There's a few critical elements that go into making the perfect turtle pond. The first and perhaps most important one is plants. Turtles are omnivores, and plants make up an essential part of their diet. In addition to being food for turtles, plants provide a place for them to hide, to nest, and they provide the shade that turtles need to regulate their body temperature.
Marginal plants are those that thrive in moist or soggy soil at the edges of a pond. They are excellent cover for shy turtles and frogs that like to hide between the rocks beneath their foliage. They also create a nice transition from the land to the water, and turtles enjoy snacking on insects that fall from the plants into the water.
The perfect turtle pond will also have some shallow sloped sides for ease of entering and exiting the water. Think of it like a boating ramp, but for turtles. A mix of small, medium and large rocks in the pond provides a good variety of areas with little nooks and coves to attract an assortment of critters. Turtles like it best where they feel safe, so creating some nice coves along the banks where they can nestle down and wait for tasty insects to come by will increase your chances of attracting a resident turtle to your pond.
The last consideration is fencing. If you already have turtles, fencing-in your pond will prevent most predators from getting in and keep the turtles from escaping. If your pond is not fenced in, there is greater chance wild turtles will find your pond, but know that they may only be temporary residents. Turtles love to wander and explore, and it is encouraged that you don’t overly restrict their natural freedom when it’s not necessary, such as in the case of a rescued and rehabilitating turtle.
By following this advice, you will maximize your chances of attracting turtles to your pond and keeping them so happy they don’t feel the need to leave. Even with the happiest turtles in the most ideal turtle ponds, without a mate they may still need to leave and answer their biological instincts. With the proper preparations and a bit of luck, they are most likely to return and share more time with you in your backyard pond!
To learn about the different species of turtles found in New Jersey, this link will take you to a nice field guide with descriptions and photos: www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ensp/pdf/turtles.pdf
If you live in South Jersey and have specific questions about your turtles or your pond, give us a call at 856-768-9404. Thanks!