vegetation. They have no teeth to break down food, but their throats are quite flexible to accommodate large portions. Since they do not produce saliva, they need to be in water to swallow food. They may take food that’s on land but will bring it into the water to swallow it.



Hatchlings are approximately 1 inch in diameter. The red ear slider can grow up to 12 inches in length. In the United States, it is illegal for pet stores to sell a Red-eared Slider that has a carapace (shell) less than 4 inches in diameter. Size cannot reliably indicate age. However, captive turtles usually grow at a much faster rate. This is usually a result of overfeeding and a lack of hibernation periods. Overfeeding causes dangerous health (physical and intestinal) issues and captive Red eared Slider turtles do not need hibernation.


Sexual differences

Red-eared Sliders kept as pets generally reach sexual maturity between 2 and 4 years of age. In the wild, females may not mature until 5 and 7 years of age. Females are larger than males, though males posses longer tails and longer front claws.



The skin of a Red ear Slider is green with bright yellow stripes. A patch of red behind each eye gives the Red-eared Slider its common name, although some sliders may be missing this color. Some turtles may also have a small patch of red on top of their heads. The Red-eared Slider has strong claws and webbed feet. The shell of hatchlings is green with a fine pattern of yellow-green to dark green markings. As the turtles mature, the carapace usually becomes yellow or olive-green, with the pattern changing into dark lines or patches on scutes.Parts of the shell may be white, yellow, or even red. As the turtle grows, even the lines and patches may slowly disappear until the shell is a uniform dark olive-green or greenish-brown. Some male turtles will become “melanistic”.

green red eared slider


Life expectancy

The Red-eared Slider can live 50-70 years.With proper habitat and diet conditions, captive Red eared Slider turtles can live much longer than their wild counterparts.



The 4” Law

If you purchased your red ear slider as a hatchling, it’s very likely that they were sold illegally. If you are keeping a wild-caught turtle, then it is possible that you are breaking a state law. You cannot simply release a turtle when you can no longer care for it. Here are some possible legal scenarios:

  • The U.S. laws prohibiting the sale of viable eggs and pet turtles with shells less than 4″ in length are directly associated to the rise of salmonella infections. It was incorrectly believed those over 4″ survived the disease or were less likely to carry it. These laws introduced in 1975 have been amended several times and have been effective in reducing infections and are still in effect. Despite recent claims and articles, salmonella can still be carried and transmitted by turtles. Although it is easy to avoid transmission, it is still a potential health hazard.
  • There are laws regarding the release of turtles – millions of hatchlings have been farmed, collected and exported to where some have established themselves in non-native habitats. As a result, they displace native terrapins and overpopulate or do not survive.
  • In some regions, local laws allow for the capture and captivity of wild turtles. This obviously puts them at greater risk for capture and sale for profit.
  • Do not take wild turtles or tortoises unless it is strictly for the safety and well-being of the animal. The animal should be brought to the appropriate organization or be administered the correct veterinary care.



Invasive species

This species is highly adaptable. The Red-eared Slider is considered one of the worlds top 100 worst invasive species.  Red-eared Sliders have devastating impacts on pond ecosystems because they eat almost anything including water plants, molluscs, insects and small fish.


Scientific classification

Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Subphylum – Vertebrata
Class – Reptilia
Subclass – Anapsida
Order – Testudines
Family – Emydidae
Genus – Trachemys (formerly Chrysemys)
Species – T. scripta
Subspecies – elegans
Trinomial name – Trachemys scripta elegans

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One Response to Red Ear Slider – Semi Aquatic Turtle

  1. yolanda says:

    I am kind of worried, my red ear turtle went into hibernation about 3 weeks ago, should I wake him up to eat?

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