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How to Make a Turtle Pond (And Provide As Safe Haven!)

How to Make a Turtle Pond

If you want to find out how to make a turtle pond, the first thing you should know is that it’s not going to be an easy task. Turtle ponds are essentially outdoor constructions, as opposed to indoor turtles that are allowed to chill in large aquarium tanks. Either way is fine but if you want your turtle to really enjoy his freedom in an outdoor pond, here are some tips.

What do You Need for an Outdoor Turtle Pond?

What do You Need for an Outdoor Turtle Pond

A turtle pond needs to be built specially to meet the needs of your turtles for both warm and cold weather. Now, some people like to add additional amenities like a water feature or cute structures – but do you really need them for your turtles? When you try to keep turtles in ponds, here are the bare essentials:

Enclosure Tips

A turtle pond starts by planning the space and then putting up an enclosure to keep that space safe. The last thing you want is for predators to wander in with your turtles and cause havoc in your backyard. Raccoons, squirrels, cats, dogs, and perhaps even kids can disturb your turtle’s safe space. Make sure that turtles have sufficient space, at least 20 square feet of pond space. Remember that’s just the pond, the land area where your turtle can walk around should be different. In all you should have at least 24 square feet of space for one turtle. Obviously, that gets bigger if you want to put several turtles in the same backyard pond.

Pond Itself

Of course, don’t forget the pond itself which should be appropriately sized for your turtle. There’s a ratio that you need to follow there when it comes to turtle size and the amount of water in the pond which we will discuss later. Some people use open tanks to build the pond instead of dig their garden – but that’s completely up to you!

Garden Land Area

Turtles don’t spend all their time in the water. They like a little bit of space where they can walk around and get some exercise. Make sure to have the area fenced so your turtle doesn’t walk off the backyard. Note that land area should include some sand – especially if you intend to breed your turtles. Turtles like to lay eggs in sand so you want to give them a soft surface for digging.

Bask Area

A basking area is a place where your turtles can soak up the sun; they really enjoy it! The area should be included in the shallow part of the pond. Sunlight should reach their basking location for as long as possible.

Hiding Space

Turtles also love their private time so provide hiding places in the enclosure. There should be one on land and another one in the water. This is where you can play with aesthetic and buy a hiding space that makes your backyard pop out. However, you can also use plants for shade against birds, making sure that the leaves are big enough to keep your turtles well hidden. Make sure you’re getting one that’s perfectly safe for your turtles. Of course, if you want to keep things simple, putting pot sideways or hollow logs should have enough room for hiding and shade against the sun, birds, raccoons, and possible predators.

Note that hiding space is essential whether you’re keeping an indoor or outdoor house for your turtle. With outdoor ponds though, you want to be more careful. Your turtle’s hiding space doubles as protection against predators if your enclosure isn’t good enough. If you’re building a hiding space, make sure its strong and capable of protecting your turtle.

Yard Greens

Turtles can wreak havoc on plants so if you’re putting them in your pons, make sure it’s not the expensive kind. The plants primarily work as protection for your turtles, not to mention they could really create a stunning vegetation for your ponds. The great thing here is that your turtle can also eat some as long as they’re safe as food.

Try putting water lettuce or fish weed to help supplement your turtle’s diet. Your choice of plant really depends on the turtles and the area you’re in. It’s important to research plant species that are turtle-friendly and will prosper in your weather. Other favorite plants in ponds include water hyacinths, fairy moss, and even anacharis. Some pond owners also like to use dwarf rushes, dwarf cattails, and dwarf papyrus to help soften the edge and create a more natural look for your pond.


What about oxygen? Adding oxygen into the pond would help improve its quality and give your turtle a better living space. Putting in a water feature would be the best way to get this done so there’s an added eye candy in your backyard. Note though that not all turtles like aggressively moving water so you want to look natural and controlled. Again, you really have to refer to the turtle specie you’re caring for.

Maintenance and Cleaning Ponds

Of course, don’t forget that your turtle pond also needs equipment that would guarantee consistent cleaning. A filtration system should form part of the build, guaranteeing that your turtle has the freshest water at all times. Don’t forget to account for weather changes, especially with a really cold winter season. Note that too many plants can speed up the clogging of your filtration system so clean as often as needed. Also watch for the pH level – a slightly acidic level is actually better because it prevents algae growth. If you have fish though, you need to be more careful about keeping the space clean.

How Deep Does a Turtle Pond Need to Be?

How Deep Does a Turtle Pond Need to Be?

The size and depth of a turtle pond depends on the size of the turtle or turtles. You have to account for the current size of your turtle and the possible size he will grow into as he enjoys life in your backyard. You’ll need to do some math here because experts suggest that for every one square inch of a turtle, you’ll need 10 gallons of water. What does that mean?

How do you translate this in terms of pond size? Look at the length, width, and then the depth of the pond. Multiply the length by the width and then by the depth. The resulting number would be the amount of water you’ll need to fill up the pond. If you have a 10-inch turtle, you’ll need 100,000 gallons worth of pond water in order to keep the little guy happy. When it comes to depth, you want to keep it somewhere between 3 to 4 feet, depending on the size your turtle.

