Cumberland Slider Turtle Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Diseases

Jun 17, 2022

Cumberland Slider Turtle Care Guide

Image Credit: Quartl (CC License)

Cumberland slider turtle gets its name from its habit of sliding into deep water for safety when alarmed. It’s also affectionately known as Troost’s turtle, named after renowned Dutch-American naturalist Gerrard Troost. 

In the wrong hands, cumberland slider turtles can be a handful. But if you’re equipped with the right knowledge and are committed to giving them the best life possible, it will be an experience like none other. 

This cumberland slider turtle care guide encapsulates all the information you will ever require to raise these little reptiles successfully. This guide stems from my experience raising semi-aquatic turtles and the numerous research I’ve carried out on them. 

So, you can be well assured that the information I’m giving out is well-grounded and reliable. Let’s begin! 

Cumberland Slider Turtle At Glance

  • Name: Cumberland slider turtle 
  • Species: Trachemys Scripta
  • Family: Emydidae
  • Other names: Troost’s turtle 
  • Lifespan: 30 years
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Diet: Omnivore 
  • Tank Size: 75 gallons 
  • Water Temperature: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Basking Temperature: 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit

Cumberland Slider Turtle Lifespan | How Long Do Cumberland Slider Turtles Live?

In the wild, a cumberland slider turtle’s lifespan is around 30 years. However, they’re known to lead longer lives under the right care in captivity.

Wild cumberland turtles have a harder time surviving than captive turtles. First, they often get killed in road accidents. Second, there’s no shortage of predators waiting for the right moment to strike. 

Cumberland turtles, hatchlings, and eggs are routinely preyed upon by raccoons, coyotes, foxes, snakes, birds, and big fish. 

Cumberland Slider Turtle Distribution 

Cumberland slider turtles are found throughout the Tennessee River drainage, Mississippi River, and the southeastern US. But due to the rampant exotic animal trade, these reptiles have become a common sight in Illinois, Georgia, and Alabama. 

This species prefers shallow and quiet waters with muddy bottoms. Areas with aquatic vegetation, overhanging basking spots, and organic substrate are their favorite. 

They inhabit slow-moving rivers, creeks, marshes, lakes, and ponds. 

Cumberland Slider Turtle Conservation Status 

Cumberland slider turtles are listed as a “Least Concern” species by the IUCN. They’re not endangered. As a matter of fact, they’re considered an invasive species in many corners of the world!

They have successfully outcompeted native species in several parts of Asia and Europe. As a result, the European Union has declared the import and sale of cumberland sliders and the entire Trachemys Scripta family illegal. 

Therefore, as liberating as it feels, releasing a pet turtle into the wild is never a good idea. The pet will suffer, the native species will suffer, and the entire ecosystem will suffer. 

I had covered an article on where to donate red-eared sliders a couple of months ago. I’ll post the link to the article here. 

Where Can I Donate My Red-Eared Slider Turtles? 4 Reliable Options You Can Trust!

Cumberland Slider Turtle Appearance 

Cumberland slider turtles have an olive green or brown carapace with yellow markings. The carapace of an adult turtle is oval-shaped and wrinkled, with two rounded protrusions at the end. 

The plastron is colored yellow with dark spots around the edges. It is smaller than the carapace and has no hinges. 

The most striking feature about these turtles is an orange or yellow stripe positioned behind each eye. What’s interesting is that the streak is never only one color. It starts bright yellow and fades to dark orange or red color closer to the back of the neck. 

The legs have vertical, yellow stripes that look more prominent than those present in other slider species. 

A juvenile’s carapace is green with yellow markings. It grows darker with age. 

Cumberland Slider Turtle Size | How Big Do Cumberland Slider Turtles Get?

The maximum carapace length cumberland sliders can grow to is 11.4 inches (29cm).

The females are slightly bigger than the males, reaching 10 inches (25cm) in carapace length, whereas males only grow to 7 inches (17cm). 

Cumberland Slider Turtle Male VS Female 

Sexual dimorphism is pronounced in cumberland slider turtles. The males are always smaller than the females. 

Males have a flatter shell, longer foreclaws, and longer tails. On the other hand, females have a higher domed shell, shorter foreclaws, and shorter tails. 

Cumberland Slider VS Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtle 

Cumberland sliders are often confused with yellow-bellied sliders. The difference between the two lies in the size of the yellow stripe behind the eyes. The stripe in the yellow-bellied slider is broad and joins the neck stripe. On the other hand, Cumberland’s stripe is narrower. 

