Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp

If you are passionate to know about turtles or are interested in getting one as a pet, you should know one of the most important aspects for the health of a turtle is maintaining a certain body temperature. You are probably aware that a heat lamp is common in turtle tanks, but are they actually necessary?

Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?

Yes, turtles always need a heat lamp for survival. This is because as cold-blooded reptiles, turtles are unable to regulate their body temperature by themselves. They therefore have to rely on an external source to keep their body warm.

In the wild, this external source is the sun. However, for pet turtles which are kept inside, you must you a heat lamp to mimic the sun and keep your turtle warm.

It is also essential for your turtle to have a basking platform if they are semi-aquatic.

How warm does my heat lamp have to be for my turtle?

The temperature needed for your heat lamp depends on the species of turtle. In general, most pet turtles will need a heat lamp that can get up to at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Below is a table that indicates the ideal temperature for a heat lamp for each species of turtle. Your lamp doesn’t have to be the exact temperature listed, but you should try to at least get it to within 5 degrees of the targeted temperature.  

Turtle SpeciesBasking Light Temperature
Red Eared Slider95°F
Box Turtle85°F
Map Turtle80°F
Mud Turtle95°F
Musk Turtle90°F
Snapping Turtle90°F
Painted Turtle95°F

Sometimes younger turtles will need slightly higher temperatures compared to older turtles.

Aside from temperature, you should also be aware of the wattage of your heat lamp. You can learn more on this topic in my article about The Best Turtle Basking Light Wattage.

Should I Provide a Heat Lamp To My Turtle At Night?

No, turtles do not need a heat lamp at night. You only need to have the heat lamp turned on during the day, and you should aim to have it turned on for about 8-10 hours a day.

Can Turtles Survive without a Heat lamp?

The answer to this question is a bit tricky as the survival of turtles without heat lamps depends on their adaptability. Generally, most of the turtles can survive without a heat lamp for a couple weeks, but it affects their health very adversely.  

Even if your turtle goes only a week or two without a heat lamp, they will likely develop health complications.

What happens if you don’t have a heat lamp for your turtle?

If you do not have a heat lamp for your turtle, your turtle will most likely develop a respiratory illness. This happens because a turtle is unable to fight of bacteria and infection when their body temperature is too low.

A turtle with a respiratory illness will likely experience trouble breathing. It is also common for them to develop discharge around their nose or mouth. Respiratory illness are one of the main causes of death for pet turtles.

Your turtle will also likely experience complications with their shell if you do not have a heat lamp. This is because a heat lamp provides valuable vitamin D3 that helps maintain a strong shell. Without a source of vitamin D3, your turtle’s shell might even start to rot.

Interestingly enough, a heat lamp is also important for your turtle’s mental health. A turtle that is not able to maintain a warm body temperature will likely start to experience stress and anxiety. A heat lamp is also necessary for the turtle’s circadian cycle and their sleep schedule.

Where to buy heat lamps for turtles?

Heat lamps can vary widely in prices. I have seen some for as little as $10, while more fancy ones can cost up to $100. I would say the best place to buy heat lamps from turtles is from amazon. They have a very wide selection, and may of their heat lamps have built in UVA and UVB lights.

I personally use the DADYPET Reptile Heat Lamp for my red eared slider. It only costs $22, and it has both UVA and UVB lighting. The lamp comes with two bulbs which will last for months if not a year. The stand for the light can also be rotated 360 degrees, so it is really easy to fit it in your tank.

Do all turtles need a heat lamp?

Yes, just about every species of pet turtle will need a heat lamp. The only turtles that don’t need a heat lamp or don’t bask are sea turtles, which you probably don’t have in your tank.


A heat lamp is essential for you pet turtles, as they will most likely not survive without it. This is because their bodies cannot generate enough heat on their own, so they must rely on an external source of heat to regulate their body temperature.

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