Can Wild Turtles Live In Outdoor Swimming Pool?

turtle in pool

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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My neighbor’s 9-year-old boy, Ronnie, was fascinated with turtles. But his parents made a big fuss about welcoming a new pet. So, Roonie caught a wild turtle and tried to secretly raise it in their swimming pool. Do you think Ronnie managed to keep the pet alive in the pool while keeping it a secret from his parents? Can wild turtles actually live in outdoor swimming pools?

Wild turtles can withstand harsh weather and the environment. But swimming pool water with high chlorine is not their game. The chlorine will lead to skin burns and irritate their eyes. Lung damage, weight loss, diarrhea, and low appetite are seen in turtles living in high-chlorinated water.

So, is the swimming pool a no for turtles? If yes, what are the alternatives? Find out the answers below.

Key Takeaways

  • Wild turtles should live in the natural rivers, lakes, and streams. Catching and petting these wild species is illegal.
  • The outdoor swimming pool is not a suitable habitat for any turtle because of the high chlorine level.
  • Chlorine can irritate a turtle’s skin and eyes. Besides, the chemicals might damage the pet’s respiratory system.
  • Ponds, pre-formed garden pools, and kiddie pools make better homes for turtles.
snapping turtle outdoor
Owner: Josh Kelley

Can Wild Turtles Live In Outdoor Swimming Pools?


In fact, this question itself is wrong. Let me clarify.

Wild turtles are very different from the captive breeds. The statement stands true even when the turtles belong to the same species.

The wild-bred turtles are more aggressive. This behavior is justified, considering the struggle they go through for survival. So, a homely environment might be confusing for these wild reptiles.

Besides, the wild turtles are not accustomed to human interaction. No wonder they spot us as threats and try to escape our sights.

The third issue here is with the comfort zone. It takes time to domesticate a wild turtle. Even if you become successful (there are thousands of success stories), you can not make their wild instincts disappear.

box turtle habitat
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Hence, there is no guarantee that these wild turtles will attempt to escape. If they succeed, they can barely make the switch from captive to wild mode. And the result? The pets can die.

The biggest concern with wild turtles is their conservation status. Taking in a wild turtle can affect the wild ecosystem, especially if it belongs to a rare species. This is why welcoming a wild turtle home is illegal in many states.

And about the swimming pool, the water there contains a high chlorine level. As you know, chlorinated water irritates these pets’ eyes and skin. So, a swimming pool is not the perfect home for them.

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So, it was obvious that Roonie couldn’t keep his turtle a secret for too long. His father spotted the tiny pet when swimming in the pool the following day.

Roonie was upset initially. But the turtle wouldn’t survive in the pool anyway. The water was too deep, and there was no basking dock. Also, the chlorine itching and wild instinct would force the turtle to leave the pool sooner or later.

Wait! I didn’t tell you the best part yet! The next day, Roonie got a captive-bred red eared slider with a complete setup! Lucky him. No?

Outdoor turtle pond setup guide infographic

For a printable version of this infographic, click here!

Can You Raise Your Pet Turtles In The Swimming Pool?

Letting your turtles play in the pool and swimming with them sounds too tempting. But hold on to your thoughts! You can not allow these pets in the pool.

Of course, I acknowledge how vast the habitat will be if we let the turtles live in the swimming pool. They will never miss their homes again. True that. But do not forget the high level of chlorine we put in the pool water to maintain hygiene.

Chlorine mainly acts as a disinfectant and kills germs. As a result, we humans get to avoid itching, diarrhea, or any other infectious diseases after a fun swim in the pool.

Apparently, chlorine is not so fun for the turtles. This element only makes these pets suffer. For the starter, a high chlorine percentage in the water causes itching and irritation in the turtle’s skin and eyes. Swelled skin, redness, and chemical burns will be very much visible.

Turtles drink water during their swim. Right? If they drink this chlorinated water, they will fall sick for sure. The most common drawbacks are diarrhea, stomach ache, irritation, tremors, lethargy, weakness, weight loss, etc. A few professionals claim that such physical traumas might cause paralysis in turtles.

Exposure to high chlorine can even lead to fatal respiratory disease in turtles. So, yes, chlorine is definitely deadly to these reptiles.

The ideal turtle tank water includes 0 chlorine levels. On the contrary, the swimming pool has 1 to 4 ppm chlorine. Yes, you have read it right. No wonder why experts strongly discourage putting turtles in the swimming pool.

But yes, you can turn the pool into a nice outdoor habitat for turtles if you minus chlorine from the water. However, in such cases, you can no longer swim there. If you do, you will fall severely ill.

Should You Turn Your Swimming Pool Into A Turtle Habitat?

Honestly, I have thought multiple times of converting my backyard pool into a turtle paradise. Of course, in this case, I have to sacrifice my fun swims and stop using chlorine in the water. This is why I could not come to any conclusion just yet.

Let me discuss the pros and cons of an outdoor swimming pool turtle habitat. It will help us both to make a better decision.

Keeping The Turtles In The Pool: Advantages

1. Turtles Enjoy The Open Air:

Turtles can breathe fresh air in the wild. They can do the same in the swimming pool. All they have to do is to stick their heads out of the water. There is an open sky with fresh air waiting for them.

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2. Sunbath Every Day:

Basking is mandatory for all turtles. We install a UV and heating lamp indoors to promote this basking behavior in these creatures. But no artificial light can beat the heat and UV exposures turtles receive directly from the sun. The turtles living in the swimming pools soak in the sun every day. It helps them build natural immunity and a solid body.

