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Yellow Bellied Turtle (Complete Care Sheet)

By Kerry
Updated on

With over 350 species of turtle out there, there is so much which can be learned about these small creatures.

We may have our perceptions of turtles (for example, they are slow walkers), however, each type of turtle differs from another.

Yellow bellied turtle on a tree branch

In this article, we will be talking about the Yellow Bellied Turtle, providing a complete guide on everything you should know when caring for this animal.

Yellow Bellied Turtle: An Overview

A Yellow Bellied Turtle (also referred to as a Yellow Belly Terrapin or Yellow Bellied Slider) is a species of turtle that is commonly known.

If a person were to think about a turtle, this is most likely the first one to come to mind for it is very familiar. This is because many have Yellow Bellied Turtles as pets for they are low maintenance and easy to care for.

This turtle belongs to the Emydidae family, native to areas in the southeastern United States.

Like many turtles, you will find the Yellow Bellied Turtle in the water more often than not so when caring for them it is important to supply them with an environment both on land and with water.

The one thing which we all know about turtles, in general, is their incredibly long lives.

Turtles have been around since the time of the Dinosaurs, some turtles even living longer than 100 years. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that the Yellow Bellied Turtle has a life expectancy of 30 to 40 years.

The Behavior Of A Yellow Bellied Turtle

With a Yellow Bellied Turtle, it is important to understand their behavior. You may be wanting to give this turtle as a surprise pet for your child, but remember that they are not your usual pets.

Unlike a dog who loves playing around or a cat who loves curling up to you, a turtle is a complete opposite. This turtle should not be handled as this only leads to stress and defensiveness.

If a person were to handle this turtle (picking it up, trying to play with it, etc.) its immediate instinct would be to bite.

Of course, this is not to say that they are not suitable pets. Some children enjoy simply watching their pet, learning about how this species is, and becoming fascinated by its way of living.

As well as this, Yellow Bellied Turtles are diurnals. This means that they are most active during the day instead of at night. You will find this turtle waking up, eating in the morning, and roaming around in the sun.

How Large Do Yellow Bellied Turtles Grow?

These turtles are known to grow to a fair size with adult male sliders reaching up at 9 inches in length (23cm) and female sliders reaching a length of up to 13 inches (33cm).

The size difference is very evident between a male and female turtle no matter what the species – this makes it easier for us to tell the difference between genders.

In general, female turtles are larger in size than their male counterparts.

Where Will You Find a Yellow Bellied Turtle?

In their natural habitat, you will easily find these turtles in areas with plenty of fresh water.

They are aquatic turtles meaning that the majority of their time will be spent in the water. Because of this, it is natural to find them by slow-moving rivers, swamps, marshlands, and ponds.

Aquatic turtles, although spending the majority of their time in the water, also walk on land too.

During this time, they enjoy soaking in the sun, so much so that these turtles will go as far as soaking in the same area and even stacking on top of each other to get closer to the sun.

What Are The Different Pond Sliders?

There are three main types of pond sliders. These are:

  • Yellow Bellied Sliders
  • Red Eared Sliders
  • Cumberland Sliders

All three of these sliders are aquatic turtles, sharing plenty of similarities. Because of their type and their similarities, all of these make for a great pet choice.

All sliders will need to be cared for in the exact same manner, they are all easy to care for and have similar qualities.

One thing which varies slightly is their selling price.

A Yellow Bellied Slider has an average selling price of $15 to $50, as does the Red Eared Slider. Cumberland Sliders are slightly cheaper, having an average selling price of between $20 and $30.

Another thing which the Yellow Bellied Slider and Red Eared Slider share is their lifespan. Typically, their lifespan is 20 – 40 years whereas the Cumberland Slider has an average life of an amazing 50 years.

It is clear that all three of these turtles are very similar, especially when it comes to the Red Eared Slider and the Yellow Bellied Slider.

Do Yellow Bellied Turtles Have Any Predators?

Yellow bellied sliders walking on the floor

Just like every animal, there is always a predator. Whether that be a bird capturing a worm or a human hunting a lion, predators are all around. So, what is a turtle’s predator?

Unfortunately, there are many things that can attack a turtle out in the wild.

