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Moving my two RES's to a Large Outdoor Pond, have questions!

PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2016 4:23 pm
by swordsmanr
Hello all!

I am new to this forum, though I've browsed it for advice before. I inherited my two Red Eared Sliders (a male and a female, both adults, though I have no idea of their age) after my friends got them from their previous owner, but then decided after a week that they didn't want them. That was about 6 months ago. They had no where else to go, so I wanted to make sure that they had a good home and weren't abandoned, but I also was (and probably still am) inexperienced and ignorant, so I fear that while I've kept them alive and given them a better home than they had before (which had no basking area/light and no proper water care), I still haven't given them the comfortable life they deserve. I didn't have the funds and space to upgrade them from the tank they came with (a 40 gal "turtle ready" one) to one more suited to them, but with time and research I've realized just how inadequate it is for them.

Fortunately, an opportunity to drastically improve their lives has presented itself, but I want to make sure I do it right this time. My parents (whom I visit several times a week) built a backyard wading pond last year that is about 35 ft diameter and 5 ft deep at the center (so probably somewhere between 1200 and 1400 gallons), but it quickly became over run with algae. So now that spring has come again, they are taking another go at it by consulting with a water garden expert to create an all natural pond ecosystem, with a water garden around the edge to filter it and keep the algae out. This should not only keep it clean, but also allow for addition of fish and, as the expert told them, turtles. So I've been invited to move Sheldon and Felicia over to their place, which I think will make them a lot happier to have natural sunlight and plenty of room to swim in.

But before I do that, I want to make sure I have all of my bases covered, so I was hoping you could help me out. Here are the things I'm aware they need:

Good Water Quality: We'll be watching this closely after we put the water plants in, but between the plants, a pump/waterfall system and a network of aerating rocks, this should be fine.
Predators: The pond is fenced in and we've never had a problem with encountering predators in our yard, so I'm not too worried about this.
Basking: They have some rocks that stick out of the water at a shallow angle which should provide ideal basking spots, so they should be covered there.
Hiding: The water garden area should give them a good "hiding spot."
Food??: This where I have my biggest questions. I'm going to ensure that the plants that are put are safe and suitable for them to eat, so they should have a constant source of veggies to munch on (which will be a great improvement over their current diet, which is only pellets [I know, I'm a bad owner, but I really am trying to reform]). Also, there will be a goldfish colony, which should provide protein, but this is where I'm nervous. On one hand, I worry that they'll eat way too much goldfish and become morbidly obese, because I know that in an aquarium environment, they're notorious over eaters and should only be given feeder fish every so often. I should hope that in a larger, much more natural environment they'll naturally fall into more balanced eating habits, but I'm just not sure. On the other hand, I worry that they'll have too MUCH difficulty hunting the goldfish, and that I will still need to provide pellets on a consistent basis to make sure they get enough protein. I haven't found any guides online for how to ensure they have a proper diet in a situation like this, so I was hoping someone here could give me insights.
Mating/Nesting??: While I've occasionally seen them engage in the mating ritual, I've never seen Felecia lay any eggs, I imagine because there's no good nesting area and she's too crowded in her current environment - or it just hasn't happened yet in the short time I've had her. However, in the pond, there will be plenty of room and I think she'll be able to find a good nesting area as the area around the pond has a lot of soil. So, should I expect that she will lay eggs at some point? If so, what should I do about it? Just discard the eggs if they are seen? While I have no real desire to raise hatchlings, I also fear that if the eggs are never noticed, it may happen with out my knowledge - what should I do then?
Winter??: Everyone online heavily cautions against hibernation, but I am curious as to if this circumstance would allow for it. I'm more than willing to bring them back inside during the winter months (and hopefully I can find a much larger tank by then), but I wonder if it might be better for them to hibernate during the winter in the pond. I figure it should be deep enough (again, around 5 feet at the deep point), and while when we first made the pond in was just made with rocks, I think that there should be enough soft material to allow them to bury themselves. Last year, there was an ice sheet that formed on the top of the pond, but it was only a few inches; I don't know what the temperature was at the bottom of the pool. I also would be able to add a heater to prevent it icing over, if that would help?

Thanks so much everyone! I hope to be able to move them to a much better home in the coming weeks!

Re: Moving my two RES's to a Large Outdoor Pond, have questi

PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2016 9:21 pm
by steve
Welcome swordsmanr!

Sounds like you've given this a lot of thought. The food situation is tricky, but since adult RES usually consume more veggies as part of the diet, I think you're fine. If you want to do a weekly pellet offering, I think that would be fine too. With that much room, they're going to have to earn those goldfish.

Because there are no good nesting areas doesn't mean she can't become gravid. As for eggs, I would discard them as soon as she lays them.

The pond sounds deep enough that it won't freeze. Also do not feed them as winter approaches and hopefully they'll be fine. I don't think you want to add a heater but maybe break up part of the ice and add an aerator.

Post pics when you can :D

Re: Moving my two RES's to a Large Outdoor Pond, have questi

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 12:05 pm
by swordsmanr
Thanks so much Steve! Yes, I'm aware she may become gravid, I just don't know how to tell... I only found out about that yesterday while browsing through this site, so now I'm worried about it :/ .

As for the eggs, what's the proper way to discard them?

As for the goldfish, I had sort of hoped that it would give them a challenge. Not only would it be good exercise for them, but if they get one once a week or so, I figure that should be a balanced amount of protein? But I'm also happy to throw some pellets in every week just to make sure.

As for the ice, we're going to have six aerators throughout the pond, so I figure that should prevent an ice sheet if we run them year round? We can't really run the waterfall during the winter, but I don't see any reason we couldn't do the aerators since only air runs through it.

Here's the pond as it stands now! Just imagine 2 feet or so of plants lining the back side of it - but I'll post the completed project when that is ready!

Re: Moving my two RES's to a Large Outdoor Pond, have questi

PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 11:35 am
by steve
Eggs can simply be thrown away. They'll stop developing once you take them out of the ground. If you're unsure what to do, I think freezing them first is a humane way to deal with it. Goldfish actually aren't the best thing for them to eat regularly. Maybe minnows and mosquito fish.

It's OK if ice forms at the surface, but you'll want one end broken up. Can't wait to see it finished :D

Re: Moving my two RES's to a Large Outdoor Pond, have questi

PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:26 pm
by ljapa
Where do you live? How cold does it get and how long?

I live in NW Indiana. The neighborhood pond is much larger, but not any deeper. Air temps hit sub zero, ice is inches thick and covers the pond for months.

I'd see if there is anyone else with experience with turtles in your area, but hibernation seems possible.