Yellow-Bellied Slider vs Red-Eared Slider: What’s the Difference?

Updated: August 3, 2022 by Jennifer Munsell

yellow bellied slider vs red eared slider

What are the main differences between a yellow-bellied slider vs a red-eared slider?

Yellow-bellied sliders and red-eared sliders are remarkable creatures that share a lot of similarities and both make for very rewarding pets. Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) and yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta) belong to the same Trachemys genus and are subspecies of the larger scripta species.

Deciding which of these slider turtles to get as your new pet can be difficult because their care requirements are largely the same! The differences are mostly skin (or shell) deep and will not affect the way you set up their tank or care for them.

Read on to discover what the main differences are between the red-eared slider vs the yellow-bellied slider!

Main Differences Between Yellow-Bellied Sliders vs Red-Eared Sliders

The main differences between yellow-bellied sliders vs red-eared sliders are:

  • Yellow-bellied sliders are native to the southeastern regions of North America, whereas red-eared sliders are native to the southern region of North America and northern parts of Mexico.
  • Yellow-bellied sliders have oval-shaped carapaces that are slightly smaller, whereas red-eared sliders have slightly larger carapaces by comparison.
  • Yellow-bellied sliders have black markings on their bodies, whereas red-eared sliders have greenish-brown markings on their bodies.
  • Yellow-bellied sliders have bright yellow coloration on their bodies and plastron, whereas red-eared sliders have red markings on their bodies and plastron.
  • Yellow-bellied sliders live on average for 30 to 40 years, whereas red-eared sliders live on average for 20 to 30 years.

Red-eared slider turtles and yellow-bellied slider turtles are very similar in most things, but their key differences can help you decide which slider turtle is the one for you. Red-eared sliders are suited to someone who wants a pet who is going to live as long as they will.

Yellow-bellied slider turtles and red-eared slider turtles are both on our list of the best turtles that you can own and are so similar in terms of care requirements. This is because they are easy to keep, live for a long time, and are hardy, fairly small animals that can withstand a few beginner mistakes.

Yellow-Bellied Slider vs Red-Eared Slider Habitat

Understanding an animal’s native habitat is important because you need to adapt the enclosure they are living in as closely to their natural environment as possible.

By having an environment that closely replicates its native habitat, your slider will live a long and happy life with minimal stress.

Yellow-Bellied Slider

Yellow-bellied sliders can be found throughout much of the North American Southeast. There are especially large wild populations of them in Florida and southeastern Virginia.

Yellow-Bellied Slider vs Red Eared Slider: What’s the Difference?

Red-Eared Slider

The red-eared slider is native to the southern regions of North America and northern Mexico. The higher concentrations of their wild population extend to the drainage regions of the Mississippi River.

red eared slider

What’s the Difference?

These two areas yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders inhabit overlap in many areas, share similar environmental factors like temperature and humidity, and are both freshwater regions. This means their care requirements are mostly the same.

Interestingly, the yellow-bellied slider and the red-eared slider populations are actually closely connected to one another! This is known as the intergradation of two subspecies. It also means these two slider turtles can mate successfully and produce fertile offspring!

Carapace Appearance

Identification of an animal is important, especially when it comes to adjusting their surroundings to make them more comfortable. These turtles’ appearances and physical characteristics, such as carapace shape and size, can also influence which one you ultimately choose as a pet.

Yellow-Bellied Slider

The carapace (top of the shell) of the yellow-bellied slider is a more oval shape than that of the red-eared slider. Their shells are also generally a bit smaller.

Additionally, the yellow-bellied slider has a dark brown to dark green carapace with bright yellow striping down the sides. As your yellow-bellied slider ages, these yellow markings will fade and disappear.

Red-Eared Slider

The red-eared slider has a larger, more rounded carapace compared to the yellow-bellied slider. The carapace is dark brown in color, and it may have some lighter markings on it when your red-eared slider is young. However, these markings will disappear as the turtle gets older.

Does Carapace Appearance Make a Difference?

The shape and size of the carapace of the yellow-bellied slider and the red-bellied slider has no bearing on how they function or their overall quality of life. However, when you are setting up their enclosure and adding decorations, keep in mind the size and the shape of the slider’s shell.

For example, if you have a red-eared slider, then narrow, tube-like decorations could cause a problem. You need to make sure your slider always has enough room to easily swim through any caves or tunnels you build and cannot get stuck or otherwise injured.


Each of these turtles’ shells and bodies has distinct markings on them that can help you tell whether you have a red-eared slider vs a yellow-bellied slider.

All sliders have colorful line-shaped markings on them. The width of these lines, how they are positioned, and their coloration can help you identify the different types of slider turtles.

Yellow-Bellied Slider

The yellow-bellied slider has thicker black patterning on its body. The black bands are quite thick around the neck and face. However, the black bands are rather thin on the legs. These bands make a stunning pattern that is unique to all yellow-bellied slider turtles.

