Ingredients for an outdoor tortoise pond

tortadise

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Tortoise ponds are great. But we as keepers, conservationist, breeders, or admirers all know they love the expire there waste in the water. It's rather difficult to manage a proper water trough or dish for larger species. For years I would have dump it where it was, and started thinking, "yah know that's not sanitary, and could present a biohazard". So among many other indoor ponds at our facilities these are the beginning of all the outdoor enclosures. Equipped with a drain. No spilling, biohazard in the enclosure, or soiled water eroding the mulch in the enclosure.

Steps are as follows.

Install 1.5" PVC pipe with a positive slope for drainage(typically a 1/4" per foot will work in desired area of enclosure. But more is ok as this is not typical plumbing). If more than one enclosure are being used you just connect each pond with a "y" fitting as seen here. The last pond at the end of the line will have a 90 fitting and not a "y".
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It's best to bury the pipe so the concrete later on in this process is minimal. In the case I used lots of leaf debris and some soil. As the enclosure will be elevated 4-5" with new soil and mulch in the spring, raising the substrate level in a perfect elevation to the ponds edge for easy access.
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Then make sure you have enough concrete and wire mesh. Use 1" chicken wire for concrete reinforcement.
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Portland cement is used to help the finish smoothness of the concrete when troweling. For 3 bags use 1/4 bag of Portland cement so it makes it easier to get a nice smooth finish and not scrap your tortoises plastron. Concrete is also porous so technically is not a suitable product for constant stable water stabilization. It will eventually weep and drain through. Unless a perfect trowel finish seals in the top layer. Thus using Portland cement to help in smoothness, anti porous scenarios, and eliminating any expose aggregate(rocks) for a beautiful finish on your pond.




Then place the chicken wire in the shape of your desired pond in the location chosen. This wire can easily be cut with heavy duty scissors or snips. Depending on the depth of your pond. If desired deep to very deep, some soil can be used before placing the wire to shape the pond with earth for larger side walls. But in this example and case the pond will be 5" deep and building up the earth and forming with dirt was not needed. Also note if walls of pond are desired to be deeper than 6"+ a form on the perimeter will be advised to stabilize the concrete in it's form of the pond and will require more work. But as tortoise favor water hoes and need changing daily it's typically not recommended to go any higher than 6"(unless giant species are taken into account I.E Galapagos or Aldabras)
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Then the mixing of concrete commences. I mixed 4 80# pounds at a time(typical wheel barrel and or non huge mammoth super strong crazy turtle man will mix about 2-3 bags max) so don't overdo yourself. Pour the overall coverage of the shape of the pond(limits of chicken wire) first.
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Let the concrete set up for a little bit. The begin shaping the curbs(outmost shape and highest point of pond to hold desired height of water)of the pond. Keep in mind concrete needs to be rather mixed perfectly. Too soupy will result in unworkable concrete and very difficult to shape the curbs of the pond and obtain the proper slope to the drain for proper drainage and evacuation of soiled water.
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Now that the base is poured on the desired shape of pond the building of curbs can commence. This stage of process the concrete needs to be a little dryer so it can hold height without collapse. Allow to dry for 30-45 minutes before beginning to tool for smooth curb like shaping. *note in weather conspiring of no wind! and temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If windy and temperatures over 85 let set for 20-25 minutes or until workable to shape properly without "give" in the concrete.
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Begin troweling for a more defined shape of curb walls and positive slope to the drain. Keep in mind when the pond is finished you want all the soiled or stagnant water to drain completely out of the "bath" or pond. So when troweling the bottom of the pond start from the drain and firmly move the concrete away from the drain towards the curb or outmost limits of the pond so you gain positive slope for good drainage.
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To finalize a perfect smooth trowel finish sprinkle(dust) Portland cement over entire concreted troweled finished concrete. Then continue to trowel the Portland cement delicately until smoothness is almost perfect for a non scraping surface and beautiful finish.
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Note concrete (depending on which you get will cure completely in 7-21 days) maximizer is 5500 psi and will cure much quicker and be a stronger concrete mix. Quikrete is a 3500 psi mix and will work just fine if installed in at least 2 1/2" thickness with chicken wire or rebar reinforcement. If either maximizer or Quikrete is used a minimum of 2" thick placement is recommended in the shallowest location of pond. If less than 2" is utilized upon placement at shallowest point in the pond cracking, leaking, and movement is highly possible and will result in unsatisfactory results, and may require a lot of work to remedy.


Ounce cured clean thoroughly with water and scrub brush.
And enjoy the finished beautiful new pond with easy clean up for soiled, stagnant, no more spilling or dumping into the enclosure water.

You can even add color or concrete dye available at most hardware stores to give a more appealing look. Some ponds we have poured we even placed river rocks,flag stone, and hardened driftwood while the concrete was still wet to give an added appeal for both the tortoise and the keeper.


Some examples of colored and finished cured ponds.
 