Cumberland Sliding Turtle Temperament 

Credit: Pbrundel (CC License)

Cumberland sliding turtles are not communal beings – a matter of fact, no turtle is. But this lot loves to bask in big groups in the wild. They even stack on top of each other if there’s a lack of space. 

If the resources are scarce or there are just too many turtles, cumberland sliders can turn to hostility and aggression – once again, any turtle would. 

It’s essential to know and come to terms with the fact that turtles simply don’t thrive on human attention or affection. You cannot expect a turtle to act like a dog. 

They like their space, and they make sure you know it. If the turtle doesn’t like being handled, it may hiss, retract into its shell, or even bite your fingers. If there’s a water body nearby, it may slide into the water and swim away.

It is only acceptable to handle the turtle when you’re cleaning its habitat, inspecting it for a wound or illness, or relocating it to safety. 

I don’t know how true it is, but hobbyists report that these turtles are most active between April and October. Maybe it’s because the weather is just so pleasant this time of the year. 

Also, I came across a few “care guides” that described a cumberland slider as “friendly” and that they enjoy being handled. I don’t know how those authors came to this conclusion. 

But if I were to give you my two cents, I’d say no turtle thrives on affection or likes being handled. If you treat it like a cat or a dog, you’ll get bitten sooner or later. Leave the turtle alone. 

Do Cumberland Slider Turtles Bite?

Yes, cumberland slider turtles will resort to biting if threatened, as any turtle would. And the bite may even be painful, depending on your pain threshold. 

Cumberland sliders don’t have teeth. However, they have sharp ridges with groves in their upper and lower jaws. And these are enough to cause pain or even minor injury. 

And by the way, here’s an article that might interest you:

What Happens If A Turtle Bites You? Can They Chop Off Your Fingers?

Cumberland Slider Turtle Habitat Setup

Cumberland slider turtle tank setup is fairly easy and straightforward. A hatchling can live comfortably in a 20-gallon tank, but you’ll need bigger tanks for the adult. 

The rule of thumb in the hobby is to provide at least 10 gallons of water for every inch of the shell’s length. 

So, you should allocate 75 gallons for an adult male turtle and 125 gallons for an adult female turtle. 

Cumberland sliders are freshwater turtles. Thus, they require ample water to swim in. There’s no hard-and-fast rule on how deep the tank should be, but at minimum, the water should be about twice as deep as the turtle’s length. 

The turtle should be able to fully submerge and swim around, 

If you don’t want to invest in a big tank right off the bat, you can place the turtles in storage tubs or large plastic containers. Of course, you would have to compromise on aesthetics, but the turtle wouldn’t mind. 

The tank should have robust pump, filtration, and heating mechanisms. We’ll discuss more about them in the dedicated sections below. 

The basking spot should be way above the water level but easily accessible to the turtle. You can use flat rock slabs, driftwood, and commercially available basking spots. The basking spot should be big enough to allow your turtle to fully stretch and relax. 

I’ve had my eyes set on this one for a while now.

Remember, the basking spot doesn’t need any kind of substrate. If you add it, it will only make the water dirtier. 

However, you can add reptile sand, flat rocks, or fine pea gravel as the substrate for the tank. The substrate material should be big enough to not be ingested or small enough to easily pass if the turtle consumes it.

I use Royal Import’s river rocks in my turtle enclosures. These rocks come from actual rivers and are big enough to not be swallowed. 

Here’s an Amazon link if you’re interested!

Do Cumberland Slider Turtles Live In Water?

Yes, as freshwater turtles, cumberland sliders spend a good amount of their time inside water. They also eat and sleep underwater. And they’re named “sliders” for their ability to swiftly slide into the water when they wish. 

However, as much as a cumberland slider loves being in the water, they need a well-lit, heated, and dry area to bask multiple times a day. 

Cumberland Slider Turtle Water Temperature And Other Parameters 

  • Water Temperature: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (23-36 degrees Celsius)
  • pH: 6.0-6.9
  • Nitrite: Below 2 PPM
  • Ammonia: Below 2 PPM
  • General Hardness: 180-200 PPM
  • Carbonate Hardness: 80 PPM

Turtles are messy creatures. Thus, keeping the water quality clean and healthy can be pretty daunting – especially if you are new to the hobby. Therefore, you’d want to get your hands on the most powerful equipment to keep the water clean. 

