Do Turtles Like to Be in the Sun?

Copyright: julietdreamhunter

Turtles need to bask to help them regulate their body temperature. Unlike other animals, they can’t do it on their own. They have to go under the sun or on the basking platform of their tank. Turtles need to dry their bodies and get the UVA/UVB rays they need to stay healthy.

They need to get these to produce vitamin D3. That’s what keeps their shell as well as their bones strong. Turtles can’t regulate their own body temperature. When they feel cold, they will get out of the water to warm up. Going under the sun will help them dry out to avoid infections.

When the turtle’s body temperature goes up to 105F, it’s time for them to dive in the water. They need to get out of the sun and cool themselves. Their metabolism also depends on their body temperature. Basking is an essential activity for turtles to stay healthy and active.

Sun and nature provide turtles the ability to bask. They can get the UV rays they need from the wild. But if they live in a turtle tank, the turtle keeper is the one responsible to provide that. You have to add UV lights on their basking spot so they can bask properly even in an enclosure.

Do Turtles Like to Be In the Sun?

Turtles like to be in the sun more than any other animal. They are cold-blooded which makes them love the sun more. It will help them to stay warm to maintain their body temperature. Basking in the sun is one of their favorite activities when they are in their natural habitat.

In the wild, turtles bask in the sun. Not only do they like it but it’s an essential activity for them. If they are in captivity, they bask in the basking area. The sun helps their body produce vitamin D3 and calcium. It’s necessary to keep them healthy and avoid getting sick.

In a turtle tank, the UVB lamp will act as the sun for your pet turtle. Aquatic turtles can’t retain heat for long. That’s why they need to bask every day to regulate their body temperature. It will help them stay warm and comfortable even in captivity.

Turtles That Need Sunlight

Sunlight is free and it’s accessible for every turtle in the wild. It’s nature’s way of taking care of them. As a turtle keeper, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your turtle is getting the sunlight it needs. They need sunlight to survive since it’s essential when they go on basking.

Turtles bask in the sun to help them produce vitamin D3. It’s essential to process the calcium from their diet. UVA and UVB from the sun are necessary for their health. Without it, they will die over time if they don’t absorb UV rays.

It’s recommended to expose turtles to sunlight every day. Below is the list of turtles that need sunlight a few hours daily to stay alive and active.

  • Sea Turtles
  • Eastern Pacific Green Turtles
  • Baby Turtles
  • Box Turtles
  • Painted Turtles
  • Red-Eared Sliders
  • Yellow-Bellied Sliders
  • Mud Turtles
  • Snapping Turtles
  • Common Musk Turtles
  • Map Turtles
  • Wood Turtles

How Turtles Get Sunlight?

Turtles need sunlight especially in the wild. It helps them to fight off infections and diseases. Exposure to sunlight is essential for the turtle’s survival. They have different methods of getting sunlight. But the reason behind this is the same. Turtles need heat and UV rays from the sun.

1. Water Basking

Some turtles don’t have access to land to go basking. Sea turtles were able to have a different method of basking. They usually stay in the sea for a long time. Without an accessible land area to bask, they do water basking instead.

Turtles don’t need to be out of the water to get the sun rays they need. It can still penetrate in shallow waters. Sea turtles float on the surface of the water to bask. That way, they can get into the sun without getting out of the water. It helps them to be in top condition.

Not only do sea turtles do this type of basking. River turtles such as mud turtles do water basking as well. Although they do this in the rivers or streams instead. But water basking doesn’t suit other types of pond turtles. Slider turtles and painted turtles need to be completely dry.

2. Basking on Land

Many pond turtles bask on land and it’s more common. They will look for a location where it’s dry such as a log or rock. When basking on land, the turtle just needs to sit there for some time. It will allow their shell and body to dry off completely.

As they bask, their body temperature will rise steadily. It will help their bodies to feel warm enough. It usually reaches over 100F. When that happens, they will go back in the water to cool off. Turtles will also eat and swim after basking on land then repeat the process daily.

It happens in the wild since turtles have all they need from nature. Basking is an essential part of a turtle’s life. It keeps them away from infections as well as parasites. Although nature can be tough at times, they are still able to survive since it has everything they need.

3. Basking in a Turtle Tank

Unfortunately, some turtles don’t have access to the sun. That’s why it’s important to give them an alternative. To help them stay healthy, artificial UV lights should work just fine. Painted turtles and slider turtles need both of the UVA/UVB rays. It will provide them with what their body needs.

Turtles need to be exposed to UV lights regularly. It will help them to synthesize vitamin D3 and calcium. Both nutrients will help them keep their bones healthy as well as their shells. Without the UV light, it will cause them to develop metabolic bone disease which is bad.

It’s important to make sure that your pet turtle has a basking area. They also need to have the UV lights that will produce the UV rays they need. Additionally, they also need a heating lamp to be warm. That will keep them healthy and comfortable even without the sunlight.

How Much Sunlight Do Turtles Need?

