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Red-Eared Slider Housing

The Basics


red eared slider photo

Red Eared Slider

Photo © Lianne McLeod

I remember when you could go into the mall and buy teeny-tiny red-eared sliders from a kiosk. They came with their own teeny-tiny plastic dishes, teeny-tiny plastic islands, and even teeny-tiny plastic palm trees. The kiosk employee even guaranteed the turtle to stay teen-tiny and reassured anyone interested in the cute reptile that it was incredibly easy to care for and a great gift for a child.

Thankfully due to law changes I haven’t seen these poor guys being sold in malls for years. Those turtles more than likely didn’t receive the proper care and housing and probably died pre-maturely. Red-eared sliders make great pets but don’t stay teeny-tiny, and need more than a teeny-tiny plastic dish.

How Big Do They Get?

Red-eared sliders can grow up to 12 inches in length. This of course means a small plastic enclosure will not be enough room for a full-grown slider. Males stay smaller than females, so if you want a smaller turtle, try getting the turtle with the longer tail.

What’s the Best Enclosure?

A glass aquarium is better than a plastic house for a number of reasons. First, if you put a heat lamp and a UVB bulb on a plastic enclosure it will melt it. Second, glass doesn’t scratch like most plastic houses. Your turtle will claw at the sides of the house and will scratch up the plastic, making it look cloudy and dirty. If you want to use a plastic house for whatever reason, make sure the lid is made of a metal mesh and the house is a thick plastic, able to withstand the heat bulbs.

Your turtle needs 4-5 times the length of tank as his carapace. So, if your turtle is 12 inches long, multiply 12 by 4 or 5 and his tank should be 48-60 inches long. For the depth, multiply by 2. Having said all this, a full grown female 12 inch slider really needs about a 100 gallon tank.

How Often Does it Need Cleaning?

This depends on the size of your tank and turtle, and whether or not you have a filter and if you leave uneaten food in the tank to float around.

I love submersible or internal filters for water turtles. They help oxygenate the water and filter out the waste matter which keeps the tank sparkling clean. If you don’t have a filter, weekly water changes may need to be done. I recommend de-chlorinating the tap water before introducing your turtle into the clean tank. There are also products that help break down waste matter that you add to any new water. If you do use a filter, make sure you still clean the gravel, rocks, and any other objects in the tank regularly by rinsing them off, or stirring up the gravel to let any settled material get sucked up by the filter.

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