15 Turtle Species That Are Perfect For Outdoor Pond

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

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Most owners think they can just put any turtle in the outdoor pond. Well, that is true to an extent, as turtles are wild creatures, after all. However, some species are hardy and have a more survival chance outdoors than others. I will talk exclusively about those species in this article.

Turtle Species Fit For Outdoor Pond:

  • Red eared sliders
  • Painted turtles
  • Map turtles
  • Wood turtles
  • Snapping turtles
  • European pond turtles
  • African sideneck turtles
  • Cooters, etc.

Should you keep a turtle outdoors? What are the advantages and risks? Let’s talk about everything.

Key Takeaways

  • Painted turtles, red eared sliders, mud turtles, musk turtles, etc., are beginner turtles that can live in outdoor ponds.
  • Snapping turtles and cooters thrive in the outside arrangements.
  • Build an outdoor pond if you can manage the space and security.

42 Prominent Turtle Species In The World: Infographic

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15 Best Turtle Species For Ponds

I have experimented with raising different turtle species in my outdoor space. Even though none of the pets died, it was clear that some of them were not enjoying themselves. They thrived right after I moved them indoors.

The species mentioned below are the ones that survived in my backyard pond. Of course, your experience with them can be entirely different. This information will be helpful to you in one way or another.

15 turtle species that can live in the outdoor pond happily are:

1. Red Eared Slider (Trachemys Scripta Elegans)

Well, the red eared slider has quite the name of a beginner’s turtle. They are native to the United States and can adjust to almost any climate. The best part about petting red eared sliders is that you can safely raise them indoors and outdoors.

The species grows around 7 to 12 inches and weighs 3 to 6 pounds. So, a mature adult requires a minimum of 70-gallon to 120-gallon swim space. You must increase the tank size if you plan to add a tank mate.

Red eared sliders are semi-aquatic creatures. So, you must add extra land area to the enclosure or install logs, rocks, and docks to make up for it.

Finally, make sure that the basking platform receives enough sunlight. The suitable temperature range for red eared sliders is 75F to 95F.

2. Yellow Bellied Slider (Trachemys Scripta Scripta)

Unlike the red eared sliders, the yellow bellied sliders enjoy more time underwater. These turtles also appreciate the outdoor environment. I often catch my yellow sliders dozing in water under the sun. It almost looks like my turtles are sunbathing in the pond.

Yellow bellied turtles can get 13 inches big. No wonder they need a larger water setup of around 130 gallons.

Of course, do not forget to add a basking and land area. These pets prefer warm water and basking temperatures, from mid-80s to mid-90s. However, the shed area in the enclosure should only be around 72F to 75F.

3. Common Map Turtle (Graptemys Geographica)

Northern map turtles or common map turtles inhabit the northern drainage leading to the Atlantic. Thus, they get the name. These creatures have a magnificent pattern on their carapace, which closely resembles a magical map (that justifies the name, too).

The average adult common map turtles reach a carapace size of up to 10.3 inches.

Usually, the females are larger than the males (learn to identify the map turtle’s gender from here). Generally, a housing arrangement with 100 to 120-gallon water will work for them.

Moreover, map turtles are excellent swimmers. No wonder they thrive in the outdoor ponds.

Unlike most turtles, the northern map turtles have specific water or basking temperature criteria.

The adults demand a hot basking dock with a temperature of 100F to 110F. On the contrary, the water temperature has to be between 72F to 76F. Usually, the hatchlings and juveniles want the water to be warmer.

As you can see, the basking dock must retain a high temperature. Hence, I have positioned the platform right under the sun to fulfill the requirement. If you are confused about map turtles’ housing arrangements, follow my previous blog.

Even though map turtles survive the harsh outdoor weather, they still need proper care. Otherwise, the pets will fall sick and suffer miserably.

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One more thing. I have seen keepers struggling to choose between the map turtles and red eared sliders. See, both these turtles are excellent choices for outdoor ponds.

Besides, they have pros and cons of their own. If you are puzzled between these two species, please read this article. It will help you make a better decision for sure.

4. Cooter (Pseudemys Concinna)

The Northern American climate is perfect for Cooters. So, if you are from this region, do not hesitate twice before putting the pets in an outdoor pond.

