Q: My kid wants a red-eared slider turtle. What kind of environmental setup are we looking at?
A: These attractive and popular turtles often don't get an adequate habitat. They're aquatic, so you can start them out in a large indoor aquarium. But as they grow bigger, it's best if they have a real or artificial pond with water deep enough for them to swim around in. They also need an area where they can get out of the water to sun themselves.
Whether aquarium or pond, the turtle's habitat must have good filtration. Otherwise, waste products will build up, causing excess ammonia and salmonella and leading to infections and intestinal problems. It's important to remove feces and leftover food daily to keep the tank or pond clean.
Even without the presence of a male, female turtles lay eggs. They need an area with dirt or sand where they can dig a hole, lay eggs and bury them to protect them from predators.
Red-eared sliders are omnivores, enjoying both plants and animal protein. Don't rely solely on pellets, but offer a variety of food to help ensure their diet is balanced. They like to snack on plants such as water hyacinths and elodia, as well as earthworms, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and mealworms.
Other plant items to offer include carrot tops, collard greens, dandelion greens (untreated by herbicides or pesticides), endive, green beans and parsley. Avoid keeping turtles and koi in the same pond, or you may find that the koi become part of the turtle diet.
Turtles brumate in winter. That means they're less active, but unlike hibernation, they will occasionally seek out food or air.
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