Note though that depth shouldn’t be consistent in the turtle pond. You want it to be sloping so that your pet turtles can choose if he wants to dive on the deep end or climb to the shallow area. Make sure that the shallow area gets lots of sun so your turtle can bask if he wants to.

Building a Pond for a Hibernating Turtle

Building a Pond for a Hibernating Turtle

When it comes to hibernating turtles, you want to be a bit more careful in building a pond. The winter season can kill turtles so they’d want to hibernate and save their energy to eat. Again, you have to look into the turtle species. Do they like to hibernate or are they active all year round? If they’re used to warmer climate, does that mean you can’t house them outdoors for the winter? Here’s what you should know:

Temperature Heaters

Your pond should also have a heater if you experience brutal cold weather. Again, species is very important here. Turtles that are used to the warm climate should be placed inside the house if there’s no chance of maintaining temperature at a decent level. Heaters can be expensive so try to limit pond size – your turtle will still appreciate the effort. For hibernating, the pond should be heated at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can buy de-icers or heaters from reputable stores for this.


When hibernating, turtles like to stay under the surface and just absorb oxygen through their body. What happens if the water freezes over? Well, that’s why you need to be mindful of the overall depth of your pond. Ideally, the pond should be deep enough that there would still be a few inches of actual water beneath the frozen surface. This is where your turtles would spend their time hibernating.

Oxygen Exchange

Oxygen exchange is crucial during the hibernation period. Make sure to buy a submersible pump so there’s a constant stream of air. Turtles would absorb the oxygen through their body surface.

What Turtles Will Make the Best Pets?

What Turtles Will Make the Best Pets

Can you just have any turtle? Well, no. If you already have a turtle and just want to give him the best life possible, then be sure to create your turtle pond around his needs. However, if you’re just setting one up, you need to know exactly what specie is ideal for home ponds.

Read Eared Sliders

One of the more popular species, this turtle is typically kept indoors, but they would also love the outdoors given the right environment. They can be friendly and sociable to their owners which means that you can actually enjoy them if you keep one. Thanks to their popularity, the red eared turtles are very easy to find. Feeding them can be very easy, too.

Yellow Bellied Slider

One of the most popular aquatic turtle pets today, the yellow-bellied slider is a good beginner-pet because of its very tolerant nature. With the right diet and a properly built pond, these turtles will thrive and require little maintenance. However, what makes this turtle really attractive is the fact that they’re active during the day, allowing you to enjoy them for longer hours. The male can be anywhere from 5 to 9 inches while the female can reach up to 13. They have vibrant colors that look painted.

Reeve’s Turtle

For an aquatic turtle, this little guy is happy to socialize with humans. They may enjoy being stroked every now and then but prolonged handling can still be stressful for them. This particular turtle has a shorter life span and slightly smaller than other species. Note that a “short” lifespan can still extend to 20 years. Feeding these guys would be no problem.

It’s possible to have several turtle friends in the same pond. This will give them the chance to socialize and develops friends – perhaps even start breeding. Note though that you need to know which kinds can co-exist with each other.

Can I add Goldfish to my Turtle Pond?

Can I add Goldfish to my Turtle Pond

It really depends on the turtle you intend to keep. Some turtles live well together with fishes while others like their space and will actively hunt down the fish for food. They can be efficient predators so try not to put ornamental fish like goldfish in the pond because they could be gone the next day. Putting feeder fish specifically as food of your turtles should be fine as this forms part of a healthy diet. Try not to mix other animals in the enclosure since turtles might not like having other animals around.

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Turtle Pond?

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Turtle Pond

How much should you set aside for a turtle pond? The cost of building a turtle pond in your backyard depends on your intended size and how you intend to build it. Additional amenities may also add on the overall cost. Do you want it basic and containing only the things turtles need? Or do you want a pond that also acts as a centerpiece in your backyard?

In either case, you can build turtle ponds yourself or have professionals do the job for you. You actually have three options: build it from scratch, buy a kit, or hire professionals.


A do-it-yourself pond is obviously cheaper and should cost you upwards of 1,500USD, depending on the quality of the materials available. A DIY kit should include some of the most basic materials needed to create a turtle-friendly environment like a pump, filter, liner, or even a tank.

Construction from Scratch

Of course, you can also create turtle ponds from scratch. This means buying the essential materials individually until you create the complete setup. This would be significantly cheaper but keep in mind that you’ll need to do some research first. Your choices would depend on your climate and the space you intend to convert into a turtle pond. You will need to buy a tank, a liner, filtration system, and a pumping setup that keeps the pump fresh all the time. The great thing here is that you can completely customize the pond to fit your garden. Depending on what you buy and related things, this method can cost you several thousands.

Professional Help

Finally, you can choose to get professional help and give your pet turtles the best possible backyard pond. Costs can be upward of 2,000USD depending on the elaborate setup of the pond in your yard. The beauty of getting professional help is that you can get the input of actual experts in the field. They should be able to give you access to unique products that aren’t available off the shelves. Make sure you still do your research and read articles even if you hire professionals.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

A bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.

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