Proper Lighting Guide For Box Turtles [#1 Resource]

proper lighting guide for box turtles

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

Box turtle enclosure requires proper lighting, substrate, humidity, and so on. So every turtle owner needs to have minimum knowledge about these factors. Throughout these years, I have been looking for the best lighting for a box turtle. Finally, I have found the proper lighting arrangement for my pet box turtle.

The best light should have all the functions of controlling temperature and everything else. Again, many bulbs overheat from time to time. You must avoid these bulbs.

In this article, I will write about everything you need to know about the lighting arrangement of a box turtle’s enclosure. If you are confused about which light to use, read the full article. I hope you will get your answer.

box turtle habitat
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

What Types Of Light Do We Use In A Box Turtle’s Enclosure?

We know that a box turtle can not control its body temperature. It depends on the temperature of its surroundings. To maintain a decent temperature, we need to provide a heat bulb or heating light in the box turtle’s enclosure.

Again, a captive box turtle does not have the freedom to enjoy the natural sunlight. Natural sunlight has a specific UV ray that helps a box turtle to build its bone, shell, and health. So, as a responsible turtle owner, we have to provide a UV light to the box turtle’s enclosure.

It means we need two types of light in a box turtle’s enclosure.

  1. Heating Light 
  2. UV light

Why Do We Need A Heating Light In The Box Turtle Enclosure?

Humans are endotherms, which means they can control their body temperature. But when it comes to a box turtle, it is ectotherms. It means a box turtle depends on an external source to maintain its internal temperature.

Without a lighting source, a box turtle can’t maintain its body metabolism. That is why a heating light or a heating bulb is essential for the enclosure.

When you set up a heating light in the enclosure, you have to provide at least 12 to 14 hours of heat to it. During hot summer days, you can provide heat to the enclosure around 10 hours a day. But at the winder, or during the severe cold season, the light must be on at least 14 hours a day.

Importance of proper temperature in a box turtle’s enclosure

If you are keeping your box turtle at low heat, it will affect its overall body metabolism. The box turtle will start to eat less, which will make the turtle’s activity fragile.

At low temperatures, a box turtle’s immune system does not work accurately. It makes the box turtle more vulnerable to diseases. The box turtle gets more severe diseases, and its health becomes worse.

When you provide a proper lighting system to the enclosure, the enclosure remains warm. In a warm environment, the box turtle can continue all its daily activities without any trouble.

At a warm temperature, a box turtle can eat according to its daily routine. Again, a hot and moist heat makes a box turtle safe from many diseases. When a box turtle gets an infection, it needs to be taken to a warm environment. In most cases, germs can not endure high temperatures.

I hope I have made the importance of proper temperature of an enclosure clear to you. We can achieve the appropriate temperature by setting up a suitable heating bulb in the habitat.

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  • You can monitor the tortoise both from the front and the top. The top has a meshed part for easy air circulation. So, temperature and humidity won’t sky rocket inside the house.
  • Private sleeping area, public viewing area
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To put simply, I haven’t found any tortoise house better than this one in the market at this lucrative price range. Adding cherry to the top, the shipping is absolutely free!

So why wait? Check out the current price here on Aivituvin!

a collage of box turtle shells
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Day Time Temperature A Box Turtle Needs

The average temperature of a box turtle’s enclosure must be around 75 °F – 80 °F or 24 °C to 27 °C. I have mentioned earlier that you have to set up the bulb at one side of the enclosure. The temperature of that side should be around 77 °F. On the other corner, or the cold side, you have to maintain a temperature of 70 °F or 21 °C.

The temperature of the basking area has to be around 85 °F or 29 °C.  You can provide a gradient instead of a basking area. You have to maintain a higher temperature in this side because box turtles dry themselves in this area after taking a bath.

The Nighttime Temperature Of The Box Turtle Enclosure

Box turtles prefer a cold temperature at night. So you have to maintain a lower temperature around 60 °F or 15 °C in the habitat. You don’t need any extra media to lower the heat, and instead, you can turn off the light at night.

