Red-eared Slider Tank Setup

An overcrowded turtle tank lowers the lifespan of red-eared sliders. First, red-eared slider waste is very toxic. It contains a lot of ammonia and nitrates that can reduce the water quality in a few days. A poorly managed turtle tank also increases the risk of diseases like shell rot. Therefore, a proper tank setup is essential for a healthy and happy red-eared slider.

The best red-eared slider tank setup has the proper lighting, heating, substrates, aquatic plants, and filtration system. Although it seems costly, you can prioritize the purchase. If the water temperature always falls below 50°F, buy an automatic Turtletherm Aquatic Turtle Heater. But if it is overcrowded, get a larger tank first.

However, the red-eared slider tank setup is not always about the tank size. I have discussed the kind of tank you should give your red-eared sliders below. Armed with the tank size and requirements in this guide, you can easily set up a tank for your red-eared sliders. 

What kind of tank do Red-eared sliders need?

red eared slider tank setup

Red-eared sliders need 10 gallons of water for every inch of their shell length. In other words, a five-inch turtle requires 50 gallons of water. However, that is effective only for younger red-eared sliders. The hatchlings are okay in a 20-gallon tank.

However, the minimum tank size for an adult red-eared slider is 100 gallons. Ensure the depth is equal to the turtle’s shell length or slightly deeper.

Remember that they are semi-aquatic when considering the kind of tank your red-eared sliders need. That is, they live in water and on land. The turtles are also ectothermic. In other words, their body temperature is affected by their environment. 

Therefore, the kind of tank red-eared sliders needs should have a drying and basking area. You can rely on sunshine or an artificial UV light bulb to keep them warm. I will explain more about these in another section below.

Although you keep them in an aquarium, an outdoor pond is also an excellent alternative for your red-eared sliders. You can mimic the turtle’s natural environment in a pond much more quickly than in the aquarium. 

But don’t worry. You will learn how to set up a red-eared slider tank below.

How to set up a red-eared slider tank

Here is how to set up a red-eared slider tank

1. Collect the needed supplies

You are probably asking, “what do I need to set up a red-eared slider tank?” That’s a good place to start. The first step to setting up your red-eared slider tank is to collect the needed supplies. Besides, you should already know the turtle’s age. So what are the supplies? 

Here are some essential supplies for constructing your turtle’s tank:

  • A 20 to 50-gallon tank for hatchlings or juveniles
  • 100-gallon tank or larger for adult red-eared sliders
  • Aquatic plants like anacharis and duckweed
  • Stones, rocks
  • Aquarium light and heater
  • Aquarium water filter
  • Cleaning products like betadine or methylene blue

2. Clean the red-eared slider tank

Now that you have all the supplies cleaning the turtle tank is next. The best cleaning agents for the tank are betadine or methylene blue. 

Avoid using ordinary soap and bleaching agents to clean your pet’s tank. However much you rinse it, some chemicals will always stay behind, which can cause significant health problems to your red-eared sliders.

Tank cleaning is also an ongoing process. Note that red-eared sliders host Salmonella and Clostridium bacteria. Apart from cleaning the turtle tank at the setup stage, you will also need to clean it every two or three weeks.

3. Fill your turtle tank with water 

Fill your turtle tank with water to a depth equal to your red-eared slider’s shell length or slightly above it. For instance, if your slider is 7 inches long, fill the tank to a depth of 7 or 8 inches. That means the tank should be wide and not deep.

4. Make a basking area

Red-eared sliders are ectothermic and occasionally get out of the water to bask in the sun. Therefore, the fourth step in setting up their tank is making a basking area. I mentioned stones and rocks earlier. This is where you will need them.

The basking area is critical for red-eared sliders’ shells and general health. Arrange paver stones or bricks on top of each other from the bottom to the top of the tank. Ensure the basking supplies are stable so no turtle can roll them over.

5. Decorate the turtle tank

It is now time to decorate your tank. Decoration helps with the aesthetic appeal and also provides some benefits to your turtles. 

For example, decorating your tank with anacharis and duckweed plants will make the tank look good. These aquatic plants are also a source of food for the turtles. But most importantly, anacharis and duckweed absorb carbon and other toxins from the water.

Other decorative supplies include mold-resistant wood and floating tabular plastics. Although decorating a red-eared slider tank gives them hiding spots, overdecoration can reduce the space in the tank and cause stress to your turtles.

6. Install the electrical requirements

An aquarium heater and filter are essential electrical equipment for a red-eared slider tank. A filter is even more important if your sliders spend most of their time in the water. An aquarium heater is necessary where the water temperatures can go below 50°F.

The best aquarium heater and the filter will depend on your turtle population and tank size. Nevertheless, I recommend the hygger 150GPH Turtle Filter and the MQ Titanium Alloy 300W Aquarium Heater for your red-eared sliders.

7. Put your red-eared sliders in the tank

Put your red-eared slider inside the tank once you’ve finished the setup. Afterward, feed your adult sliders once a day and the baby red-eared sliders twice or three times daily. The correct care will give your sliders a lifespan of 30 years or more.

Best Red-eared slider tank size and requirements

You need a 20 to 50-gallon tank for hatchlings or juvenile red-eared sliders and a 100-gallon tank or bigger for the adults. 

Here is a detailed summary of their requirements:

  • Lighting: Ensure your turtles get between 8 and 12 hours of light daily. But don’t put their tank in direct sunlight as that can increase bacteria and diseases.
  • Heating: Temperatures lower than 50°F cause lethargy and brumation in turtles. Use an aquarium heater to keep the temperature between 85°F to 95°F.
  • Substrate: The best substrates for a red-eared slider tank are sand, rocks, stones, and floating plastic. They provide a drying and basking spot for the turtles.
  • Hiding spots: When setting up the tank, create numerous hiding spots using the substrates mentioned above and other aquatic plants to make the sliders feel safe. 
  • Safe plants: Add safe and edible aquatic plants such as anacharis and duckweed in the tank so your red-eared sliders can graze even when you are not around. The plants will also absorb toxins and improve oxygen concentration in the tank.
  • Clean water: Red-eared sliders can make the water inhabitable much faster than most captive fish. Give them clean water and change 50% of it twice a week.
  • Filtration system: A high-quality aquarium filter is essential for your red-eared slider’s lifespan. It will lower ammonia and nitrates and break down decaying food particles. Therefore, the turtles may need fewer water changes than usual.
  • UVB lamp: UVB helps the turtles to produce vitamin D3. The vitamin maintains red-eared slider bones and shells by allowing their bodies to utilize calcium. 

Red-eared slider tank mates

Here are some of the best tankmates for your red-eared slider:

  • Goldfish 
  • Guppies
  • Koi
  • Minnows
  • Tetra fish
  • zebrafish 


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