Do Turtles Need Heat Lamps? – All About Turtle Heat Lamps

Do turtles need heat lamps? In the wild, turtles bask to get UVA and UVB rays from sunlight for optimal body growth and health maintenance. With UV rays from sunlight, they make Vitamin D inside their body which helps absorb calcium necessary for shell and bone fitness. On the other hand, turtles in captivity can not bask, so it is the responsibility of pet owners to provide them with UVA and UVB rays. 

Some turtle owners equip turtle box enclosures with a UVB bulb, providing turtles with only UVB rays. Lack of UVA light can also lead to poor turtle health, so the question here is, how can you fulfill the UVA rays needs of your turtle, right? A turtle heat lamp is an incredible source of UVA radiation and keeps the turtle temperature normal. In this post, I will explain why turtles need heat lamps.

Why Do Turtles Need Heat Lamp?

Turtles are cold-blooded animals, which means they cannot regulate their body temperature. They have a minimal amount of blood circulating in the body, so if it gets too cold or hot, their blood gets stuck in the veins and prevents them from producing enough heat to keep them warm. An external heat source such as sunlight is necessary for them to survive. 

Turtles captivated in the indoor enclosure require heat lamps to get the UVA light artificially. With these rays, they can not survive because it helps them grow optimally and function well. Turtle’s natural behavior, such as feeding, mating, and sleeping, relies on UVA light.

How Can A Turtle Survive Without A Heat Lamp?

Pet turtles can survive without a heat lamp in the following conditions:

  1. If you live in a warm area, you can put your turtle in a water bucket inside the screened porch. 
  2. Inside your house, you can dedicate a warm room for your turtle, and it could be equipped with a turtle basking light as well.

What Are The Alternatives To Heat Lamp For Turtles?

There are two alternatives to the turtle heat lamp:

Mercury Vapor Bulb

Turtles need two types of light for their development: UVB light and UVA light. Heat lamps only provide UVA light, so you can use a mercury vapor bulb as an alternative because it is a prominent source of both UVA and UVB light. With mercury vapor bulbs, you can save space as you only have to equip one bulb instead of two bulbs.

The running cost of a mercury vapor bulb is almost the same as a heat lamp and a UVB bulb together. Some people have reported that mercury vapor bulbs explode over a period of time. I suggest you use these bulbs as an alternative to heating lamps and UVB bulbs when you do have any other choice left.

Heat Pads

Head Pads can be meticulous for reptiles like snakes, lizards, and crocodiles, but they are outrageous for turtles. Turtles do not get heat the way they need from heat pads, so they are not ideal in general. In order to maintain their shells, turtles require heat from the top. The heat from the bottom is only 35% sufficient for turtles compared to heat from the top.

do turtles need heat lamps

What Temperature Do Turtles Need?

We all know all pet turtles need a heat lamp in their box enclosure but do not need the same temperature. The following table will tell you what the temperature of the turtle enclosure should be according to the turtle species:

Turtle SpeciesTemperature On Fahrenheit ScaleTemperature On Celsius Scale
Snapping Turtle90 To 95 Degree32 To 35 Degree
Juvenile Snapping Turtle95 To 100 Degree35 To 37 Degree
Cooter Turtle80 To 85 Degree26 To 29 Degree
Juvenile Cooter Turtle90 To 100 Degree32 To 37 Degree
Pond Turtle 85 To 95 Degree29 To 35 Degree
Juvenile Pond Turtle90 To 100 Degree32 To 37 Degree
Musk Turtle85 To 90 Degree29 To 32 Degree
Juvenile Musk Turtle90 To 100 Degree32 To 37 Degree
Mud Turtle90 To 95 Degree32 To 35 Degree
Juvenile Mud Turtle90 To 100 Degree32 To 37 Degree
Map Turtle 75 To 80 Degree24 To 26 Degree
Juvenile Map Turtle80 To 90 Degree26 To 32 Degree
Box Turtle80 To 90 Degree26 To 32 Degree
Juvenile Box Turtle90 To 95 Degree32 To 35 Degree
Red-Eared Slider Turtle90 To 95 Degree32 To 35 Degree
Juvenile Red-Eared Slider Turtle95 To 100 Degree35 To 37 Degree

What Should Be The Water Temperature for Turtle Tank? 

Many pet turtle keepers question: What Temperature Should A Turtle Tank Be? Unlike the basking side of the turtle housing, the wet side (turtle tank) should be slightly low. Any between 72 to 77°F (22 to 24°C) will be adequate turtle tank temperature. You can use the following apparatus for this purpose:

  1. Turtle Tank Light.
  2. Turtle Tank Lamp.

How To Find A Turtle Feeling Cold?

For beginners, it is difficult to spot a turtle feeling cold because they can not read its expressions. Put up the thermometer inside the turtle tank so you can monitor the temperature inside the aquarium anytime. If you notice the temperature falling below 70°F (21°C), then realize that your pet is in trouble. 

Following are some symptoms that your turtle is feeling cold.

  • Discharge around its face
  • Weird sound
  • Trouble in breathing
  • Change in appetite
  • Swimming way too less

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do Painted Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?

Yes, if you have a painted turtle, it is necessary to fit a heat lamp in their enclosure. It is not just about giving them a place to bask in the sun. Painted turtles need somewhere safe to hide when they want peace. Giving them a heat lamp is beneficial to make them feel comfortable during cold weather or at night. 

Do Red-Eared Sliders Need A Heat Lamp?

Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic turtles, so they spend most of their time basking on logs or rocks near the water. Do you own sliders as pets? Then provide them with a heat source through heat lamps as an alternative to sunlight. Red-eared sliders do require UVB and UVA lighting for proper growth, breeding, and sleeping.

Do Turtles Need A Heater?

The turtle is a cold-blooded animal and does not have a layer of fat like many other creatures do. While moving around and basking in the sun will keep them warm, this is not possible for a captivated turtle. A pet turtle needs a heat source like a heater that you can easily adjust to keep it warm but also safe for it to use.

Do Turtles Need Heat Lamp At Night?

Turtles are nocturnal animals. You will need to provide them with a heat lamp at night. Place the heat lamp on the floor near the tank and turn it on to give off some heat. To assure that your turtles are warm at night, you need to maintain the enclosure/aquarium temperature between 82°F and 90°F.

Final Words

Do turtles need heat lamps? Pet turtles can not bask like their wild counterparts. In the wild, far away from human settlement, turtles can soak up the sun rays and get a dose of UVA and UVB rays on their body. With these rays, they can make Vitamin D inside their body which helps absorb calcium necessary for shell and bone fitness. By using a heat lamp, you ensure that turtles attain the process of vitamin D synthesis in their enclosure.

You may also like: How Big Do Box Turtles Get?

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Hey, I've done my Ph.D. in Marine Biology. I'm a turtle enthusiast and have been owning turtles for the last 22 years and dedicated to sharing my experience to help you in pet turtle upbringing.