Many turtle enthusiasts are interested in maintaining community tanks that contain multiple species. While this can be a challenge, it is possible to house different species together, as long as their sizes, lifestyles and personalities are compatible. However, red-eared sliders and western pond turtles are not good tankmates. While red-eared sliders make excellent community tank inhabitants, most keepers maintain western pond turtles by themselves.
Both western pond turtles (Actinemys marmorata) and red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) are basking species, who spend a significant amount of their time basking on exposed rocks and logs. When predators, or perceived predators, such as their keepers, approach too closely, they slide or dive into the water. Accordingly, both species require numerous basking sites and relatively deep water. Both species are omnivores, and thrive on similar diets. In terms of general husbandry, pond turtles have requirements that are largely similar to those of red-eared sliders.
Potentially Dangerous Differences
While red-eared sliders spend the majority of their time swimming or basking over deep water, western pond turtles spend some time on the land as well. In contrast to slider turtles who peacefully bask alongside each other, some western pond turtles exhibit antagonistic behavior toward other turtles basking in their area. Finally, red-eared sliders sometimes grow much larger than western pond turtles, which can cause stress or predation concerns for the smaller pond turtles.
Western pond turtles are experiencing a drastic population decline in their natural range; according to some estimates, the population is only one-quarter of what it was historically. If you want to keep western pond turtles, you must start with captive-bred individuals. Unfortunately, western pond turtles are difficult to breed, and few reach the marketplace. This rarity raises the price of hatchlings greatly, thereby discouraging many keepers from working with the species. Those keepers who do spend the money necessary to acquire captive-bred individuals are usually disinclined to take the risks associated with community tanks.
Legalities and Protection
You must check your state’s laws to determine if these species are legal to keep as pets. Because of their population decline, western pond turtles receive some form of protection in most states in which they live. Though western pond turtles are not on the endangered species list, this is likely to change with more research. By contrast, red-eared sliders represent the opposite problem – many keepers have released these adaptable and popular pets into areas outside of their natural range. Once established, red-eared sliders often outcompete native wildlife; accordingly, they may be invasive species in some areas.