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Can Phoenix Homeowners Have Turtles in Their Pond?

You betcha! Many Phoenix & Scottsdale homeowners thoroughly enjoy their turtle pets! That’s the short answer. Turtles have distinct personalities, can provide hours of entertainment and education, and truly become members of your family. However, there are some considerations you should take into account before adding a turtle to your ecosystem pond.

Types of Turtles

If it’s a non-native species, please remember that Phoenix homeowners need to be responsible about turtle ownership: it must remain contained, without the possibility of escaping from your yard into a natural riparian area. And since turtles do add a level of maintenance to your pond, be sure that you’re okay with that decision. As long as you’re fine with a little added maintenance, turtles are great pets! 

There are many different species of turtles. Some are more welcome in Arizona than others. It might be wise to do a bit of research before you get one.

Red-eared Slider Turtle on a basking log

Pond Design for Turtles

A Phoenix pond should be designed in a way that would take good care of these pets. Proper filtration is a must! Turtles add quite a bit more to the water, in terms of bio-load, than just goldfish and/or Koi. The pond will need a good biological filter, or better yet a constructed wetland filter, but at least some kind of regeneration zone. If the pond doesn’t have either of these, more bacteria treatments will be necessary to keep your water quality up to snuff. A basking island or log is also suggested for many turtle species.

Turtles can also be somewhat destructive, and since they’re at the top of the food chain, this could mean wreaking havoc on your tidy Phoenix pond. They have zero respect for what you may consider aesthetically pleasing. For example, if they’re swimming along, and there’s a lily pad in their way, they may simply munch right through the middle of it for no other reason than it was in their way.

Along with large Koi, The Pond Gnome does NOT recommend adding turtles prior to the establishment of a healthy ecosystem in a Phoenix pond. They are the most destructive and ammonia-producing creature that you can add to a pond. We don’t recommend them in any pond less than a year old, and only if things are going well in a well-designed and constructed pond. You should plan on spending a couple of years building a healthy ecosystem before attempting to introduce turtles to the mix.

The depth of a turtle pond will vary a bit depending on the turtle species, but should have a relatively large surface area (provides better oxygen levels in the water). Red-eared sliders and some other turtles can handle a deeper pond, while other turtles prefer to be in shallower water, so again consider the natural habits of the turtle species when planning your Phoenix pond design. Having varied levels of water with slopes between is advisable. A shallow area where the turtle can sit in the water with its head out of the water is desirable, as well.

Pond Maintenance with Turtles

With the additional bio-load that comes with having turtles, you may need to add some kind of bacteria/enzyme product regularly to aid the micro-organisms’ struggle to convert the nitrite and ammonia into plant food. This means that if you plan to be away for a while, you’ll need to enlist the aid of someone to do this while you’re gone so that you don’t come back to a big pea-green mess (pond-sitting, if you will).

Outside of your pond, turtles will want to dig into the soil for egg-laying and over-wintering under plants.  An area in which to forage, comprised of either a compost soil or sand next to the pond, is like heaven for turtles, especially for females looking to lay eggs. Therefore, planning an area nearby where females can build a nest is essential. This area may also serve as a basking spot.

If you’re considering a pond for your pet turtles, let us know – we speak turtle!

Serving Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Arizona (AZ) & Surrounding Areas

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