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Physical Activity and Behavior

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RES should normally be very active and bask for a few hours a day. They are excellent swimmers and fairly maneuverable on land. Their enclosures should allow for the maximum amount of swimming space and have the appropriate lights provided to them. It is important to make sure that nothing accidentally or unintentionally can get into the tank. RES are determined climbers; prevent them from escape and protect them from other pets.

Circular, Erratic or Lopsided Swimming / Irregular Walking

Irregular swimming is often a serious sign of respiratory infection. Fluid build-up in the lungs impairs normal swimming ability. Irregular walking may occur due to the same reasons. Check for other symptoms, take basic measures and prepare for veterinary consultation. Make sure the water temperatures are correct and that your turtle is not exposed to cold drafts.

These types of irregularities may also be due to a neurological condition or an ear abscess. This is a serious symptom that needs immediate attention. It can easily lead to drowning and other injuries.

Lethargy, Inactivity, Not Swimming, Excessive Basking

If your RES becomes inactive, you need to quickly check water and basking temperatures. A RES will sleep more and eat less if conditions are too cold. This becomes problematic if environmental conditions are not corrected. This is considered a “death zone” and your turtle will not have the opportunity to thermoregulate.

If their environment is correct, you must consider this a possible sign of a serious illness, such as RI. Closely examine your turtle for any other symptoms, take basic measures and schedule a veterinary appointment. Set up a quarantine area because many types of infections can spread quickly.

If there are other sliders in your tank, the affected RES may also be a victim of aggression. If this is a new turtle, it may be uncomfortable in your presence and it should be observed from a distance. Stress may have caused this turtle to become reluctant to normal social behavior.

Aggression, Biting, Fighting

RES may exhibit aggressive behavior towards each other or against people. They can be territorial and aggression may appear more with captive RES. Males have a tendency to fight each other or harass females. Increasing the size of an enclosure may not be enough to remedy this behavior and separation should be considered. Similar aggression may appear as competition during feeding or basking in which a larger basking area and separate feeding may help.

Any aggression towards people would be purely defensive or accidental; biting of the fingers is a common "accident".

Not Basking

Sliders and similar turtles will bask regularly everyday if the proper conditions exist. Basking is necessary in promoting health and well being with only a few simple conditions required to make it inviting to bask. A heat source is required to elevate the temperatures around the basking area 10-15 degrees F. Ideally, water temperature would be 75-78 degrees and the basking area 90-95 degrees. There would be no encouragement to bask if the water is too warm or if the basking area is too cold/hot. The basking area should be large enough to accommodate your turtle(s) and be easily accessible. RES enjoy privacy during basking and you may not be offered the opportunity to observe them.

Related Page
Basking Overview


There are times when a RES will become very restless. If this is a new turtle, you might consider that stress is causing this turtle to be very uncomfortable. Lack of privacy, over handling and incorrect habitat conditions are often the mistakes of a new, inexperienced owner. These mistakes contribute to the high mortality rate of hatchlings.

It is also important to consider habitat conditions may be incorrect, especially wrong temperatures. Temperatures that are too cold or warm can cause a RES to become very uncomfortable. Water temperatures should be 75-78F (24-25.5C) and basking temperatures should be 90F (32.2C). RES are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to maintain their body temperatures.

Without an appropriate nesting area, a gravid female RES will also act restlessly when inside a tank. She may frantically dig or swim against the glass. It is also safe to assume that a sick or injured turtle may also act restlessly, depending on the type of injury.


It is important not to underestimate the impact that stress can have on a turtle's health. Wild-caught and captive-bred RES will endure a great deal of stress under captivity. Being placed in confining and unnatural conditions can immediately impact the turtle's psychological health, appetite and immune system. Inappropriate temperatures, water conditions, dietary needs and privacy considerations will all have a tremendous impact on a new turtle. These turtles are also likely to have a greater chance of having bacterial and parasitic infection or be susceptible to new infection. A turtle carrying Salmonella may release some of the bacteria if under stressful conditions.

A newly acquired turtle may have been under stress from a previous environment, such as a farm or pet store, and suffered from other poor husbandry conditions. It would be beneficial for new turtles to be tested for possible infections. Having a proper setup ready when bringing home a new turtle, offering privacy and not over handling would be highly beneficial for adjustment and adaptation.
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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.