Turtles are great pets and can generally be content living in aquariums. However, if you can provide your turtles with an outdoor pond, you should consider doing so.

This is because an outdoor pond is a much more spacious environment for your turtles to live in. It also mimics the turtles’ natural habitat, which will only make your pets happier.

Of course, building a turtle pond is also beneficial if you are looking to aid your aquatic turtle in growth. Providing a larger environment like an outdoor pond for your turtles can positively impact their growth rate. Let’s look at what is required to create turtle ponds for the backyard.

small turtles in pond

1 – Do Your Research & Get Organized

The first thing you need to do is to conduct some meticulous research on the turtle species you plan to place in the outdoor turtle pond. You need to know the temperature they require to stay healthy and what conditions are present in their natural habitat. Are the weather conditions in the area you live in appropriate for your turtles to live outside all year long?

Climate and temperature are very important for turtles, so you need to make sure first that your turtles will be able to live outside before you start making plans on building the pond.

You need to view the pond as a much bigger aquarium. You will still need a filtration system, and you will have to also do some frequent maintenance and cleaning to maintain the water quality. Do the pond and its potential location allow you to perform all these necessary activities? These are all questions you need to ask yourself early in the pond construction and planning.

Finally, research all the materials and tools you need to build the outdoor turtle pond. Create a plan for the pond, calculate costs and make a budget. You will also have to decide if you will build it on your own or hire someone to help you, which would be an additional cost.

Before you start building the pond, make sure you have collected everything that you might require in terms of materials and tools.

2 – Choose a Location & Determine the Pond’s Size

The pond’s location is another very important decision you will have to make. The location you select has to have a variety of areas, with some being in the shade and others being in direct sunlight. Turtles are ectotherms—they can’t regulate their body temperature—so they have to have access to a basking area to get warm and then move to another area with shade to cool off.


Since the pond will be in the backyard, you must consider which place can provide shade and be exposed to the sun. Perhaps, you can build it closer to your house, where the pond will be covered by the shade created by your house’s exterior walls or in a place closer to large trees.

Of course, trees tend to add a lot of debris with rotten leaves and other smaller elements falling into the pond, making it harder for your filter to keep the pond clean and maintain the water quality. Therefore, it might be best to avoid trees altogether. Alternatively, you might want to build some sort of shelter on top of the pond to create the amount of shade needed for turtle ponds.

You must also be very careful when calculating the pond’s size. There are a lot of factors in determining the pond’s size. Your budget is important since a larger pond requires more materials to build and a stronger flirtation system to keep it clean after it is built.

Generally, smaller ponds are easier to maintain in terms of personal effort, time, and money. Another factor is the amount of space you have available.

Lastly, the most important factor that will determine the size of your pond is the size and number of your turtles. If you have a lot of turtles, you do not want to fit them into a small pond. You need to provide them with the necessary space to live comfortably. As a rule of thumb, calculate that one square inch of turtle shell should have 10 gallons of water.

small turtles

3 – Dig the Pond & Determine Its Depth

Before you start digging, make sure you will not build your pond in a place that might affect your water, electric, or gas lines, especially if the pond is closer to the house. It is advised that you contact your utility companies if you are unfamiliar with your property’s lining system. Then, start digging the hole for the pond based on the size you have decided on.

In terms of depth, it is advised that you make the pond sloped. This is because you can give your turtles some area strictly for swimming, a middle level where they can still be in the water but be able to stand, and an elevated large basking area. The deepest area should be based on how large your turtle is. If you have small turtles, there is no point in making a large and deep pond.

If you are creating the pond completely on your own, you want to use a thick plastic liner as a base layer and cover the ground. Leave some extra liner around the edges so water overflow will not seep into the ground. The dug hole should be big enough for the fixture if you use a preformed pond. Use the excess dirt to stabilize your pond.

4 – Install Filtration, Substrate, Surroundings & Water

Now that you have the base for your turtle pond ready, it is time to start adding everything else. If you plan to add lighting and filtration, now is the time to do it. This is another step when you will have to know where your water and electric lines are, so you can connect them to your pond. After that, it is time to add your substrate and the rest of the surroundings, such as rocks, logs, pond plants, etc.

Start filling your pond with sand to create your substrate. You will need to also check for any gaps in the pond and see if it is leveled. You might have to try a couple of times to get it right, but the sand should also help stabilize the liner. You should also add stones around the perimeter to add an extra barrier to the pond.

Then, you can go ahead and start adding all of your surroundings. Aquatic plants are an important addition to a turtle pond but make sure to also research the kind of aquatic plants you will add to the pond. They need to be able to coexist with your turtles and also not overgrow and start taking over your pond. After this step, you can finally fill your pond with water.

You can also consider adding a water feature for a more custom pond for your pet turtle. Your pond turtles will love a water garden atmosphere.

turtle in artificial pond

5 – Establish Security Measures

Finally, you must also plan for some safety measures after your pond construction. Remember, there can still be predators outside that might be a danger to your turtles—like birds, raccoons, dogs, etc. You must ensure that your turtles are safe inside your pond.

Moreover, turtles sometimes try and escape, so you must protect them from themselves. Perhaps, you can raise the stone barriers or add extra fencing to keep the turtles in and the predators out. A netting cover can also be useful as it will be safer but still easy for you to access the pond.

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