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Freshwater Turtles

General Info

Sliders (Red-Ears, Cumberlands, Leopard Bellies, Yellow Bellies, Maps, Cooters, and many others) are found throughout the United States. Males are smaller than females in overall body size, but have longer tails. Healthy sliders can live anywhere from 10 to 45 years. They are gentle creatures, and make excellent pets.

Sliders are quite intelligent, and can learn to respond to their names. Feed your slider the proper amount of food each day (overfeeding can be fatal). To train it, give it occasional treats such as bits of raw lean hamburger, raw chicken livers, tiny live fish, or dried shrimp tidbits.

Never drop your slider, or let it fall off the table. The impact will kill it. Your child(ren) will enjoy playing with this curious, energetic pet, but should always be closely supervised.

Important Note #1: SLIDERS WILL GROW TO THE SIZE OF THEIR ENVIRONMENT. If you want your slider to stay small, you must keep it in a small tank. Do not put your slider in a large tank (i.e. 10 gallons) unless you want it to grow large! Sliders placed in large tanks or ponds can grow to 11" or larger in diameter.

Important Note #2: HANDLING A TURTLE WILL NOT MAKE YOU SICK. The salmonella bacteria is a form of e-coli, which lives in the G.I. tract of nearly every living creature, including humans. Most people have a natural immunity to this bacteria, which is why the disease is extremely rare. In order to get sick, you would have to let your turtle’s water get so filthy that it’s black and stinking--and then drink the water. Simply handling a turtle will not cause or spread disease. (See cleaning tips below.)

Creating The Proper Habitat

Keep your slider in a warm room, but do not place its tank in front of a window. Too much direct sunlight and/or heat can kill it. Heat lamps and water heaters are not necessary, and in fact can be dangerous to your slider if used improperly.

Never fill your tank with more than a few inches of water, unless you also provide your slider with some kind of raft or floating sponge to climb on. Your slider will drown if it cannot rest on something solid, and still poke its head out of the water. Also remember that, in the wild, sliders eat fish along with bits of vegetation. If you put a slider in your fish tank, it may eat your fish (even the big ones).

Sliders need to climb out of the water every day for at least a few hours. That helps dry out their shells, which keeps them healthy. A slider that cannot dry out may develop a soft, mushy shell. This can be fatal. If you cannot take your slider out of its tank every day, make sure to keep a calcium block in its water.

Cleaning The Tank

Your slider’s water must be cleaned at least twice a week. Turtles are messy eaters, and will defecate in their water. In rare cases, exceptionally dirty water can lead to disease (see above) for both turtles and humans. Fortunately it’s very easy to clean a turtle tank. Simply empty the dirty water and gravel into a kitchen strainer, rinse the gravel under running water, and pour it back into the empty tank.

You can buy expensive de-chlorination chemicals to treat your slider’s water, but why waste the money? Simply fill a clean, empty milk jug with water, and let it sit out uncovered overnight. Then fill your slider’s tank with that naturally-aged water. A single milk jug can last for two or more weeks.

With proper care, your slider will be the easiest pet you’ll ever own. Enjoy!

Pretty cumberland turtle swimming underwater
Cumberland Turtle
(aka “Leopard-Belly Slider”)
Pretty red-eared slider turtle sitting on a rock
Red-Eared Slider
Lovely newborn map turtle sitting on a leaf
Map Turtle
Gorgeous baby cooter turtle sitting on a leaf
Cooter Turtle
Gorgeous high-color western painted turtle
Painted Turtle