Yellow Bellied Turtle (Yellow Bellied Terrapin)

Yellow-bellied turtles (also known as yellow-bellied terrapins or yellow sliders) are one of the most popular breeds of pet turtles. You can distinguish these turtles by taking a look at their shell, which will usually be brown or black with spots of yellow.

Their underbelly is yellow, hence the name. Potential yellow-bellied turtle owners should know that these pets are a commitment, as they have an average life span of 30-40 years in captivity.

These turtles spend most of their time in the water, but unlike amphibians, they need to be able to get out of the water to dry off and rest. They’re relatively easy and straightforward to care for and maintain.

However, they will require a giant tank once they reach full-size and you’ll need to make sure that you can keep on top of tank maintenance and make sure that you have enough space in your home for a large tank.

an image of a Yellow Bellied Turtle

What’s their temperament like?

Yellow-bellied terrapins are relatively calm and relaxed turtles. However, they are keen explorers- even though they may be very slow. These kinds of turtles really enjoy moving around and can be quite curious creatures, which can often be mistaken for mischievous behavior.

You’ll notice that yellow-bellied turtles will move around all throughout the day, which is what makes this breed of turtle more popular among pet-owners, as other turtles avoid movement as much as possible.

Like most turtles, once it requires a rest it’ll bask beneath a lamp in the “land area” of its tank. Their favorite time of day for exploring is the early morning, but they will continue to move throughout the day for food and water.

What do they eat?

During early development, yellow-bellied turtles will prefer to feed on as much meat as possible. This is because protein is crucial for growth. As the turtle ages, they’ll become more fond of vegetation.

Some yellow-bellied turtles’ favorite snacks include; snails, insect larvae, small crustaceans, plants, crickets, mealworms, wax worms, blood worms, daphnia, and amphibian larvae.

If you plan on owning a yellow-bellied turtle, you’ll need to pay some attention to its diet. While shop-bought turtle food can sometimes be enough on its own, it is best to provide a wide variety of foods to keep your turtle happy and healthy.

Serving up some meat and fish rarely and in small portions is good for them as they contain a lot of nutrients, vitamins, and protein. Vegetables and commercial food will be fine to fill the remaining gap. Adult males are normally more carnivorous and adult females are more herbivorous.

How do I house them?

While your yellow-bellied turtles are still young, it is perfectly acceptable to house them in an ordinary aquarium setup. However, as the turtles reach adulthood, they will grow in size, making them more difficult to house.

If you’re housing an adult turtle, the ideal tank size should be between 75 and 100 gallons. You must create some sort of basking dock for your turtles, as well as plenty of clean water.

Of course, what goes in, must come out. After eating, turtles will drop feces inside their tank. To prevent any grimy buildups that could harm your turtle, install a tank filter rated for two to three times the amount of water that is in your tank. These usually come in two main varieties; canister and submersible.

If you don’t own a filter, you’ll need to change the water weekly and regularly test the quality of the water. However, this can get messy and time-consuming, so we recommend getting your hands on a good-quality tank filter.

A turtle living in a grubby tank can develop all sorts of health issues, so it’s important to keep on top of tank maintenance.

Before adding water to your tank, consider adding some water conditioner first. Water conditioner helps to eliminate chlorine and other harsh chemicals that can affect your biological filter, and sometimes even harm your turtle.

If you’re fortunate enough to have an outdoor aquatic space such as a pond, you could house your turtle outdoors during the summer months. However, you’ll need to install adequate fencing and security around the area or predators will try to harm your turtle.

Alternatively, you could use pre-formed plastic pond liners and create an artificial pond area in your home for your turtles to enjoy. All indoor turtles will require special lighting.

Can I handle them?

You can pick up and handle yellow-bellied turtles. However, while some friendlier turtles will remain docile when you do so, others may become stressed which causes them to nip or bite. These bites can sometimes be quite hard, so be careful.

Many people assume it is fine to freely lift a turtle by its shell. However, you need to remember that a turtle’s shell is a living, growing, and feeling part of its body. Lift your turtle sparingly and gently when you do so.

Most turtles are completely fine being left to do their own thing and probably don’t want to be handled all day. But if you’re needing to lift your turtle for care reasons or tank maintenance, you must do it in the correct way.

Place a finger on each side of the turtle’s shell, far away from its face and mouth. Their necks are surprisingly stretchy and they may attempt to stick it out to bite you if your fingers are close enough.

Temperature and Lighting

Yellow-bellied sliders are diurnal, which just means that they are mostly active during the day. Like any other turtle, yellow-bellied sliders require ample lighting in their habitat in order to regulate their body temperature by imitating their native habitat.

To keep your turtles healthy, you’re going to need two different types of lighting; a basking light and a UV light.

A basking light will shine on the land area of the tank that you have created. It will work by raising ambient air temperatures in that spot to 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

AUV light is necessary to replicate natural sunlight. It provides UVA and UVB rays which help to keep your turtles healthy and happy. As a rule of thumb, you should keep on the UV light for at least 12 hours each and every day. To prevent any bulb mishaps, be sure to change it roughly every six months just in case!


Yellow-bellied turtles make fantastic pets as they require very little maintenance once they’ve settled in your home.

But if you plan on getting some, you have to make sure that you have the means to support them, in terms of space, tank, lighting, and food.

Like any pet, yellow-bellied turtles will require a knowledgeable and loving owner.

Dorothy Razo

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