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Many turtle lovers like to have an outdoor turtle pond for their pet turtles. If you have a large outdoor space, you can do the same for your turtles. A turtle pond can reflect the natural habitat of the turtles. Also, it can be an amazing addition to your backyard decoration.
In this article, I will tell you how to set up a turtle pond. To build the perfect turtle pond, you must have a solid plan and gather the essential things. So, I will give you a list of materials for building the pond.
Also, you will learn how to maintain the pond to keep it safe for the turtles.
How Do You Set Up An Outdoor Turtle Pond?
If you are serious about building a turtle pond, you should know that it is not a simple task. You have to consider a lot of factors before making the pond. The species of your turtle, their size, the climate of your area, and many other factors matter when you design the pond.
Besides, you have to be extra careful about providing safety and security for your turtles when you keep them outdoor. However, there are some measurements you can take to make the outdoor pond safe for the turtles.
Things To Consider Before Building The Pond
Before going to the step-by-step guide for building an outdoor turtle pond, you should learn about some important factors.
The Climate and Turtle Species
The first thing you need to consider is the climate. Are your turtles endemic to the environment that you live in? There are different species of turtles, and not all of them can withstand the cold in winter.
If you have turtle species such as the map turtles, mud turtles, red-eared sliders, or the snapping turtles, you can keep them in an outdoor pond even in winter. When the temperature goes under 50 degrees F, the turtles will hibernate at the bottom of the pond. So, a part of the pond should be at least 3 feet deep to let your turtles hibernate.
Other turtle species require warm temperatures all year round. Since the turtles will get their share of light and heat directly from the sun, you will not be using any artificial lighting and heating system.
So, consider the turtle species and their required temperature before thinking of transferring them to the outdoor pond.
However, you can create a separate indoor turtle tank during the winter season for your turtles. In freezing temperature, transfer your turtles to the indoor tank. The indoor tank should have proper lighting and a heating system to keep the turtles warm in winter.
Location of the Pond
The next thing you have to consider is the location of the pond. You have to choose a spot in your backyard or landscape where the pond will get a good amount of sunlight during the morning or midday.
Your turtle will like to bask in the light. However, there should also be shade for your turtles to retreat from the heat of the sunlight. Therefore, you must choose a spot where the parts of the pond get some shade. The corner of your house or a wall can be a suitable location to build the pond, as the wall will give some shade.
Avoid building the pond under a large tree. Trees shed leaves that will make the pond dirty. Tree leaves decompose in the water and create an imbalance in the pH level of the water.
Plan the Design of the Pond
When you have chosen a location for the outdoor pond, it is time to plan its overall landscape design. You have to decide how much land and pond area you will provide to the turtles.
Only a water area is not enough for the turtles. They will also need some land area. Therefore, some parts of the turtle enclosure should have a land area for the turtles to walk around. Then you should provide some vegetation on the land area to provide some shade and hiding space.
Also, add some materials like rocks and logs for the turtles in the water. The turtles can climb on them to bask under the sun.
How Deep Should the Turtle Pond Be?
Outdoor turtle ponds should be large and deep for multiple turtles. A large pond surface and live aquatic plants allow sufficient oxygenation for your turtles. However, it depends on how much space you have in your yard. But a large pond is always better for different sizes and numbers of turtles.
Now, the depth of the pond depends on the species of your turtles. Some turtles prefer shallow water to deep water. Other species of turtles like the musk and red-eared siders like to swim in deep water.
If you are confused about the depth of the pond, you can keep different levels of water in the pond. The deepest part of the water should be 3 to 5 times the length of your adult turtle.
Safety and Security
The climate is not just the only factor that can put your turtle in danger. There are other risks of setting up an outdoor pond. Predatory animals like raccoons, foxes, and large birds might attack your turtles. Pet animals like cats and dogs can also attack them.
Besides, the turtles may escape from the enclosure. Hence, you must build a fence around the turtle enclosure. Use high-quality timber to build a sturdy and durable fence for the pond.
Build the fences at least 3 to 4 times higher than the height of your turtles. If stray animals are common in your area, the fence should be higher.
List of Things to Build an Outdoor Turtle Pond
Determined to build the pond? Then here is a list of materials and tools essential to building your turtle pond:
- A plastic pond liner. You can use a rigid formed pond or rubber pond liner.
- Sand to line the hole and bottom of the pond liner
- Logs and river rocks for basking
- A cave for resting or hiding
- Vegetation (land and aquatic)
- Hose/bucket for water
- A dustpan
Materials and tools for building the fence
- 8 ft long treated landscaping wood planks
- 8 ft long 2-by-4 inches treated wood planks to build the fence
- 4 treated wood posts 2 to 3 ft long and 2-by-2 inches
- Net cover
- Box of nails/ screws
- Tape for measurement
- A level
How much of these things you will need depends on the size of the turtle enclosure you plan to build. Many turtle owners like to keep some fish in their outdoor turtle pond.
