Red-Eared Sliders as Pets

Woman with a red-eared slider

Owning a red-eared slider turtle can be quite fun and rewarding. However, keeping one as a pet may involve more than you may expect. According to Pet Education, a slider can live between 50 and 70 years in the wild, so caring for this pet isn't a short-term commitment.

Keeping Red-Eared Sliders as Pets

While a turtle can't climb onto your lap to cuddle or meow at you to feed it, turtles do have individual personalities. Not everyone owns a turtle, so it is also a fairly unique pet. People who are away from home most of the day may prefer a turtle to a dog that requires frequent walks and several feedings a day. They also don't require much affection. There are some unique turtle traits that can help you determine if a red-eared slider is the right pet, or even the right turtle, for you.

Personality

Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic. They spend part of their time in the water and part on rocks and logs, basking in the sun. Animal planet describes sliders as having a mild temperament, but they may grow aggressive around food or if they feel threatened. This turtle may hide in its shell for a few days when arriving at a new home, but will soon start to come out and greet you when you feed it.

Hardy Pets

Assuming that the red-eared slider is healthy when it arrives in your home and you give it proper care, it should be fairly hardy. Choosing a healthy pet will go a long way toward its longevity. Here are a few characteristics of a healthy slider:

  • No cracks or chips in the shell
  • No bubbles around the mouth
  • Should swim straight
  • Eyes should be bright

Are Sliders Good Pets for Kids?

The care of a slider should be left up to an adult because of the commitment involved in keeping the tank clean and feeding the turtle. However, these turtles can make excellent family pets. Small children should be supervised carefully when handling the turtle because it will nip if it becomes frightened.

Children should be taught to:

  • Support the bottom of the turtle.
  • Avoid making sudden movements.
  • Take care not to drop the turtle.
  • Be gentle and use slow movements.

After handling the turtle, the person should wash his hands thoroughly with soap and water to prevent the spread of salmonella or other bacteria. According to the FDA, this is particularly important for children, the elderly or anyone with a compromised immune system.

Interesting Behaviors and What They Mean

According to RedEarSlider.com, these turtles are more interactive with people than some species. However, if they want to be left alone, they may hiss at you. They may bully and intimidate other turtles in the same tank, especially those smaller than them. It is usually best to keep them in singles. They spend a big portion of their time in the water, so a good filtration system and regular fresh water is a necessity.

Where to Buy

First of all, it is important to know that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the sale of turtles. The code prohibits the sell of viable turtle eggs or live turtles with a carapace length smaller than four inches. The regulations were put in place to protect the public from the spread of salmonella. A person who is found selling eggs or very young turtles, and who fails to comply with the FDA's requests, can be fined and even spend time in prison.

First, purchase your turtle from a reputable breeder or pet store that deals with reputable breeders. The last thing a person who loves animals wants is to support turtle mill farms. Keep in mind that Tortoise Trust estimates that between three and four million red-eared sliders are exported out of the US every year. Turtles from these farms are too young to survive well with a novice turtle owner and often die within the first year or two.

If you are interested in adopting a red-eared slider, there are several organizations that work to rehome turtles that need a new environment. Some people buy these pets and do not realize how long they live or how large they can grow and need to find a new home for them.

Basic Care

Red eared slider in water
Sliders need fresh water and a place to dry off.

Sliders can be a little difficult to maintain as pets. A young turtle will need a smaller tank than a full-grown slider, but will still require a tank with water, places to get out of the water, UV lights and a filtration system. AP indicates a full grown turtle may even need a 55-gallon tank.

Petco offers a handy brochure for those considering a red eared slider as a pet. The brochure asks questions to help you determine if this is the correct pet for you. You'll also learn about common health issues your slider might experience such as:

  • GI Tract Parasites
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Shell Rot or Shell Ulcers
  • Eye Infections

Making a Final Decision

Red-eared sliders are pets that may live for as long as 40 years. While they are interesting, they do require a lifetime commitment. They are extremely aggressive and destructive to other species when released into the wild, so be certain you can make the commitment to keep the turtle for as long as it may live or that you find another home for it in the event that you can no longer keep him. If this still sounds like the pet for you, enjoy the laid back nature of your new pet slider.

Red-Eared Sliders as Pets