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So You Want a Turtle in Your Pond?

Posted to rec.ponds on July 21, 1999
Transcribed with permission July 26-28, 1999
Last updated: 2/9/07

Note that the links were from 1999 and have not been updated so many are now out of order. Old pages can be found by going to archive.org and entering the URL of the now-defunct site.

Two Worlds Collide

By Lori Green

Edited by Robyn Rhudy

Some people build a pond and add a turtle while others build a pond for their turtles. Depending on your school of thought, you may want to come to a happy medium. Let's look into the yard of the average ponder who spends his days dreaming over his lily pads and blushes with pride over every bloom. He spends his winters designing in his mind what new water features to add in the spring, and the calendar is marked with big black X's counting down the days until the first hyacinth begins to multiply. In the spring, the garden comes to life and each blade of grass is cut to exactly the same size. The pond is flowing down the ten-foot stream, and you can hear in the background the koi splashing happily under the waterfall. Then one day, while a butterfly whizzes by, a thought comes to the mind that a happy little turtle would look perfect sitting on a rock basking in the July sun. The ponder takes a sip of his cool iced tea and removes the mint leaf from between his teeth.

Next door is the average turtle lover. He decides to build a pond for his turtles. To his greatest delight, the grass is dotted with dandelions a favorite treat for his beloved charges. The pond is heavily fenced and upon the fence sites electrodes which protect his precious animals from unwanted predators. The pond itself contains several half-eaten hyacinths, water lettuce, and small green patches of duckweed just waiting to be Tippee Turtle's next meal. "Flowers are for girliemen," the turtle lover repeats over and over in his mind, for he hasn't seen a bloom last 10 minutes since he dug the pond. Remnants of fish tails and snail shells can be found in the filter, and with great delight, the redworms are reintroduced into the pond instead of removed. Hoping for a mosquito larvae infestation, the turtle lover sits back, opens another beer, and belches happily.

Each of these ponders are happy with their situation. While the ponder may desire a turtle, the grim reality that his pond will begin to look like his next door neighbor's by week's end must be taken into consideration. Whether you are a turtle lover looking for a pond or a pond lover looking for a turtle, you will be able to find whatever information you seek within the pages of this article.

I will now begin a journey through the internet. My purpose is to bring both the pond lover's and turtle keeper's worlds together so we can learn from each other.

Let's start the journey at Steve's pond, http://lornet.com/alside/pond.htm, and get on the train. This site brings the imagination to the outer limits. Our first stop begins at the frequently asked ponding questions written by K30@aol.com. You can find this at http://hometown.aol.com/k30a/ myhomepage/index.html. On the flip side, our next stop takes you to http://www.zelvy.cz/ where you will find a history of the turtle and the answers to many frequently asked turtle questions. This site is owned by dk@amostypo.cz. After learning the basic set up of both the pond and the turtle, you will need supplies. A shopping trip is in order, and you will find whatever you need at:

http://www.aqua-mart.com (excellent prices)
http://www.pondguy.com (great sludge eater)
http://www.theplantplace.com (all your planting needs)
http://www.skippysstuff.com (excellent ponding articles)
http://paradisewatergardens.com (beautiful plants and nice waterfall pictures)
http://puregold.aquaria.net (fantastic fish information)
http://www.Kencofish.com (great prices on permalon liners)
http://www.gardenhaus.com (filters and pond kits)
http://www.wheatacres.com/Home.htm (irrigation materials) (Editor's Note: This site may no longer work.)
http://www.clara.net (L.J. Aquatics for all your pond requirements)
http://www.ljaquatics.force9.co.uk (L.J. Aquatics new site)
http://members.aol.com/kmam1/ MyPond/MyPond.html

While you are out shopping, you may want to stop in at the home scrape of Annie Raish- Lancaster for some excellent pasture mix or turtle stamps. To visit Annie, get off at http://www.turtlestuff.com. Pasture mix can be fed to both turtles and tortoises. Growing tips and step-by-step directions can be found at the site and are included with each order.

While we all board the train and head out to more mystical and magical places, why not stop over at Mary Hobson's site for information on more exotic Asian species. You can get off the train at http://www.micronet.net/use rs/~turtles/exotics/exotics.html. Her e-mail address is maryhopson@micronet.net.

As we pull out from our last stop, the announcer calls out T&C Terrariums for all you organic planting needs. They have a lovely catalog of bromeliads and succulents. You can get off at http://home.att.net/~a.j.calisi/supplies.html .

While keeping turtles in ponds is great, we don't want to deplete the native turtle population by purchasing wild caught animals. A few good breeders can be found at:


We can now step off the train for a while and relax in the beautiful garden belonging to Jan Jordan at http://home.earthlink.net/~alanjordan1/jjspond/index.html (Editor's Note: This site may no longer work.) and listen while I explain some of the care needs of a turtle living in a pond.