3. No Fight Over Space:

Turtles are territorial species, and they tend to fight over food and space. But what if you make them live in the swimming pool? Yes, the pools are vast (compared to the turtle’s size), and it is possible to house multiple turtles together. As there is enough space, there will be zero fight over territory.

Keeping The Turtles In The Pool: Disadvantages

1. Turtles Are Exposed:

The swimming pools have easy access to predators and people. So, keeping your turtles in the pool is a bit risky. What if the pets fall victim to a predator or your guest hurts the turtles while playing with them? Building a fence around the swimming pool will mess up the aesthetics of your house.

2. Weather Issues:

Turtles living outdoors will directly feel the impact of harsh weather. Say, for instance, a storm or a gusty wind can hurt the pets living in the open water. If you follow the news, you will see hundreds of turtles and other aquatic animals die after a natural calamity.

3. An Easy Escape:

Swimming pool ends are open. So, I will not be surprised if my turtles successfully escape the habitat.

4. Risk of Drowning:

The pool water is deep, sometimes even deeper for us. Your turtles are the masters of swimming. But they can barely manage to hold their breath underwater for longer. If the water level is too deep, turtles can drown in the swimming pool.

5. Risk From The Filter:

Maintaining the swimming pool hygiene is no child’s play. You must install a powerful filter to process those thousands of gallons of water. These filters create strong turbulence, which might be too much for the turtles to handle. There is a risk that these pets may get stuck in the filter and suffocate to death.

How Can You Build An Outdoor Turtle Habitat?: The Swimming Pool Alternatives

Weighing the pros and cons above, I decided not to transform the swimming pool into a turtle habitat. But at the same time, I could not deny the benefits the outdoor habitats offer. So, the best way to avail both is to build an outdoor terrarium for turtles. Here’s how I did it,

1. Location Selection:

Location plays a crucial role in outdoor turtle habitat. The position should be such that the water receives both sunlight and shade. Only sunlight will burn the turtle’s skin and make it super uncomfortable. I suggest building the enclosure closer to a wall or tree for the shade.

2. Type Of Habitat:

You can dig a pond, use the surface mount ponds, or buy a kiddie pool. Each one has its pros and cons. The first outdoor habitat I built for my turtles was a kiddie pool. Soon, I switched to the surface mount ponds, and now, my turtles have a large pond of their own. Swimming pools are great but hard to maintain for these reptiles.

3. Must-Have Supplies:

A turtle enclosure must include a water heater and filter. The larger the pond or pool, the more powerful filter is required. I have attached the best buying guide for turtle pond filters here. About the heater, some owners avoid installing one in the summer and move the pets indoors during the winter. Besides the filter and heater, build a basking dock or a land area for turtles.

4. Accessories:

Substrates are optional in the enclosures, as most turtles can live without them. However, the mud dwellers (musk turtles and mud turtles) might prefer bedding at the bottom. You can use topsoil, gravel, and pebbles for this purpose. Afterward, add live plants and rocks to the setup to bring a natural vibe and build hiding spots for turtles.

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5. Run The Setup:

Pour fresh tap water when you are pleased with the decoration. Make sure the water includes 0 chloride. Adding dechlorinated conditioner will restore the ideal water composition.

6. Hygiene:

Turtles will make a mess of the outdoor pond within a week. No matter how powerful a filter you have, the water will keep getting dirtier. So, siphon 25% of the pool water weekly and clean the habitat at least once a month. Besides, follow a monthly filter cleaning routine to ensure top-notch hygiene in the turtle house. Get your hands on all cleaning tricks from this article.

How To Make The Swimming Pools Off Limits For Turtles

There is no way your indoor turtles can make it to the outdoor swimming pool. Of course, it is different if you have taken it out for a stroll.

As I said, swimming pools are dangerous for turtles. Not only does the chlorine make the turtles suffer, the pets can drown in the deep water. So, you better restrict the area for the turtles. Here are some tricks that I have followed,

  1. I have built wooden fences around the swimming pool. At first, I tried chicken wire mesh, but it looked awful. So, I contacted an architect and redesigned the area.
  2. Some owners plant hedge plants and rose bushes just outside the fence to thicken the barrier. However, my walls are strong and include no gaps to welcome a turtle. So, I did not plant anything.
  3. My area does not have roaming wild turtles. So, all I had to do was to restrict the site for my indoor and outdoor turtles. The fences are excellently doing this job. If you are still concerned, keep the pool covered when not swimming.

I Have Found My Turtle In The Swimming Pool: What To Do?

Do not allow your turtles to swim in the pool. In fact, try to limit the area for your turtles. Yet, if the pets manage to dive into the pool, take them out immediately. Otherwise, the chlorine can cause irreversible damage to their lungs, eyes, and skin.

Check for any abnormalities in your turtles. You can seek help from the vet if necessary.

What if a wild turtle is in the swimming pool? What to do then?

Well, first, take the turtle out of the pool. Use a bucket if you are not good with turtles. Call a turtle rescue or animal control for help.

Before You Go…

The swimming pool is the worst setup for any turtle. Why don’t you build an outdoor habitat designed for turtles only? A kiddie pool is fine. But I encourage you to manage a proper outdoor setup for these reptiles. I have shared my ideas in the attached article.

18 DIY Ideas For An Outdoor Turtle Habitat [Turtle Paradise]

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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