how lond do red eared sliders live

How Long Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Live? 5 Tips to Increase Their Lifespan

How long do red-eared slider turtles live?

It is one of the most common questions we asked ourselves when we bought our first turtle.

In short, with proper care, a captive-bred red-eared slider can live more than 20 years. However, most of them don’t live that long due to improper care by their owners.

Most people have no idea that red-eared sliders can live that long.

In some cases even 50 years.

They just assume that these little pets live only several years, cause most of them die in the first 2 years. In fact, the biggest reason for this is improper care as I mentioned before.

So if you want to keep turtles as pets, just make sure you provide them with enough space and a clean environment. Your turtle will be healthier, happier and you’ll get a lifetime companion.  

In this article, I’ll explain what are the most important things you need to do to increase your red-eared slider turtle life expectancy.

How long do red-eared slider turtles live in captivity?

You can’t ignore the fact that pet turtles can live for a very long time. Buying a red-eared slider is a big commitment and you should be aware when you’re getting one.

How long they will live depends on many factors. For instance, in captivity, they can live longer than in the wild.

Red-eared slider lifespan in captivity can be as long as 40 years.


How long do red-eared slider turtles live in the wild?

Factors such as diverse diet, proper filtration, and temperature are the most important.

Unfortunately, many pet turtles don’t live that long in captivity because they don’t receive proper care.

In their natural habitat, the young ones face different problems.

Predators and their weak immune system can shorten their lifespan. However, if they survive the first few years, their lifespan gets a major boost.

Red-eared slider lifespan in the wild can be as long as 30 years.

How to increase your Red-eared slider lifespan?

how lond do red eared sliders live

Choose a healthy baby red-eared slider

What most people don’t realize is that buying a healthy baby turtle is the most important thing you need to do.

How do I know what turtle is healthy, I hear you ask?

First: Find a reputable seller.

You have two options here. Buy from an established pet store, or from private sellers and breeders.

Either way, look for how clean are the rooms where they keep their animals and how they care for them.

Second: Buy only captive-bred red-eared sliders.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who sell wild turtles. It’s illegal and you should stay away from them.

Always ask for documentation regarding the turtles offered.

Even if you want to buy a wild turtle you shouldn’t do it. They are more prone to diseases than captive-bred red-eared sliders.

Third: Check signs for illness.

There are a lot of ways to do this, but I recommend focusing on these few simple things.

  • Always choose an active and responsive baby turtle.
  • Check the eyes and make sure that they are clean, open, and not swollen.
  • See carefully how the shell and skin look.

So that’s the very first step for increasing your turtle lifespan. However, just because you bought a healthy baby doesn’t necessarily mean that the red-eared slider will live longer.

There are other factors you need to consider.

Provide your turtle an adequate sized tank

Red-eared sliders are mostly sold as babies in all pet stores. However, they can get quite large.

Keep that in mind when you are setting up your first turtle tank. You can probably start small with enough swimming space for the baby.

However, sooner or later you’ll need to expand the enclosure.

As adults, red-eared sliders need at least a 120-gallon tank. It’s even better if you have an outside pond so they can feel like they are in their natural habitat.

For baby sliders, a 55-gallon tank will be enough.

For each additional turtle add 10 to 20 gallons of water.

Remember, a turtle that has been provided with enough room to swim is a happy and healthy turtle.

Make sure you have a proper filtration system

Red-eared sliders are messy animals.

Everybody that has kept red-eared sliders knows that fact. They are high maintenance pets.

However, most of the new turtle owners don’t know how important is to have great water quality.

Frequent water changes are necessary.

But, that’s the most tedious and boring job you can do. It’s a never-ending task.

Setting up a filtration system will help tremendously to keep your water clean.

Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean that you can get away with the water changes. But at least you will have an easier job and make them less frequently.

Temperature and lighting

Lack of proper lighting and temperature will shorten your turtle lifespan.

If you care about your turtle health then providing proper full-spectrum lighting is a must.

Full-spectrum lighting is important in the process of making vitamin D. With the appropriate amount of vitamin D calcium will more easily absorb in the gastrointestinal tract.

And we all know that calcium is the most important mineral in a turtle’s body.

Providing proper lighting is not enough. Turtles are cold-blooded animals and depend on external sources of heat.

Without temperature regulation in your tank, they will certainly go into hibernation.

To prevent any health complications that can go with that make sure you set up a heater in your turtle tank.

Provide a diverse diet

A bad diet can shorten turtle lifespan as much as the other factors I’ve mentioned in this article.

Red-eared sliders are opportunistic omnivorous and will eat almost everything they come across.

To ensure that your baby slider stays healthy and happy feed it with a variety of foods.

Young baby turtles need to eat every day and the adults every other day.

Final thoughts

Providing a diverse diet, proper filtration, and enough space for swimming are the most important things to ensure the longevity of your pet turtle.

