Turtle Basking: Everything You Need To Know

Turtle Basking

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

Basking is important for maintaining turtle health. Turtles need heat to keep their body warm. After a long swim in the water, your pet turtle will like to dry itself under the sunlight or basking light. So, when you build a turtle tank, you must set up a basking area.

Getting dried under the light is not the only reason for basking. The turtles absorb UV rays from the basking lights to produce vitamin D necessary to keep the turtle shell and bones healthy. So, turtles must have a basking area which they can easily access. 

In this article, I will explain why turtles need to bask and how long a pet turtle needs to bask. Also, if you are a new turtle owner, you should carry on reading to know how to set up a basking area for your pet turtle. 

Why Do Turtles Bask?

A basking area is essential for turtles for several reasons. Now. Let us get into more details: 

Maintaining Body Temperature 

Basking under the sun or absorbing UV rays is a matter of life and death for a turtle. Turtles are ectotherms or cold-blooded reptiles. It means they absorb heat from their surrounding environment to control their body temperature. 

They need a warm environment to remain active. When the temperature gets too low, their metabolism slows down. They slowly get inactive and weak. 

This is why they come out of the water to bask under the sun near the water source. Similarly, pet turtles need basking lights to absorb UV rays and produce vitamin D. 

The temperature of the basking light should be the ideal temperature for the species of the turtle. On average, the basking area temperature should be between 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 

To Produce Vitamin D

Absorbing UVB rays from the basking light is the main reason turtles bask. They need UVB light to produce vitamin D in their body. 

Turtles consume various foods for protein, vitamins, and calcium. Vitamin D is necessary to synthesize calcium. They need calcium for healthy shells and bones. 

If turtles do not get the right amount of vitamin D, they cannot absorb calcium. As a result, they will not grow properly and suffer from metabolic bone disease. The shell will also become soft and get deformed. Therefore, the basking area should have a UVB light for the turtles to absorb heat and UV rays.

Fighting Diseases 

Turtles are aware of their health risks. So, after hours of swimming in the water, they dry their shells under the basking light. It helps them to reduce the chances of fungal infections. 

In the wild, turtles often suffer because of water-borne parasites and algae. Hence, they keep their body dry to get rid of the parasites. Naturally, pet turtles have the same instincts. 

Besides, turtles get cold after swimming in cool water for hours. So, they need to warm up their body getting sick. The basking area should have a higher temperature than the water. Hence, turtles visit the basking area to warm up. After that, they return to the water to cool off excessive heat. 

Managing Sleep Cycle

Basking lights are necessary to maintain your turtle’s natural sleep cycle. In the wild, turtles bask under the sun during the daytime. At night, the turtles survive on the absorbed heat of the day.  

The basking light works as an alternative to sunlight for the pet turtles. You should keep the lights on during the daytime and turn them off at night to maintain the natural sleep cycle. 

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

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What Does It Mean When A Turtle Is Basking?

Now, what does it mean when turtles are basking? Basking is when turtles come out of the water after a long swim to dry their body under the sunlight or basking light. 

A healthy turtle will bask every day for hours. They need to absorb the UV lights and keep the shell dry. So, you may find your pet lying on the basking spot for hours. 

Turtles can absorb the light even through their shells. But the turtles often spread out their legs to absorb more heat and UV rays. Communal turtles enjoy basking together. They might sit on top of each other and take a nap. 

How Long Should A Turtle Bask?

Do you feel your turtle is not basking enough or basking too much? Before you get worried, you should know the average basking time for turtles. Depending on species and age, turtles may bask 2 to 9 hours a day,

When the turtle gets dry and finishes absorbing UVB, it will leave the basking spot on its own. Some turtles bask more than others. So, do not worry if your turtle spends hours in the basking area. 

Can A Turtle Bask Too Much?

As mentioned above, turtles bask for 2 to 9 hours per day. 6 to 8 hours is enough to dry their body and meet their UVB needs. If your turtle basks for over 9 hours, you should be concerned. Excessive basking can cause dehydration and other health problems. 

Observe whether your turtle avoids water, or spends little time swimming. The turtle may have issues adjusting to the water temperature and get sick. Hence, it spends too much time in the basking area.

You can try placing the turtle in the water to see how it reacts. In case, it comes out of the water sooner than expected, check the water temperature and quality. The water temperature should not go below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pH level should be 6 to 8. 

