Yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta) are aquatic turtles belonging to the family Emydidae. This subspecies of pond slider is native to the southeastern United States, specifically from Florida to southeastern Virginia.
The slider is a diurnal turtle. They tend to spend most of the day basking in the sun. The yellow-bellied slider can be found in slow-moving rivers, floodplain swamps, marshes, ditches, and permanent ponds.
Trachemys is derived from the Greek word trachys which means “roughness” and emys which means “turtle”. scripta is derived from the Latin word scriptura meaning “a writing”.
Described originally as Testudo scripta by Johann David Schoepff in 1792. The genus Trachemys was first used for this species by Agassiz in 1857.
The origin of the name slider stems from the behavior of these turtles when startled. Groups of sliders are often seen basking and sunning on logs and branches. Sliding into the water to find safety in the vegetation.
Sixteen subspecies are recognized throughout its range. There appear to be two evolutionary lineages, one in the neotropics and one in the temperate zone. Three of the most known are the Red-eared Slider, Trachemys elegans, Yellow-bellied Slider, T. s. scripta; and Cumberland Slider, T. s. troosti.
The Yellowbelly Slider Can Live For 20-50 Years!
Yellow-bellied sliders are long-lived turtles, and specimens originally captured and tagged on the Savannah River Site during the late 1960s and 1970s, are often recaptured today.
Not all pond turtles were captured for education. All through the 1900s, many pond sliders were captured for sale. In the 1950s millions of turtles were being farmed and shipped abroad as part of the pet trade. The sales of these turtles increased when The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released.
Identify The Yellowbelly Slider…
These popular pets are distinguished by their shells, brown or black with yellow stripes. They have yellow lower shells with black spots (hence the YELLOW in the name).
Males possess elongated foreclaws and an elongated tail in which the anal opening is posterior to the edge of the carapace. Females have higher domed shells, shorter foreclaws, and shorter tails.
The carapace olive to brown with yellow marking. You will usually find a single, yellow, vertical line present on each pleural scute.
Short yellow bars may be present on marginals over the bridge that outline a dark blotch.
The ventral side of each marginal bears a black spot on older individuals may be completely black with a yellow bridge usually unpatterned except for a black spot on the inguinal scute.
The plastron has yellow with black spots in 2 or more scutes-spots are either solid black or are hollow. The skin is greenish to olive-brown with yellow stripes.
Behind each eye on the head is either a wide, vertical yellow bar or a narrow yellow to a reddish oblique stripe.
There are several thin stripes on the neck and limbs. Also, there are vertical, alternating yellow and brown to black stripes occur on the rear of each thigh.
Trachemys s. troostii differs from the nominate subspecies by having a yellow oblique patch behind each eye, fewer and wider stripes on the limbs and neck, hollow black spots on most of the scutes of the plastron, and horizontal lines of yellow and black on the rear of the thighs.
This species may be confused with Pseudemys rubriventris, which has red pigment on the carapace and plastron, a dark figure following the plastral seams, and cusps on the upper jaw. Pseudemys concinna has a C-shaped pattern on the 2d pleural scute and a dark figure on the anterior
Housing Yellowbelly Sliders…
Like most turtles, yellow-bellied sliders prefer not to be handled, this can cause undue stress for them. But these curious, amiable reptiles are entertaining pets if cared for properly.
They’ll never be a cuddly pet like a dog or cat would be, but yellow-bellied sliders tend to have unique personalities that endear them to their owners.
Aquariums are good for young sliders but as these turtles mature their size makes housing them a bit more challenging.
The ideal tank size for an adult slider would be about 75 gallons. Land water tubs are ideal.
Enterprising owners use all sorts of novel housing ideas to meet the roomy requirements of sliders by using things like pre-formed plastic pond liners to make homes more like indoor ponds.
If you have an outdoor pond, and a securely fenced yard to keep your turtle in and predators out, you might consider putting it outdoors for at least part of the year.
Lighting For Yellowbelly Sliders…
Captive yellow-bellied sliders are most active during the day and need adequate UVA and UVB rays either via exposure to unfiltered sunlight or a special lamp.
Make sure you provide a basking dock, appropriate lighting for reptiles (both UVB and heat lights) and clean water for your turtle housed indoors.
Aquatic turtles should be exposed to UVB lighting year-round for about 12 hours per day. Use a special reptile UVB light bulb, and be sure to replace it every six months.
