An indoor turtle pond is a great way to create a controlled environment for your pet aquatic turtles.
By choosing to create a pond rather than using an aquarium setup you have the option to create a more elaborate and complete environment. Both temperature and UVA/UVB exposure can be adjusted as needed.
Outdoor ponds can work as well, you just need to ensure your pet turtles are acclimated to the local climate.
The downside to outdoor setups is that turtles are more exposed to the elements and predators. Regardless of how secure the outdoor pond is, turtles are never 100% safe.
To build an indoor turtle pond you can either contact a contractor or build it yourself. Since you are here I am going to assume you are going to be building it.
Below is a list of tools and materials needed for a basic setup. From there you can add or expand on your setup as you want.
How to Build an Indoor turtle pond
Note: Don’t use lumber that is treated with arsenic as that is toxic to turtles.
- Tuff Stuff 80 Gallon tub – Preformed hard plastic pond
- Zoo Med Lighting stand
- Zoo Med Dual bulb light fixture with bulbs
- Zoo Med Timer
- Zoo Med thermometer
- Zoo Med thermostat
- Water heater
- Filter (Penn-Plax Cascade CCF5UL)
- Log or custom basking platform (See our DIY basking platform guide)
- Aquatic Plants (See our turtle plant guide)
- Blocks or something to raise the tub (optional)
- Bamboo fence for the decoration
Before you get started
The water capacity of the pond should be 10 gallons per inch of the chelonian’s shell. So if the carapace length of your turtle is 7 inches, the pond should be able to hold at least 70 gallons of water. I recommend using a prefabricated hard shell pond. They are relatively affordable and quite easy to acquire.
Choose an ideal spot for the enclosure
You need to choose a spot for the indoor pond, keep in mind this place will be the permanent spot for the pond. It stresses turtles when you change location frequently. The space selected should be spacious and airy.
Additionally, if it has access to sunlight, that’s a plus. As a precaution, make sure the location is not near anything that could cause a problem if water is spilled or there is a leak in your pond.
Lastly, make sure there is plenty of space around so you can access the the areas around the pond.
Gathering your materials
Once you have bought everything it will be time do do the setup. This part is actually quite easy.
Assembling the pond
The enclosure needs to be significantly larger than the pond. You need space for the turtle to bask and walk around. This area surrounding the pond would also hold accessories such as hiding caves.
- Set the lighing stand in place over where the basking spot will be
- Optional – add blocks if you want to raise it up
- Set the tank in place
- Optional – add substrate such as crushed coral
- Fill it up with water
- Set up the filter
- Set up basking area
- Set up lighting
Video overview of indoor turtle pond setup
Getting the pond ready for the turtle
Now that you have done building the enclosure, you need to make it a livable space for the turtle.
Start by adding substrate. This can be large pebbles (which the turtle cannot swallow), and/sand. You can also use crushed coral, or you can leave it empty which makes cleaning easier.
Most turtles prefer to bask in the middle of the pond. This is instinctive as in the wild, this provides some protection against land predators. You can place a partially submerged log into the pond so the turtle can climb up this to bask. Alternatively, you can build a ramp (2×4 wood with shingles) that the turtle can use to bask.
Install a powerful filterlike the Penn plax in the materials list. Turtles are messy and as such you need a powerful filter to keep the water clean. The one recommended covers 150 gallons which should be plenty for the 80 gallon tub recommended. Additionally, you should change about a third of the water in the pond weekly.
You can decorate the pond and enclosure with edible aquatic plants. Place the plants in plant baskets and place them on the shelves that are formed in the pond. These plants aren’t just decorations though. They provide a source of healthy nutrition as well as hiding spots. They contribute to making the turtle feel secure.
If you want to expand on the enclosure from above, below is a video with a larger setup where a top was made so the turtles can get out and explore a bit more.
It’s a more elaborate setup, but will give you more of an idea of what is possible.
Basking Lamps And Temperature Control
You’ll need to install basking lamps including UVB over the basking area. This is to ensure that the turtle gets the needed UV light and heat to regulate it’s metabolism.
For the heat lamp you’ll want to get a thermostat to ensure you don’t overheat the enclosure accidentally. The basking spot should be about 10 F/12 C warmer than the water. This ensures that the turtle will come out to bask and dry off.
A thermostat and thermometer helps ensure the temperatures within the enclosure are just right.
One end of the enclosure needs to be cool so the turtle can seek refuge there when it wants to cool off. Also, be sure to provide shade and caves. There should be various hiding spots as well to really make your pet turtle feel safe.
- Thoroughly research the build before starting. Figure out the amount of space needed as well as the dimensions of the lumber needed. The size of the enclosure will depend on the size of the pond, which will depend on the size and number of turtles you wish to house.
- If the enclosure has access to natural light, ensure that part of the enclosure is always shaded. You can achieve this through placement.
- A powerful filter is essential. Turtles are very messy and as such you need a really powerful filter, or the pond will smell really bad. Even with a powerful filter, expect some bad odor. Remember to change the filter pads regularly.
- For each extra turtle, increase the pond’s volume by half. Provide a lot of hiding spots and cover to prevent overly aggressive behavior.
- Keep the enclosure well protected from house pets such as cats and dogs that may attempt to eat/harm the turtle. Even if the house pet does not harm the turtle, their presence is usually enough to stress the turtle. A stressed turtle is more likely to refuse food.
- Turtles can take up to a week to warm up to a new environment. Within that time period, they may refuse to eat. This is normal. Try offering a variety of foods. If the turtle refuses to eat after a couple of weeks, you should get in touch with your herp veterinarian.
Building an indoor turtle pond is not a difficult process especially if you are handy. There are many reasons, you’d want an indoor pond. Maybe it could be for security purposes. Many people also don’t have enough yard space to build an outdoor turtle pond.
See our page on turtle setups for other setup options.
If you have any information or questions, leave a comment.