Young sliders, they can be eaten by big fish or herons. For adult sliders, their predators include a variety such as raccoons, foxes, and even domesticated dogs.

Is It Safe To Own A Turtle With A Dog?

Although it has been known for domesticated dogs to attack turtles, that is not to say they cannot share a home. However, as an owner, you must be able to keep your turtle safe and out of harm’s way.

Dogs are naturally curious and many are excitable. Because of this, interacting with a turtle can be dangerous or cause stress. The dog will probably want to sniff around it or even pick the creature up.

Although your dog will not mean any harm, it is much bigger than this small fragile turtle. If you own a dog and are wanting to own a turtle in the same house, it would be best to keep them apart.

If your turtle is wandering outside in the sun in a pond, keep a close eye, especially with your dog around.

Should You Get A Pet Turtle?

When it comes to choosing a pet, many people’s first thoughts will go to either a dog or a cat.

However, there are some people who think outside of the box and choose to keep a unique pet such as a bearded dragon, snake or, in this case, a turtle.

On paper, the idea of having a pet like the Yellow Bellied Turtle sounds exciting but it should be made clear that these are not easy animals.

With a dog, you have to be in charge of feeding, bathing, walking and playing, and this can be a lot of work, but a turtle is not a way to get out of all these challenges.

If you are thinking about getting a pet turtle, then it is necessary to know the pros and cons which come with the job.


  • They Are Unique

One positive of having a turtle as a pet is that they are unique. There are not many people who can say they have a pet turtle so this is a great addition to have.

As well as this, because of their uniqueness, you will learn plenty about the species.

We already know what to expect from a cat, a dog, or even a dish, but not every owner knows what to expect from a turtle. This makes having a turtle as a pet even more thrilling.

  • Easy To Feed

Turtles are not fussy eaters meaning it is easy to feed them.

With the Yellow Bellied Turtle, their diet consists of leafy green vegetables and insects which provide protein, however you can also feed your turtle fruit such as strawberries and apples (although it is best to use this as a treat).

What is great about their diet is that you do not have to go out of your way to buy additional food for your pet. The food we provide for our turtle is the same food we eat too.

  • You Will Always Be Learning Something New

When it comes to owning a turtle, the chances are that owners do not have extensive knowledge of their behavior. However, this means that every day is an exciting adventure with these creatures.

With a turtle, you will be learning things you would have never known and you will be entertained too. Whether that be being entertained by how they walk, relax in the sun, or even swim, a turtle will always leave you fascinated.


  • Space Is A Necessity

It is very important to understand a turtle’s need for space. Many people who desire to have a pet turtle think that keeping them inside an enclosed tank in a small apartment will be fine, and although possible, this isn’t the best option.

Turtles of all types need a large enclosure with plenty of space to move around – this will allow them to feel comfortable and settled.

We recommend an enclosure of 75 gallons. This may seem large but the bigger the better. Do not keep them in a box. You want your turtle to feel comfortable and safe.

  • Demanding

Another con about keeping a turtle as a pet is that they are very demanding, especially when it comes to food. Although buying food for turtles is easy as they can eat what we eat, please keep in mind that they eat a lot.

It is important to make sure that they are receiving enough food by checking on what they have eaten and knowing how much they should eat in a day.

Of course, the appetite of a turtle varies depending on the species so it is important to do your research beforehand. The worst thing you can do is overfeed or underfeed your pet turtle.

Again, turtles are not dogs or cats. They cannot bark or meow to get your attention and show they are hungry. The lack of clear communication is another factor.

Choose A Healthy Yellow Bellied Turtle

Before bringing your turtle how you want to know that it is healthy. There will be many to choose from however each one of them is different in terms of health. Because of this, it is necessary to know what to look out for.


One thing to look at is its shell. If the shell has any rough areas or is soft then this is not an indicator of good health. If this is the case, it may be that they have shell rot.


Another thing to look at is their eyes. Their eyes should be open, not shut. As well as this, look out for signs of puffiness. You do not want your turtle’s eyes to be puffy.


How does the turtle respond to you? As mentioned before, Yellow Bellied Turtles do not like to be handled and their natural response to being picked up is biting or running aware if touched.

