Why Won’t My Red-Eared Slider Bask?

Why Won’t My Red-Eared Slider Bask

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

Basking is a very important daily activity for a turtle. Basking ensures healthy shell growth and proper shell density. Without basking, a turtle will face many health issues and may suffer an early death. This is more prominent for water turtle species, such as red-eared sliders.

Inadequate or improper lighting, insufficient heat, stress from a new environment, presence of predators or perceived threats, illness, or unsuitable basking platforms can deter red eared sliders from basking.

Many owners often ask me why won’t my red-eared slider bask. A turtle can refuse to bask for many reasons. I’ll explain all of them in this article.

If your red-eared slider isn’t basking, it can be a cause for concern. Here are some potential reasons and explanations:

10 Reasons Why Your Red Eared Slider Is Refusing To Bask

Inadequate Basking Area:

Red-eared sliders need a suitable platform or area where they can climb out of the water and bask. If the basking area is too small, unstable, or difficult to access, the turtle might avoid it.

Improper Lighting:

UVB lighting is crucial for red-eared sliders. UVB rays help them produce vitamin D3, which in turn aids in calcium metabolism. Without proper UVB exposure, turtles can develop metabolic bone disease.

Ensure you have a UVB light source and that it’s positioned correctly over the basking area. Also, UVB bulbs lose their effectiveness over time, so they should be replaced every 6-12 months, even if they’re still producing visible light.

Incorrect Temperature:

The basking area should be warmer than the water, typically between 90-95°F (32-35°C). If the basking spot is too cold or too hot, the turtle might avoid it.

Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust the heat source as necessary.

Illness or Health Issues:

If a turtle is sick, it might not bask as usual. Respiratory infections, shell problems, or other health issues can affect their behavior.

Check for signs of illness such as lethargy, lack of appetite, swollen eyes, or nasal discharge. If you suspect your turtle is sick, consult a veterinarian.

Stress or Disturbance:

If the turtle’s environment is frequently disturbed, it might feel insecure and avoid basking. Loud noises, other pets, or frequent movement around the tank can stress them.

Ensure the tank is in a quiet location and try to minimize disturbances.

New Environment:

If you’ve recently acquired your turtle or changed its habitat, it might take some time for it to adjust to the new environment. During this adjustment period, it might not bask as frequently.

Water Quality:

Poor water quality can lead to health issues and affect the turtle’s behavior. Ensure the water is clean, and the tank has a good filtration system. Regularly check the water parameters and change the water as needed.

Seasonal Changes:

In the wild, red-eared sliders might bask less during colder months. Even in captivity, they can be influenced by seasonal changes in light and temperature. Ensure the lighting and temperature in the tank are consistent year-round.

Age and Size:

Younger and smaller turtles might bask more frequently than older, larger ones. However, basking is essential for turtles of all ages and sizes.


Turtles shed their scutes (the individual segments of their shell) as they grow. During this process, they might bask more or less frequently.

If you’ve addressed all the potential issues and your turtle still isn’t basking, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian or a reptile specialist to ensure there aren’t underlying health issues.

Lighting Guide For Turtle Keepers: Infographic

If you want a printable version of this PDF, click here.

Proper Temperature Is Crucial for red eared slider’s basking

Proper temperature is vital for red-eared slider’s basking due to:

  1. Thermoregulation: Red-eared sliders are ectothermic, relying on external heat sources to regulate body temperature. Basking helps them achieve the right body temperature for optimal metabolic function.
  2. Digestion: Warming up through basking aids in digestion. A cooler body temperature slows down metabolic and digestive processes.
  3. Prevention of Infections: Basking dries the shell, reducing the risk of fungal and bacterial infections.

Temperature Difference:

  • The water temperature for red-eared sliders should typically be between 75-80°F (24-27°C).
  • The basking area should be warmer, around 90-95°F (32-35°C).
cute red eared slider
Owner: Vivi Hernandez

Features of a good basking area for red eared sliders

Red-eared sliders are semi-aquatic turtles that require both water and a dry area to bask in. A good basking area is essential for their health and well-being. Here are the features of a good basking area for red-eared sliders:

1. Accessibility:

The basking area should be easy for the turtle to climb onto. This often means having a sloped or stepped approach.

