A Cost Breakdown for Owning a Red-Eared Slider

Tanja is a qualified postgraduate scientist with a great passion for nature and how different ecosystems interact. Her education included coursework and practical experience to advance in biological sciences, farming, aquarium research and fisheries management. She has experience in constructing ponds, aqua- and hydroponics, productive gardens with a small worm farm and compost heap, and larger scale mariculture facility setups.

You have decided to take the next step and adopt your red-eared slider pet(s). It can be such an exhilarating experience but instigate the fear of new financial challenges you might face to set up the best facility for your pet(s) and sustain them for several years.

This blog post got you covered on breaking down the financial needs of owning a red-eared slider(s). I will consider indoor and outdoor facility setups, maintenance, yearly care costs, and those unexpected costs that just have to show their faces now and again to keep you as the turtle owner on your toes.image3 602w343h

Let us keep that exciting feeling blooming and reduce the sleepless nights about financing your future (or already present) aquatic turtle friend(s).


Before going into the nitty gritty, the following figures are summarized for your convenience to get your head in the suitable financial space by knowing what you can potentially expect to pay towards your red-eared slider(s):

  • Minimum cost overall: US$450
  • Maximum cost overall: US$1800 and up
  • Average cost for an indoor setup: US$1000
  • Average cost for an outdoor setup: US$660
  • Monthly expenditure: US$25 to US$65
  • Yearly upkeep expenditure: US$80 to US$320
  • Unexpected or emergency expenses: US$55 to US$500

[Note: Hereafter, US$ will be referred to as $ for the rest of the blog post.]

Now that we got that out of the way, you are prepared to take in the entire financial breakdown and get ready to make a genuinely amazing investment and make some red-eared slider(s) very happy.

The cost of a red-eared slider turtle

Starting with the most important part – which is the reason why you are doing all the research and financial setup planning – the process and cost involved in adopting or buying a red-eared slider(s).

The cost of a red-eared slider can vary significantly based on age, adoption or breeding status, history, and veterinary check-up assessments.

  • Adopting:

Dedicated animal rescue centers or non-profit adoption organizations usually only ask for a minuscule remuneration to support the facility in caring for, rescuing, and homing an animal. The standard fee, which will most properly include the necessary legal paperwork, can be between $10 and $40. However, you might find some facilities do not ask for any fee, but donations are always appreciated and much needed.

Sadly, new pet owners tend to move away from adopting and instead buy their animal(s) from more reputable sources because they do not know the origin or actual status of the adopted animal. All is fair and well, but consider reading my blog post on legality of trading red-eared slider before making your final decision.

  • Buying:

Red-eared slider turtles can be bought from a breeder, pet shop, or even a registered hobbyist or experienced aquarist. The industry can have a lower price than private sellers, ranging between $15 and $100. However, there is no ‘real’ guarantee that the animal has been captive bred or wild caught. You also do not always know how healthy the turtle is and whether the animal will stay as healthy as when you purchase the individual.

On the other hand, experienced and registered sellers, especially breeders with a good track record, generally sell red-eared sliders they can guarantee to have a high-quality, healthy life when cared for properly and is a genuine captive-bred species. Thus, you can expect to pay between $60 and $220 for an individual.

Reputable online sellers that i recommend include the following:

Whether you choose to adopt or buy, research the seller, center, facility, or store properly before you go to get your new red-eared slider friend(s). As animal lovers and enthusiasts, i always recommend adopting any animal, especially red-eared slider species due to their highly invasive status.

Further, make sure the individual you are getting is not just said to be healthy but also looks healthy. Do report any questionable and unethical animal practices to your local animal rescue facilities, or you can contact Turtle Guardian to assist in your specific state.

VERY IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Please do not go and collect red-eared slider turtles from the wild yourself. The only time you can do this, provided you ask for advice from experienced turtle rescue facilities, is if you know it is a threat to the specific area and that you can keep the animal in captivity in an appropriate enclosure for the remainder of its lifespan. Otherwise, inform the proper rescue organizations to deal with the animals instead.

Supplies cost breakdown that red-eared sliders need

It can become costly to house a red-eared slider, considering the extent you want to go to and the type of enclosure and technology you want to use to construct their forever home.

The requirements for an outdoor enclosure can be less than those of an indoor enclosure. The following cost breakdowns will give you a better idea of what it takes financially to set up an outdoor versus an indoor enclosure, which can hopefully guide you in making your decision and getting that investment ready.

Outdoor pond setup:

  • Ponds can be natural depending on where you stay, for which you will only need some barriers and technology. Hence, no cost for the enclosure itself will be necessary. However, most people are not that lucky and will require either constructing a pond or buying a free-standing pond.