It will be even better if you get a Cooter native to that area. For example, Florida red bellied cooters thrive in Florida.

An adult Cooter can not exceed a carapace size of 16.5 inches. Well, there are claims of cooters being around 20 inches, but the statement lacks proof. The average-sized Cooters can live happily in a 125 to 150-gallon yard pond.

Cooters also nag about the temperature. They want a water temperature of about 75F to 80F and a basking temperature of 80F to 90F. You can maintain this temperature by positioning the pond in a place with a half-shade and half-open sky space.

Compared to other species, Cooters are easy to maintain. With the best care sheet in hand, you can make your pet Cooters live to their fullest.

5. African Sideneck Turtle (Pelusios Castaneus)

For people who live in warmer regions, the African sideneck turtles are their best option. These creatures can adapt to the scorching heat pretty quickly. While the other turtles cry under the burning sun, the African sideneck turtles will enter dormancy without complaints.

Moreover, the African sideneck turtles have no specific demands. Just offer them a large pond (at least 120 gallons) with 12 inch depth. Also, make sure that the water includes no impurities. The African sideneck turtles will live happily outdoors if these conditions sit perfectly.

As for the temperature, the African sideneck turtles prefer warmer conditions (obviously!). The ideal basking temperature for them is 90F to 100F.

Are you worried about the other setups in the outdoor habitat? Just relax and give this article a thorough read.

6. Painted Turtle (Chrysemys Picta)

I think the outdoor ponds are better than the indoor setups, especially for the painted turtles. An outside space with enough vegetation, a suitable filtration system, and proper basking spots makes an excellent habitat for the species.

As a painted turtle can reach 12 inches, you should manage a minimum 120-gallon pond for the adults.

The smaller enclosures stress out the pets, hindering their regular growth.

Moreover, be careful with the water depth. Even though the African sideneck turtles are great swimmers, 12 inches of water height will be great. But you can increase the water depth to 18 to 24 inches for painted turtles. It just proves how skillful these pets are!

While painted turtles can live without bedding, the substrates are always recommendable. The layer allows the creatures to burrow and enjoy the outdoor environment.

Finally, if you are thinking about installing a heater, well, cancel your plans. The summer, autumn, and spring temperatures are perfect for the painted turtles (75F to 95F).

Therefore, I see no issue in raising a painted turtle outdoors.

Painted turtles are gaining popularity due to the right price point. Honestly, painted turtle rates are moderate, regardless of the subspecies you choose.

Taking one among a painted turtle, red eared slider, and map turtle is a hassle for some owners. So, I hope my articles on Red eared slider vs. painted turtle and painted turtle vs map turtle will help.

Or you can make your red eared slider live with the painted turtle. Even though these creatures can adjust, it takes a second for them to get on each other’s throats.

snapping turtle on rocky road

7. Snapping Turtle (Chelydra Serpentina)

Honestly, not everyone can raise a snapping turtle, and maybe not everyone will. Only the experts and professionals are capable of handling this demanding and picky species.

You can choose between a common snapping turtle or an alligator turtle. But in any case, I will always advise you to raise this species in an outdoor pond.

It is reasonable when you think of the growth rate of these pets. The common snapping turtles get about 14 inches big, and the alligator turtles can reach a beast size of over 26 inches.

How do you plan to manage this enormous space indoors? Even if you can, the snapping turtles only open up in the outdoor ponds. Of course, the indoor tanks are suitable only for babies and juveniles.

It is crucial to maintain a healthy temperature inside the snapping turtle pond (75F to 90F) and provide the turtles with exactly what they want. Experimentation will only make the pets stressed and vulnerable. And you know what a threatened snapping turtle does? It will attack humans and never hesitate even to bite a finger off.

8. European Pond Terrapin (Emys Orbicularis)

Even though the European pond terrapins are native to Europe and Africa, they have adapted well in the USA.

This is the best species to keep in a garden pond. While you must move most of the turtles to an indoor setup in the winter, European pond turtles can live outdoors all year round.

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So, less hassle, you see?

Keeping the European pond turtle in an indoor aquarium can be a struggle. The species can grow up to 15 inches. Where will you put that 150 to 175-gallon tank? When building an outdoor pond, managing space is the least of your problems.

