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Housing turtles outdoors is possible. If just housing them outside for the summer (or all year in warmer climates), a children's wading pool or large plastic tub can be used. Tubs such as those used to water livestock may have a drain in them to make cleaning easier. Be sure that the sides are high enough, as sliders can climb surprisingly well. It should have some rocks or logs so that the turtle can bask and dry out. It should be located in an area where there is sun and shade throughout the day so that it can have a choice of temperatures.

A pond can also be set up, but this is a bit more complicated. You will need to consult a book on ponds for the details on how to properly construct one. Turtles can climb out or dig their way out, so it is likely that your animal will take a hike (literally!) You must put a fence around the pond and it must be buried deep enough that the turtle cannot escape. It also should have enough dirt/mud around it so that the turtle can burrow in for the winter.

It is advisable to cover the pond or pool as well, since predators such as raccoons or cats can make a meal of your turtle. You can construct a frame to fit the size of your habitat and then cover it with screen.

During the summer months I take the turtles outside and let them hang out in a small kiddie pool. They really seem to love the larger swimming space and the unfiltered sun. We just stick a few rocks in the pool and they bask away all day. We place a piece of green plastic fencing over the pool to avoid the possibility of the turtles climbing out of the pool or the dog grabbing one and running off with it :) I'm sure chicken wire would work just as well.

A red eared slider is perfectly capable to survive outdoors in our climate, even though they do not get as old as their species that live in captivity indoors. But your pond must fulfil to a number of conditions in order to raise the chance that they will survive. At least one part of the pond must face south, so that the turtles can enjoy every ray of sun. The pond also has to be at least 80 cm deep and the bottom has to be muddy, so the turtles can retire there during their winter sleep. Give them high-quality granular fish food or high-quality granular koi-carp food and your turtles loves it. Cover a sunny part for the winter with glass or transparent foil, so the turtles can take a sunbathe in the winter without lying in the wind or cold. Red eared sliders cannot be placed in a pond before they are 15cm long and they are 100% healthy. Place your turtle in a pond in the warm months such as June or July, do not do it any later because than the turtles have not enough time to get used to the cold before the winter comes, and it might be freezing at night. In general, the turtles can be kept together with goldfishes and koi-carps. If the turtles do eat the fish, then they get seriously ill in 99 of 100 cases. Sometimes a turtles catches a fin, but they usually grow back on and has no permanent damage.


Outdoor and indoor turtle ponds

Alternatives to glass aquarium tanks include indoor or outdoor ponds. Indoor ponds can be extremely attractive and successful, the only drawback being the space required. If the space is available, then they can make a very decorative display feature as well as providing an ideal home for several large terrapins. The framework of the pond can be constructed from wood and then lined with a heavy duty plastic pond liner, or alternatively may be made entirely from fibreglass. Equipped with a waterfall or fountain, and with the surrounding area well planted such a display is most impressive. Outdoor ponds can also be used but the construction of these is obviously a major undertaking. One end of the pond should slope gently to provide ease of access. A shallow area will also provide a differential temperature as it warms up under the sun more readily than the deeper end. The difference may only be 1-2 degrees C but this is sufficient to be noticed by the terrapins. A few logs partially submerged at other places will also provide not only exit points but also basking sites. All terrapins are excellent climbers and are adept at escaping, so good security around the pond area is vital. We suggest allowing at least 1m of ground area all around the pond, surrounded by a cement or brick wall at least 30cm (12 inches) high and further topped with wire mesh. Wire mesh should not be used on lower levels as the terrapins may injure themselves on it - claws can easily become stuck, and delicate noses abrade rather easily. Small terrapins may be viewed as prey by large birds (particularly herons), so these should not be released into open pond areas. Shelters should also be provided, and the surrounding area can be attractively planted. Outdoor ponds are therefore ideal if you have a large number of terrapins and sufficient garden space to permit installation.
Only hardy (temperate) turtles can be kept out of doors, tropical species from warm climates cannot be kept in this way, unless you live in a tropical or semi-tropical region yourself. Even temperate species will almost certainly require some form of supplementary water heating system on occasions. This form of accommodation is also not really suitable for juvenile or hatchling terrapins - only large and relatively robust adults can be kept in this way. Juveniles are best housed indoors in heated tanks, at least until they have attained a reasonable size.
Ponds intended for year-round use must be at least 1m (3 feet) in depth and must have a large surface area. Ponds which are deep, but which lack surface area, can result in dangerously low levels of oxygenation - especially during hot weather or in the winter. Water oxygenation can be improved using waterfalls, fountains, air stones and external (Koi carp type) pond filters. In outdoor ponds, hardy turtles will hibernate during the cold winter months. Whilst hibernating they do not surface to breath air, but instead absorb oxygen through their skin. In order to avoid anoxia (oxygen starvation), it is vitally important that the pond is adequately oxygenated at all times. Unless you are absolutely certain that your pond is entirely suitable it is usually much safer to overwinter the turtles indoors in properly heated tanks.
It is also important that the pond has a good bottom layer of mud and other sediment as this will be used by the hibernating terrapins for protection from extreme cold. Total freezing of the surface in winter can be prevented by using submersible pond-warmers. These and many other accessories can be obtained from water-garden centres and aquatic mail order suppliers. The catalogues issued by aquatic supply companies can provide a wealth of interesting ideas and often contain many useful items which used imaginatively can greatly improve the quality of a captive turtle's life.



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Site Created: 1/8/2002, Last modified: 12/7/2003 by Petra Grujic