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G-stars

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Very cool and easy to do. Thank you for putting the time to show us how easy this can be done.
 

wellington

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Hmmm, I grasp things better if seen in real life. Hop on over and show me in my yard would ya? I'll take you out for a really nice dinner:p:D.
I did one at our old place. I put the drain straight down. It drained very slow. I had no air venting, so it gurgled and drained slow. Will the sloping the drain fix this problem? I also left the cement ruff, mainly so my leopard who was much smaller at the time wouldn't have a problem getting in and out? Is the smoothness of yours ruffed then it looks? One more thing, how is yours going to drain? The pipe is much taller then the bottom of the pond? I had put a sink drain with a pop up stiped in my old one. Except for the slow draining, it world pretty good.
Thanks for the instructions. I want to build another, better one this summer at our new place.
 

tortadise

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Hmmm, I grasp things better if seen in real life. Hop on over and show me in my yard would ya? I'll take you out for a really nice dinner:p:D.
I did one at our old place. I put the drain straight down. It drained very slow. I had no air venting, so it gurgled and drained slow. Will the sloping the drain fix this problem? I also left the cement ruff, mainly so my leopard who was much smaller at the time wouldn't have a problem getting in and out? Is the smoothness of yours ruffed then it looks? One more thing, how is yours going to drain? The pipe is much taller then the bottom of the pond? I had put a sink drain with a pop up stiped in my old one. Except for the slow draining, it world pretty good.
Thanks for the instructions. I want to build another, better one this summer at our new place.
The pipe gets cut down ounce the concrete it dry. Then a drain plug is used. Water or plumbing can weird. It needs to be almost flat but not quite to work properly. It's a gravity thing. Straight down will result in bad drainage yes. I always pipe the drains to a location where I plant some nice plants so they benefit from "fertilized water".
 

tortadise

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Oh and the smoothness is achieved by Portland cement dusted on the concreted during the troweling stage. It makes it very smooth and easier to clean. Porous rough concrete will be very hard to get clean and stay clean. Because of the little pockets and rough texture it can hold into the nasty water and stain the concrete dark turtle turd water color. Ha
 

mike taylor

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Cool thanks for the tip . I use a pool finishing compound . I bet the portland is much cheaper .
 

pfara

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Kelly, as always, these threads of yours are great. Looks like I get to add yet another project on my spring to-do list.
 

ZEROPILOT

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Very nicely done. My pools are a little smaller scale and I wanted to do a drain, but never did. I used FIBERGLASS resin to seal mine. (Not fiberglass mat) and threw some sand in it for grip. When my RF all get larger and I place them together into a "herd", I'd like to copy your plan and build a very large pond.
 

HLogic

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Two suggestions... While the concrete is curing be sure to keep it wet (and cool, if possible) especially if doing the work in warm weather. I try to time things so that it can initially cure overnight in cooler temps.

Another simple solution to waterproofing is to form/pour/rough finish a basic shape and follow with a 1:1 finish coat mixture of cement and thinset. The thinset makes the finish coat waterproof and rather resistant to leaching/wicking. (http://www.tadege.com/concreteponddiy.htm)
 

tortadise

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Two suggestions... While the concrete is curing be sure to keep it wet (and cool, if possible) especially if doing the work in warm weather. I try to time things so that it can initially cure overnight in cooler temps.

Another simple solution to waterproofing is to form/pour/rough finish a basic shape and follow with a 1:1 finish coat mixture of cement and thinset. The thinset makes the finish coat waterproof and rather resistant to leaching/wicking. (http://www.tadege.com/concreteponddiy.htm)
Cement and thin set mix does work quite well indeed. I poured this one yesterday, perfect pouring weather. 75 degrees and sunny then dropped to 53 overnight. I peaked at it and it's cured up very nicely.
 

Team Gomberg

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These photos are deceiving...Lol.... I can't grasp the depth or size. When it is done, will you share photos of it in use and possibly from the side? A cement pond is on my to do list for sure ;)
 

tortadise

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These photos are deceiving...Lol.... I can't grasp the depth or size. When it is done, will you share photos of it in use and possibly from the side? A cement pond is on my to do list for sure ;)
Of course, filled up with water it's about 5" deep. And holds around 28 gallons.
 

Team Gomberg

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Cool, thanks. Part of what threw me off was the white pvc sticking out..But after re reading, I saw that it'll be cut down ;)
 

Oxalis

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Awesome, that's hard work!! Great job and thanks for sharing! :)
 

MilMan

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Just built a pond using these plans.
What type of drain plug did you use?
The tub drain plug I got from Home Depot does not seem like it seals good on the 1 1/2" dwv pipe.
Also, I used Maximizer concrete then spread a thin layer of Portland cement over the top. Do I need to keep it wet & how long until It cures & I can fill the pond with water?
One last thing, how did you cut the drain pipe flush with the bottom of the pond?

Any advise is appreciated.
By the way great article.
 

Elohi

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So glad to find this thread. This is on my to do list because my current system is a pain in the butt.
 

Momof4

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Just built a pond using these plans.
What type of drain plug did you use?
The tub drain plug I got from Home Depot does not seem like it seals good on the 1 1/2" dwv pipe.
Also, I used Maximizer concrete then spread a thin layer of Portland cement over the top. Do I need to keep it wet & how long until It cures & I can fill the pond with water?
One last thing, how did you cut the drain pipe flush with the bottom of the pond?

Any advise is appreciated.
By the way great article.

@tortadise they forgot to tag you.
 
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