If your yellow-bellied slider lives outdoors, it won’t need this supplemental UVB lighting; because they benefit from the sun.
Food and Water
Yellow-bellied sliders need clean water every day. Using a filter is just fine. We use an overflow system to clean the ponds here at Crazy Critters Inc.
Yellow-bellied sliders are omnivorous, however, juveniles tend to be more carnivorous than adults.
Aquatic insects, such as dragonfly larvae are consumed in the wild, as well as crayfish and snails. Other prey includes algae, seeds, and stems of numerous vascular plants, gastropods, insects, other arthropods, crustaceans, tadpoles, fish, and vertebrate carrion.
In the wild, this turtle will eat first thing in the morning. Though yellow-bellied slider tastes tend to change as they mature, shifting to an omnivorous diet as they get older, turtles of all ages should be offered a wide variety of both animal and plant-based items.
Dark, leafy greens like romaine, dandelion greens, and fresh parsley should be a regular part of your yellow-bellied slider’s diet. Chopped apple pieces and freeze-dried shrimp can be offered occasionally.
Most aquatic turtles eat the occasional insect or fish, but avoid giving them fatty fish, and never give them high-protein meats. An aquatic turtle’s diet should be mainly plant-based.
Commercial turtle pellets can make up a good base for the diet, supplemented with a variety of other items.
Offer only what your turtle can consume in about 15 minutes and remove uneaten food. We suggest Mazuri product. Especially the aquatic turtle food. Click here to go to the Mazuri website.
Yellowbelly Slider As Pets…
The best way to get a new yellow-bellied slider as a pet is from a reputable breeder who can speak to its health and history. A captive-bred slider is the best option.
Before you bring home your yellow-bellied slider, there are a few things to ensure it’s healthy.
Check the turtle’s eyes for excessive puffiness, discharge, or eyelids that are sealed shut. This could indicate an infection.
If its shell has any soft or rough spots, this is another bad sign: it could indicate shell rot. Test its responsiveness by making sure it pulls its head and legs into its shell, or, tries to swim away when you attempt to pick it up. Most turtles and tortoises don’t like being handled.
If you’re still deciding which aquatic turtle is the right fit for you, you may want to check out these breeds similar to the yellowbelly slider:
- Red-Eared Slider (If legal in your state to own)
- Painted Turtle
- Mud Turtle
Sick Yellowbelly Slider
Understanding normal yellowbelly slider behavior can help you provide optimal care for your turtle. Turtles will get out of the water to bask under their heat light but eat in the water so if these normal behaviors aren’t occurring, your turtle may be ill.
Sliders should be able to dive into their water. A turtle that is always floating is a sign of a problem such as pneumonia. Shells that are soft, not smooth, or are covered in algae might be infected with shell rot, which is a painful condition caused by a fungus.
Turtles with eyes that are closed or puffy may indicate a respiratory infection or similar problem. Wheezing and drooling also are signs of respiratory ailments.
Metabolic bone disease and vitamin deficiencies are also common issues that affect aquatic turtles in captivity due to inappropriate diets and lighting. Make sure your UVB and heat lights are not burned out to help keep your turtle healthy. Metabolic bone disease is particularly painful for turtles and can be life-threatening if not treated properly.
Consult with a veterinarian who has experience with reptiles. All of the above ailments are treatable if caught early. Don’t try to give your turtle home remedies without first consulting your vet.
Are They Endangered?
Fortunately, they are not at all endangered. However, they are predated on. Predators of adults are primarily raccoons. Humans, who collect them for food or pets. Or worse, accidentally killing them on roads and fracturing the shells with boat propellers.
Hatchlings and juveniles are eaten by large fish, some snakes, raccoons, and wading birds. Eggs in nests are eaten by raccoons, striped skunks, crows, and foxes.
Yellow-bellied sliders are cousins to the red-eared slider and have almost identical care requirements.
These turtles are adept at overland travel. Throughout much of Alabama and now Florida, the yellow-bellied slider intergrades with the red-eared slider.
Click here to go to our page about Red-ear Sliders. Our next post will be about the Yellowbelly Red-ear Slider crossbreed.
Intergradation ~ In zoology, intergradation is the way in which two distinct subspecies are connected via areas where populations are found that have the characteristics of both.
Many people catch turtles here in Florida. We can argue if it is right or wrong. What we do know is that if you captive raise an animal for numbers of years. Then release that animal in the wild. Contamination from unknown bacteria and other pathogens harm the turtle or the environment because of the turtle.