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Red Ear Slider Turtle

Red Ear Slider Turtle - Information on The Facts, Habitat, Food and Lifespan of RES Turtles

Scientifically termed, Trachemys scripta elegans, the RES or red ear slider turtle is one of the four subspecies of a single species called the Slider.

The other three are Big Bend Sliders, Yellow-bellied Sliders, and Cumberland Sliders. Essentially an aquatic turtle, it is a popular pet in America. In some countries though, it is illegal to keep these or any other turtles.

Red Ear Slider Turtle: Description

A medium to large sized turtle, RES males can grow to around seven to nine inches and RES females can reach sizes of ten to twelve inches. Primarily a basking turtle, the RES is oval-shaped, has a blunt snout and webbed feet that have claws.

In terms of color, its carapace is mostly dark green (yellow when young), and it has green legs with yellow stripes. Its head is also green, with its most distinctive feature, the red streak that can be found behind the eye. It should be noted that while the name is “red ear slider,” these red stripes aren’t actually its ears. Gender differences include:

• Males are smaller
• Males have longer front claws
• Males have longer tails

Red Ear Slider Turtle: Facts

Here are some interesting facts about RES turtles:

• RES turtles are called sliders because they slide off rocks, logs, or any other basking spot in a matter of seconds when they feel threatened.

• RES turtles are not good listeners.

Yet, it is almost impossible to sneak up on them or surprise them. This is because they are extremely sensitive to any kind of vibration.

• During courtship, the males use their long front claws to swim backwards and spray water over their faces in an attempt to attract the females.

• At one time, baby red ear slider turtles were considerably popular as pets among children. However, it was then discovered that there is a high risk of them being carriers of the bacteria salmonella. Consequently, the sale or trade of turtles smaller than four inches in diameter is prohibited by law.

Red Ear Slider Turtle: Habitat

Predominantly found in the wild, from Indiana to New Mexico, south of Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, RES turtles are widely distributed across the states of Oklahoma, Kansa, and Illinois. In the wild, you can find them in grassy drainage ditches and lakes, rivers, and streams with muddy shores. A soft bed and plenty of aquatic vegetation makes for an ideal habitat.

When kept as pets the habitat should be as close to that of the species’ natural habitat. Some things to keep in mind:

• The size of the tank should be big (in general, 10 gallons of water for every inch of turtle), and the tank should have a lid.

• The substrate should be rock, slate, or smooth gravel that is big enough so it cannot be eaten.

• The enclosure should have a basking spot or turtle dock as these turtles love to bask. A heat light (incandescent) above the basking spot is needed.

• You can keep ornamental plastic or silk plants that serve as hideouts.

• Water temperature should be maintained at 90° to 95°F in the warmer end of the tank and 70° to 75°F for the basking area (cool end).

Useful tips

• Change the water frequently
• The deeper the water, the better it is; the minimum depth should be the length of the shell
• Avoid keeping more than one type of species together

Red Ear Slider Turtle: Food

RES turtles are omnivores, though young RES are mostly carnivores and as they grow older they prefer plants and vegetation. In captivity, you need to provide them with a well-balanced and varied diet that provides both calcium and vitamins. Turtle food for an RES could include:

• Commercially available pellets
• Aquatic plants, such as anachris or water lettuce
• Insects
• Vegetables such as endive, radicchio, romaine, carrots and squash
• Fish, earthworms, and insects (as treats)

Useful tips

• Young turtles can be fed once a day; adults will need to be fed every alternate day.
• Don’t overfeed.
• RES turtles feed while in water; to keep the water clean, use a separate feeding tank.
• Avoid foods that inhibit the absorption of calcium, such as spinach and mealworms.
• While RES turtles prefer live prey, don’t give them live feed too often.

Red Ear Slider Turtle: Lifespan

In general, RES turtles live for 20 to 50 years in captivity, with proper care. Some have been known to live for up to 60 to 70 years as well.


C. H. Ernst and J. E. Lovich. Turtles of the United States and Canada, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

  Submitted on May 9, 2012  

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