Do Red Eared Sliders Bite?

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Red-eared sliders are medium-sized turtles that can deliver quite a painful bite that might be particularly unpleasant to small children. However, it is unlikely that they would ever bite just for the sake of it and would need to feel threatened or scared if they were going to attack.


Introduction to Do Red Eared Sliders Bite?


The red-eared slider is a relatively common species of turtle that can be kept as a pet and these animals have gained a somewhat unfair reputation for being biters, but is there any truth to this notion?

This type of turtle can grow to between seven and twelve inches, so once they reach their full size, there is the potential for some damage if they were to nip you. However, much like any other animal, the red-eared slider won’t just bite you because they are bored and tend to only last out if they are feeling threatened.

In this article, we are going to be looking at when the red-eared slider might bite, their behavior and temperament, and what to do if you are bitten.


Do Red Eared Sliders Bite?


One of the things that a lot of people are not aware of when they adopt one of these sweet-looking animals is that they can pack a punch, or rather a bite when they feel threatened. Therefore, a lot of people enter into caring for this type of turtle unprepared for the potential of a nip – and this nip can be quite painful.

When your red-eared slider administers a bite, as an adult, the worst that will probably happen is that there may be a few expletives leaving your mouth. There have been many instances where pet owners have been bitten by their pet sliders and they have drawn blood but for the most part, this won’t be a serious wound. Of course, there are exceptions, but we will look at that in a little more detail later on.

The problem comes when these animals bite children, as their smaller fingers may often become more damaged than ours so it is vital that you always supervise any younger members of the family when they are handling the turtle.

One of the main reasons that a red-eared slider might bite you is that he feels scared. It is extremely uncommon for them to bite just because they feel like it unless of course, you have a naturally aggressive individual, which is entirely possible, as with any animal but not a common trait.

Provided that you take good care of your red-eared slider and he has everything he needs, there is no reason that he should ever feel threatened. Of course, things like larger pets, dogs, in particular, might cause him to be scared if he is out of the tank. Furthermore, if you do not handle the turtle correctly, this could rile him up and be a reason for him to lash out.


Do Red Eared Sliders Like To Be Handled?


Red-eared sliders may be quite chilled out when they are in their tank but once you remove them, there is a chance that they could feel scared. One too many pet owners have experienced a nip from their turtle who just wanted to be put back in his home.

Whilst it is possible for you to take the turtle out of the enclosure and handle him, it is probably best to do this as little as possible since these animals are not huge fans of affection. But then, whoever brought a turtle for affection? In contrast, most people will adopt this type of pet to observe their interesting behavior and watch them gracefully swimming around the tank.

However, while they might not want to be handled too often, these are friendly animals and will often be seen swimming up to their owners when they are next to the tank and may even feed out of your hand.

In the wild, the red-eared slider is one of the timidest creatures and will quickly retreat inside her shell at the first sight of a human or predator.


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Are Red Eared Sliders Aggressive?


In the main, the red-eared slider is a relatively docile animal that doesn’t show any signs of aggression. As we mentioned earlier, however, you may find yourself with a particularly feisty individual but that isn’t common.

One thing that surprises a lot of new red-eared slider owners is that there have been reports of cannibalism. It is important to note that this is not overly common but if you attempt to keep more than one turtle in a tank, there is a very real chance that, if one is smaller than the other, the larger of the two may become aggressive.

The chances of this happening when you have hatchlings are even greater so it is highly advisable that if you plan to keep several red-eared sliders, you separate them according to their size. Even if the turtles do not become aggressive in the sense of trying to attack one another, there will likely be fights in other ways. Most commonly, the larger turtles will exert their dominance so that they can have the biggest cut of food, the best basking spots, and more space than the smaller ones.


Why Are My Red-Eared Sliders Biting Each Other?


Even when you put two turtles of a similar size in one enclosure, there is a chance that they might bite one another, but this doesn’t always mean that either or the turtles are at risk of being eaten or killed.

Red-eared sliders are incredibly interesting animals and if you keep them as pets, you will likely notice a lot of unusual and interesting behaviors that you wouldn’t see in other species. A great example of this is that they will shake their claws when they are trying to attract a mate, they do this even before they are ready to mate.

When it comes to biting other red-eared sliders, there are several reasons that they might do this but in the main, it is to show that they are the dominant creature. However, if a female begins biting a male, this could be her way of telling him that she is not interested in his advances and she does not wish to mate with him – what a way to get rejected!

Where mating is concerned, males might bite each other and scratch one another as a way of fighting for the best female, this is a behavior that we see in many animals and is not exclusive to turtles. However, one vast difference is that turtles will only cause superficial harm to their opponent and rarely cause any serious injuries during this process.

Furthermore, the red-eared slider might bite his housemates if he is feeling territorial. This behavior may be seen in homes where a new turtle is introduced to the enclosure after some time – you might compare it to a new human moving into your home without your say so; we might also react in a similar way to the turtle.


What To Do If You Are Bitten By A Red Eared Slider


First and foremost, if you happen to sustain a bite from a red-eared slider in the wild – you must get this seen by a medical professional as a matter of urgency since the animal could be carrying harmful bacteria, namely salmonella which could make you extremely ill.

In the event that your pet bites you, there is still a chance that the animal could be carrying disease and so if the skin is broken, it is vital that you get this checked. There have been some cases where the wound bleeds heavily and this might require stitches.

If the bite was sustained by a child, this should always be treated as urgent and medical advice should be sought.

If you are an adult and have been bitten by a red-eared slider at home but the skin has not been broken, you should make sure to wash the area with plenty of soap and warm water. However, it is also important to check on the health of the turtle. It is likely that she lashed out because she felt scared, so make sure that she is safely in her enclosure and has the space to calm down.




The red-eared slider is a common household pet but as with any animal, there is a risk that they may defend themselves through biting. Although this is rare, it is important to be aware that your turtle might nip if he feels scared.

These animals are also known to bite once another and in some cases, can be cannibalistic, so it is best to keep them separate if there is a clear size difference.


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