Red-Eared Slider: Ultimate Guide

Red-eared sliders make an excellent pet. If you’re interested in adopting a red-eared slider, you should know some key information about them.

Keep reading for the ultimate guide on red-eared sliders!

Male vs Female 

The easiest way to determine if your red-eared slider is male or female is to look at its tail length. Females have short, skinny tails, while males have thicker and longer tails. The male’s vent (cloaca) is located close to the end of the tail when compared to a female.

In addition to this, male red-eared sliders have long front claws, and a dip in the bottom of their shell. Female red-eared sliders have short claws, a thin tail, a cloaca that is close to the body, and they are bigger. 


To identify the red-eared turtle from other types of turtles, there are a few characteristics that you can look out for. 

Characteristics that most obviously distinguish the red-eared slider include yellow marginal scutes, a yellow plastron covered in blotchy markings, and a red ear mark located just behind the eye. The clue is in the name, they’re not called red-eared sliders for nothing! 

In addition to this, a red-eared slider’s head, neck, and legs are a greenish color with yellow stripes.

As a Pet 

Red eared sliders are commonly kept as pets. In fact, they are one of the most popular aquatic turtles to keep as a pet in the United States and are also popular as pets across the rest of the world. 

This largely comes down to the fact that they tend to be friendlier and a lot more sociable than some of their relatives. In addition to this, they’re widely available and easy to find.


The average red-eared slider can live for around 20 years in captivity. In the wild, this can be as long as 30 years. However, their life expectancy is shorter when they are kept in captivity.

It is also important to mention that your red-eared slider’s lifespan can differ depending on a few variables. For instance, factors such as the quality of their living environment and their diet has a strong influence on their lifespan and well being.


Like many other turtles, the red-eared slider has adapted to having hard shells and has developed the ability to retract themselves inside their shells for protection from predators.

In addition to this, red-eared sliders have shells that blend perfectly with the color of the environment so they will not be easily detected during sleep. The body and shell color of the red-eared sliders is brown, black and/or dull green, the color common to the waters where these turtles dwell.

Breeding Season

The breeding season lasts from late spring to early summer. Mating activities for red-eared sliders usually occur between March and July, and take place underwater. 

The male red-eared sliders utilize their claws when they are attempting to woo females to breed. During mating, the males will also grab the female’s upper shells by using their long claws.


Turtles are amniotes which require females to nest on land. Females prefer soft, sandy soil with good exposure to the sun for their nest site. 

A turtle’s nest is dug with the turtle’s hind feet, usually within 200 to 500 meters of water. The nest is no deeper than 10 to 12 centimeters. The females will lay 2 to as many as 30 oval, soft shelled eggs. The eggs are fertilized as they are being laid and buried in the sand.

Growth Rate

With a balanced diet, assuming all other conditions are met, you can expect your baby turtle to reach size up to 3 inches in the first year or two. Once they have reached adulthood, your turtle will only grow around 1 inch per year until they reach their full size. 

Males usually reach sizes between 8 and 10 inches, while females between 10 and 12 inches.

However, these numbers are only averages and can be affected by the diet that you feed your red-eared slider. For instance, foods rich in protein are crucial to a turtle’s development.

Life Cycle

As I discussed above, female red-eared sliders typically grow to a larger size than their male counterparts. However, it can take them significantly longer to reach sexual maturity. 

For male red-eared sliders, sexual maturity is about the time they reach 4 inches in length or around two to five years old. 

Females, on the other hand, are sexually mature when they reach 6 to 7 inches in length which may take five to seven years.


The exact population of red-eared sliders is not known. They are an incredibly popular species of turtle.

Originally from America, these aquatic turtles are widely kept as pets. However, they can grow to big sizes and are often dumped in ponds and rivers when they outgrow their tanks.

As a result, they are not thought to be at risk of going extinct and are actually considered as pests in some places. At a population of 8 million in Japan, there are eight times as many red-sliders as the total population of endemic species.


In the wild, red-eared sliders feed on plants and small animals, such as crickets, fish, crayfish, tadpoles, worms, snails, aquatic insects, and aquatic plants. 

Turtles don’t have teeth, but instead have ridges that are serrated and sharp on their upper and lower jaws.

In captivity, red-eared sliders need a pelleted commercial diet. Non-toxic aquatic plants, dark leafy vegetables and sliced vegetables such carrots are also great for your red-eared slider.


Due to how big they are and their thick shell, adult red-eared sliders have very few predators, aside from alligators or crocodiles. 

When they’re young, however, they can be much more vulnerable. They may struggle in the wild with predators such as raccoons, skunks, and foxes. 

In captivity, the biggest challenge your turtle will face is an inappropriate diet and not enough water, so you need to make sure that you’re staying on top of this.

Roaming Range

Red-eared slider turtles can wander up to 9 km from water to find a suitable habitat. In addition to this, they will roam around in search of a mate and to lay their precious eggs. 

A red-eared slider will dig its nest well above water level, usually within 500 m of water, but this can be a further distance depending on the environment.


There are a variety of diseases that your red-eared slider is susceptible to developing. If you notice that your turtle’s shell is growing irregularly, it may be a sign of malnutrition or even metabolic bone disease.

Turtles are also commonly associated with salmonella. Salmonellosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans. The infected individual or animal carries the bacteria in their gastrointestinal tracts and shed the bacteria in their feces.

Eye Color

Red Eared Sliders have absolutely beautiful eyes. Typically speaking, their eyes feature a green ring around the outside, then have a yellow ring surrounding the pupil with a horizontal black/green stripe across the top, middle, and bottom.


Hibernation in the wild is very much a part of the breeding cycle of red eared sliders. However, in captivity, red-eared sliders do not hibernate, but they brumate.

Brumation is essentially a lighter version of hibernation. During brumation, sliders are not actually asleep and tend to be slightly more active than a hibernating animal.

Can they swim?

Of course! Red-eared sliders are aquatic turtles, and spend the majority of their time in water.

In the wild, red-eared slider turtles live in places like ponds, lakes, marshes, and in slow-moving rivers that have soft, muddy bottoms. They have webbed feet and a streamlined body structure that helps them in swimming. They make use of their four legs to drive themselves through the water.


Red-eared sliders need an appropriately sized habitat. At a minimum, you’re looking at least a 40 gallon breeder tank with a screened lid so the turtle can’t escape. 

A good rule of thumb is 10 gallons per inch of turtle. Adult turtles will require more room as they grow.

Aquatic turtles drink the water they swim in, so it needs to be changed frequently.


Your red eared slider itself won’t cost much, usually no more than $25 at the most in most places. 

However, the equipment you’ll need to properly keep red eared sliders as pets can add up. You will need to consider and budget for the cost of their tank, a heat lamp, and food to name a few.

Fun Facts 

A fun fact about red-eared sliders is that they have poor hearing but good vision and are incredibly sensitive to vibrations. When your turtle is startled or feels threatened, they will quickly slide from their basking spot and back into the water.

Red-eared sliders are very common and widespread. In some areas they are considered pests and invaders because they are aggressive and out-compete native species for food and space.