An established pond will contain everything a turtle needs to remain healthy. The sun provides the necessary UVB lighting needed by the turtle to absorb calcium for healthy shells and bones. Without UVB, the shell would become soft, and the bones would become brittle. The sun also helps clean the shell of unwanted bacteria and fungus. If you bring your turtle inside during the winter, you will have to provide the necessary UVB by using a special lightbulb made for turtles and tortoises. Two very good brands are VitaLite and Reptisun 5.0. These bulbs are expensive and will run anywhere from 15-25 dollars depending on where you get them and the size bulb you are purchasing (Editor's Note: I have had both brands and all lasted about 2 years with 12 hours daily use before total burnout. Two good sources for inexpensive bulbs are Drs. Foster and Smith and That Pet Place.).

Water quality is also very important. You must keep your turtles in a filtered pond because the amount of waste a turtle produces is large. If you let a turtle sit in dirty water, they will quickly develop shell, eye, and skin infections. You will also have to do monthly water changes and filter cleaning. I suggest using a UV sterilizer because the waste produced by turtles is food for your plants and any algae in the pond. To prevent large algae blooms and kill off harmful bacteria in the water, the UV sterilizer is your best option. (Editor's Note: For a list of pros and cons of UV sterilizers, go here.) Most ponds rely heavily on plants to filter the water. These plants need to be protected from the turtles in order to do the proper job of cleaning the impurities. I suggest a bog type setup where the water runs through a separate enclosure containing these plants. Water hyacinths make great turtle food so allow some of them to be eaten freely. Since they multiply so rapidly, it is easy to keep a fresh supply on hand. Unfortunately, it is difficult to keep hyacinths during the cold winter months; they need strong sunlight to thrive. If you manage to keep even a small piece alive through the winter, a few weeks in the spring sun will bring back even the most sickly looking hyacinth plant.

Fencing is another concern. While most turtle lovers wouldn't dream of owning a pond that allows their charges freedom to leave the property, many pond lovers wouldn't dream of surrounding their pond with the fencing needed to ensure there are no jail breaks. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid this eyesore. If you want to keep the turtle, then you must fence it in. (Editor's Note: For more information on fencing for turtle ponds, go here.)

If you are still reluctant to use fencing and still want to see if you can make a turtle remain in your pond, find out what your native species are and get yourself a turtle that will not do the environment harm if it should decide to leave. Many wild turtle populations have been threatened and even wiped out because a non-native species was introduced. I also do not suggest you take an animal that has been bought in a pet shop and release it in your non-fenced- in-pond. These animals most likely have parasites and other microorganisms that can be harmful to the native population of turtles. Right now there is a problem with mycoplasma in California desert tortoises because someone let loose a captive CDT with this disease. It has spread through the wild population and is threatening to wipe out thousands of tortoises.

Most established ponds have exactly what the turtle needs already in them but what most people do not realize is that this supply of food will deplete rapidly and will need to be replaced. Most water turtles are omnivorous and will eat both plant and animal matter. Some of the things you can find in the pond, such as goldfish (small koi or even large ones), snails, most plants, minnows, fresh water mussels, crayfish, and worms, are the staple of the turtle's diet. Do not expect the turtle to stay away from the food it eats naturally just because it is your award winning lily. Bright colored flowers attract turtles, and while turtles can only eat while submersed in water, they can and do drag things down with them. I have actually seen turtles come up on land and drag whole plants into the water to eat.

Let's get back on the train again and this time stop off at some of the prettier sites.

http://users.ntr.net/~ddobson/pond.htm (Dan's goldfish pond)
http://www.fishpondinfo.com/pond.htm (great turtle and pond article) (Editor's Note: This is my web site which is actually hundreds of pages of pond and turtle information. I fixed the URL after I moved my site.)
http://hometown.aol.com/lotts2c/life1.htm (ponding in Baton Rouge)
http://urdis.com/index.htm (waterfall creations) (Editor's Note: As of 9/99, this link no longer works.)
http://www.geocities.c om/Heartland/Meadows/4159/beasley.html (Beasley's page)
http://members.aol.com/turtle739/turtle.ht ml (Kim's adopt a turtle page)
http://www.brazosport.cc.tx.us/~fs haffer/gamera.htm (Gamera's page)
http://members.aol.com/turtle2267/in dex.one.html (Turtle World) (Editor's Note: This link no longer works. Please e-mail me if you know where it has gone.)
http://home.earthlink.net/~skeeve1/teaser. htm (Skeeve's pretty waterfall and bridge) (Editor's Note: This site may no longer work.)

The last stop on this trip is the Rainbow Bridge. Nothing lasts forever whether it be fish, turtle, or person. There is a special place to meet again and that is the Rainbow Bridge. The author is unknown but the story has helped ease the pain of losing a beloved pet for millions of people around the world.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water, and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hear or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

The animals all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly, he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hand again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.... (Author unknown)

E-mail Lori Green, the author of this article.

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