Also, observe how it swims. A sick turtle will not swim properly. Then take your turtle to the vet for a health check-up immediately.  

Do Turtles Need To Bask Every Day?

Turtles need to bask every day for several hours to stay healthy. They need UVB light to produce vitamin D and calcium. Turtles eat calcium and protein-rich food every day. Without basking, their bones cannot absorb the calcium. 

Turtles love to bask. So, they should visit the basking area every day without your help. If you do not find your turtle in the basking area every day, check the temperature to readjust it. 

How Long Can My Turtle Go Without Basking?

A turtle can go on without basking for almost a month. But after a month, its health will start to go downhill. Therefore, even if turtles can live for weeks without lights, you should not consider it. 

Lack of UV light will affect the turtle’s health from the first few days. Juvenile turtles will suffer most without basking light as they need the UV rays to develop their bones and shell. 

What Happens If Turtles Don’t Bask?

Now, what can happen if your turtle avoids basking for days? In short, your turtle will suffer from many health complications. 

They will not produce the essential vitamin D in their body. Hence, they cannot synthesize calcium. As a result, they will suffer from metabolic bone diseases.  

Turtles can catch a cold without the heat from the basking area. You will soon find your turtle struggling to breathe. UVA and UVB rays are important for improving a turtle’s mood. So, the turtles will not feel energetic. They slow down and become inactive.

Without basking lights in the tank, the pet turtles will get confused about day and night time. Hence, their sleep pattern will get affected. As a result, the turtles get stressed and unhappy. 

Why Is My Not Turtle Basking? 

Have you noticed your turtle not spending enough time in the basking spot or completely avoids it? So, why is not your turtle basking?

There are some reasons you should be aware of so that you can solve them for your turtle to get basking. 

Too Low or High Basking Temperature

The basking light temperature problem is one of the main reasons turtles do not stay in the basking area. The ideal temperature of the basking area is between 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Therefore, temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit can cause discomfort to your turtle. Again, turtles feel uncomfortable when the temperature gets below their ideal temperature. 

The wrong setup of the basking lights causes temperature fluctuation. Your turtle might even get burned if the lights are placed too close to the basking area. Hence, the turtles may avoid the basking area when they cannot adjust to the heat.

Improper Setup of the Basking Platform

The size, structure, and position of the basking platform can affect your turtle’s basking habit. You may have noticed your turtle swimming around the basking spot but not getting on it. It happens when the basking platform is too high for the turtles to get on. 

You should provide a ramp. But if the ramp is steep and slippery, the turtles cannot use it. Also, turtles do not like a wet basking platform. They prefer a dry basking area. So, you should not place the basking platform too high or too close to the water. 

Your Turtle Does Not Feel Safe

Turtles are naturally meek reptiles. They are shy little animals that enjoy privacy. A new turtle takes time to get acquainted with the owner and the surroundings. When it sees someone near the basking area, it will retreat to a shelter or dive in the water. 

So, your turtle may not be basking because it does not feel safe there. Therefore, avoid getting near the turtle tank when you see your turtle is basking. 

Taking Time to Adjust with New Tank or Accessories 

As mentioned above, turtles are shy reptiles. They do not like to be moved from their familiar environment. When they are transferred to a new tank, they might hide. Also, they will not visit the basking area for days. 

Turtles may not go to the basking area if they see new accessories. They need time to adjust. But once they feel safe in the new environment, they will start basking again.

Turtle Suffering from Sickness 

A sick or injured turtle will not bask too much. It may choose a resting spot and rarely move from there. It can have difficulty in breathing which shows respiratory problems. Severely sick turtle may also discharge mucus. Injury in the eye or body can also cause the turtle not to bask. 

Pregnancy

Female turtles can behave oddly when they are pregnant. While some pregnant turtles spend a lot of time in the basking area, others may spend less time there. 

These turtles become obsessed with finding the right spot for nesting. Thus, they have less time to bask. So, provide a nesting area for your pregnant female turtle as soon as possible and help it to return to its usual basking routine. 

Territorial Issues

Do you have multiple turtles in one tank? If so, it can be an issue. Your turtle might be afraid, but not of you or its surroundings. It might fear another turtle in the tank. 

Many turtle species are communal, which means they may bask under the light in groups. They sit on top of one another and rest. But the scene is not always so friendly. 

