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Do Turtles Need Sunlight? And More Handy Information

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Turtles are reptiles that live in water or land. They are known for their shell, which protects them from predators. The shell also helps regulate their body temperature.

There are over 300 species of turtles worldwide, and they come in various colors and sizes. Unfortunately, some are even endangered due to habitat destruction.

Turtle standing on a rock

Turtles need sunlight to survive. Without enough light, they cannot produce vitamin D, essential for bone growth. If you want to feed your turtle, provide him with a sunny spot where he can bask in the sun.

Sunlight And Vitamin D: It’s What Turtles Are Made Of!

Vitamin D plays a vital role in regulating many bodily functions.

In addition to contributing to proper calcium absorption into the bones, this fat-soluble vitamin aids in muscle growth and development and helps prevent rickets. However, it is produced by the skin when exposed to direct sunlight.

Therefore, some researchers believe that vitamin D levels become depleted due to a lack of exposure during the winter months.

However, the fact remains that vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in such conditions as cancer, heart disease, and tuberculosis.

So, if your pet is spending most of his time indoors, make sure he gets adequate amounts of UV radiation each day.

How Much Time Should My Turtle Spend Outside?

There are different times of the year when it would be appropriate to consider providing your pet with additional sunlight.

For example, the AVMA suggests that you start feeding your pet daily in the fall and spring. This is to help promote healthy bone growth and prevent skeletal disorders like hip dysplasia.

Likewise, pets may require more frequent access to sunshine during the summertime to avoid developing heatstroke.

If you have a large outdoor area, you might try placing your turtle outside every morning. Hence, the turtle has ample time to soak up any rays it needs before returning inside.

If you feel your turtle is having trouble getting enough sunlight, give him a place where he can sit out of the sun entirely and then take him back indoors once he starts hatching eggs.

You will know he requires more light when he begins sitting with his head down or turning away from you while he basks.

What Species Of Turtle Live Indoors?

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Some turtles are best suited to indoor living. The box turtle, painted turtle, Chinese softshell turtle, and African side-necked turtle are among these.

Although these turtles spend much of their lives outdoors, they can survive several weeks without eating or drinking. When placed in a clean aquarium, they do not require fresh water.

They also thrive on a diet consisting of lettuce, carrots, applesauce, and cat food.

Some other reptiles are better off being kept outside. These include the iguana, gecko, snake, and lizard. However, you will probably find them uninterested in the foods mentioned above.

Their diets usually consist of live crickets, mealworms, wax worms, earthworms, and small fish. The reptile diet should always be freshly prepared and contain at least five percent protein.

You may also want to keep your pet’s tank shaded. This will help reduce the temperature within the enclosure.

A good rule of thumb is that shade equals cooler temperatures. Always remember that excessive shading could cause your animal to die.

Can I Keep Alligator Fish With Other Pet Reptiles?

While alligators are sometimes excellent choices for pets, they are larger than most snakes and lizards and may need special care. It is possible to house an alligator together with most reptiles.

Still, it is advisable to first consult with your local pet shop about which ones are compatible with one another.

If you decide to combine two species, providing the animals with separate tanks will be necessary because the alligator will likely eat the smaller animals.

Tips For Giving Turtles Adequate Sunlight

To give turtles adequate sunlight:

  1. Make sure they bask in direct sunlight for approximately 20 minutes each day.
  2. Place your pet under a sunny window or beneath a tree.
  3. Give him a little room around him, as exposure to bright lights could injure his eyes. If your turtle refuses to bask, don’t worry.

He may simply be too young to enjoy the benefits of sunlight yet.

As your pet matures, you’ll gradually see him develop more interest in basking. Then, by exposing yourself to the same rays, you will increase your own chances of success.

For more information about keeping exotic pets such as turtles, visit the website of the National Aquarium.

Top Quality Turtle Food

When trying to feed your pet turtle, you must use quality ingredients. Many commercial brands of turtle pellets available in pet shops and supermarkets come premixed with vitamins and minerals.

This formula provides your pet with all the nutrients needed to grow into adulthood.

However, you should never feed your turtle table scraps or canned dog kibble. Such products lack the nutritional value essential for proper growth and health. Instead, use natural foods made from raw meats and vegetables.

Make sure to choose the right kind of meat: lean cuts like chicken or turkey are ideal. Try adding some fruits and vegetables to your pet’s daily meals to add variety.

Be careful not to overfeed your pet. As with any creature, turtles must eat in moderation to stay healthy.

How Should You Care For Your Pet Turtle?

