How Old is My Red-Eared Slider Turtle? 6 Ways to Know it

Jan 7, 2021

How Old Is My Red-eared Slider Turtle

We often get asked how old my Red-eared slider turtle is, but there’s no exact telling if you don’t know its date of hatching. However, there are few methods to guess age, and they’re quite accurate too. 

How Old is My Red-Eared Slider Turtle?

There’s no definitive method to know the exact age, but certain signs help make an educated guess. The size and color of the carapace, the number of rings in the turtle’s belly, and examining the size of the claws can help to find out a Red-eared slider turtle’s tentative age. 

While none of these methods will give you a 100% correct result, it will still be pretty close to the truth, allowing you to better understand your turtle and take care of it accordingly. 

You might also like to read:

Why Are There White Spots On My Turtle’s Shell? Guide On Fixing Them

Are Turtles Nocturnal? When Do They Sleep?

Can Turtles See in the Dark?—Here’s what research has shown.

Red-Eared Slider Turtle’s Color

Observing the turtle’s color is one of the easiest ways to gauge the age. When your Red-eared sliders are just hatchlings, they sport a dazzling color. It’s often Kelly green with light yellow markings. This shade lingers up to the age of six months to 1 year.

After around a year, the bright hues fade and turn into a somewhat duller shade of olive. 

And after the age of 2, the signature red markings behind the ears disappear as the turtle becomes increasingly darker. Likewise, the shells will now have brownish or ochre shade. 

As far as appearance is concerned, discolorations and chips are also telltale signs of a long life in turtles. However, it could also result from a solitary tumble out of the tank. 

Counting Red-Eared Slider’s Rings 

red eared slider
red eared slider

Counting rings is one of the fascinating ways of determining a Red-eared slider’s age. Tallying the number of rings in the scutes will give a rough estimate because the rings are formed in famine and feast periods. 

It means that the rings were formed either when the turtle was starving or full—instead of different seasons like summer and winter. 

Now let’s see how to count the rings to determine how old your Red-eared slider turtle is. 

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How To Count Rings In A Red-Eared Slider’s Shell?

The rings formed in the scutes alternate between wider rings of one color and smaller rings of another shade. It’s believed that the bigger rings reflect the periods of a feast, and the smaller ones are testimonials of famine.

Now generally, the periods of feast fall in the summer, and famine occur in the winter. 

Thus, if you count the total number of rings and divide it by 2, you’ll have a rough estimate of the turtle’s age. 

Make sure that you’re looking precisely for the rings. Counting the number of scutes will not work. 

Let’s assume that your turtle has 16 rings in total. Dividing 16 by 2 gives 8. Thus, your turtle’s age, according to the number of scute rings, is 8. 

However, this method may not be as convenient and accurate in mature turtles as it’d be for younger ones. 

In older turtles, the rings are very compact and closer to each other. Thus, it’s almost impossible to find out the exact number of rings. 

Measuring Turtle’s Carapace 

When born, a Red-eared slider turtle’s shell is not an inch bigger than a thumbnail. But by the second birthday, the carapace will have grown by at least 4 inches. And by the age of 4, the carapace will be anywhere between 6-8 inches long. 

As the turtle ages, the carapace will grow up to 12-13 inches during the lifetime. After this point, it would be impossible to determine the age by just size alone. 

Measuring Turtle’s Claws 

how old is my red-eared slider turtle
Red-eared Slider’s claws.

Measuring the size of a Red-eared slider’s claws is an unusual but clever way of calculating age. A male Red-eared slider turtle grows enormous claws and tails after reaching 2. Between the ages of 2-3, the claws are sharp and prickly. 

However, once the turtle gets older, the claws become shorter and blunter. 

So, examining the claws can help you accurately guess your pet’s tentative age range. 

Examining Turtle’s Bone 

Now, this is not something that can be done at home for sure. But for a long time, scientists have been using a method called skeletochronology to determine a sea turtle’s age. Reportedly, turtle bones comprise annual rings, which can be counted to determine the age. 

However, a team of scientists led by Dr. Brian Wallace of the Sea Turtle Conservation Organization has revealed that this technique gives ‘mixed results.’ 

It turns out that the accuracy depends mainly on the turtle species and their bone structure. For example, skeletochronology yielded pretty accurate results for Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle species. 

On the other hand, the results were far from impressive for Leatherback sea turtles. Thus, we can’t be sure how well this method can turn out for a Red-eared slider turtle. 

Asking The Breeder 

Ok, this one sounds like a no-brainer, I know. But most of the time, if you got your turtle from a breeder or a pet shop, they will have all the information about the date of birth and breed history.

A turtle has to be at least two years old before it can be legally sold at a pet store. Thus, that’s a good place to start calculating the age as well. 

Conclusion On How Old Is My Red-eared Slider Turtle

Unless you find out your Red-eared slider’s date of birth, there’s no way to determine the age accurately. However, as we discussed above, there are a few techniques to guess the tentative age, which surprisingly isn’t too far from the truth. 

Calculating the total number of rings in the scutes and dividing it by 2 is the most common method to determine the age.

Other than that, gauging the appearance and condition of the shell is widely practiced too. Usually, younger turtles sport bright shades of green, while older ones are olive or brown. 

Examining the claws’ condition and the size of the carapace are also crucial ways of calculating the tentative age of a Red-eared slider turtle. 

If you wanna be expert on your Rd-Eared Slider turtle, check out this handbook.

I highly recommend this book as it covers everything you need to know about giving your pet a good life.

Relevant Readings:

Can Algae Eaters Live With Turtles? Co-Habitation Guide

How to Tell if a Turtle is Pregnant? Guide For Turtle Breeding.

Do Baby Turtles Sleep A Lot? Is It Time To Wake Him Up?

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.