As long as those criteria are satisfied your red-eared slider will have a long and happy life.

Do you have a red-eared slider or are you planning to purchase one?

Either way, let me know in the comments below.


29 thoughts on “How Long Do Red Eared Slider Turtles Live? 5 Tips to Increase Their Lifespan”

  1. Carrie Tann-Cooper

    Our red-eared slider was provided to me for my class of 5-year-olds. The children named her Bubbles. I was told to feed my baby red-eared slider twice a day. She is 2 years old now. When is she an adult who feeds every other day.? And is that just one meal every other day? The food provided was Reptomin food sticks. What else should we feed her? And if our school is unwilling to provide a larger-than-20-gallon tank, is it most humane to give her to a pet shop?

    1. Bubbles is a great name. 🙂 Your turtle is still a juvenile, and you should feed it every day(twice a day). Include vegetables in the diet, as well. 20 gallons is an ok size for 2-year-old turtle, however, in a couple of years it will grow it out. Then you should move it to a bigger tank.

  2. Rodger chip LePoidevin

    Hi.people should learn about animals before they go out buying..7years ago found5large red ear in a bucket of filth outside a storage unit..they live in a2 foot deep stainless therapeutic tub7by9feet and I have floating plants and gold fish and guppies with a Laguna filtration system that lets algae grow to feed the fish but keeps thewater clear..just rescued2more sliders also full grown been in a aquarium all their lives now they are sunning and swimming with the other5…they get different kind of bought turtle food but they also love hot dogs chicken or turkey and ya I add fish to the pond every month50at a time

  3. John Buck, Jr.

    Our redeared slider came from a dime store in September 1971. We figured he was born in January of that year…. He is 49. Years old right now ( May 2020) and in great shape!

    1. How big? The one I saw on a wildlife refuge on the Texas Gulf coast yesterday had a shell the size of a colander. It had holes in it shell either from alligator bites or gun shot before the refuge existed. I saw a similar size one on the refuge after a Hurricane. I think they were easily 50 years old.

    2. That is awesome! We bought two baby red ears in Chinatown 20 yrs ago. One died after five years and the other is going strong! She lives in a pond we built for her.

  4. Marybeth Williams

    I purchased a bigger better filter system for our tank and my 8 y/o red eared slider seems so anxious and is now always trying to get out. I originally thought it was because the filter was a change for him, but it has been weeks now and he is still acting crazy. Do I need to look for a different filter? It is a Cascade and is definitely much louder than the old one. Please help.

    1. It’s possible that the noise of the new filter frightens your turtle. Keep on an eye on your turtle, and if nothing changes soon, replace that filter with a quieter one.

  5. How many days does it generally take for a red eared slider to dissipate ‘gas’ She is 25-26 years old and lives inside at night and outside in a large plastic pool during the day with her ‘sister’.

  6. I rescued a red eared slider about 7 years ago, I have no idea how old she is. I don’t have lighting or anything… shes in a 25 gallon tank. I haven’t had the money to upgrade it 🙁 I feed her twice a day and she eats the food really quickly. please tell me what I can do to improve!

    1. If you can’t afford to upgrade make sure that water in the tank is clean and always fresh. When it comes to lighting, if there isn’t one, you should consider taking your turtle outside once in a while.

      1. I have a red eared slider that I bought my son in 1992. She was about 4 years old then which makes her about 33ish. She is in a 90 gallon breeder tank with filtration and proper lighting. She loves cooked shrimp, fruit, veggies and back scratches! She is still laying eggs, less often than before but still a few times a year. She also gives me flutter kisses with her front feet.

  7. You are right about the leval of commitment in taking.on a.slider as a pet. I never thought ,as a 12 year old kid living on the river that I would still have the little turtle I ” rescued ” when I was 55, yes I have had Tiny for just over 43 years now and he seems to be doing fine.

  8. We have one aged 27. He has lived in a 20 gallon tank and has eaten turtle food from the pet store. Change the tank every few months. Swims around when the water is high.

    We are in our 70s. We wonder who will live longer.

    1. Red Eared slider turtles are indeed fascinating animals. If you take care of them,and you certainly do, they’ll live for a long time. Great story! I always like hearing stories about red-eared sliders with a long lifespan.

    2. Allan, great story. I think the same thing. I am 69 years old and have had my turtle, Cecil, for 37 years now. I suppose she was 2 when I got her; so I would assume she is 39 years old. I am hoping that I outlive her, but I may have to set up a trust or find a sanctuary and give them a sizable sum to take care of her if I cannot do it any longer. However, I am healthy and feel good; so I am hoping for the best for both of us. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I have a red-eared slider I purchased at a Philadelphia pet store in 1988. Mortimer has grown to have an 8 inch shell. I have grandchildren who are interested in reptiles. I’m pretty confident that between them and my four children, someone will care for Mortimer when I can no longer do so. Our family had financial difficulties and were not able to give Mortimer lightning or heating. But, he has always done well near, but not in front of, a large sunny window. He is healthy and seems happiest when someone stops by his tank. I only feed him the Tetra ReptoMin floating food sticks once a day when he is not brumating. Thank you for the above comments!

