Do Turtles Need a Heater? Detailed Guide!

Copyright: ircha10

Providing the needs of your pet turtle is important. It will determine if they will survive in captivity or not. That includes having a tank that’s big enough for the turtle. They need to have space to move around the land and water. The heat and light should also have the right amount.

Although it can be confusing for beginners, you have to figure out the right heat and light for your turtle. Lucky for you, we made this guide to help new turtle keepers. It will help you to learn more about the right turtle tank heaters and how long you should keep them on.

Do Turtles Need a Heater?

Pet turtles are different from the turtles that live in the wild. They only depend on their keepers to get their needs. In captivity, they can’t search for a heat source to keep them warm. It’s also impossible for them to find a place to hibernate when it’s too cold.

Having a heater in the turtle tank is necessary to keep them warm. Turtles require this when their environment starts to be too cold for them. It will help the turtle to avoid getting sick. Warming the water and maintaining the tank’s temperature are essential for the turtle’s survival in captivity.

Why Your Turtle Needs Heater

The reasons why your turtle may need a heater are two factors. One is the type of turtle species. You have to also learn about their natural habitat conditions. The other reason is the condition of the turtle tank where you will keep the turtle for its entire life.

When the turtle tank’s temperature is within the recommended range, that’s good for them. Provided that the temperature doesn’t fluctuate, the turtle will do well. They don’t need a heater anymore as long as they have enough heat around their enclosure. But if the temperature suddenly drops, that will cause problems.

Low temperature will cause a bad reaction with turtles. They can get sick since it can cause them illnesses. If the turtle tank’s temperature can fluctuate, make sure to use a heater. That will help to avoid your turtles from suffering in these conditions. They need enough heat to stay healthy.

When turtles are exposed to cold temperatures, it will cause them to hibernate. They will be forced to do that even for short durations since it can make the turtles ill. Ensure that the turtle tank temperature and water are not too cold for them. Using a heater will avoid this from happening.

What’s the Best Water Temperature for Turtles?

The best water temperature for turtles may vary since there are different species. You also have to consider their stage of life. Adult turtles’ water temperature requirement is different from hatchlings and juveniles. Make sure to check how to take care of them before taking one home.

Popular turtle species are the painted turtles, red-eared slider, and musk turtles. They will be comfortable with water temperatures of 78 to 82F as hatchlings. When their carapace reaches 1.5 inches in length, the temperature can be reduced. It can be between 74 to 76F as they reach maturity.

Sick turtles have different needs when it comes to water temperatures. They need it to be higher to keep them comfortable. Turtles are ectothermic animals and they can’t get a fever. Raising the temperature will do it so they can get well sooner. The air and water temperature for a sick turtle should be raised to 4F from normal.

Things to Consider When Choosing Heaters for Turtle Tanks?

Using one or more heaters is the best way to maintain the water temperature on the turtle tank. Heaters are usually available at pet supply stores. Most of them are designed for fish tanks so you need to choose the one suitable for turtle tanks. Before buying the heater, you have to consider two things.

  • Should Have an Outer Protective Cover or Guard

It’s the first thing to consider before buying a heater. Make sure that the outer protective cover is made of metal. Thermal resistant plastic is also good but it should not be glass. You can also go for the stainless steel aquarium heater. It has to be tough and durable.

Having a tough and protected heater is a must for a turtle tank. It’s because turtles are bigger than fish. They also have shells that may break the glass tube of the heater. It’s important to have a heater specifically made for turtle tanks. If they break it, the turtles will get electrocuted.

  • Must Be Powerful Enough

Choose a powerful heater so that it can warm up the water in the tank. That’s the main reason why you are buying a heater. Check the wattage of the heater before purchasing one. Make sure to choose the one with sufficient wattage depending on the size of the turtle tank.

Heater Watts Guide:

20 gallons (75 liters) – 75 Watts

40 gallons (150 liters) – 150 Watts

65 gallons (250 liters) – 250 Watts

75 gallons (300 liters) – 300 Watts

For colder rooms where the turtle tank is located, use a more powerful heater. It needs more heat since the surrounding is cold. But if the location of the turtle tank is already warm, you can use a less powerful heater. Turtles still need to have warm water to be comfortable.

If you use a submersible heater, it should be mounted an inch or more below the surface of the water. Make sure that it’s submerged in water or it will instantly burn out or even explode. Turn off the heater when you have to change the water. It’s not safe to have it in while doing so.

Heat is very important for turtles so you can use more than one heater if necessary. It can serve as a backup in case one suddenly stops working. This will avoid the water temperature from dropping. Make sure to replace the broken heater right away. If you use more than one heater may also extend the life of the other heaters.