They may also retreat into their shell. If this happens, this is a completely natural response and is signs of a good turtle.

Where Should You Buy Your Turtle?

The best place to buy a turtle is from a respectable breeder. Make sure that before going to this breed, they have evidence of experience with the animal as well as having the animal’s health history.

Furthermore, you want to avoid turtles which have been caught in the wild. Your pet turtle should be captive-bred and used to an environment involving an owner.

When it comes to buying your turtle, you should also be aware of how much you will be needing to pay.

For a hatchling (newly hatched turtle) you will only be expected to pay as little as $10 or $20. With an adult turtle, however, you can be paying anywhere between $60 and $100.

Yellow Bellied Turtle: Caring For Your Turtle

4 yellow bellied turtle lined up on a tree trunk

In this next section, we will be guiding you through how to properly care for your turtle. Turtles may be small and independent enough to roam and entertain themselves, however that does not mean that we can simply not care for them.

There is much to cover in caring for a Yellow Bellied Turtle in order to present it with the best possible life.

A Turtle’s Health

It is very important for every owner to understand all there is to know about a turtle’s health. By understanding their health, you will know what to watch out for as well as avoiding any mistakes when caring for your pet.

Metabolic Bone Disease

It is common for aquatic turtles such as the Yellow Bellied Turtle to contract a metabolic bone disease. This is a complex disease that results from improper calcium to phosphorus ratio.

In turn, this disease leads to a variety of symptoms such as the softness of the shell, bone fractures, leg abnormalities, and a reluctance to move.

In order to ensure your turtle is healthy and avoid this disease, make sure to keep an eye on your UVB and heat lights.

These lights need to be changed regularly as metabolic bone disease can be caused by inappropriate lighting. It can also be caused by a bad diet.

Respiratory Infection

Yellow Bellied Turtles can suffer from respiratory infections. The clearest way to acknowledge that your turtle is suffering from this infection is if you hear it wheezing. You may also see it drooling too.

However, hearing unsteady breathing is not the only sign of respiratory problems. Another indicator is puffy eyes. If your turtle has puffy eyes then it most likely is suffering from an infection.

Pneumonia And Shell Rot

These two health problems are very common in these turtles and the best way to notice a problem is by the way they look.

As we have previously discovered, Yellow Bellied Turtles are aquatic creatures meaning they spend plenty of their time in the water.

Because of this, they are naturally good swimmers and are able to dive. If you happen to see your turtle floating in the water, this is something to be concerned about. There is a chance your turtle may have pneumonia.

Shell rot is another problem in turtles which can be very painful for them and should be checked by a vet straight away. This disease is caused by fungus and causes a turtle’s shell to soften or be covered in algae.

A Guide To The Best Setup

One of the most important things other than acknowledging possible health concerns is making sure that your Yellow Bellied Turtle is in a suitable environment.

In general, what we as owners look to do is imitate the turtle’s natural environment.

This means taking into consideration the amount of space it has to roam, the heat it receives, its access to water, food, etc. By keeping these in mind, you can be assured that your turtle will feel comfortable and secure.

Below, we will be taking you through the several things you will need for a suitable tank, ensuring that your turtle will be situated in a comfortable and appropriate environment.


The first thing to look at is the tank. This is the space your turtle will be spending much of its time so it is essential to choose a tank that is of an appropriate size.

Female turtles are naturally larger than a male, so you want to keep this factor in mind when choosing your tank. However, with this said, the general consensus should be – the bigger, the better.

For a male turtle, based on its average size, a tank that is 70 to 100 gallons will be appropriate.

For a female turtle, a tank that is 150 gallons would be best suited. You may think upon seeing this size in person that this tank is too big, however, this is what is needed.

Your turtle, whether male or female, shouldn’t simply fit snugly into the tank. This tank needs to have plenty of room in order for your turtle to feel comfortable.


Next, we have lighting. Lighting is a crucial part of the tank and is necessary to have.

There are two types of lighting you will need: UVB light and UVA light. But what is the difference? And why do we need two forms of lighting?

UVB lighting is a bulb that produces ultraviolet light – this cannot be felt or seen.

