One of the perks of having a backyard pond is watching wildlife like turtles make your oasis their new home. They love basking in the sun on a log or popping their heads out of the water in hopes of being fed. If you want to encourage your local turtles to explore your pond, there are a few things you can do to make it more inviting.
What does a turtle pond need?
Aquatic turtles enjoy spending a lot of time swimming in the pond but need to leave the water to forage for food, mating, and exploring. An area of the pond with gently sloped edges will attract wild turtles, making it easy for them to enter and exit the pond. Turtles do have claws that can scratch thinner pond lining, so a wood or plastic incline is recommended. You can also add a layer of large round stones around the pond's perimeter to create a barrier between their claws and any exposed liner.
Add Basking Areas
Turtles are cold-blooded and require sunlight to regulate their body temperature. Turtles prefer to bask on floating islands or logs in the middle of the pond, further away from edges and shallow areas for protection. They typically do not like basking on the bank or being too close to the edge because it makes them more vulnerable to predators. Most turtle predators will not swim in the water to hunt. They will stay on the edge of the pond in the shallow areas to look for an easy meal.
Turtles need sunlight but also enjoy the shade. In the warmest summer months, the turtles will be looking for shade to escape the heat. The pond should be located in an area that receives both sunlight and shade. If the pond receives too much sunlight, it can increase algae production and affect water quality. You can use a pond canopy or plant larger trees and foliage to add shade.
Adding life to you pond can throw off the balance. Like any animal, turtles produce waste. Additional filtration will help counter the higher nutrient load and restore the balance of the ecosystem of your pond. A Filter Box protects your pump, helps remove debris, and promotes beneficial bacteria growth, which work together to keep your pond clean. Add a Pond Nozzle Kit to boost aeration. If you anticipate a need for extra filtration and circulation, the Filter Kit with Pump is the complete package and is perfect when adding aquatic animals.
Choose Plants for Protection
When turtles feel threatened, they will hurry into the water and find a place to hide. Floating plants like lilies and water lettuce are great for providing shade while also helping turtles and other pond life hide, especially in shallow areas. Emergent plants can be placed around the edge of the pond to make it harder for predators to hunt. Submerged plants also help provide protection deeper into the water. You can turn clay pots on their side and let them sink to the bottom of the pond for an even better hiding place. Read about pond plants that filter water to help promote a healthy ecosystem. Consider using an Aquatic Plant Basket to make adding plants even easier.
Turtles are omnivores; they eat both plants and animals. Turtles will snack on the plants in and around the pond, as well as any small fish, slugs, snails, and bugs. Turtles will enjoy eating smaller guppies and minnows. If you have koi and goldfish, keeping your turtles properly fed may help reduce any accidental fin munching. Turtle food can be found in most pet stores. If you want to attract turtles into your pond, try to plant local foliage. Wild turtles will already be used to eating these plants.
WinterizeSome turtles are more resilient to the cold than others. Aquatic turtles burrow into the bottom of the pond and go into a hibernation state during the winter. They can absorb oxygen through their skin while hibernating. If your pond does not freeze all the way to the bottom, leaving at least a foot of water unfrozen, the local turtles should be able to overwinter in the water.
Turtles enjoy burrowing in mud and leaves for the winter, but debris can lead to poor oxygen and water quality. You can fill a tray with sand and place it in the deepest part of the pond, the turtles can burrow in it without affecting water quality.
Stop feeding the turtles when the water temperature reaches 50° F. Their metabolisms will slow down, and be unable to digest the food. If you purchase exotic turtles from the pet store, they are often native to warmer climates. They may need to be moved indoors for the winter in a climate-controlled aquarium or indoor pond.
Build a Sandbox
Turtles enjoy exploring and occasionally digging. Females will need an area of sand or dirt to lay their eggs. You can create a little area of soil and sand for the turtles to forage, lay their eggs, and hang out outside of the pond. The spot needs to be ideally within 100 yards of the pond for optimum egg laying.
Adopt or Buy Turtles
Keeping turtles in an outdoor pond is often easier than keeping turtles in an aquarium. Turtles have long lifespans, and certain varieties can grow quite large (sometimes outgrowing their tank). They enjoy the freedom of foraging outside, taking a dip in the water when they want to cool down, and basking on logs.
If you don't have a lot of local turtles in your area, you may be able to find aquatic turtles at your pet store or even an animal shelter. Painted and slider turtles are popular choices. Smaller and non-wild turtles may need extra care, like feeding and protection from predators. Baby turtles are more appealing to predators than larger turtles. If you purchase turtles from a store, you may want to house them indoors or use pond netting to protect them from predators until they are larger.
Turtles are great pets to have in your pond. You can attract wild turtles by making your pond more turtle-friendly or purchasing turtles from a local pet store. Turtles are fun and fairly easy to care for. Many species can cohabitate with larger fish. Turtles will need little places to hide to protect themselves from local predators. They get used to being fed quickly and will soon be poking their heads out of the water to say “hi” whenever you walk out to your pond.