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Your turtle will need a dock to soak up UV rays. These are my most amazing turtle basking platform ideas for all different types of turtles.

This article will give you several turtle basking platform ideas, depending on whether you just want any ole dock, a platform to maximize space, docks for big and small turtles and more.

Let’s get started!

The Best Aquatic Turtle Basking Platform

By far, the easiest and most trouble-free option is to simply purchase a pre-built dock and stick it in your tank or habitat.

But I would not just go out and buy any basking platform.

Most of them are riddled with problems:

  • The platform is too small.
  • Your turtle has trouble climbing the ramp because it is too slippery or unstable.
  • It takes up too much space in your tank or habitat.
  • You have to suction it to the bottom of your tank, which then doesn’t allow you to pour enough water in the tank.
  • It can’t hold the weight of your turtle.

So, this is what I recommend for most turtle owners.

The Best Aquatic Turtle Basking Platform

The Turtle Topper is simply awesome, especially for water turtles.

Here are some advantages to this platform:

  • Sits on top of your tank, which gives your turtle a much larger area to swim around in.
  • Adjustable and can fit a variety of tank sizes (up to 14″ wide).
  • Solidly built and can handle turtles up to 10″.
  • Has a mesh covering to protect your turtle from escaping, at the same time not blocking helpful UV rays.
  • Green and dark environment that looks natural.
  • Smaller platform underneath if your turtle feels like staying in the water to rest.

There’s a lot of reasons why this particular platform (which is both an Amazon Best Seller and one of the highest-rated turtle docking stations on Amazon with over 560 reviews with an average 4.5-star rating) serves as a very good choice.

For most aquatic pet turtles out there (sliders, painted turtles and other species) this turtle dock is going to be perfect.

It’s also not going to cost you an arm and a leg (priced under $50) and will last you for years and years to come.

So, if you are looking for a good turtle docking station, you really can’t go wrong at all with the Turtle Topper.

Here’s a video to show how it works.

There are a few downsides however to using the Turtle Topper as your aquatic turtle basking platform:

  • It won’t fit on tanks larger than 14″ wide, so if you have a really big tank you’ll need to do some custom rigging to make it work.
  • If you have more than one turtle, especially a larger aquatic turtle like a red-eared slider, it will get a bit crowded when both are basking. The Turtle Topper is perfect for one large (say a full-sized slider) or a few medium or smaller-sized turtles, but not much more.
  • While it looks nice, it may not give you the aesthetics you are looking for.

The Best Floating Platform 

Some turtle owners opt for floating platforms.

However, some prudence and guidance is necessary here.

For starters, many of the more popular, commercially-built floating platforms out there do not work as advertised (or at all!).

Typically, these types of commercially-built floating platforms will only work with very, very small turtles. Because of this, I would not recommend buying one. 

Any turtle larger than a few inches is going to sink the platform, and if you have more than a few small turtles, the same thing will happen if or when more than one of them climbs on top of it.

There is also a problem with some of the material that these platforms are made out of. Often times they are made out of a type of plastic or styrofoam that can be torn off and even eaten by your turtle.

Thus, I would highly recommend that if you want a type of floating platform, set-up a rather easy do-it-yourself version featuring driftwood and fishing wire.

These are inexpensive, easy to set-up and will look good in your habitat.

The Best Platform for Small Turtles

If your turtle basking platform dock needs to accommodate a smaller turtle, you have two options if you would rather not do it yourself.

The first option is the Turtle Topper. As a bit of a larger dock, it will give your smaller turtles a ton of basking and resting space.

If however, your tank or aquarium is 10 gallons or less (and your turtles are going to remain small), then you have another option.

If however, your tank or aquarium is 10 gallons or less (and your turtles are going to remain small), then you have another option.

Zoo Med makes an adjustable, semi-floating dock that might also warrant strong consideration.

One of its ends is curved downwards and is covered in natural-looking ridges, which allow your turtle to easily climb on top of it.

The biggest benefit, however, is its size.

