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Basking area

This is very important. You must provide a log, plank, bricks or rock for the turtle to get out of the water and bask in the sun. Arrange your basking area so it is partially submerged so your turtle can easily get out of the water onto the basking area. The basking area should get sunlight for a good portion of the afternoon.

Hiding areas

Provide hiding spots and shaded areas both in the water and out of the water. Large leafed plants (aquatic or on land) work well, as do clay plant pots placed on their sides.


Keep in mind turtles can do a lot of damage to aquatic plants (both by eating them and swimming around them) so if your pond plants are a source of pride adding a turtle to your pond might not be the best idea. However, water plants provide shade and shelter as well as extra food so are a great addition to turtle ponds. Water lettuce, water hyacinth, fairy moss, anarchis or fishweed (sometimes called Elodea), Cabomba, and tape grass are recommended. Marginal plants like dwarf cattails, dwarf rushes and dwarf papyrus also help naturalize the pond edge.


The levels of oxygen in the water can be improved by the addition of waterfalls, fountains, external filters and airstones. This is especially important in cold weather.

What About Fish

One great advantage to larger ponds is that you can add feeder guppies and goldfish and your turtle can be kept busy hunting. However, if you prefer ornamental fish like koi, caution is warranted. Some turtles are quite avid hunters and may even try to nibble on larger fish, which can cause injuries to your fish (especially fins and tails). It is somewhat individual, as some well-fed turtles won't bother chasing fish, while others have a stronger hunting instinct. Also, water quality can be harder to control with turtles in the pond, which can affect the fish.


If you are planning on overwintering your turtles in the outdoor pond, you must provide the following:

Pond Size:  To successfully overwinter turtles a deep pond with a large surface area (best exchange of oxygen) is necessary. A hibernating turtle needs at least a foot of water that isn't frozen at the bottom of the pond. The pond must also have a large surface area, to facilitate sufficient oxygen levels in the water. Aquatic turtles usually settle into the sediment at the bottom of a pond to hibernate and switch to absorbing oxygen through the skin, so the levels of oxygen in the water must be kept high enough (see below).

Oxygenation: Since hibernating aquatic turtles require high oxygen levels in the water, some method of adding supplemental oxygen is a good idea. Running a pump (to keep water moving) or air pump can increase oxygen levels in the water.

Water De-Icers and Heaters: Pond supply companies usually sell submersible heaters which can be used in the pond overwinter. De-icers will usually prevent the pond from totally freezing over, which can help with oxygenation as well as make the pond safer. A temperature (water) around about 50 F seems to be the best for hibernation (you'll want to avoid heaters that raise the temperature much above this as a cold and inactive turtle that is not at a low enough temperature to hibernate is likely to be severely stressed). Someplace to Dig: As mentioned previously, aquatic turtles in the wild usually submerge themselves in sediment at the bottom of a body of water for hibernation. You must make sure there is something on the bottom of the pond such as a layer of leaves to give the turtle something to dig into for hibernation. Some people even put a pan of sand or sand and soil mixed at the bottom for hibernation. Too much decaying plant matter can negatively impact water quality though, so be careful about having too much.

Prepare the Turtle:  Only healthy strong turtles should be hibernated. Turtles should also have been in the pond since at least mid summer to have time to adjust to the changing season to prepare for hibernation, and should be older than 6 months. As the weather cools the turtle will eat less and less (this is normal). As the turtle stops eating and the temperatures approach 50 F (10 C) stop feeding.

Safety and Security

Aquatic turtles kept in outdoor ponds do need to have secure fencing. There should be a fence around the pond. It’s important to realize that turtles are diggers and surprisingly agile climbers so the fence needs to be at least a couple of feet high and sunk into the ground 6-10 inches to make sure there is no chance of escape. The fence should have a solid base so turtles don't get caught up in wire. This fence is not only meant to keep turtles in, since they will wander in search of a mate, but it also helps keep predators out. You may also want to consider a cover (e.g. chicken wire) over the pond area to protect your turtles, especially if predators like raccoons come into your yard. Hatchlings and small turtles are extremely vulnerable to predators so are best kept indoors until they are a good size.