How to Build an Aquatic Outdoor Turtle Enclosure

Written by carol sarao
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If you have aquatic turtles, such as redear sliders or painted turtles, you will want to provide these gentle, appealing pets with the best possible home. Because an outdoor cage offers two things aquatic turtles need to be in optimal health--natural sunlight to aid in the processing of calcium, and a place to hibernate--a properly conceived and constructed outdoor enclosure can be the ideal environment. With a little attention to turtle requirements, safety and sanitation, you can assemble an outdoor enclosure in which your turtles will thrive.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Kiddie pool, pond liner or pond shell of at least 50-gallon capacity
  • Aquarium gravel and rocks
  • Pond filter
  • Water dechlorinator
  • Driftwood or styrofoam
  • Vinyl-covered hardware cloth
  • Chicken wire or netting
  • Assorted aquatic plants

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  1. 1

    Select the proper container for the aquatic part of the enclosure. You can use a prefabricated pond shell or a even a pond liner, if it is sturdy enough not to be ripped by your turtles' toenails. A plastic kiddie pool is a good choice for small turtles. The aquatic area should have a capacity of at least 50 gallons, with several hundred gallons being preferable. Avoid the use of concrete ponds; these can scratch your turtles' shells and lead to infection.

  2. 2

    Position the pond halfway under a bush or tree, so that part of it gets full sun, and part is in the shade.

  3. 3

    Vary the depth of the pond by using rocks or gravel. Create a depth of at least a foot for swimming, and a depth of only a few inches, so that turtles can rest and relax with their heads out of water. If you are planning to keep your turtles outdoors all year, ensure that the pond is at least 2 feet deep to allow for hibernation and for the water to remain unfrozen.

  4. 4

    Set up a filtration system, using a high-quality submersible pond filter. A good rule of thumb for filtering power is that for a 200-gallon tank, you should provide a 400 gph (gallons per hour) filter. You should also plan to change between 10 and 20 per cent of the water weekly, using a dechlorinator on the new water.

  5. 5

    Create a basking island in the middle, using gravel sloping upwards towards a plateau of rocks, styrofoam or driftwood for your turtles to sun themselves on. You can also plan to enclose an area of ground around the pond so your turtles can amble around on land.

  6. 6

    Fence the pond in to a height of at least 2 feet, using vinyl-coated hardware cloth--also known as rabbit wire--to avoid attacks by predators such as raccoons and dogs. Fencing the pond also prevents your turtles from escaping. Curl the top inward to make a lip, and sink the fencing at least a foot into the ground; turtles, who are surprisingly good climbers and diggers, tend to be escape artists.

  7. 7

    Cover the area on top with netting or chicken wire to protect your turtles from predation by birds.

  8. 8

    After filling the pond with dechlorinated water, decorate it with aquatic plants for your turtles to hide in and snack on.

  9. 9

    Remove any wasp nests in the area, and control fire ants; these insects can kill small turtles and hatchlings.

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