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Yellow-Bellied Slider Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Yellow-bellied slider
Scientific Name:Tracheemys scripta scripta 
Life Span:More than 20 years
Size:5 to 9 inches in length, 7.7 to 13.8 grams in weight
Habitat:Semi-aquatic 
Country of Origin:Virginia to Alabama, U.S. 

Physical Description

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The yellow-bellied slider is a pond turtle that is native to several areas in the United States. It is popular in the wild as it is a domesticated pet. The yellow sliders are sometimes mistaken for red sliders that have red to orange stripes found along the side of their heads. Both sliders have unique and similar features. 

Yellow sliders are perfect for people who are looking for a friendly, mild-mannered turtle to have as a pet. It is found in different freshwater habitats including marshes, ponds, lakes, floodplains, slow-moving rivers, swamps, and wetlands. These cute turtles prefer to live in shallow bodies of with a lot of aquatic plants, soft bottoms and places where the turtle can bask safely and comfortably.  

Yellow-bellied sliders have an oval carapace plus a rounded jaw. Most of the time, female turtles are larger than males because they need to carry eggs. Males also have a distinctly long and thick tail that is darker in color compared to females. 

When it comes to colors and markings, yellow-bellied sliders have unique markings making the turtle stand out from other species. The most noticeable coloring is the bright yellow stripes along the legs, head, and neck. A bright orange, yellow or red along the side of the head. The turtle’s shell can range from olive to brown and also has the same yellow stripes. The plastron is yellow with dark marks along with the bony plates.  

The yellow-bellied slider is one of the most popular pet turtles because these are very easy to maintain, are cute and have lovely markings. It is a  good pet for people who have prior aquatic turtle experience. 

Life Span

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The yellow-bellied slider can live up to 30 years in the wild and around 40 years in captivity. Because of good care that leads to good health, sliders can live longer in captivity compared to those in the wild simply because they don’t need to worry about food, predators and their overall safety. And as with almost all reptiles, the yellow-bellied slider has three life stages: 

Hatchlings

Hatchlings come out of their eggs after three months of incubation. These babies stay in their nest during the fall and winter; these will emerge from their nests during springtime. They will also take the first steps to enter the water and to start feeding on their own. 

Young/Juveniles

Juvenile sliders are able to hunt for food and to socialize with other sliders near the water. These young sliders look very much like their parents but are simply smaller.

Adults 

Adult yellow-bellied sliders reach their age of sexual maturity when they have reached a certain length. Male and female sliders are mature when these are already 4 to 5.5 inches in length. In females, the number of eggs that it can produce depends on her body size and age. More on the reproduction and breeding of yellow-bellied sliders later. 

Eating Habits

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Yellow-bellied sliders tend to change their diet as they mature. This is because as they grow older, they can move to deeper bodies of water and eat food that’s readily available there. Once the sliders mature, they turn omnivorous and will eat a wide variety of plants and small animals. 

In the wild, these will eat fish, small crustaceans and other aquatic animals. They will feed on water plants as well. But in captivity, pet owners are responsible for enhancing their pet’s diet. Available commercial turtle pellets may be used. Usually, these pellets are a good base for a turtle’s diet because these are supplemented by nutrients that your pet needs. 

As much as possible, offer only the amount that your slider can eat in 15 minutes. Any leftover food should be removed from its tank. You may occasionally feed your pet turtle with fish or insect. Avoid fatty fish and high-protein meats. You may also choose to take your pet out of its cage or terrarium to feed so you can keep the tank cleaner for a longer time. This is often more work for the owner but will give you time to bond with your slider.  

Sleeping Habits

Yellow-bellied sliders sleep anywhere they want inside their tank but mostly they prefer relaxing under a UVB lamp. Inside their cage or tank, use a UVB lighting all year around 12 hours a day. A reptile UVB lightbulb is more preferred; make sure to replace it every six months. 

