Why Do Turtles Stack and Pile Up on Each Other? Real Reasons

If you have more than one pet turtle, chances are you have seen them piling up. This is called turtle stacking. Turtle stack is a common phenomenon among multiple turtles. But you may wonder why on earth turtles pile? What is the reason behind it, and will they drown? First, of all the turtles climb on top of one another. And yes, they can drown. No matter what habitat the turtles are living in, drowning can happen. 

Pet turtles or any turtle breathe through their nose. This is because they have two lungs, and if they get trapped underwater for a long time, they will drown. To avoid drowning, take care of the turtles’ metabolism and the temperature of the tank. 

As said, turtles stacking is expected when you have multiple turtles. So, you may think that it is the bigger turtles that will usually climb to the top. But no matter the size, anyone can climb up. Turtles simply do that to get more and better UV rays. And you will see turtle stacking typically in the basking area. 

This can be seen in pond turtles or wild ones too. In the wild, finding a good basking platform is challenging, which is why when one turtle finds a basking spot, several turtles start climbing to get enough UV light. 

So, if your pet turtles are also doing the same, ensure all the red eared sliders receive adequate UV. Moreover, UV rays are essential for the turtle shell as well. Now, let’s find out more details about turtle stacking. Are there any other reasons for doing that, how to prevent stacking, and more? 

Why do Turtles Stack?

Turtles stack in the basking area to get more and better UV rays. They need to reach a particular body temperature before heading into the water. It could also be because they are not receiving enough heat or light. It is not dangerous since they have strong shells.  If you want to avoid stacking, bring in more UV bulbs.

Do Turtles Stack to be Sociable?

No, turtles don’t stack to be social because turtles are not social animals. So, if you see that a few turtles are stacking, it doesn’t mean they are being friendly; instead, the reason is more profound. Also, turtles who stack have their advantages. 

One of the reasons why they are doing that is to form an imposing figure. Just like you install a scarecrow to scare away crows and birds from damaging your farm, turtle stacking can also be done to give predators an impression that they are not easy to eat. So, the more imposing figure, the better for them. 

Red eared sliders and painted turtles, which are pond turtles, will do that to keep themselves warm and dry. They do that because the turtles need to reach a specific body temperature before they go back to the water. So, when turtles stack, the top turtle starts collecting more heat from the bottom turtles. 

Another reason for this innate behavior is that some turtles are not receiving enough heat and light. And when they feel deprived of these essential things and fail to bask correctly, you will see other turtles stacking one by one. 

Is Turtle Stacking Dangerous for the Turtles?

Is Turtle Stacking Dangerous for the Turtles

Now you know why you see your turtles stacked, and you have also understood that this is a natural phenomenon. However, for a new turtle owner, not seeing turtles stack before may make them concerned. 

The ones that you will see on the top will often be the dominant turtles. But here’s something you need to know. Turtles’ shells are incredibly tough, and when turtles stack, that doesn’t hurt them. 

If you didn’t know already, the carapace of the turtles is solid. M. Gordon, D. Hu, and Kelly Sielert researched turtles’ carapace. They found out that it is the strongest in the whole animal kingdom. They have strong shells. Moreover, it will take a minimum of 360 kgs of turtles stacked to bite force. So this is because the turtle’s shell is super strong. 

But if you are worried, do look for shell rot symptoms. If nothing is evident, it means that the single turtle at the bottom is safe, and there is nothing to fear about. 

In the wild, you will even see three to four turtles stacking on one another, and the bottom turtle can endure the weight of all four without any problem. And if you are worried about the turtle shells, don’t be. 

Adult turtles, for example, often change their position when turtles pile up. So it is not like the same turtle will be the bottom turtle again and again. 

If one is in the bottom, the next one will take the base place the other day. The turtle on top will change its top position. 

Why Are My Pet Turtles Stacking and What Should I Do?

Why Are My Pet Turtles Stacking and What Should I Do

We have already thrown some light on turtle stacking, but let’s explain this a bit better; here are some of the common reasons why turtle stacking is happening. If your captive turtles are doing this, then here are some of the reasons for this behavior. 

Your turtles will look for UV rays because that’s what keeps them dry and healthy. However, when the size of the basking area is not large enough, and there are not enough UV rays, absorbing sunlight will become problematic. That’s when they will often end up piling. So, the size of the basking area matters a lot. 

As said, turtles are not social, and when they socialize, that’s only going to happen when it’s their mating season. 

So, if your turtle’s pile, do note that they are doing it mainly because they are looking for more heat to stay healthy and dry. Moreover, turtles are ectothermic creatures, which means turtles, unfortunately, can’t regulate or control their body temperature, unlike other animals. 

What Should You Do?

