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Do Red-Eared Sliders Bite? 5 Reasons Why & How To Stop It

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Do red-eared sliders bite? In general, they are docile creatures, but there are a few reasons why they might bite – this is mainly if they feel threatened or mishandled. 

Let’s explore five reasons why red-eared sliders might bite and what you can do to stop them from biting you. 

We will also cover how to prevent them from biting each other if you have more than one slider in your tank.

Do Red-Eared Sliders Bite?

Yes, red-eared sliders can bite. They are not usually aggressive but bite when they feel threatened as an act of defense. They can also bite each other as an act of dominance.

Red-eared sliders are primarily docile creatures. They do not engage in many social behaviors that entice them to show aggression through biting. They are also a prey species, so they act aggressively when they feel threatened.

Without any other defense mechanisms, red-eared sliders bite to protect themselves from potential harm.

The only other time they might bite is two males vying for dominance over a female or territory. In these cases, the bites are usually warning nips and not meant to injure.

Red-Eared Sliders Bite
Image Source

Do Red-Eared Slider Bites Hurt?

Yes, a red-eared slider bite hurts. Due to their small size, the bite often doesn’t do much physical damage. The bite can be worse for kids who have smaller fingers.

Red-Eared Slider Bite Force

A red-eared slider bite force of approximately 14 (N)[1]. For comparison, a human’s bite force is between 300 and 600 (N).[2]

5 Reasons Why Red-Eared Sliders Bite

When red-eared sliders bite, it is always for a reason:

  1. They feel threatened
  2. They are mishandled
  3. They are trying to assert dominance over another slider
  4. They are defending their territory
  5. They are protecting themselves or their eggs

1. Feeling Threatened

Red-eared sliders are wild animals. They are accustomed to being on their own in the wild, fending for themselves. When they feel threatened, their natural instinct is to protect themselves.

One of the main reasons red-eared sliders bite is that they feel threatened. If you are moving around their tank while they are in it, they may feel cornered and react defensively.

It is important to give your slider space. Remove them from the tank during cleaning to not stress them out.

2. Mishandling

Another reason why red-eared sliders bite is mishandling. Mishandling can include anything from being held incorrectly to being dropped.

Handling is a stressful time for a small turtle. They may take the opportunity to bite you. If you are mishandling your slider, they can make contact with your hand.

A proper hold means your slider physically cannot bite you. Hold your slider with two hands, one on each side of the shell. Position your hands evenly between their front and back legs.

Mishandling Red-Eared Sliders
Image Source

3. Dominance

When two red-eared sliders are together, they may bite each other to assert dominance. This is especially common between two males competing for the attention of a female.[3]

Breeding hormones between sliders housed together can cause males to respond to their owners as competition, causing aggression.

Bites in these cases are usually warning nips and not meant to injure. It is best to separate the turtles until they have calmed down if the biting escalates.

Related: Male vs. Female Red-Eared Slider

4. Defending Territory

Red-eared sliders are very protective of their territory and nests. They may see you as a threat and bite in defense if you come too close to their tank.[4]

It is important to give your slider ample space. Do not put your hand in the water or too close to the glass. If you need to clean their tank, remove them and put them in a safe place until you have finished.

Red-Eared Sliders Defending Territory

5. Protection

The final reason why red-eared sliders bite is because they are protecting themselves. This includes protecting themselves, their food, and their nests.

Red-eared sliders can be very protective of their eggs. They may see you as a threat and bite if you come too close to the nest.

If you need to remove the eggs, it is best to do so with gloves on. This protects your hands from being bitten.

Do Red-Eared Sliders Bite Each Other?

Red-eared sliders do bite each other. This happens in cases of dominance or territory disputes. Bites between two turtles can sometimes lead to serious injuries, so it is important to separate them if they start fighting.

Red-eared sliders are primarily solitary creatures. They do not do well in groups and often fight with each other if forced to share a tank. 

It is best to house red-eared sliders separately to avoid any conflict.

In the wild, sliders only interact with each other for breeding purposes. After mating, the female lays her eggs, and the male leaves. The turtles do not see each other again until the next breeding season. They do not like being nearby at all times.

Sliders that are housed together fight over territory in the tank, especially basking areas. They also fight over food sources.

Do Red-Eared Sliders Bite Each Other

Why Is My Male Red-Eared Slider Biting The Female?