Besides, these turtles enjoy an open environment. They can soak in direct sunlight and swim in a suitable temperature range (80s to 90s).

Of course, you can force the European pond turtles into the indoor environment. But that will not be the best for it.

9. Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon Subrubrum)

The Eastern mud turtles are the most common among the 12 subspecies. It is because of their availability, considerable price range, and easy-to-maintain qualities.

As the name suggests, the eastern mud turtles are bottom dwellers. They love walking at the bottom. Which one do you think will be their preferred environment? An indoor tank or outdoor pond? Of course, the latter one.

Eastern mud turtles grow 4.5 to 6 inches. So, the urban keepers are mostly into this species as the mature ones can live in a 60 to 70-gallon aquarium.

It means mud turtles are easy to raise, even in the apartments.

Because of the small size, owners are mainly scared to put them in an outdoor pond. But stay assured that you can build a community habitat of mud turtles in the outside setup. It will be easier and safer if you follow this foolproof care sheet.

10. Spotted Turtle (Clemmys Guttata)

I know people prefer keeping the spotted turtles indoors because of their small sizes (barely 6 inches). Yes, a 60 to 70-gallon aquarium is enough to hold an adult spotted turtle. So, why am I suggesting an outdoor pond as the primary habitat for this species?

The reason is simple. You can convert a small kiddie pond into a spotted turtle housing. Also, it is possible to make the spotted turtle live with another species.

Similarly, in an outdoor pond, the turtles feel closer to home. The access to direct sunlight and a natural basking or water temperature promote a long lifespan in the pets.

musk turtle closeup
Owner: Stephenie Ciprian

11. Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Odoratus)

The mud turtle vs. musk turtle battle comes a long way. People mainly struggle between these two as both pets share bundles of similarities.

Yes, musk turtles can grow slightly bigger (up to 7 inches) than mud turtles and can spread a musky odor in the presence of predators.

Other than that, these 2 species have no major dissimilarities.

It also means that you can raise the musk turtles in the outdoor ponds. Of course, an indoor setup is fine, but the outside arrangements are the best.

You might have to replicate the wild environment very closely. For example, lay suitable beddings, plant vegetation, and maintain a proper temperature. These will only make the musk turtles happier and healthier.

12. Bog Turtle (Glyptemys Muhlenbergii)

The bog turtles are native to America. So, these pets can adapt quickly to both indoor and outdoor environments.

When I bought bog turtles, I first put the babies in the indoor aquariums. They were tiny.

Even as adults, bog turtles barely cross 6 inches (4.5 inches at best).

I moved my pets when they were young and ready to tackle the harsh weather.

Bog turtles are hardy creatures. But they demand a suitable temperature, water condition, and environment. For example, vegetation in the pond helps them hide and spend some alone time in the outdoor ponds.

As bog turtles are small, you do not have to build a separate habitat for them. Instead, just put them with your other species if the pond has extra space for another guest.

13. Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys Marmorata)

Both the European and Western pond turtles belong to the same family. Their names are decided on by their native regions.

For example, the European pond turtles come from Europe and Africa. On the contrary, the Western pond turtles are native to the USA and Canada.

The name itself declares that the Western pond turtles are the most comfortable in the outdoor ponds. Of course, you can raise them in the indoor tanks, too. These creatures grow up to 8 inches. So, managing both indoor and outdoor space is kind of effortless.

Finally, the Western pond turtles’ basking and water temperature requirements are the same as the European pond turtles.

14. Wood Turtle (Glyptemys Insculpta)

There are a minimum of 9 subspecies of wood turtles available, and you can pet any of these. Because of the unique carapace appearance, the wood turtles just make the outdoor ponds more aesthetic.

Besides, these turtles are medium size (up to 8 inches). So, there is no hassle of digging a large pond. 

One of my friends uses a 125-gallon kiddie pool to house his adult wood turtle. Though kiddie pool works, I have put my wood turtles in a pre-formed garden pond. There is enough vegetation and shade around my pond. So, the turtles find no problem basking, cooling off, or hiding.

Check this article first if you want a wood turtle in your collection.

15. Box Turtles (Terrapene)

Of course, box turtles do not live in a pond. They are land turtles and only go to water to drink or bathe.