If you keep your yellow-bellied slider outdoors, the sun’s rays may be sufficient so there’s no need to use a reptile lamp. Allow your turtle to move across your lawn and bask. If it has a company then it can bask in groups. Usually, it will sleep wherever it wants to. 

Water

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Water is a vital part of a slider’s life so it’s best to add this inside their tanks. The best tank should be at least a 75-gallon tank with an area in the tank where it can swim and play in the water. Some owners use pond liners to make indoor ponds or simply take their sliders out for a dip in a children’s pool. Just make sure that the water you use is clean and free from soap or other chemicals.  

You can make a permanent outdoor enclosure for your slider equipped with a small pool if you want. These are easy to make with instructions available online. 

Development and Reproduction

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You can tell that a slider is mature when it is larger, heavier and with a deeper/darker color. Nothing much has changed with the structure of the body only the size of the shell. The slider’s shell is bigger when the turtle has reached its adult size and this allows them to hide its head, legs, and tail inside the shell.

Male and female sliders become mature when they reach five to six years of age. Mating happens between March and July and usually, this happens underwater. Just like their red-eared counterparts, yellow-bellied sliders have a unique behavior during courtship and mating.

A male will locate a suitable female and swims around her to tell her that he is interested. He will try to tell her his intentions by vibrating the backside of his claws on her face. Sliders don’t have vocal cords and therefore will only be able to communicate by action. Snapping or vibrating his claws near the female could be a way for a male to direct his pheromones to a potential mate.  

If the female acknowledges his advances, she will swim towards him. But if the female is not interested, she may become aggressive towards the male. This courtship behavior may last for 45 minutes or more while it can take a male many days to find a female who would like to mate. 

Mating happens in 10 minutes and usually, you can’t even tell that this is happening. There may be times when you see the male dancing to another male. When in captivity, a slider may also exhibit this behavior to other pets. This dance could be a sign of dominance to other males. This behavior may also be seen between two males and can lead to a fight. Juveniles may also exhibit this mating behavior before five years old however, they are unable to mate.

After mating, she will spend time under the sun to keep the eggs warm. Pregnant turtles may switch their diet and eat only particular foods. There are times that she may eat less or may not eat at all until she delivers her eggs, 

Towards the end of gestation, the female may be on dry land than in water. This behavior prepares her body for laying eggs. Just like other slider species, she may become restless before she lays her eggs. She may scratch the ground or the tank wall. She may also use her hind legs to dig for a hole on the ground. When the hole is adequate, she will now slowly lay her eggs. 

Yellow-bellied sliders may lay up to 30 eggs at a time. The number of eggs usually depend on her body size, state of health and possibly tank temperatures. A single female can lay up to 5 or 6 clutches in a year. Usually, the time between mating and laying eggs could be from days to weeks. Fertilization happens during egg-laying which helps to lay fertile eggs.

The incubation of their eggs can take up to 100 days. The egg has 50% turtle and 50% egg sac. Just like red sliders, after the hatchling cracks its egg, it may leave the egg and come back however it may take 21 days for the baby to leave its nest to head for the water. 

The yolk sac is important because it provides food for the hatchling.  Days after hatching, the sac will be completely absorbed by the turtle’s belly. The sac does not fall off and will be absorbed by the belly of the turtle. This should heal completely before the young start to swim. 

Take note that any kind of damage to the egg yolk or incorrect motion of the yolk can make bubbles enter the young turtle’s body and kill the young one. Experts who find yellow-bellied slider turtle eggs usually the top part of the eggs when they relocate these eggs. This is because any upside-down egg can affect the growth of the embryo. Should the egg reaches term, the baby turtle will turn the eggs with the yolk sac. 

Air may enter the body of the embryo and this can also lead to death. If water gets into the body cavity before the sac is absorbed, the opening will not properly heal.

How to Breed

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Breeding sliders takes patience. You can’t put a male and female together and expect eggs a few days later. Breeding starts with choosing the ideal male and female. You must also prepare for the tank, to mimic its natural mating environment. 

