10 Basic Tips For Caring For Baby Red Eared Sliders

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10 Basic Tips for Caring For Baby Red Eared Sliders

If you currently have a baby red-eared slider or plan on buying one, the following care tips should be useful in understanding everything it will need to grow strong and healthy.

Caring for a baby red-eared slider is not as difficult as one might think. There are, however, some basic steps to follow that will help the turtle live an enjoyable life and grow into a healthy adult.

It requires patience and understanding of its needs. It also takes time to understand what it is trying to communicate through different behaviors or actions.

Caring for this animal means being aware of potential dangers in the environment around your house or apartment so you can avoid them when possible.

Providing it with the right habitat, good water quality and temperature, food items, and light sources if needed, should be done according to specific guidelines depending on where you live.

There are Two Main Challenges in Caring for a Hatchling

young red eared slider turtle

The first one is getting it to eat the right food items.

The second one is getting its environment just right so you can be sure it is a safe place to live until it becomes an adult turtle.

Before you get a baby red-eared slider, it is important to know about the specific habitat conditions it needs so you can provide them in an adequate way.

The cost of caring for a baby red-eared slider is not as expensive as for some other types of turtles. However, it still will require some initial investment on your part and, sometimes, constant maintenance due to the conditions of its habitat.

Getting it the right kind of home, along with setting up the right temperature and light sources, is at the top of the list.

1. Buying a Baby Red-Eared Slider

Because these turtles are so popular in the pet trade, you can find them at most pet store chains or if your local store does not have one, you can buy them online.

Baby red-eared sliders are fairly inexpensive and range in price from $5 to $20.

The only problem is that you want to buy a baby red-eared slider from a reputable breeder or store rather than someone selling them on the side of the road or at a flea market.

Baby turtles are often snatched from the wild and if this has happened, it is best to avoid buying them.

They will not become used to humans and likely will not become tame, nor will they live very long in captivity.

Why Are Baby Red-Eared Sliders Illegal?

In some states, it is illegal to own a red-eared slider. Baby red-eared sliders are often snatched from their habitats and people might try to sell them at these locations.

This is not only illegal but very bad for the environment because baby red-eared sliders are disappearing from those habitats at an alarming rate.

Baby red-eared sliders need those habitats to survive and taking them from their homes puts them in danger as well as their habitats.

If you live in one of these states where it is illegal to have a red-eared slider, do not buy one.

RELATED READ: The Best Filter for Red Eared Slider

2. Baby Red Eared Slider Natural Habitat

red-eared slider natural habitat

Red-eared sliders are native to the United States, specifically the southeastern part of the country.

Baby red-eared sliders do best when they are kept in a tank that is no smaller than 40 gallons, although many turtle owners have reported success with turtle terms as small as ten gallons, though we don’t recommend it since they grow fast.

Baby red-eared sliders also need a basking site that is halfway submerged and has an area where the turtle can climb out of the water.

This allows it to bask in the sun, eat, and then go back into the water to swim.


Water Conditions for the Baby Red Eared Slider Turtle

Because red-eared sliders are native to the southeastern United States, they do best in water that is kept at a temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Tap water often contains chemicals that are not good for turtles or their habitats.

You can buy bottled drinking water at the grocery store and use that for your turtle.

If you want to use tap water, however, then you should constantly purchase a water conditioner that can remove chlorine and chloramines, which can kill your turtle.

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How Much Water Should I Put in my Baby Red-Eared Sliders Tank?

You need to have enough water so your turtle can swim around.

One or two inches of water will not be sufficient for it to swim.

Put as many inches of water as your turtle needs to swim around and bask.

You should be able to fill up half or more of the tank with water.

Your baby red-eared slider should be able to get out of the water whenever it wants because if your turtle stays in the water too long, it could drown.

If you want to find out how much water your turtle needs, test the depth by putting something in the water.

If it is floating, it means there’s not enough water.

When your turtle touches it, that means it’s not deep enough.

When your turtle starts to sit on it, that means the depth is good for your turtle.

3. Baby Red-Eared Slider Water Temperature

Baby red-eared slider turtles are cold-blooded, which means they do not create their body heat.

Instead, they absorb heat from their surroundings.

The turtle’s water should not drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit because it can be very uncomfortable for the turtle and will slow down its metabolism.

If the water does drop below 50 degrees, you should raise their water temperature to no lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

RELATED READ: Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Hibernate?

Why is my Baby Red-Eared Slider not Basking?

small red-eared slider

If your turtle is not basking, it is because the water temperature in its tank is not warm enough yet.

You need to raise the water temperature so your turtle will feel comfortable and be able to bask.

A low basking temperature indicates your turtle is not feeling its best.

The temperature should be at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

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4. Baby Red-Eared Slider Tank Size

When you are shopping for a tank to keep the baby red-eared slider in, do not go overboard with size.

Baby red-eared sliders need a tank that is 40 gallons. Baby red-eared sliders grow very fast and will become too large for their housing within a year when they can reach up to 10 inches in length.

In addition, when the baby red-eared slider is that size, it needs a supplement called a basking rock, which is placed halfway in the water and elevated so it can go out of the water to bask.

Baby red-eared sliders have a scaly flap that they can pull up to get out of the water and use this basking rock to get on top, where they will eat, bask in the sun, and then go back into their water for swimming.

