Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?

Turtles are not warm-blooded animals. This means they cannot regulate their internal body temperature. Turtles require an external heat source to be able to stay warm. If you have a pet turtle, you will need a heat source. You can use it to give them warmth and light. 

It is a mammoth task to find out the requirements of your turtle and exactly how much heat and light it needs for how long. Many people who keep turtles as pets also wonder whether or not they are to keep the lamp on through the night. No, the light does not need to stay on through the night. It is a good practice because studies have shown that turtles are healthier when exposed to a natural cycle of light and dark every day. 

Check out this other article that talks about the essentials in caring for turtles : How to Take Care of a Turtle

What Are Your Turtle’s Light and Temperature Needs? :

Turtle SpeciesTemperature FarenheitTemperature Celsius
Red Eared Slider90 – 95°F32 – 35°C
Juvenile Red Eared Slider95 – 100°F29 – 37°C
Box Turtle80 – 90°F26 – 32°C
Juvenile Box Turtle90 – 95°F32 – 35°C
Map Turtle75 – 80°F24 – 26°C
Juvenile Map Turtle80 – 90°F26 – 32°C
Mud Turtle90 – 95°F32 – 35°C
Juvenile Mud Turtle90 – 100°F32 – 37°C
Musk Turtle85 – 90°F29 – 32°C
Juvenile Musk Turtle90 – 100°F32 – 37°C
Snapping Turtle90 – 95°F32 – 35°C
Juvenile Snapping Turtle95 – 100°F29 – 37°C
Pond Turtle85 – 95°F29 – 35°C
Juvenile Pond Turtle90 – 100°F32 – 37°C
Cooter80 – 85°F26 – 29°C
Juvenile Cooter90 – 100°F32 – 37°C

Above is a table that contains the ideal temperature requirements for different species of turtles in both centigrade and Fahrenheit. There is a noticeable variation in the temperatures between different species of turtles.  

Different species have varying heat and light requirements, but general guidelines are to be followed when it comes to the air and water temperature in the tank to keep your turtles healthy. You must maintain the temperature of the air in the tank between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It would be best if you kept the water temperature between the range of 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This same temperature must be dropped by about 5 to 10 degrees at night in the turtle’s tank.  

What Kind of Light Does Your Turtle Need? :

Turtles require UV light to replicate the kind of light they would receive in the wild. The type of light that they need to light up the tank should give them both UVA and UVB light rays. The lamp that is being used must be specifically made for reptiles. For turtles, an incandescent bulb works best at providing heat rather than UVB radiation in the basking area. 

Here are the choices that you can go with to light up your turtle tank :

  • Two-lamp system: A two-lamp system is where two separate lamps provide heat and light for your turtles. One is a UVA lamp, and the other is a UVB lamp. Usually, the UVA lamp will be similar to a basking lamp that will also provide heat for your turtles. 
  • Mercury Vapor Lamps: These are essentially all-in-one lamps to get both UVA and UVB light and heat. Mercury vapor lamps are a 3 in 1 lamp that is very versatile as they do not require multiple bulbs. However, they do consume a lot more electricity. 
  • Optional Lighting: Other options for lights include viewing lights and nightlights. These are mainly for aesthetic purposes that help the viewer keep an eye on the turtle. The viewing lights are used to see the turtle during the day, while the nightlights are usually different colors like purple or red, or yellow to see the turtle at night. 

Why Does Your Turtle Need UVA and UVB Light? : 

Why Does Your Turtle Need UVA and UVB Light

UVA and UVB lights are both essential to keep your turtle healthy. UVA light is responsible for providing warmth, while UVB light helps them generate vitamin D3. The turtles need to maintain their body temperature as it is responsible for regulating their metabolism, breeding, and immune system support. Vitamin D3 is essential for turtles to metabolize the calcium they need to grow their bones and shells. 

Without the UVB light, they will start to suffer from metabolic bone diseases that are very painful and most likely fatal. No UVB exposure also means that they would not be able to digest their food correctly. This means the turtles would die from malnutrition.

Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp At Night?

Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp At Night

The answer to this depends on the climate of the place where you live. If your area is relatively warm, then you should turn off the heat lamp at night. The goal is to replicate their natural environment as closely as possible. The way to do this would be to keep the lights on while the sun is up and turn them off when the sun sets. 

This helps the turtles understand the difference between night and day. Change the lighting timings with the seasons. Keep it for 12 hours on and 12 hours off in the summertime while the cycle remains for 6 – 9 hours in the wintertime. 