In the wild, sliders mate after hibernating for two weeks. Afterward, eggs will be ready to hatch. You will also need to prepare your yellow-bellied turtle for hibernation and this will be discussed later. 

After hibernating the yellow-bellied slider, you may now place the male and females in one tank. It won’t take long for the males to dance their mating ritual dance. It this dance has successfully attracted a female, then mating is successful. 

It will take sliders 45 minutes to mate but if they don’t mate, remove the female. Retry pairing the two after two days. Once mating is successful you must place the female in a larger 20-gallon tank gestation tank. 

Put 4 inches of loose soil which is perfect for females to dig in. Keep the female warm by maintaining a temperature of 80 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit inside the gestation tank. 

The tank must also be damp and will be in a spot where it is undisturbed. While laying eggs, the female may not eat or drink so don’t worry. This is natural for female sliders. As long as you keep the tank in the best condition, the female will lay her eggs in about a month or two. The babies will need 85 days more to hatch from their eggs.

Once the hatchlings are out of the eggs, leave these in the tank and just let them be. The hatchlings won’t get out of shells until a few more days. Once they start to come to start digging the soil inside the tank, remove these and place their tank. A 20-gallon tank can fit up to 12 hatchlings.

Choose a good lamp for your newly-hatched yellow-slider babies. Full-Spectrum light is the best to mimic the sun’s natural light. Use a heating pad to apply heat inside the tank. You may also look at reptile lamps available in local pet shops. 

Common Health Problems

Yellow-bellied sliders are healthy but may occasionally suffer from health issues. For any kind of health problem, you must consult a vet for speedy treatment. The following are the most common health problems that yellow-bellied sliders suffer from.

Shell Problems

The most common worries in pet turtles are shell problems. These are usually due to bacterial or viral infections and fungi. If you suspect any problems with the shell, take your turtle to the vet because if this is overlooked, your pet could suffer from an infection. 

Vitamin A Deficiency

Turtles have a specific diet and for good eyesight and overall health, it needs a vitamin A. 

Vitamin A deficiency happens when sliders are on an incorrect diet. A diet that lacks vitamin A can cause changes in skin health and other preventable medical conditions. Expect poor appetite, swelling of the eyes and ears, respiratory problems and lack of energy. Make sure that your slider has a diet with crickets, fruits, and vegetables. 

Respiratory Infections 

Yellow-bellied sliders may suffer from respiratory conditions because of bacteria and vitamin A deficiency. Symptoms of respiratory infection secondary to bacterial infection are a weakness, open-mouthed breathing, wheezing and lack of appetite.

Abscesses

Abscesses are swelling similar to a tumor on any part of the turtle’s body. The most common area where abscesses develop is along with the opening of the ear. Vitamin A deficiency also causes abscesses in sliders. 

Parasites 

If your slider suddenly develops diarrhea and weight loss, you should suspect parasites. The most common are roundworms and this should be treated by medication. Turtles don’t show any signs of roundworms except for diarrhea and weight loss. If any of these happens, consult your vet.

Common Accidents

Some owners give their sliders the freedom to walk around their room or home and although this is fun for a slider, it makes it prone to accidents. Your turtle may fall from a flight of stairs and break its shell. This may also suffer from serious cuts and injuries. 

For any of these situations, you must take your pet to the vet ASAP.  For any injury on the eyes, nose or head and there is swelling and bleeding, visit the vet fast. If you see vomiting or loose stools in an hour you must treat this at once because this can lead to dehydration and metabolic conditions. Your pet should be taken to the vet right away as soon as possible. 

For injuries to its head, shell, neck or eyes, take your slider to the vet at once. Control bleeding with a cotton ball and never place anything on the wound.  

Salmonella

Reptiles like sliders can transfer Salmonella and other kinds of microorganisms to humans. You must be aware of this and take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of salmonella. 

