Should You Put Turtles In Your Koi Pond?

Koi ponds are a great addition to any property. Koi fish are a sight to behold in a well-designed, maintained pond. But what if you want to spice things up and add some turtles? 

Can Turtles Be Kept In A Koi Pond?

The short answer is yes, turtles can be successfully kept in koi ponds. However, there are a few very important things to take into consideration first. 

Will Turtles Eat Koi Fish?

Do you need to worry about turtles attacking your koi? You might not like the answer I’m about to give you.


small turtle on rock trying to bite a finger

Whether or not turtles see your koi as food and attack depends on a few things. These things include the size of the turtle relative to the size of the koi fish, the breed of the turtle, and how well fed the turtles are fed. 

Size And Breed

It stands to reason that a small 4-inch turtle will simply not be able to eat or even harm a 24-inch koi fish. But, if you place small yearling koi in a pond with large adult turtles, the turtles may see the koi as food. The good thing is that koi are known for growing large. So it’s safest to place young, small turtles in with large mature koi.

This isn’t a simple rule, however, as the breed of the turtle makes a large difference. A small snapping turtle may still see much larger koi as food, and try to take a bite. Other less aggressive turtles may never see koi as food no matter the size difference. This is why it’s important to select the least aggressive turtle breeds for your koi or goldfish ponds. 

two turtles swimming with koi in a small backyard pond

It is important to do your research on breeds before adding turtles. Many turtles that can be bought in pet stores are invasive species if they escape. Remember, these will be in an outdoor koi pond and may likely escape the confines of the pond. 

Some Good Choices For Turtles Include:

  • Painted Turtles 
  • Red-eared Sliders
  • Yellow-bellied Sliders
  • Musk Turtle

Keep The Turtles Well Fed

There is a great deal of overlap between a turtle’s diet and a koi’s diet. So it shouldn’t be too much of a problem keeping them fed, but it’s still something to pay attention to. 

If a turtle isn’t fed enough it will begin to look elsewhere for food. This means if it is large enough it may decide to take a nip at one of your fish. Or, it may simply leave the pond in search of greener pastures. 

To ensure the turtles are getting fed the food can be placed in a small plastic dish the koi can’t access. In time, the turtles will begin to associate this feeding dish with food making it easier to monitor their food intake. 

Special Considerations When Keeping A Turtle in A Koi Pond

Beyond the very real fear that the turtles will attack your precious and expensive koi, there are other things to consider.

Turtles Are Very Dirty & Destructive

Before placing any turtles in your pristine carefully maintained koi pond, you need to understand that turtles are dirty. Very dirty.

They create a lot of waste which can drastically increase the ammonia load in the pond and increase the sludge at the bottom. In addition to their excrement turtles even occasionally lose their tails!  How gross is that?

So if you do decide to add turtles you need to ensure you have a large enough pond filter to process the additional load. A good pond vacuum will also keep the sludge levels manageable.

Additionally, turtles are omnivorous and may feed on any aquatic plants you have in the pond. 

Turtles also have sharp claws and a natural tendency to want to burrow. If this happens there is the possibility that they could damage your pond liner. So keep this in mind.

Introducing Parasites Into The Pond

Turtles are also notorious for carrying parasites and bacteria. Depending upon what these are, they may or may not be harmful to your koi fish. This is why it may be a good idea to treat the turtles for parasites and quarantine them for a couple of weeks prior to releasing them into the pond. 

Turtle Basking 

two turtles basking on rocks in a koi pond

Basking is a behavior in which turtles seek out a sunny dry spot and sunbathe. This is a necessary activity for the wellbeing and health of a turtle. So be sure to include some type of basking platform in your pond. These can be made out of natural materials like driftwood or store-bought.

Escaping The Pond

You may get everything set up correctly, carefully maintain your pond, keep them well-fed, and one day they may just take off. Turtles are terrestrial as well as aquatic and can travel some distance across the ground.

They may stay in the pond for a few months, a year, or longer, but then leave. The most likely reason for this is they are looking for a mate and possibly a place to lay eggs. There may be a variety of other reasons for leaving only known by the turtle itself. 

In any case, If this worries you, experiment with some different types of barriers around the pond. There are a variety of options and while most turtles aren’t climbers, a few of them are.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have some understanding of the difficulties associated with having turtles in a koi pond you can make an informed decision. Is it worth the extra work? Is it worth the potential risk of harming your koi directly or indirectly? Only you can make that choice.

Whatever your decision, best of luck!