Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp? [Why, How Long + Which Ones Don’t]

Image of a turtle basking under a heat lamp

Turtles need a heat lamp. Being ectothermic, they alter and maintain their body temperature by acquiring heat from external sources like sunlight or heat lamps. Without proper heat, turtles lose their appetite, and their immune system weakens. This makes them vulnerable to several diseases.

Adequate heat is essential for the survival of turtles. So, let’s see why heat lamps are a must for pet turtles. Also, let’s understand the risks involved in depriving your pet turtle of adequate heat for too long.

Why Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?

Just like diet, lighting plays a vital role in the healthy development of turtles. In the wild, turtles rely on the sun for heat.

However, it’s difficult for turtles to get sunlight in captivity. Besides, you can’t keep the turtles out in the sun for a long time.

So, heat lamps come in handy as they provide pet turtles with adequate heat indoors.

Being cold-blooded animals, turtles can’t generate heat on their own.

Therefore, they depend on external sources like heat lamps to maintain their body temperature.

A heat lamp provides warmth to turtles.

Besides, the heat generated from the heat lamp also assists them in fighting the germs.

A lamp also ensures that the turtles are active.

Incandescent lamps are a popular choice for heat lamps.

However, apart from incandescent lamps, halogen lamps also provide the necessary heat to turtles.

While having a heat lamp for turtles, you need to ensure that it’s directed toward the basking area at a perfect distance.

In addition, you must set the lamp in such a way that the basking area temperature is at least 12°F to 15°F warmer than the tank’s water temperature.

The warmest part of the basking area should be the high end of the temperature range.

For example, you can keep the temperature between 85°F to 90°F.

In contrast, the coolest part will hold the low end of the temperature.

Such a setup will ensure that your turtle can easily regulate its body temperature while moving around the basking area.

If your turtle is sick, you can raise the temperature to 95°F for a speedy recovery. Each species of turtle is different.

Hence, you need to set the temperature range that best suits your turtle.

Nevertheless, heat is required by the majority of the turtles, and hence heat lamps are crucial.

Alright! So now you know the advantages of having a heat lamp. But do turtles need a heat lamp all day long? Let’s talk about that.

How Long Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?

Heat lamps act as a substitute for the heat that turtles get directly from the sun.

The sun is up for around 12 hours a day.

So that’s precisely when turtles will need a heat lamp to regulate their body temperature in a closed enclosure inside the house.

It’s not necessary to leave the heat lamp on for 24 hours. You can keep it on for about 14 to 15 hours a day during the winter when the temperature drops.

Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp At Night?

Turtles don’t need a heat lamp at night unless the temperature is very low.

Nights are for sleeping and resting. So heat’s not needed for the functioning of the body.

It’s best if you can replicate the turtle’s natural environment in captivity.

For example, you can keep the heat lamp on when the sun is up and switch it off after sunset.

This way, you can simulate the same conditions that turtles have in their natural habitat.

Which Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?

Turtles are ectothermic creatures. The surrounding environmental temperature regulates their body temperature.

Hence, turtles must be kept in a warm enclosure for optimal growth.

A heat lamps’ heat is necessary for all reptiles, including turtles, to maintain their environmental temperature within a specific range.

Although every turtle needs a heat lamp, not all of them need the same type of heat lamp.

In addition, some turtles need more heat than others.

Therefore, you can select a powerful heat lamp or one that provides less heat, depending on the turtle species.

Some of the common turtle species that need a heat lamp are:

  • Box turtles,
  • Painted turtles,
  • Musk turtles,
  • Red-eared sliders,
  • Yellow-bellied turtles,
  • Box turtles,
  • Snapping turtles,
  • Common musk turtles,
  • Freshwater turtles,
  • Mud turtles,
  • Map turtles,
  • Wood turtles,
  • Spotted turtles,
  • Reeve’s turtles, and
  • African Sideneck turtles.

Aquatic turtles spend most of their time in the water.

However, they do emerge from the water occasionally to bask, and hence a basking light is essential for their healthy development.

Likewise, painted turtles don’t need hot temperatures to thrive.

Nevertheless, they are more active and tend to eat better if their enclosure is adequately heated.

Which Turtles Don’t Need A Heat Lamp?

Turtles are cold-blooded animals that need external heat to moderate their body temperature.

Since all turtles don’t bask, not all of them need a heat lamp.

However, the majority of turtle species need a heat lamp in captivity.

Turtles are wild animals. So, there’s a vast difference between the temperatures in their natural habitat and that in captivity.

But, since turtles are good at adapting, they adjust well to different environments as pets.

Some turtle species even live comfortably when the surrounding temperature falls.

That means a fully mature turtle may even survive without a heat lamp.

However, it’s not advisable to keep turtles in cold temperatures as their health can deteriorate rapidly.

Turtles should constantly be exposed to an adequate amount of heat for their healthy development.

So, heat plays an essential role for turtles to live a long healthy life.

But have you wondered whether turtles can live without a heat lamp and for how long?

Can Turtles Live Without A Heat Lamp?

Turtles cannot live without a heat lamp for long. Heat lamps are essential to regulate their body temperature, which turtles can’t do on their own. The absence of heat for long periods can harm a turtle’s health.

Pet turtles can survive for around a week without a heat lamp. But, after that the turtle will start facing health problems.

One of the most common problems turtles face is cold.

Cold is a respiratory infection that can prove fatal to turtles if not treated immediately.

Low heat also results in slow metabolism. As a result, turtles lose their appetite and can become weak.

Besides, lack of heat weakens the immune system of turtles. So they can become susceptible to diseases in the absence of heat.

Related Questions

What kind of heat lamps do turtles need?

Some lamps provide heat, while others provide more UVB radiation than heat.

In the basking area, an incandescent bulb works well for turtles as it provides more heat than UVB radiation.

You may opt for a mercury vapor bulb that provides both heat and UVB light if you have a space constraint.

Do turtles need heat lamps in the summer?

Yes, turtles do need heat lamps in the summer. They need to bask in temperatures of around 100°F to 105°F.

That much heat can’t be provided to the turtles in a closed enclosure even in summer, and hence heat lamps are essential.

The basking time under the heat lamp will be less in summer, about 10 hours.

Do baby turtles need heat lamps?

Heat lamps are essential for the growth of baby turtles.

They require a heat source for the initial three to five years of their life.

Heat lamps help the baby turtles regulate their body temperature.

Without the assistance of heat lamps, a baby turtle’s life will be at risk. 

Unlike adult turtles, baby turtles can’t adjust their bodies to changing temperatures; hence, heat lamps are crucial for them.

Besides, lack of heat can result in malnourishment since heat assists in food digestion.

In addition, baby turtles are also at risk of suffering from respiratory infections in the absence of heat.


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