Being one of the most colorful and visually attractive turtles, Red-Eared Slider turtles make the best pet.
However, to take good care of these turtles, you need to understand everything about them. One of the things you should know is how these creatures reproduce.
If you love keeping turtles as pets, this write-up covers everything about Red-Eared Slider, from how many eggs they lay, how their eggs look like, and how you can protect and help them hatch.
However, before we delve deeper into the Red-Eared Slider reproduction, let’s cover a little background about these freshwater reptiles.
About Red-Eared Slider
Red-Eared Slider are ectothermic freshwater turtles that spend their time foraging in water bodies with dense vegetation. Scientifically known as Trachemys scripta elegans, these reptiles boast a yellow and black domed carapace with longitudinal stripes and bands.
They have a red earmark just behind the eye, a yellow plastron that’s covered in dark blotchy markings, and greenish legs, neck, and head with yellow stripes. Male Red-Eared Slider are smaller than the females and boost more extended claws on the forefeet. These turtles can grow to reach an average length of between 12.5 to 27.9 cm (5 to11 inches)
You will find Red-Eared Slider in freshwaters with muddy bottoms, aquatic vegetation, and ambient basking areas. You’ll find them in freshwater lakes, ponds, marshes, and slow-moving rivers.
Although Red-Eared Slider tend to become more herbivorous as they age, they are omnivorous and feed on a combination of both animal and plant-based foods. When you keep Red-Eared Slider as a pet, designating a feeding place outside their living area makes your work a little easier and ensures that you keep the pond or tank clean.
Understanding the Red-Eared Sliders’ behavior will help you provide optimal care. These creatures enjoy basking for thermoregulation and are also great swimmers. Any change in this behavior will mean they’re undergoing something or are trying to tell you something.
Red-Eared Slider don’t mate until they have reached sexual maturity. The male turtles are smaller and have long tails and front claws, while the females are larger and have short tails and front claws.
However, most people don’t know whether they are domesticating a male or a female Red-Eared Slider until it starts laying eggs. You must provide your pet turtles with a nesting area to ensure they don’t drop the eggs in water.
Some females may refuse to lay their eggs and retain them in their bodies if they don’t find a nesting area. This may cause a life-threatening condition known as egg binding.
Red-Eared Slider Turtle Eggs
Like chicken, female lay eggs regardless of whether there’s a male around to fertilize them.
The eggs are oval, and contrary to what most of us think, they have a softer shell than the chicken eggs.
However, the eggshell is enough to protect the baby turtle until it develops fully. Furthermore, the egg boasts rich nutrients which nourish the embryo during the entire incubation period and a few days after they hatch.
Even after hatching, the baby turtles remain with a small yolk sack attached to the plastron from which they feed in the first weeks of their existence until they can find food themselves.
What Do Red Eared Slider Eggs Look Like?
They are found in a hole in the ground. They are usually small with a size between 2 to 4 cm with a weak shell that is easy to break especially in the first few days. Some will be of a round shape others elongated.
How Many Eggs Does This Turtle Lay, and How Often?
If you have kept a Red-Eared Slider turtle as a pet, it is crucial to know its reproduction cycle and how many eggs it lays. This will help you prepare and plan what you’ll do when your pet starts laying eggs.
Usually, Red-Eared Slider lay about 10 and 30 eggs when they are about 3 to 5 years old. They lay their eggs between May to early July. The female turtles lay between three and five clutches of eggs annually. The clutches usually come about 15-30 days.
How to Know that a Female Turtle is About to Lay Eggs
Naturally, all-female turtles have eggs inside them and will lay them when they attain reproductive age. They will lay eggs even without mating. Unfortunately, eggs laid without mating are unfertilized red eared slider eggs and won’t hatch into baby turtles.
However, like any other egg-laying creature, the female turtles display behavioral changes and specific symptoms that indicate they are about to lay eggs. Some observable symptoms and changes include:
- Showing declined interest in food. Generally, turtles love their food and will pounce on food without hesitation. However, during the egg-laying period, females seem uninterested and may even leave their favorite food untouched.
- They start exploring the surrounding. When turtles are ready to lay eggs, they begin scouring the surrounding, trying to find the right location to nest. You’ll regularly catch them digging holes in different places, trying to find the right nesting spot.
- Female turtles become restless and reckless. Red-Eared Slider turtles will spend time swimming and slowly climbing on rocks or other surfaces to bask. However, when they are about to lay eggs, you might notice that they are swimming vigorously, basking all the time, or keep climbing on the basking area and diving into the water repeatedly.
- Feel the eggs with your finger on their bellies. If you notice a behavior change but aren’t sure if your female turtle is about to lay eggs, you can slide your fingers up the turtle’s belly to feel the eggs. However, it would be best if you rest your fingers on the surface without applying any pressure, as any pressing may end up crushing the eggs.
Do Red Eared Turtles take Care of their Eggs?
When a female turtle locates an ideal nesting spot, they dig a hole almost its length, lay the eggs, cover the hole and leave.