How to Choose Heaters for Turtle Tanks

Use non-glass heaters for your turtle tank to avoid accidents. If you have to use a glass heater, choose one with a tough protective cover. As mentioned above, turtles can break the glass heater since they have hard shells. It’s dangerous for turtles since they can get electrocuted which is fatal for them.

Find a heater with adjustable temperature settings since it’s convenient. It will allow you to adjust the water temperature to make your turtle comfortable. Choose a heater that has at least 73F to 85F. It will make the water temperature more suitable for your turtle.

For adult turtles that are native to cooler and temperate climates, they will be fine with lower-range heaters. Choose the heater based on the turtle’s species and where they are native from. It will determine the water temperature they will be more comfortable with.

Avoid making the turtle water too warm for them. For adult aquatic turtles, 78F should be good enough. It should be the maximum heat unless the turtle is sick and needs to be treated. If the water is too warm, it can discourage turtles to bask. Bacterial growth will also occur.

How to Control the Temperature In the Basking Area?

Basking area is a requirement for a turtle tank setup. The temperature should always be just right. If it’s too hot, the turtle will avoid it. Basking is essential for turtles but it will discourage them to bask. However, if it’s too cold, turtles can develop a respiratory infection.

The temperature of the basking areas can be controlled by the lighting. It’s important to control the temperature of the turtle tank. Their survival will be compromised if the turtle is not comfortable with the temperature. Make sure to control the right lighting to encourage them to bask.

During the day, the tank’s temperature should be maintained between 75-85F (24-29C). The basking area should have around 88-100F (31-38C). At night, 70-75F (21-24C) temperature must be maintained. Keep a thermometer to monitor the temperature at all times. Place it on both cool and hot ends of the tank.

What is a Heat Lamp?

A heat lamp is a daylight lamp for turtles. They must grow and stay healthy. The heat lamp provides both heat and light for the turtle. It’s usually placed near the basking area where turtles dry and warm themselves. Turtles need to be exposed to heat during the day.

There are different types of heat lamps available. These are the incandescent, halogen, and reflector heat lamps. They can all help to maintain the tank’s temperature. The heat will help the turtle’s metabolism process. It aids them to absorb the nutrients from the food that they eat every day.

Should I Leave My Turtle’s Heat Lamp On at Night?

You don’t need to leave your turtle heat lamp on at night. Most turtle keepers wonder about this but the answer is no. Turtles will be alright even if you turn off the heat lamp at night. It’s recommended to do so since it’s similar to the wild.

Turtles need to have the right amount of light as well as darkness. Turn off the heat lamp at night to provide them with the darkness they need. During the day, turn the heat lamp on to serve as the sun inside the tank. It will help them have a normal circadian rhythm.

What Heat Lamps Need to Provide Heat?

1. Wattage

When choosing a heat lamp, you need to check the wattage first. It comes with 50 watts, 75 watts, and 100 watts. Choose the wattage from the number of turtles, their sizes, and basking area.

2. Temperature

The temperature needed depends on the turtle species. Although the maximum temperature required by most turtles is between 80 to 90F in their basking area.

Turtles Species and Temperature Needed:

Florida turtle – 85-95F

Eastern turtle – 85-90F

Ornate turtle – 85-90F

Red-eared slider turtle – 80-90F

Map turtles – 80-90F

Musk turtles – 80-90F

Painted Turtles – 80-90F

3. Infrared

Heat lamps operate similarly to luminous lamps. The only difference is that they provide ultraviolet heat. It can last between 9,000 to 15,000 hours. This will provide a stable heat source for your turtle. It’s also energy efficient so you don’t have to worry about your electric bill.

4. Color

Heat lamps can come in different colors such as red, white, and black based on ceramic, incandescent, and halogen. If you need more heat, a black ceramic bulb is the best choice. Although the heat production depends on their quality.

5. Power Point

The power point is important as heat lamps are ceramic made. Use a porcelain socket to prevent overheating. It can damage the lamp or its bulbs if you don’t.

What Temperature is Too Hot for Turtles?

Turtles need heat but don’t make their water temperature too warm for them. For aquatic turtles, they need to have 78F or 25.5 C. That’s the highest temperature for the turtle unless the vet advised you to raise the temperature. Higher than that will be too hot for turtles to survive.

When the water is too warm, it will cause bacterial growth. These bacterias can cause illnesses with turtles. Turtles who live in a cool environment will need lower temperatures than other turtle species. For tropical turtles, they can be comfortable in the middle. Warmer temperatures are ideal for hatchlings and sick turtles.

How Long Should I Leave My Turtle’s Heat Lamp On?

You should leave the turtle’s heat lamp on between 10 to 12 hours. That should be enough for them to stay warm. The heat lamp must be turned on at the same time as the sunrise. That way, it will be similar to their environment in the wild.