Some male turtles can get aggressive toward other male turtles in the tank. They do not like other male turtles in their territory. So, the dominated turtle avoids the basking area in fear. 

How to Encourage Turtle to Bask?

You should know a new pet turtle might bask when you are not around. You do not see that because it slides back into the water when it hears someone coming. 

But turtles need hours to dry out and absorb UVB light. Sneaking for just a few minutes on the basking platform is not enough. So, here are some steps you can take to encourage your turtle to bask: 

Setup A Proper Basking Area

Your turtle will need a basking area appropriate for its size. A basking platform for a small turtle may not work for a large turtle. You have to choose between a topper basking platform and a floating platform. 

A topper basking platform is a separate enclosure which you have to set on top of the water tank. This way, your turtle will get enough space for swimming and basking. These platforms are safe, and your turtle cannot escape.

The second option is the floating basking platforms. They are simple in design. Hence, they are cheaper than the topper platforms. However, a floating platform is most suitable for small to medium size turtles. 

The basking platform should be stable and spacious for the turtles to move around with ease. There must be a ramp for your turtles to climb on the basking spot. Remember, the basking platform should not be placed too high. The ramp should not be too steep. Keep the ramp at a 30-degree angle.

Also, the ramp should be textured so that the turtles can grip on while climbing on the platform. You can add artificial grass or rubbers to prevent the ramp from getting slippery. Make sure the accessories are safe and not edible by turtles. 

Adjust the Basking Light

You have set up a nice basking area, but still, your turtle is not spending much time basking. So, what can be the issue? 

This time, it might be the basking lights. The basking light should be at a safe distance from the turtles. Too close, your turtle can get overheated. Too far, your turtle will get cold. Depending on the power of the bulbs, the basking lamp should be 8 to 12 inches above the basking spot. 

Use a digital thermometer to check the temperature of the basking area. Too hot? Move the heating bulb further from the turtles. If the temperature is lower than the ideal basking temperature, get the basking lights closer to the basking area. 

Give Your Turtle Some Privacy 

Turtles are not like dogs and cats begging for your constant attention. They prefer to spend time peacefully on their own. Hence, the turtles can get stressed when they see people or other animals around them. They feel threatened. As a result, they spend more time in the water where they feel safe and avoid the basking area. 

Turtle owners should not frequently get near the turtle tank and touch the turtles. Stay away from your turtle’s sight, especially when it is new to the environment. It will help them get familiar with the basking area. 

Do Turtles Sleep While Basking?

Turtles love to sleep for hours. Most turtle species sleep for 4 to 7 hours at night. They also take quick naps during the day in the basking area. You might have seen your turtle closing its eyes and getting still in the basking area. They do that when they feel relaxed and comfortable. 

Do All Turtles Bask?

Do all turtles bask? The answer is yes. All turtles need some sunshine or UV rays to stay healthy and active. But not all turtles get out of the water to bask. Some species, like the mud turtles, will come to the water surface and get their share of heat. 

For these turtles, put accessories like logs and rocks in the water. The turtle can get on them to bask. So, you better research your turtle’s basking habits before setting up a basking area.

Best Basking Platforms for Pet Turtles in The Market

Your turtle needs to bask in a comfortable environment. The best thing you can do to help them is to provide them with a high-quality basking platform. You can always try making a DIY basking platform for your turtle.

But making an appropriate basking turtle can be difficult and time-consuming for a new turtle owner. So, I am recommending some of the best basking platforms available in the market based on personal experience and customer reviews.

1. Penn Plax Tank Topper

One of the absolute favourites among thousands of turtle lovers is the Penn Plax Tank Topper basking platform. It is the best basking platform for 55-gallon tanks. With the supporting clippers, the platform can fit on 13 to 19 inches wide turtle tanks. As the name suggests, it sits on top of the tank. 

Your turtle will have plenty of water space to swim around. Thus, it is perfect for aquatic turtles such as sliders, mud turtles, painted turtles and so on. The spacious basking area makes it a suitable basking platform for multiple small turtles. It can also work perfectly for a large turtle up to 10 inches long. 

This rectangular platform has a durable plastic cover to prevent your turtle from escaping. It has grills on top of a clear plastic cover. It is also where the heat and UV rays of the basking lights enter the platform. The suction cups of the platform make it easy to install the platform on the tank, and your turtle can start using it right away.

