How to Make a Turtle Pond With Black Plastic


Turtle ponds can be ideal additions to a backyard. Not only do they house a pet, they're a pleasing water feature. However, they take planning, work and materials. It won't do to scrimp on quality here, or you'll be left with an eyesore hole in the ground. Plan the pond completely before you buy the materials; the dimensions will affect what you buy. Ponds made with flexible black plastic liner can accommodate any shape you like. This is a good option if you don't like the prefabricated hard liners or have an odd space. Remember to use heavy duty plastic, not just thin black plastic sheeting, or the turtle will tear the liner. Pond companies and many pet or hardware stores now sell UV-resistant pond lining rolls.

Making a Turtle Pond

Step 1

Pick an area to dig that will not get too much rain water run off, which could flood the pond, and that gets neither too much nor too little sunlight. The area should also have access to an electrical outlet for the pump and heater. Make sure there's enough room around the pond for the turtle to have a land run. Call the local utility company if you are unsure if it's safe to dig.

Step 2

Lay out the design using a garden hose or spray paint. Turtle ponds ideally have several different depths for the turtle to get more sun or less or to hide as needed. Calculate the gallons in order to buy the right size liner, filter and heater and know how much water conditioner to add. A turtle pond for most backyard hobbyists should be between 50 and 500 gallons. To figure out the gallons, first find the volume in cubic feet. Use a conversion calculator or multiply the average length by the width by the depth. A pond measuring 5 by 6 by 2 feet has a volume of 60 cubic feet. One gallon is equal to .134 cubic feet, so now divide 60 by .134. This pond has a 448 gallon capacity.

Step 3

Dig the pond.

Step 4

Lay out the liner over the dug-out pond. Tamp the liner into the corners with your foot. Be careful not to rip the liner.

Step 5

Place stones or bricks around the pond perimeter to keep the liner in place. Get as decorative as you like; flagstones are another nice choice.

Step 6

Cut away the excess liner.

Step 7

Add a pump with filter. The filter should have water turnover every half hour or so; this is faster than the typical pond filter. Turtles need this kind of filter to help get rid of their waste. Set it up according to directions; many of these filters must be placed atop a brick to make them the proper height.

Step 8

Fill the pond with water from the garden hose.

Step 9

Turn on the pump and make sure it works.

Step 10

Add the water conditioner in the correct amount for the pond size.

Step 11

Put in turtle furnishings as you like. A log that doubles as a ramp for the turtle to climb out of the water is great. Add an overturned old flower pot in the land area and one in the shallow pond section for the turtle to hide in.

Step 12

Add aquatic plants, like water lettuce. This provides munchies for the turtle and will also provide shade as the plants reproduce. Plants also put oxygen into the water.

Step 13

Add feeder goldfish or minnows. Aquatic turtles love protein, and these cheap fish will supplement your pet's diet. The fish are also pretty to look at (if you get the goldfish).

Step 14

Place a fencing barrier around the pond. It should be something the turtles cannot scale, such as smooth plastic. The height should be two and a half times the length of the largest turtle (or the size the turtle will grow to). Bury the fence six to 10 inches underground; otherwise, the turtles will dig out. This will also keep turtles in and land critters out.

Step 15

Consider adding a covering over the land area, such as chicken wire. Turtles can usually hide underwater during the day, but at night when they come on land, they're vulnerable. If you live in a place that has predators such as raccoons, you will need to prevent the turtles from becoming a midnight snack.

Step 16

Add an underwater heater, if necessary, for your turtle species and your climate. Some turtles won't survive a winter outdoors, even if the pond is heated. In a place like Southern California or Florida, however, they might do fine wintering over with a heated pond.

Step 17

Plant vegetation around the pond in a pleasing manner. Select types of plants that will withstand the sun in the area.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always follow directions for the species of turtle you're keeping, especially for the overwintering of the species. Keep the pond maintained, or you could be stuck with out-of-control algae.

Things You'll Need

  • Roll of heavy black plastic liner
  • Shovel
  • Stones or bricks for the border
  • Ramp or wood for turtle to leave water
  • Fencing
  • Covering for land area, such as chicken wire
  • Pump with filter
  • Aquatic plants
  • Pond fish
  • Heater (optional)
  • Vegetation to plant around the pond
  • Flowerpots, logs, large stones
  • De-chlor water conditioner


  • Robyn's Turtle Pond Page
  • Online Conversion Tools
  • Pond Volume Calculator

Who Can Help

  • Conversion Table
  • Pond Liners
Keywords: turtle pond, plastic turtle pond, black liner pond

About this Author

Margaret Dilloway's debut novel, How to be an American Housewife, will be published in 2010. She has been a writer for over 10 years. She also writes feature articles, copywrites, and edits for, San Diego Family Magazine, and other media. She holds a B.A. from Scripps College.

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