2. Size:

The basking platform should be spacious enough to allow the turtle to fully stretch out and dry off. If you have multiple turtles, ensure there’s enough space for all of them to bask without crowding.

3. Sturdy and Non-slippery Surface:

The platform should be stable and not wobble when the turtle is on it. A textured surface can help prevent the turtle from slipping off.

4. Dryness:

The basking area should be completely dry to allow the turtle to dry off completely. This helps prevent fungal and bacterial infections.

5. Heat Source:

A heat lamp should be positioned over the basking area to provide the necessary warmth. This helps regulate the turtle’s body temperature and aids in digestion.

6. UVB Lighting:

In addition to a heat source, red-eared sliders also require UVB lighting to synthesize vitamin D3, which is essential for calcium metabolism and healthy shell growth.

7. Temperature:

The basking area should be warmer than the water, typically between 85°F to 90°F (29°C to 32°C).

8. Safety:

Ensure that the heat and UVB lamps are securely positioned and cannot fall into the water. Also, use guards or screens to prevent the turtle from getting too close and burning itself.

9. Shade:

While it’s essential to provide ample light and heat, part of the basking area should also offer some shade, allowing the turtle to regulate its temperature.

10. Easy to Clean:

The basking area should be made of materials that are easy to clean and disinfect, as turtles can be messy.

11. Waterproof:

Materials used should be waterproof and not degrade or become moldy when exposed to splashes or high humidity.

12. Elevation:

The basking area should be elevated above the water level to ensure it remains dry and to provide the turtle with a vantage point.

13. Naturalistic Appearance (optional):

Some owners prefer to provide a basking area that mimics the turtle’s natural habitat, using rocks, logs, or other natural materials.

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 Encourage Basking for Your Red-Eared Slider Turtle?

Here are some steps and tips to encourage basking for your Red-Eared Slider Turtle:

Proper Basking Platform:

  • Ensure that the basking platform is easily accessible for your turtle. It should be slightly above the water level so that the turtle can easily climb onto it.
  • The platform should be large enough for the turtle to fully stretch out on.

Correct Lighting:

  • Use a UVB light bulb specifically designed for reptiles. This will provide the necessary UVB rays for vitamin D3 synthesis.
  • Also, provide a UVA basking light. This will provide the warmth that turtles seek when they bask.
  • Ensure that the lights are positioned directly above the basking platform.

Appropriate Water Temperature:

  • Maintain the water temperature between 75°F to 80°F (24°C to 27°C). If the water is too warm, the turtle may not feel the need to bask as often.
juvenile red eared slider
Owner: Carly McEachin

Basking Temperature:

  • The basking area should be warmer than the water, ideally between 85°F to 90°F (29°C to 32°C).


  • Ensure that the basking lights are securely mounted to prevent them from falling into the water.
  • Use a thermometer to monitor the temperatures of both the water and the basking area.

Natural Sunlight:

  • Whenever possible, allow your turtle to bask in natural sunlight. However, ensure that there’s a shaded area available in case the turtle wants to cool down.
  • Always supervise your turtle when it’s outside to protect it from predators and to prevent it from escaping.


  • Turtles are creatures of habit. Turn the basking lights on and off at the same times every day to establish a routine.


  • Turtles can be shy. Placing the tank in a quiet area or providing some plants or decorations for hiding can make the turtle feel more secure and more likely to bask.

Keep the Water Clean:

  • A clean environment will encourage basking. Regularly clean the tank and change the water.


  • A balanced diet can also influence basking behavior. Ensure you’re feeding your turtle a proper diet that includes a mix of commercial turtle pellets, leafy greens, and occasional protein sources like insects or fish.

What happens if a turtle doesn’t bask?

In wild, turtles bask under the sunlight. In captivity, your turtle should bask at least 8 hours under a reptile UVB lamp.

This is critical for every turtle as turtles get essential vitamin D from it. Without proper basking, your turtle may suffer from shell deformity, low bone density, digestive issues etc.  So, it is critical that your turtle should bask.

Should you force your turtle on the basking area?

It is never a good idea to force your turtle to bask. While basking is great for turtles, forcing him to get onto the basking area will only make him more afraid of it.

Every time you put the turtle onto the basking area, she will run off from it and jump into the water. So, it is great if your turtle basks, but forcing him to do so is not recommended.

How long do turtles bask for?