    If you opt for a pond to be constructed or you want to buy a pond that needs installment, you will be looking at a much more expensive setup of approximately $800 to $2600. However, if you opt for the free-standing pond, which will not require barriers or anything other than the general technology, it can cost you as little as $150 to $300 for a 120-gallon pond.

    image1pinterest @mikey_burns9160

  • A substrate is not necessary for your red-eared slider’s pond setup, but you can add river stones or pebbles. Make sure to choose large pebbles of at least 2 inches in diameter. It will cost you nothing to collect your own but stones or pebbles can be bought from pet shops for $26.
  • A filter will be the best investment for your outdoor pond. As the enclosure is outdoors, it tends to foul easier, and the water turns green more quickly. Therefore, you should invest in a filter that functions well under pressure and filters water nearly three times the size of your pond. Such a filter can cost around $95 to $285.
  • The most significant benefit of an outdoor pond is that the enclosure is exposed to all the natural factors, including ample sunlight. As a result, you will not need to install a basking lamp or a UVB lamp. However, if you stay in a location with freezing winter and autumn weather, you will need to use a small basking lamp during those times. The lamp with the fixture will cost you about $60.
  • Submersible heaters are only required for icy weather below 65°F. Otherwise, your outdoor enclosure will not need a heater because of the lovely sunlight it receives daily. A submersible heater with a thermometer costs around $48.

Indoor tank setup:

  • Aquarium tanks at 25-gallon sizes can cost a minimum of between $80 and $120. However, considering the sizes that red-eared sliders can reach (i.e., 12 to 18 inches), you will need to invest in a 120-gallon tank if you decide to opt for a smaller tank first. Therefore, you can expect to pay between $750 and $900 minimum for a full-sized tank.
  • A substrate is not necessary, though your turtles like to dig in their tank enclosures. It will, however, make it harder to clean the tank. Instead, you can opt for pebbles or larger stones that you can collect or buy from a pet shop for $26.
  • Filters are essential to keep your enclosure’s water clean. Try and install a filter that can filter at least double the amount of your tank’s size. A filter can cost around $65 to $225.
  • A good basking lamp is vital for your red-eared slider’s health. As indoor enclosures do not receive any natural sunlight, you must invest in a basking lamp to simulate that optimal basking environment your turtle friend(s) requires. A lamp with its fixture can cost between $60 and $80.
  • Submersible heaters will be necessary for an indoor enclosure due to the tank not receiving sunlight nor enough heat build-up with much colder ambient temperatures indoors. A submersible heater with a thermometer costs about $48 to $52.

    image4 602w451hpinterest @danielgaliciatv

  • UVB lamps, like basking lamps and heaters, are critical for your red-eared slider’s health. Do not confuse a UVB lamp with a basking lamp, as the lamps do not have the same light spectrum and provide different elements necessary in your tank enclosure. Hence, a UVB lamp with a reflector should cost around $43.

Further reading on the habitat specifics and technology required for keeping a red-eared slider can be read in my blog post “The optimal habitat conditions for red-eared sliders.

Medical care costs for red-eared sliders

Routine visits to the veterinarian will guarantee longer, healthier life for your pets. Though it might not seem necessary, annual check-ups with an exotic veterinarian can prevent underlying conditions in your red-eared slider(s) from developing and keep your turtle friend(s) living its best, happy life.

It is recommended to take your newly adopted or bought turtle to a vet within two days of purchase. Accordingly, you are assured about your red-eared slider’s overall health from the beginning. A quick check-up can cost around $30 to $60 per individual.

Whenever further tests and laboratory samples are required, you can be ready to pay medical costs starting at $80. If you suspect any disease or injury in your red-eared slider, a visit to the vet can come to a medical fee of $220, including a complete check-up, tests, treatment, and any home medication with a bi-weekly follow-up examination.

DISCLOSURE: When you have adopted a red-eared slider from a dedicated, registered rescue or adoption center, you can ask the company which veterinarian they use for their reptiles. Usually, these centers get special veterinarian costs as a form of support in rescuing and rehabilitating exotic animals. Hence, as an adoptee, you may benefit from this as you take the extraordinary step of adopting your turtle friends.

Yearly maintenance, upkeep, and unexpected costs of red-eared sliders

  • Replacement of basking lamps = $30 to $60
  • Filter replacement = $100
  • UVB lamp replacement = $12
  • Monthly turtle food cost = $24
  • Water conditioner = $8
  • Cracks, chips, or leaks in enclosure = $10 to $1100
  • Electricity and water cost per month = $36 to $52 at minimum

Concluding remarks

Getting your first pet turtle can be an exciting and memorable experience. Red-eared sliders are among the most popular species of turtles because of their striking red and black markings, compact size, and easy-going disposition. These attributes make red-eared sliders an ideal starter pet for new reptile owners.

But as with any pet, there are a few costs associated with owning a red-eared slider that you should be prepared for before making this type of turtle your new friend. Hopefully, after working through this comprehensive cost breakdown of owning a red-eared slider, you can now make informed decisions and go and get your cute slider pet(s).

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