  10. Lorena Driscoll

    We have a red-eared slider who is 21 years old. He seems to have lost all interest in basking. None of us have seen him go onto his basking platform in over a month. He is in a 40 gallon tank with a heater and basking lights. The basking ramp/platform is the type that is held up with suction cups and we’ve had more trouble getting it to stick to the side of the tank. A few times it slid completely off. I don’t know if that made him wary of going onto it. We are getting a much bigger tank and will get another type of basking area for him, hoping that will help. Just wondered if anyone had this experience. Worried about him!

    1. The same thing happened to me recently. The magnetic basking platform floats, but it doesn’t stay stuck to the tank. My turtle can’t get up onto it because it’s plastic and he slips off. I worried that he wasn’t eating or basking. I took out the magnetic basking platform and replaced the old platform we were using that my turtle doesn’t have a problem with scaling and basking on. He is now eating and basking. Good luck. I’m really mad about the magnetic basking platform. I may write to the company.

      1. I use a milk crate (on its side) with a piece of slate for basking. For a ramp I use a plastic rain ramp from home Depot for down spouting. It’s connected with Zip ties. My girl is 34ish… Still laying eggs and loves to bask.

    2. We had the same problem, also it would float away from the basking area. Hubby attacked it to an up-side-down heavy ceramic flower pot with screws. So
      Christine is 28, and we have told our adult kids who is designated to be her caretaker if something happens to us…

    3. Yes I have a large dock with suction cups too, Had to replace the suction cups as they wear out, My turtle is over 33 + and loves the dock with the light near by. Get the same cups from company, Good Luck

  11. We have a red eared slider that my wife has had for over 40 years. Her name is. Jonnie.She has outlived her pond-mate, Izzy, by 4 years, so far. They are in a giant cement mixing bin with rocks and bark perched on top of a couple of large rocks for her to bask on. The pond is in front of a large sliding glass door and she also has full-spectrum light. There are goldfish in with her. She eats turtle pellets, floating fish pellets and chicken hearts and livers. She occasionally will eat lettuce. We put her outside in a pen with a small feeding bin. After eating she walks around the pen and basks in the sun. Her pond mate must’ve died of old age. One summer day he ate and basked in the sun. I put him on his rock in the pond that evening and in the morning he was still on his rock dead. She does croak at times when she is content, we think. She does seem to have a personality. We used have water hyacinths in the water but she just ate them and made a mess of the pond. We have a large Aquaflo filter in her pond.

  12. I have a red eared slider that I bought in ’88 as a hatching for 50 cents. Now that I have downsized into a condo I tried a smaller tank (55 gallon), but the tank and the filtration system are just too much for me to clean.

    Cindy has been a “free range” turtle for ten years – has the run of the condo but prefers to do her business and eat in a large tub that I fill with 10 liters of water. Her UVA and UVB lights are on all day so she can bask. She will ask to be put in the tub by standing on my foot. I go through several changes of water a day, but 10 liters is not that heavy.

    For years she lived on cat kibble and frozen peas. Now that we have vets that specialize in reptiles I started her on “Repashy Savory Stew”. It comes in powder form to be made into a gel. She did not like it at all.

    She often got into my cat’s food dish which is a complete raw diet for cats made from ground up rabbits, bones and all, including the vegetable contents of the gut for vitamins. I thaw one of the 80 gram patties, give half to my cat and mix the Repashy into the other half. I roll this into bite-sized balls which she takes from my fingers. She eats 40 grams of raw rabbit mixed with a tablespoon on Repashy every other day. At the tender age of 50, she started laying eggs 2 or 3 times a year in the long fibers of my carpet — has no use for the sand, earth and gravel that I provide.

  13. I bought my turtle in 1958 and she is 64 years old. I have many turtle stories. I thought she was a boy until I had to take her to the vet for an infection. We called Mr. T forever but I named her Shelly later. I still call her T.
    I fed her oat meal flakes for years and turtle food. She eats turtle sticks and leaf lettuce in the summer. She doesn’t eat most of the winter. Keeping her clean in the summer is hard but I put her outside in a pool for the sun. I never thought I would have her this long!

    1. Omg! That’s so crazy how old she is!! I would be so delighted if I had my Bongo girl for another 30 years!! She’s 31 now <3

  14. I have a red eared slider. Until recently (lol like 5-10 years ago) I was pretty sure it was girl. She is after I invested a lot of time researching about her! She is going to be 31 years old. I got her when I was a year old. She had a 20 year sleep over at my grandparents but due to the need of cleaning and such, I brought her home a few years ago. She is pretty awesome! I love the fact my kids (10&2) now get to enjoy her!

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