When the night falls, you can turn off the heat lamp. It will help your turtle to understand the concept of night and day. That’s important for them to have a normal circadian rhythm. The temperature falls during the night so your turtle should be fine with the heat lamp at night.

Do Turtles Need a Heat Lamp at Night?

No, you should not leave the heat lamp at night. It’s recommended to turn it off at night. Turtles need to get used to the proper light cycle in the tank. It will help their circadian rhythm or the day and night cycle. It teaches the turtle to understand the difference between day and night.

Howard, if you don’t want to leave your turtle in total darkness, use a night light. It has a red or purple-blue color. This will allow you to check your turtle without disturbing them. It also provides heat to make turtles comfortable. You can also use the infrared heat lamp for hatchlings.

Do Turtles Need a Heat Lamp?

Turtles need to have a heat lamp to keep them warm in the tank. They are cold-blooded animals and they can’t regulate their body temperature. Heat is necessary for them to stay warm. Pet turtles don’t have access to go outside the sun. That’s why a heat lamp is a requirement.

Their basking spot needs to have a temperature between 85 to 90F. If you can maintain that temperature even without a heat lamp, then you don’t need one. Although it’s not always possible to maintain the temperature without one. Turtles can get sick without a heat source and may even die.

Without a heat lamp, turtles can face different health issues. Catching a cold is fatal for turtles. It will lead to respiratory infections that make it fatal. That’s why using a heat lamp is vital for their health. Before taking home a turtle, make sure to have a heat lamp on its tank.


1. What Are the Required Turtle’s Light and Temperature Needs?

Turtles are cold-blooded types of animals. Like reptiles, they can’t regulate their body temperature by themselves. They can only do this by absorbing the heat from their environment. Sun provides both when they are in the wild. For indoor pet turtles, they need to have a heat and light source.

Different turtle species required a variety of light and heat requirements. Generally, the air temperature must be between 85to 94F. When it comes to air temperature, it should be at 85F. These should be the turtle tank’s conditions during the day. At night, you can allow the temperature to drop between 5 to 10F.

2. What Other Type of Light Does Your Turtle Need?

Turtles need to have a UV light to get the same light quality from the sun. You should get the UV lamp that is specifically made for reptiles. It will provide them with the UVA and UVB rays they need. When it comes to UV light, there are different options for turtle tanks.

  • Mercury Vapor Lamps

It’s a 3 in 1 lamp which provides heat, UVA, and UVB rays. That will be more convenient since you don’t need to install multiple bulbs on the turtle tank. But it uses more electricity than other options.

  • Two-Lamp System

You can use two separate lamps for the turtle tank. First is the UVA light and the other must be the UVB light to have a two-lamp system. The UVA light which is also known as a basking lamp can also provide heat for the turtle.

  • Optional Lighting

There is another optional lighting that you can get for the turtle tank. One is the viewing lights which allow you to see the turtle during the day. The other one is the nightlights which are red or purple and help you to see the turtle at night.

3. Why Do Turtles Need UVA and UVB Light?

UVA light will provide the turtle warmth and comfort they need. It will help them to maintain their body temperature. This will also regulate their metabolism. It promotes breeding as well as makes their immune system stronger. UVA light is also important to boost their mood and activity.

The UVB on the other hand is responsible for the turtle’s health and well-being. Exposure to UVB light helps them produce vitamin D3. It’s a necessary vitamin to help them metabolize calcium. This is essential for shell growth and bone development. It also helps them to digest their food to avoid malnutrition.

Tips On Using UV Lights

  • Find the best range for turtles is between 2.5% to 5%. Check the appropriate distance to ensure the safety of your turtles.
  • Make sure to change the UVB bulbs every 6 months. The UVB rays will diminish from the bulb over time.
  • Remember that UVB lights are hot and be careful when handling them. They can also cause damage to your eyes so avoid looking directly at them.

4. What Will Happen When Turtles Get Cold?

When the turtles are in the wild, there are times that they can’t find enough heat. During winter, the temperature falls and the sunlight is not accessible for them to stay warm. If the environment gets too cold for them, they will hibernate. That will slow down their activities and metabolism.

During their hibernation, they will go to a restful state. They will only use minimal energy so that they can get through the winter. Once their environment improves, they will wake up after their long slumber and resume their usual activities. That usually happens when summer comes since they will get the heat they need.


Turtles need to have a heat source for their survival. That’s why having a heat lamp is a requirement. It should be installed near the basking area. That way, they can dry their bodies and regulate their body temperature. It will also simulate the wild where they usually live.

Without a heat lamp, turtles will not have the ability to warm themselves. Remember, turtles are reptiles so they are cold-blooded. They can only absorb heat from their environment. Pet turtles can’t just walk outside and get some sunlight. It’s the turtle keeper’s responsibility to provide what they need.

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