Is Outdoor Pond Heater Necessary For Turtles?

Close up view of black cylindrical heater for aquaruim fish

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

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A pond heater or no heater? I have seen keepers going crazy over this topic. Turtles are cold-blooded creatures and must have a heater in their outdoor pond. Right? Let’s find out.

An outdoor pond heater is unnecessary for turtles in the sunny and hot seasons. In winter, installing a heater can not help keep the pond waters warm. It is mainly for the underground pools. However, the heater helps regulate the kiddie pool or above-ground pond water temperature in the cold.

Read this article thoroughly, especially if you plan to overwinter your turtles outdoors.

Key Takeaways

  • Outdoor ponds run well without a heater.
  • Hibernation is a better option for turtles if they have to overwinter in an outdoor pond.
  • Install submersible heaters in outdoor kiddie pools or above-ground ponds only.

Heater In Turtle Outdoor Ponds: A Necessity Or A Waste?

I try to replicate the wild nature when building an outdoor turtle pond. My sole purpose is to offer the pets a homely vibe.

However, it is never easy to make the perfect outdoor home for your turtles. There’s always room for perfection.

Recently, a few of my blog readers mailed me fussing over a pond heater. They went on and on about how they had not found a perfect heater yet.

Well, first of all, your outdoor turtle pond does not require a heater on hot days. As I said, our goal is to replicate the wild environment as much as possible.

Do turtles get a heater out in the forest or streams? No, right? Then why do you feel like setting up one in your pet enclosure?

Turtles will receive heat directly from the sun. While the sunlight will heat the water, the shaded area will cool the reptiles off. So, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.

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Of course, installing a heater is not a bad idea if the temperature drops significantly at night. In that case, keep the device on only during the night.

What about the winter? Do your outdoor pond turtles need heaters on those cold days? The answer is yes and no. But let’s discuss it later.

For now, I just want to clarify that you should avoid heaters on summer, autumn, and spring days. The water will heat up and cool off naturally.

N.B. We are replicating wilderness in the outdoor pond. Yet, you must install a filter. It is because the outdoor pond can not filter the dirt and create the water flow naturally.

Is A Water Heater Necessary In Winter?

There is no clear answer to this question. But I will try my best to explain.

I am assuming you live in a region where winter is freezing (or almost freezing). It means the underground turtle pond will turn ice. There is no way you can beat this icey temperature with a water heater.

So, installing the heater will not be the wisest decision. The device will fail to maintain the continuous warmth required for turtles. At the same time, the water temperature will not reach the hibernation point.

Such an imbalance can confuse the turtles and make them physically sick. Therefore, either bring the turtles indoors in a fully warm setup or let the turtles hibernate outside. Of course, the hibernation setup will be a little different from the conventional turtle pond.

Now, moving to the above-ground kiddie pools, a heater can keep the water warm for the turtles. Why?

Well, the underground ponds are dug deep in the soil. Thus, regulating the temperature becomes critical. On the contrary, the pool setups are such that you can achieve the desired temperature.

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Yes, it is not impossible to keep the outdoor underground pond warm using a heater. But you can not really predict the weather. Hence, keepers struggle to calculate the right heater wattage, how many heaters are necessary, and the proper temperature.

Outdoor turtle pond setup guide infographic

For a printable version of this infographic, click here!

Can Turtles In Outdoor Ponds Survive Winter Without A Heater?

Your turtles will surely live without a heater if they are fit and prepared for the winter. Hibernation is their survival weapon in the cold.

It means the outdoor turtles will hibernate during the 3 month winter season. The scene is different if your species does not hibernate or the cold in your region is not harsh.

People have a misconception about hibernation. They think turtles enter into an unconscious state during this period. But no.

Hibernation is a deep sleep state. Turtles sleep through the cold, but their bodies stay active. They can wake up and come out of hibernation to drink or catch a breath.

Generally, the pond bottom is the hibernation spot for turtles. They hide in the leaf dump and breathe through their skin.

To assist the hibernation process of your turtles, first make sure the pond is a minimum of 8 inches deep. Shallow pools will freeze up, killing the pets.

Then, lay out the bottom with a sandy substrate. Add leaf or much to the pond floor to prepare a comfortable brumation bedding for turtles.

You can not allow the water surface to be completely covered with ice. It will limit the gas passage underwater, reducing the oxygen level.

The best idea is to install a de-icer in the pond. It will prevent a particular spot from freezing up. I usually install an oxygen bubbler, too. It maintains the oxygen level in the water.

That is all. If you manage the setup mentioned above, your turtles will overwinter just fine in the ponds. Yes, without any heater.

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However, hibernation can be stressful for turtles. So, it is important to prepare the turtles for this process. Remember, only a healthy adult is eligible for hibernation.

One more thing. Your turtles should be fasting for 3 to 4 weeks prior to hibernation. It clears their gastrointestinal system, minimizing any health risks.

Heaters For Kiddie Pools: Necessary?

Apparently, regulating water temperature is less critical in the kiddie pools or above-ground ponds. Installing heaters and covering up the pond can maintain a temperature above 60F in cold weather.

Yes, the turtles will not be the most active at this temperature. But they will not shut down entirely, either.

Remember, there are different stages of hibernation. At temperatures around 60 to 65F, the turtles will eat less and doze off most of the time. On the contrary, turtles stop eating altogether and show no activity during the brumation.

Is keeping your turtles at 60 – 65F healthy? Well, I had tried it once, and my turtles overwintered in the kiddie pools successfully. I had installed 2 submersible heaters for the 70-gallon pool. The temperature was warm enough for my pets to stay active and eat regularly.

However, I struggled to keep the waters warm during the night. So, I went for a 3rd heater only for the nighttime.

I know! The process sounds critical and confusing. Feel free to consult a vet if necessary.

Interested in making your own turtle pond? Here’s a free layout diagram to help you out!

Before You Go…

A heater is necessary for the indoor turtle setups. Please read the attached article if you are struggling to select one heater for your pet’s tank. This buyer guide will help you get the best deal on the market.

4 Best Water Heaters for Turtle Tank Reviews (On The Budget)

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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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