Unlike other creatures that keep an eye on their eggs until they hatch, the female Red-Eared Slider job ends when they cover the nesting hole.
The most they do to protect their eggs is hiding them in a hole in a disguised place. Usually, the nesting places are below piles of leaves, burrows, and many other sites that are hard to reach.
Just like how turtles survive by hiding and disguising themselves, they do the same thing to hide their eggs. Beyond there, they leave mother nature to play her role.
How to Prepare for the Nesting period
During the nesting period, you’ll need to provide your Red-Eared Slider with extra food that is rich in calcium. This will compensate for the nutrients lost during egg formation.
You need to look at your turtle’s diet even if it has not yet mated since unfertilized red eared slider eggs also require extra nutrients to form.
Make sure your Red-Eared Slider gets its rightful share of plant-based food as well as adequate protein from specially formulated meals or small aquatic creatures and insects.
If you’re keeping your turtle in a water tank or a pond, save a spot where your female turtle will feel more secure and comfortable laying eggs. Add untreated topsoil and litter the area with leaves. Ensure that the place you choose has less traffic.
Handling Red Eared Slider Turtle Eggs Once Laid
Now that we know the basics of Red Eared Slider turtle eggs, let’s focus on handling them once they are in the nest.
How Do You Know if Turtle Eggs are Fertile or Not?
Once a female lays the eggs, you can decide to wait for them to hatch naturally in their original nest or incubate them.
However, before you let them hatch, you need to find out whether they’re fertile. No method gives 100% results on egg fertility. However, here are some techniques to help check if turtle eggs are fertile or not. They include:
- Using a flashlight to shine a light beam through the egg. Take the egg to a dark room and hold a flashlight beneath it. If the egg is fertile, you’ll be able to see a red circle inside the egg, which is the embryo. You’ll also see red veins originating from the center to the eggshell.
However, since red eared slider turtle eggs develop gradually over time, don’t make your decision immediately. If you can’t see the embryo, place the egg back in the nest and examine it after a week.
- Note the changes in color as the egg matures. Turtles lay eggs that boast a pinkish white color. However, as the egg matures and the embryo forms, they lose the pinkish white color and assume a darker appearance. If an egg stays the same color, it might be a sign of being infertile.
- Feel the egg’s texture. Since fertile eggs keep changing their texture as they mature, you can determine if they are productive or not by feeling the texture. While the eggs boast a soft and leathery texture when being laid, they develop a more rigid and rubbery texture as the embryo grows.
It is vitally essential that you handle the eggs with utmost care and precision. The eggs are fragile and can easily get broken if they’re mishandled. Also, make sure you don’t change their orientation as you might damage the embryo or even kill it.
Lastly, be patient when checking for fertility as red eared slider turtle eggs develop slowly and steadily. Make sure you check the eggs multiple times before you conclude that they are unfertilized red eared slider eggs.
How to protect Turtle Egg Nest?
As mentioned earlier, when your find red eared slider turtle eggs, you can decide to leave them in the nest to hatch naturally or incubate them. If you go with the former option, the only thing you’ll need is to put up some protection measures to increase the probability of hatching.
Here are a few protective measures to help you safeguard turtle eggs in the nest:
- Get rid of the smell coming from the red eared slider turtle nesting area. Since most predators track turtle nests using a characteristic odor from its coat, getting rid of it can help disguise its location. One great way to eradicate the smell is by sprinkling water above the nest.
- Secure the red eared slider turtle nesting area with a poultry wire, hardware cloth, or a wooden frame. This will keep away predators and ensure that other creatures don’t step on the nest unknowingly.
- Make a warning sign. If your turtle’s nesting area is in a public place, you need to erect a warning sign to let people know that the location is out of bounds.
- Don’t cover the nest entirely. Although it’s imperative to keep red slider turtle eggs secure, covering the nest with solid objects will alter the conditions required for hatching. They may also trap baby turtles once they hatch.
Hatching Red-Eared Slider Turtle Eggs
You can let your Red-Eared Slider Turtle Eggs hatch naturally or put them in an incubator.
Hatching Turtle Eggs Naturally
If you’re not ready to get dirty nor invest your time, money, and effort into the hatching process and won’t mind less-than-required hatching rates, you can choose to leave the red eared slider turtle eggs to hatch in the nest.
And since you’ll be leaving nature to take its course, there’s nothing much you can do to facilitate hatching. You only need to make sure that the nest is secured.
However, besides predators, there are other things out of your control that can destroy the red slider turtle eggs before they hatch. These include:
- Cold weather
- Too much rain
- Sharp fluctuation in temperature
- Unusual weather
If you decide to let the eggs hatch naturally, there is no guarantee that you’ll ever see a baby turtle since many things can go wrong. However, since this is how it has been happening since time immemorial, you can cross your fingers and wait for whatever happens.
Incubating Turtle Eggs
If you’re ready to take responsibility and hatch the eggs in an incubator, you should first buy or make one. However, it would help to make sure that all eggs are fertilized to avoid wasting your time with infertile eggs in the incubator.
