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Red-Eared Turtle Lifespan: How Long Do Red-Eared Turtles Live?

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Due to their small size and low maintenance, red-eared turtles are cute and extremely adaptable, making them one of the most popular pet turtles. You can recognize these baby turtles immediately due to the red lines that appear near the ears. In fact, their name comes from these red markings and their ability to slide from the surface into the water.

These little turtles are one of the most popular pets in America! Want to know more about them, such as the lifespan of red-eared sliders? Let's take a closer look at this semi-aquatic species and see how long the red-eared turtle lives.

Red Ear Slider's Rundown

What Do Pond Turtles Eat Pet Red-Eared Turtles
Red-eared turtles are omnivores; they eat vegetable matter/aquatic plants and animal protein.

©Mark Leung/Shutterstock.com

The red-eared turtle, scientifically known as Trachemys scripta elegans, is a semiaquatic turtle of the Emydidaw family.

Red-eared turtles are found throughout the Mississippi Valley of the United States, particularly in West Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois — just to name a few. Asia and Australia are also home to a significant portion of the population.

However, red-eared sliders are not available in this part of the world due to conditions in Antarctica. Sunny, fresh water and slow-flowing lakes and ponds are ideal habitats for these turtles.

Despite being such a popular pet in the United States, the red-eared slider turtle is one of the most invasive sea turtle species. They even rank among the top 100 invasive species on Earth. This has long been a problem in many parts of the world, particularly in eastern Australia, and is unlikely to improve any time soon.

This is because many irresponsible turtle owners continue to release their pets into the wild, resulting in red-eared sliders living in places where they do not belong.

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How long do red-eared slider turtles live?

What do red-eared turtles eat? What do little red-eared turtles eat?
Red-eared sliders can live up to 20 years, but in captivity they can live up to 50 years.

©Akash Naik/Shutterstock.com

Red-eared sliders in the wild have an average lifespan of 10-20 years. However, in captivity, this species has been known to live up to 40 to 50 years. The lifespan of pet red-eared turtles varies greatly from that of wild red-eared turtles, which explains why there can be such a wide difference in their lifespans.

Longevity in sea turtles includes more mechanisms for adapting to harsh environments than in any other terrestrial vertebrate, according to Ecological Adaptation-Based Life Extension in Long-lived Vertebrates.

For example, red-eared sliders rely entirely on anaerobic glycolysis and can withstand extreme cold weather conditions for weeks without oxygen. Anaerobic glycolysis refers to the conversion of glucose to lactate when there is a limited amount of oxygen (O2) available. It seems that the reason why these turtles can live so long in the wild is because they are so adaptable!

Average lifespan of a red-eared slider

Red Ear Slider
Red-eared turtles reach adulthood at 5 years old.

© Active Stock Photos/Shutterstock.com

Now that we know how long red-eared turtles live in the wild and in captivity, let's take a look at how they evolve from babies to adults.


Courtship and mating behavior for red-eared turtles typically occurs between March and July. The courtship rituals of male red-eared turtles take place underwater. During the mating dance, the male vibrates and slaps the back of his paw on and around the female's face. If the female accepts, she will float to the bottom, indicating that she is ready to mate.


Depending on her size and other circumstances, a female can lay anywhere from 2 to 30 eggs. In a year, a female can produce up to five litters, usually 12 to 36 days apart. Females spend extra time sunbathing after mating to keep their eggs warm. She may also adjust her diet to only eat certain foods or eat less than usual. Incubation lasts from 59 to 112 days.

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Late season hatchlings may overwinter in dens and then emerge in spring when temperatures warm. Pre-hatch eggs consist of 50% turtle and 50% oocyst. A newborn hatchling uses its egg teeth to bite open its egg, which slides out about an hour after hatching. This egg tooth will never grow back. The hatchlings may remain inside the eggshell for the first day or two after hatching. If they are forced out of their eggshells before they are ready, they will come back.


Red-eared turtles are considered adults at 5 years of age because they are fully sexually mature at that time. However, they may still have continued to grow since then.

They reach full maturity at age 8, at which point they reach normal height and weight and stop growing.

How to Extend the Life of Red Ear Sliders

Now that you know how long red-eared turtles live, you might want to keep one of these adorable turtles as a pet. While it's relatively easy to care for, there are still many positive steps you can take to ensure your red-eared sliders live a long life.

These are great tips to help prolong the life of your red ear sliders:

  • Diet: Proper diet is the key to a healthy life for any pet. A red-eared turtle's dietary requirements fluctuate with age and development. Although all sliders are omnivorous, young sliders require more animal protein to develop, while full-grown sliders consume more plant matter to help prevent obesity. Adults and hatchlings can be fed commercially available terrapin pellets or sticks and plant foods such as dark leafy greens.
  • Housing: Red-eared turtle habitat should be a 40 gallon or larger pen with a screened cover to prevent the turtle from escaping. As your turtle develops into an adult, the size of its habitat should expand. Make sure the habitat you choose is large enough for the turtle to move around comfortably.
  • Exercise: Turtles like to move around, even if they don't move very fast. You can make your turtle move by placing small toys around him for him to push and pull. You can also give your turtle food and sprinkle it in his enclosure to encourage him to move around.
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Red-eared turtle in the grass
Red-eared turtle in the grass

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Volia Nikaci is a freelance writer and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding and marketing. She has a background in broadcast journalism and political science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When not writing, she enjoys traveling, visiting used bookstores, and hanging out with her significant other.

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