Red Eared Slider Respiratory Infection

Respiratory infections are common in pet red-eared sliders. This happens when they are exposed to cold environments. Being exposed to cold for too long can result in your red-eared slider catching a cold or respiratory infection.

Most respiratory infections are a result of bacteria, fungus, or viruses.

You must not ignore the signs and symptoms of respiratory infection in your pet red-eared slider, as it can be fatal if left for too long.

It is recommended to seek assistance and diagnosis from a vet, who will be able to provide you with a course of antibiotics to help your pet gain its health back.

Are you worried your red-eared slider has a respiratory infection? Continue reading to find out more.


  • Lethargy
  • Problems breathing, may stay on the surface rather than dive and swim
  • Runny nose, mucus coming from the nostrils
  • Puffy eyes
  • Coughing, gasping wheezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Spending more time at their basking area
  • Swimming lopsided or sideways


Incorrect Temperatures

If you leave your pet red-eared slider in cold temperatures for too long, then it can cause a respiratory infection.

Being exposed to cold air for an extended period or living in an environment where the temperatures are not at optimum can increase your slider’s risk of infection.

Unhealthy Habitat

Not cleaning the enclosure on a regular basis can result in dangerous bacteria moving in, which can also increase your pet’s risk of respiratory infection. Tanks should be cleaned regularly to reduce this risk.

Related – Signs of a sick red-eared slider.

Dirty Tank Water

Red-eared sliders are aquatic turtles and when they are not basking under their UV bulb, they are in the water swimming.

Even when the water looks clean, it can contain bacteria, which is why it’s important to ensure you regularly supply clean tank water, topping it up with clean water regularly.

Lacking Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency is common in captive red-eared sliders. Their bodies need Vitamin A to develop mucus membranes, healthy skin, and organs. Without enough of the vitamin, they can develop infections, skin and organ problems.


Malnutrition in red-eared sliders lowers their ability to fight off infection. Sliders that are not on a healthy and well-balanced diet have an increased risk of respiratory infection.



If you own more than one red-eared slider, then you want to move your sick pet to a hospital tank.

Respiratory infections are contagious. Keep an eye on any other sliders from the enclosure, monitoring them for signs and symptoms of the infection.

Water Temperatures

Make sure your water temperatures are within the required limits for your red-eared slider. Water temperature should remain between 75ºF and 78ºF. These temperatures help your pet remain healthy.

By raising the temperatures, you are able to improve your pet’s immune response. Raise the temperature to the higher end of the scale for your pet.

Basking Temperatures

Ensure you keep your basking temperatures at optimum. For a red-eared slider, the optimum basking temperatures are between 90ºF and 95ºF.

Again, increase temperatures to the higher end of the optimum scale for your pet for the treatment of respiratory infections.

You can use an infrared heat lamp in conjunction with your UV bulb to increase the temperature.

Never let the temperatures exceed the high end of the scale for your pet. Use a digital thermometer with remote probe, which can help you monitor the temperatures correctly.

If you notice your pet is staying in the basking area at night, which is common as they are having breathing and buoyancy issues in the water, then you can leave the infrared light on at night to keep your sick pet warm. This is not recommended for healthy pets.

Dry Docking

Dry docking can be done when your red-eared slider is not swimming because it’s having problems breathing.

Dry docking is when you place your pet in a dry enclosure with a heat and UV lamp. You restrict its water time to twice daily for half an hour, which encourages your pet to eat and drink.



In order to prevent the risk of your red-eared slider getting a respiratory infection, you need to ensure it is not exposed to cold air for extended periods.

Ensure you maintain daytime ambient tank temperatures at between 75ºF and 80ºF with basking temperatures between 90º and 95ºF.

Digital thermometers with a remote waterproof probe is the ideal way to monitor your temperatures, ensuring they remain at optimum.

Wash Your Hands

Always wash your hands before and after you have handled your red-eared slider, along with its enclosure and accessories. This will ensure you reduce the risk of spreading any diseases between your slider pets, keeping your pets safe.

Clean Habitat

Keeping your pet’s habitat clean reduces the risk of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Daily spot cleaning to remove uneaten food and provide fresh water for drinking is imperative.

Swimming water should be topped up weekly and a full tank clean should be done once every two to three weeks.

A thorough clean means removing everything, scrubbing the tank and all accessories before returning them to the habitat.

Well Balanced Diet

Ensure you are providing your pet with a varied and well-balanced diet.

Adult red-eared sliders eat greens and prey, which means you can give them a mix of protein and leafy greens, vegetables, and more.

Baby and juvenile sliders eat a more protein-based diet. Feed babies daily and adults every second or third day.


Make use of supplements, ensuring your pet gets the D3 and calcium it needs to remain healthy and strong.


While red-eared sliders are susceptible to respiratory infections in the captive environment, there are so many things you can do to help prevent the risk from providing a balanced diet to ensure your pet gets the Vitamin A it needs, combine that with supplementation.

Keep a close eye on the water, air, and basking temperatures, while you ensure you provide a clean habitat for your pet.

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