The 15 Best Turtles For Ponds

One of the best turtles for ponds

If you’re looking to add a little life to your pond besides koi fish, freshwater turtles are a great way to go. Not only are they fascinating creatures to observe, but they can help keep the water clean and free of pests that can damage the ecosystem.

But which type of turtle is best for your pond? With so many different types of pond turtles, it can be difficult to decide which ones are best.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular and recommended turtles that make great companions for your koi pond. This blog post will teach you about 15 different species of aquatic turtles so you can pick the perfect one for your pond!

The Best Turtles For Ponds

The turtle species listed below are all well-suited for living in your pond. It’s usually best to put native turtle species into your pond.

Common Map Turtle

The common map turtle (also called the northern map turtle) is one of the most popular turtles for ponds because it is hardy, attractive, and easy to care for. This species is native to North America and has large olive-green shells with yellow spots or streaks. They are relatively small compared to other pond turtles, reaching only 5-7 inches in length when fully grown.

Common map turtles do well in outdoor ponds but need plenty of hiding places and warm water temperatures between 72-77 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Yellow-Bellied Slider 

The yellow-bellied slider

The yellow-bellied slider is an aquatic species native to North America and one of the most popular pet turtles around. It has a round carapace (top shell), bright yellow stripes on its head and neck, and orange coloring along its legs and tail. These turtles grow quite large–up to 11 inches in length–so make sure you have enough room in your pond before bringing one home! Yellow-bellied sliders also require warm water temperatures between 72-79 degrees Fahrenheit, aquatic plants, basking areas, rocks, logs, and other items to hide under or climb on. 

Box Turtle

Box turtles may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about pond turtles, but this terrestrial species enjoys spending time in backyard ponds. Box turtles have high-domed shells that can range from dark brownish-black colors to shades of red or yellow with patterns or spots along their upper shell plates. They prefer warmer climates and ponds with hiding places so they can escape predators like raccoons or cats if needed. Be sure to also provide plenty of land around your pond, so this semi-aquatic turtle can bask in the sun.

Painted Turtle

Painted turtle

The painted turtle is one of the most popular types of pond turtle due to its striking appearance and ease of care. Painted turtles have black shells covered in bright red stripes and spots that make them stand out among other aquatic species. Painted turtles can reach up to 8 inches long as adults. They enjoy basking on logs or rocks near the water’s edge, where they can sunbathe before diving back into cool waters. Painted turtles have a wide-ranging natural habitat and can be found across the continental United States.

African Sideneck Turtle

African Sideneck Turtles typically remain much smaller than other aquatic species, with adults reaching only about 6 inches in length. This makes it an ideal companion for small backyard ponds. They’re easily manageable and adaptable to different environments. Colors range from olive-green to black, with some specimens showcasing yellow markings on their skin or along the edge of their necks. African Sideneck Turtles are also impressively hardy creatures, not requiring their owner to be exceptionally hands-on regarding feeding and overall care. 

European Pond Terrapin

European pond terrapin

As its name suggests, the European pond terrapin is native to Europe but can survive in various climates and environments. The European pond terrapin is prized for its beautiful yellow spots that cover its head and legs. Its size is perfect if you want something that won’t take up too much space in your pond–it usually reaches between 9-12 inches. The European pond terrapin can live up to 45 years!

Red-Eared Slider

Known primarily for its prominent red earmarkings, the Red-Eared Slider averages about 8 inches in length. They’re also known to be quite social; they will interact with other turtles and you if given proper care. Red-Eared Sliders are known for being excellent climbers and diggers, so they may need a little extra care to ensure they don’t leave your pond area. Also, keep in mind that Red-Eared sliders are native to the eastern United States but are considered an invasive species in other locations.

Spotted Turtle

Spotted turtle

This species is native to most of eastern North America and is beloved for its unique patterning of orange, yellow, and black spots on its shell. They’re small, hardy turtles, growing no larger than 6 inches in length, so they don’t need a huge outdoor pond or enclosure.

Eastern Mud Turtle

These turtles are hardy, native to North America, and mostly inactive during winter, making them very low maintenance. They rarely exceed 4 inches in size. While these turtles don’t like to be handled or disturbed, they can coexist peacefully with other turtles in their habitat.

Musk Turtle

Musk turtle

With its hardy and peaceful nature, this beloved turtle species is perfect for people who want a low-maintenance turtle for their backyard pond. The Musk Turtle is a great choice for your pond because it is small– with an average size of 5-7 inches–yet hardy. This species can live up to 60 years!

Bog Turtle

The bog turtle is an iconic species of America’s freshwater wetlands. It is the smallest native turtle in North America, with an average length of just 4 inches when fully grown. With powerful yet gentle jaws, it can help you keep your pond water clean by preying on the likes of snails and larvae while also doing an excellent job at controlling aquatic vegetation. Its vibrant shell, heart-warming gait, and friendly disposition make it fun to observe in its natural habitat.

Western Pond Turtle

Western Pond Turtle

The Western Pond Turtle is native to the west coast of North America. This hardy turtle can be easily spotted in ponds with its distinctive amber shell and yellow stripes. These turtles don’t get too big, usually reaching an average size of 6-8 inches in length. That makes them relatively easy to manage and care for. They only require some basking area and plenty of vegetation for hiding places and foraging. 

Cooter Turtle

Native to the southeastern United States, they require little attention and are an ideal partner for fish and other water creatures in your pond. Easy to maintain, the Cooter Turtles eat aquatic vegetation, so they help keep your pond healthy and beautiful year-round. With an adult size of up to 20 inches, these turtles make a big impact in your space as well. 

Wood Turtle

Wood turtle

Wood turtles come in fun colors like bright orange and yellow and patterns–ranging from traditional green to vibrant stripes –which make them a decorative addition that can bring any water feature to life. Since wood turtles don’t get too big (just 6 inches max), they won’t take up too much room in a backyard pond. They’re also highly active compared to many other turtle species, which makes them an entertaining addition for anyone who enjoys watching creatures frolic in their pond.

Mud Turtle

This hardy turtle species is a great choice for beginners, as it’s relatively easy to care for compared to some of the more active turtles available. These turtles typically remain within a 25-foot area, ideal for small or medium-sized garden ponds. Mud turtles are relatively small–they usually don’t get bigger than 6 inches. Although they enjoy the water, they are actually poor swimmers, preferring to walk along a pond’s bottom or stay close to shore.

Natural Predators And Other Considerations

Large fish, frogs, birds of prey, raccoons, and skunks are all potential dangers for your turtles, so you will need to take steps to protect them. Turtles tend to be most vulnerable when out of the water and basking on land, so make sure your turtles have protection when on land. Planting vegetation or creating structures for your turtles to hide under or inside can help shield them from these threats.

Most turtles can coexist peacefully with fish; however, aggressive species, like snapping turtles, will eat koi fish. In general, your pond fish and turtles will not feed on each other as long as they can’t swallow each other whole.

Let Charlotte Backyard Ponds Create Your Perfect Natural Oasis

All these pond turtles offer unique personalities and characteristics that make them wonderful additions to any backyard oasis. Just remember to do proper research, planning, and care, and you’ll be able to create a thriving environment that both you and your new pet will love.

If you have any further questions or would like help creating or maintaining your pond, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Just fill out our contact form, and one of our experts will get back to you soon.