Temperature For Different Subspecies

SubspeciesDaytime temperatureBasking area temperatureNighttime temperature
Eastern box turtle70-75°F or 21-24°C85-88°F or 29-31°C65-70°F or 18-21°C
Ornate box turtle70-90°F or 21-32°C85-88°F or 29-31°C65-70°F or 18-21°C
Florida box turtle70-90°F or 21-32°C85-88°F or 29-31°C65-70°F or 18-21°C
Three toed box turtle70-75°F or 21-24°C85-88°F or 29-31°C65-70°F or 18-21°C

The Best Light To Provide Heat To Your Box Turtle

Many reptile lights are available in the market. Many turtle owners get confused when it comes to choosing a proper heating light or bulb for his box turtle. I have used many brands until now. Finally, I have found the best heating light for my box turtle.

For day time, you can use Zoo Med Daytime Blue Bulbs. The light is not too bright as the company has used a blue glass. I have been using this bulb for my box turtle. I am quite satisfied with it. 

Zoo Med Daytime Blue Lights are available in four different wattages.

  • 25 watt
  • 40 watt
  • 60 watt
  • 100 watt

60 watt blue light is better than other wattage bulbs. You can use another wattage too if you need. 

For nighttime, Zoo Med Night Light Red Heat Bulb is the best. This light has been made using a red glass, which makes the emitted light soft red, not bright white. So, the box turtle does not get disturbed at night. 

Zoo Med Night Light Red Heat Bulb allows a better service than any other coated bulb. The brand is offering different wattage bulbs so that you can choose one according to your need.

The brand is offering the following wattage red bulbs. 

  • 25 watts
  • 40 watts
  • 60 watts
  • 100 watts

Most people find 60 watts red night bulbs suitable for their pets. Remember, this light is a heat bulb, not a light lamp. So, your box turtle will not get disturbed. The bulb has a short lifespan, but you can use this bulb 24/7 as a heating source during cold.

I can suggest two different lights for the basking area. 

  1. Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp
  2. Zoo Med Nocturnal IR Heat Lamp
Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp

Zoo Med Repti Basking Spot Lamp provides heat focusing on one particular area. So it can be very beneficial for your box turtle. The lamp creates a warm environment inside the enclosure. 

This light is made for heating a small area. So if you have a large enclosure, you would need other heating sources. But for a small enclosure, this is enough for heating up the whole cage.

The light is available in different wattage.

  • 25 watts
  • 50 watts
  • 75 watts
  • 100 watts
  • 150 watts
  • 250 watts

If you can handle the bulb properly, it will give you a long service.

Zoo Med Nocturnal IR Heat Lamp

This lamb is a combination of the night light and basking lamp. You do not need to set up this heat lamp in the enclosure unless your box turtle is sick. Infrared light is suitable for a box turtle’s health. But it is not a must for the pen.

I have set up this lamp in the hospital tank I made for my box turtle.

The lamp also comes in different wattage.

  • 50 watt
  • 75 watt
  • 100 watt
  • 150 watt
  • 250 watt

UV lights 

UV lights provide UVA and UVB rays to the box turtle. These two rays play a vital role in developing a box turtle’s health. 

What is UV light?

Ultra violate ray, or UV light is a part of the spectrum light. It is invisible to human eyes, but reptiles like box turtles can see the light. So, your turtle may see more colors than you know.

There are three types of UV light.

  1. UVA light
  2. UVB light
  3. UVC light

UVA and UVB lights are suitable for a box turtle, but UVC is harmful to its health.

Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Importance Of UVA And UVB Light For A Box Turtle


UVA ray is one different kind of light. This light makes a lot of difference in the colors we observe. If we provide artificial lights without UVA rays to the box turtles, they would see the same colors as us. But if UVA rays exist in the lamp, their color experience will be different.

In the wild, box turtles absorb UV lights from the sun, and the sun provides UVA rays. But in captivity, you need to ensure that your UV bulb can generate UVA rays. If you think, it is not that important for your box turtle, then you are wrong.

UVA rays play a significant role in a box turtle’s mental health. They feel happy and stay active if they get enough UVA rays. In other cases, your box turtle might feel stressed out or unhappy.

That is why UVA rays are essential for a box turtle.


UVB rays are essential because they can generate vitamin D in a box turtle. A box turtle’s skin has a chemical which is called -dehydrocholesterol or 7DHC. UVB rays can turn -dehydrocholesterol or 7DHC into vitamin D. 