Since turtles need a large water body and produce a sizable amount of waste daily, any filter wouldn’t do. You should buy a canister filter powerful enough to get rid of gunk and debris produced every day. 

Here’s a link to a canister filter by Penn-Plax that I use for my turtle tanks. I bought this one last year after going through too-good-to-be-true reviews on Amazon, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s been working like a charm. 

Although turtles are more resilient to wrong environmental parameters than fish and inverts, their resilience shouldn’t be a reason to keep them in subpar environments. 

Water quality is directly tied to a turtle’s health. So, you would want to ensure it is always safe and pristine. 

Here’s a link to an article I wrote a few months ago on the mistakes that lead to cloudy turtle tanks. 

Cloudy Turtle Tank Water? Don’t Make These 4 Mistakes!

One more tip: Move the turtles into another container during feeding time. And only relocate them back into the main tank once they’re done eating and pooping. 

My turtles take around 30 minutes to poop after eating. 

This process may sound tedious at first, but it will save you so much time and resources in the long run. 

Should You Dechlorinate Water For Cumberland Slider Turtles?

Chlorine isn’t as detrimental to cumberland sliders as it is to fish and inverts. Their skin may not be susceptible to chlorine, but their eyes can be irritated. On top of that, chlorine wipes down the good bacteria colony and messes up the tank’s nitrogen cycle. 

Therefore, you definitely want to dechlorinate the water first. 

Also, in some places, the water is treated with chloramine as well. In that case, you’d want to use a conditioner labeled to get rid of chlorine, chloramine, and ammonia.

Light And Heat Requirements For Cumberland Slider Turtle 

Light and heat play an incredible role in ensuring a turtle’s wellbeing. These cold-blooded animals depend on the environment to maintain their body temperature. 

Cumberland slider turtles need UVB lighting and additional heat lighting to synthesize vitamin D3. If the reptile cannot synthesize vitamin D3, it could lead to grim health conditions like shell deformity and metabolic bone disease. 

UVB light should be provided at least 12 hours a day irrespective of what season it is outdoors. Also, remember, the bulb should be replaced once every 6 months or so. This is because UVB rays expire a lot sooner than visible white light. 

Here’s a link to 2-in-1 light that simultaneously emits UVB light and heat. 

The ideal water temperature is between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (23-26 degrees Celsius). The ambient air temperature should be somewhere between 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit (26–29 degrees Celsius), and the basking area’s temperature should be maintained between 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit (29-35 degrees Celsius). 

The temperature should never drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). If the mercury drops any lower than this, the turtle will lose its appetite and become lethargic. 

Cumberland Slider Turtle Diet 

Like most freshwater turtles, cumberland sliders are omnivores. They consume a mix of animal and plant matter. Since young sliders need more protein to grow, their diet when young is inclined towards the carnivorous side. However, as they grow, they acquire a taste for greens. 

If I were to give you just one piece of advice on feeding these turtles, I would say don’t pinch pennies when buying commercial turtle pellets. It’s something the turtle will eat daily. So, you’d want to ensure it’s packed with all the right nutrients and doesn’t use low-quality filler ingredients. 

The pellets should be high in protein, vitamins, and minerals and low in fat. You should also be mindful of the calcium:phosphorus ratio – the ideal ratio is 2:1. 

Here’s an Amazon link to Tetra pellets that meet all the requirements mentioned above. It’s what I give my turtles. 

Now, that’s not all. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. Therefore, you’d want to make sure your pet reptile has access to a varied, well-balanced diet that doesn’t exclusively depend on just pellets. 

Here’s a list of prey items cumberland sliders can enjoy:

  • Waxworms 
  • Silkworms
  • Earthworms 
  • Crickets 
  • Aquatic snails and their eggs 
  • Feeder fish 
  • Tadpoles 

It’s vital to ensure these prey items are sourced from a reliable place. You don’t want your poor reptile to be infested with parasites after enjoying a tasty treat. 

Also, it’s recommended to skip giving goldfish. They’re just too fatty. 

Here’s a list of leafy greens and veggies cumberland sliders can enjoy:

  • Romaine lettuce 
  • Collard greens 
  • Dandelion greens 
  • Bok choy 
  • Kale 
  • Green beans 
  • Squash 
  • Carrots 

Always make a point to check the calcium:phosphorus ratio of any vegetable before you offer them. Remember, the ideal ratio is 2:1. 

