Although this guide primarily addresses red-eared sliders, it can be used for all three subspecies of Trachemys scripta, also known as Pond Sliders. The descriptions below are very generic, as there can be a great deal of variation in appearance between individuals. It should also be noted that hybridization between subspecies is fairly common.
Size and distribution data sourced from Terralog: Turtles of the World: North America, Vol. 2 by Holger Vetter.
Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)
The red-eared slider is native to the southern and southern central regions of the United States, but it has invasive populations around the globe, making it one of the world’s 100 Most Invasive Species, according to the IUCN. Physical characteristics that set the red-eared slider most apart from the other two pond slider species are:
- average 10-12″ (25-31 cm) long
- red stripe behind each eye
- dark (sometimes hollow) spots on each of the plastron scutes
Red-eared sliders are the most popular pet turtle in the US as well as the rest of the world, which is one of the reasons why it’s so prolifically invasive.
Yellow-Bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta)
The yellow-bellied slider is native to the southeastern United States, excluding Florida. Where habitat overlaps with the red-eared slider, the two subspecies frequently hybridize. Physical characteristics that set the yellow-bellied slider most apart from the other two pond slider species are:
- average 8-11″ (21-29 cm) long
- vertical yellow bar behind the eyes
- only two solid black dots on the plastron toward the head (not always)
Although not as common as red-eared sliders, yellow-bellied sliders are readily available in the pet trade, particularly in the US.
Cumberland Slider (Trachemys scripta troostii)
The Cumberland slider is the least well-known of the Trachemys scripta subspecies. primarily native to the area around Tennessee. Physical characteristics that set the Cumberland slider most apart from the other two pond slider species are:
- average 7-8″ (17-21 cm) long
- oblique (slanting) yellow patch behind each eye
- fewer and wider stripes on the skin, particularly the front limbs
- irregular pattern on the plastron
This species is very rare in the pet trade, but hybrids are common.
- Introduction to Red-Eared Sliders
- Trachemys scripta Subspecies
- Shopping List: Supplies You Will Need
- How to Select and Buy a Pet Red-Eared Slider
- Enclosure Size & Roommates
- Lighting & UVB Requirements
- Heating Requirements
- Creating a Basking Platform
- Water Management
- Environmental Enrichment: Decorating the Enclosure
- Feeding Your Red-Eared Slider
- Handling Tips & Behavioral Notes
- General Health Guide
- Additional Resources