Habitat - Outdoor :: Wintering in a metal trough?

Ponds and other outdoor enclosures.

Post Posted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 9:47 pm   Wintering in a metal trough?

Hi Folks:

I just joined this board. We have a pair of red-eared sliders that are over a year old. We got them about a year ago. (Actually, one is a replacement for another that died, but I won't get into that right now. The replacement looks about as old as the other one.)

Their shells are probably 4-5 inches long from front to back at this point. I bought them from a store that sells red-eared sliders on a regular basis. One of the employees has a pond in her backyard and used to have a mating pair whose offspring the store sold. She had to get rid of her male because it was too aggressive, though.

Anyway, we had them indoors in a 20-gallon fish tank with lights until they got too big. I need to dig a pond, and have spoken to that employee at the store about how to do so, but in the meantime, we bought a long metal trough that's half-filled with water. It has a pump and filter running, and I set up some basking spots for the turtles. I set it up around mid-July.

They're doing okay right now. We live in northern CA - Chico, to be exact, which is about 2 hours north of Sacramento. We have really hot summers. Right now, the weather is still in the 80s and 90s during the day, although it's now dipping into the upper 50s overnight.

In the winter, it will get pretty cold, but red-eared sliders live year-round outdoors around here. In fact, they've become an invasive species and have threatened the pond turtles that are natural to this area. It can dip to freezing, although it never snows here. We usually have wet, cold winters.

I figured the turtles could winter in the trough, until I get the pond dug in the spring, but when I was at that store this past weekend, I was told they'll freeze to death. The guy there said they need to be able to come out of the water and dig into the ground to hibernate, assuming it stays cold enough. Our past couple winters have been warmer than usual and not nearly wet enough (we're dealing with a drought now in CA), so he said they might not stay in the ground, but he did say they would need to come out of the trough.

However, I've read elsewhere that they will hibernate at the bottom of the water. I just have rocks at the bottom right now, and some leaves have settled down there.

Can they survive if I put some debris down there for them, or do I need to just dig that pond now, put the filter and pump in it, and get them acclimated there ASAP for the winter?

And if I put them in a pond now, what's the best way to keep them from wandering away? Our fences aren't in good shape, so I have no doubt they will easily get into a neighbor's yard and end up who knows where. They could also easily go into our RV park on the side of the house and slip right under the gate.

I was thinking cement blocks around the perimeter would keep them there. It might not look pretty, but in the short term I think it would prevent them from getting away. I would just make sure they had some ground around the pond to walk around on and burrow into if necessary. I've been told that small fences won't do much to keep them in there.

Many thanks in advance for any advice.
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Post Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 2:17 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

bradc2014 wrote:"The guy there said they need to be able to come out of the water and dig into the ground to hibernate, assuming it stays cold enough."


Normally they brumate in water. I've seen/read instances where they are kept awake in a very cool place and not fed or given water. Can they survive that state? Very possible, but I don't know if that's really brumation/hibernation.

How big is the pond you want to create? How big is the metal trough? For a pond, they do not need a land area to walk around, they need a basking area. The safest spot would be in the middle of that pond.
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Post Posted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 6:32 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

The trough is about 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet deep. It's about half full of water, and I set up 3 basking spots. There's also a pump and a filter. I built a cage over it to keep raccoons out.

As far as the pond goes, I don't know how big it will be. How big should it be for a pair of RES?

So, they'll do okay in the winter in the setup that I have? It can get down to the teens or 20s overnight in the winter here, although, as I said, it doesn't snow. During the day, it gets up to the 50s or even 60s. The past couple winters have been warmer than usual, though -- I don't recall if it dropped down to the teens/20s last winter.

Should they have debris or something at the bottom to brumate in?

I just want to make sure they'll be okay through the winter and the kids and I won't find a pair of dead turtles next March. Admittedly, I'd like to put off digging the pond until next spring because of the things going on in our personal lives. It's just a ton of work that I'm not really up for right now, and I know the clock is ticking if I'm going to do it this year.

