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. They require a spacious enclosure with both water and a dry basking area, and their tanks must also be cleaned regularly. Before choosing a red-eared slider as a pet, consider all aspects of their care and the characteristics of the species.
Red-eared Sliders as Pets
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. However, these pets still require a great deal of cleaning and care. If you're considering purchasing a red-eared slider as a pet, you should first understand what to expect from these reptiles.
Red-eared sliders are more intelligent than most people believe; they can learn to recognize their owners and may even come when called. However, sliders aren't necessarily cuddly pets. These turtles are known to be mild-tempered, but they can act out and bite if provoked.
Each individual red-eared slider has a unique personality, so while one may be outgoing and friendly, another may be more reserved or shy. Don't be alarmed if your new turtle hides for a few days while adjusting to their new environment; they should begin to feel comfortable and venture out for food. Pet red-eared sliders can become quite attached to their owners, so interaction and enrichment are important bonding activities.
Most pet turtles tolerate being held or carried around, even if they don't necessarily enjoy it. This quality makes sliders such great family pets. However, small children should be supervised carefully when handling the turtle, as it will nip if it becomes frightened. It's also possible for a child to injure a turtle with improper handling.
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 a red-eared slider, it's important to thoroughly wash your hands. These reptiles may carry Salmonella on their shell and skin, which can be transmitted to humans. Children, the elderly, pregnant individuals, and anyone with a compromised immune system should be especially careful to use proper hygiene.
Cleaning and Care
Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic. They spend a portion of their time in the water and the rest on rocks and logs, basking in the sun. For this reason, you must provide your pet turtle with water. You'll also have to understand that this water will become soiled with uneaten food and waste (turtles create a lot of feces), so it must be maintained regularly.
Many owners elect to house their sliders in an outdoor pond. This is a way to avoid having a messy tank in your home, and sliders tend to do better outdoors when kept in the right environment. You will still need a powerful filtration system for an outdoor pond and must maintain and replace the water to keep your turtles healthy.
Indoor turtle enclosures are more difficult to keep up with. Turtles must be housed in a large tank that can provide them access to water and a dry basking area. In addition to a strong filter to keep the water clean, you must also have specialized, high-quality lighting, and a water heater. Weekly water changes are necessary, as well as a deep clean every two to three weeks.
Aside from maintaining their messy habitat, red-eared sliders are fairly low-maintenance. Owners should feed them an omnivorous diet of commercial turtle pellets and fresh vegetables, and these turtles must be fed in the water. Always keep an eye out for any signs of illness.
Pros and Cons of Keeping Red-Eared Sliders
Reviewing the benefits of red-eared sliders as pets, as well as the potential downsides, can help you decide whether this is the right pet for you.
- Do not need constant attention or interaction
- Can be kept indoors or outside in the right environment
- Entertaining to watch
- Can form a bond with owners
- Uncomplicated diet and feeding schedule
- Water in the habitat will become messy and requires frequent cleaning
- Enclosure needs careful planning (water heater, filtration system, lighting, etc.)
- Can live to be 40 years old
- Can carry Salmonella
- Not a cuddly pet
Choosing a Red-Eared Slider Turtle as a Pet
Red-eared sliders are pets that may live for as long as 40 years or more. While they are interesting, they do require a lifetime commitment and cleaning. If this still sounds like the pet for you, enjoy the laid-back nature of your new pet slider.