The red-eared slider is one of the most commonly kept aquatic turtles. They are native to the United States and their natural habitat are sluggish rivers, shallow streams, swamps, ponds, and lakes with soft bottoms and dense vegetation. Along with providing adequate housing for your pet, you must also provide a nutritious diet and fresh, clean water that is the proper temperature.
Diet and Nutrition
The exact nutritional requirements of turtles are not known, so you will have to provide a variety of foods and monitor what your turtle actually eats (as opposed to what he is offered). It may take weeks for your turtle to accept a new food, but if he is warm and healthy, he will eventually try it. If your turtle is ill, or if his environment is not appropriate, he will be less likely to have a good appetite or to try new foods.
Insects, earthworms and mealworms are calcium deficient, but also can be fed in moderation. Earthworms should be cultivated in a wormery, since wild worms may carry parasites or bacteria harmful to sliders. Feed very little, if any, raw meat, liver, chicken gizzard, mince or heart because they have an extremely low calcium content. Do not feed crayfish, shrimp, wild-caught insects or spiders; these may carry harmful bacteria.
The health of your turtle depends on the quality of the water. Sliders are aquatic animals and they release their waste into the water, so the enclosure must be cleaned and disinfected often and the water drained and replenished. If the water is not clean, it harbors more bacteria and the chances of your turtle getting sick increase. Water quality should be evaluated weekly because, although the water may appear clean, the pH, ammonia nitrate, and nitrite levels may be inappropriate or even dangerous. Keep a test kit handy, available at aquarium supply stores.
Partial water changes are not adequate. Keep in mind that tanks with lower water volumes need to be changed more often than tanks with higher water volumes. For example, a 10-gallon tank housing three or fewer 4-inch turtles should have the water changed every 2 to 3 days. A 50-gallon tank will need to be changed weekly. If the turtles are fed in the same enclosure, the water should be changed within 12 hours.
A small tank can be carried to a sink for a water change, but if your tank is large, you will have to siphon or drain it. When it is empty, scrub and rinse the walls to remove bacteria and any traces of cleaner. Dechlorination of the water is not necessary, but a drastic change in water temperature can kill the animals, so be certain that the temperature remains the same. Check it with a thermometer. The water should be at least as deep as the width of the widest turtles shell. Otherwise, if the animal overturns, he will not be able to right himself and may drown.