In zoos and pet shops you can often see turtles being kept in the pond. With conventional garden ponds, however, this is a rarer picture. It is a great alternative for the animals to spend the warm summer months outside. At the same time, it is a pleasure for you as a keeper to be able to give your little animals a proper “run”.
Security: Fence & Escape
First of all, when keeping turtles in the garden pond, make sure that they cannot escape. There are two reasons. On the one hand, the turtle is protected from being run over, starving, and freezing to death. On the other hand, it also benefits our natural ecosystem. If a “house turtle” penetrated a natural pond, all useful insects and amphibian larvae would soon have disappeared and the pond plants would also have been damaged.
A simple, small fence is not enough as a fence: sometimes turtles are real climbing artists. A smooth, opaque surface that reaches a height of 50cm is best. Good examples are small walls, stones, or palisades. Some owners also write their phone number on the turtle’s shell with a suitable, non-toxic pen. This ensures that the turtle can be brought back to you should it break out.
What Do Turtles Need?
When building a pond, it must also be taken into account that turtles have different needs than goldfish. Shallow water areas that are only up to 20 cm high are particularly important. Here the water heats up quickly, which the turtle likes to enjoy all day long. Therefore, the shallow water zone should get as much sun as possible and occupy over 2/3 of the pond surface.
But a zone with deeper water is also required. This should have a depth of about one meter. It ensures that the temperature fluctuations do not become too great and is also a place of refuge when the turtles feel threatened.
Since turtles are cold-blooded, that is, their body temperature equates to the outside temperature, they love long sunbaths. In addition to the shallow water zones, sunny spots are ideal here. For example, it could be a stone or a small tree trunk protruding from the water. If necessary, it can then quickly fall back into the water as soon as danger threatens. And should it be a cloudy summer, you can use a lamp, for example, an outdoor halogen spotlight, for more heat.
Climbing aids are important for armored carriers, especially when it is colder. The pond liner may be too smooth so that you cannot cope with it on your own. To help, you can create an exit with coconut fiber mats or a thin layer of concrete. These rough surfaces offer her enough pack.
If you want to have plants in your turtle pond, you have to keep in mind that most turtles love to eat aquatic plants. They don’t stop at water lilies either. One species that is less likely to attack plants is the European pond turtle. It can also be used to create a planted pond.
If you want to keep the turtles in the garden for more than a few months, it is advisable to build a greenhouse over the pond (at least halfway). This is where the warm air accumulates and even allows some species to hibernate. However, this is a special case and requires a lot of specialist knowledge.
The care of the animals in the pond is then not that difficult. Since they are partly self-sufficient by eating aquatic animals and plants, they only need to be fed when it is very warm. You should also buy new aquatic plants regularly if they are to serve as food (a turtle has a decent appetite). Feeding is also a great way to count the animals. In the pond, the armored lizards quickly become shy again because they are kept outside. That’s why you should take the chance when you have everyone together.
The question is often asked whether turtles can be kept together with fish. The answer: yes and no! They actually get along relatively well with short-finned fish such as goldfish or koi, but things get more difficult with much smaller fish. In addition, you can forget the cohesion with frogs and newts, as the lizards attack their young. In general, the main problem is the different pond requirements: The shallow water zone, which the turtles absolutely need, is fatal for many fish, as it is much easier for cats and herons to catch a fish from the pond.
A final important point is a relocation from the aquarium to the pond. There is no clear answer to this question as it always depends on the weather. As a general rule, the turtles should be relocated when the garden pond has the same temperature as the pool in which they live “indoors”. Then the new conversion is easiest. Incidentally, you should only put the little ones out when they are about 10cm long and then secure the pond with a net for protection.