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Red Eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans

red eared sliderIntroduction Red Eared Sliders have a vast distribution in the United States ranging from Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, and the East Coast to western Texas. Due to people releasing their pet turtles into the wild, they may also occur in other areas as well.

They spend most of their time in or near water. Although it can be found in lakes and rivers, the Red Eared Slider prefers marshes, ponds, and slow-moving water that is capable of providing food, basking and hiding spots. They are omnivorous and will consume most plant or animal matter that they encounter.

Acclimation and Quarantine Quarantine and/or acclimation enclosures need not be elaborate, instead they should be sterile and easy to clean. Appropriately sized tanks or plastic Rubbermaid containers can be used. Water should be filtered and/or changed frequently. Be sure to provide a heat source, a pool, and a dry spot. A hide area should be provided for additional security. This setup should be used until the turtle is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.

Housing Red Eared Sliders will need housing that mimics their natural environment - warm, with water for swimming, and a dry warm area in which to bask. A glass or acrylic aquarium will be needed to house the Red Eared Slider; glass is usually better, since acrylic tends to be scratched easily. Another option is a plastic utility tub, wading pool, or stock tank. Remember that your turtle will grow, and have larger housing requirements. An adult Red Eared Slider will eventually require at least a 55 gallon aquarium. To avoid having to buy several enclosures over the life of your turtle, you may wish to start out with a larger aquarium. Bigger is always better. The cage will need to include a way for the turtle to easily exit the water and basking sites totally out of the water. Substrate such as large, smooth, aquarium gravel can be used to form a slope to an area of dry land. Cork bark, driftwood, a piece of plexi-glass glued to the side of the aquarium, or a stable platform of smooth rocks may be used for a basking site. It is usually best to avoid plastic plants, as the turtle may attempt to eat them.

Heating and Lighting Day light can be provided using incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes, or simply natural sun light if the day length is long enough. Whatever type of light you decide to use, be sure it produces UVB, as hatchlings and juveniles that do not receive enough UV will develop MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease). Incandescent lights may also be used as a heat source. They are available in a wide selection of wattages, so the right level of heat for the basking spot can usually be found and then controlled with a thermostat as required. One may also choose to utilize ceramic heat emitters for larger enclosures. They can be used at night without emitting light that would otherwise disrupt the turtle's photoperiod. Aquarium heaters may also be used for evenly heating the water in small to medium-sized enclosures. You should choose a heater that will provide 2-3 watts per gallon. The heater's thermostat should be set to keep the water between 78-82 degrees. If you choose to use a glass heater, be sure it is well protected. If the turtle knocks it against the tank and causes it to break, it will be electrocuted.

Feeding The diet of the Red Eared Slider should be well varied, containing foods from commercial diets (25% of the diet), animal proteins (25% of the diet) and vegetable matter (50% of the diet). The commercial diet can be comprised of trout food and commercial fish or turtle pellets or sticks; try to purchase a commercial diet that is vitamin enriched. The animal protein food items can be earthworms, snails, feeder fish, pinkie mice, crickets, bloodworms and mealworms. For the vegetables and fruits in their diets, offer collard greens, mustard greens, dandelions, shredded carrot, squash, beans, berries, tomatoes, strawberries etc. Keeping a cuttle bone in the enclosure for the turtles to chew on is an easy way to provide additional calcium as well.

Water Clean water should always be a main concern. Your turtle's water should be filtered and replaced weekly to bi-weekly depending on the type of filtration you choose. For smaller tanks, Duetto filters work well, as do the submersible Fluval filters, which come in several sizes. Carbon should be used with the filter to remove organic waste and reduce odor.