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Considering a Pet Red Eared Slider? 6 Things to Know About Red Eared Sliders

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Turtles can make lovely pets -- but you have to know what you are getting into. Those cute little hatchlings you see for sale will grow into large, long-lived and somewhat messy turtles. Here are 6 things you should know about red eared sliders before deciding on getting one as a pet.

1. Red Eared Sliders Get Big

Photo © Lianne McLeod
Don't be fooled by those delicate-looking, cute hatchlings -- red eared sliders grow to an adult size of up to 12 inches. It will take them a few years to get to their full adult size. The significance of this relates to the size of tank your turtle will need: count on 10 gallons per inch of turtle. Your adult turtle will need a very large tank (or other suitable housing such as a pond).

2. Red Eared Sliders Should Live a Long Time

Photo © Lianne McLeod
A well cared for, captive red eared slider can be expected to live up to 40 years or so. If you decide to get a turtle, you are making a commitment to care for that turtle over its whole life span (and remember, you should never release your turtle into the wild when it gets older).

3. Red Eared Sliders Cannot Be Kept in Little Plastic Bowls

Photo © Lianne McLeod
Fortunately, fewer stores seem to be selling red eared sliders with little plastic bowls, but the practice is not dead. No matter what a seller tells you, your hatchling turtle will not thrive in a small plastic bowl. Get an aquarium, even for the smallest hatchlings; start with a 10 gallon if you must (I recommend a minimum of 20 gallons, though), but be aware your turtle will grow, and need a larger tank, quickly. In addition, you will need to provide UV lighting, a basking light, water heater, and a swimming area and a basking area. Housing a red eared slider is not cheap!

4. Red Eared Sliders can Carry Salmonella

It has been known for years that turtles (and other reptiles, and other animals) can carry salmonella and other bacteria. This shouldn't necessarily stop you from getting a turtle (unless perhaps you have very small children or immunocompromised members of your household), but you should be aware of the risks and take hygiene measures to prevent infections. Incidentally, the sale of turtles less than 4 inches long is prohibited in the US due to the risk of Salmonella infections.

5. Red Eared Sliders are Messy

Like all turtles, red eared sliders can be be pretty messy. Let's just say that they make a lot of waste. Plan on having a filter that is rater for 2-3 times the amount of water you have in your tank -- this will go a long way to helping keep the tank clean. Feeding red eared sliders in a container of water outside the tank can help keep the tank clean, too. Even then tank cleaning is something you will need to stay on top of, or the tank can get smelly or grow lots of algae.

6. Red Eared Sliders Will Beg for Food

Once your turtle figures out you bring the food, he or she may be quite excited to see you. And if you don't have food, they sometimes swim back and forth frantically, and manage to look like are starving and need food -- now! Don't let them fool you, though, because obesity can be a big problem in turtles.
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