The sale of turtles like sliders that measure less than four inches is illegal in the United States due to the spread of Salmonella. Children are very vulnerable to Salmonella because they play with turtles and don’t wash their hands after doing so.

To prevent the spread of salmonella, wash your hands with warm water and a good anti-bacterial soap every time you handle your slider. Always wear gloves when handling their tank. 

Preventing Illness

To prevent any kind of illness maintains tank cleanliness. You must replace the water inside the tank or install a powerful water filter to efficiently clean the tank. Use a disinfectant and warm water to clean the tank thoroughly. Regular cleaning is a must for a reptile tank.

You must change the water frequently to prevent bacteria growth inside the turtle tank. You must spot clean and remove any food remnants and feed your turtle the right kind of food. 

Always take your slider to the vet for checkups as soon as these hatchlings. Always make it a habit to check the temperature, humidity and water quality in the turtle tank.  

In captivity, you must take care of your sliders and keep them from transmitting dangerous illnesses. The first thing to consider is a clean and conducive home. Use a 10-gallon tank. You can’t raise your slider inside a small plastic container and you must use a larger tank for more than two turtles. 

Behavior

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To fully care for your yellow-bellied slider, you must understand the common behaviors of this species. Here are the most common:

Claw Snapping

Claw snapping is a classic behavior witnessed in male sliders as they court and mate with females. Claw snapping is also a part of a dance that entices females to mate. Some males click or snap its claw to show dominance when there are other males to signify their dominance over the territory.

Hibernation or brumation

Brumation or hibernation is the time when your pet is inactive and sleeping more than the usual number of hours. Hibernation happens during October when the outdoor temperatures fall 10 degrees Celsius. A slider is brumating when it does not eat well and do not defecate. 

Turtles in brumation are motionless and breathing very slowly. Sliders that brumate do so in the water bank, in hollow tree stumps, rocks, and other structures. Brumation is an adaptive mechanism of a turtle so that it can naturally protect its body from the long cold months.

Yellow-bellied sliders can survive anaerobically for several weeks during brumation. It can drop its metabolic rate with cardiac output dropping to 80% to reduce energy consumption. On the other hand, captive sliders in an indoor tank are not capable of hibernating or brumating 

Turtles Can Drown

Contrary to the belief that turtles can live in water, turtles can drown. Turtles are susceptible to drowning because these have lungs like us. They need to come up for air to breathe but if they cannot these may drown. 

If you think that your turtle has drowned, do not turn it upside down because these still have air inside their lungs and doing this can affect their chance to live. To revive a drowning turtle, place this on a flat surface and provide turtle CPR. 

Hold the two front legs and push these in and out the shell. If water is inside the lungs, this can remove water. Water will usually come out of its mouth and nose. You should you’re your pet to a pet hospital at once. 

Like doing CPR on a baby, cover it with a thick blanket and continue pushing and pulling its legs as you take it to the vet. A slider can remain motionless but soon it will recover.

Sleepiness

Sleeping for most of the day is normal for sliders and usually, first-time pet owners are worried because they think that their pets are sick. Turtles usually have bouts of energy and may feel active in the morning but there are days when it just wants to lie around and do nothing. Keep a diary of your pet’s behavior. If sleepiness accompanies poor appetite and weight loss then suspect that there’s something wrong with your pet.

Basking

Turtles like a slider can sit or stand while enjoying the tank light. Sometimes they would open their mouths, stick out their heads to get more light. Don’t disturb your turtle at this time and just let it enjoy the day.

Habitat

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In the wild, yellow-bellied sliders are native to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico as well as in the areas with ideal climates in the United States. Sliders live in still and warm waters such as lakes, swamps, ponds, streams, creeks, and slow-moving rivers.  

Yellow-bellied sliders love calm waters because they can get out and stand on rocks to bask. You may find a slider basking alone or in groups piled together at the bank of calm water. The basking area should be near an abundant supply of aquatic plants which is its main food. 

