Keeping Your Red Eared Slider from Dying Young – The 3 Keys

Red-eared sliders are a popular breed to choose from for people of all ages. 

Red Eared Slider | ID 45995975 © Xbrchx |

They’re adorable and fun to keep as pets, but have a few more care requirements than other turtles. 

For example, they must be able to be submerged in water several times a day. Various factors play a role in determining their lifespan.

So, how long do red eared sliders live? Red-eared sliders in captivity live an average of 20 years.  There are reports of pet sliders living 75 years or more with proper care, however.  In this article, I’ll cover the main issues that cause them to die early and how to fix them.

Let’s see how you can take care of your new red-eared slider to ensure that they live a long and happy life.

The Lifespan of a Red-Eared Slider

Whether you’re a first-time owner or you’ve had red eared sliders for many years, you’ll undoubtedly wonder how long they’ll live. You should know that these turtles are considered long-lived pets, so keep this in mind if you intend on owning one. With multiple decades to come under your care, a red-eared slider will be with you for a large portion of your life!

These companions are affected by three primary factors that’ll determine their lifespan:

1. Diet

2. Water consumption and availability

3. Habitat

I’ll dive more into each topic in further sections of this article. However, you should note that you can have a perfectly healthy red-eared slider for upwards of five decades! In most cases, owners typically get 20 years or so with their pet turtles. In any sense, they’re a huge responsibility. 

Committing to a red-eared slider means that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that they have everything they need.

Under proper circumstances, adult red-eared sliders can grow up to 12 inches long. They need a lot of space to move around, which is one of the many habitat requirements. These turtles also tend to grow quicker when their tank is big. It usually takes a couple of years for them to reach their full size, though the exact length of time can vary.

Making a Red Eared Slider Habitat at Home

One of the most crucial details of owning a red-eared slider is their home. 

Unfortunately, the hatchlings tend to die frequently due to malnutrition and improper care. However, you must also be careful with adults, as they are also quite fragile in terms of both health and adaptability to unknown habitats. 

Red-eared sliders should have a large source of water to swim, submerge, and play in. They need to stay moist to prevent their skin from cracking, but it’s always their drinking source as well. 

The water temperature should rest between 75 degrees and 85 degrees. If possible, you should purchase a heater, especially during the winter.

Equally as important as the water inside of their tank is a place to rest. Red-eared sliders swim frequently, but they still need rocks, logs, and other areas to stop moving around so much. Make sure that you mist these areas to prevent them from drying out. Surfaces that are too dry and jagged can do more harm than good.

Lastly, you must make sure that there’s enough plant life around the tank. Again, find out what the plants are in their natural habitat as a reference. Dwarf Hairgrass, Java Moss, and Hornwort are three primary choices for many turtle owners. You might also consider Water Lettuce, Moneywort, or Water Hyacinth as well.

When you’re buying a tank for a new red-eared slider, you need the proper tank size. Try getting a tank that’s about 10 gallons per 1 inch of your turtle. 

For example, a 5-inch turtle would need a 50-gallon tank. As you can probably imagine, the tank size gets very large once your turtle gets up to 10 or 12 inches in length.

Other critical habitat requirements for a red-eared slider include:

  • A UV light, a warming lamp
  • A water filter to prevent feces from building up
  • 6 to 8 inches of water depth across the tank

If these aren’t provided, it could dramatically impact the health of your red eared slider – leaving them with a shortened life expectancy.

Red eared slider – Trachemys scripta elegans | ID 45885998 © Xbrchx |

Food & Water Requirements

Red-eared sliders have a specific diet, but they aren’t restricted to either vegetables or meat, as they need both sources of food to live healthily. Lettuce, spinach, and other greens are a good source of iron and vitamins in their diet. Leafy greens also help to speed up the digestion process and regulate their bathroom schedule.

As far as choosing the correct meat for a red-eared slider, it would be best if you opted mostly for seafood. The ideal choices include dried shrimp, krill, and so on. They can also chow down on crickets, certain worms, and other small bugs. 

As with most pets, try to imagine and research what they eat in the wild. It’s a great indicator of the food that they should consume in captivity.

Many future red-eared slider owners often wonder if they can consume traditional store-bought turtle food. 

In short, the answer is yes! They absolutely can, as long as the food is made for red-eared sliders. These meals usually have all of the nutrition that the turtles need to thrive. 

One important note is that commercial food still shouldn’t make up the majority of your red eared slider’s diet.  They still need plenty of fresh food. Substituting the treats mentioned above into their diet is still a good idea.

Don’t forget about their water, either! Red-eared sliders require a lot of water in their tanks to swim and clean themselves in. Water is also great for hydrating their skin. Surprisingly enough, they don’t need an additional water dish to drink. They drink the water around their tank as they swim and submerge themselves.

On a side note, you should always consider your pet’s unique taste. Most red-eared sliders aren’t picky as long as you stick to the recommended diet above. However, there are still a few outliers that don’t want specific foods. Play around with the food selection until you find something they love and reserve a few specialties as treats for fun occasions!

Common Illnesses of Red Eared Sliders

Red-eared sliders, like most other reptiles, are prone to Salmonella. In most cases, this does very little to affect the turtle at all. However, you should take caution and wash your hands after cleaning the tank or handling your turtle. This rule especially applies to households with senior citizens and children.

The majority of illnesses that red-eared sliders come across are due to a lack of proper care. This lack of care ranges from hygiene and cleanliness to a tank without enough water. 

I’ve already mentioned the dangers of not putting enough water in the tank. However, they can easily die of cold and hot temperatures as well. Since their skin is so thin, they’re much more susceptible than other turtles.

Red-eared sliders are also prone to ear and eye infections from impure water. They go to the bathroom in the same place that they swim as they do in the wild. However, it becomes polluted since the water can’t disperse the feces. A vet visit is the best way to treat it since both infections can be deadly.

These health issues, among others, can happen any time throughout a red-eared slider’s life. Prevent them through proper care to allow them to live for decades on end!