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Turtles/Yellow Bellied Slider Turtle


QUESTION: I got a baby Yellow Bellied slider turtle 1.5-2 years ago from a souvenir shop in Florida. I was at the time unaware of the responsibilities of owning a turtle. I recently noticed that he/she is not growing. I came into this having no idea how to take care of him/her. What conditions must I provide to ensure a healthy and happy turtle? Why isn't he/she growing? And lastly, would providing my turtle with another slider be beneficial?

ANSWER: Hi Nicole,

It's hard to say exactly why your turtle isn't growing, but most likely it's either inadequate housing, improper lighting, or poor diet (or all three).  I need mire information to help, though. Please post back with the following information (pictures are helpful, too):

1)  size of turtle
2)  size of tank and type of filter
3)  brand of heating/UVB bulb
4)  basking and water temps
5)  complete diet

Once I have more information, I can help you figure out what areas need to be improved. Definitely don't consider getting another tuetle until you have this one set up properly. Otherwise you'll end up with two sick turtles. Two YBS need a very large tank anyway--at least 100 gallons--so you'd have to be willing to devote quite a bit of room to the tank and equipment.

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Turtle\'s Food
Turtle's Food  
QUESTION: My turtle is about the size of a silver dollar. She/He's in a 10-15 gallon tank. He/She has no lamp. The water in the tank is room temperature (about 65-75 degrees). I do have a spot for him to climb out of the water (a rock). The diet is entirely pellets that we got from the store. To be honest, they look scetchy. They came in a plastic container with nothing else on it.

Hi Karen,

OK, thanks for the information.   Basically you need to change everything.  It's actually surprising that your turtle isn't in worse shape, so that's a good sign.

1)  The tank is too small.  Even a hatchling should have a 20 gallon tank, but I'd get a 30 or 40 gallon because once your turtle is set up properly, he'll probably grow quite a bit.  A bigger tank will work for a few years, but he'll need something in the range of 75 gallons once he's adult size in five years or so.  A rule of thumb is to provide 10 gallons of tank space for every inch of turtle.  Don't skimp on tank space; a too-small tank means the water won't stay clean, and dirty water leads to skin and shell problems.

2)  The tank must have a filter, sized to handle at least twice the tank's capacity.  So for a 40 gallon tank, it should be able to handle at least 80 gallons.  An external cannister filter is best.  Make sure regular partial water changes are done as well.

3)  The tank must have basking and UVB (not UV or UVA) lighting.  A turtle that can't warm up enough won't be able to digest its food.  You need to provide a basking spot that is about 90 degrees (measured on the basking spot under the lamp).  The water temperature should be 75 degrees; 65 is too cold.  If it doesn't reach 75, you'll need an aquarium heater to warm it up, but likely with a basking lamp it will be at an adequate temperature.  The UVB lighting is essential for the turtle to metabolize calcium.  Normally they get UVB from the sun, but it has to come from artificial sources indoors.  Get a ZooMed Powersun 100 watt bulb; they provide heat and good UVB output.  Avoid other brands, because they're not reliable.  You'll need to change the bulb once a year.  

4)  You need a real basking spot, not a rock.  There are commercially made turtle docks you can buy, or you can make one (just make sure it's easy for the turtle to climb out, and spread out enough to allow for the turtle to move around in the basking area and to allow for growth).  

5)  Dump the pellets since you don't know what they are.  Reptomin are a good commercial pellet, but you need to provide more variety along with pellets.  Feed a variety of animal protein (feeder fish, bloodworms, worms, shrimp, etc.) along with greens and veggies a few times a week (turnip, mustard, collards, kale, peppers, squashes, etc.).  I'll put some links below that will have more complete dietary links for you.

Everything I mentioned above is really essential for the health of your turtle.  You can't skip any of it.  Turtles are tough and can survive for a long time in sub-par conditions, but surviving isn't the same as healthy, and a hatchling that hasn't grown in two years is definitely not healthy.  If you get him into the right environment, you should see good, healthy growth and normal behavior.  

Sorry, forgot the links!  (website is for RES, but care is pretty much the same for YBS, and there's good info)


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Questions regarding husbandry of Russian tortoises and other Mediterranean species, sulcata, and redfoot tortoises; general tortoise and turtle care; box turtle care. If I can't answer a specific question, I can provide sources for further research. Disclaimer: My advice is not a substitute for vet care. If I think your tortoise/turtle has a specific medical condition or injury that warrants a vet visit, I'll tell you so, and if possible I'll help you locate a vet. It is neither legal nor ethical for me to provide veterinary advice.


I have kept and bred Russian tortoises for over ten years and have other Mediterranean species plus redfoots and box turtles. I've worked with other tortoise and turtle species while doing volunteer rescue work; mostly sulcata but some leopards, California desert tortoises, yellowfoots, all box turtle species, red-eared sliders, etc. I don't personally keep aquatic species, but have access to a wealth of information and research to help you with any questions you might have.

My knowledge is based on hands-on experience keeping, breeding, and working with tortoises and turtles.

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