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My friend has bought an African sideneck turtle recently. He had plans of putting the pet in his enormous indoor tank. But apparently, the existing turtles are being rude to the new African sideneck turtle. So, he asked me whether keeping the species in the outdoor pond would be a good idea.
African sideneck turtles can live in outdoor ponds during warm days. There is enough sunlight and fresh air for turtles. Also, they feel closer to nature. Winter can be a little harsh on the creatures as they do not hibernate. But with proper arrangements, they can also overwinter in the pond.
What is the ideal outdoor pond environment for African sideneck turtles? Find out below.
- African sideneck turtles thrive in the outdoor ponds.
- Only move your turtles to the outdoor pond if you can ensure security.
- In winter, bring the turtles to an indoor setup.
- Two African sideneck turtles can live together peacefully.
Should You Keep Your African Sideneck Turtles In The Outdoor Setup?
Don’t forget that turtles are wild creatures. Even though I have captive-breds, the wild instinct is deeply engraved in them. So, adopting an outdoor pond is not a big deal to any turtle species, including the African sideneck turtles.
Of course, the question is whether my outdoor setup is suitable for these turtles or not. I generally judge the outside turtle habitats based on 3 basic factors. Such as,
- Water depth and substrate
- pH and water composition
- Water temperature
For African sideneck turtles, a pond with a minimum of 12 inches of water depth is necessary. The species also prefers a habitat covered with substrate.
These turtles can not withstand chlorine or ammonia in their water. You know that terrapins can live in brackish water. But the African sideneck turtles can not bear salinity. The ideal water pH for their pond lies between 6.5 to 8.5.
Finally, the water temperature should not rise more than 86F. If the temperature drops below 68F, it can pose serious health damage to the turtles.
Can you fulfill these 3 requirements in the outdoor habitat? If yes, you may move your African sideneck turtles to the backyard pond.
But! Oh yes, there is definitely a but!
These 3 necessities are insufficient to ensure the African sideneck turtles a healthy and profound life. We have to consider suitable decorations and housing security. How? Keep reading.
How To Set Up An Outdoor Pond For African Sideneck Turtles?
Have you reviewed the section? Are you sure you can maintain the ideal condition for African sideneck turtles? If yes, then go through the following steps to set up a fantastic outdoor pond for the pet.
1. Secide The Size, Type, And Location
The average size for African sideneck turtles is 7 to 12 inches. Hence, a minimum of 95 to 110-gallon tank is necessary to house an adult African sideneck turtle.
However, you need to upgrade the habitat size if you wish to put them outdoors. I usually go for a pond 1.5x to 2x the size of my indoor tank. The spacious enclosure allows the turtles to swim and move freely.
Secondly, decide on the type of pond you want to build. The kiddie pools or commercial pools are suitable as above-ground turtle ponds. Likewise, you can dig or install a surface mount pond as the housing arrangements.
No matter which one you choose, make sure the ponds are spacious enough for the African sideneck turtles.
Finally, consider the location of the pond. The turtle habitat must include half shade and half open space to receive sunlight. I encourage keepers to put the pond against a wall or a tree.
2. Substrate Condition
Do you know African sideneck turtles also go by African mud turtles? It is because these reptiles prefer camouflage in the mud. Experts suggest that on hot days, African sideneck turtles hide in the substrate and enter a dormancy period. The dormancy is similar to brumation, except it takes place in the summer.
Dormancy is the defense mechanism of African sideneck turtles against the scorching summer heat.
Though African sideneck turtles thrive with substrates, the bedding is not always mandatory. As you know, the soil makes the water hazy more quickly, and cleaning becomes a hassle.
I know maintaining the substrate will be challenging for you. Yet, I suggest layering up the bottom with bedding as it adds a more homely and natural vibe to the pond. Gravels, medium-sized pebbles, coconut coir, sphagnum moss, sand, and topsoil are the most popular substrate options for turtles.
3. Water Depth
6 to 8 inches of water level suits the African sideneck turtles living indoors. But for the outdoor pond, the water depth should be a minimum of 12 inches. I generally buy kiddie pools or pre-formed garden ponds with 18 inches depth as my turtle ponds.
Why do I discourage a shallow water level? Well, the outdoor ponds receive direct sunlight. Thus, the lower depth will heat the water pretty quickly, making the turtles uncomfortable.
Similarly, the shallow water sources freeze from top to bottom in the winter. Therefore, your African sideneck turtles will be at a greater risk.
4. Water Composition And Condition
Even though African sideneck turtles can withstand harsh environments, they are still sensitive to water. The ideal turtle pond water contains no chlorine, ammonia, sulfate, or impurities.
Of course, I do not expect you to refill the pond with sparkling water every week. That will be absurd and expensive. Right?
Instead, fill the outdoor pond with tap water and add drops of conditioner. Wait for 24 to 48 hours. The solution will kill any existing germs and eliminate impurities from the water.
As mentioned, African sideneck turtles can not bear salinity. So, do not add table or marine salt to water, even accidentally. Finally, make sure the water pH is between 6.5 to 8.5.
