If there’s a common trait shared between humans and turtles, it’s a love of soaking up the sunshine. Sun worshipers flock to parks and beaches on clear days, while turtles like to spend the time on their favorite basking platform.
But turtles are doing this for more than just a chance to enjoy the warmth. Basking is essential for their good health.
When a turtle basks, they can dry out, reducing the risk of a fungal infection. It also helps to warm them up a little and raise their internal body temperatures.
That’s why you might see your turtle stretching their legs!
Not only is basking good for a turtle, but it’s enjoyable to watch. As an owner, seeing your turtle stretching out in the sunshine is very relaxing, and it’s a good chance for some bonding.
To encourage your turtle to bask, take a look at this guide to the most amazing basking platforms.
What Do You Need For A Turtle Basking Platform?
An aquatic turtle needs to be able to bask, and the basking platform is an essential part of the tank.
They’re fairly easy to put together, and even the best basking platforms don’t need to be expensive. Here are the three things to buy to get you started:
- The platform itself. A basking platform will sit just out of the water, and provide a place for your turtle to sit in the sunshine. The platform must be large enough to hold the turtle, and sturdy enough to stay upright as your turtle comes and goes. There should also be a ramp that allows the turtle to exit and enter as it pleases. We’ll go into our favorite basking platforms in more detail below, but it’s hard to beat the Penn-Plax Reptology Turtle Topper.
- A basking lamp. When a turtle basks, they’re soaking up heat and UV light. To ensure they can do this properly in your tank, it’s important to use a basking lamp. A UVA/UVB lamp will improve your turtle’s physical and mental health, the same way that sunshine would in the wild. We like this Reptile Heat Lamp from Icepark, which features a clip fastening and moveable neck, to direct the light just where you need it to be.
- Spare bulbs. Save yourself the headache of rush ordering bulbs when one breaks by purchasing a few to get you started. Make sure to get UVA + UVB bulbs, which can help bone growth and digestion, as well as dry out any fungal spores. This set of UVA + UVB Full Spectrum Bulbs from OMAYKEY Store is a good choice.
Creating A Turtle Basking Area
Aquatic turtles spend a lot of time in the water, but they do like to bask for long hours in the sunshine.
When setting up your tank, it’s important to pay as much attention to the basking area as you do to all the other places you want your turtle to enjoy.
Getting the basking platform right can take some trial and error! Turtles are all unique, and the platform that’s perfect for one turtle might be just too small for the other.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at our favorite turtle basking areas, so you can find something just right for your tank!
Our Favorite Turtle Basking Platforms
You’ll struggle to find a turtle owner that isn’t a fan of the Penn-Plax Reptology Turtle Topper! It’s one of the most popular basking platforms around, thanks to the clever design.
Unlike many other basking platforms, the Turtle Topper sits outside the water and connects to the sides of the tank.
This means no water space is taken up, so your turtle has more room to play around in! And thanks to the extender clips, the topper can be attached to even larger tanks.
There’s a spacious basking area for turtles inside the topper, measuring 16″ x 12.5″. Enough room for one to two larger turtles, or a few more small turtles.
The textured ramp helps turtles climb in and out with ease, while the hanging platform provides a partially submerged resting area.
For safety, the basking platform is mostly covered, while a large mesh area lets in the UVA and UVB rays.
The only downside to the Penn-Plax Reptology Turtle Topper is a slight lack of room. If you have two or more turtles, they might struggle to fit in the space.
If the Turtle Topper isn’t quite your style, Penn-Plax also makes the Floating Turtle Pier. This spacious and natural floating dock provides both a basking area and a space for turtles to hide.
- HEALTHY, INNOVATIVE, AND UNIQUE: The Reptology Turtle Topper is essentially a basking platform that safely mounts above tanks, giving your pet a place to dry, to get warm, or just to hang out. This extra space provides a healthier and roomier aquatic environment for your pet. The Turtle Topper is designed for standard sized tanks up to 55 gallons and 13” wide.
- RELAX WITH EASE: The textured docking ramp provides your pet with an easy climb to the upper level of the platform, where they can bask, eat, and enjoy their time above water. Moreover, the docking ramp measures 5.75” wide at its narrowest point, and is 8” long.
- BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: The Turtle Topper features a hanging platform that sits just below the waterline, allowing your turtle to rest while being partially submerged, but can also be removed if space is a bit tight in your setup. The hanging platform measures 11.25” x 4”.
- CONVENIENT & SPACIOUS: The basking platform consists of a clear top with ridges that allow you to mount 2 clamp-style heat lamps (not included). In addition, the central metal grill door allows heat to pass through while granting you easy access to your pet, and is easy to open, close, and lock in place. The grill door measures 7.25” x 8”.
- MEASUREMENTS: Overall = 17” x 14” x 10” / Inside Basking Platform = 16” x 12.5” / Grill Door = 7.27” x 8” / Ramp = 5.75” x 8” / Hanging Platform = 11.25” x 4”. Fits standard sized tanks up to 55 gallons and 13” wide.
The Zoo Med Turtle Dock is another popular option for allowing your turtles to bask.
The simple design mimics the natural rocks that turtles would inhabit in the wild, and can be used to create an appealing environment for your pet turtle to get comfortable in.
Suctioned to the tank wall, the Zoo Med platform will gently move up and down with the water level.
With a submerged ramp area, turtles will find it easy to get on and off the platform. When they want to dry off, the slight slope will make it easy for their short legs to climb from the water.
And when they want to get back in, the textured surface will prevent any slips or difficulties.
The Zoo Med Turtle Dock is available in multiple sizes, including a large option with a 19″ x 8″ basking area, and a medium 15″ x 7″. Although, watch out for the weight.