The main reason for having this light along with the tank is to help the turtle to absorb nutrients and prove their food. In turn, this will help to prevent any health concerns such as metabolic bone disease.

UVA lighting is much simpler than UVB. This light produces heat which acts as a simulation of the natural sun. As explained prior, turtles love nothing more than to lay in the sun.

Having this heat in their tank from the light will allow them to feel in their natural habitat.

When setting this up, however, it is important to make sure that you are positioning the light correctly as you do not want the turtle to get too hot or to not receive enough heat.


One thing which not everyone considers is water and how it should be treated. You need to make sure that the water you end up using for the tank is suitable and to avoid simply using tap water.

Tap water can contain chemicals that are not great for the turtle such as chlorine.

To be safe, purchase a water conditioner to use for your tank. These are specifically made with the care of animals in mind.

There is also the issue of heating your water. Make sure that you have a maintained temperature of up to 84F for the tank’s water.

To do this, you will need a submersible water heater. If you choose to use two heaters, be sure to place them on either side of the tank.

Lastly, you have to concern yourself with the filtration of the water. When it comes to Yellow Bellied Turtles, water filtration is key.

Unlike fish, turtles will get very dirty so it is important to have a powerful water filter in your tank. Because of this, you should choose a filter that is two times the size of your setup. Choose either one large filter or two separate ones.

Tank Stand

When it comes to the setup, you should also think about the tank’s stand. It is essential to place your tank in a suitable location as well as have an appropriate stand for it.

With this, you can either choose to make one yourself from scratch or, like most people, you can purchase one.

Alternatively, you can make a makeshift stand that doesn’t require purchasing or building anything at all.

It is known for many people to put their tanks on tables or work benches. So long as the table is stable and sturdy, this will work perfectly as an alternative stand.

Feeding Your Yellow Bellied Turtle

Yellow-bellied slider on a rock

Feeding takes plenty of work with any type of turtle, however, it is still essential to know how to properly care for a Yellow Bellied Turtle in terms of diet.

This next section will be guiding you through how to feed your turtle correctly, ensuring it eats the right foods, eats enough/doesn’t overeat, and receives plenty of nutrition and protein.

What Can These Turtles Eat?

Yellow Bellied Turtles can eat a variety of foods and they are not fussy eaters. The list is endless but to narrow it down, you can feed this turtle:

  • Meat
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit

Meat is a good source of protein for a turtle so it is essential to make this part of their diet. Whether you choose to feed them chicken, cow, or fish, all meat is good for them.

When preparing this meal, you should remove any bones and fat and cook it – Do not add any seasoning! This could cause harm.

Vegetables are another food that these turtles love. Not only are vegetables good in nutrition but it provides plenty of energy.

When it comes to choosing vegetables, you cannot go wrong as vegetables have no risk of harm to the turtle. Some examples of great vegetable options are:

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkin

Fruit is another great choice for turtles, however, this is something that should be managed with care.

Although good, some fruits contain citric acid or high amounts of phosphorus which can cause stomach problems for a turtle.

It can also affect the bone structure of a turtle’s shell if they are given the wrong types of fruit.

Some examples of good fruit options are:

  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi
  • Apricot
  • Coconut
  • Banana
  • Guava
  • Peach
  • Raisin
  • Avocado
  • Pomegranate
  • Orange

What Is A Turtle’s Feeding Schedule?

Keeping up to date with your turtle’s feeding schedule is very important for their health. You do not want to be overfeeding your turtle nor do you want to be feeding them too little.

It is necessary to know how often you should be feeding them as well as understand portion control.

As Yellow Bellied Turtles come in all different shapes and sizes, it is beneficial to look at a turtle’s feeding schedule depending on age group.

Feeding Schedule For Baby Yellow Bellied Turtle

Similarly to babies, a turtle baby eats a lot. Out of all stages of their life, this will be the time that they will eat the most. Naturally, you will be having to feed your turtle every day which calls for a lot of work for the owner.

This is something that should also be considered when deciding what turtle you want. Be sure to remember that baby turtles require plenty of feeding and plenty of care.

