Caring for a terrapin

Terrapins have complex welfare needs. Here you'll find some basic information on how to ensure your pet's setup mimics their natural habitat as much as possible, to keep them healthy. You can learn more in our Terrapin care sheet (PDF 326KB).

Pond terrapins or 'sliders' (Trachemys scripta) include red-eared sliders, yellow-bellied sliders and Cumberland sliders. They are a type of hard-shelled, small turtles.

How long do terrapins live?

The lifespan of a pond terrapin/slider is around 30 years in captivity, so it's essential that any keepers are able to provide the care they will need for the animal's entire life.

How big do terrapins get?

Females are the larger of the species at 25cm. Males grow to around 21cm.

An infographic showing some essential facts about terrapin care

How to look after a terrapin

Terrapins should be housed in large tanks / aquariums or secure outdoor ponds with adequate heating and lighting. Terrapin tanks must be secure and free from hazards, children and other pets.

More information on terrapin care is available in our Terrapin care sheet (PDF 326KB).

Creating a comfortable environment


A terrapin will require a temperature gradient with a 'basking zone' where they can absorb warmth along with an area where they  can cool down.

The heated zone should be provided by a heat lamp with a thermostat at 30-32°C. You must check the temperatures at least once a day.


You should fit a 7-12% reptile lamp over two thirds of the tank to create a wide area of UV. The output of UVB (essential for your terrapin to store and use calcium) decreases over time so the lamp must be replaced regularly.


Terrapins need constant access to clean water so you need a powerful filtration system. We advise using water testing kits to ensure the water is low in ammonia and nitrite.

Read more about creating a suitable environment in our Terrapin care sheet (PDF 326KB).

What do terrapins eat?

Terrapins require a varied diet. A quality dried terrapin food should be used alongside thoroughly defrosted freshwater fish and live invertebrate foods.

Supplements are required to provide the vitamins and minerals not available in captivity.

Read more about food and essential supplements in our Terrapin care sheet (PDF 326KB).


A healthy terrapin has clear, bright eyes and a smooth shell. The skin should be smooth and without blisters, which could be a sign of infection.

A varied diet is essential to prevent thiamine poisoning, metabolic bone disease and eye problems.

Monitor your Terrapin's health daily and seek advice from your specialist reptile vet if you're concerned.

Read more about keeping your terrapin healthy in our Terrapin care sheet (PDF 326KB).

Are terrapins good pets?

Terrapins should not be petted. They are especially fragile when young.

If you keep more than one terrapin you'll need to provide a basking spot for each animal and make sure they are getting enough food or they may become aggressive towards each other.

Reptiles can carry Salmonella. Wash your hands before and after handling the terrapin or its equipment, to reduce the spread of infection.

Terrapin ownership should not be undertaken on a whim. They require lots of care and equipment to keep them healthy for life.

In July 2016 the European Commission published the first list of Invasive Alien Species of Union Concern, which came into force on 3rd August 2016. Red-eared/yellow-bellied terrapins or 'sliders' (Trichemys scripta - all subspecies) are included on this list. See page 7 of the document 'FAQ for UK stakeholders' for information about what these regulations mean for you as an owner.

Download the Terrapin care sheet (PDF 326KB).

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