If you are going to purchase your 1st turtle as a pet, there is a high chance that you will be confused at one point. Yes, it happens when it comes to red eared slider vs painted turtle. They have striking similarities which often confuse people.

In fact, only a couple of days ago, one of my friends asked me to help him identify the differences between the painted turtle and red eared slider turtle. And honestly speaking, even I was in a fix to precisely determine the differences between these two popular pet turtles despite having five years of experience on owning a turtle.

Hence, I reminded my memories and searched the internet to bring the most vivid and crucial differences between the red eared slider and painted turtle.

Hence, begin the discussion.

Red Eared Slider Vs Painted Turtle

Red eared slider and painted turtles are both eminently popular as pet turtles. Before you start the detail discussion, let’s have a brief introduction of the two turtles.

Red Eared Slider Vs Painted Turtle

Red Eared Slider:

Red eared sliders are known as different names. You will see people calling them as water slider turtle, slider turtle, or red-eared terrapin. Its scientific name is Trachemys scripta elegans and endemic to North America.

Also, red eared sliders are semi-aquatic. Furthermore, red eared sliders are one of the most traded turtles along with the painted turtles. It got the name due to two distinctive features. These characteristics are-

  • Distinguished red stripes at the back of the ears.
  • Its ability to slide quickly from rocks, and logs when necessary.

Painted Turtle:

Painted TurtleThe painted turtles are scientifically referred to as Chrysemys picta and are native to North America. You will see them mostly in slow-moving and fresh water. It is a part of the turtles of larger pond turtle pets.


It has four subspecies which is based upon the original locations where these are seen mostly. These subspecies are-

  • The Eastern,
  • Midland,
  • Southern,
  • Western

This subcategory developed during the last ice age, although the proof suggested that they existed even 15 million years ago.

The following table will help you quickly differentiate between the two species.

Features Painted Turtle Red Eared Slider
Appearance Deep yellow markings around the eyes characterize painted turtles. The yellow marking looks like a streak around the eyes.Red eared sliders are easily identifiable with the crimson color at the backwards of their eyes.
Physical size A mature printed turtle is around 3 inches to 5 inches. The females are a bit larger with 6 inches size.Red eared sliders are double the size of a painted turtle. A female will be around 11 inches to 13 inches.
Lifespan In the wilderness, a painted turtle lives for 25 to 30 years. But in the captivity, it might decrease slightly.Red eared sliders are long-living. You will see these turtles living for 30 to 50 years easily in the wilderness. In captivity, they can live for 40 to 50 years.
Origin Scientists referred that North America is the origin of painted turtles.South America and Mexico is the origin of red eared sliders. These are found widely in all parts of Northern USA.
Carapace When you touch the painted turtle, you will feel that the shell is pretty smooth. It is quite flattering too. The body has a black, brown to the greenish-brown background. Also, it has red and yellow markings as well.It has a slightly uneven shell surface. The carapace color is variable between olive to dark brown color. Additionally, its sides have prominent maroon or red stripes. When the red eared sliders are younger, the shell looks like more greenish, and as they grow older, the color becomes darker.
Plastron Plastron or the bottom belly shell of the painted turtle has a slightly crimson or yellowish-brown tint. It also has to mark right on the center of the belly.It has a yellow pattern underneath the belly. It doesn’t change color with age. The dark markings are irregular and always present in pair if it is there.

Apart from the above mentioned comparison table, you might want to focus on some similarities too. It will help you make the best decision when it comes to choosing one turtle as a pet.

Remember it-

  • Hardy creatures: Both painted turtle and red eared sliders are hardy animals. These won’t catch diseases easily. Also, their hardiness means the turtles can easily live even in sub-optimal conditions. That’s why sometimes owners tend to maltreat the creatures.
  • Friendly behavior: Both turtles are calm and gentle. Also, both turtles are famous for their begging style for foods. Don’t be surprised if you see them snatching food from hands even. Moreover, their calmness is suitable for letting them in close to your kids.
  • Ideal for beginners: Red eared slider and painted turtles are easy to take care of. Also, they have the least requirements when it comes to maintenance, food and even, tank setup. So, beginners will find them east to pet.

Which Turtle Is the Best as a pet?

Most popular types of pet turtle
Red Eared Slider – The Most Popular Pet Turtle

Now that we know the similarities and dissimilarities between red eared sliders and painted turtles, it comes to the all-important and vital question now.

Which turtle should you choose as a pet?

Well, the answer goes as follows-

If you have the luxury to own a larger aquarium, red eared sliders are more favorable. On the contrary, for smaller aquariums, painted turtles are the best.

Hear me out-

Bigger turtles will ask for bigger tanks which are tougher to maintain. It is even more challenging since turtles are infamous for their messy character.

Ideally, for each inch of turtle size, you need to have at least 10 gallons of water in the tank.

So, here’s the math.

A female red eared slider will need around 100 gallons to 120 gallons of the aquarium.

And mark my words that this isn’t an easy task to set up such a bigger tank, let alone its maintenance. If you want to pet a pair of the red eared slider, you will need a terrarium size of at least 200 gallons of water. It is something beyond imagination that how much effort it will take for you to maintain such an enormous tank.

It might sound a drawback for the red eared sliders. But things turn upside down when it comes to diet. Painted turtles need more protein in their diet chart than the red eared sliders. So, you will have to offer them more with live creatures such as cricket, worms, etc.

Now that I have discussed all the challenges and possibilities to rear up both the turtles, we leave the decision up to you.

But if you ask for my preference, here goes the short answer.

If you can afford a larger aquarium or pond, always go for the red eared sliders. Although these turtles’ aquarium is hard to maintain, they make great pets. The painted turtles only need 70 gallons of the aquarium and easy to take care too.

So, for beginners, these are the most suitable.

Can You Keep Both Turtles In The Same Tank?

Do you want to keep both the painted turtles and red eared sliders together? Well, although it is extremely tough, you can actually keep the two turtle types together. But for that, you need to focus on the following aspects-

  • If possible, try to get both painted and red eared slider turtle of comparable size. Since larger turtles will eat lion share of the food and love dominating the smaller turtles, getting two turtles with the same size will help you.
  • Don’t keep a female turtle with the male turtle of different species. Male red eared sliders are famous for their aggressiveness, especially over females. When you choose a male red eared slider with the painted turtle of the female sex, the scenario isn’t promising. The male will dominate the female painted turtle and even bully and injure her.
  • Don’t pet wild turtles. These will make your life impossible with their messiness.
  • When you finally keep both turtles together, be ready to spend an enhanced time behind them. Firstly, you need to observe them more frequently to avoid any mishaps. Also, you need to clean and maintain the tank often too. Last but not least, you will have to arrange more food with variations for them. If possible, use a secondary tank (small-sized) to feed the turtles separately.

Final Words

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced turtle owner, both painted turtles and red eared sliders do make GREAT PET. However, due to the larger size, red eared sliders are slightly problematic to take care of compared to the painted sliders.

Finally, you will have to be LUCKY to keep both the turtle types together, even if you find the right size, tank and food for them.  So, here’s my decision- choose painted turtles if you are an amateur turtle owner when it comes to red eared slider vs painted turtles.

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