Red eared slider turtles can make lovely pets but you have to know what you are getting into before making this big of a commitment. Those cute little hatchlings you see for sale will grow into large, long-lived and somewhat messy aquatic turtles and you need to be prepared for how much room and cleaning they need.
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Red Eared Slider Size
Don't be fooled by those delicate-looking, cute hatchlings. Red eared sliders grow to an adult size of up to 12 inches. It will take them a few years to get to their full adult size and the size of the tank you give them as a hatchling will not influence their adult size (so don't think that you can control how large they will get). In a few years your turtle will need a tank that holds around 100 gallons of water (count on 10 gallons per inch of turtle) so that they can comfortably swim... and dive.
02 of 05
Red Eared Slider Lifespan
A well cared for captive red eared slider can be expected to live over 20 years, with some even reaching 30, 40, or 50 years old. Unfortunately, this is a lot longer than most hatchlings live due to inappropriate care. Most people don't expect that they are getting such a long lived pet when they purchase a tiny water turtle so remember, if you decide to get a turtle you are making a commitment to care for that turtle over its whole life span. Releasing an unwanted, store bought, red eared... slider into the wild is illegal in most places and can be harmful to the turtle as well as the environment.
03 of 05
Fortunately, fewer pet stores seem to be selling red eared sliders with little plastic bowls but the practice is not dead. No matter what a sales associate tells you, your hatchling turtle will not thrive in a small plastic bowl. Get an aquarium, even for the smallest hatchlings. Start with a 10 gallon tank if you must (but a minimum of 20 gallons is better) but be aware that your turtle will grow and need a larger tank pretty quickly. In addition, you will need to provide full spectrum UV... lighting, a basking light, a water heater, and a dry basking area. Setting up appropriate housing for a red eared slider is not cheap!
Some red eared sliders can live year round in an outdoor pond. Other turtles are not in a climate that will allow that so they must either live entirely indoors or be brought inside when it gets cold out. But even outdoor ponds need to be large and are not without their own problems. Protecting your turtle from predators, cold spells, and pesticides must all be taken into consideration as well.
04 of 05
It has been known for years that turtles (as well as other reptiles and other animals like hedgehogs) can carry Salmonella and other bacteria. This shouldn't necessarily stop you from getting a turtle (unless perhaps you have very small children or immunocompromised members in your household), but you should be aware of the risks and take hygiene measures to prevent infections. Incidentally, the sale of turtles less than 4 inches long is prohibited in the United States due to the risk of Salm...onella infections.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Like all turtles, red eared sliders can be be pretty messy since they both eat and produce waste matter in their water. Plan on having a filter that is rated for 2-3 times the amount of water you have in your tank so that you can keep your water clean. Canister filters and submersible filters are both used for aquatic turtles. If you don't have a filter you will need to do weekly partial water changes and testing. Feeding red eared sliders in a container of water outside the tank can also... help keep the tank clean. If you allow the water to stay dirty your turtle can develop ear infections, abscesses, shell rot, and other problems.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT