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Winter Slumber: Turtles in Aquascape Ponds

Winter Slumber:  Red-Eared Slider Turtles Hibernating in Aquascape Ecosystem Ponds

Every year as winter approaches and temperatures drop, the natural world undergoes a transformation. One fascinating aspect of this seasonal change is how our red-eared slider turtles, popular inhabitants of Aquascape ecosystem ponds, prepare for winter through a process called hibernation. In this blog, we will explore the intriguing behavior of red-eared slider turtles as they enter a state of dormancy in Aquascape ponds during the colder months. 

For several years, we have had these turtles live and hibernate in our Koi pond.  Our first red-eared slider was "Sunny."  Our daughter, Miranda, named her "Sunny" because she could easily be found sunning herself on one of the logs in our pond.  Sunny successfully hibernated in our Aquascape pond for three seasons before wandering away from her peaceful paradise.

Kingdom Landscaping Red-Eared Slider Turtle named Sunny in Aquascape Ecosystem Pond

Our current red-eared slider, Ripley, is spending her first winter in our pond, along with Tee-Tee, a river cooter turtle.  Two weeks ago when we had a slight warm-up, Ripley briefly came out of hibernation and made an appearance at the water's surface while the Koi were also swimming around anticipating that spring is just around the corner.  Seeing Ripley brought such joy to my heart.  It's so fascinating how these unique reptiles can submerge underwater for months and remain alive.

Kingdom Landscaping Aquascape Ecosystem Pond with River Cooter Turtle name TeeTee

Understanding Red-Eared Slider Turtles

Red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) are semi-aquatic turtles native to the Mid-Atlantic area including Maryland. They are commonly kept as pets in indoor aquariums due to their vibrant appearance, easy maintenance, and adaptability to various environments.  As a matter of fact, we also have a red-eared slider named, Bullwinkle, in our indoor Aquascape AquaGarden pond.  We obtained Bullwinkle as a hatchling and have enjoyed watching him grow during his first year of life.  Bullwinkle doesn't need to worry about hibernating.  In the wild, red-eared sliders must hibernate during the winter to survive the harsh conditions.

Kingdom Landscaping Aquascape AquaGarden Pond with red-eared slider turtle and Eastern painted turtle on log basking under heat lamp

Habitat in Aquascape Ecosystem Ponds

Aquascape Ecosystem Ponds provide a natural and balanced environment for red-eared slider turtles to thrive. These ponds are designed to mimic natural ecosystems, incorporating elements such as rocks, plants, and a filtration system that supports aquatic life. Red-eared sliders enjoy basking on rocks, foraging for food, and swimming in the clear, clean water of these ponds.  However, unless you have designed your pond with fencing or walls, there is no guarantee that your turtle will stay in your pond.

Preparing for Hibernation

As temperatures begin to cool in the fall, red-eared slider turtles instinctively sense the change and start preparing for hibernation. In Aquascape Ecosystem Ponds, these turtles may exhibit signs of reduced activity, decreased appetite, and a preference for basking in the sun to absorb warmth before winter sets in.

Entering Hibernation

When temperatures drop significantly, red-eared slider turtles enter a state of hibernation to conserve energy and survive the cold. In Aquascape Ecosystem Ponds, these turtles may burrow into the substrate at the bottom of the pond or find a sheltered spot among rocks or plants to spend the winter months in dormancy.

During hibernation, the metabolic rate of red-eared slider turtles slows down, allowing them to survive without food for an extended period. Their breathing and heart rates decrease, and they rely on stored fat reserves to sustain them until spring arrives and temperatures rise again.

Monitoring and Care

For pond owners with red-eared slider turtles, it is essential to monitor their behavior during hibernation to ensure they are healthy and safe. While hibernating, turtles should not be disturbed, as this can disrupt their natural cycle and cause stress.

Maintaining proper water quality and temperature is crucial to supporting hibernating turtles. Pond heaters or de-icers and aerators can help prevent the water from freezing entirely, ensuring that turtles have access to unfrozen areas to breathe.  


Red-eared slider turtles hibernating in man-made ponds during the winter is a fascinating aspect of the natural world. As these turtles enter a state of dormancy to survive the cold, pond owners play a vital role in providing a suitable environment for their hibernation. By understanding and respecting the hibernation process of red-eared slider turtles, pond enthusiasts can enjoy the beauty and wonder of these remarkable creatures year-round.

Kingdom Landscaping Red-Eared Slider Turtle

Happy Pondering, Jodi L. Tyler