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How To Keep A Turtle Warm Without A Heat Lamp?

How To Keep A Turtle Warm Without A Heat Lamp?

Some of us like to stick to old ways when rearing turtles. We believe that turtles thrive best when the habitat we prepare for them mimics the ones in the wild. 

So, to provide such a habitat, we need to get rid of certain accessories that more or less enhance a turtle tank.

But the question is, will turtles thrive, or at least survive, without gadgetries and stuff in their tanks?

Here in this article, I will reveal whether turtles can survive without a heat lamp, or so to speak, how you can keep a turtle warm without a heat lamp. 

Let’s begin.

How To Keep A Turtle Warm Without A Heat Lamp?

Yes, it is possible to keep a turtle warm without a heat lamp. Still, heat source alternatives should be implemented to maintain their body temperature. Provide ample sunlight, retain the proper water temperature, and cover the tank with blankets or styrofoam sheets to keep the turtle warm.

But, first, you should know whether keeping a turtle without a heat lamp is a good idea or not. 


The tips, as mentioned earlier, are the full-proof ideas to keep your turtles warm without a heat lamp. 

However, this setup might only suffice for regions where the mercury doesn’t drop too low during winter. 

So, listed below are the explanations in detail on keeping a turtle warm without a heat lamp.

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Use Mercury Vapor Bulb

If you are thinking, oh, this mercury vapor bulb is a heat lamp, too, hear me first. Only keeping a turtle warm will not be enough to keep your turtle healthy. Turtles need UVA and UVB rays to gain vitamin D3, essential for metabolizing calcium in their body. 

Unlike other regular heat lamps, mercury vapor bulbs are safe and emit both UVA and UVB lights. In addition, they have built-in safety switching off mechanisms to avoid overheating and bursting.

Here’s a link for a quality mercury vapor bulb.  

Using Heat Pads

Many say that heat pads are an alternative to heating lamps. But I digress.

First, they are non-reusable. Once you stick it under the tank, it cannot be taken out and reused in another one.

Heating pads are stuck below the tank’s base in an area where there’s not enough airflow to dissipate the heat. Hence, chances of glass breaking due to overheating are high. 

So, I do not recommend my fellow turtle-keeping friends warm their turtle tanks using heating pads. 

Cover The Tank With Styrofoam

Styrofoam is an excellent insulator. It prevents heat from escaping and keeps the turtle tank warm even during winter. 

Get styrofoam from a nearby hardware shop. Or, you can simply order online. 

Cut it following the tank’s measurements. Then, you can either use an adhesive or use clear packing tape to keep the styrofoam in place.

It will be even better if the styrofoam you are using is black. This is because the black color works excellent at trapping heat. 

Pour Hot Water To Maintain Warm Temperature

Pouring necessarily doesn’t mean that you need to pour buckets of hot water into the tank. Instead, pour only a few cups of hot water – this will raise the overall water temperature.

Keep a thermometer by your side if you are unsure of the temperature you will achieve.

An ideal temperature would be between 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

And cover the tank with styrofoam to maintain the temperature. 

Take Your Turtle Out For Basking

Take your turtle out for basking under the sun. Let them be for about 1 to 2 hours. However, you shouldn’t leave it unattended because there could be predators lurking nearby. 

Or, the heat could be too hot to burn off its shell.

Turtle Basking
Turtle Basking

Letting your turtle bask outside is a wise thing to do if you aren’t planning on using UV lights at all. It not only keeps your turtle warm but also provides the much-needed UV lights to metabolize calcium in its body. 

Keep The Tank Near Direct Sunlight

Most days are sunny during summer. Placing your turtle tank near the window will provide it with enough heat and UV rays. So, you don’t need to keep the heating lamp on during summer.

However, you need to watch out for birds of prey if you live near the countryside. 

How To Know If A Turtle Is Feeling Cold Inside The Tank?

Turtles can quickly sense the drop in temperature. So they will go to the bottom of the tank, where the temperature is relatively warmer than on the surface.

If it is too cold, they might even start brumating. As a result, turtles begin to eat less and slow down their routine activity inside the tank. 

What Happens To A Turtle Without A Heat Lamp?

Although turtles can survive for days without a heat lamp, or any heat sources, they will not be fully healthy due to cold. Cold stunned is the term for it. 

They become lethargic, shocked, suffer from pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses. This usually occurs when the water temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can You Keep Turtles Without A Heat Lamp?

It depends upon the climate and habitat you put them in. In the absence of heat lamps, you should keep your turtles out in the sun daily so that they can retain heat. Keep the water temperature maintained and optimum during the winter, too.

Heat Lamp Vs. No Heat Lamp

A heat lamp’s function is not only to warm your turtle but also to provide much necessary UVA and UVB rays. So, I recommend keeping heat lamps above a turtle tank. 

However, you need to turn it off at night. Turtles find it hard to sleep with lights on at night. 


And if you aren’t planning on keeping heat lamps in your turtle tank, you should provide them with every possible amenity they get in the wild. 

Turtles love basking, so they need a proper basking area. Use soil or sand as a substrate. This will allow your turtles to dig and hibernate if the temperature drops too low during winter. 

Final Words: How To Keep A Turtle Warm Without A Heat Lamp

First, you should know the dire consequences of keeping a turtle without any heat sources inside a tank. 

You can only put a turtle in a tank without a heat lamp after managing other alternative heat sources.

But a heat lamp’s purpose is to keep a turtle warm and provide UVA and UVB rays, which helps in the formation of vitamin D3.

So, ensure that your turtle has a basking area in an appropriate location where it gets enough UV light. 

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