Hibernation in red eared sliders is one of those topics that is commonly discussed by the reptile community on a lot of forums and the like. There’s a bit of controversy surrounding hibernation, as it goes hand-in-hand with breeding and that’s always controversial when it comes to captive species that aren’t in any danger of going extinct. Another hot topic when it comes to hibernation is the mortality rate for many turtles that go through it. Just like in the wild, some turtles simply do not survive hibernation. So it you want to hibernate your sliders, you have to be aware of the risks and make sure that you do everything properly to give your turtles the best hibernation scenario. Proper lighting is a key part of this scenario.
The first step of red eared slider hibernation when it comes to lighting is stimulation. Stimulation involves simulating natural conditions that cause a turtle to go into hibernation mode. Although you also have to give your turtle proper substrate and diet changes, lighting is an enormous part of indusing your slider for hibernation. In order to properly entice your turtle, you have to adjust the photoperiod (the period in which an organism is exposed to light) on its lights. Over a period of about 10 days, adjust the photoperiod downward by about 10-15 minutes every day. This mimics the change in seasons in the wild and instinctively your turtle will know what’s up. He’ll internally be getting ready for hibernation and looking for somewhere to bed down for the winter.
Once you have the photoperiod reduced to about 10-12 hours, your red eared slider should have gone into hibernation. Once he has hibernated you still need to maintain the scenario you’ve set up so that he stays in hibernation and doesn’t get confused by changes in his habitat. Keep the light and heat going at the same rate as you had on the last day before he went into total hibernation.
Towards the end of his hibernation period (2 weeks if you are inducing breeding, much longer if it’s a seasonal hibernation), you need to adjust the photoperiod to make it longer. All you have to do is the opposite of what you did to induce hibernation: adjust the photoperiod upwards by 10-15 minutes over the course of 10 days. With proper lighting setting for your red eared slider, along with proper temperature change, will cause your pet turtle to come out of hibernation.
Recommended: Combo Aquatic Turtle Lighting