If you have an aquatic turtle, it needs a place to bask. In this short article, I will show you my favorite turtle basking platform ideas.
The Best Turtle Basking Platform Ideas
Although aquatic turtles spend most of their lives in the water, they still need to be able to exit it in order to dry off and bask.
The problem many pet turtle owners have is figuring out exactly how to set-up a turtle basking area inside their habitat.
In this article, I will share my favorite turtle basking platform ideas, for:
- Maximizing aquarium space
- Big turtles
- Small turtles
Let’s get started!
The Problem With Many Turtle Tank Basking Platforms
There are quite a few companies that make turtle basking platforms.
The issue, however, is that many of them are problematic, because:
- Their platforms are too small.
- They have ramps that are too slippery, steep, or unstable for turtles to climb.
- They take up too much space in your tank.
- You have to suction it to the bottom of your tank, which then doesn’t allow you to have 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 for water turtles.
I’ve had one myself now for over 4 years and I couldn’t recommend it enough for most pet owners. In my opinion, it has a ton of advantages, such as:
- It sits on top of your tank, which gives your turtle a much larger area to swim around in.
- It is adjustable and can fit a variety of tank sizes (up to 14″ wide).
- The Turtle Topper is built-well and can handle turtles up to 10″.
- It has a mesh covering to protect your turtle from escaping, at the same time not blocking helpful UV rays.
- The green, brown and black colors on the platform are natural.
For most aquatic pet turtles (sliders, painted turtles, and other species) out there this turtle dock is going to be perfect.
And at less than $50, it’s also not going to cost you an arm and a leg 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 two turtles, especially larger aquatic turtles like red-eared sliders, it will get a bit crowded when both are basking. The Turtle Topper is perfect for one or two 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 look you are going for.
Why You Should Avoid Most Floating Basking Platforms
Some turtle owners opt for floating basking platforms but in my opinion, they usually just don’t work well.
Typically, most floating basking 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 probably 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.
So, I would recommend that if you want a floating basking platform, get some driftwood and some fishing wire and make a DIY turtle dock. It’s not difficult at all to set-up and won’t sink.
In my opinion, most DIY turtle basking areas look better anyways.
The Best Floating Basking 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.
Zoo Med makes an adjustable, semi-floating dock that I recommend you check out. In my opinion, its advantages are:
- The downward curved shape of the platform allows your turtle to easily climb on it.
- Comes in a bunch of different sizes to accommodate both smaller and bigger tanks.
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.
So, species like sliders and painted turtles will only be able to use it temporarily, while they are still young.
Easy Homemade Turtle Dock Ideas
If you have a lot more room to work with, or you are using an outdoor habitat, you could always build a DIY turtle dock.
Nearly all turtle docking stations manufactured by pet companies are designed for indoor aquariums.
Some common methods to build a DIY turtle dock are:
- To use fishing wire to support a piece of driftwood.
- Using egg-crate to whip up a simple basking platform.
Since a video is going to be a whole lot better than me simply describing how to do it, here’s a really well-done platform made out of nothing but egg crate.
DIY egg crate turtle dock:
If you are looking for a turtle basking platform for a pond, on the other hand, going natural usually works well. You can use things such as:
- Smooth, large, stable stones that can be easily climbed onto.
- Pieces of driftwood.
- Any type of flat, or semi-float surface.
All of these are good options as turtle basking platforms for ponds.
Driftwood, in particular, is a really great option to use inside of a small pond that you have built. It also works well for indoor tanks, too.
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:
- 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.
You can also simply use large stones for a super easy DIY turtle dock for your pond.
Simply arrange the stones from biggest to smallest, make sure they are snug, and voila, easy DIY turtle basking platform!
The main issue with stones is that if you use a bunch of smaller stones, your turtle will likely dig them out of position. I have found that medium and larger stones work much better than lots and lots of pebbles.
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. If it gets into the 80-degree Fahrenheit range, perfect!
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.
Don’t skip out on your basking area. Without it, your turtle won’t be able to dry off and will be susceptible to disease and illness. The best turtle basking platforms in my opinion are:
- 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).