Most of the time, wild turtles like sliders remain near water unless these are in the mood to look for females if not, they would rather prefer to be near water. Females leave the water for a long time to look to search for a nesting ground for her eggs. 

Sliders are popular as pets but usually, these end up being released in the wild by the time they mature. This is declared one of the most invasive. As of the moment, there is a large feral turtle population located in Europe, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa and in other countries and regions of the world. All these are due to poor pet owner responsibilities.

In Australia, you can’t sell, trade, keep, release or buy abroad sliders because it is considered as an invasive species. In Japan, importing yellow bodied sliders has been announced but this may take until 2020 to take effect. 

Yellow-bellied sliders are a threat to the ecosystem because these have an advantage over many creatures.  This turtle has a lower age of maturity, larger body size, and characteristics that increase their advantage over other aquatic animals. 

Also, this kind of turtle species may transmit diseases that can affect the health of a community. 

Lighting 

A full-spectrum UV lamp and a basking heating lamp. There are many types of lamps and heaters bu as much as possible your lighting must be adjustable so you can provide the best lighting or lighting schedule that fits your pet’s needs. 

It’s a must to have a spare battery-powered lamp for power interruptions. Never overlook this since very low temperatures will only affect the health of your turtle.

Temperature

The turtle’s tank must be well heated. Use a reliable lamp to maintain the temperature inside the tank. You must measure water temperature alongside humidity to keep your turtle happy and healthy. Keep the tank clean and at the right temperature especially in the cold winter season and in cold weather. 

Filtration

Use a good filter that will clean the tank water more efficiently. Tank water can easily become dirty especially when you have more than one turtle inside the tank. Use a backup filtration unit, a  battery-operated filter, and a lamp in case of power outages. 

Tank Accessories

To secure your turtle, keep the tank simple and clean. Avoid décor that can only affect your pet’s safety. Your pet only needs water, soil, sand and possibly a few rocks where the turtle can bask on. Pregnant females need more loose soil. As a general rule, avoid anything that can fall on your turtles and injure them or can electrocute them. 

Sanitation

Always keep the tank clean to avoid the spread of Salmonella. Regularly clean the tank every week especially when you’re taking care of more turtles. Use a disinfectant to clean the tank or you may use boiling water. This will instantly kill bacteria which can cause diseases. 

Availability – Where to Get One?

Yellow-bellied sliders are available in most pet shops locally and online. Because it is one of the most popular pets in the world, you’ll easily find one from any pet store. And if you know of someone who has newly-hatched sliders then you can adopt one. 

Yellow-bellied sliders are affordable. A juvenile may cost around $50 while an adult is around $100.  The price may vary depending on gender, size, and age. The cost of shipping and handling yellow-bellied sliders can increase the cost.

How to Care for a Red Eared Slider?

Here are some tips on how to care for yellow-bellied sliders:

  • Salmonella alert! When handling sliders, wash your hands completely using antiseptic soap to avoid  Salmonella and other diseases. 
  • Sliders love to be handled as long as you don’t drop them or vigorously hold them. Never place sliders in a cold environment. 
  • Sliders are happy to be inside their tanks but you may also take your pet outdoors, a small portable cage is best because this may be carried anywhere. If you plan to remain outdoors for a long period, use a portable lamp, water, and turtle food. 
  • Check the temperature of the room where the pet tank is in. Monitor this along with the temperature inside the tank. Keep your pet’s body temperature at the ideal level by allowing it to bask daily under a bright lamp. 
  • Take your pet to a vet at least two times a year. Do this after hatching and when your pet is in their senior years. Check for any common problems like as breathing problems and skin or shell conditions. 
  • Always provide your turtle the right kind of food to avoid any nutritional deficiencies and infections. Talk to your vet to find out the best supplement for your pet yellow-bellied slider. Every turtle has his kind of supplement so it’s better to consult his vet.  

FAQ Section

Can yellow-bellied sliders mate with red-eared sliders?

Yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders are both terrapins but the two are not compatible. The most obvious thing to consider is the size of a yellow-belly slider which is too large to mate with a smaller red-eared slider.

Should a yellow-bellied slider be in the water all the time?

Yellow-bellied sliders can live in water and also on land. They can stay for a very long time in the water but they need to come up for air because turtles have lungs that need air.  

How often should you feed you yellow-bellied sliders?

All aquatic turtles in the juvenile stage should be fed daily and reduce feeding every other day when these mature. You may feed adults, pregnant females or senior pets in small frequent meals every day. 

Do yellow-bellied sliders cost so much?

A small yellow-bellied slider costs anywhere from $10 to $20. It is more expensive when you buy a slider online because you will have to pay for deliveries and shipment. 

How do yellow-bellied sliders mate?

Yellow-bellied sliders will mate with any females but it will first do the mating dance. If the female accepts the male slider’s proposal, they will mate and soon will have a clutch of eggs.

Do yellow-bellied sliders bite?

Yes, yellow-bellied sliders bite due to being mishandled but other than this, it will quietly remain on your hand or just be still on a rock or in water. The bite may hurt so take good care not to drop or mishandle a yellow-bellied slider. 

Can captive fishes or aquarium fishes live with a yellow-bellied slider?

Almost all freshwater fishes can live with yellow-bellied sliders but these may become its prey. A slider may nip at the fins and eat smaller fish so add bigger fishes that can swim away. You may add shrimp and tadpoles to serve as food for your slider. ,                          

Can turtles like sliders drown in deep water?

The way sliders survive underwater is they hold their breath and they can do this for a long time. Turtles don’t have gills but have lungs just like any land animal so it needs to come up to get a breath of air.  

Are sliders intelligent?

Many sliders show an impressive ability to learn when in captivity. Yellow-bellied owners say that they learn quickly who feeds and maintains their tank and may even start to follow them around; still, some owners say sliders know their names and may respond when called like a dog.

What animals can become playmates with a yellow-bellied glider?

Turtles like sliders may play inside their tanks with feeder fishes, shrimp, tadpoles, snails, etc. And aside from being good playmates, these can also be a snack for sliders as well.

How long can a slider survive without water?

Sliders can stay on land for a very long time without entering the water for days because these have lungs to breathe on land. However, these must still be placed in water and 2 to 4 days on land would be enough.

Do sliders become lonely?

Yellow-bellied sliders can be seen in the company of other sliders mostly lying on a log to bask under the sun. Meanwhile, experts say that the only time sliders socialize is during mating and may travel far away from its home in search for a suitable female.   

How do turtles like sliders communicate?

Turtles like the yellow-bellied slider and the red-eared slider do not have vocal cords and hence these can’t talk. These turtles only have internal ears and may only communicate through movement. This is evident as the turtle waves and clicks its claws for dominance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

How old is my yellow-bellied slider?

The age of a yellow-bellied slider may be determined by counting through its scute. Count the rings within the scutes and you’ll get a good estimate.

Can yellow-bellied sliders recognize their owners?

Turtles like sliders can recognize their owners from their sight, sound, and smell. Some pet owners say that a turtle may come if his name is called while some say that their slider follows him around.

How can you tell if a yellow-bellied slider is a male or female?

There are some distinguishing features which can differentiate male and female yellow-bellied sliders. Usually, male sliders have long and thick tails with their cloaca closer to the tail; females have thin tails with her cloaca closer to the body. 

Can yellow-bellied sliders feel pain or any sensation from their shells?

Turtles have nerve endings on their shells proving that this is a lifeless material. However, turtles don’t have nerve endings for pain on their shells and this is why it won’t feel anything on its shell. It is also the reason why the shell serves as a protection to sliders.

Can you take care of yellow-bellied sliders in one tank?

The yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders are social animals and will gladly live in one tank. But when mating season comes, it will prefer his territory. Placing more turtles to live with the slider can lead to fights and can even injure a turtle severely.                                                                                                 

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