Pet turtle on someone's hand

To care for your pet turtle, follow these simple steps:

  1. Provide water in a shallow dish large enough for your pet to submerge himself completely. Never place a turtle in a bowl and fill it up!
  2. Use clean sand or gravel to cover the bottom of the aquarium. Avoid using soil.
  3. Add several feet of wood mulch. Mulching will prevent algae buildup on the aquarium floor. In addition, it will absorb excess moisture, protecting the aquarium from damage.
  4. Fill the aquarium halfway with fresh water every week. When you do this, remove the old water so that ammonia levels remain low and bacteria do not build up.
  5. Allow the aquarium to dry out between water changes. This helps maintain the high humidity level that turtles require.
  6. Keep your turtle away from fish unless specifically recommended by your veterinarian. Don’t allow him to swim close to other fish, either. His skin is susceptible to contact with foreign materials.
  7. Clean the aquarium regularly. Scrubbing down the tank walls with a sponge or brush will keep them free from dirt and debris.
  8. Feed your pet once per day. Try feeding twice if he has been fasting overnight. Remember to adjust the amount according to how much your pet eats during everyday activities.
  9. Change the bedding at least once a month. The substrate should be changed frequently to avoid molding and bacterial buildup.
  10. A healthy reptile requires regular exercise. This keeps his muscles working correctly and prevents boredom.
  11. Have fun with your pet turtle! He’s a fascinating creature who deserves to live a long and happy life.

How To Feed A Pet Turtle

First, to feed a turtle, remember that they don’t need anything more than food and water. While some species can tolerate salt water, most prefer freshwater to seawater.

So if you’re keeping your turtle in a saltwater environment, then provide a specially formulated diet.

If you’ve got a turtle that needs a calcium supplement, make sure you get one with added magnesium. Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxant and reduces stress responses.

You’ll also want to buy a vitamin and mineral mix with a balanced profile of vitamins and minerals. These should include vitamins B12, D3, and E, plus zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper.

In addition, some mixes contain additional supplements such as omega fatty acids, probiotics, and antioxidants.

Calculating Your Feeding Regimen

Freshwater diets typically consist of lettuce, alfalfa pellets, and other vegetables, such as cucumbers. Like mussels, clams, and shrimp, shellfish are great treats for reptiles and amphibians.

You can buy these frozen, but it’s best to thaw them before serving.

Crustaceans generally aren’t recommended because they are too high in cholesterol.

When choosing a specific food brand, look for recommendations on the label. For example, various tropical fishes might eat flakes, while a turtle raised in captivity would likely benefit from kibble.

Also, consider whether your animal likes crunchy or soft foods. Most turtles fall into the former category, but others may enjoy mushy fruits like pears.

Once you choose your food, calculate how many calories your turtle consumes daily. Then multiply that number by 4 to determine how much to feed the turtles per meal.

For example, if she eats 2 lbs. of food per week, divide the number of calories she consumes by 4 to get the number of calories per feeding. It will probably be something like 790 calories.

That means that you’d feed your pet 700 calories every three days. Adjust this figure upward or downward based on the turtle’s size and activity level.

What About Water?

3 turtles on a rock

The average adult drinking tank holds about 5 gallons of water. As you may know, turtles drink about 20% of their body weight in water each day. So if your turtle weighs 8 oz., she drinks about 1.6 cups of water.

Since freshwater tends to evaporate quickly, you’ll need to replace it regularly. An easy way to do so is to use an aquarium filter. There are many filters available, including ones specifically made for turtles.

If you just want to add new water to your existing tank, do so only after thoroughly changing the old fluid. Use a siphon tube to transfer the old water out of the tank, wait until it cools off, then introduce the new water.

When adding new water, keep that water at least 5 inches below the surface of the old water. This will allow any floating debris to sink to the bottom. It won’t interfere with your turtle’s ability to swim.

Don’t forget to clean out your tank once a month!

Sunlight & UVB Light

As previously mentioned, sunlight can have adverse effects on reptile health.

To reduce the risk of sunburn, limit exposure between 10 am and 3 pm when the sun is most intense. Also, try covering up some window glass.

There has been some controversy over whether ultraviolet B rays protect against skin cancer.

However, since there’s no scientific evidence to support or disprove this claim, we don’t recommend using UVB light as a form of treatment unless prescribed by your veterinarian.

These rays help prevent infection by certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi. However, they cannot cure disease.

Your best bet is to purchase an ultraviolet lamp appropriate for your aquarium. Some pets prefer white bulbs; others prefer amber or red ones.

The intensity of the light also varies widely among lamps. While low-intensity bulbs used for aquariums produce less heat than higher-output units, they also cause more stress to reptiles.