The Penn Plax Tank Topper basking platform has a textured ramp that goes under the water. There is an underwater resting platform for the turtles to sit on. The unique design of the platform is eye-catching. You can choose from black, brown, and green colours. 

Although the Penn Plax Tank Topper basking platform is costly compared to other basking docks, it will work for years for your turtles. After a while, the suction cups may get weak, so keep that in mind. 

Product Specs:

Brand: Penn-Plax

Style: Topper

Shape: Rectangular

Colour: Black/Brown/Green

Material: Plastic

Item Dimensions (LxWxH): 6.5 x 17.5 x 14.25 inches

Tank Size: Up to 55-gallon tank

Pros:

  • Topper platform that saves space
  • Made of durable plastic
  • An underwater platform for turtles to rest
  • Cover with access to the basking light

Cons:

  • Expensive compared to many other platforms
  • Suction cups can get weak sooner than expected

Check Amazon for Price

2. Penn-Plax Reptology Floating Turtle Pier and Basking Platform

Next, we have another Pen-Plax dock as the brand produces the best basking platforms for turtles. The Penn-Plax Reptology Floating Turtle Pier and Basking Platform is for tanks of 20-gallon or more. 

People love this platform for its design, which resembles a ship dock. The ramp looks like stairs. Hence, the turtles can easily climb them. 

This platform is one of the best floating basking platforms in the market. It is made with lightweight material. Thus, it floats on the surface of the water effortlessly, and you can keep the water level as much as you want. 

There are suctions attached at the bottom of the platform to keep it stuck to the preferred spot. You do not have to worry about stability because the platform comes with four pylons to support it. 

You can easily adjust the height of the basking dock with the help of these pylons. Hence, the Reptology Floating Turtle Pier can be placed on a small to large turtle tank or terrarium.

Since the platform remains elevated from the tank floor, turtles can swim under it to hide or rest. So, it does not occupy much space in the tank.

The Reptology Floating Turtle Pier is best for small to middle size turtles. One drawback is the setting of the platform. You need to remove the substrates from the tank bottom to place the bottom suction cups on the tank. 

Product Specs:

Brand: Penn-Plax

Style: Floating 

Shape: Rectangular

Colour: Green

Material: Plastic

Platform Size: 16” (D) x 11” (W) x 1.25 (H)

Pylon Size: 4 inches (H) 

Tank Size: 20-gallon tank or larger 

Pros:

  • Versatile basking dock at an affordable price
  • A great option for aquatic, semi-aquatic, and land turtles
  • Ideal for tanks starting from 20 gallons 

Cons:

  • Not for large or heavy turtles

Check Amazon For Price

3. Zoo Med Turtle Dock

No basking platform list is complete without the turtle dock from Zoo Med. The floating platform is designed as a rock ledge which adds a natural look to your turtle tank. It comes in various shapes and sizes. So, you can get it for any size turtle tank. 

Zoo Med turtle dock is super easy to install. All you have to do is choose the spot and fix its suctions on the tank wall. It will not float around the tank and disturb your swimming turtles. 

The dock is designed in such a way that it can automatically adjust to any level of water. The underwater ramp lets the turtles get on the basking dock with little effort. 

The water cannot reach the basking platform easily. Besides, the rocky design does not let the water get stuck on its surface. Your turtle will enjoy a dry basking platform. 

You can get a Zoo Med Turtle Dock for the turtle of all sizes. However, the dock may not be stable enough to carry a heavy turtle. Also, some owners reported that their turtles often bite on the edges of the dock, which can be extremely dangerous for baby turtles. 

Product Specs:

Brand: Zoo Med

Style: Floating 

Shape: Rectangular 

Colour: Grey/ Natural rock colour 

Material: Plastic

Item Dimensions (LxWxH): 19 x 10 x 3.8 inches

Pros:

  • Adjusts with any water level
  • Available in different sizes for all sizes of turtles
  • Underwater ramp to support turtles

Cons:

  • Not suitable for heavy turtles
  • Turtles may bite small plastic parts

Check Amazon for Price

Conclusion

So, this is everything you need to know about turtle basking. Basking is essential for a turtle’s health. Without the UV rays, your turtle cannot stay healthy for a long time. Therefore, you must provide your pet turtle with a warm and comfortable basking area. 

Also, research the basking habit of your turtle’s species before designing the basking area. Hopefully, this article will help you with setting up the perfect basking place for your turtle.

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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