Basking in the sunlight is ideal for turtles. Aquatic turtles can be seen basking on the rocks or logs in the wild. They must keep their bodies dry. They also need to absorb the UVA/UVB rays from the sun. This activity will keep them warm and healthy.

For pet turtles, they should bask a couple of times a week in direct sunlight. 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight should be enough for them. That’s in addition to the artificial lights on the tank. If they don’t have artificial UV lights, they can get sunlight between 2 to 4 hours daily.

They need to be exposed to direct sunlight to meet their needs. Make sure that there are no predators around when you take the turtle outside. Keep them safe and avoid leaving them unattended. That way, your turtle will enjoy the sun without having to worry about getting eaten.

Artificial UV Lights

In the wild, turtles can get ample sunlight from nature when they are basking. However, turtle keepers are not always available to bring the turtles outside. Turtles need to absorb UV rays to stay in top condition. But you can have an alternative to make sure your turtle stays healthy.

As much as turtles like basking in the sun, sometimes it’s just impossible. Whatever your reason why you can’t take them out, you can still keep them healthy. Artificial UV light is a good alternative since it can act like the sun for pet turtles. You can add this to their basking area.

Artificial UV lights provide the same benefits as sunlight for turtles. You can get UVA and UVB lights for your turtle. They are available in specialized shops that provide lamps for reptiles. When choosing UVB lights, check the UVB concentration. It will act as a replacement for sunlight so it has to be good.

Main Types of UVB Lights for Turtles

  • Mercury Vapor Bulbs
  • Compact Bulbs
  • UVB Tube Bulbs

Be careful when installing electrical equipment. Ensure your pet’s safety by getting help from an electrician. That way, you don’t have to worry about causing a misfit to your turtle or end up getting electrocuted.

How Long Can I Keep My Red-Eared Slider Turtle Out in the Sun?

In general, turtles need to be out in the sun a few hours daily. Exposing your red-eared slider turtle to direct sunlight is ideal. Make sure that the temperature inside their tank will not be too high. If the turtle tank is made of glass or acrylic, it can get too warm for them.

All turtles need to be out in the sun for between 2 to 4 hours every day. But if they have artificial UV lights, 20 to 30 minutes should be enough for them. Avoid taking the turtle out of a cage when getting some sunlight. That will ensure its safety from predators.

If you don’t want to let your red-eared slider out to get some sunlight, make sure to add a UV light. It can be installed in the turtle tank on the side where they bask. A full spectrum ultraviolet fluorescent light should be installed. It provides a more natural environment for the turtle.

Replace the bulbs every 6 months since their ability to emit UV light diminishes. The UV light must be within 18 to 24 inches from the turtle. Add a timer on the UV lights to mimic the day and night cycle. Although sunlight will be better for turtles, artificial UV lights work too.

Why Do Turtles Need to Sun Themselves?

Turtles have different needs and basking under the sun is one of them. They need to get exposed to sunlight. Especially if they don’t have artificial UV lights on their tank. There are different reasons why turtles need to sun themselves. But the most important reason is for their survival.

1. Warms the Turtle’s Body

One of the reasons why turtles need the sun is to warm their bodies. In the wild, aquatic turtles bask daily under the sun. Turtles are ectothermic which means that they cannot regulate their own body temperature like other animals. They only rely on the heat coming from their environment.

The sun provides heat and warms turtle’s bodies. It will help their metabolism to work properly. When their body temperature rises, it will help them fight diseases. It will be harmful to them if their body temperature doesn’t rise. They will be prone to bacteria and infections that will make them sick.

2. Helps to Dry Turtle’s Shell and Skin

Exposure to sunlight will help to dry out turtles skin and their shells. They need to do this every day. Basking in the sun will help the excess moisture to dry up. It can avoid parasites from attaching themselves to the turtle when it’s dry in direct sunlight.

Turtles spend different amounts of time in the water. Aquatic turtles mostly stay in the water. But they have to avoid staying for too long in the water. It will increase their chances of getting harmful fungi and bacteria. Basking in the sun will prevent them from suffering from shell rot.

3. Turtles Absorbs UV Rays

Getting out of the sun will help the turtles to absorb UV rays. UVA and UVB rays are the essential rays they need. It helps them to regulate their metabolism. UVA rays improve their appetite, physical activities, as well as their breeding behavior. But it’s only present in the sunlight.

UVB rays will promote the process of calcium and vitamin D3. These nutrients are essential for the development of shells and bones. Turtles absorb UVB rays when they go basking. Without UVB, titles cannot produce vitamin D3. It will make the calcium they get from food useless in its absence.

Vitamin D3 Deficiency in Turtles

  • Bone Decay

Bone decay can happen if the turtle did not get enough calcium. The problem is, it will not be synthesized without the help of vitamin D3. It may include swollen or bowed legs, arched spine, bumps on leg bones, spine, and tail. Bilateral softening of the jaw, carapace, and plastron can also happen.

