How Long Do Red-Eared Sliders Live? Tending To Your Turtle

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 23, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Nov 04, 2021
Red Eared Terrapin on a rock.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 11.8 Min

Turtles and tortoises have always been known for their long life spans.

If you are looking for a pet that can stay with you for a long time, a turtle or a tortoise would be a good option to opt for. When kept in a 50 gal (189.3 l) tank with an optimal temperature, pet turtles can live up to 20-25 years whereas, in the wild, they can live up to the age of 50 years.

Red-eared sliders, also known as red-eared turtles are some of the best pet turtles that you can get. They are so easy to handle and are such a great pet. If you are a fan of calm and quiet surroundings, then red-eared turtles are indeed your best pet option. Due to their slow metabolisms and movements, they tend to have longer life spans than any other animals on land. Well, if you are getting a red-eared slider into your house, there are certain things that you should know about turtles to tend them in a better way. 

After reading about the everyday care that an adult turtle requires for a long life as a pet, do check how long do painted turtles live and how long can sea turtles hold their breath.

How long do red-eared sliders live as pets?

Before getting a wild red-eared slider as your pet turtle, you need to know about red-eared slider turtles. From the species of Trachemys scripta elegans, red-eared slider turtles are also well known by the names of red-eared sliders, water slider turtles, red-eared terrapins, and red-eared turtles. They can live for 50 years in the wild.

The red-eared slider turtle belongs to the semi-aquatic subspecies of the Emydidae turtle family. The red-eared slider turtle is one of the most known and famous pet animals in the US other parts of the world. In the wild, red-eared sliders live in and around the Mississippi River and in the regions of the Gulf of Mexico. Normally these wild red-eared sliders need warm temperatures to live. They are known to be native from the southeast regions of Colorado and Virginia to Florida. Warm areas like lakes, warm water springs, ponds, swamps, streams, creaks or even slow-flowing rivers are an ideal spot according to what wild red-eared sliders need. 

Being one of the world’s worst invasive species, red-eared sliders were once released and escaped from wild forests all around the globe. This is how they came to be pets in various homes in Canada, South Africa, Australia, Bermuda, Europe, Great Britain, Israel, Guam, Caribbean Islands, Mariana Islands, the far east, and southeast Asia. This semi-aquatic turtle species slowly began to get popular as a pet. Because of this, laws for illegal trade, import, and release of these red-eared sliders were put in place.

In captivity, red-eared sliders have proved to live up to 20 years. These species of red-eared turtles can in fact live up to 40-50 years in the wild. In normal cases, red-eared slider turtles live for 20-30 years as pets, if you take care of them very nicely. Normally they have a lower life expectancy while in captivity. Their surrounding environment and quality of life have a great influence on their long life and health. So, if you are thinking of getting a red-eared slider as a pet turtle, then get ready to give it immense care. Red-eared sliders need a big aquarium or tank that is long in length, as they grow up to be as big as 12 in (30.5 cm). Also, you won’t lose your pet animal so early as red-eared slider turtles are known to live as long as 20 years or more when provided with good food, the best environment and habitat (aquarium) to live in. 

How long is the lifespan of a red-eared slider in wild?

In captivity, red-eared slider turtles are known to live for 20 years. But what about in the wild? Well in the wild, these turtles live a longer life. It has been said that sliders can live up to 70 years in the wild. Well, isn’t that a lot more than they live in captivity? If you want your pet turtles to live a long life, you need to take care of them and provide healthy food and a big aquarium for them.

But in the wild, without anybody’s help, they tend to live more. Isn’t it wonderful how they have such strong individual survival instincts to live in nature? Also, did you know that the female red-eared turtle is larger than the male turtle? The carapace turtle species can get up to the length of 12-16 in (30.5-40.6 cm), while their typical length ranges from 6-8 in (15.2-20.3 cm).

It is not only the case of red-eared slider turtles. Most of the animals like them are known to have a long life in the wild compared to in captivity. Only some of the healthy species of wild turtle get to extend their lifespan in captivity from 20-30 years. Poor care and improper environmental conditions are major factors that influence the lifespan of red-eared slider turtles. A poor diet can be one of the factors of your turtle’s weak health and immune system. They may fall sick due to this. Also, diseases and a lack of medical care can affect their health very badly. Even in the wild, red-eared slider turtles face many dangers from predators. Being aquatic creatures, they have a high risk of attack from anywhere around them. Also, the food habits of adult turtles and young ones are quite different. The adult red-eared slider eats herbs and vegetation found in nature, while the young ones, through their primary ages, survive on an animal and protein-based diet.

How long can red-eared sliders live without water?

Red-eared sliders are poikilotherms. These turtles can not regulate their own body temperatures and need the help of their surrounding environment temperature to regulate it. As the red-eared slider is cold-blooded, they maintain their body temperature by getting out of the water to get a warm temperature on their body.

They do not hibernate, but they do brumate. They are known to brumate during the winter season under ponds and shallow waters. However, they can take up to six months during the brumation period out of water. The red-eared slider comes out of the water in search of air or food too. Even though they come out of the water, they cannot survive without water for a long time. The environment around the turtle species influences how long the red-eared slider can stay out of water. The red-eared slider stays out of the water if there is a cool temperature around it. These red-eared sliders can stay out of the water for about eight hours,

Water, just like for us, is also an important health factor in their diet every day. Red-eared sliders need water for their metabolism to work. Water also has an important role in the health of these animals and the optimum digestion of turtle food. Their slow metabolism paves the way for their long lifespan. Therefore, they need to stay hydrated and healthy. If red-eared sliders in the wild or inland regions do not get access to water, they may suffer from severe digestion problems and even get deeply dehydrated. But compared to other turtles, red-eared sliders can stay out of water for more time than other turtle species. Yet turtles can't stay out for too long.

