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How To Choose The Best Heat Lamp For Turtles

Heat lamps for turtles are a requirement since turtles are coldblooded vertebrates.

When temperatures are low, the turtle will become lethargic, lose appetite, and may stop moving altogether. Low temperatures can also cause respiratory infections and this is fatal.

When temperatures are too high, turtles will refuse to bask. This can also lead to infections as the turtle needs to dry off daily.

Getting a good heat lamp ensures that the turtle’s enclosure is always within the right temperature range. There are two types of heat lamps to choose from and these include ceramic infrared heat lamps and mercury vapor lamps.

In the article, we will discuss the best heat lamp for aquatic turtles as well as semi-aquatic turtles. Below is a comparison table of the top 5 in our opinion and our top choice.

If you have time, please read on to learn more about the importance of heat lamps in a turtles enclosure.

Turtle Heat Lamp Comparison

Choosing A Heat Lamp

All turtles kept indoors require heat lamps. As cold-blooded animals, turtles require outside heat to keep warm. When in the wild, the sun provides heat. When housed inside or in a turtle tank, a heat lamp is needed.

Heat lamps can be divided into two categories. These include lamps that give off visible light and those that do not. Heat lamps that do not give off visible light are commonly referred to as heat emitters.

Incandescent Heat Lamps (and Mercury Vapor Lamps)

Some heat lamps such as MyComfyPets Mercury Vapor Bulb provide high levels of UVA/UVB light. This means that they can also double as UV light.

As you may know, reptiles require UV light for healthy growth and lifestyle. The main disadvantage of such a heat lamp is that it needs to be turned off during the night so as not to disturb the turtle’s nocturnal routine/behavior.

Having the lights on during the night can be stressful for the turtle and will adversely affect the reptile’s health.

Not all incandescent heat lamps emitUVA/UVB light. These may or may not disturb the turtle’s nocturnal behavior. Be sure to check. If they do not disturb the turtle’s nocturnal behavior, they can be turned on throughout the night.

Red heat lamps, for example, can be left on through the night. They barely produce any light and can adequately warm up the enclosure.

Ceramic Heat Emitters

Instead of glass, the shell of ceramic heat lamps is ceramic, made of clay. This means that the lamp doesn’t produce any visible light.

This is advantageous as the lamp can be turned on throughout the entire day. This is great at keeping the enclosure warm even on cold nights and evenings.

I recommend ceramic heat emitters since they are very durable and less prone to cracking. Of course, with these, you can keep your turtles warm all the time.


The wattage of the bulb determines its heat output. The higher the wattage, the higher the output. But that doesn’t mean you always need a high wattage lamp.

Basking temperatures usually need to be between 80 °F to 100 °F, depending on the turtle species. If the enclosure is small, even a 50-watt to 70-watt bulb can adequately keep the basking spot warm.

However, if the basking spot is large or the enclosure is large, a 100-watt heat lamp may be the best way to go.

Always check the temperature when doing your setup using either a digital hear gun or by keeping a thermometer in the enclosure. The best thing to do is both.

Top 5 Best Heat Lamps for Turtles

Here is a pick of my favorite heat lamps for your turtle tank. Some such as the Evergreen Pet Supplies Mercury Vapor Bulb is an excellent all-rounder as it doubles as a UVA/UVB lamp. The pick also includes ceramic heat emitters and several other incandescent bulbs.

1. Exo Terra Swamp Basking Spot Lamp

Exo Terra Sun Glo Halogen Basking Spot Lamp, Reptile Light Bulb, 100 Watts, PT2183

This Exo Terra basking spot lamp is splash-proof and won’t shatter when splashed with water. This makes it suitable for turtle tanks and any humid enclosure.

While this bulb does give off some UV light, the emission levels are very low. The Exo Terra basking spot lamp is more of a heat lamp. It warms up the enclosure very well and creates the ideal basking spot for a pet turtle.

As a reminder, the Exo Terra basking spot lamp isn’t a UVA/UVB lamp even if it emits some amount of UV light.

Why choose the Exo Terra basking spot heat lamp?

This lamp comes in two sizes, which are 50 watts and 100 watts. I recommend the 100-watt bulb for any enclosure larger than 55 gallons.

The neodymium glass used to make this lamp is durable. This makes the bulb mist-resistant and splash-proof. You don’t want a bulb that shatters when splashed with water installed in an aquarium.

Turtles seem attracted to the light that this lamp gives off. These include turtles that don’t like to bask.

Unfortunately, this bulb doesn’t double as a UV lamp. YOu will need to provide a separate UVA/UVB lamp for the turtle’s enclosure.