Thanks.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 1:11 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

I should add that we're not far from a place called Turtle Bay Exploration Park, in Redding, CA. Turtle Bay has turtles, of course, along with various other animals and all kinds of science exhibits. They have a small outdoor pond with a couple RES in it. The last time we were there, I got the name of someone to speak with about their setup to see how they did it, etc. I will have to find out if they keep their turtles in that pond year-round. BTW, that pond doesn't have a grass area around it -- it is ringed with rocks that stick out over the pool, so the turtles can't climb up on them and get out. There are basking areas in the pond.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:07 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

One last thing (for now): I spoke to someone a while back who said he knows someone who keeps an outdoor turtle in a box in a closet all winter. He didn't know what kind of turtle it was, but he said this person puts the turtle in a box on a shelf in a closet and then brings it back out in the spring. Sounds like what you said about keeping them awake in a cool place, although I would imagine no one keeps their house cold enough for a RES to hibernate.
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 8:33 am   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

It sounds like they would be OK. Any chance this trough could be moved into a garage?
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 09, 2014 11:20 am   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

Probably. I have lights that I could put over it. Would you recommend moving it into a garage and using lights, or should it just go in the garage so they can hibernate under water for the winter? Our garage gets cold, so I assume you're thinking it would be cold enough for them to hibernate but not so cold that they could risk freezing.

And should there be debris or anything like that at the bottom of the trough for them to settle into when they hibernate, or does that not matter?
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Post Posted: Sat Oct 11, 2014 8:19 am   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

Adult RES would be OK in the 60's, so you don't need to keep it that warm. If you want them to hibernate, thats also a possibility (which is what I was thinking). There should be some substrate, but I don't know what would be best here... sand should be good. Some say a muddy bottom. I don't hibernate my RES, so I don't have first hand experience. The main thing is that nothing freezes and the water is oxygenated.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:17 am   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

I have been hibernating my adult female RES for at least 7 years now. I live in Los Angeles. It gets a little colder in Chico, which might be a problem.

Our pond is preformed and is in the ground. The ground helps keep the water at a moderate temperature. A metal trough is going to be absorbing a lot of the cold weather. Also, the trough will be absorbing any heat in the water to help equalize the cold metal (physics).

I would say it's rather risky. I would bring them in (with the trough if possible).

Also, you need to surround the pond with a wall or something or they will wander away. Check out this thread with examples of ponds from around the forum. You can see mine there as well (3rd one). We have a small brick wall that our cage (predator proof) sits on. viewtopic.php?f=7&t=32548

PS: We just have a sandy bottom to our pond. She just finds a spot and takes a long nap.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:33 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

Thanks for the advice, Linus. I was worried that the metal would keep the water even colder than it should be.

We should be able to set up the trough in the garage, where I can keep the pump and filter running. I figured I wouldn't put lights over it, though, so they hibernate.

Should I have anything at the bottom of the trough for them to hibernate in, or will they just hang out down there?

RE your pond: How deep is it? And how does the cage work? I didn't see it in the pic in that thread, so I wasn't sure. I built a cage out of metal fencing that sits over the trough, with four clamps holding it down, so a raccoon can't push it up. Unfortunately, we lost one of the turtles when we first put them out in the trough, when a raccoon jumped in there during the night, so we replaced the dead turtle and I put the cage over it. The turtles had been outside in the trough for a couple weeks before it happened, but a couple days before that, I had put some feeder guppies in the water, so I have a feeling a raccoon came along, saw the fish, jumped onto one of the basking sites, and then realized, hey, there's something else in here too. I had created a place for them to hide, so I'm not sure a raccoon would have seen them if it came by during the night.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:54 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

Oops, missed the part about the sandy bottom. When we move the trough, I'll put sand at the bottom before putting water in it again.

Does your RES burrow into the sand? I'm wondering what purpose sand or dirt or whatever serves, vs. them just hanging out at the bottom. I suppose it keeps them warmer.
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:10 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

I've never heard of someone hibernating their turtles indoor. Might be a little risky.

No she doesn't burrow into it.

Picture of the cage: http://i.imgur.com/x9u7RsN.jpg
1 F RES 9" (Kingler)
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 2:07 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

Why do you think it would be risky?

And when does your RES start hibernating each year? I'm wondering when we should move the trough into the garage, if that's what we're going to do.

I suppose the alternative is that I dig the pond now and get it set up, but I imagine that would have to be done ASAP.
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Post Posted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 3:33 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

It's risky because you're trying to do something natural in an unnatural setting. Other keepers have lost their turtles during hibernation. It's risky to do in captivity. It works out well if you have a pond in a place that doesn't get TOO cold. You just let nature do its magic. Bringing them inside to hibernate could be risky because of temperature swings. Or it might not get cold enough to comletetly shut them down.
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Post Posted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 3:58 pm   Re: Wintering in a metal trough?

So, would it make sense to add lights over the trough, then, and try to keep them active in the garage? (Maybe add a heater in the water too?)

RES live in the wild around here and I have talked to folks in this area who keep theirs outside year-round, so I'm assuming that once I have a pond in place, they will be able to properly hibernate.
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