Turtles require very specific conditions in order to stay happy and healthy. One of the most important aspects is the amount of heat and lighting turtles have access to. Not maintaining the correct conditions can lead to illness and in severe cases death. To help you out, we’ve put together this turtle heat and lighting guide all about heat, UVA light and UVB light, and why it’s so important.
Why is turtle heat and lighting so important?
Quite simply, heat and lighting are important for turtles because they need it to survive.
Light helps to regulate turtles’ circadian rhythms. This means that, like us, they need periods of day and night in order to function properly. If their circadian rhythms are disrupted your turtle won’t be able to sleep properly and will become stressed. This will impact their immune system and overall health, just like it does in people. It’s recommended you leave the lights on for 8–10 hours a day, turning them off for 10–12 hours. The easiest way to achieve this is to use a timer.
Turtles are also ectothermic (cold-blooded), so rely on their environment to regulate their body temperature. Wild turtles are able to do this easily by spending time in the water and then coming on land to bask in natural sunlight.
As a turtle owner, you have a responsibility to replicate the natural conditions your pet would have in the wild. This is why ensuring your turtle’s home is set up correctly with a swimming area, a basking area, and the right heat and lighting is so important.
Why do turtles need to bask?
Turtles need to bask in order to dry, warm up, absorb essential nutrients and regulate their metabolism.
Although they spend much of their time in water, turtles need the opportunity to completely dry out. If your turtle can’t do this will they get too cold, and algae and fungus growth can occur on their shell. If left untreated, this could lead to shell rot.
Basking also allows turtles to absorb UVA and UVB rays, both of which are essential for healthy development.
Why do turtles need UVA and UVB light?
Turtles need UVA and UVB light to stay healthy.
There are mixed views on the importance of UVA light. Some people believe it’s not as important as UVB light, but it’s known to help with breeding and activity levels. Alongside this, turtles living in the wild would be exposed to UVA rays every day. So, if you want to replicate their natural environment as closely, we recommend providing UVA light.
One thing turtle keepers do agree on is that all turtles need access to UVB light.
Calcium is an essential mineral for turtles, and forms an important part of their diet. It helps them to maintain strong bones, keep their shell strong and healthy, and to carry out many important bodily functions.
In order for turtles to process and utilise calcium, they need a vitamin called D3. When the skin absorbs UVB rays, the body creates Vitamin D and converts it into Vitamin D3. Only once Vitamin D3 is present can a turtle begin to utilise the calcium they’ve taken in through food
Without absorbing UVB rays, turtles are unable produce Vitamin D3 and utilise calcium.
What happens if my turtle doesn’t get enough UVB light?
If your turtle doesn’t get enough UVB light, they will develop serious health conditions. In cases of severe deficiency, death is an unfortunate but probable consequence.
Without the ability to absorb the essential calcium, their bones and shell will become weak. This means they can become damaged more easily, causing infections and ultimately death.
How do I provide my turtle with UVA, UVB and heat?
UVA, UVB and heat can all be provided to your turtle through specialised and specific reptile lamps.
This is where it is key to do your research. While many basking lamps provide UVA light and heat, they don’t give out UVB light. You will need to purchase and set up a separate UVB light.
Different basking and UVB lights will also be different strengths and wattages. Before making a purchase, we strongly recommend speaking with your turtle specialist about your turtle and tank setup.