  • The bulb is splash-proof and can withstand splashing. This makes it suitable for all types of turtle enclosures, both aquatic and terrestrial.
  • The Exo Terra swamp basking spot lamp fits into most lamp fixtures.
  • It provides adequate heating for turtle enclosures.


  • While the Exo Terra swamp basking spot lamp produces visible light, it is solely a heat lamp. You’d need a separate UV lamp.

2. Wuhostam 100W Infrared Ceramic Heat Lamp

WUHOSTAM 2 Pack 100W Infrared Ceramic Heat Lamp, Black Reptile Emitter Bulb, Pet Heater for Aquarium and Terraium, Chicken Coop, Lizard, Turtle, Brooder, Snake, No Harm No Light, ETL Listed

The Wuhostam ceramic heat lamp works well for both small and large enclosures thanks to it producing heat only. YOu can use a thermostat to regulate the heat output.

The Wuhostam ceramic heat lamp works amazing well for both aquatic and terrestrial environments.

As with any other heat lamp on here, I can’t recommend plastic sockets. Heat lamps produce a lot of heat, as per their name, and as such can melt plastic sockets. This is a fire hazard. Use ceramic/porcelain sockets.

Why choose the Wuhostam infrared ceramic heat lamp?

This Wuhostam infrared ceramic heat lamp is ideal for aquariums and terrariums of all sizes. It can also be used with a thermostat to regulate temperature levels.

When the temperatures produced as too high, the lamp can be turned off even during the day as it doesn’t produce light.

Alternatively, the lamp can also be left on to warm the enclosure during the night when the weather is cold.

Unlike mercury vapor or incandescent lamps, they can be used with thermostats as turning off the heat doesn’t turn off the light source within the enclosure.


  • This can be used as a source of heat during the night. This is essential if the enclosure gets cold at night.
  • Since this lamp doesn’t emit visible light, it can be on all night and not disturb the turtle’s circadian cycle.
  • It doesn’t produce harmful UVC rays.
  • The Wuhostam infrared ceramic heat lamp is a high wattage lamp and can be used for large enclosures. It also works well in small enclosures as the temperatures produced can be regulated with a thermostat.


  • This is solely a heat lamp. You’d need a separate UV lamp.

3. MyComfyPets Mercury Vapor Bulb

UVB Light and UVA 2-in-1 Reptile Bulb 100W for Bearded Dragons and All Reptiles (400 UVB)

The MyComfyPets mercury vapor bulb is great for large enclosures as it is a 100-watt lamp. It produces quite a lot of heat and UV light. As a mercury vapor bulb, it comes with UVB light included. Thankfully, this mercury vapor bulb doesn’t produce harmful UVC rays.

To get this lamp working well, you need a ceramic socket and a large lamp dome fixture. This heat lap also doesn’t work too well with rheostats or dimmers.

Why choose the MyComfyPets mercury vapor bulb?

I recommended this heat lamp for large aquariums (larger than 55 gallons), or aquariums with several turtles and a large basking platform.

The heat lamp should be about 12 inches away from the basking area. However, you may need to experiment to find the desired temperature.

As with any mercury vapor lamp, the lamp isn’t designed to be used with thermostats as turning off the heat also means that the light goes off. As you may know, turtles need about 10-12 hours of continuous light each day.


  • It will properly heat the chelonian’s enclosure.
  • This bulb also produces the necessary UV light (UVA & UVB). As such, you don’t need to buy a separate UV lamp.
  • It doesn’t produce harmful UVC light.
  • It is a high wattage lamp and has a large spread.


  • This bulb can’t be used with a dimmer or rheostats.

4. Fluker’s Red Heat Bulbs

Fluker's Red Heat Bulbs for Reptiles

Fluker’s red heat bulb makes an excellent heat lamp for turtle terrariums. The bulb itself comes in many outputs from 40 watts all the way to 100 watts. While the lower wattage works for small enclosures, the higher wattage versions are perfect for large enclosures.

Fluker’s red heat bulb is an incandescent light bulb that outputs infrared light which in turn warms up the turtle.

Along with the infrared light produced, the bulb also outputs a faint red glow. Best of all, the bulb also doesn’t disturb the turtle’s nocturnal routine even when on during the evening and night.

This makes it an excellent way to keep the enclosure warm during cold nights.

Why choose Fluker’s red heat bulb?

These red heat bulbs are more affordable than both ceramic lamps and mercury vapor lamps while outputting a lot of warmth.

This warmth is enough to keep your turtle basking and warm. I recommend this bulb for dry enclosures as it is not shatterproof.

The bulb also doesn’t disturb the turtle’s evening and night routines. This makes it an excellent way to warm up the turtle’s enclosure during the night and evenings.