Being an aquatic turtle group, adult red-eared sliders need at least a 50 gal (189.3 l) tank on average, along with an optimal temperature. These turtles might need more space as they can grow up to 7-12 in (17.8-30.5 cm). Some turtles even grow bigger than that. So you need to take proper care while buying an aquarium tank for your pet turtle. An ideal golden rule about the water level for your turtle aquarium tank is that you need to keep about 10 gal (37.8 L) of water per turtle shell inch which has been measured from the top to bottom of the turtle body in the aquarium. 

Red-eared turtle in water.

Why do turtles live so long?

The main secrets for a red-eared slider turtle's long lifespan are its slow metabolism, healthy lifestyle choices, protection from predators with the help of a shell on its back. Due to their slow metabolism or metabolic process, red-eared turtles have a slow aging process and they can live for an average of up to 50 years.

Also, the process similar to hibernation that they go through makes their body sustain themselves during harsh environment situations. We, humans, need oxygen for our survival and for every metabolic process to happen in our bodies. The same is applicable for most animals too. But in the case of the red-eared slider, they can even survive without oxygen. Anaerobic metabolism is also supported by the turtle’s body. 

Just like how we imagine turtles as slow walking creatures in our stories, they are actually slow-moving creatures or species when it comes to their life and metabolism. Their 30-50 years long life can be associated with their slow metabolism. Well, science has a rule which is true for every living thing on this planet. Everything that has a high metabolic speed or rate is more likely to die early. For those creatures with very slow metabolism rates, their lifespan is typically longer. As the animal gets more active, its metabolic rate rises as per the need to burn calories for energy to maintain its activities.

Evolution has brought up many different metabolic patterns among vertebrates alone. Turtles and tortoises live a long life due to their slow patterns and metabolisms. But it might not be the same case with all animals. Lowering your metabolic speed would not avoid your early death. There might be many other reasons that can be related to death and long lifespan. But as for now, we are looking at turtles. They do live a long life, up to 80-100 and more years, which is considered to be much longer compared to many other living creatures on this planet. 

How To Make Your Pet Turtle Live Longer

If you are a quiet person looking for a pet, then red-eared sliders are the best option that you can opt for as your pets. Red-eared sliders are versatile, hardy, and the most amazing and rewarding reptile pets that you can own. Their multi-colored body, with a special red color at the sides of their eyes and yellow and green spots and patches, make them amazing animals.

As red-eared sliders adapt easily to any environment with a water source (aquarium or water tank), they can be taken into your house as pets. This turtle species is also easy to handle and is available for an affordable price. Well, one thing that you might not know is that these reptiles need a proper aquarium, not a terrarium as used for other reptiles of the land like a snake or a tortoise. It is because red-eared sliders are freshwater aquatic animals and need water for their metabolic and digestive processes to take place smoothly. 

You should not let your turtle get out of the water in dry regions for a long period as they might slowly develop dry skin and get dehydrated. If you do not allow them to access water, they might even get shell issues on their body. Also if you let them stay on land, they might develop plastron sores. This is mainly due to their need for moisture and water for their food-eating lubrication process. Along with water, UV rays also play an important role to process digestion in turtle bodies. With the generation of vitamin D3 in a turtle body, the red-eared sliders’ digestion is boosted by absorbing minerals and calcium from their food.

So if you are getting red-eared sliders as pets, make sure you place a heat source near to their tank or cage as it is important for them to get UV light or sunlight for their life processes. It is with the influence of sunlight that turtles get a strong body and a strong shell with proper digestion and metabolisms. This heat source acts as a basking area for the turtle to get itself warm from its wet body. And it will further prevent your pet turtles from getting ill or sick and hence makes them live a healthy life even if it is in captivity. Also, the habitat must be cleaned regularly along with filtering their water source on a regular basis.

Also, you must avoid getting a small congested aquarium tank for your turtle as it might experience stress or anxiety in such tanks, which indirectly affects their lifespan. An essential matter that you should never compromise on is giving your red-eared sliders a healthy and perfect diet. You can buy turtle food from your nearest pet shop. Earthworms, small fishes, and green vegetables like lettuce are also options for turtle food. 

The Oldest Red-Eared Slider

The slow metabolic process in red-eared sliders enables them to live and survive for a long time without eating any food or drinking water. This specialty also helps them to survive in harsh and rough conditions and places. 

Tiger is the oldest red-eared slider turtle that is known for its record of living for 37 years, nine months and 10 days. This pet turtle of Conley is about 8-10 in (20.3-25.4 cm) in size. The turtle was bought as a pet when Conley was eight years old. Now he is 47 years old, and the turtle is still alive. Tiger (the turtle) eats lettuce, raw hamburger, dry turtle food, and bugs. Healthy foods, a good tank and proper care every day from the turtle's owners could be the reason for Tiger's long lifespan. Normally, turtles in captivity are known to survive for 20-30 years at maximum. But this turtle named Tiger has reached 37 years and will hopefully continue its life in Conley’s house with special care and proper food. 

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 'How long do red-eared sliders live?' then why not take a look at 'Different types of turtles' or 'Red-eared slider facts'.

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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