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Turtle Can't Get on Dock

Basking is essential for all turtles in captivity. I discuss the importance of basking in this article, but just know that if your turtle can’t bask or is having trouble getting on its basking dock, it is a cause for concern. 

Why can’t my turtle get on the basking dock?

Top 4 reasons that your turtle can’t get on its dock:

  1. It is new and the change of environment is scaring them
  2. The dock or basking platform isn’t large enough
  3. The dock isn’t accessible and needs a ramp
  4. The ramp you do have is too slippery

Change in environment

turtle basking

Turtles are naturally risk averse creatures and commonly refuse new things in their tank or environment. If your dock is new and your turtle is apprehensive to using it, do not fret. There is a good chance your turtle is just nervous and still getting acclimated to its environment.

I would recommend giving your turtle at least 2 weeks to get used to the new dock before you make any more modifications. 

There is a chance that over time, your turtle will become more familiar with the platform and begin using it when it no longer sees it as a threat. You can also try picking your turtle up and placing them directly on the dock.

If your turtle still won’t get on the dock, there is probably another reason why they are avoiding it.

The dock isn’t large enough

small basking platform for big turtle

Perhaps a dock that used to work for your turtle is no longer large enough. Remember, turtles grow quickly, and it is not uncommon for them to outgrow their docks and basking platforms. If you have multiple turtles, the dock may not support all of their weight.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see turtle owners make is that they don’t upgrade the dock when their turtle gets bigger. It is important that your turtle has enough space to completely turn around on their basking dock. If there is only one way in and one way out, your turtle will probably avoid using it.

The obvious solution here is to get a larger dock! I have listed my top dock suggestions in detail here and recommend the read if you think you will be in the market for a new dock. 

You need a ramp

turtle can't get on basking platform

My favorite dock with a ramp is the Penn-Plax Turtle-Pier Basking Platform. The docking ramp on the Penn Plax platform allows your turtle to easily climb onto the upper level of the pier. 

Additionally, the pier’s platform has a built-in gravel bin that’s used to counterbalance the weight of your pet as they climb up the ramp.

You should make sure that your ramp goes a couple inches into the water so that your turtle can easily climb onto it. Below is a great example of an easily accessible turtle dock.

help turtle get on dock

Your ramp is too slippery (or too steep)

slippery turtle basking spot

Perhaps you already have a ramp to your dock and your turtle is still having trouble accessing it. A common cause in this case is that the ramp is too slippery or too steep. Try to bring down the angle that the ramp rests on if possible.  You might also need to extend the length of the ramp, or add something on to the end.

Additionally, try adding a textured surface on the platform and the ramp. A cut of cloth from a mat or a towel should do the trick. You want to make sure that your turtle can get a good grip when climbing the ramp and you may not realize how slippery it currently is. 

Some people have also seen good results by adding artificial grass to their ramp. Not only does this help give your turtle more grip, but it is also similar to their basking habitat in the wild.

How to help your turtle get on their basking dock

Aside from the tips above, there are other ways to encourage your turtle to get on their dock. One of the best ways is to ensure that you have a powerful uvb light that is directed towards the dock.

Depending on the basking light wattage, the light should be anywhere from 6 to 12 inches away from the dock.

If the light is too far away, your turtle’s basking spot might get too cold. Similarly, a light that is too close might be too hot. It is important that their basking area should be around 90-95 degrees fahrenheight.

If your turtle still won’t dock, you should get a different type of basking platform. There is a wide range to choose from including docks, rocks, platforms, and wood.

Bottom Line

It is essential that your pet turtle can access the dock and if it continues to have issues, consider manually assisting it while you work towards a more permanent solution. It is essential for the long term health of your turtle. 

Also, remember that the solution will be different depending on the number of turtles you have. If you have more than one turtle (or are even thinking of getting more), I would always recommend getting a larger dock. A dock that fits your needs today, may not be suitable as you add more turtles or your turtle grows. 

It is always best to provide the least amount of disruption as possible to its habitat so if you think you will eventually need a larger dock, that is what you should start with.

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