I’d recommend against feeding iceberg lettuce because it has no little to no nutritious value. 

Here’s a list of aquatic plants cumberland sliders can enjoy:

  • Water hyacinth 
  • Anacharis 
  • Azolla 
  • Frogbit 
  • Water lettuce 
  • Duckweed

The nutrients these reptiles need cannot be supplemented with food alone. Thus, you need to routinely fortify their diet with nutritional supplements like these:

How Much And How Often To Feed Cumberland Slider Turtles?

The general practice is to feed as much as your turtle can eat in 15 minutes; that’s about 1 cup of food. Offer an assortment of pellets, greens, veggies, and prey items to ensure they receive all the nutrients. 

As for frequency, young turtles should be fed once every day. For adults, you can offer a cup of food every other day. 

Recommended Readings!

Can Turtles Eat Spiders? Are Spiders Venomous?

Can Turtles Eat Popcorn? Are They Safe?

Can Turtles Eat Dog Food? Harmful Or Beneficial?

Can Cumberland Slider Turtles Eat Fruits And Veggies?

Yes, cumberland slider turtles can eat fruits and veggies, although they don’t occur naturally in a reptile’s diet. However, make a habit of checking the calcium:phosphorus ratio before offering any food. 

Also, most fruits contain higher levels of sugar and citric acid than what’s deemed safe for a turtle. So, don’t forget to channel moderation. 

How To Breed Cumberland Slider Turtles?

In the wild, cumberland sliders breed in spring, between March and April. The male will perform an elaborate mating dance in the water, fluttering its paws to woo its partner. 

The copulation takes place inside water. And about a month after mating, the female will lay anywhere between 2 to 24 eggs. The parents don’t care for the eggs. The hatchlings are entirely on their own the minute they’re born. 

If you have male and female cumberland sliders, it’s only a matter of time before they mate and produce little offspring. The copulation takes place for around 15 minutes. 

Once they are done breeding, give the female a 20-gallon gestation tank with around 4 inches of loose potting soil like vermiculite to lay eggs in. The tank should be damp and placed in a quiet spot. 

The enclosure’s temperature should be on the warmer side (80-86 degrees F).

While gravid, the turtle may cease eating. But don’t worry, this is expected behavior. As long as everything else is alright, you can expect her to lay eggs within two months. The eggs will then take another 70-80 days to hatch. 

Neither of the parents provides care once the eggs are laid. Like I said before, the hatchlings are on their own. Once the eggs have hatched, don’t disturb the hatchlings for about a day. Also, remember that hatchlings may not leave the shell if they feel threatened. 

Once the hatchlings have dug out of the soil, relocate them to their own tank. A 20-gallon tank should house about 12 of them. Their habitat should be equipped with full-spectrum light that imitates the sun’s rays and proper heating (80-86 degrees F) system. 

Cut food like earthworms, mealworms, and pellets into small chunks so they fit into the hatchling’s mouth and they don’t choke. You can try offering ham or lean beef if they’re finicky. 

The turtles will now take around 3-6 years to mature and be ready for reproduction. 

If you don’t plan to raise all of the hatchlings, you can put some baby cumberland slider turtles for sale. They’ll fetch decent prices. 

Do Cumberland Slider Turtles Hibernate?

In the wild, cumberland slider turtles hibernate when the temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As a matter of fact, technically, they don’t hibernate – they brumate. 

Hibernation is a term reserved for warm-blooded animals. Brumation is the term used for cold-blooded creatures like turtles. 

So, when the mercury drops, a cumberland slider will retire to muddy bottoms of ponds and lakes and only occasionally rise to the surface for food or air. 

However, in captivity, cumberland slider turtles seldom brumate. And why would they? All of their needs are being met, right?

Turtles, by instinct, only brumate when the water temperature approaches freezing. And that is seldom the case in a captive setting. 

Nonetheless, I would advise you to make preparations for brumation in case your turtle wants to go on a deep slumber. 

First and foremost, have the turtle assessed by a vet. Only healthy individuals should go into brumation. Otherwise, the chances are that the turtle might never wake up. 

There are a couple of other things to keep in mind. You should weigh the turtle multiple times, lower the temperature gradually, feed it fibrous food, keep it hydrated, fast it on days leading up to hibernation, and prepare the fridge!