  1. Keep your pet safe.
  2. Don’t leave him unattended near an ultraviolet lamp for long periods.
  3. Always place your pet away from direct sunlight during midday hours.

Turtles exposed to sunlight can develop sunburned scales, discolored shells, and even death. Take one or two precautions before exposing your pet to the sun to avoid these problems altogether.

First, cover the entire top half of the shell with a thin layer of latex paint. Second, make sure the sun isn’t shining directly into your turtle’s eyes — especially while she’s eating.

A good rule of thumb is to put her inside whenever the temperature rises above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once you’ve accomplished this, be careful not to move her back outside when the weather starts getting cold again.

Water Temperature

Turtles swimming

This seems like a simple thing, but how often do you really think about it?

Most reptiles prefer water temperatures that are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, your pet should always have access to fresh, well-filtered water.

If you’re keeping freshwater turtles, there’s nothing wrong with giving them a bath every few days. However, if you’re maintaining saltwater species, bathing them too frequently can have negative consequences.

Keep an eye on the following factors when adjusting your turtle’s environment:

Water Quality

As previously discussed, tap water doesn’t provide enough calcium, magnesium, or phosphorus for the proper mineralization of bones.
Air quality. Reptiles breathe through their gills, so filtering air may increase respiration rates.

Food Quality

In general, reptiles need a diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. A poor diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Remember, keep your pet healthy with nutritious food, and he’ll be happy and more beneficial for longer.

Amount Of Space

You’d never give a human free rein only in your house, so why would you expect your reptile to live in extreme captivity? Give her plenty of room to roam.

Light Levels

Excessive exposure to bright light causes turtles to secrete excess melatonin, making them sluggish. This may mean they won’t eat as much or act playful outdoors.

For example, a 10-inch pet will need 8 inches of shade per day. If the sun shines directly overhead, her body will receive only 4 hours of daylight.

But, if her cage is shaded, she could get up to 6 hours of natural lighting each day.

Pets benefit from a constant supply of high-quality water. Use filtered tanks and filter media explicitly designed for this purpose.

The most common problem encountered by owners of reptiles is overheating, primarily because reptiles don’t sweat the way we do.

Their skin becomes moist due to their respiratory system, not their metabolism.

When water evaporates from their bodies, they absorb heat, causing their temperatures to rise. They also overheat faster than other pets since their metabolic rate slows down at lower temperatures.

You can help prevent overheating by ensuring your pet has ample ventilation and adequate humidity.

First, make sure your tank or terrarium does not contain any stagnant areas.

Next, keep the terrarium door open, and let some colder air escape into the house whenever possible.

Even better, let your pet out for walks. Pets who spend time outside will naturally release some of their internal heat through panting and sweating.

It’s essential to regularly monitor your pet’s enclosure temperature, especially during hot weather.

If you notice unusual changes in your pet’s behavior, reduce the amount of sunlight or adjust the heating or cooling settings accordingly.

Check the temperature once daily after feeding and twice daily before and after exercise. Also, make sure your pet has enough places to hide in thunderstorms or storms.

Water temperatures vary depending on climate, geographic location, and even what part of the aquarium you place your pet in.

For instance, Florida’s average summertime water temperature ranges between 73 °F and 80 °F, while the average wintertime range hovers around 67 °F.

The best way to ensure appropriate water temperatures is to find an experienced fishkeeper willing to assist you.

A good rule is setting the water temperature below 86 °F. Then, if your pet appears passive, weak, or unresponsive, raise the temperature slightly.

Similarly, decrease the setting if your pet seems to be suffering from too little moisture.

Turtles are susceptible to cold temperatures; therefore, it’s crucial to carefully monitor the water temperature in all parts of their habitat.

Water must remain relatively warm throughout the year, particularly during the colder months.

In fact, turtles don’t become active until the temperature rises above 65 °F. If the water falls below 65 °F, your pet will typically go dormant.

If you’re unsure whether your pet needs a new environment, call a knowledgeable reptile care specialist.

Turtles should have plenty of room to roam, climb and dig.

In addition, many people feel that having toys and plants in the enclosure helps keep their pets occupied and entertained. However, turtle owners must beware of the dangers posed by small objects.


To conclude, reptiles are creatures that man has loved very much since ancient times. They are among the most fascinating animals to visit in any zoo.

They are also straightforward to take care of. The number of people interested in keeping these fantastic critters as pets is increasing.

So when looking for a particular species, you may want to check with local universities or nature centers. This is where you might be able to get detailed information to guide you in selecting a suitable animal.

The best thing you can do is hire someone who knows and loves reptiles. By hiring a professional reptile lover, you can rest assured that your pet’s needs will be met.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.