Many turtle owners who have pools think it would be a fun activity to let their turtles swim with them. While there are lots of benefits to letting your turtle swim and enjoy the outdoors, there are also a lot of different factors to keep in mind to make the experience a safe one for your pet.
So can my turtle swim in the pool? No, not if it’s a chlorinated pool; your turtle will be safer in a kiddie pool, horse trough, or koi pond customized to meet its needs.
Below, read more about the pros and cons of letting your turtle swim in the pool. You’ll also find a detailed guide on creating and maintaining a safe pool environment for your turtle. Swimming can be a very fun and beneficial activity as long as you take the proper precautions!
Benefits of Letting Your Turtle Swim
Enjoying sunlight, fresh air, and open space are all wonderful for your pet turtle! It will be able to experience nature in a way it never has before.
They’ll Get Lots of Natural Light and Nutrients From the Sun
If you’re a pet turtle owner, you’re familiar with their basking habits and most likely have a basking setup in your turtle’s aquarium. But nothing can beat natural sunlight! Artificial UVB lights can definitely be sufficient for your turtle, but basking in a more natural setting is even better.
Your Turtle Will Get to Breathe in Fresh Air
Your turtle’s aquarium is most likely indoors and may be subject to some contaminants, especially if their tank is near the kitchen. Another drawback of the indoor environment is that air circulation isn’t always great.
Going outdoors and breathing in the fresh air is much more similar to what your turtle would experience if it lived in the wild. It’ll get a break from any dust and stale air it encounters in its indoor habitat.
Your Turtle Will Have Plenty of Space
No matter how big your indoor tank is, the outdoors will always provide a much larger area for your turtle to explore. Your pet will escape any claustrophobia it feels in its aquarium. Most turtles enjoy walking around different habitats and seeing what they have to offer!
Drawbacks of Letting Your Turtle Swim
Unfortunately, there are a few negative points to letting your turtle swim in the pool. From bad weather to possible predators, here are some things to look out for.
Your Turtle May Not Know How to React to Bad Weather
Because your pet turtle lives indoors, it’s not used to being exposed to rain or other inclement weather. It may not know how to regulate its body temperature when the temperature outdoors fluctuates.
Other Animals May Pose a Threat to Your Turtle
Indoors, your turtle is not likely to encounter other animals. Even if you own other pets, they probably don’t ever find their way into your turtle’s tank. Because of this, your turtle may not have any idea how to defend itself against potential predators.
People May Try to Handle Your Turtle
If you let your turtle spend time outside or in the pool unattended, it’s possible neighbors or other people may come by and want to play with your pet. Even if they have good intentions, not everyone knows the proper way to handle a turtle.
The situation could end in injury to the turtle or to the person trying to handle it if your pet feels threatened and becomes aggressive.
A Pool Meant for Humans May Contain Dangerous Chemicals
You should typically avoid placing your turtle in any water that contains chlorine. Ammonia and nitrates are usually less of an issue in pools, but it’s still wise to check the water’s levels to ensure they’re safe for your pet.
Your Turtle May Spread Diseases to Humans
Even healthy-looking turtles can carry salmonella that can spread to you if you’re swimming in the same pool. Additionally, because it’s common to swallow water while swimming, you may ingest your pet’s waste. This can cause health issues.
Pool Filters Can Be a Problem for Small Turtles
If you let your turtle swim in a large pool with a filter, it’s a possibility they could get sucked up and injured or even killed. If you do choose to let your turtle swim in a pool with a filter, you’ll need to keep a constant eye on them to ensure their safety.
Creating a Safe Pool Setup for Your Turtle
It’s not difficult to create a safe pool setup for your turtle to spend time in, but there are quite a few factors to take into account.
Kiddie Pools and Sunlight
The easiest way to set up a safe pool environment for your turtle to swim in is to purchase a plastic kiddie pool (not an inflatable one). Once you have your pool, you’ll want to put it in an area that gets lots of direct sunlight so your pet can drink up all the nutrients from the sun.
The Importance of Shade
While natural sunlight should be your number one priority when choosing a place to set up your pool, you’ll also want to create a bit of shade where your turtle can go to cool off. This is essential in hot weather because kiddie pools are so shallow that the water heats up very quickly.
A plastic table that you can move as the sun does is an easy way to provide shade. It’s not suggested to place anything directly over the pool to create shade because it can actually trap the heat, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to do.
Watch Out for Wind
Even if it’s not a very windy day, there’s a chance that a gust of wind may come along and flip your pool over. To avoid this, place something heavy like a brick or cement block on the bottom of the pool. Not only will a flipped pool shock and scare your turtle, but it could potentially get injured or wander away as well.
You should add some fun accessories to your pool so that your turtle doesn’t get bored. You also don’t want them to feel like they are out in the open water and have nowhere to escape or hide. Add a cave, some fake plants, and a basking area, and your pool should be good to go!
Watch the Temperature
The pool should always be in the range of 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. You should check it with a thermometer at least once an hour. If the water gets too hot, there’s a very real risk of cooking your turtle alive. On the other hand, if the water is too cold, your turtle may struggle to maintain its body temperature.
Monitor Your Turtle’s Behavior
If your turtle seems to be closing its eyes frequently and for long periods of time, it’s likely that there’s some sort of chemical in the water that is irritating them. If you notice this or other unusual behaviors, remove your turtle from the pool and place them back in their indoor environment.
Horse troughs and koi ponds are other options if you don’t want to use a kiddie pool. If your turtle prefers deep water, a horse trough is the best choice. If you choose to go with an in-ground koi pond, you’ll need to take a few precautions to ensure that it is safe for your pet.
Your koi pond will need to have excellent filtration. You’ll also need to make sure it doesn’t contain any dangerous chemicals, including the ones you use to clean the pond.
How to Clean Your Turtle’s Pool
Compared to cleaning your turtle’s aquarium, cleaning the pool should be a breeze! Simply empty it of all accessories and dump the water out. Once the pool is empty, rinse it with a hose. You’ll want to make sure no algae or waste is left inside of the pool.
Use a hose to spray down the accessories you kept in the pool. Then you can refill it, either letting the water sit for 24 hours or adding dechlorinated formula to condition the water. Because kiddie pools don’t typically have a filter, you’ll need to complete this process once a day or every two days. Keep an eye on the water; it should never give off a bad odor or contain algae.
At the end of the day, the risks of letting your turtle swim in a chlorinated pool meant for humans far outweigh the benefits. Instead, create a safe pool environment for your turtle and carefully monitor its temperature as well as your pet’s behavior. As long as you are careful to follow the guidelines above, your turtle should have a great time swimming and enjoying nature!