A convenient way of providing both uvb and heat for
basking is by using one of the UVB/heat lamps, also called Mercury Vapor
bulbs. They give a great output of both uvb and heat and give the
convenience of having just one fixture for both. These bulbs go into a
ceramic socket domed fixture, which can be purchased for fewer than ten
dollars at home improvement stores. It must be a ceramic socket. Zoo Med
also makes a great deep dome fixture.
Probably one of the most common turtles is the Red eared slider
(RES). Back in the fifties and sixties these were sold in dime
stores all across America. Unfortunately little care information was
given and most succumbed to poor diet and habitat. There are still a
few of those original sliders around that people have had for forty
years or more, so we know they can live a long life if kept
Below are the basic set up requirements for housing.
Young hatchling sliders may be kept in a ten-gallon aquarium for
probably their first year, provided they are not overfed which will
force them to grow too fast. It is not true that a turtle will not
grow larger than the habitat it is kept in. It is also not true that
these little green hatchlings stay small.
The water level for hatchlings may be deep, however they
must have an easy access to a basking area. They need a
basking area regardless of water level so they can get completely
out of the water to dry off. Just keep in mind, in the wild there
are no 'nursery ponds' for wild turtles. They all live in the same
big ponds. The easy access basking is key. They are great swimmers,
but need to be able to get out of the water easily.
Ideally the basking area should be between 80 – 90°F with a water
temperature of about 70-75°F. The reason for the basking area being
hotter than the water is to encourage the turtles to bask. If the
basking temperature is the same as the water temperature they have
no reason to leave the water. A healthy turtle will bask for several
Turtles must have UVB lighting for proper bone and
shell growth. There are many different types of uvb lamps available.
Make sure you buy one that gives ample uvb output. There are Super
UV Coil lamps that claim to be full spectrum lighting and all your
reptile needs. Not true, they give very little uvb and some of the
coil lamps have even caused eye damage (photo-kerato-conjunctivitis).
For a good comparison of uvb lighting of different brands check this
We use uv/heat lamps here. These are mercury vapor bulbs that are a
combination of UVB and heat. They should NEVER be used over a ten gallon
tank and carefully over a twenty gallon for risk of over heating your
turtle. Ideally, no turtle should ever be kept in any small aquarium.
To keep the maintenance down it is best to get a filter that is made
for a much larger tank than you have your turtle in. Turtles are very
messy and water changes will be necessary, but will not be needed as
often if you have a good filter system. The external canister filters
such as Magnum, Fluval and Filstar, Eheim, are all good types to use.
It’s a good idea to keep a water thermometer in the tank to monitor
the temperature. If the temperature falls below 65-70°F then a heater
should to be added. Using a protective sleeve is recommended to prevent
the turtles from breaking the glass, or there are heaters that are made
of some type of metal that won’t break.
Keep in mind that as your turtle grows so will the size of your
aquarium. One four-inch turtle may be maintained in a 20Long tank, but
if you add another turtle you need to go to a 40 or larger aquarium. A
full-grown female slider can reach 12” or more, so it will need an
aquarium size of about 70-100 gallons to be maintained properly.
Optimally sliders are best kept in outdoor ponds, but since many are not
able to have an outdoor pond then following the above will keep your
turtles happy and healthy. I always feel it’s best to go right for the
large tank from the start to avoid the expense of buying multiple tanks
over the years. Check places like Ebay and Craigslist for used set ups
too. You can get some good used equipment sometimes for free or quite
RES should be fed a variety of foods. Reptomin floating food sticks,
Turtle Brittle, Aqua Max are all good pellet food, but they should also
be fed a variety of greens such as romaine, chicory, mustard greens,
dandelion and will also consume duckweed, water lettuce, water hyacinth
and anacharis plants. In addition to greens, a few times a week feed
them cooked chicken, raw or cooked shrimp, smelts, sardines (unsalted in
water if buying a can), assorted fish or snails. They will also consume
crickets, mealworms or superworms so gut loading these insects with a
good calcium supplement meal is a good way to get extra calcium into
your turtle. Another good way is to add a cuttlebone, the kind used for
birds, to the tank. They will nibble at that. A great place to buy
Turtle Brittle and Aqua Max as well as the UV/heat lamps is