You betcha! Many of our Phoenix pond clients enjoy their turtle pets! That’s the short answer. Turtles can provide hours of entertainment and education, and truly become members of your family. However, there are some considerations.
Types of Turtles for Phoenix Ponds
If it’s a non-native species, please remember that you 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. Please do your research before you get one. You can read more about turtles at www.azgfd.gov/turtle.
Phoenix Pond Design for Turtles
Your Phoenix pond should been designed in a way that would take good care of these pets. Proper filtration is a must! Turtles do add quite a bit more to the water, in terms of bio-load, than just goldfish and/or Koi. You will need a good biological filter, or better yet a constructed wetland filter, but at least some kind of regeneration zone. If you don’t have either of these, more bacteria treatments will be necessary to keep your water quality up to snuff. A basking island is also necessary for many 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 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 there, in the way.
Along with large Koi, we do NOT recommend adding turtles prior to the establishment of a healthy ecosystem in the pond. They are the most destructive and ammonia producing thing you can add to your pond. We don’t recommend them in anything less than a year old if things are going well in a well-designed and constructed Phoenix pond. You should plan on spending a couple of years building a healthy eco-system before you attempt to introduce turtles to the mix.
The depth of a turtle pond will vary a bit depending on the 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 some turtles prefer to be in shallower water, so again consider the natural habits of the turtle species when planning your pond. Try to have varied levels of water with slopes between them. A shallow area where the turtle can sit in the water with its head out of the water is desirable as well.
Phoenix Pond Maintenance with Turtles
Thirdly, with the bio-load that comes with having turtles, you should be adding some kind of bacteria/enzyme product on a regular basis to aid the micro-organism 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.
Outside of your Phoenix 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, be sure to have an area nearby where females can build a nest. 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!
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Barbi Holdeman, co-owner of The Pond Gnome, enjoys sharing their 20+ years of education & experience with you! She writes about Phoenix Ecosystem Pond Installation, Pond Maintenance, Wildlife around the Pond, Koi and Goldfish in the Pond, and the Pond Lifestyle. If you enjoy what she writes, please share it!