Does A Tortoise Need Heat Lamp At Night?

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

External heat is mandatory for tortoises to lead a healthy and normal life. The heating lamps usually keep the tortoises active during the day. But what about the night? Do pets require a heating source at night?

A heating lamp is unnecessary for tortoises at night as long as the surrounding is comfortable. But if the temperature falls below 45F, turn on the lights to keep the tortoises warm. Again, tortoises may want extra warmth at night if they are sick. Similarly, the babies also seek heat right after they are born.

Keep reading for quick insight.

Key Takeaways

  • Heating lamps are mandatory for indoor tortoises all year round. Keep the lights on only during the day. In warm seasons, tortoises do not need extra heat at night.
  • On winter nights, you may have to keep the heating light on if the temperature drops below 45F or the pets are cold.
  • A heating lamp radiates both heat and light, which interrupts the sleep cycle. Go for alternatives like ceramic plates, heating rocks, heat radiation panels, etc.

Do Tortoises Need A Heating Lamp At Night?

Tortoises do not need a heating lamp after dark in normal conditions (summer, autumn, or spring night). The environment is warm and comfortable for these creatures. Adding a heating lamp will interrupt the sleep cycle of the pets.

But a heating lamp is absolutely necessary for winter and chilly weather. Professionals advise managing an additional heating source if the temperature drops below 45F at night.

In most cases, indoor tortoises do not require a nighttime heating lamp. It is because the indoor environment stays warm even in cold weather. Again, tortoises will not feel the temperature fall if you insulate the enclosure properly.

Moreover, burrowing outdoor tortoises also need no additional heating source on winter nights. Soil is a natural insulator and keeps it warm inside the hole.

The vets sometimes suggest keeping the heating bulbs on after dark in case the tortoises are sick and suffering from cold diseases. This scenario is more true for the newborn hatchlings and baby tortoises.

Why Is A Heating Lamp At Night Not Recommended?

While heating lamps are necessary for tortoise enclosures, keeping the bulbs on at night is not recommended. The reasons are,

1. An Interruption To Sound Sleeping

See, tortoises are ectothermic creatures, which means they are cold-blooded. These pets rely on the surrounding heat to warm their bodies and function properly.

In the wild and outdoor enclosures, the sun provides the tortoises enough heat to continue with their daily life. But when in an indoor habitat, you must set up a heating lamp.

Ideally, you must keep the lamps on for 10 – 14 hours a day and turn the lights off at night. In other words, tortoises need total darkness to sleep peacefully. It is because the species follow a circadian rhythm (the cycle of day and night) to track time. Again, as being diurnal, they will sleep after the dark.

Light sources in any form can interrupt the circadian rhythm and interrupt their sleep. No wonder tortoises sleep with closed eyes to eliminate brightness when resting.

2. Less Sleeping Hours & Discomfort

Again, because of being cold-blooded, the tortoise’s routine depends on the surrounding temperature. For example, chilly weather will force the pets to enter hibernation. It is why experts suggest dropping the pen temperature by a few degrees at night. Thus, tortoises will have a peaceful sleep.

Keeping the heating sources on at night will surely ruin this plan. A warm temperature will keep the tortoises active and make them sleep-deprived.

3. Other Risks

Exposure to heat for extended hours can cause health issues other than sleep deprivation. For example, tortoises will be stressed and aggressive all the time. The pets will experience extreme fatigue.

Besides, there is a risk of heat stroke and dehydration among the tortoises.

Tortoise Heating Lamp Setting

Your pets need a heating bulb during the daytime. The lamp temperature varies from species to species, according to their requirements. Go through the temperature setting necessary for these pets from below,

Tortoise SpeciesHeating Lamp Temperature
Sulcata Tortoises105F
Hermann’s Tortoises90F – 105F
Leopard Tortoises95F – 100F
Greek Tortoises95F – 100F
Russian Tortoises95F – 100F
Indian Star Tortoises90F – 95F
Marginated Tortoises90F – 105F
Egyptian Tortoises90F – 100F
Radiated Tortoises95F
Red Footed Tortoises/ Yellow Tortoises85F – 90F
Elongated Tortoises85F – 90F
Burmese Tortoises90F – 100F
Spider Tortoises100F
Hingeback Tortoises90F
Texas tortoises90F – 95F
Chaco Tortoises90F
Pancake Tortoises95F – 108F
Impressed Tortoises80F – 90F

Never exceed these temperature ranges in the tortoise enclosure. Otherwise, the pets will look for an escape due to the heat.

Set the heating lamp in such a position that it creates a temperature gradient throughout the pen. That way, tortoises can settle in a place with a comfortable heat.

The mentioned temperatures are usually maintained during the daytime. Drop the temperatures by 5F – 10F if you have to keep the lamp on at night.

5 Heating Lamp Alternatives For Tortoises

Now we know an additional heating source is necessary, even at night, when the temperature falls below 45F. Many owners use the existing heating lamp for this purpose. But there is a problem with keeping the light on during the night.

Tortoises are diurnal and sleep as it gets dark. Any brightness will interrupt their sleep cycle. This is why experts suggest avoiding heating lamps and looking for alternatives for warmth. Some ideas are,

1. Heating Mats

Unlike the lamps, these mats will radiate heat without any brightness. Therefore, the tortoises will have no problem sleeping while enjoying the warmth on cold nights.

Many keepers avoid heating mats as there is always a risk of electrocution. For example, if you bury the pads under the substrate, the tortoises will reach them during burrowing. Even a small leakage on the mat surface is enough to electrocute and hurt the pets.

Hence, install the heating mats on the enclosure lids to avoid such accidents. Click here to access more information on heating pads for tortoises.

2. Ceramic Plates

Infrared-red dull emitters or ceramic pads also radiate heat without any brightness. But these pads have the same issue with sockets as the mats. Also, the plates sometimes malfunction and heat up to a degree that can burn the tortoises.

3. Heating Rocks

Many keepers place heating rocks inside the pen to keep the surroundings warm. But as you know, tortoises sometimes nibble on rocks and scratch them. Hence, there is a risk of getting electrocuted.

4. Blue/ Red Night Lamps

These lights are perfect for nighttime use. These lamps radiate enough heat and low brightness. On top of that, there is no risk of getting an electrical shock.

5. Radiant Heat Panels

The panels are mostly used in winter outdoor tortoise enclosures. But you can install the pads in indoor homes too. Mount the panels on the wall and maintain a barrier to keep the tortoises safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use A Mercury Vapor Bulb At Night?

Honestly, mercury vapor bulbs are excellent alternatives for heating lamps. But I will not suggest them for nighttime use. It is because these lights radiate both heat and UV rays. While heat can help the tortoises at night in winter, there is no need for excess UV rays.

Do Tortoises Need Heating Lamps On Summer Nights?

There is no need for extra heat on summer nights. Again, heating lights are not designed for nighttime use in any season. If your tortoises need heat on winter nights, go for ceramic plates, radiate panels, or red bulbs as a heating lamp alternative.

Do Tortoises Heat All The Time?

Tortoises are cold-blooded creatures, and they need heat to perform their daily tasks. Without heat, the pets will be sluggish and spend their time sleeping. As the tortoises are diurnal, a continuous heat source only during the day will work.

Before You Go…

Heating lamps are mandatory in all indoor turtle enclosures too. Not installing these bulbs can have a negative impact on the pet’s health. I have discussed the significance of a heating lamp for turtles in the link below.

Do Turtles Need A Heating Lamp? Why?

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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