Outdoor turtle pond setup guide infographic
For a printable version of this infographic, click here!
Building the Turtle Pond in 10 Easy Steps
If you have gathered all the essential things to build your first outdoor pond, you can now start building it. Here are the steps you should follow:
Step 1: Mark and Clean the Location of Turtle Pond Enclosure
First, you have to decide the size of your turtle pond enclosure. Let us consider building an 8 X 8 ft (65 square ft) turtle enclosure. You can increase the size of the turtle enclosure if you need to.
Clean the location. Remove any rocks, dirt, and debris. Wastes in the land hamper digging for the pond and building the fence.
Measure with tape and mark the area or put wood posts to have a rough shape. Then you have to mark the space for the pond inside the enclosure.
Step 2: Dig the Land for the Fence
Now it is time for digging. Before that, contact the utility companies to ensure no water, electric, or gas line is under the land. After getting the clearance, you can start digging.
Use a shovel to dig a trench for the fence around the turtle enclosure. Your turtles may dig up the land to escape. So, the trench should be at least one foot deep to put the fence under the ground. It will prevent turtles from escaping. Use a wheelbarrow to remove the soil from the pond area.
You can build the fence before or after installing and decorating the pond. It is better to build the fence after installing and decorating the pond to have more space to move around.
Step 3: Install the Pond Liner (Rigid Formed and Rubber Liner)
It is time to dig into the space for the pond liner. You can choose a premade pond liner like a turtle tub or rubber pond liner.
If you choose a premade pond liner, you have to dig the ground sufficient for the liner. You may have to put the liner a few times in the hole to make sure it fits nicely.
When you finish digging the hole, line it with a 1 to 2 inches layer of sand. After that, place the pond liner back in the hole. Make sure the liner sits perfectly. It should not tilt on one side. You should use a level to be sure.
After putting the liner in the hole, fill the surrounding gaps with more sand. Instead of using your hands, use a dustpan to make things faster. You can also decorate the edges with rocks.
Instead of premade pond liners, you can use rubber pond liners. Installing a rubber pond liner is similar to installing a premade liner. However, you will have more flexibility. You can dig a pond shape of your choice and line it with rubber pond liners. Place some river rocks over the edges of the liner to cover up.
Step 4: Add Sand or River Rocks to the Bottom of the Pond
Since the outdoor pond will resemble a natural habitat, you should line the bottom of the pond with some sand or river rocks.
Sand is a better choice, as some species of turtles like to dig around. Besides, you need sand to anchor your water plants.
Step 5: Fill Up the Pond with Water
Start filling up the pond with water. Make sure the water temperature is the same as the temperature of your turtle’s natural habitat.
If you are using tap water, make sure it does not contain chlorine or other chemicals that can harm your turtles. To make the water turtle safe, you can add some water conditioner. You can use a hose or a bucket to transfer water into the pond.
Step 6: Install a Water Filter
Turtles are notorious for being messy eaters. They also produce a lot of waste compared to fish. If you have multiple turtles in the pond, the water will get dirty quite fast. Then again, your turtles need clean water to stay healthy.
Hence, installing a powerful water filter will be a wise choice. You can keep the filter in one corner of the pond. It should be able to filter the entire pond water several times per hour. Clean the water filter at least once per week.
We recommend the Pennington Aquagarden Pond Filter. It’s not just a filter. This is a 5-in-1 machine that provides filtration, water pump, LED spotlight, UV clarifier and an All-In-One solution that will help you make the perfect pond for your turtles!
Step 7: Add Some Rocks and Logs
Aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles, both species need the light and heat from the sun to survive. So, place some rocks and logs in and around the pond. Your turtles should climb on them to bask in the sunlight.
If you use natural logs and rocks, clean them thoroughly before putting them in the pond. Natural wood logs may contain elements like bacteria and tannins that can create pH imbalance in the pond water.
When you place a log in the pond enclosure, create a slope from the land area to the deep-water parts of the pond. It will help your turtles to move easily from land to water.
Step 8: Place Some Plants
Your outdoor turtle ponds become more realistic with plants. Besides, plants will provide shade to your turtles. The turtles can even hide behind the plants.
You should not put just any kind of plant in your turtle enclosure. Some plants can be harmful to turtles. You can research your turtle’s natural habitat to choose the perfect plants for them.
For the pond, you can choose plants from water hyacinth, water lettuce, anacahris, fairy moss, Elodea, or tape grass. Marginal plants such as dwarf cattails, dwarf papyrus, and dwarf rushes are great options.
These aquatic plants not only provide shade but also fight against algae growth. Besides, your turtles will love to munch on some of these plants.