This basking rock also provides a place for the baby red-eared slider to escape from any other turtles that may be in the tank.

RELATED READ: How Big do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Get?

5. Baby Red-Eared Slider Food and Diet

baby red-eared sliders

Red-eared slider turtle is omnivorous, which means they eat both animal and plant material.

The most important part of the red-eared slider’s diet is protein, which can come in the form of krill, bloodworms, brine shrimp, small crickets, and mealworms.

Plants play an important role in their diets too because they provide fiber and also help keep the turtle’s digestive system working properly.

This means that you should have both plants and animal life in your tank.

Provide the Right Minerals and Vitamins for your Turtle

You should also make sure you are providing calcium in their diet every day.

Calcium is important for their soft shell and can be provided by cuttlebone, which will need to be replaced every few weeks.

This is not only important for their health but also to make sure that they get the calcium they need for growing healthy bones.

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How to Feed a Baby Red-Eared Slider

The best way to feed your baby red-eared slider is by feeding them in a separate container rather than putting their food directly into the tank.

This prevents other turtles from eating their food and also keeps the turtle from getting sick if it eats something poisonous.

Feed them once a day and be sure to remove any uneaten food after a few minutes.

If your baby Red-Eared Slider doesn’t eat, you can try feeding it a small piece of fish or shrimp. If that doesn’t work, you may need to take it to a veterinarian.

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RELATED READ: The Best Food for Red Eared Slider

6. Baby Red-Eared Slider Lighting

Red-eared sliders are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day.

That means that they need lighting that mimics direct sunlight so they can bask for extended periods and get the energy boost they need to go about their day.

The amount of time you should run lamps or lights will depend on how much natural light comes into your home or office throughout the day.

It is best to turn them off at night because red-eared sliders have nocturnal tendencies.

In the wild, they would only be swimming around and looking for food at night, so you should mimic that with lighting as well.

Baby Red-Eared Slider Light Cycle

Baby red-eared sliders are an ectothermic species, which means they get heat from the sun.

They will need to get out of the water and bask to get that heat, which is why you should provide a basking rock of some sort.

They absorb heat through their scaly skin and can get sunburns if they stay in the sun too long.

So it is important to make sure you provide enough basking rock for your baby red-eared slider so they can climb out and get the heat that they need.

Every baby red-eared slider is different when it comes to basking, but you should check in on them throughout the day to make sure they are getting out enough.

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7. Baby Red-Eared Slider Handling

When a baby’s red-eared slider is young, they do not need extensive care and will be fine without your attention for a few days.

That does not mean that you should ignore them!

Red-eared sliders are curious animals that can become very friendly if handled often.

However, when you first bring the baby red-eared slider home, you should not pick it up with your bare hands because the turtle is a wild animal and may bite.

Instead, you can use a small net to scoop them out of the tank if they are on the basking rock or in shallow water where their heads can be seen.

The best time to touch a baby red-eared slider or any turtle for that matter is after they have eaten because they are very slow-moving when digesting.

Some turtles may like it when you put your hand in the water, so they can climb on and get warm.

8. Baby Red-Eared Slider Housing

When you are considering housing for your baby’s red-eared slider, the most important thing to remember is that they need swimming water and a basking rock that will allow them to get out of the water and get some UV light.

This basking platform will keep them safe from other turtles and allow them to escape if they need to, and tank walls and decorations should be low enough for them to swim around.

The bottom of the tank can be lined with leaf litter or sand that is deep enough for the turtle to bury itself and feel comfortable.

Remember that baby red-eared sliders need warmth, so an under-tank heater will keep the temperature at a good level for them to grow.

Make sure to provide a good source of UVB lighting so that they can get vitamin D3 and absorb calcium, which is critical in their growing stage.

RELATED READ: The Best Tanks for Red-Eared Sliders

9. How to Determine if a Turtle is Male or Female

Male turtles have a longer, thicker tail, and females have a rounder, stubbier tail.

Male turtles typically have a concave or flat-bottom shell, while female shells are more curved.

In general females have a lighter shell color than males.

10. How to Tell the Age of a Red-Eared Slider Turtle

appearance red eared slider
appearance of a red-eared slider

Turtles are considered full-grown when they reach 12 inches in shell length.

As the turtle ages, the scutes on its shell become darker and more dimpled.

The plastron of the turtle is also affected by age, and the seams will become visible.

If your turtle is a baby red-eared slider or was recently purchased from a pet store or a breeder, you can determine its age by when it was born.

  • 3-5 months old: white stripes will be visible on the plastron.
  • 6-12 months old: white bars will be visible on the plastron.
  • 12+ months old: white spots will be visible on the plastron.

RELATED READ: How Long Can Red-Eared Sliders Go Without Water


Baby Red-Eared Sliders are beautiful and interesting animals that can make great pets for those who want to take on the responsibility.

Before you bring your baby’s red-eared slider home, it is important to know what sort of housing they need as well as how much care they will require each day.

You might also be interested in learning about some tips we have provided so far on how best to handle them and maintain their health with regards to diet and heat requirements.

If this article has helped you become more knowledgeable about caring for these aquatic animals, please share this blog post with friends or family members who may feel overwhelmed by all there is to learn!