Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area?

Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area

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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.

The softshell turtles do need a basking area for themselves. Even though they barely come to the dock, providing the area will keep them healthy and vigorous.

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.

Why Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Dock?

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:

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

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.

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.
READ  Where Do Softshell Turtles Live?


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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Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping turtles as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my turtle keeping knowledge with you.

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