How To Care For A Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtle
The yellow-bellied slider turtle (Trachemys scripta scripta), also called yellow belly slider, is a land and water turtle from the Emydidae family. Although mostly found in the wild, in a variety of habitats, they are now also being welcomed into people's homes as house pets. To help them thrive in this new environment, we must know how to care for yellow-bellied slider turtles and how to set up their tank.
In this AnimalWised article, we are going to give you the complete guide to caring for a yellow-bellied slider turtle. We will go through general facts, their diet, tank set up, common health issues and more.
Yellow-bellied slider turtle: general information
As we've previously mentioned, the yellow-bellied slider is a land and water turtle. This subspecies of the Pond Slider is native to the southeastern United States. They are found in a wide range of habitats, such as slow-moving rivers, swamps, seasonal wetlands and permanent ponds.
Adult male yellow-bellied sliders are typically 5-9 inches in length, whereas females range from 8-13 inches.
The yellow-bellied slider turtle mate in the water. Then, females lay their eggs on land. They usually lay 6-10 eggs at a time. However, larger females are capable of bearing more. Yellow-bellied slider turtles generally mate in spring, summer and autumn. Interestingly, they are capable of mating with other Trachemys scripta subspecies.
The eggs will incubate for 2-3 months. Once they hatch, their diet will be almost entirely carnivorous. Hatchlings will feed on insects, spiders, crustaceans, tadpoles and fish. As they age into adults, they begin to feed more on plants. In fact, 95% of an adult yellow-bellied slider turtle's nutritional intake comes from plants.
The yellow-bellied slider is a diurnal turtle, meaning that they are mainly active during the day. These turtles mostly feed in the morning. The rest of they day they bask on the shore, on logs or while floating on water. Basking essentially means drying out and absorbing the UV rays from the sun. This is something that turtles do everyday in their natural habitat and need to do when in captivity.
Once they are suitably warm, the turtle will drop down into the water to cool down and forage. Yellow-bellied sliders are very strong and agile swimmers. These qualities help them find their food. As mentioned before, in the wild, these turtles feed on a wide variety of snails, fish, small crustaceans and other protein sources. They also feed on water and land plants.
Yellow-bellied slider turtles can sleep underwater for 30-40 minutes at a time. It can be even longer if the water is cool and their metabolism has slowed down. In the wild, they opt for areas with dense surface vegetation as it provides cover form predator and also supports high densities of aquatic invertebrates and small vertebrates.
In short, yellow-bellied slider turtles live a calm life full of basking, swimming, eating and sleeping. They are known for getting along with other turtles and being a great asset to a community tank. When cared for properly, these turtles are very calm and content. In captivity they have a lifespan of up to 40 years.
How to care for a Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtle
When it comes to caring for a yellow-bellied slider turtle at home, we must take the following factors into account: their tank set up, diet and common health issues to be aware of. To ensure our turtle is happy and healthy we must provide them with a clean and well set-up tank for their needs, as well as a balanced diet. If we see any abnormalities, we should consult our local veterinarian that has experience with reptiles.
In the following sections we will go deeper into these subjects so you can learn how to set up a tank for yellow-bellied slider turtles, what to feed them and how often you must feed them. We will talk about the most common ailments that may present themselves due to certain nutritional or environmental issues.
These animals are moderately easy to care for. Their calm and basic needs make them a great house pet that can live for many years when properly cared for. Follow this guide to achieve the best care for your yellow-bellied turtle.
How to set up a yellow-bellied slider turtle tank
For one or two adults you will need a tank of at least 75 gallons. The width should be at least 3x your turtle's length and the depth should be at least 2x your turtle's length. Lastly the length of the tank should be at least 5x the length of your turtle. However, if you can provide a bigger tank, that would be even better for your yellow-bellied slider turtle. The tank must be thoroughly cleaned every two or three weeks.
The depth of the water in the tank should be at least twice your turtle's size and the water should be kept between 72 - 85 ºF. If necessary, you can use a water heater to maintain the water's temperature. The water must be changed a couple times each week.
Next, you must provide a basking area for your yellow-bellied turtle. To do this, you can stack smooth rocks, create your own or buy a basking area at a local pet store. Then, you will want to handle the necessary lighting and temperature so your turtle can bask. You can use a standard ultraviolet-B light designed for reptiles. Place it within 1 ft. from their basking area. Use a timer so the light is on for 10 uninterrupted hours a day. This heating lamp should not be turned on at night.
This light should keep their basking area at a steady temperature of 80 ºF. You'll have to replace this light twice a year as UVB lighting lose their effectiveness over time.
You can choose whether or not you want to include substrate to your turtle's tank. Using substrate could make your turtle’s tank harder to clean, and you will need a highly efficient water filtration system. Nevertheless, if you choose to use substrate, opt for gravel. This is because it's large and your turtle will not be able to swallow it.
The most important decoration is the basking area we've previously mentioned. Other than that, you can add pond plants for their environmental enrichment and diet. You can also add smooth rocks, clean sand and other natural
If the temperature in the room in which you keep your turtle never falls below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, you don't need more than standard UVB lighting to keep the basking area warm.
Yellow-bellied slider turtles thrive in a clean environment. This is why it's so important to maintain their tank's cleanliness and add a filter to aid with this.
As briefly mentioned before, a yellow-bellied slider turtle's diet will change throughout their life. Nevertheless, they are omnivores. As hatchlings, they will have an almost exclusive carnivore diet. They'll eat insects and parts of dead fish.
As they grow into adults, they will begin to eat more and more plants until their diet consists of 95% plants and only 5% meat. So, what should you feed a yellow-bellied slider turtle at home? And how often should you feed them?
These plants are a staple for yellow-bellied sliders. Pond plants include anacharis and cabomba. You can place these in their tank and let them float freely on the surface. Other leafy greens you can offer is romaine lettuce, escarole and collards. However, you must remove and refresh them every day.
Some great sources of protein for your yellow-bellied slider are: pelleted trout chow, catfish chow and koi pellets. Freshly killed minnows, earthworms and insects are a great treat for them.
Vitamin/ mineral supplements
To avoid nutritionally based illnesses, your turtle will need a balanced diet. Fast growing baby turtles and ovulating females will need more calcium than adult males. Giving your baby turtle a vitamin supplement with calcium and vitamin D3 once or twice a week can help them reach their nutritional needs. Females should get the same supplement one or twice a week in spring and early summer. For male turtles, you can give them one supplement every two weeks to make sure they are receiving all the necessary vitamins and minerals their body needs.
Common health issues
Yellow-bellied sliders are hardy animals, but like any other animal they can get ill if not properly cared for. The key to maintaining these turtles in good health is by providing them good housing conditions as we've mentioned before, and of course, a proper nutrition. Some common health issues your yellow-bellied slider turtle may experience are the following:
- Puffy eyelids: or closed eyes may be due to insufficient vitamin A. If puffy eyes are accompanied by wheezing or drooling, this may be the signs of a respiratory issue. These are often caused by incorrect water temperatures.
- Metabolic bone disease: can be observed in a soft shell. This may be caused by an inability to metabolise calcium or simply an insufficiency of calcium in their diet.
- Ulcerative shell disease: is when shell rot develops. This is likely caused by poor water quality.
- Dystocia (egg-binding): is often cause by females voluntarily retaining their eggs due to incorrect nesting conditions.
If you see any abnormalities in your turtle, consult your local veterinarian who has experience with reptiles. All of ailments mentioned above are treatable if treated early. Do not self-medicate your turtle or give them home remedies without consulting an experienced veterinarian.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in our article on the different types of freshwater turtles.
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