Owning and loving a reptile is not for every animal lover but just like a dog or cat, they can be wonderful companions. At first glance, a red-eared slider turtle may not seem to be the most exciting pet, but the opposite couldn’t be more true!
Red-eared slider turtles are long-lived—therefore, deciding to get a red-eared slider is a commitment because they could live for half as long as you do. In the long term, they may not be the most expensive animals to own and care for, but there are certain costs to take into consideration.
Let’s take a look at how much you need to budget to be the proud new owner of a red-eared slider.
Bringing Home a New Red-Eared Slider: One-Time Costs
The initial outlay for your new red-eared slider is probably going to be your single most substantial one-time expenditure for the duration of your turtle ownership. This outlay will (usually) entail the price to purchase or adopt your turtle, as well as the cost of setting up its new home.
You could be fortunate enough to find a red-eared slider that is “free to a good home”. For a number of reasons, a turtle owner may decide that they are no longer in a position to keep their red-eared slider anymore. Their chief requirement might be that their former pet finds a caring and committed home, rather than recouping their costs.
On these occasions, you could even be lucky enough to inherit the turtle’s habitat and equipment. If it’s just the turtle that’s available for free, then you would need to budget for its initial habitat set-up, which is discussed further on.
Due to their special care requirements, red-eared sliders are sometimes surrendered to animal shelters when a person realizes that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. You may be able to adopt a red-eared slider from a shelter or reptile rescue center if there is one in your area.
Expect a request to provide proof of your ability to care for your new pet. Some organizations may not have an adoption fee. Others might request a donation or have a fixed adoption fee for turtles.
Red-eared sliders are not rare or exotic as far as turtles go. Obtained from a breeder or pet store, you can expect to pay between $10 and $50 for your new pet.
Always ensure that you are purchasing from a reputable organization that can provide a clean bill of health, and one that conducts their business ethically.
Initial Setup and Supplies
The minimum that you could expect to spend setting up your red-eared slider in a comfortable new habitat is around $370.
As a semi-aquatic reptile, a red-eared slider has specific housing needs to survive. Apart from a terrarium or tank, these include equipment like a filter, lamps, and heaters. Below is a comprehensive list of equipment and supplies required for the initial setup, as well as the associated estimated costs.
List of Red-Eared Slider Care Supplies and Costs
|Basking lamp & fixture||$55|
|UVB lamp & reflector||$45|
|Annual/preliminary veterinary check-up||$55|
How Much Does a Red-Eared Slider Cost Per Month?
The total monthly bill to keep a red-eared slider healthy and well-fed is very reasonable and more affordable than for many other kinds of pets. After the initial terrarium set-up, their needs are not great. Keeping them well-fed with a healthy diet and their habitat clean is pretty much all that’s required.
Under these conditions, they tend to remain healthy and be low-maintenance pets.
There are many commercially available turtle feeds, which are formulated especially for this species. Your red-eared slider would be more than happy on one of these feeds.
They also like whole proteins, such as crickets, fish, and earthworms, and fresh greens like duckweed, kale, and endives, to name a few.
Medications and Vet Visits
Your red-eared slider is not expected to need to visit the vet or require medication very often—if ever. However, all animals may potentially fall ill and it is a good idea to budget for this. The upper-cost estimation above is a suggested amount that may be set aside annually for a turtle medical emergency.
At the very least, you may want to take your new turtle for an initial veterinary check-up after acquisition. The vet will be able to tell you if there are any health niggles to be aware of in your new red-eared slider. They will also be able to discuss and advise you of its specific care needs.
It is unlikely that you will need to insure your red-eared slider since they are considered low risk from a health and loss perspective. They are also not a rare species, and therefore, are not valuable or costly to replace. However, at your discretion, you might decide to go ahead and insure your new turtle in case of a mishap or medical emergency.
Your red-eared slider’s terrarium needs to be cleaned regularly. Water needs to be replaced as often as at one-week intervals. This can be adjusted at your discretion, but replacement water needs to be appropriately treated.
You may choose to replace the terrarium substrate (pebbles) every time you deep clean, or you might prefer to wash and reuse them. Deep cleans should be carried out every two months on average.
The below breakdown shows how much you can expect to spend keeping your turtle’s environment in tip-top condition.
Red-eared sliders don’t require much (if any) stimulation, and therefore, their entertainment costs are negligible. You might want to spend some money on some interesting habitat pieces for their terrarium. But even these need not cost anything.
It’s acceptable to source items from nature, as long as you are certain they are clean and pathogen-free. Be sure that you are not removing natural products from protected areas where doing so is prohibited. Consider sterilizing items before placing them in the terrarium.
Total Monthly Cost of Owning a Red-Eared Slider
As you can see, a red-eared slider is not a particularly costly pet to own. The most significant expense is the initial combined costs of setting up its terrarium.
They are generally not predisposed to diseases nor do they have any prevailing health conditions. If they are looked after properly, you can expect your monthly care costs to remain reasonably low.
Additional Costs to Factor In
There are not many other additional costs that need to be accounted for above those which have already been discussed. However, you will want to consider who is going to look after your red-eared slider when you are away from home. A professional pet sitter needs to be budgeted for if your friendly neighbor is not up to the task.
Medical emergencies with animals are always a possibility. You can factor in the amount suggested previously to be set aside annually for such an occurrence, so that you will be prepared just in case.
Owning a Red-Eared Slider on a Budget
Not all ardent animal lovers have an unlimited budget from which to provide for their beloved pets. This doesn’t mean that they should be denied the opportunity of being able to love and care for one.
It is possible to own a red-eared slider for less than the above-listed cost estimates. For example, terrarium substrate is optional—red-eared sliders don’t require it. Terrarium décor can be sourced from nature and equipment can potentially be purchased second-hand.
However, shortcuts should not be taken when it comes to a filtration system, lamps, and heaters, as these are necessary to keep your turtle alive and healthy.
Saving Money on Red-Eared Slider Care
You can opt to wash your turtle’s substrate instead of replacing it every time you deep clean. This will save the money you would have spent on buying new pebbles several times a year.
You could also feed your red-eared slider whole, fresh foods and protein that you’ve caught yourself. This might work out cheaper than commercially available turtle feed.
If you’re looking for an interesting pet to own, love, and care for, a red-eared slider is an awesome choice! An added advantage is their relatively low monthly maintenance costs. This is especially appealing if you are an animal lover on a budget.
The initial set-up costs for your turtle might require some careful budgeting or saving. Thereafter, you should be able to keep its monthly care and upkeep costs within a manageable range. Provided you pay attention to its non-negotiable requirements, such as clean water, good food, warmth and “sunlight”, you will have a rewarding pet to enjoy for a good many years.
Featured Image Credit: Sergii Votit, Shutterstock