Feeding your turtle daily means that they will grow at a healthy rate and gain all the energy they need at this young age.

Feeding Schedule For Juvenile Yellow Bellied Turtle

Juveniles are only a little older than babies and their growth will be slower than how it was as a baby.

For feeding, you have two options. You can either feed them what they received as a baby every two days or you can feed them half of that portion every day.

When it comes to this, what matters the most is that the portion size is correct. Whether you choose to feed them every day or every two days will not affect them.

Feeding Schedule For Adult Yellow Bellied Turtle

Yellow bellied turtle crawling

Finally, we have adult Yellow Bellied Turtles. Turtles at this stage of life grow very slowly, sometimes not at all.

Because of their slow growth, they do not need to receive too much food. You will only have to feed your turtle once every three days.

This may not seem like a lot but the portion size will make up for those missed days. Your turtle will not starve and will have plenty of energy in them.

Are Treats Allowed?

Yes, treats are absolutely allowed for your turtles. Whether you want to give them a treat of strawberry or an insect, this can be done. Just make sure to only do this occasionally so as to not interrupt their feeding schedule.

How Do I Know How Much To Give My Turtle?

Now we know all there is to know about when to give your turtle food, it is essential to know about portion control.

As mentioned before, you do not want to overfeed or underfeed your pet turtle. Luckily, there is a clever trick you can use to make sure you are portioning up correctly.

To retain portion control, you must compare the size of your turtle’s head to the amount of food you will be giving it.

When your turtle is a baby it will naturally have a smaller head. What you can do is get a small cup around the size of its head, fill that cup up to the top and serve it to your turtle.

The same goes for a grown adult. Get a cup or a container that is the same size as your adult turtle’s head, fill it up to the top and serve.

This method may seem odd however it is known to work. This is a great way to ensure that you are portioning up your food correctly and the food your turtle is receiving is substantial.

Outdoor Turtle Pond Setup

There are some people who as well as having their indoor setup want an outdoor pool setup for their turtles too.

This is not a must have requirement but it is another area for your turtle to roam, a way for them to enjoy the natural sun instead of light and be introduced to a new environment.

If you are debating about creating this alternative setup for your turtle, you can have a look at this pros and cons list.


  • Natural Sunlight

One great thing about creating an outdoor setup for your turtle is that you are allowing it natural sunlight. The natural sun doesn’t compare to light in an indoor tank, and because of this, your turtle will be very comfortable.

  • Space

Another positive is the unlimited space your turtle will have. Your turtle will be free to roam around the large backyards as well as have access to a pool it can call its own.

Although indoor tanks need to be large for your turtle, it is still a tank with four glass walls. Having an outdoor space will relieve that claustrophobia.

  • Fresh Air

Your turtle will feel relieved to have some fresh air. Although a tank is air-conditioned and monitored, there is nothing that beats a fresh breeze and natural everyday air.


  • Safety

One drawback that should be made aware of is the risk to your turtle’s safety. Out in the outdoors away from the security of an indoor tank, your turtle is left vulnerable.

Turtles are small and can easily be harmed if not careful. This is especially essential for those with other pets such as dogs.

Dogs can become excitable and cause harm to your turtle if you are not careful. Although this will not always be the case, your turtle will now be exposed to more harm than it would have been in a tank.

What Can I Use To Make An Outdoor Setup?

Making an outdoor setup is very simple as it requires less equipment. You do not have to worry about getting two types of light, a filter or anything like you would for an indoor setup.

You may think that you have to make an outdoor pen, however, this is not essential if you don’t have the means to do so.

What we recommend is going the easy route and using something as simple as a kid’s paddling pool or even a large plastic tub.

These make great outdoor setups that you can customize to suit your turtle and make it feel as comfortable as possible.

Final Thoughts

This article has explored the Yellow Bellied Turtle, explaining all there is to know about this aquatic creature. When it comes to keeping one of these turtles as a pet, it is important to know how to care for it correctly.

This is something we have made clear in this article, highlighting how to create an effective setup, health problems to look out for, the best way to feed your turtle and plenty more.

If you are wanting a Yellow Bellied Turtle for yourself, this guide will give you all the answers you need.

Photo of author
About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.