The red-eared slider turtle, scientific name Trachemys scripta elegans, is a subspecies of the semi-aquatic pond slider. Belonging to the family Emydidae, it is an aquatic turtle species which prefers to spend most of its life in water. Its top oval shell (carapace) is green in color with irregular light and dark markings. Its name is given with respect to the red stripe present around the ears (on each side of the head) and its ability to quickly move sideways underwater, whenever necessary.
This turtle is native to the southern parts of the United States. However, with the increased interest in pet trade today, it is popularly reared as a pet in many parts of the world. If you are among those who love to have pets with a long lifespan, the red-eared slider and other turtle species are an ideal choice. Although it is said that aquatic turtles require minimal maintenance and grooming, the care for these turtles involves more than just providing an aquatic habitat and regular feeding.
For every pet owner, this turtle is a great addition to home ponds and aquariums. Being an active reptile with excellent sliding abilities, it is very interesting to watch it swimming and feeding in aquariums. You will never get bored of caring for it. Discussed below are some caring tips to ensure that your pet remains cheerful and healthy.
Never consider rearing a wild turtle. You can instead purchase a healthy, disease-free animal whose carapace measures more than 4 inches (keeping very small turtles is illegal in the United States). Or you can adopt one from a turtle rescuer. Look out for signs of sickness like a soft shell, sluggish nature, less appetite, or mucous secretion from the nose and mouth.
The size of the tank is not an issue for rearing juvenile sliders. However, if you are keeping a mature one, it usually grows to more than 10-12 inches, thus requiring an aquarium of about 100 gallon size. In case maintaining a large-sized aquarium is a concern for you, consider keeping your pet in an outdoor pond and erect a secured fence to protect it from predators.
Setting up the Tank
Fill the aquarium or garden pond with enough water so that your turtle can swim freely. Also introduce river rocks to set up a basking area for it. To be more precise, the water quantity should be about 10 gallons per inch of your pet size, while the basking area should be about one-third of the tank size.
The most crucial step in caring for this turtle is providing the correct habitat requirements in terms of lighting, temperature, and water quality maintenance. As this reptile requires ultraviolet ray exposure, you can install a 5 percent or higher UVB lamp. The ideal water temperature range is 78-80 °F for hatchlings and juveniles, and 72-76 °F for adults. The air and basking temperature should be 70-80 °F and 80-90 °F respectively. Installing a good filter system is imperative to keep the aquarium water clean.
As this turtle breed is omnivorous, make sure you feed it a correct blend of natural and commercially-sold foods. As per experts, the proper diet is 50 percent vegetables (carrots, lettuce, water hyacinth, duckweed, etc.), 25 percent live foods (earthworms, crickets, shrimp, etc.), and 25 percent commercial foods. It is best to feed your turtle in a separate tank to maintain cleanliness in the original enclosure.
Although this reptile is a voracious eater, strictly avoid feeding it in excess amounts or more frequently. Uneaten food will rot and soil the aquarium water, making your pet prone to illnesses. Whenever possible, remove the unused food and excretion from the enclosure. A 25 percent water change on a weekly basis is advisable to keep the water clean.
While keeping this wonderful turtle as a pet along with other inhabitants, make sure you keep a keen eye over it. It tends to be very aggressive at times, thus affecting those sharing the same tank. With proper care, you can enjoy the company of your pet for as long as 35 years.