As a partially floating platform, particularly heavy turtles might be able to knock it off the tank walls.
- Stable, self-leveling dock automatically adjusts to all water levels
- Underwater ramp leads to comfortable, faux-rock basking area
- Suction Cups securely anchor dock to your Aquarium glass wall holding the dock in place while allowing it to move up and down with the water level
What’s A Floating Basking Platform?
A floating platform is one that sits on top of the water in the tank and isn’t anchored to the tank wall. These will bob along and adjust to the water level, so the turtle can get in and out easily.
Some floating basking platforms will have long legs that can be anchored or partly anchored into the substrate at the bottom of the tank. This gives the platform some extra stability.
Floating basking platforms come in various shapes and designs. Some are designed to look like logs, others are shaped like a rock, and some just look like normal platforms on the water!
A floating platform should take up minimal water space, giving your turtle more room to explore.
Also popular are floating platforms that use suction cups to stick onto the tank walls. These are semi-floating and will move with the water levels. These are more stable than a completely floating platform.
What’s The Problem With Floating Basking Platforms?
Floating platforms can be a fantastic choice for your turtle, but they do come with one obvious drawback. If a heavy turtle gets on a platform that’s just too small, it’ll topple it over.
And the same thing can happen if you have more than one turtle. While one basks happily, the other tries to clamber up, and the platform is tipped over.
Because of this, we only recommend floating platforms for small turtles.
Semi-floating docks have a similar drawback, as a large turtle will eventually pop the suckers loose.
It’s also important to remember to clean the suction cups when you clean the rest of the tank. Otherwise, algae can build up.
If you’re interested in a floating platform, consider making your own!
Many floating platforms are made of cheap plastic and don’t last long. A natural driftwood platform works well, and you won’t be frustrated if it breaks apart.
Building Your Own Basking Platform For Turtles
The majority of basking platforms sold for turtles are designed to be used with smaller indoor tanks.
With these tanks, you want to preserve as much space as possible, so you need a multifunctional basking platform that’s easy to care for.
But if you have a bigger tank or an outdoor habitat, you might prefer to build your own basking platform!
Not only can this save you money, but it also allows you to create a space that’s ideal for the needs of your turtle(s)!
There are many ways to make your own turtle basking platform, all you need is a little imagination.
The most important thing is to ensure that the material is comfortable for your turtle and that there are no sharp edges or corners.
Egg crate is a popular material for DIY projects because it’s cheap, easy to buy, and easy to work with.
For a simple DIY option, use zip ties to fix the sections of the egg crate together. Cover the basking platform with a terrarium liner, and set the platform on top of the water.
Using an egg crate is a great idea if you want a large platform for several turtles.
Many basking platforms are small, and can only accommodate a turtle or two at a time. By making your own, you can build a sturdy platform to your exact specifications.
Other floating plastic materials such as PVC pipes can also be adapted into floating platforms. Even plastic storage boxes can be converted with a little imagination!
Driftwood can be used as a basking platform and is often recommended by reptile keepers. Driftwood is durable and doesn’t require much maintenance.
It also doesn’t splinter apart, so it’s safe to use around pets. And as a floating material, it will bob along with the water level.
Use fishing wire to attach several pieces of driftwood together or to anchor one into place. In a sunny spot, driftwood can get nice and warm, giving your turtles a comfortable area for basking.
If you do use driftwood, make sure your turtles are able to climb on and off. Either attach extra driftwood to create a ramp, or shape the driftwood to provide an entrance point.
Another natural material that’s great for turtle basking is stone!
This is an obvious one, as it’s what you’d find a turtle on in the wild. Stone and rocks are only really useful in outdoor ponds, as they can’t exactly float.
In a small tank, any stone big enough for a turtle to sit on would take up too much room. Look for large, flat stones that a turtle can easily climb onto, and can’t so easily dislodge.
Common Problems With Turtle Basking Platforms
As we mentioned earlier, it can be a case of trial and error in finding a basking platform that’s suitable for both the turtle and the tank.
This is why so many people choose to make their own! Here are some common problems to watch out for.
Too small for the turtle. A basking platform that’s too small for your turtle will be uncomfortable, and might even cause your pet to feel stressed.
And if it doesn’t have the strength to hold the turtle, the platform could topple.
Make sure to double-check the measurements before buying, to ensure there’s enough room for all your turtles.
Not the right size for the tank. Whether you have a small or large tank, the basking platform has to fit properly. This can be a big problem with floating docks that sit on top of the water.
Ramps are difficult to climb. The ramp allows the turtle to get on and off the platform with ease.
It has to be angled right because a too-steep ramp can prevent the turtle from ever climbing onto their platform. A textured surface is also beneficial, to prevent slipping.
Not enough warmth. Part of the reason turtles bask is to absorb warmth. The platform should be made of a material that absorbs enough heat to warm your turtle up, without getting too hot.
Sharp edges. If you plan to make your own floating platform, you must watch out for sharp edges! Especially on the ramp, or wherever you expect the turtle to be clambering over.
Dealing With Predators
For an outdoor tank or pond, predators can be a serious issue for a basking turtle. Keep them away with a strong perimeter fence, and foliage that blocks the turtle from view.
If you do have an outdoor turtle, keeping them safe from predators such as birds of prey, cats, raccoons, coyotes, and foxes should be a top priority.
Turtles and turtle owners love the basking platform, where your happy turtle can absorb light and warmth.
The right platform has enough space for your turtle to get comfortable, and good stability for movement. Sometimes, the best way to accomplish this is by making your own!