If you have a red-eared slider and don’t know how old it is, this guide is for you. Unless you know the exact date your turtle was hatched, knowing its age won’t be easy. However, you can easily estimate the age of your slider by inspecting specific its physical characteristics as well as behaviors.
How old is my red-eared slider turtle? You can tell the age of your red-eared slider by counting the number of rings formed on its shell and dividing the number of 2 to get a general estimate of your slider’s age. Measuring the size of the carapace is another way of approximating the age of your slider.
This article has discussed more helpful details on how to tell the age of your red-eared slider even if you don’t know the exact date it was born. We’ll discuss how to use various methods of turtle age estimation plus helpful tips to keep in mind when trying to get the age of your slider turtle pet.
How old is your red-eared slider turtle?
The surest way to know the age of a red-eared slider turtle is by knowing the day it was born or hatched. This is information you can easily obtain if you buy your red-eared slider from a reputable breeder or pet store.
However, in the case of a red-eared slider turtle that got rehomed, say you got one from your friend or took it from the wild, then telling its age wouldn’t be easy.
This is where you go for methods that involve observing the turtle’s physical aspects and behaviors to help you estimate how old it is.
Let’s discuss the steps involved in using each method to estimate your red-eared slider turtle’s age:
1. Count the rings
This method involves counting the rings formed on the scutes of your red-eared slider.
The rings are usually formed during periods of famine and feast. They alternate between smaller rings (formed during famine) and bigger rings (formed during an abundance of food).
Generally, food abundance occurs in summer while famine sets in winter. As such, if you count the number of rings and divide the number by 2, you’ll get a rough estimate of the age of your slider.
For instance, if your turtle has up to 20 rings, divide this number by 2, and you’ll get 10. The estimated turtle’s age is 10 years old.
Don’t make the mistake most people do by counting the scutes instead of the rings formed on them. This will give you wrong age estimates. Also, this age estimation method isn’t accurate and only gives rough age estimates.
It also works better for young turtles as the older sliders have their rings compactly packed together and counting them can be a headache for you.
2. The size of shell method
For this method, you’ll need to measure the size of your turtle’s shell from the head to the tip to the toe and then compare its size against its age.
This method is based on the fact that turtles get bigger as they get older, so you can also use their shell size to approximate their age. A newborn red-eared slider has a shell around an inch bigger than the thumbnail.
By the time it hits 2 years, the shell is around 4 inches. And by the time your turtle is at age 4, its shell is around 6 to 8 inches long.
However, as the turtle ages over time, its carapace grows to a maximum size of 12 to 13 inches. At this point, it becomes hard to determine your pet turtle’s age by just looking at size alone.
Other methods to help you determine the age of your red-eared slider include:
- Behavior: Baby red-eared sliders tend to be more active and curious compared to adults who prefer to stay docile.
- Inspect the scutes: While the younger turtles’ scutes are small and smooth, those of older turtles are usually larger and rough. The shell texture for adult turtles is also duller, thicker, and harder than that of juvenile sliders.
- Plastron: A baby slider has a smooth plastron while an older turtle’s plastron appears rough and bumpy.
- Measuring the size of nails: Male claws grow quite big after hitting 2 years and become sharp and prickly between 2-3 years. However, the nails turn blunt and prickly once the turtle becomes older)
How fast do red-eared sliders grow?
The red-eared sliders tend to grow pretty fast! They grow the fastest during the first few years. The species can reach 1.1 to 1.6 inches within a year and 2.3 inches on its second birthday.
By the time it hits 3 years, its shell would have reached around 4 inches. And at age 4, it will be around 4.5 inches.
It takes around 8 years for the pond sliders to reach their maximum length of around 6 to 12 inches.
Keep in mind though that the growth can greatly vary from individual to individual (with variations going as long as 2 inches).
Here’s a red-eared slider age size chart:
|Red-eared slider age (years)||Average length of shell (inches)|
How long do red-eared slider turtles live?
Wild red-eared sliders can live for up to 40 to 50 years while captive turtles have a shorter lifespan of around 20 to 30 years if you take good care of them.
Unfortunately, most turtle owners intentionally or unintentionally don’t give good care to their turtles, making them easily get sick and die.
If you want to extend your captive red-eared slider to life expectancy, make sure you give it the most favorable living conditions.
Ensure you house it in a spacious enclosure and keep it clean regularly to prevent it from getting dirty and encourage growth of harmful bacteria that makes your pet sick.
Additionally, provide your turtle with a good diet and expose him to UV light. And be sure to take him for regular checkups to help keep his health in check.
Do red-eared sliders get darker as they age?
Red-eared sliders usually get darker the older they become. While the young ones have bright markings on their shell and skin, the colorations turn darker as they get older.
The shell usually changes from leaf green to olive green or brown coloration.
This is a normal part of the turtle species’ growth and doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with its health.
You can use this physical aspect to help you determine how old your pet turtle is.
Can you release a red-eared slider turtle into the wild?
If you have an unwanted slider, then you may think of no better way to get rid of it than to release it into the wild.
This is what most turtle owners do when they don’t want to take care of their red-eared sliders anymore, especially when they decide the turtles can live for a pretty long period of time and require a lifelong commitment.
However, we advise you against doing so. Don’t release your red-eared slider into the wild! As you may already know, doing so can easily upset the biodiversity of species depending on where you reside.
It may also be illegal to release the turtles into the wild in your locality unless they’re wild in that area.
A better way to deal with an unwanted red-eared slider is to try and find it a new home. For instance, you can give it to a friend or family member.
You can also post an ad in your local pet stores, vet offices, or even community publications.
Some pet stores may also accept unwanted turtles. You may also consider posting the turtle at the turtleforum.com adopting section.
Or you can avoid owning the red-eared slider in the first place if you’re not sure you’ll be committed to taking good care of it for roughly 20 years or so.
You can tell the age of a red-eared slider by asking the breeder about its history and hatching date. If this info isn’t available, count the turtle’s rings on scutes or measure its shell length to estimate its age.
A 4-inch old long red-eared slider should be around 3 to 4 years old.
A 2-inch red-eared slider should be approximately 2 years old.
The age of your red-eared slider is easy to tell if you already know its history and when it was hatched. But this information isn’t always available, so you should use estimation methods to tell how old your turtle is. The counting rings and measuring the shell size methods we have discussed above will help you determine how old your turtle is.
Note that these methods aren’t 100% accurate and will only give you rough estimates of your turtle’s age. You can follow the additional physical aspects and behaviors of your red-eared slider to help you estimate its age. These include the plastron and scutes’ appearance, shell coloration, size of claws, and how active your pet is.