Habitat - Outdoor :: First turtle pond

Ponds and other outdoor enclosures.

Post Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 5:54 pm   First turtle pond

Brand new member here mainly because I am venturing into an area I have zero experience in. I have freshwater and saltwater aquariums so thats about as far as my knowledge goes. I acquired a 125g tank 4 years ago from someone whos kids no longer took care of it so it was free to me with the only stipulation that I keep the 13yr old turtle (yellow bellied slider male I believe) that was in it. They have since moved out of state but keeping my word I will not part with the turtle. I am tired of seeing the turtle basking area above my tank and want to convert it to a heavily stocked African Cichlid tank, tank currently has 4 cichlids, 2 catfish, a pleco, and the turtle. I built a raised planter in the back yard that was going to be for herbs but it has only ever hosted weeds. The planter in 10' long, 24" tall and 40" deep (front to back).

The plan is to dig a pond in the planter that will be 6' long, 18' tall and 24" deep that would include a walk out ramp on one end and a basking area on the other end for the turtle to rest on. I believe the volume of water will be in the 125-150g range. Ill throw some plants on the dry side for it to hide under. The area gets 4+ hours of afternoon sun. I do plan to throw in some cheap fish for it to snack on and eat mosquitoes and some floating pond plants. My main questions are:

1 - Will a 14.5mil pond liner work or should I find something much thicker? All the 45mil I find are $200+ and the wife will not let me spend that. My main concern is the turtle will cut through the liner with its long nails.

2 - Will just a UV pond filter pump be sufficient or should I have a secondary filter for mechanical filtration? Also what turnovers should I aim for?

3 - Should I provide a heater? Winters in Florida are mild, usually above 50F and if it drops below that its a week at a time max. Lowest temp I remember from past several years was just at 30F and that was early morning right before sunrise. Also I should note the location is only 3' from the house.

4 - I cant decide if I will put any cover on it or not. The only concern would be a racoon reaching in but I would hope the turtle would wake and scurry to the bottom of the pond and be out of reach from one.

Thats all I have for now. Any comments concerns and tips are greatly appreciated.
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:08 pm   Re: First turtle pond

Hi Booth, I would probably look for something thicker. He could do more damage biting it than clawing at it. Will he be in there year-round? If so, will the amount of sun reaching it always be at least 4 hours? You really should have some mechanical and bio filtration as 125g is not much in an outdoor setup. For a heater... 50F is a pretty chilly. A YBS should be fine but I would expect a slowdown period. The water will draw attention of other critters, so a cover (chicken wire) would be a good idea.
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 8:30 pm   Re: First turtle pond

steve wrote:Hi Booth, I would probably look for something thicker. He could do more damage biting it than clawing at it. Will he be in there year-round? If so, will the amount of sun reaching it always be at least 4 hours? You really should have some mechanical and bio filtration as 125g is not much in an outdoor setup. For a heater... 50F is a pretty chilly. A YBS should be fine but I would expect a slowdown period. The water will draw attention of other critters, so a cover (chicken wire) would be a good idea.


Thanks for the reply. Okay ill definitely try to find something in the 30-45mil range thats in my allowance. It will be there year round and yes in the winter it get a little over 4-5 hours, maybe more, in the summer its closer to 8 hours of daylight. I may grab a heater to throw in when the temp drops too much. I know they prefer warmer so I guess if the temp drops to 65-70 I will throw it in. I will look into options to add bio filtration, im sure i can add a sponge for mechanical to the intake of UV pump. Any idea on the gph or a general turnover rule for turtle ponds? I was thinking probably at least a 10x an hour turnover but thats just going off of my aquarium experience. Itll only be the one turtle and maybe a few small fish.
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Post Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 12:51 am   Re: First turtle pond

Sounds good. For filter turnover, we usually recommend a filter that is 2 or 3 times greater that what is used for a fish aquarium. On a high-end filter, it's probably around 800-900gph for a 125 gallon tank.
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Post Posted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 9:27 pm   Re: First turtle pond

I think I am going to end up using a 110 gallon stock tank from Tractor Supply, its only $65. Its only 4.5' long but its 3' wide and 20" tall so there will be a larger area for him to bask but still have decent swim room and if I do an external pump I can drill the bottom of it to make sure its getting all the poo and leftover food into the filter. . Then again I may just throw a submersible pump in the bottom and call it a day. For the filter itself I think I am going to put a 5g bucket in a corner with bioballs in the bottom and filterfloss up top and drill a hole or 2 in the side for the water to waterfall back into the pond.

Do you think its necessary (or maybe just a nice option for the turtle) to add a floating basking area or just have him use the 5'x3' land area for all his basking? I will find some way to provide a hard cover over 2' of the tank for protection. Not sure how I am going to do that yet, I would like to find a way that would allow me to put some plants on it. We shall see. Thanks again
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Post Posted: Fri Sep 18, 2020 7:08 pm   Re: First turtle pond

Stock tanks are great options. Does this one have a drain built in?

My turtles didn’t like the floating style basking areas. Granted, they we very little at the time, but it was hard for them to get on and their plastrons would not fully dry. If you’re doing a planter, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to do everything you want.
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Post Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:30 pm   Re: First turtle pond

steve wrote:Stock tanks are great options. Does this one have a drain built in?


It does have a built in drain right in the middle of the bottom, not sure of its size. I was hoping to go with a 1" drain, if I do external pump, and an 8" waterfall return.
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Post Posted: Sat Sep 19, 2020 10:07 pm   Re: First turtle pond

That would look pretty nice and create a good amount of surface agitation. If it's Rubbermaid, the drain is 1-1/2".
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Post Posted: Sun Sep 27, 2020 10:31 am   Re: First turtle pond

Some progress. Hole dug and tank inserted. Filter made and rough plumb done, nothing glued together yet as just wanted to see if it worked. In the process of buying rock and need to bring some dirt back to raise the basking area.

What do you think about using river rock as the substrate for the whole basking area? Will it get too hot? Trying to avoid sand so that it doesnt get dragged into the tank.

IMG_1955_2.jpeg
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Post Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 11:57 am   Re: First turtle pond

The rocks could get pretty hot under direct light. It would also make the area pretty warm as it retains the heat. Some other materials people use are artificial turf or my favorite, cork bark. If it were me, the area would be natural grass, with some cork.
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Post Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:59 pm   Re: First turtle pond

steve wrote:The rocks could get pretty hot under direct light. It would also make the area pretty warm as it retains the heat. Some other materials people use are artificial turf or my favorite, cork bark. If it were me, the area would be natural grass, with some cork.


Thats what I figured. I saw some cork bark mats on Amazon and some 12"x12" cork bark tiles so maybe ill do a little 2'x2' "landing" at the top of the ramp and do the rest as grass except for the last 16" or so that needs to be rock for roof runoff purposes.
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Post Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:21 pm   Re: First turtle pond

Something like this:
il_fullxfull.2497740200_e9ha.jpg


They're thick and you can just lay it on top of the grass (though your turtle might sometimes hid under it). They can stay wet and not rot. I use one for an in tank basking area.
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