Vitamin helps a box turtle to maintain a good shell, bone, and skin. If your box turtle does not get enough UVB rays, it will not be able to generate enough vitamin for its body. And without vitamin D, your box turtle will suffer from different shell diseases. 

Metabolic bone disease is the most common bone disease that occurs to a box turtle if it does not have enough Vitamin D. Again, you may observe lumps or a rugged shell in your box turtle for the lack of Vitamin D and calcium. 

As UVB rays help to absorb Vitamin D to a box turtle, that is why it is essential to the enclosure.

Best UV Lights For The Box Turtle

I have using ReptiSun UV lamps for my box turtle, from the very beginning. I didn’t face any problems. 

I have used two different UV lights for my box turtle’s enclosure.

  1. ReptiSun UVB Lamp
  2. ReptiSun High Output UVB Lamp

The ReptiSun UVB lamp is one of the best products available in the market. Your box turtle will get enough UVB and UVA rays with this lamp. 

The lamp comes in five different sizes.

  • 15” (14 Watts)
  • 18” (15 Watts)
  • 24” (17 Watts)
  • 36” (25 Watts)
  • 48” (32 Watts)

The wattage does not matter that much. You have to increase the power of the bulb depending on the distance.

ReptiSun high output UVB lamp provides the same service as the ordinary UVB lamp, but you will find the flexibility to do the setups. These bulbs are available in three sizes:

  • 22 inch (24 watts)
  • 34 inch (39 watts)
  • 46 inch (54 watts)

It does use slightly more power than the usual ones. You can also use this type of UV lamp in the enclosure. 

Owner: April Kelley McGallion

Choose The Right Intensity And Power For The Box Turtle’s Enclosure

Distance of the lamp from the enclosureReptiSun 5.0, 13 WattReptiSun 10.0, 13 WattReptiSun 5.0, 26 WattReptiSun 10.0, 26 Watt
5 inches or 13 cmXX  
6 inches or 15 cmXXX 
7 inches or 18 cmXXX 
8 inches or 20 cm XXX
10 inches or 25 cm  XX
12 inches or 30 cm   X

Tips For Setting Up The UV Light In The Box Turtle’s Enclosure

  1. UV rays can not pass through glass or plastic. So not use any cover between the light and the pen.
  2. The fine mesh can also limit the UV rays.
  3. Follow the chart for choosing the right distance and intensity of the bulb.
  4. You have to replace the light once a year if you maintain proper arrangement methods. 
  5. There are many types of UV bulbs available in the market. Choose one that can supply both heat and UV rays.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Box Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?

Box turtles require heat lamps to maintain the right temperature for their metabolism and digestion. Heat lamps provide the necessary heat to create a warm basking spot that allows box turtles to regulate their body temperature. 

The optimal temperature varies depending on the species of box turtle, but it generally ranges from 70-90°F (21-32°C) during the day and drops to 65-70°F (18-21°C) at night.

It is important to provide a temperature gradient within the enclosure, allowing the box turtle to move to a cooler area if needed.

Do Box Turtles Need A Heat Lamp At Night?

Box turtles do not require a heat lamp at night as they can tolerate lower temperatures during their inactive period. The temperature at night should be between 65-70°F (18-21°C), which is lower than the daytime temperature.

Do Box Turtles Need Heat Lamps In The Summer?

Box turtles may not need a heat lamp during the summer if the ambient temperature in the enclosure is within their optimal temperature range. However, if the temperature drops below the recommended range, a heat lamp may still be necessary to provide a warm basking spot for the box turtle.

Do Box Turtles Need UVA Or UVB Light?

Box turtles need both UVA and UVB light for their health and well-being.

UVA light is important for box turtles’ mental health, and it helps them see and navigate their environment better.

UVB light is essential for their physical health as it provides the necessary radiation for the synthesis of vitamin D3, which is important for calcium metabolism and bone health. Without sufficient UVB light, box turtles can develop metabolic bone disease, which can lead to deformities and other health problems.


Lighting in a box turtle’s enclosure has to be perfect. If not, then the box turtle may feel uncomfortable or may suffer from many diseases. I have discussed almost everything about a box turtle’s lighting. I hope you guys will find it helpful.

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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