Yep, it sounds like a lot. And to be honest, it can be a handful – especially if you’re a first-time turtle keeper. 

It’s not an article dedicated to cumberland sliders, but it deeply covers the dos and don’ts of helping a pet turtle hibernate/brumate. 

The article also entails all the steps you should take before the turtle hibernates/brumates. 

I’d strongly recommend going through this article! 

Do turtles hibernate? Find out what species don’t!

Cumberland Slider Turtle Diseases 

As I always say, a turtle is only as healthy as its enclosure or diet is. Almost every disease your turtle contracts can be traced back to the wrong environment or diet. Like most turtles, a cumberland slider is prone to metabolic bone disease, hypervitaminosis A, infections, and parasites. 

Let’s briefly discuss all of these conditions before we end this article.

Metabolic Bone Disease 

Metabolic bone disease is caused by a calcium/phosphorus imbalance in the body. The ideal ratio for reptiles is 2:1. 

Calcium/phosphorus imbalance causes weakening of the carapace, plastron, and the entire skeletal system. In severe cases, your ill turtle will experience involuntary tremors, bone fractures, and extreme fatigue. 

The most common reason behind this condition is improper diet. Lack of vitamin D is also associated with this disease since vitamin D is essential for calcium metabolism. And as you already know, vitamin D is received from exposure to UVB light. 

So, in a nutshell, improper diet and environment are the leading causes behind metabolic bone disease!

Hypovitaminosis A 

Hypovitaminosis A is a nutritional disorder characterized by vitamin A deficiency. Once again, the guilty party is none other than an improper diet! 

According to VCA animal hospitals, turtles primarily fed iceberg lettuce, low-quality pellets, and an all-meat diet are the most susceptible to developing this condition. 

Luckily for us, this condition is treatable and reversible if you act timely. 

Hypovitaminosis A is treated with injectable or oral vitamin A supplement. Please remember that the treatment should only be performed under veterinary supervision. 

Shell Rot 

Shell rot, also known as shell infection, is caused by bacteria, parasites, or fungi. Note that these infections are secondary to trauma, bites, or burns. 

Sometimes, the rot can be so severe that it will penetrate deep into the layers of the shell and cause ulcers. 

The main sign of the disease is discoloration of the shell. Depending on the cause, the color can change to yellow, white, or green with a moldy appearance. The disease often manifests as spots and blotches. 

Shell rot can be treated with antibacterial or antibiotic ointments. However, it takes weeks to go away. Before you start any treatment, it’s crucial that you first consult a vet and decode what is causing the shell rot. 

Recommended Reading:

How to Clean Turtle Shell? The Organic Way to Clean a Turtle Shell.

Gastrointestinal Parasites 

Gastrointestinal parasites are common in pet turtles, even more so if it is a wild-caught specimen. The tricky part is that parasitic infestation doesn’t show any clinical signs in many cases. However, the reptile may experience diarrhea and weight loss in severe cases. 

These parasites are mainly detected during the routine fecal examination. Therefore, you must have your pet’s feces assessed by a vet as soon as you bring it home and follow it up with yearly examinations. 

My Turtle Is Shedding? What’s Wrong With It?

All turtles shed their shells – don’t worry. As a matter of fact, when a turtle has a healthy lifestyle, it sheds its shell to remain in the best form possible. 

Now, bear in mind that while shedding shell is normal, shedding skin is not. So if your turtle has lately started to shed skin excessively as of late, it’s a red flag representing an underlying health condition. 

The most common reasons behind a turtle shedding its skin more than usual are a spike in ammonia levels, high temperatures, vitamin A deficiency, and fungal infections. 

Here’s a link to an article that covers the query in detail. Skim through it – it’s useful.

Why is my turtle shedding white skin?

Final Words: Cumberland Slider Turtle Care Guide 

So, that’s about it. I hope this care guide comes in handy if you’ve decided to bring home a cumberland slider. With the right care, they can be your lifelong companions. 

Raising cumberland sliders doesn’t have any specific requirement. You can raise it like you’d raise any other turtle – provide it with the right space and diet, plenty of basking opportunities, and routine checkups by a vet. 

We hope you have a wonderful experience! Write to us if you have any questions. See you next time 🙂

Recommended Readings! You’d Love These Care Guides!

Southern Painted Turtle Care Guide

Western Painted Turtle Care Guide

Midland Painted Turtle Care Guide

Eastern Painted Turtle Care Guide

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.