Habitat - Outdoor :: Philburt's New Home

Ponds and other outdoor enclosures.

Post Posted: Sat May 10, 2014 2:17 pm   Philburt's New Home

Hi all,

I've been following these forums for a while, and am excited to finally post my outdoor pond setup! It will be a work in progress for as long as I have it, and I started the project in January. It's proven to be quite an enjoyable project.
A little back story: I got my turtle Philburt when she was a hatchling; SHE was thought to be a boy at the time. My neighbors had drunkenly bought her in Chinatown Chicago one night, and informed me they were going to flush her down the toilet. I panicked and took her in, but knew nothing about taking care of turtles. Over the last 5 years I've been learning how to give her a proper life, and admittedly I've been ill-equipped for quite some time, not to mention ill-informed (it seems pet shops don't provide very accurate information.) I battled what I believe was RI, as well as Shell rot with the poor thing. Luckily, I work from home, so I was able to give her a lot of attention during the worst of it. One of the biggest mistakes I've made with her is over-feeding; she had a heavy diet of mealworms in particular, and she is pyramiding because of it. I've made extreme adjustments to her diet and feeding schedule, and she now has access to SUN basking any time of the day; I'm hoping this will help. I've posted her shell condition in the forum for advice, and I've recently learned about a turtle vet in LA.

Suffice it to say, after graduating college, I now live in LA with a backyard! I've have spent many months constructing her a proper place to live. I was never interested in turtles until I took this one in, and now that I have her, I want to make sure she lives a long and healthy life. The project is continually developing, and I've spent just under $600 on the whole setup, much less than a glass aquarium of smaller size would be. You know how it is; $20 here, $50 here, and there's still always more to add.

The idea with this pond is impermanence. It makes for a fulfilling hobby.
This forum seems to be a place of well informed turtle enthusiasts, and I'd appreciate any feedback on how to improve her conditions, as well as the pond's function as a proper, stress free home.

The Day We Moved In: November 2013

January 2014: The Container. I dug up the plot and uprooted most of the weeds/ creeping jenny type plants. I obviously don't have experience with construction, and I didn't level anything, I laid a base under the cinder block, then attached them with adhesive. The design is such that I could feasibly cut the adhesive and expand the pond should I feel Philburt needs more space. It's approximately 5 feet by 7 feet, with 15in average depth, not quite 300 gallons. I'm also not much of a mathematician...

45mm EPDM liner, with a felt underlayment. Easily replaced, though it has a 25 year warranty.

Gravel for aesthetic value and what I thought would be a secondary filtration. I've recently removed the gravel as I've learned about water quality and the nitrogen cycle with ponds. It seems this will trap waste and deter proper water flow at the bottom of the pond...I'm working on this one...

March 2014: Philburt Basking. I had originally kept that ugly tupperware above the pipes to keep her from climbing out. I saw her do it once. Feisty.

This is the first filtration setup I had. Weak and not well thought out. Like I said, I've been throwing myself at pond care trying to figure this out. This is a simple 400gph pump through an 850 mechanical/bio filter from total pond. It's a cheap filter that I've had to seal up with silicon after some minor leaks, but it seems to be working just fine.

Here she is planking. You can still see discoloring in her shell from some of her earlier life :( I'm hoping it's not getting worse. The good news is she's incredibly active, and not the least bit shy.

May 1st, 2014: My most recent setup.

The design of the pond is impermanence, which allows me to move and rethink the tiling as I please. Here you can see how I've hidden the tubing under and between tiles.

My most recent setup. The idea here is that 3 corners pump water, each to opposite ends. There are 2, 400 GPH pumps each going to separate bio/mechanical filters. The 3rd is 550gph on the only end where water is not directly dumped, pumping to the corner that does not have its own pump. It goes through a UV filter, and in this way keeps a very calm, but steady circular flow to the pond, helping ensure there is no completely stagnant water (this keeps the mosquitos at bay). You wouldn't know it unless you put a cuddle bone or something in the water. The nozzles are adjustable to increase/decrease aeration, depending on the water quality. This way I can give Philburt some calm water days, but keep the water oxygenated while I figure out how to eventually add a waterfall.

Here is Philburt, enjoying the sun. Here you can really see the deformities in her shell.
She's always either basking, or swimming around with the feeder fish that she refuses to eat. This proved to be a blessing in disguise, as I've since learned from this site that feeder fish are not the best for turtles to eat for various reasons...they also add a lovely golden color, and swarm her during her feeding time (Monday, Wed and Friday). She'll nip at them to keep them from taking any food, but never actually tries to eat them.

A few other notes:
I'd designed an above water shelter for her to hide in, but she never seemed to use it. She tucks away in the corners of the pond at night. I know because I would check on her at night in the first few weeks I kept her outside. I'd wake up at 4 AM having nightmares about raccoons or something.
She's usually just waking up around 6AM, which is when I tend to start my day.
I don't know much about taking care of feeder fish, but now that they're part of the eco system, I'm trying to give them a decent life as well. There are 12 fish that have lived in the pond since late January. I haven't lost one yet...

Philburt is not shy in the slightest. She prefers not to be handled, but as soon as she's placed in the pond she swims right back to wherever someone is closest. I'm sure this has a lot to do with being over fed throughout her life, and it's an old begging habit, but at least I know she's not stressed or scared around people.


Looking for suggestions as to how to improve her living conditions. I've made a lot of mistakes with her, and I'd like to correct what I can.
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Gender: Male

Post Posted: Sat May 10, 2014 5:03 pm   Re: Philburt's New Home

Looks great! I would probably choose a sand substrate because that would really brighten it up. I'd also add some cork bark for the basking area, rather than tile. Driftwood and some plants might give it a complete feel. Do you have a screen for it? It'll help keep predators out and keep the turtle in if the pond overflows.
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Post Posted: Sat May 10, 2014 5:32 pm   Re: Philburt's New Home

Very nice, and a very happy turtle!
Tobi a RES born in 2012
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Post Posted: Sun May 11, 2014 6:32 pm   Re: Philburt's New Home

Hello fellow Los Angeles turtle keeper.

First, as Steve mentioned, I highly recommend a predator proof cage over the pond. We have lots of raccoons here. I've lost 2 turtles over the past 10 years or so from them. Here's what I have over my pond. It can be easily removed and/or opened, and it keeps the raccoons out and my turtles safe:


On another note, would you like your pond added to the sites Pond database? viewtopic.php?f=7&t=32548
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