Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area?

Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Softshell turtles are very aquatic species and spend most of their time swimming underwater. You will barely find a softshell turtle on the land area or basking dock. That makes many people think if the softshell turtles need a basking area or not.

Yes, softshell turtles do need a basking area. Basking helps them regulate their body temperature, absorb UVB rays for vitamin D3 synthesis, and dry off to prevent fungal infections. Ensure the basking area is easily accessible and has both UVA and UVB lighting. Regular basking is essential for their health and well-being.

If you have ever doubted the significance of basking dock in a softshell turtle’s life, then try this article. I will discuss which type of dock is better for the softshell turtles and the importance of it.

Key Takeaways

  • Basking helps softshell turtles regulate body temperature, absorb UVB rays for vitamin D3 synthesis, and dry off to prevent fungal infections.
  • Continuous wetness can lead to respiratory diseases and make softshell turtles’ shells susceptible to bacterial growth, causing shell rot.
  • Basking under a UV lamp helps softshell turtles absorb vitamin D3 and calcium, preventing metabolic bone diseases.
  • Apart from the basking area, other essential setups for a softshell turtle tank include a spacious tank, muddy substrate, water filter, heating bulb, UV lamp, tank heater, and an air stone for oxygenation.

Why Do Softshell Turtles Need To bask?

I have seen many beginner turtle owners who do not even know if softshell turtles bask or not. Yes, it is true that softshell turtles are aquatic and barely leave the water. The species use their long necks and snorkel-like noses to breathe air from the surface keeping the rest of the body in the water.

Their love for water does not prove that they do not need a basking area. From time to time, the softshell turtles have to come to a completely dry area. The turtles bask there under the sun in the wild, and under the heat or UV lamp in the captivity.

Here are some importance of providing a basking dock to the softshell turtles:

Drying The Body:

The softshell turtles are cold-blooded species. After a long swim under the low-temperature water, they need a warm place to dry the bodies. Staying wet for too long can lead the softshell turtles to respiratory diseases.

Shell Rot/Shell Diseases:

The shell of the softshell turtle is kind of soft and not like any other turtle species. Keeping the shell wet for too long makes the surface ideal for the bacteria and algae to spread. This situation can cause shell rot and other shell diseases.

Vitamin D3 & Calcium:

Like other turtles, softshell turtles can not absorb vitamin D3 and calcium without the help of a UV lamp.

If there is a lack of vitamin D and calcium in your softshell turtle, it will suffer from the MBD or metabolic bone diseases.

The turtles bask in the dock under the UV lamp, which helps them stay healthy and happy.

Improves Immunity:

Basking increases a softshell turtle’s metabolism, boosts its digestion, and improves its immunity and activity level.

These are the reasons why you need to build a basking dock for the softshell turtles.

How To Build A Basking Area For The Softshell Turtle?

Now you know how important it is to provide a basking dock to the softshell turtles. You can easily build a dock for the pet or buy a commercial one. Here are some problems people face regarding their softshell turtle’s basking dock:

  • The basking station is too small for the pet or too big that it covers most of the enclosure.
  • The dock can not endure the weight of the softshell turtle.
  • The station is too unstable or slippery, or there is no rampage for the pet to get in there.

Just because of all these issues, I suggest learning more about the docks before building or selecting one.

The basking station should be high enough that the water level can not match the height. But it should be slightly inclined, or there must be a ramp. Otherwise, the softshell turtle would need to struggle a lot to get on the basking dock.

However, you have to make sure the station is right under the UV or heating lamp. This way, the pet turtles will be able to absorb the warmth and dry their bodies. Also, ensure that the dock has no rough or pointy sides. The pet can get hurt easily, so keep the basking station smooth.

If you want to build a basking dock by yourself, here are some things that you can use:

  • Driftwood
  • Large smooth stones
  • Flat floating surfaces
  • Plastic
  • Foams
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Metal sheets

I have shown 4 ways to make your own DIY Basking Area here!

Some of these materials are kind of heavy. You need to plan a solid base for these types of docks and make sure the basking station stays stable. Also, build a rampage for the softshell turtles so that they can easily get on the dock.

Turtle Basking: Why, When, How? [Infographic]

If you want a printable version of this PDF, click here. Please link back to this source if you use the infographic on any other website!

How To Buy The Perfect Basking Dock For The Softshell Turtles?

You have the option to buy a commercial basking dock for your softshell turtles. The factory-made basking stations are good looking, more arranged, and more comfortable for the turtles.

Many buyers get confused while selecting the perfect basking dock for their softshell turtles. Here are some tips:

  1. The basking dock must be spacious enough for the pets to move around. You know the softshell turtles are quite big. Keep their size in mind before selecting the dock.
  2. The dock must have a climbable ramp.
  3. Make sure the basking station is not too large or too small.
  4. The dock should hold at least the weight of 2 to 3 softshell turtles. Now, remember, the softshell turtle can weigh more than 40 lbs.

Here are my personal favorite basking docks for the softshell turtles:

  1. Penn Plax reptology turtle topper
  2. Zoo Med turtle dock
  3. Zoo Med pond turtle dock

If you want to learn the pros and cons of these commercial docks, then check this article.

spiny softshell turtle

Additional Setups In The Softshell Turtle’s Tank

Just providing the perfect sized tank is not enough for a softshell turtle’s good health. There are some other things you need to set up too. Here are some short suggestions for you:

  1. Tank: Always choose the softshell turtle’s enclosure wisely. As they are quite big, you may need a 75 to 125 gallon tank to raise them.
  2. Substrate: The softshell turtles prefer a muddy substrate. You can also plant small trees if you put a good substrate. Make sure the layer is thick and safe for the pets.
  3. Water filter: Softshell turtles are very aquatic and barely come out of the water. That is why water quality matters the most for this species. Install a water filter to ensure the best water quality.
  4. Light: The softshell turtles are cold-blooded species. They depend on external sources to regulate body temperature. Set up a proper heating bulb and UV lamp to keep the pets healthy.
  5. Tank heater: You need to maintain a warm temperature in the water area too. Installing a tank heater is the best way to maintain the water temperature.
  6. Air stone: To maintain a good oxygenation level inside the water, you can set up an air stone in the softshell turtle’s enclosure.

do softshell turtles bask in wild?

Yes, softshell turtles do bask in the wild. Here’s a brief explanation in bullet points:

  • Softshell turtles, like many other turtle species, exhibit basking behavior where they come out of the water to rest and warm up under the sun.
  • Basking helps turtles in thermoregulation, which is the process of maintaining their internal body temperature. By absorbing heat from the sun, they can raise their body temperature.
  • Basking also allows turtles to absorb ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, which is essential for the synthesis of vitamin D3. This vitamin is crucial for calcium metabolism and overall health.
  • Softshell turtles have a unique, leathery shell, unlike the hard shells of other turtles. Basking helps in drying out their shells, which can prevent fungal and bacterial infections.
  • While basking, softshell turtles remain alert and can quickly retreat to the water if they sense a threat. Their flattened bodies enable a swift dive back into the water.
  • Softshell turtles are often found in freshwater habitats like rivers, lakes, and ponds. Sandy or muddy banks of these water bodies are common basking spots for them.


Like all other turtle species, the softshell turtles also need a basking area. Basking under the sun or the UV lamp helps the turtle boost their energy and stay healthy. You can build or buy a commercial basking dock for your softshell turtle.

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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