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Red Eared Sliders

May 11th, 2010

Red eared sliderRed eared sliders are the most common species kept as pets. They're distinguishable for the red marking on their heads. Red eared sliders have very thick and strong shells covered in green, dark green or brown with yellow markings. The bottom of the shell is yellow with big black patches. Head, limbs and tail are covered in green with yellow stripes and, of course, red markings on the head. The red markings are what makes them special among turtles.

They range from 12 to almost 30 centimeters with females usually being larger than the males. Males usually have bigger front claws, a bigger tail and a vent hole away from the body, while the female’s vent is usually closer to the body. They can live up to 40 years. As they're getting older, their shells become darker and those special red markings seem to fade away due to age. 

They're very strong and have a very strong bite. Be careful when you're holding them. Some of them don't like being held but you'll recognize it – they'll try to escape by kicking around. Don't be pushy, if you see that they don’t like to be up, put them back to water and you may try later. They seem to be funny 'cause they always expect food when they see someone's moving.

They're cold-blooded animals and they enjoy basking in the sun. Make sure you provide them enough light but don't directly expose them to sunlight. They also need a safe surface, such as rock, to rest on.

This species is very sensitive to vibrations – they don't like being scared, sudden moves and similar, especially if they're resting. They seem to slide off the rocks very fast, that's why they're called ‘sliders’.

They breed in April. It happens in a way that the male positions himself in front of the female, stretches his arms and vibrates along her face. She can respond differently – back away, or stretch her arms and join the vibrating session. If she does that, it means she's ready to breed. Then he places himself upon her and moves his tail under hers.

Who doesn't need high quality food? Red eared sliders are omnivores, meaning they benefit both from vegetables and meat. But as every other species, they need a variety of food. Young sliders should be fed daily while the grown-ups get fed every 2 or 3 days. Give them as much as they can eat within 15 minutes. Some people keep feeding adults daily, offering small meals. Just be careful, don't overfeed them. Gathers of skin around the limbs are the signs of being overfed.

Being an omnivore requires both plants and meat, a balanced diet. The best way of feeding them is a mixture of fresh and commercialized food. When it comes to commercially prepared food, it should be pelleted (they usually don't decompose very fast), dry worms mixed with insects, and some sticks and tablets. Fresh food includes raw chicken, live wax worms, earthworms, crickets, leafy greens, shredded carrots and green beans.

Like humans, sliders also need amounts of vitamins and minerals that should be added to the food once or twice a week. They need calcium. You can use a little trick here and offer them cuttlebone. Cut it into pieces and drop them into water.

Young sliders tend to be more carnivorously oriented but as getting older, they seem to be herbivores.