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8 Essential Red-Eared Slider Turtle Supplies to Get You Started

red eared slider turtle on a rock

Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic turtles with yellow and green markings and red patches behind their ears. In the wild, they can have devastating impacts on ecosystems and are actually considered to be one of the world’s most invasive species. But as a pet, they can be exciting and rewarding.

If you’re considering a red-eared slider turtle as a new pet, you should know that they require a significant amount of care and a hefty upfront investment. Since they can live to be 30 years, though, they’re an investment worth making.

Keep reading to find eight essential items you need to buy before you welcome a slider into your home.

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The 8 Essential Red-Eared Slider Turtle Supplies

1. Aquarium

Tetrafauna Aquatic Turtle Deluxe Aquarium Kit, 20-gal

The absolute minimum size for housing a baby turtle is 20 gallons. However, you should be prepared to invest in a much larger tank as your turtle grows. A good rule of thumb is to have 10 gallons of tank per one inch of turtle body length. You’ll likely be looking at a 50- to 75-gallon tank for your adult turtle, but some larger red sliders will need an even bigger tank.

The tank water must be as deep as your pet is long.

We love the Tetrafauna Aquatic Turtle Deluxe Aquarium Kit as a starter tank for your baby red slider. This tank system has everything you need to welcome your new baby home. It has a screened top to encourage proper ventilation, a waterfall filter, a basking platform, heat lamps, and more.


2. Water Filter

Tetra Whisper Internal Aquarium Power Filter with BioScrubber

A water filter is essential to your setup as it ensures the water is as clean as possible. However, turtles will produce more waste than fish so the filter you settle on needs to be rated for a tank with greater capacity. For example, if you have a 20-gallon aquarium, the filter should be rated for a tank that’s 50 gallons or more.

There are several filter types to choose from. Some go inside the tank while others hang on the back. The kind you choose will ultimately come down to your preference and budget. The type placed outside the aquarium tends to be more expensive than the submersible type.

We like Tetra’s Internal Power Filter if you’re searching for a submersible filter for your baby turtle’s tank. This product is quiet and has an anti-clog design for easy and convenient maintenance.

For external filters, we love this option from Zoo Med. They come in 50- or 75-gallon options and are simple to install and operate. In addition, this particular filter has an adjustable flow rate, so you can fine-tune it to get the desired results.


3. Lighting

Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Compact Fluorescent Mini Reptile Lamp, 13-Watt

Turtles need adequate UVA and UVB lighting in their aquariums. Without proper lighting, your turtle can develop metabolic bone disease (MDB), a condition that softens and deforms its shell and bone structure.

Basking is an essential part of a healthy turtle’s life. The best basking light will provide both UVA and UVB lighting. We’ll dive a little deeper into basking a little later in our article.

We like Zoo Med’s ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Lamp as it provides UVA lighting to boost your turtle’s activity level and appetite and UVB lighting to prevent MBD.

Your aquarium setup will likely come with lamp fixtures, but if it doesn’t, we like the Aquatic Turtle UVB & Heat Lighting Kit from Zoo Med.

Make sure you turn off your UVB lighting at night. We recommend setting your lighting up on an automatic timer to ensure they’re getting turned on and off at regular intervals.


4. Heating

SunGrow Fully Submersible Aquarium Small Pet Heater

Red-eared sliders are ectothermic, which means they rely on the environment they live in to regulate their temperature. Therefore, the temperature in the aquarium needs to be controlled carefully to keep your pet healthy and happy.

If the water temperature is too warm, your turtle will be less likely to bask as he needs to. This can lead to health problems like shell rot. Aim to keep the water at 75–80°F as this temperature encourages swimming but isn’t so warm that your turtle won’t come out to bask. We recommend the warmer end of that temperature spectrum for hatchlings.

If you cannot keep the water temperature where it needs to be, the SunGrow Fully Submersible Aquarium Heater can help. This heater allows you to choose the perfect temperature and will adjust accordingly.

The ambient air temperature in your turtle’s tank should also be between 75–80°F.

The basking platform temperature should be much warmer, between 85–95°F.