To avoid stacking from happening, the easiest thing that you can do is bring more UV bulbs. The UV bulbs will provide the turtles with enough UV heat to feel warm without finding another turtle for support. 

Let the light spread out to the entire basking area. Also, ensure to get the correct number of bulbs that will be enough for the basking space. For example, you can create two basking spaces and install the bulb on each side so that if one turtle goes to one basking space, the other goes to another basking space, and both receive an equal amount of necessary nutrients to keep them healthy. 

Other Possible Reasons Why Turtles Stack?

Apart from the most apparent reason, there are few other reasons for turtle stacking. Most often, it’s because they look for a good basking area, and when that’s not the case, here are some other reasons why they may do it. 

When They Feel Threatened 

If the tank has other animals that the turtles feel threatened by, they may end up stacking. For example, pond turtles are small, and if there are other sea creatures in the same tank, the turtles may want to protect themselves and end up stacking. They may think of them as predators. 

If the tank has other animals that may look like predators, the best thing to do will be to remove the other animal and provide them with another habitat so that the turtles don’t feel scared. But, again, that will only, this is a normal thing to do. They behave like that in front of predators. 

Also Read: How to fix a cloudy turtle tank?

To Get More Body Warmth 

Your turtles may stack if they feel the need to get more body temperature. A smaller turtle, such as red-eared sliders, in general, needs to stay warm and dry. And when they fail to do so, they will look for other turtles who will help them stay dry and warm. 

Once they stack, the turtle will feel at ease and stop stacking after reaching the optimum body temperature. Moreover, once turtles are stacking, you will often see the turtles running towards the water to eat delicious food.  

Is Stacking a Social Activity?

No, stacking is not a social activity at all. As explained, turtles are not social creatures. Although they stay in a large group, all of them like to have their own space. You know why they will stack, so don’t misunderstand turtle stacking to be similar to socializing. 

You will see two turtles socializing when they have to mate. Otherwise, two turtles will like to stay away from one another. 

Do Turtles Like to Stack?

It’s not whether turtles like to stack, but rather focus on why they stack! We can’t tell for sure whether they like to stack or not, but if they are doing this, they are scared of other big animals that are there in the same tank; they lack good quality UV rays, or they are doing it to keep themselves warm. 

So, one of the three reasons could be the cause. But most prominently, they want to bask, and they cannot find a good space to do that. So, one crucial thing that you must know is that your turtles will stack as a joint effort. 

It’s nothing like turtles are doing that because they are fighting or hurting the weak turtle; instead, they support one another. This is a group effort, and none of them will fight to get the top spot. So, that’s less likely to happen. 

Yes, the bottom turtle will receive the lowest amount of UV rays, but you will see them changing position whenever turtles stack. So, the one who is on top today won’t go for the same position tomorrow. 

Why Do Turtles Sit On Rocks?

Why Do Turtles Sit On Rocks

If your turtles are suddenly sitting on rocks most of the time, they may be doing it for a few reasons. For example, you may have placed some stone in the turtle tank, and when they go there, it could mean one of the following things:

Looking for Food 

If there is enough space in the tank, and the turtle still goes to the rock and sits on top of it, it could mean that your turtle is asking for food. Since you have adopted your turtle, they know that it’s you who will provide them with food. This makes them dependent on you. Moreover, it could be the strongest turtle on top. 

So, whenever they are hungry, they will typically come up and sit on a rock. This shouldn’t concern you because every pet asks for food. 

They Feel Lonely 

Even after giving them food, if the turtle or turtles keep sitting on the rock, it could mean the turtle feels lonely. Turtles, just like any other animals, will look for companionship.  Whenever turtles stack 

They may do it more often when they feel the need to mate. So, what you can do is create more space for them to bask. You can rearrange the furniture and install new live plants to feel more excited about their new surroundings, and if the turtle looks lonely, do it a favor, find other turtles, and let them have some company. 

They Are Deprived of UVB Rays 

Whenever the turtles feel low in energy and feel the need to absorb UV rays from the sun, they will look for other spots where they can do that. Rays from the sun are essential for every turtle. Being deprived of sun rays means putting the turtle shell in danger. 

So, to all the turtle enthusiasts, be mindful of it. Give them enough UVB rays of the sun since they can’t generate heat on their own. If you see one of the turtles going for the top position, take it as a sign and bring in more UV rays. 


Provide a good basking spot for their good health, so that pet turtles’ stacking doesn’t happen. Offer them more UV rays, and don’t be too worried since turtles do it normally when they start looking for a basking area. Just make sure that your turtles have good enough space to dry themselves for basking, playing around, and resting. As turtle owners, you are their only guardian; therefore, look after your turtle’s health.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.