Male red-eared sliders may bite a female if they become frustrated during courting. Male sliders court the females with a small display. Once she shows a reciprocating interest, they mate. 

If a female does not return his desire to mate, he may become frustrated and act aggressively.

How To Stop Red-Eared Sliders From Biting Each Other?

Two red-eared sliders can live together if given the correct conditions and care:

  • Provide a lot of space
  • Use a tank divider
  • Provide lots of hides
  • Give multiple basking areas
  • Feed them separately

Space

Space is the most important factor when housing two sliders together. They need to have enough room to move around and not feel cramped.

A too-small tank causes the sliders to become stressed and may lead to fights. They need a minimum of 150-gallon tank for two sliders. The larger, the better. 

The tank should be long and wide, not just tall. This gives them plenty of space to swim, move around, and, most importantly, get away from each other.

Red-Eared Slider Health

Tank Divider

If you already have a tank and cannot upgrade to a larger one, you can use a tank divider. This allows the sliders to have their own space while still being able to see each other.

You can buy a commercial tank divider or make your own out of Plexiglass. The important thing is that it is tall enough that the sliders cannot climb over it and escape.

Hides and Furnishings

Providing hiding spots is important for two reasons.

  1. It gives the sliders a place to go to get away from each other
  2. It provides a sense of security.

Hides can be anything from pieces of driftwood to commercially available turtle docks. It works as long as there is a way for the turtle to get inside and it provides some cover.

Red-Eared Slider Habitat & Distribution

Multiple Basking Areas

Basking is an important part of a slider’s life. They need to be able to get out of the water and dry off. If there is only one basking spot, this can lead to fights.

It is best to provide two basking spots on opposite ends of the tank. This gives each slider their own space and prevents them from fighting over the spot.

Feed Separately

It is best to feed red-eared sliders separately. This prevents them from fighting over food and reduces the stress levels in the tank.

You can separate them by putting them in small, temporary tanks for feeding time. You can also utilize a tank divider during meal times. They may still be aggressive through a divider if they can see each other.

How To Stop Your Red-Eared Slider From Biting You?

The best way to stop your red-eared slider from biting you is to provide it with proper care. A healthy and well-adjusted turtle is less likely to bite. Ensure that they are stress-free and have all their needs met.

Proper Care

There are a few things you can do to help make sure your slider is happy and healthy:

  • Provide a large tank
  • Give them hiding spots
  • Provide multiple basking areas
  • Feed them a nutritious diet
  • Provide heating and UVB lighting
  • Give them a regular bath

By providing proper care, you can reduce the chance of your red-eared slider biting you.[5]

Can Red-Eared Sliders Survive Winter

Feed Regularly

Turtles need to eat a regular diet of fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as pellets or turtle food. A nutritious diet helps keep your turtle healthy and reduces the chance of biting.

A hungry turtle can become grumpy and aggressive, and your fingers may make for an appealing snack. An adult red-eared slider usually eats every two to three days. 

If your red-eared slider shows signs of hunger, feed them smaller meals daily instead.

Related: What Do Red-Eared Sliders Eat?

Minimize Handling

Red-eared sliders do not like being handled. They are wild animals that should are to be respected. Handling them too much can stress them out and lead to biting.

Don’t handle your slider just for fun. Limit handling to necessary times such as movement between tanks and health checks.

If you must handle your turtle, do so gently and with clean hands. Avoid handling them when they are basking or eating. And never pick them up by the tail.

Red-Eared Sliders Minimize Handling

Reduce Stress

A stressed turtle is more likely to bite. There are a few things that can cause stress in turtles. Ensure your turtle feels relaxed and safe:

  • House them individually
  • Create a dynamic tank
  • Meet their basic needs
  • Minimize human contact
  • Position their tank in a quiet area of the home
  • Keep other household pets away from them

Final Thoughts

Do red-eared sliders bite? The answer is yes, but there are several reasons why they may do so and ways to stop it from happening. By providing a healthy and stress-free environment, meeting all of their needs, and handling them gently, you can reduce the chances of your red-eared slider biting you.

About Sophie Herlihy (Zoologist)

Sophie Herlihy, a trained zoologist, is a lover of true misfit animals. With a specialty in insects, birds, and rodents, she helps the Misfit Animals craft factual and valuable informational pieces on various animals.

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