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Other Considerations and Tank Enhancements

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During the effort to continually provide a seemingly natural experience for your turtle, there are several other factors that may be considered. While some of them are necessary, others promote health and make for a more interesting habitat.


Cleaning your tank is another frequent aspect of turtle care. White vinegar is a preferred option to clean and remove spots on glass. Bleach and soap should be avoided. Do not use a cleaning agent that contains vinegar; rather use vinegar that is intended for use with food.
Note: Even though bleach is not recommended to use to clean your tank and accessories, some keepers do use a diluted solution for general disinfecting.

2 oz. of bleach to one gallon of water can be used to create a solution of approximately 1.5% bleach. Afterward rinse well with clean water repeatedly and allow the object(s) to air dry for at least 24 hours or longer. This allows for fumes and chlorine to dissipate.
Python Draining and filling a tank can become a problematic and dreadful experience. A commercial system for water siphoning and refilling is a Python, which includes a hose and attachments for easier water changes. You can use a simple siphon to drain water or even use your filter's outlet hose. Caution must be used when using a filter since it was not intended to operate in that capacity and not designed to move water through long distances. Tank accessories should be rinsed with clean water, scrubbed with an old toothbrush and wiped with a paper towel.

Placing your turtle in a separate container when feeding will help maintain the water quality in the main tank. This would reduce the number of partial or complete water changes and the amount of filter cleaning. Cleaner water reduces the instances of algae, bacteria and fungus, but water should be regularly changed even if it appears clean. Not all waste is visible and there may be unhealthy levels of ammonia and nitrites present. Click for more water quality information.


Most decorations are merely for visual appeasement. They are not a necessity although you may want to further personalize your tank and turtle-keeping experience.

Bubble Wand The only requirements for decorative objects are fairly straight-forward. They should not be harmful in any way. They should not be ingestible, contain toxic materials and have paint or sharp and abrasive surfaces. They should not impede the swimming areas or have the ability to break. You do not want to have a potential hazard that would cause your turtle to become caught or trapped. Turtles may dive off their basking platform, so make sure there are no obstructions in their path that could potentially harm them.

Some decorations can be useful if they provide additional resting or hiding areas. Some, like a bubble wand, can also help aerate water and provide some minimal entertainment for your turtles.

Hiding and Privacy

Sliders are relatively solitary creatures and do enjoy their privacy. RES, especially hatchlings, may not always want attention and will seek cover when they feel uncomfortable or threatened. Some RES are easily startled and it is beneficial to provide areas where they may feel secure. Aquarium backgrounds are commonly used to prevent the rear, and occasionally, the sides from being transparent. A variety of real and/or fake aquatic plants may add to your turtle's sense of security. However, live plants will likely be eaten, so it would be wise to choose a plant that is safe for RES to eat. Fake plants may be rearranged, shredded and otherwise uprooted.

Python Hiding areas, such as caves, are often used with smaller RES. However, any structure inside the tank must be completely nontoxic, stable and cannot trap a slider. For smaller turtles, a PVC elbow fitting is an example of a inexpensive cave. These structures may potentially cause an injury or drowning and if they were to get moved around, they might threaten to damage the tank itself.

Nesting Area

If you have a female RES, you will need to have a suitable nesting area. If your turtle is retaining her eggs, this could be an indication of a current health problem or could lead to one. The area may be slightly moist and made up of sand and soil (mixed with compost). A yard or garden may also be a suitable nesting area. Click for much more information about nesting sites.

Physical Activity

It is beneficial to be able to let your RES get some out-of-water exercise. If taken outside, they can receive some natural UV rays as well. They would need constant supervision when outside especially since they move moderately fast and blend into their surroundings well. Do not expect any barriers to prevent them from escaping; they can dig as well as climb. They will also require an appropriate shade in the event they would like to get out of then sun or feel like hiding. Never place RES that is in a container, tank or tub in direct sunlight - indoors or outdoors - regardless if water is present.

They need constant supervision in case they flip over and are not able to correct themselves. They may try to eat a foreign object that they cannot swallow because they are out of the water. Expect them to be interesting to predators and other pets - especially dogs. Your RES will always be vulnerable to larger animals, even if it is your dog.

Substrate (Gravel, Pebbles, Rocks)

Substrate is a nice visual addition to your setup. It is the loose material that is used at the bottom of a tank. These could be sand, aquarium gravel, river rocks or some other specially made materials. It will give your turtle something to rummage through but may also increase your tank cleaning frequency. Substrate is optional and bare tanks work just as well and are the easiest to clean. Avoid using any substrate in a tank with shallow water since there is a greater risk of injuring the plastron.

Good Substrate

River Rock River rocks are large and smooth and easily available. With the assortment of white, grey, black and brown colors and patterns, they add a natural feel and keep maintenance to a minimum. It is important to check each one individually before use to make sure there are no cracks and that they are larger than your turtle's head. To prevent other injuries, keep the water depth significant enough to avoid the plastron impacting the bottom of the tank.

No Substrate

Having a bare tank bottom is fine. It helps keep the water cleaner, allows the filter to be more efficient and allows for easier tank cleaning and water changes.

Optional Substrate

Sand poses no serious health risks to RES and will not harm a turtle's shell. However, it is the most difficult to clean and it will impact the efficiency of your filter as well. See Sand FAQ.

Bad Substrate

Gravel Gravel poses the greatest health risk, especially with smaller RES who can experience impaction and prolapse. Gravel is easily ingested and causes blockages that can result in death. They also have a tendency to trap food and waste which will warrant more frequent cleaning and water changes.

Glass and plastic marbles, pebbles or beads should not be used in your tank. They are often cheaply made and could also break, leaving dangerously sharp debris in your tank.

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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.