Large turtles are more limited with respect to basking platform options. Here is what you need to know, as well as the best choice for large turtles.
The Best Turtle Dock
For most people with regular-sized aquariums or tanks, I recommend this as the best docking platform for turtles:
- Penn Plax Turtle Tank Topper (click here for current price on Amazon) – I’ve been a pretty big fan of these platforms for a long time, and in my opinion, they are easily the best pre-made basking platforms out there (if someone can find something else better, please let me know!). They are inexpensive, work with most medium-sized tanks and really give your tank a lot of extra-space. My turtles have never had a problem climbing up it, and it can easily fit at least 2 full-grown sliders inside.
Your pet turtle needs a docking platform.
It absolutely requires something that it can climb onto, out of the water and lay out underneath the sun or a light source.
Now, when your pet turtle is small and still juvenile, you’ve got options everywhere.
In fact, most commercially-made turtle docks should be ok, as most of them are smaller and can easily hold their weight. Often times these docks and platforms will have suction cups, which let you position them on the bottom of your tank and tub. The downside to these docks however, is that you can’t fill up your tank more than the platform.
These types of docks are better for terrestrial box turtle species instead of semi-aquatic species like red eared sliders.
The problem many pet turtle owners face however is that when their little chelonian grows much bigger, many of those same previously acceptable docks, simply cannot accommodate larger animals.
The Best Pre-Made Turtle Dock for Large Turtles
If you have a larger turtle (bigger than 8-10 inches when fully grown) you really have two choices, provided your tank is indoor.
The first is to use the best (in my opinion) pre-made turtle dock, which is the Turtle Topper.
This dock sits above your tank or aquarium.
Why I Like the Turtle Topper
The Turtle Topper is my favorite turtle dock. Mine has been rock-solid for me for almost 3 years now.
This dock is perfect for those who have tanks that are 12″ wide or less (if you’ve got a slightly bigger tank, you can rig it up a bit to work, but you’ll need to do a little bit of legwork).
Essentially, how it works is by providing a basking platform above your tank, so that you are able to fill the water a little bit higher, and give your aquatic turtles more room to swim.
￼The ramp is angled to dip into the water and allow your turtles an easy access point from which to climb onto the platform.
The ramp itself has ridges and crevices which allow your turtle to get a good footing and not slip when climbing up.
On top, the platform is decorated in natural green colors so that your pet turtle will feel at home, and on top of that rests a see-through cage to prevent him or her from climbing out of the top and escaping.
The see-through cage has wire-mesh that allows your UV-B light to shine through uninhibited.
This dock will also allow your water filter to run underneath the basking dock and allow for less water splashing and noise, and has a solid build quality that will last a long time.
For most larger semi-aquatic turtles, this dock will be sufficient.
It can hold up to 2 fully grown female red eared sliders at a time.
It will fit on a tank up to 55 gallons, and can accommodate essentially any sized turtle without sinking or falling apart, in fact it can quite easily fit many turtles all at the same time.
Below I made a short FAQ to answer the most common questions. Here’s a quick video to show how it works.
Turtle Topper FAQ
Can turtles easily climb up the ramp?
Yes, quite easily! The ramp is ridged and is not slick, which allows turtles to easily ascend.
What’s the largest tank size this dock will accomodate?
Users have reported being able to use it on tanks as large as 65 gallons. It will fit any size aquarium up to 14″ wide.
Does it get too hot inside the dock with a lamp point towards it? Will any of the plastic parts melt?
Provided that you do not place your UV bulb any closer than recommended (around 18″), then there should be no safety concerns. The covering over top is mesh and will allow UV and heat to penetrate. The plastic parts and material of the topper itself will not melt.
How big is too large of a turtle to be able to use this dock?
Any turtle larger than ~12″ is probably not going to be able to fit. The hole that the turtles walk up into is 7″ wide. Turtles larger than this size however are going to need a MUCH larger tank than what the TurtleTopper can accommodate.
Can you place two of these docks on one tank?
Yes, provided the tank is large enough (around 55 gallons should be sufficient).
Does this dock come with a light and filter?
It doesn’t come with any light or water filter, this is simply a basking platform.
The Best Natural Turtle Dock for Larger Turtles
What if your tank is too big for something like the Turtle Topper? What if you have more than 2 turtles?
In this case, I strongly recommend you forego any type of pre-made turtle platform, and create one yourself.
I know what you’re thinking.
This is going to require too much work.
It really won’t, at least not nearly as much as you think.
What does it involve?
In my opinion, driftwood is an easy choice for the best turtle platform for larger tanks.
- It’s lightweight and with just a little bit of thin floss, can easily float.
- It’s sturdy enough to hold all of your turtles.
- Turtles can easily climb on top of it.
- It’s natural, and your turtles will feel at home on top of it.
Here’s how to set everything up.
- Find an appropriately sized piece of driftwood outdoors (or you can simply purchase a piece online).
- Boil it in water to remove any harmful contaminants and bacteria.
- Place it in your tank.
- Hold it in place by running floss or a very thin (but strong) string underneath each end and either tying the ends to something overhead or weigh the ends down using a weight.
And just like that, your turtle will be thrilled!
I have seen this set-up countless times and have this in my own tank, and in my opinion it gives the tank a much more “natural” appearance and setting.
Problems with Other Docks and Large Turtles
If you have an aquarium or a tank (instead of a tub or pond), you may be inclined to try some of the more common commercial docking stations.
It’s probably not a good idea!
Several of the more common, traditional docks are plagued with problems, such as:
- Sink easily when even medium sized turtles (3-5 inches) climb on board.
- The suction cups get covered with algae easily, and lose their ability to fasten to the aquarium walls over the span of just a few months.
- Are made with cheap, plastic material and/or foam that your turtles will sometimes nip off and try to eat.
- Are simply too small to accommodate larger turtles.
- Sit down too deep inside the aquarium, limited your ability to fill it with more water and provide a larger swimming area.
To summarize, the best turtle dock for larger turtles will usually be either 1 of these 2 things:
- The Turtle Topper for tanks that are 12″ wide or less, and tanks that have 2 or fewer turtles.
- An appropriately sized piece of driftwood for tanks bigger than 12″, or multiple turtles.