Red-Eared Slider

The red-eared slider turtle has olive green to brown markings on its body. These markings are thin bands that make up a stunning pattern along their faces and their legs.

Do Markings Matter?

The difference in these turtles’ coloration does not make a difference when it comes to their care or their needs in captivity. You will, however, need to decide whether you prefer the thicker black banding or the lighter olive green banding.

The hybrids that occur naturally in the wild or from captive breeding practices can have a multitude of combinations of colors and markings from their yellow-bellied slider or their red-eared slider parents.


The distinct coloration of these two sliders is how they get their names. Both have a bold, easily identifiable coloration — as long as you know what to look for.

Yellow-Bellied Slider

The yellow-bellied slider has a large patch of yellow on each cheek. The large yellow patches are very distinctive and do not fade with age. They also have yellow stripes running down their sides.

Their bellies (plastron) are a pale to bright yellow with two to four small, distinct dots of dark brown, hence their “yellow-bellied” namesake.

Red-Eared Slider

Red-eared slider turtles get their name from the red strip of color on either side of their heads right behind their ears. These bits of color are much smaller than the more prominent yellow cheeks of the yellow-bellied slider.

Some red-eared sliders also have reddish mottling on the sides of their shells. However, their plastrons (again, the underside of the shell) are actually a pale yellow with large, irregular splotches of dark brown.


The lifespan of any pet is important to consider before you purchase it. Reptiles’ lifespans vary significantly depending on the species. Some lizards only live for a couple of years, whereas most tortoises live for 80 to 100 years!

Slider turtles also have fairly long lifespans, which requires a significant amount of dedication and commitment from you as their owner.

Yellow-Bellied Slider Lifespan

On average, yellow-bellied sliders live for around 30 to 40 years in captivity. This number can be increased to 50+ if the turtle receives excellent care from the time they are a hatchling.

Red-Eared Slider Lifespan

The red-eared slider turtle lives on average for 20 to 30 years in captivity. Their lifespans are lower on average due to poorer husbandry overall. They are slightly more common pets than yellow-bellied sliders, and they aren’t always cared for properly by novice reptile owners.

Does Lifespan Make a Difference?

With proper, high-quality care, both red-eared sliders’ and yellow-bellied sliders’ lifespans could exceed 50 years like some of their other turtle relatives! Quality care needs to be consistent and start from the time these turtles are hatchlings.

Most importantly, they need to be fed the correct diet and be housed in the correct environment. Their tanks need to be kept clean and free of mess. Additionally, their tanks need to be upsized as these turtles grow and age. A healthy turtle lives for a long time.

Which Is the Better Turtle?

Yellow-bellied sliders and red-eared sliders are subspecies and are very closely related. This means the few differences between the two are very superficial and actually do not affect the way they are cared for. As a result, there can not be a true, objective winner between the two!

However, we can recap the main differences in case these sway you to choose between yellow or red!

Yellow-bellied sliders live in more eastern regions than the red-eared sliders do. However, there is much overlap of their regions in the wild, and they do mate and produce hybrids.

Yellow-bellied slider turtles have slightly more oval carapaces than red-eared sliders do, and red-eared sliders have slightly larger carapaces than their yellow counterparts.

Red-eared sliders sport olive green to brown markings on their bodies. However, yellow-bellied sliders have thicker black markings all over their bodies.

Yellow-bellied sliders get their names from the pale to bright yellow color of their plastrons and the yellow patches on their cheeks. Red-eared sliders get their name in the same way from the strips of red behind their ears.

Yellow-bellied sliders live a bit longer than red-eared sliders on average. However, this could be due to the quality of care that they typically receive.


Do I need a larger or smaller tank for a red-eared slider or a yellow-bellied slider?

The size of the tank will not depend on the species of slider that you have but rather on their individual size. The rule of thumb to use is for every inch of your slider’s shell, add 10 gallons to the tank.

A baby slider can start off in a 20-gallon tank, but they do need much larger tanks, even up to 150 gallons, when they reach adulthood.

Can I keep a red-eared slider and a yellow-bellied slider in the same tank as tank mates?

The good news is you can keep both species of sliders in the same tank! Always make sure that the sliders are of a similar size. For every slider you add to the tank, you will need to add at least an additional 20 to 30 gallons to the tank size.

In addition to the size upgrade, you will need to enlarge the basking area, provide more food at every feeding, and enhance the filtration for the additional mess that is made. Always keep an eye on your sliders for shows of dominance and submission, as this is an indication they are stressed and not happy.

Race of the Sliders

Because they are so closely related, there are only a few minor differences between yellow-bellied sliders vs red-eared sliders. These differences are shell deep and do not affect these animals’ care requirements.

Ultimately, the choice between red-eared sliders and yellow-bellied sliders is a personal one. It will likely come down to which turtle’s color and general appearance you prefer.

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