Do Turtles Need Heating Lights at Night? Lighting Guide For Your Pet Turtle

If you have pet turtles, you must provide an environment that suits their needs. This includes a tank with sufficient space for them to move around, land and water access, a place to hide, and the right amount of heat and light.

It can be confusing to know how much heat and light is appropriate for your tortoise. Many turtle owners wonder if they need to turn on the light in their turtle tank at night. Fortunately, the answer is no. Your turtle will be fine if the lights are turned off at night. It is actually recommended that they be exposed to natural amounts of light and darkness each day. Let’s dig into the details.


What Are Your Turtle’s Light and Temperature Needs?

turtle on log_Capri23auto, Pixabay

Turtles are reptiles, which means they are cold blooded. They are unable to regulate their internal body temperature. They need heat from an outside source to stay warm. If your pet tortoise is kept indoors, like most pet tortoises, you will need to provide them with a source of heat and light.

While all turtle species have different heat and light requirements, there are general guidelines for keeping your tortoise comfortable and healthy. The air temperature should be maintained between 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (F). The water temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees F. At night, it is recommended that you let the temperature in your turtle tank drop by about 5 to 10 degrees.

Turtles also need a light source throughout the day. It is best to imitate the natural pattern of light and dark in your turtle’s aquarium. Therefore, having about 12 hours of each light and dark each day is sufficient. Turning off your turtle tank lights at night will give them the right balance of light and temperature control.

  • See Also: 7 Best Heating Pads for Snakes & Reptiles: Top Reviews & Picks
READ ALSO:   Alusky (Mixed Siberian Husky & Alaskan Malamute)

What Kind of Light Does Your Turtle Need?

red eared slider in aquarium_Pixabay

Your turtle needs UV light to mimic the quality of light it gets from the sun in the wild. They need a UV lamp specially made for reptiles. This light should give them both UVA and UVB rays.

There are several options for lighting up your turtle tank:

  • Mercury vapor lamp – You can purchase one that provides both UVA and UVB light and heat. This 3-in-1 lamp is convenient to use as it eliminates the need for multiple bulbs. However, they use a much higher amount of electricity than other options.

  • Two Lamp System – Another option is to use two separate lamps, one with UVA light and the other with UVB light. Usually, UVA rays come from a basking lamp which will also provide heat to your tortoise.

  • Optional Lighting – You may also want to add other lighting options to your turtle tank. Two popular options are viewing lights and night lights. Seeing lights helps you see your turtle during the day if your turtle spends a lot of time in the water. Night lights are usually red or purple and allow you to see into the aquarium at night. They are not bright enough to keep your tortoise awake so they won’t disturb their natural sleep pattern.

  • Similar: 15 Types of Pet Turtles and Turtles (With Pictures)

Why Does Your Turtle Need UVA and UVB Rays?

Aquarium light_TIPAKORN MAKORNSEN_Shutterstock

Turtles need UVA and UVB rays to be healthy. UVA rays give them the warmth and comfort of sunlight. They need to maintain the right body temperature to regulate metabolism, reproduce, and support their immune system.

UVB rays are also important for the health and well-being of turtles. They need UVB light to produce vitamin D3. This vitamin is needed by turtles to metabolize calcium. Without it, their shells and bones would not grow properly. Without sufficient UVB light, turtles will develop a painful and fatal metabolic bone disease.

Turtles also need UVB light to digest their food properly. Without it, turtles can suffer from malnutrition and die.

Some UVB Light Tips

Turtle tank light_PublicDomainPictures_Pixabay

There are some important things you need to know about buying a UVB lamp for your turtle tank. This includes the following:

  • Check the amount of UVB rays in the bulb you buy. The best range is between 2.5% and 5%. 10% is too high for most turtles. Check the proper spacing on the packaging to make sure you are placing the lamp in the correct place.

  • UVB lamps need to be replaced at least every 6 months. They don’t last long and the amount of UVB will start to diminish, endangering your turtle’s health.

  • UVB rays cannot penetrate glass or plastic, so you cannot use UVB rays with glass or plastic tank covers. Mesh with large holes works best.

  • UVB lamp getting hot! Be careful when handling the lamp so you don’t burn your hands. They can also damage your eyes, so don’t look directly into the light at any time.



There are many things to worry about when you have a pet turtle, but turning on the heating light overnight is not one of them. They will get enough heat and light during the day if you have the right bulb and lighting in the tank.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels