How Long Do Red Eared Sliders Live? (Detailed Guide)

Also scientifically known as Trachemys scripta, Red Eared Sliders are one of the very popular pet turtles. They are preferred by most pet owners for their small size, docile personality, and unique patterns. The turtles are named after the unique red stripes behind the ears. Getting a Red Eared Slider is a lifetime commitment. If you plan to get it as a pet, you may have certain questions such as;

How Long Do Red-Eared Sliders Live?

When kept as a pet, a red-eared slider has a lifespan of 40 to 50 years on average. On the other hand, the reptile lives between 20 to 30 years when in the wild.

Knowing how long the turtle lives will help you gauge whether you are ready for the commitment it takes to take proper care of the turtle throughout its life.

The commitment is financial, emotional, and time-wise. Although a pet red-eared slider’s average lifespan is about 40 years, many factors determine whether a turtle will live for longer than or shorter than this average lifespan.

Factors that Determine How Long a Red Eared Slider Lives

There are several factors that affect how long this reptile will live. If you do not feed the animal well and give it the necessary care and attention, the pet turtle is likely to get stressed.

This and other factors affect the pet’s lifespan. Here are the main things that determine how long your pet turtle will live.

In The Wild

The environment of a red-eared slider turtle refers to the general conditions of where the reptile lives. The environment can be generally categorized into captivity and wild.

Wild turtles live in the natural environment without special care by anyone. They fend for themselves. On the other hand, we have captivity which refers to the environment of pet turtles.

Wild turtles are subjected to many things that pet turtles don’t have to deal with. This ultimately, this exposure influences how long the turtle lives. Some of the factors that influence their lifespan include

a)      Predators

One of the critical things is wild predators. These are the animals that prey on red-eared slider turtles to either eat them or cause any other harm.

A wild red-eared slider turtle has a lot of predators. The major ones are raccoons, snakes, cats, foxes, dogs, eagles, skunks, and opossums.

Turtles are not entirely defenseless in the wild. Their hard shell is a defense mechanism against predators.

A red-eared slider turtle retracts its four limbs, tail, and head inside its shell when attacked by a predator. This defense mechanism is effective but does not always win when a predator attacks.

A predator can end a turtle’s life in a few minutes. Baby red-eared slider turtles are the most vulnerable because their shell is still a little soft.

Besides, they are also inexperienced in how to hide or defend themselves against predators. Turtles also don’t nurture their young ones, so baby red-eared slider turtles in the wild are even more vulnerable. Exposure to predators affects how long the turtle will live.

b)      Human Activities

Human activities such as littering the environment may also affect the turtle if the turtle feeds on the toxic litter.

Ingestion of toxic materials significantly reduces the lifespan of any turtle, not just the red-eared slider species.

Other major human activities affecting the lifespan of a turtle include beach erosion, disposal of plastic materials in water bodies, and water pollution.

c)       Other Factors

While predators and human activities are the key environmental factors on how long a wild red-eared slider turtle lives, there are other factors that influence this. These other factors may be rare, but they are equally dangerous.

Other environmental factors affecting the lifespan of this turtle include flash floods, wildfires, extended winters, tornados, and other natural catastrophes.

The most tragic thing is that when any of these events occur, they affect all the turtles living in the particular area, not just a single turtle.

The occurrence of such events may also have ripple effects. For example, extended winters may affect not only the turtle’s health but also the aquatic animals and vegetation that the turtle feeds on, thus indirectly affecting the reptile.

As pets, there are several factors that influence their lifespan

Luckily, pet turtles don’t have to deal with the challenges faced by wild turtles. Instead, their lifespan is significantly influenced by what the owner does and feeds the animal with.

Here are the factors that affect the lifespan of a red-eared slider in captivity.

1.      The Aquarium Tank

A red-eared slider turtle is semi-aquatic. This means that an owner needs to get a place to keep the animal which is often an aquarium tank.

However, being semi-aquatic means that it does not spend as much time in the water as aquatic turtles do.

Different factors on the tank one choose to use affects how long the pet turtle will live.

a)       Size

One of the most crucial aspects of a tank is its size. It is crucial for you to know how big the specific turtle species can grow before getting a turtle. This helps you ensure that you get a tank big enough to care for the pet’s growing needs. Red-eared slider pet turtles can grow up to 12 inches when mature.

It would be best to start with a big enough tank to allow the turtle enough room to move. When the space is limited, the turtle struggles to swim and can get stressed. Stress ultimately affects the animal’s lifespan.

 Read More About: How Big Do Red Eared Sliders Get? (Detailed Guide)

b)      Temperature

It is easy to tell how temperature affects the lifespan of a red-eared slider turtle. When the water in the tank is too cold, the turtle may catch a cold.

Colds are a significant threat to most turtles’ lives. On the other hand, when water is too hot, it might burn the turtle leaving the animal with injuries.

An ideal water temperature for a turtle is between 23 degrees Celsius and 29 degrees Celsius.

c)       Cleanliness

Red-eared sliders are very resistant when it comes to being affected by germs and bacteria. This is because their natural habitat in the wild isn’t so clean, and they have developed some resistance.

However, there is a limit. When the water is left dirty for long periods of time, the turtle’s health will be affected. Deteriorating health affects how long the turtle will be alive.

A turtle’s tank does not need to be cleaned daily; once a week is enough. You should also change the water weekly.

The water may seem clean at times, but it might be highly concentrated with ammonia and nitrate from the turtle’s excretions.

2.      Basking Area

Although red-eared slider turtles live mainly in water, they also come out to bask every now and then. Basking enables turtles to get the necessary amounts of UVA and UVB light.

Their bodies require this light for maintaining optimal shell health and bone development.

UVB light is particularly vital for the reptile’s calcium absorption and metabolism. The absence of light can cause fatal illnesses and shell degeneration.

Basking also helps them get rid of bacteria that might be on their shells. Finally, since turtles are cold-blooded, basking enables them to regulate their bodies’ temperature.

If the basking area is not set in a conducive area, the red-eared slider turtle will not get enough light for growth and heat to regulate its body temperature. When this happens, the turtle’s shell and overall body health are affected.

3.      Diet

A balanced diet is one of the most vital ingredients to a long life. A suitable diet translates to a long healthy life, while a poor diet means the animal may live for a shorter period.

While in the wild, a turtle eats whatever it finds. The turtle may also starve if it does not find anything to feed on.

Based on what the turtle finds to eat, it may end up having a balanced diet, but in most cases, wild red-eared slider turtles do not have a balanced diet.

This ultimately affects their lifespan. It is also for this reason that wild red-eared slider turtles have a relatively shorter lifespan compared to their pet counterparts.

When it comes to pet red-eared sliders, they do not look for food. Their owners feed them, and their diet totally depends on what the owner chooses to feed the reptile with.

As a red-eared slider turtle owner, you should research the right food combination for your turtle based on its age.

Why Do Turtles Live for So Long?

Turtles and tortoises are known to live for up to 100 years! There is no specific answer to why they live for so long.

However, there are several factors relating to a turtle’s body that contributes to its long lifespan. These factors include slow metabolism, lifestyle, and reproductive system.

1.     Slow metabolism

One of the critical reasons scientists believe that turtles, including the red-eared slider, live for so long is their slow growth rate.

Turtles mature very slowly throughout their lives. The slow growth slows down their aging as compared to animals and birds. It also means that they process illnesses at a slower rate.

Because of their slow metabolism, red-eared slider turtles can live for long periods without food and water.

This also enables them to survive in harsh environmental conditions such as extremely hot or cold environments.

2.     Lifestyle

Turtles are generally omnivorous. However, the longest living turtle species known as the Galapagos giant species is herbivores.

It feeds on vegetables free of cholesterol and fat and full of greens. Its long lifespan is at times attributed to it eating no meat.

The red-eared slider turtles are omnivorous, and they feed on less meat and more vegetables as they mature. They are also generally calm and lives a stress-free life.

The combination of their diet and calm nature is also another factor that most likely contributes to these animals having a long lifespan.

3.     Extended Reproduction

With turtles, things move much slower, and some don’t attain sexual maturity until the turtle is above 20 years old. The hard shells of the turtle act as a defense mechanism against predators.

Turtles are effectively able to survive even in the same environment as their predators.

Because of this evolutionary advantage, turtles can live for long and lay many eggs in their lifespan.

They are also able to delay breeding till they are in more conducive environmental conditions.

Tips to Help Your Red Eared Slider Live for Long

Although a red-eared slider pet turtle can live for up to 50 years, the lifespan of this animal also depends on other factors, such as how well you take care of the pet.

If you do not feed the animal well and give it the necessary care and attention, the pet turtle is likely to get stressed. Stress affects an animals’ lifespan.

Here are tips you may observe to help your pet red slider turtle live for long.

1.     Diet

Food is where all the minerals and vitamins needed by the body to thrive come from. As such, diet plays a critical role in your pet red slider turtle’s overall health and significantly affects how long the animal is likely to live.

Feeding your pet with small fish, shrimp, and earthworms from time to time can act as a good source of animal protein.

Proteins are vital, especially when the turtles are much smaller, as they need more meat for their high growth requirements.

As for the fruits, go for mangos, apples, melons, and berries. These fruits are rich in Vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A & E, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc.

In addition, green vegetables should be a staple diet for the pet. The ideal green vegetables for turtles are green beans, kale, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, carrots, and squash.

 For juvenile red-eared slider turtles, the ratio of proteins to vegetables should be 3 to 1, while for adults, the ratio should be vice versa. You should never feed your turtle with onions, fireflies, avocados as they can be toxic to the turtle.

A balanced diet is good for your pet, but it is not enough. To keep your pet in optimal health, you would need to add supplements to the turtle’s diet.

The most vital supplements to add are Vitamin D3 and Calcium to compensate for any deficiency.

The feeding routine also plays a part in the turtle’s lifespan. For long healthy life, feed the juvenile red-eared slider turtle once daily.

If the turtle is an adult, create a three times a week feeding schedule. It is also essential to measure the food quantities as per the directives by a vet or label if you are using commercial foods.

2.     Frequent Exercise

This may come as a surprise to you, but just like human beings, turtles too need to exercise. Red-eared slider turtles spend time both in water and outside. They need to have a tank they can freely move around and exercise.

The basking area should also have some gravel or sand. Frequent exercise gives your turtle physical and mental stimulation, which is vital in promoting the animal’s well-being.

3.     Water Quality

Red-eared slider turtles thrive in humid and damp environments. They need clean drinking and swimming water. They also need a conducive basking area where they can bask, rest, and dry up.

Besides water cleanliness, quality is also crucial. Red-eared slider turtles do not thrive in hard water containing a lot of nitrates.

You can install a filtration system in the water tank or use filtered water for swimming and drinking.

4.     Annual Vet Check-ups

Red-eared sliders survive in harsh conditions, but they are still vulnerable to illnesses.

A severe illness can cost you a lot of money and, worse still, it can cost the turtle its life. Illnesses are rare with red-eared sliders.

In addition to avoiding illnesses, it is also good to get checked regularly and be prepared beforehand.

When you buy or adopt a pet turtle, it is vital that you take it for an initial vet appointment. The vet will examine the turtle’s general health, including the shell.

If your red-eared slider turtle is in optimal health condition after the initial check-up, you should get it examined once every year.

Frequent vet appointments allow you to know the progress of your turtle and detect illnesses early enough. A vet is more likely to detect that something is amiss with the turtle long before you do.

In case of such, treatment begins before it’s too late. You should also take the pet to a vet if you notice symptoms such as loss of appetite, puffy eyes, shell rotting, prolonged basking, and nasal discharge.

5.      Suitable Tank

One of the most important factors for a turtle’s health and happiness is the nature of its environment.

Pet turtles are often reared in a tank. Besides having clean water, the tank should also be big enough to accommodate the pet.

A red-eared slider turtle can grow up to 12 inches long and weigh up to 6 pounds.

A big enough tank will allow the animal enough room to swim and stay healthy. For a baby, the ideal size is up to a 55-gallon sized tank, while for an adult, you need a minimum of a 120-gallon sized tank.

An ideal tank height should be a minimum of twice the turtle’s shell length. If you have more than one red-eared slider sharing the tank, then you need a much bigger tank.

Red-eared slider turtles also poop a lot. If the tank is too small, the water will get dirty quicker due to concentration with ammonia which is toxic to the turtles. Ammonia and nitrate come from the turtle’s excretions.

If there are leftovers, you should remove them from the tank as soon as possible. If not removed, the leftovers will start decaying, and the tank will have a foul smell.

You may also change the water every week, have a separate feeding tank and thoroughly clean the tank every two to three weeks to maintain optimal cleanliness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some quick answers to some of your most asked questions about red-eared sliders.

What Type of Water Do I Use in The Turtle Tank?

If you use well water in your house, then you can put this water directly into the turtle tank. However, if your water is treated with chlorine, you should first de-chlorinate the water.

If you don’t have de-chlorinating agents, then you should use distilled water.

Water quality in a turtle tank is vital because this reptile spends most of its time inside that water.

How Long Do Red-Eared Slider Turtles Live?

The answer to this depends on whether the turtle is in captivity or the wild environment.

Wild turtles have a relatively shorter lifespan compared to pet ones. They can live for 20 to 30 years, while their pet counterparts live for between 40 and 50 years.

How Long Can a Red-Eared Slider Survive Without Water?

A healthy mature red-eared slider can live for months without drinking water. A baby would certainly not live as long as an adult would.

However, going for extended durations without water is unhealthy for a red-eared slider turtle as the reptile would be very dehydrated.


Red-eared slider turtles can live for up to 50 years if given proper care and attention. For those in captivity, the expected lifespan is up to 30 years.

Wild red-eared sliders have a shorter lifespan mainly because of exposure to predator and their unbalanced diet.

How well you take care of your pet will play a significant role in how long the turtle lives. Having a healthy diet, a clean tank and drinking water, a proper feeding routine, and frequent check-ups are vital to the lifespan of red-eared sliders.

A conducive baking area, stress-free environment and frequent exercise are also important factors.

A red-eared slider can be a long-term companion if taken well taken care of.

By observing the above tips for keeping extending your pet’s lifespan, your pet can grow healthy, live longer, and keep you company for many years.

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