5. Decorations And Necessitates
African sideneck turtles are shy. No wonder they love hiding spots.
I generally stack stones and make little caves for these turtles. Also, I have put some clay bowls and pots in the pond, too. I have caught my turtles hiding in those bowls.
The stacked stone also serves as a basking dock. Remember, basking platforms are mandatory for both indoor and outdoor turtles.
These pets come to these docks to soak in the sunlight. Furthermore, turtles use the platform to rest and catch their breath. Do you know turtles can drown if they do not find an anchor to come to the surface?
Not only that. The lack of land area will force the African sideneck turtles to spend all their time in the water. It can cause infectious diseases, and the pets might catch a cold.
So, you must make arrangements for a basking dock for the turtles. Stacking stones is definitely an excellent idea. But make sure the rocks have smooth edges. Otherwise, the sharp ends will scratch the turtle’s eyes, shell, or skin.
I have put a large log along with the stones in my African sideneck turtle’s outdoor pond. It gives the pets the freedom to select their favorite basking space.
Again, my outdoor turtle pond is very green. I have added water hyacinth, java fern, duckweed, and dwarf hair grass to the habitat so far. Well, I have plans to plant frogbit and moneywort, too.
It is really up to you whether you want to add plants to your turtle pond. But if you ask me, I will strongly suggest you do. The natural greens make the pond more aesthetic and offer more hiding places to the turtles. Besides, turtles can munch on the leaves when they are hungry.
I know adding plants to the outdoor pond might sound tempting. But do not forget the extra care and energy you have to put in. Besides, the habitat will be messier than before.
Click here and read the attached article. It will help you make a good decision on whether to add plants to the pond or not.
6. Heating Arrangements
African sideneck turtles are ectothermic creatures and depend on the environment to keep their bodies warm. When indoors, the artifical bulbs provide the heat. But in an outdoor pond, the sun is the ultimate source of heat, light, and UV rays.
Your turtles are safe and comfortable as long the water temperature stays between 68 to 86F.
7. Focusing On Hygiene
Generally, the outdoor ponds get dirty quicker than the indoor tanks. The open environment might be the one to blame.
Of course, you can not follow the once-a-month cleaning routine if the pond is too big.
You may have to switch to a more convenient cleaning arrangement, like once every other month. Besides, do not forget to install a pond filter.
The available pond filters are very expensive. This is why most keepers DIY a filter with pump and filtration media buckets. Get more tips on the turtle pond filter from this write-up.
8. Security Issues
Outdoor ponds come with several benefits. The most significant one is that your turtles can experience the wild nature in the home. But there are some drawbacks, too. For me, the security issues are the most difficult to handle.
In my region, badgers and coyotes are very common. So, I have built fences around the outdoor pond and even covered the top with wires. Though the pond looks like a mini-cage, there is no other way to keep them safe.
Outdoor turtle pond setup guide infographic
For a printable version of this infographic, click here!
Can You Keep African Sideneck Turtles In Outdoor Ponds In Winter?
As mentioned, African sideneck turtles are cold-blooded creatures. So, in the winter, the drop in temperature will negatively affect their health. While indoor turtles can cope with the cold due to the access to artificial heat, the outdoor ones usually suffer.
But don’t worry. In the wild, there is no heater. Yet, turtles overwinter just fine. Apparently, turtles have a cold coping mechanism called brumation.
Even though African sideneck turtles are cold-blooded, they are from tropical regions. Hence, this species does not hibernate, nor does it stay active. You will find these turtles burying themselves in the substrate and barely coming out for food.
You can allow the pets in the outdoor pond if it does not freeze in your region. Provide the turtles with a thick substrate bed and let them overwinter in their way.
Offer the turtles food regularly, though I doubt they will eat once a week or even less. Monitor the water temperature and make sure it does not fall below 68F.
Some people install heaters to keep the water warm. But heaters are not the best choices for an outdoor pond.
I usually do not allow my African sideneck turtles to overwinter outdoors. Instead, I set up a temporary tank in my living room and transferred the pets there. I still think winter can be harsh on this species outdoors.
Will The African Sideneck Turtles Live With Other Species In The Pond?
Who digs out separate ponds for different turtle species? No one. So, the goal is to build a community habitat with turtles and fish in the outdoor pond. Right?
When I did some research, I discovered that the African sideneck turtles hated being with other species. But apparently, they are quite compatible with each other.
So, I have put two female African sideneck turtles in the outdoor pond, and they get along just fine.
One of my friends has introduced a male African sideneck to a female in the pond. Surprisingly, there is no sign of aggression yet. You might want to raise a couple, too. But do not forget to build a nesting site in such scenarios.
As I said, I haven’t dared to add other species to the African sideneck turtle pond yet. You can try if your pond is spacious and has enough hiding spots.
Before You Go…
I have seen keepers getting confused over the winter care for turtles living in the outdoor pond. So, I have shed more light on this topic in the link attached below.