You can also add some plants to the land area of your turtle enclosures. Some safe plants can be geraniums, roses, dandelions, hibiscus, and pansies.
Step 9: Complete Building the Fence
Place four 2 to 3 ft long wood posts in four corners of the trench you have made for the fence. Then put the 8 ft long landscaping wood planks in each of the 8 ft long ditch and screw them to the wood posts.
This way, add more 8 ft long 2-by-4 inches wood planks on top of another until you get your desired height for the fence. A 20 inches high fence is enough to prevent your turtles from escaping.
Step 10: Cover the Turtle Enclosures
After building the fence around the enclosure, place a cover over it. Choose something that will allow sunlight to enter the turtle enclosure, like a net or a meshed cover.
Predatory animals like raccoons, foxes, and large birds can attack the turtles. The meshed cover will keep away the predatory animals. Since you will have to clean the water and feed your turtles from time to time, the cover should be easy to remove or fold.
Finally, you can introduce your turtles to the pond. They may keep in hiding and refuse to eat for the first few days. Do not get panicked. They will take their time to get familiar with their new environment.
How Do You Build A Turtle Pond Above Ground?
You may not have the perfect ground to build your turtle pond. Or you simply do not want to dig holes in your backyard. Then you can make an above-ground turtle pond for your turtles.
The easiest way to build an above-ground pond is by using a large size plastic turtle tub. You can choose a 150-gallon or 300-gallon turtle tub for your project.
Here is what you will need to build the turtle pond:
- A turtle tub. Size of your choice.
- Two 4 x 4 ft treated wood pallet boards to support and elevate the pond from the ground.
- Some 8 ft long and some 4 ft long wood planks of the same thickness and width to create a frame around the tub.
- Water filter
- Screws/ nails
- Lots of gravel and soil
- Rocks and logs
Step 1: Choosing a location
Choose a corner of your backyard which is partially shaded by walls. It can be the patio or deck.
Step 2: Place the Wood Pallet Boards
Place the two 4 x 4 ft wood pallet boards side by side attached to each other. The boards will be the base for your above-ground turtle pond.
Step 3: Put the Turtle Tub on the Wood Pallet Boards
Next, place your turtle tub on the pallet boards. You can put it in the middle or on the side.
Step 4: Build the frame
If you are not satisfied with just the turtle tub, you can create a land area for your turtle. For that, you need to build a sturdy frame around the tub.
Get some 8 ft and 4 ft long wood planks to build the frame. Make 8 by 4 ft frames and put them on top of each other to build the structure around the pond. The frame should be higher than the tub.
Step 5: Fill in with Gravel and Soil
After building the frame around the tub, it is time to fill in the gap around the tub with some gravel and soil.
First, fill in the void with gravel. After a few inches of gravel, you can add soil. Keep filling the enclosure until you reach the edges of the tub. Then put some river rocks around the edges of the tub.
You can plant turtle-friendly grass and plants on the soil to make the pond more natural for the turtles.
Step 6: Fill Up The Pond With Water
Next, fill up the pond with water, same as any outdoor water pond, maintaining all the conditions mentioned above. Make sure not to overflow the bond, or the soil of the land area will get mixed with the water.
Step 7: Install a Water Filter
Like any turtle tank or pond, an above-ground pond will also need a powerful water filter. Get a high-functioning water filter to provide clean water to your turtle.
Step 8: Decorate the Pond
Decorate your turtle pond with aquatic plants, rocks, and logs. Build a ramp for your turtles from the water to the land area. The rocks and tree logs should be spacious enough for your turtles to bask in the sunlight.
You can plant some plants on the land area or bring some house plants for décor. They can give your turtles much-needed shade and hiding space.
Do You Need A Filter For A Turtle Pond?
Many people wonder if a water filter is necessary for a turtle pond. The answer is not that simple. Yes, turtles live in their natural habitat without a water filter. But the pond you create for your turtle is not actually natural, is it? The artificial pond will need help to clean the water. So, a filter is an essential item for the turtle pond.
If you do not use a turtle pond filter, you will have to change the turtle pond water every few days. Cleaning a turtle pond is quite hard work. Besides, the water may appear clean, but it can be dirty. You do not want your turtle to live in polluted water for too long.
A water filter will keep the water clean for the turtles. Clean water is essential for a healthy and long life of a turtle. So, you should invest in a water filter for the turtle pond.
You must have learned how to build an outdoor turtle pond by now. You will find the list of essential materials above and all the necessary instructions. A Turtle pond can be an excellent habitat for your turtles as it can resemble their natural habitat.
So, you can collect all the materials and start building your first turtle pond. You can modify the guidelines provided in the article according to your choice. The safety and health of your turtles should be the main concern. So, do some research before building the outdoor turtle pond.