This dock comes in five different sizes (ranging from ‘very small to 19’x8’) to fit a variety of tanks (up to 40 gallons, although at that point we would recommend the Penn-Plax over this).

And so, if you are looking to minimize the amount of space given in your tank to a basking area, then you might want to look at this dock.

The biggest drawback here however is that this dock will not accommodate medium to large turtles. Only smaller turtles will be able to sit on top of it without sinking it.

Thus, species like sliders and painted turtles will only be able to use it temporarily, while they are still young.

The Best Homemade Turtle Basking Platform Idea

Thus, species like sliders and painted turtles will only be able to use it temporarily, while they are still young.

If you have a lot more room to work with, or you are using an outdoor habitat, I would recommend that you build a dock that is as natural as possible.

Nearly all commercially-made turtle docking stations are made for indoor tanks and aquariums.

If you have a lot more room to work with, or you are using an outdoor habitat, I would recommend that you build a dock that is as natural as possible.

For outdoor backyard ponds or enclosures, the best option is going to be things like:

  • Smooth, large, stable stones that can be easily climbed onto.
  • Pieces of driftwood.
  • Any type of flat, or semi-float surface.

Any of these are going to be good options as turtle basking platforms for large turtles.

Any of the three items above would be perfect for outdoor turtles.

My First Recommendation: Get Some Driftwood

Driftwood, in particular, is a really great option to use inside of a small pond that you have built (as well as inside of indoor tanks). It’s great because it is stable, doesn’t splinter and can easily float. As long as you properly position it, and make sure that your turtles can climb it, it is one of the best materials to use as a basking platform.

Your main concern here, however, wouldn’t actually be what you will use as a basking platform (that part is easy), but 3 things in particular:

  • Figuring out how your turtles will access and climb it.
  • Ensuring that it will get hot enough (from 85 to 90 degrees).
  • Ensuring that it is safe from predators.

My Second Recommendation: Use Smooth, Large Stones

For items such as smooth, large stones this is rather easy. Arrange the rocks (if you have more than one) from smallest to biggest, while making sure they won’t topple over as the turtles climb them.

The same thing applies to any driftwood or any other flat surface. You need to make sure that your turtle can easily climb up to the top, without falling on its back (especially from a high distance, where it could injure itself) or getting stuck.

The next thing to do is to make sure that your turtles can actually use this surface as a basking platform. For this, take the temperature of the surface during your turtles’ basking time (which will likely be when the sun is out), and check that it is hot enough (85 to 90 degrees).

If this is too cold, this means that your turtles won’t be able to properly heat their internal body temperature up to a normal range and be able to fight off sickness and potential disease. Sometimes, however, it might actually get too hot. This can happen with extremely reflective surfaces, so just make sure that your turtles cannot burn themselves on it.

Your biggest concern, however, is probably not going to be how your turtles can climb it, or whether or not it gets hot enough, but potential predators preying on your precious turtles!

Beware These Turtle Hunting Predators!

Here is a list of predators you need to be concerned about, especially for young turtles:

  • Stray dogs and cats
  • Raccoons and hedgehogs
  • Coyotes and foxes
  • Birds of prey, such as falcons and eagles
  • Rats and mice (who will often target turtle eggs)
  • Humans (unfortunately)

To deal with these predators, you can do several things:

  • Make sure your habitat has some sort of perimeter that blocks outside intruders.
  • Ensure that your perimeter cannot be dug under easily.
  • Have some sort of natural cover or foliage for your turtles to not be out in the open all the time.

My Favorite Aquatic Turtle Basking Platforms

  • The Turtle Topper (indoor).
  • Zoo Med semi-floating dock (indoor, and only for very small turtles or babies).
  • Large pieces of driftwood (for indoors and outside).
  • Large, smooth, flat rocks (better for outdoors).

About the Author

Hi, I'm J and I'm the chelonian-obsessed creator of this website. Feel free to leave a comment below, as unlike a snapping turtle, I promise I won't bite!

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