  • Shell Rot

Turtles can suffer from shell rot when vitamin D3 deficiency occurs. It will make its entire scutes fall. When that happens, the bone and nerves will be exposed. It’s caused by the overgrowth of bacteria from a dirty environment. These bacteria will likely survive if the turtle did not bask.

  • Limited Growth

Turtles require enough quantities of vitamin D3. It will allow normal calcium and phosphorus metabolism which is essential for growth. They are also needed for turtle’s development, reproduction, healthy skeleton, and blood biochemistry. Vitamin D3 deficiency will affect the turtle’s growth. So make sure to let them bask in the sun.

  • Premature Death

It can happen if the turtle doesn’t absorb UVB rays for an extended time. The turtle will be lacking vitamin D3 and it can’t absorb the calcium from the food they eat. It will be prone to diseases that will end in premature death.

4. Maintains Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm is the day and night cycle. Exposing them to sunlight will maintain this cycle for turtles. The sunlight will help the turtle to see the difference between night and day. Turtles will follow their daily routine that way. Without the light, this will lead to the turtle’s stress and anxiety.


1. Why Do Turtles Sunbathe with Their Legs Out?

Turtles stretch their legs out to get more heat. The UV rays the sun emits are also essential for them. Even when the heat is already radiated to their bodies, they still do this. They are cold-blooded and can’t control their body temperature. Turtles also widen out their feet to increase the surface area the sun covers.

Sunbathing also helps with the turtle’s metabolism and thermoregulation. It will increase their digestive and immune system. When the turtle absorbs UVB rays from the sun, it will become vitamin D3. It’s important since it processes calcium which makes the bones and shells strong.

2. Can I Put My Turtle in the Sun?

Yes, you can put your turtle in the sun provided that you will do this carefully. Turtles need to be in direct sunlight to be warm and dry off. Avoid exposing the turtle tank directly to sunlight. The water and tank’s temperature may increase. It will make the turtle uncomfortable.

Instead of doing this, take out the turtle from the tank if possible. Make sure to check for predators that may be lurking around. Stay with your turtle to ensure its safety. Let it enjoy the sunlight for at least two hours. If it has a UV lamp, 30 minutes will be enough sun exposure.

3. Why Do Turtles Sunbathe?

Turtles bask in the sun or under an artificial UV light. They need to do it every day for a few hours. The reason why they sunbathe is to absorb UVB light. It produces vitamin D3 to help process calcium. That Will help them to have healthy bones, shells, and organs.

Another reason is that the sun emits UVA rays. It helps turtle’s metabolism, regulates their mood, and breeding cycle. Lastly, turtles bask in the sun to warm up their bodies and dry off. They can’t do this without the help of sunlight since they are cold-blooded, unlike other animals.

4. How Long Should Turtles Bask in the Sun?

Basking in the sun is important for a turtle’s survival. They have to do this between 2 to 8 hours every day. Map turtles and sliders have this basking routine. As long as they go back to the water to cool off, it should be fine. Turtles in the wild know this by instinct.

In captivity, pet turtles depend on their keeper. Excessive basking will dehydrate the turtle. So make sure to check on your turtle if it’s basking more than usual. It’s also advisable to avoid leaving your turtle under the sun unattended. It will avoid the turtles being dehydrated or getting attacked by predators.

5. How Long Can I Keep My Turtles Outside?

For your turtle’s safety, it’s best if you take it outside for a few hours daily. That way, it can catch some UV rays, exercise, and get some fresh air. Build a heated structure to house your turtle if possible. The turtle can go inside to bask when it’s cold outside.

Turtles can stay outside for up to 8 hours maximum a day. But make sure to not leave it by itself. Predators may be waiting to get their chance. If you can’t stay outside the house that long, make sure to bring the turtle back to its tank as well.

6. Do Baby Turtles Need Sunlight?

Baby turtles also need enough sunlight to help them grow. Like adults, baby turtles need to absorb the UVB rays from the sun. It will help them synthesize Vitamin D which is necessary to optimize shell growth and bone development.

If baby turtles didn’t get sufficient amounts of UVB rays, it would increase the development of metabolic bone disease. It’s harmful and fatal for turtles to have this condition. Therefore, it’s better to make sure the baby turtles get enough sunlight.

7. Will Turtles Die from the Sun?

Turtles bask in the sunlight for several hours daily. They can’t die from the sun but the excessive heat can. It’s harmful to turtles to be exposed directly to the heat of the sun. The best thing to do is to have a shaded area so that they can avoid it.

They also do the same thing in the wild. Turtles can’t stand too much heat since it will dehydrate them fast. As a turtle keeper, you can protect the turtle by making sure it will not happen. Check on the turtle tank’s temperature as well to avoid it from absorbing excessive heat.


Turtles like to be in the sun because it provides them with the essential rays they need. Sunlight is accessible for all the turtles around. It’s also their main source of heat in the wild. Although you can use artificial UV lights, sunlight is still best. Letting your turtle sunbathe every day will also make them happy.

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