This allows you to teach the turtles to mimic the lighting pattern as naturally as day and night. During the night, you can use the Infrared lamp that generates heat.

What Can Happen If You Don’t Have A Heating Lamp?

If you do not have a heating lamp, the turtle will not access adequate UVB radiation. The UVB radiation helps allow turtles to produce Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is responsible for the metabolization of calcium in the body. Without this, they will have stunted growth in their bones and shells. Without the UVB light, they will start to suffer from metabolic bone diseases that are very painful and most likely fatal. No UVB exposure also means that they would not be able to digest their food correctly. This means the turtles would die from malnutrition. 

Also, the combination of UVB and UVA light helps replicate the effect that the sun has on the turtles in the wild. Without this, the turtles will be stressed, which could lead to further complications or even diseases. 

Another simple problem that the turtle will encounter is that it may catch a cold. This is not good as a simple cold could lead to a respiratory infection for the turtle. This can also be fatal if not treated. Instead of dealing with all these complications, get a heat lamp. 

Can I use a regular light bulb for my turtle? : 

A regular lightbulb would be sufficient as a heat source for the basking area of the tank for the turtles. However, this does not serve as a replacement for the UVA and UVB lamps. It does not emit UVB radiation, which is essential to turtles. It only serves the purpose of a heater and provides light to a certain extent. A regular lightbulb cannot be used as a lamp for the tank that houses the turtle. 

Should I keep my turtle lamp on 24×7? : 

The lamp in the tank that houses turtles should not be kept on 24 / 7. If it were to be kept on perennially, there would be mass confusion for the turtle as it would not distinguish night from day. There would be no semblance of balance to the cycle of dark and light. It would also stress out the turtle, leading to a lot of potential health problems as well. However, turtles do require water heaters to be on 24 / 7. This is needed to keep the water temperature uniform for the turtles. 

Alternatives to Heating Lamps : 

There are multiple alternatives to heating lamps that are available today. Let us take a look at some of them now. 

  • Two-lamp system: Keep a two-lamp system where two separate lamps are used to provide heat and light for your turtles. One is a UVA lamp, and the other is a UVB lamp. Usually, the UVA lamp will be similar to a basking lamp that will also provide heat for your turtles. 
  • Mercury Vapor Lamps: These are essentially all-in-one lamps to get both UVA and UVB light and heat. Mercury vapor lamps are 3 in 1 lamps that are very versatile as they do not require multiple bulbs. However, they do consume a lot more electricity. 
  • Optional Lighting: Other options for lights include viewing lights and nightlights. These are mainly for aesthetic purposes that help the viewer keep an eye on the turtle. The viewing lights are used to see the turtle during the day, while the nightlights are usually different colors like purple or red, or yellow to see the turtle at night. 
  • Heat Pads: Heat pads are a common heat source that is used for reptiles. However, they are not very compatible with turtles. They work amazingly well for snakes and lizards but are honestly no good when it comes to turtles. Turtles require heat coming from above, not below. Unfortunately, due to the shape of the shell, the efficiency of the heat is only about 35% 

How Long Can Turtles Stay Without a Heat Lamp?

As we mentioned earlier, the turtle is a cold-blooded reptile, meaning it cannot change its internal body temperature. Turtles require an external heat source to be able to stay warm. If you have a pet turtle, you will need a heat source that you can use to give them warmth and light. 

Studies have revealed that there are adult turtles that can survive without a heat lamp. However, the problem is with juvenile turtles that cannot survive this as their bodies are not yet fully developed. As their bodies are not yet fully developed, they require intensive care and intervention for their well-being. 

Sources have claimed that a baby turtle cannot survive more than a few weeks without UVB radiation. The heat is essential to increase the temperature of the body of a turtle to help fight off an infection.

Conclusion

Caring for turtles is not an easy job. There are many things to worry about when it comes to taking care of them. However, leaving the heat lamp on all the time is not one of them. They have sufficient access to heat and light during the day. This is enough exposure during the daytime, making it okay to shut off at night. 

However, these lamps are critical as they expose the turtles to UVB radiation. This is essential as it helps them absorb vitamin D3, without which they would not metabolize calcium. It also aids and assists in the digestion of food that turtles ingest. I think we can sum it all up by saying that heat lamps are essential for turtles and must be used while the sun is up.

You can read and learn more about turtles by following either of these two links to another article : 

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