We recommend Zoo Med’s Digital Thermometer for keeping tabs on your turtle’s tank temperatures.


5. A Basking Spot

Penn-Plax Floating Turtle Pier Platform

Your turtle will need a dedicated basking area in its aquarium. Basking gives the body a chance to encourage essential body processes like immune function and digestion.

Basking also has other benefits such as:
  • Wound healing
  • Skin health
  • Shell health
  • Hormone regulation
  • Vitamin D3 synthesis

The ideal basking spot is somewhere out of the water but near their lighting. We love the Penn-Plax Floating Turtle Pier Platform. This is an excellent basking spot as it has a textured ramp that your turtle should find easy to climb.


6. Substrate

Aqua Terra Aquarium & Terrarium Sand, 5-lb bag

A substrate is not an absolute necessity, but some turtle owners choose to use it. There are four main types to consider.

First, is bare bones, which means no substrate at all. This is the safest and cleanest option because red-eared sliders can be messy little critters, and cleaning substrate all the time can be a bit of a chore. The downfall of having a bare bottom simply comes down to aesthetics—it’s not very pretty.

Sand is a common pick for substrate, but not all sands are the same. Choose one with bigger grains, such as Aqua Terra’s Aquarium & Terrarium Sand. Sand poses a minimal impaction risk which is essential for turtle owners. Also, since red-eared sliders are soft-shelled, they sometimes like to bury themselves in the sand so sand can also provide enrichment opportunities for your pet.

River rocks are popular as they look great in your aquarium. This substrate poses no impaction risk as the stones are too big for your turtle to eat. They’re heavier, so they’ll stay in place when your pet swims around them. They can also provide enrichment as your turtle may try digging around them and turning them over. The biggest downfall is that river rocks can collect debris around them, so cleaning can be a bit more complicated.

You might consider mixing river rocks and sand as the sand can fill in the spots around the rocks to prevent debris collection.

Some turtle owners use gravel as substrate, but we do not recommend this. Your pet may eat some of it, which can cause obstructions and devastating consequences.


7. Décor

SubstrateSource Cholla Wood Aquarium & Terrarium Driftwood, 6-in, 2 count

You don’t need décor in your turtle’s aquarium, but it can add to the ambiance of the tank and enrich your pet’s life. Try to keep the aquarium as uncluttered as possible to keep it clean.

Plants add a beautiful love to the tank, but your turtle will likely try to eat them and may also dig them up. If you must add live plants, you must ensure they’re turtle safe first. Java fern, anubias barteri, and sword plants are great for beginners and won’t harm your pet. We recommend steering clear of fake foliage as your turtle may chew on it.

We love decorative touches like this driftwood from SubstrateSource or this floating turtle log hideout from Zoo Med that can double as a basking spot.


8. Food

Zoo Med Natural Aquatic Maintenance Formula Turtle Food

Red-eared sliders are omnivores, so they need a diet that combines plant and animal materials. Babies will need more animal protein, so if you’re bringing home a young turtle, be prepared to spend some money to satisfy those carnivorous urges.

Commercial pellets are a nutritious and convenient way to ensure your turtle gets the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive. Zoo Med’s Natural Aquatic Maintenance Formula is specially designed to meet the dietary needs of adult aquatic turtles. It has 25% protein to ensure your pet gets the macronutrients it needs, and the pellets float so your turtle can satisfy its natural feeding instincts.

Prey items such as crickets, silkworms, shrimp, krill, and mealworms are great animal-based protein options to offer your slider. We like these sun-dried shrimp treats as their high n protein and safe to use as a staple food.

Darky, leafy greens like romaine, collard greens, and carrot tops pack a huge nutritional punch. You might also consider adding in red veggies like bell peppers since sliders are drawn to the color red.

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Final Thoughts

Getting everything set up for your new red-eared slider will be a lengthy and expensive process, but it’s necessary to ensure your pet is healthy and properly cared for. You don’t need to invest in décor or substrate immediately, but you’ll need a tank and proper lighting and heating ready for your turtle when it comes home.


Featured Image Credit: MrLebies, Pixabay

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