There’s no definite answer to this. It depends on various factors such as the species of the turtle, the age of it, the temperature of the water, the temperature of the basking area, humidity etc. Turtles generally bask whenever they need to.

There is no specific timetable to this. However, you should keep the basking light on at least 8 hours a day to mimic the natural daylight.

Why do turtles bask with their leg out

Why do turtles bask with their leg out?

It is actually a pretty interesting scene. You may often discover your turtle basking in the basking area, stretching its legs.

There is a scientific reason behind this. Turtles are cold-blooded animals. So, it means they can’t generate heat like we do. For getting heat, they have to depend on external sources.

That’s why turtles bask under the sun in wild to get warmth inside its body. While basking, turtles often stretch out their rear legs because it exposes more skin to the sun/bulb. As a result, the turtle will get more heat.

Learn how I built this DIY Basking Area with common household items!

Why is my turtle basking with mouth open?

This behavior is called gaping. It is a pretty common cooling response from animals. Turtles generally gape when they feel too hot.

If you discover your turtle keeping its mouth open while basking, then chances are that the basking area has too much high temperature.

You need to lower the temperature a bit. Your basking area temperature shouldn’t cross 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why is my turtle basking with eyes closed?

When turtles feel very comfortable in the basking area, they tend to take a nap/ light sleep with their eyes shut down. It is a very light sleep, so a sudden movement or sound can wake them up. it is nothing you should worry about.

However, if you see any signs of swollen eyes, yawning out of water, mucus, lethargy etc. then you need to seek medical attention for your turtle.

What is the proper turtle basking lamp wattage?

Turtle basking lamps are generally available in 25,50,75 and 100 watts. So, often turtle owners get confused on which one to get.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter. The thing that matter is, the temperature of the basking area. If you have a small basking area with 1-2 turtles, then a 50-75-watt basking lamp should do fine.

On the other hand, for a big basking area with more than 2 turtles, you may need to invest for a 100-watt basking lamp. Your main goal should be to keep the basking area temperature in the 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit range.

Is my turtle basking too much?

Well, it is a hard question to answer right away. Turtles generally bask whenever they need for as much time as they need. However, if your turtle is passing days on the basking area, then it might be a problem.

Turtles can pass hours through the day on the basking area, but not days. It needs to come into the water for eating and sleeping. (Water turtles such as red-eared sliders can’t eat any food without being in the water)

If your turtle is sleeping in the basking area, then it can be a sign of health issue. You can try warming up the temperature of the water a little bit at a time. If that doesn’t work, I’ll strongly recommend you to visit a reptile vet.

What bulb is suitable for turtle basking?

Turtles must have UVB bulb on their basking area. It will provide them with essential vitamin D. it is also recommended to use a heat lamp with the UVB bulb to keep the right temperature in the basking area.

There are hundreds of types of UVB bulbs are available in the market. However, I prefer Zoo Med’s turtle lamp combo pack the most.

The combo pack contains:

  • A halogen heat lamp with 50-watt power to heat up the turtle basking area.
  • A 5.0 UVB bulb (compact fluorescent) for providing the essential vitamin D to the turtles. The UVB bulb is from ReptiSun with 13-watt power.
  • The lamp combo pack is suitable for almost all water turtle species.

Why won t my turtle bask in front of me?

Turtles can be shy creatures, especially if they’re not accustomed to their environment or their human caretakers. If your turtle isn’t basking in front of you, it might feel threatened or scared. Ensure that the basking area is set up correctly with appropriate lighting and temperature.

Over time, as your turtle becomes more comfortable and familiar with its surroundings and your presence, it may start basking more openly. It’s essential to be patient and avoid sudden movements or loud noises when near the tank.

why is my turtle basking at night?

Turtles typically bask during the day under UVB lights to absorb essential vitamins and regulate their body temperature. If your turtle is basking at night, it might be due to incorrect lighting schedules, ambient room lighting, or disturbances during the day.

Ensure that your turtle has a consistent day-night cycle with the correct lighting setup. If the behavior continues, consult a reptile specialist or veterinarian.

how long can a turtle go without basking?

While turtles can go a few days without basking, prolonged avoidance can lead to health issues like metabolic bone disease. If a turtle consistently avoids basking for more than a week, it’s essential to check the basking setup and consult a veterinarian.

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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