Home > Tips & Tricks > Yellow-Bellied Slider vs Red-Eared Slider Turtles | Comparison

Yellow-Bellied Slider vs Red-Eared Slider Turtles | Comparison

Ever wondered about the differences between yellow-bellied slider vs red-eared slider turtles? You’re not alone. They really do look very similar, and it took us a while to be able to tell the difference at a glance as well!

If you’re wondering which of these two types of turtles is better suited for you, or just want to get better at identifying them, keep reading. We’ll have a look at their differences, and also their many similarities.

Yellow-bellied slider vs red-eared slider: Similarities

Closely Related

Yellow-bellied sliders and red-eared sliders are more than just distant relatives; they’re subspecies of the same turtle species, Trachemys scripta. That explains why they’re so similar in looks!

This species is also collectively referred to as the “pond sliders”.

Care Requirements

If you know how to take care of one, you’ve basically got a blueprint for the other. Their care requirements are pretty much the same. In fact, as long as there’s enough space and all their needs are met, you can actually keep them together.

Basically, both yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders require:

  • A spacious and filtered aquatic environment
  • Some land area
  • UV lighting or sun for essential vitamins
  • A heat lamp for basking
  • A well-rounded diet containing both meaty and plant-based foods

Health and Longevity

Health-wise, these two are mirror images. They’re both considered hardy, as long as their needs are met. In fact, they can live up to 20-30 years (or even longer) if well taken care of!

In situations where their care isn’t up to par, both yellow-bellied and red-eared sliders are susceptible to similar diseases. Respiratory issues and shell problems, like shell rot, are common.

Behavior and Temperament

Whether you pick a yellow-belly or a red-ear, you’re in for a similar experience. They’re both reasonably active and enjoy exploring their surroundings.

Like other turtles, these sliders aren’t the most social beings. Still, although it can take yours a while to warm up to you, they do learn to recognize and feel comfortable around their owners.

Split image showing red-eared slider turtle (top) and yellow-bellied slider turtle (bottom)

Yellow-bellied slider vs red-eared slider: Differences

Although these turtles do look very similar, there are some differences. Once you’ve compared them a few times, you’ll notice it becoming easier and easier to pick them out at a glance!

Overall, the yellow-bellied slider has a lighter “color scheme” than its red-eared cousin. Here’s how you can tell them apart:

Shell Color

First things first, let’s have a look at the shells (known as their carapace). The color-scheme rule I just mentioned applies here perfectly.

Although both have pretty patterned shells, red-eared sliders usually sport darker, more olive-green coloration. Yellow-bellied sliders tend to have lighter, more yellowish colors.

Facial Markings

Here’s the easiest way to tell the difference between these two turtles at a glance, and also where red-eared sliders get their name: the reds-ears have a distinctive red or sometimes orange stripe right near their ears, plus some yellow striping.

Yellow-bellied sliders don’t have an ear marking. Instead, they’ve only got the yellow streaks and spots on their head and face, and more of them at that.

Plastron Pattern

The plastron (that’s the underside of the shell) also shows some clear differences. If you can pick up the turtle you’re trying to identify, it’s certainly a very good way to figure out which it is. Just don’t get bitten and don’t bother any wildlife!

The yellow-bellied slider lives up to its name with its (almost) completely yellow plastron, sometimes with a few dark smudges (often two).

The red-eared slider’s plastron has a lot more going on. The base color is also yellow, but it has a bunch of varied darker markings.

Yellow bellied slider and red eared slider turtles in an aquarium
QUIZ YOURSELF: Based on what you just read, which of these turtles is the red-ear and which is the yellow-belly? Find the answer at the end of this post.

Yellow-bellied slider vs red-eared slider: In the wild

If you’ve spotted a pond slider turtle in the wild, knowing a bit about the differences between yellow-bellies and red-ears can help you identify it.

Both of these turtles like similar habitats. They can be found in shallow ponds, lakes, and rivers. They like a slow water flow, a muddy bottom to root around in, and some vegetation to use as food and a basking spot.

There are some differences, though:


As I’ve mentioned, both of these turtles are members of the same species. They’re different subspecies, however. Yellow-bellied sliders are scientifically known as Trachemys scripta scripta, red-ears as Trachemys scripta elegans.

There’s also a third subspecies, Trachemys scripta troostii, but that one’s much less commonly kept as a pet. The species as a whole is considered Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, meaning it’s not endangered.


In terms of geographical range, red-eared sliders are definitely the more widely-spread species. They can be found from the far western corner of Florida all the way into New Mexico and into the Midwest.

Yellow-bellied sliders prefer the southern life. Their (smaller) range extends further into Florida and moves north through the coastal states up to Virginia.

The two species’ ranges do partially overlap, by the way, particularly around Alabama. And since they’re the same species, you know what that means: red-bellied-yellow-eared sliders, or whatever you want to call their hybrid version!

If you ever spot something that looks like a red-eared slider, but you feel the “ear” marking is a bit faded or vague, you may just have come across a Trachemys scripta elegans × Trachemys scripta scripta.

Frequently asked questions

Are yellow-bellied sliders legal?

Yes, they’re generally legal to own both in the USA and in Europe. Check your country or state’s regulations, though, as you may need something like a permit or documentation for your turt.

Are red-eared sliders legal?

In the US, sure, although you may need a permit. In the EU, sadly not anymore! They’re highly invasive, so they’ve been listed under the Invasive Alien Species Regulation since 2016. This makes it illegal to import, keep, breed, transport, sell, use, or exchange them in the EU. If you already had one before that, you were usually allowed to keep it.

So, between a yellow-bellied slider vs red-eared slider turtle, which is the ideal species for you? Well, if you’re in the EU, it’s going to be a yellow-belly no matter what.

If you’re in a place where both are legal, the answer is: it really doesn’t matter! Go for the species whose looks you prefer, or even better, for the first species you can find up for adoption at a turtle rescue. Adopt, don’t shop!

QUIZ ANSWER: The red-eared slider is on the right, the yellow-bellied slider on the left.

Photo of author

Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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