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Yet, I have added the box turtles to this group as this species can live outdoors. In fact, the outside setup is preferable for box turtles.

The best part is you do not have to dig up a pond. Securing the area with a fence and layering the bottom with a suitable substrate is enough. For water, a shallow bowl will work.

Unlike indoor box turtles, outdoor pets do not need artificial light and UV sources. The sun is enough to provide them with natural heat and energy.

Another advantage is you can house multiple box turtles together. Yes, it needs intensive planning. But once you pull off the trick, you will only see harmony among the housemates.

Should You Put Your Turtles In An Outdoor Pond?

I have mentioned 15 species that thrive in an outdoor setup. But should you move the turtle outdoors?

Honestly, there are both advantages and downsides of raising turtles in an outdoor pond. For example,

Pros

  1. Enough Sunlight: Turtles receive direct sunlight. Soaking in heat and UV rays boost their immunity and promote good health.
  2. Close To Nature: The outdoor pond reminds the turtles of home. They feel like they are still living in the wild.
  3. Large Space: If you have a big front or back yard, utilize the area. The larger the space, the more freely the turtles can move. Also, you can introduce more pets to the pond. Hence, soon, you will build an excellent ecosystem.

Cons

  1. Security Issue: Turtles are exposed to various threats in an outdoor pond. Predator attacks are the most common in the outside setups.
  2. Harsh Weather: You can not really predict the weather. A sudden storm can kill your pets. Not to mention, you have to move the turtles indoors in winter to avoid hibernation.
  3. Easy Escape: Turtles are not dumb. These little curious creatures always look for an escape. Running away from home is easier in the outdoor ponds.
  4. Maintenance: The indoor tanks are smaller; cleaning them is not a big deal. However, maintaining the outdoor ponds takes a lot of energy and time.

Consider both the benefits and drawbacks and make your decision.

Choosing the Right Turtle Species for Cold Climate Ponds

When setting up a pond for turtles, it’s crucial to match the turtle species to the climate of the pond’s location.

Different turtle species have varying environmental needs, and choosing the right species for your climate ensures their health and well-being.

Temperate Zones with Winter Temperatures Below Freezing:

For regions that experience cold winters with temperatures dropping below freezing, certain turtle species are more suitable. These include:

  • Mud Turtles: These small turtles are hardy and can tolerate colder temperatures. They are known to burrow into mud to hibernate during the winter, which makes them well-suited for ponds in temperate climates.
  • Map Turtles: Map turtles are also adaptable to cooler climates. They require basking areas where they can sun themselves during the warmer months, but they are capable of surviving colder winters.
  • Snapping Turtles: Common snapping turtles are robust and can thrive in a variety of climates, including those with freezing winter temperatures. They are capable of hibernating in the mud at the bottom of ponds during the coldest months.

When selecting a turtle species for your pond, consider not only the winter temperatures but also the overall climate throughout the year. Ensure that the pond environment can provide for the turtles’ needs in terms of basking areas, water depth, and food availability.

5 best turtles for koi ponds

When considering turtles for a koi pond, it’s important to choose species that can coexist peacefully with koi and adapt well to the pond environment.

Here are some suitable turtle species for koi ponds:

Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans): These are popular aquatic turtles known for their adaptability. They can coexist with koi, but keep in mind that they might eat small fish or plants in the pond. They need basking areas to regulate their body temperature.

Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta): These turtles are smaller and less aggressive than red-eared sliders, making them a good option for koi ponds. They also require basking spots and can live harmoniously with koi.

Map Turtles (Graptemys spp.): Map turtles are generally more focused on eating insects and crustaceans, posing less risk to koi. They do well in larger ponds with plenty of swimming space and basking areas.

Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus): These small turtles are less likely to bother koi due to their size and diet preferences. However, they still need proper care, including basking areas and clean water.

Reeve’s Turtle (Mauremys reevesii): This is a hardy species that can adapt to various environments, including koi ponds. They are generally peaceful but might nip at koi fins, so careful monitoring is needed.

Before You Go…

I always suggest petting turtles native to your living region. It allows the reptiles to adapt to the indoor or outdoor habitat quickly. Look through the list of native turtles of the USA in the attached article below.

200+ List Of Native Turtles Throughout USA [By State]

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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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