Since a turtle incubator can be pretty expensive, you can get a few essential items and make one yourself.
Making a Turtle Egg Incubator
Here are the items you’ll need to make an egg incubator:
- Water Heather
- Plastic container (not less than 5 gallons)
- 10-gallon aquarium
- Two thermometers
- Some Sheets of plexiglass
Now that we have all the items let’s delve into the actual process of building an incubator.
- Fill the container with sand, leaving two to three inches at the top. Add lukewarm water to the sand to make it wet. Then place the thermometer one inch deep into the sand.
- Now pick up the 5-gallon container and slowly place it inside the aquarium. Also, dip the heater is inside the aquarium and set it at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but don’t turn it on yet.
- Add water into the aquarium until it’s a half-inch above the sand line in the container.
- Drill 5 to 6 holes in the plexiglass and place it over the aquarium. Fix the plexiglass using the tape measure.
- Now turn on the heater and monitor the temperature in both the aquarium and the container with sand. Prepare a chart to note down temperature fluctuations. The temperature shouldn’t go below 82 or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once you determine that your incubator is fully functional, you can pick the eggs and start the incubation process.
Red Eared Slider Egg Incubation Process
Whether you’re using a homemade or professionally designed turtle incubator, the incubation process is the same.
The first thing is to keep the incubator in a place where it won’t be disturbed by both animals and people.
Once the incubator is in the right spot, it’s time to transfer eggs from the nest to the incubator. Pick the eggs carefully from the nest and place them inside the container with sand.
Make sure that you don’t change the orientation of the eggs from the nest, as this might damage the embryo. One intuitive way to ensure that the proper orientation is maintained is to mark the eggs with a pen before lifting them from the nest.
Space the eggs properly to ensure that they get ample temperature, humidity, and air. You should maintain the temperature at 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the temperature in the incubator goes beyond 95 degrees Fahrenheit, it can lead to spoilage of the egg. So, make sure you constantly monitor the temperature.
How Long Does it take for The Red-Eared Slider Turtle Eggs to Hatch?
When all conditions are right, including temperature, humidity, and ventilation, the eggs should hatch in 50 t0 70 days. Remember that eggs will not hatch simultaneously, and hatching times can vary in days or even weeks.
After waiting for about 45 days, you’ll start noticing some cracks on the eggshells. This is an outright sign that baby turtles are about to pop out.
When you start seeing hatching signs, prepare another container and fill it with paper towels. As soon as the baby turtle pops out of the shell, pick it up and place it in the container paper with paper towels that have been drenched in water.
Since red slider turtle eggs become fragile as they mature, it is advisable not to pick them up from the incubator.
How Baby Turtles Hatch
When inside the egg, baby turtles develop a temporary tooth referred to as the caruncle. These tiny turtles use the caruncle to break the eggshell so that they can come out.
Research indicates that the whole process of breaking the shell and coming out can take up to 20 minutes.
When the baby turtles pop out of the eggshell, they’re transferred into another container to rest.
You should handle the baby turtles with care to avoid damaging the egg sac when moving them. This sac nourishes and provides the young turtles with nutrients in their first weeks of existence.
The egg sac will be absorbed into the body when the baby turtles are ready to start feeding. You should feed Baby turtles with a protein-rich diet once they are out of the container.
Red-Eared Slider turtle babies feed on aquatic plants, algae, crustaceans, small-water insects, and small fish in their typical habitat.
Can Red-Eared Slider Turtles Hatch in Water?
While female turtles may lay the eggs in water, these eggs can never hatch. There’s a reason why the creatures often look for a dry spot near their habitat.
The eggs need constant gas exchange and optimal temperature and humidity to hatch. Since the necessary conditions are not present inside the water, the egg will die once laid.
Red-Eared Slider Turtle Eggs FAQs
How many eggs are laid by a Red-Eared Slider turtle at once?
A female can lay between 10 to 30 eggs each season. The eggs are laid in clutches of 3 to 5, which come weeks apart. With about 30 eggs per season, you can understand why this turtle species is spread worldwide.
How long do Red Eared Slider eggs take to hatch?
Usually, the Red-Eared Slider eggs hatch after 50 to 70 days when provided with the correct aeration, temperature, and humidity.
How do baby turtles get out of the eggshell?
All baby turtles develop a non-permanent tooth known as the caruncle when inside the egg. They use this tooth to break the shell and get out.
Can a female turtle lay eggs without mating?
All-female turtles have eggs in them. When they become of age, they must lay these eggs regardless of whether there’s a male to fertilize them or not.
How can you tell if an egg is fertile?
You can tell if a turtle egg is fertile by passing a beam of light from a flashlight on any other source through it. If you observe red veins and a circular embryo, the egg is alive and fertile.
Can you prepare your female turtle for the egg-laying season?
You can prepare a turtle for the egg-laying season by improving its feeding. Make sure it eats a lot of protein and calcium to replace the nutrients lost during egg formation.
What do female turtles do after laying eggs?
When turtles lay eggs and bury them, they don’t take care of them completely. They let nature take its course and don’t stay around to guard them.