Best Turtle Basking Light Wattage

If you've found this page, that probably means that you already know that your turtle needs a UV light and possibly a basking light. 

Maybe you've looked around, but you're still unsure about this whole "wattage" thing. 


Fear not, because this article is going to quickly, and easily sort you out! 

What's The Best Turtle Basking Light Wattage? 

turtle light wattage

If you've been shopping around for a basking light for your turtle, or you're just interested in the subject, you've probably noticed a few things: 

  • Most turtle basking lights are from 50 to 100 watts 
  • What different words such as "mercury vapor" or "tropical" or halogen" mean in the title of some of these lights

Let's get straight to the point and answer your most pressing questions. 

Watts, or wattage is a measure of electrical power. It's easy to visualize. The more watts = the more power. Or, the higher the wattage = the more electricity is being used. 

So, simply put, a 100 watt turtle light bulb is going to be much more powerful (and use a lot more electricity) than a 50 watt bulb. 

Which begs the question, then what's best for my turtle? 

The answer is that it really doesn't matter

A 50, 75 or 100 watt bulb will be fine. What's really important is that: 

  • you are providing your turtle with UVA, UVB light and warmth 
  • your turtle's basking area is between 85-90 degrees (29.4 to 32.2 Celsius)

The difference is in the details. Meaning, depending on your circumstances, you may opt for a 100 watt instead of a 50.

Do you have a smaller aquarium (around 55 gallons?) 

Do you have 1 or 2 turtles?

Do you have a smaller basking area? ​

A 50 watt is perfectly fine

Do you have a bigger aquarium (over 100 gallons)? 

Do you have more than 2 turtles?

Do you want a larger basking area? ​

75 to 100 watts would probably be better

Since a 100 watt turtle basking light would produce a bit more energy, it would also be able to produce more heat, as well as have a larger basking diameter. Thus, you would be able get a bigger basking area around 90 degrees a lot easier with a 100 watt basking light than a 50 watt basking light. 

​With 1 or even 2 turtles this is normally not much of a problem with a 50 watt, especially with a smaller aquarium, or if you've got a smaller basking area (that is perhaps, 2-3 lengths of your turtle). 

Another practical difference is how close you will need to place your basking light. Because your goal should be to maintain a basking area with a temperature of 85-90 degrees, you will certainly need to place a 50 watt light closer than a 100 watt light. Depending on how your tank is set-up, that may or may not be problematic. ​

Generally speaking, usually this distance is between 8-15 inches, however, you will need to both check the instruction manual on any light you purchase as well as manually take the temperature of your basking area once it's all set-up.

This is extremely important, as: ​

  • your turtles will avoid a basking area that is too hot and not get their needed UVA and UVB light and 
  • your turtles will not get enough under a basking lamp that is too cold, which could lead to very deadly respiratory infections 

Your Basking Area's Temperature Is More Important Than The Wattage

Turtle's Head

Thus, the important part isn't the wattage, it's the UVA light, the UVB light, the warmth and the light itself (that mimics actual sunshine). The wattage is only important in terms of how big your desired basking area is, and how you intend to set up your tank. 

The two main factors in ensuring that your basking area is 90 degrees are: 

  • the wattage of your light bulb 
  • how far away your light bulb is from the basking area 

Only after adjusting these 2 factors should you pop out your thermometer and ensure that the temperature is between 85-90 degrees. 

If it's too cold, you need to either buy a bigger turtle light or move the light closer to the basking area.

If it's too hot, you need to either downsize your bulb by decreasing the watts or move the light further away from the basking area. ​

Wattage Isn't Important, UVB Light IS 

Remember, the wattage doesn't really matter, the temperature of the basking area does. 

However, just having a basking area that is around 90 degrees isn't enough. Whatever turtle light bulb you choose, please make sure that it also emits UVB light. This is crucial. ​You don't need 1 light bulb to have everything, but you do need to ensure that UVB light is hitting your turtles. 

  • your turtles need UVA light (which is emitted naturally from most light bulbs) for healthy mood, feeding and breeding, as well as general light that mimics the sun for most of the day 
  • your turtles also need UVB light for the healthy production of the vitamin D3, which helps with their bone and shell growth; turtles that do not have access to UVB light often develop chronic bone diseases, which are painful and slowly kill them 
  • your turtles need a source to heat up (around 90 degrees), to kill off germs and raise their internal body temperature

Your turtle is relying on you to provide a safe, warm, healthy, secure living environment. Everything, from the temperature of the basking area, to being able to access UVA and UVB light, is up to you. 

So, as long as whatever light bulb you opt for can achieve these 3 things, you are well on your way to ensuring that your turtles live a long, healthy and prosperous life. 

If you'd like to check out a good light for your turtle, check out this article on the Best Turtle Light Bulb


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