As with several other lamps described, Fluker’s red heat bulb is strictly a heat lamp and doesn’t function as a UV lamp. You will need to install a separate UVA/UVB lamp.


  • This is an affordable but efficient heat lamp. Depending on the wattage you go for, it can produce enough heat for your turtle’s enclosure.
  • The bulb works well with a dimmer. I recommend using this with a dimmer to achieve the right temperatures for your turtle.
  • Fluker’s red heat bulb can warm up the enclosure during cold evenings and nights.


  • Since this is strictly a heat lamp, it doesn’t out UV light. You will need to install a separate UV lamp. I recommend this setup as it provides the option of keeping the turtle’s tank warm during the night.

5. Aiicioo Reptile Ceramic Heat Emitter

Reptile Heat Lamp Bulb -60W Ceramic Heat Emitter No Harm No Light Infrared Heater Lamp for Chicken Coop Lizard Aquarium Snake Outside Dogs Brooder 110V,White

The reptile ceramic heat emitter is made with high-purity pottery clay. As such, it is tough. It is both waterproof and anti-crack. These properties make the bulb excellent for high humidity enclosures.

What about heat output? Well, this heat emitter is excellent at warming up the enclosure. It efficiently and effectively warms up the ambient temperature of the tank. This bulb can produce basking temperatures of 77 F up to 100 F, depending on how far or close the bulb is to the basking spot.

The bulb outputs only infrared light and no visible light. As such this bulb doesn’t disturb the nocturnal routines of the turtle. This makes the bulb excellent for keeping the enclosure warm through the day and night.

Why choose Fluker’s red heat bulb?

This is one of the more affordable, yet durable heat lamps on the market. The heat output is excellent and the bulb, itself, is durable.

You needn’t worry about the bulb cracking in humid environments or when it gets splashed with water.

Apart from heat output and affordability, this lamp can be on 24/7. This can be useful when it gets cold at night. Turtles are cold-blooded and unable to internally regulate their body temperature. The reptile ceramic heat emitter will help keep them warm even through the night.

On the flip side, the wattage of this bulb is quite low at 60 watts. It won’t produce enough heat for a large enclosure, nor can it cover a large basking spot.


  • The reptile ceramic heat emitter is anti-crack and waterproof. You don’t have to worry about it cracking or shattering when splashed with water.
  • It can be used throughout the entire day as it doesn’t produce any visible light. This makes it ideal for keeping the enclosure warm during the night.
  • The reptile ceramic heat emitter works well with a rheostat. This allows you to regulate the temperature within a small enclosure. This ensures that the temperature in the enclosure doesn’t get too warm.


  • You’d need to install a separate light bulb for UV emissions since the reptile ceramic heat emitter is strictly a heat lamp.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do turtles need a heat lamp at night?

This depends on the night temperatures of your locale as well as the turtle’s enclosure. If night temperatures are low, then you may have to invest in heating options. For turtles that sleep underwater, an aquarium heater may be enough.

For terrestrial turtles, such as box turtles, you may need to keep the heat lamp on at night. Of course, this is only possible with a ceramic heat emitter or a night heat lamp. Regulate night temperatures with a rheostat.

What wattage should the heating bulb be for turtles?

A wattage of 60 to 75 watts is ideal for most enclosures. For large enclosures, you need to install a 100-watt heat lamp. Here a large enclosure is anything larger than 55 gallons. Be sure to use a rheostat/thermostat to regulate the temperature. This prevents overheating.

How long should you keep the basking lamp on for a pet turtle?

Ideally, the basking lamp should be on for about 10 hours every day. However, if night temperatures dip below 65 F, you may need to keep the basking lamp on just to increase the temperature of the enclosure. During the night, ambient air temperature needs to be between 65 to 70 F.

What is the preferred basking lamp distance?

This depends on the wattage of the bulb as well as the required temperature range. Even the room temperature can influence this. You need to experiment to find the right distance. For a 60-watt bulb, a distance of about 8 to 10 inches should be about right. For a 100-watt bulb, a distance of about 12 inches should be about right.

How do you keep a turtle warm without a heat lamp?

All indoor turtle enclosures require heat lamps. While other installations such as an aquarium heater are also used to keep the enclosure warm, the heat lamp encourages the turtle to bask, which is essential for semi-aquatic turtles.

How long can turtles live without a heat lamp?

Turtles require heat lamps to bask. Without a heat lamp, the turtle won’t bask. The basking spot needs to be significantly warmer than the water, about 10 F warmer. Without adequate heating and basking, the turtle will develop infections such as respiratory infections. This can lead to death.

Do turtles need UVA or UVB light?

All turtles require UVA and UVB light. UVA ensures that they are active and go about their daily routine (such as basking, feeding, and others) as they normally do. UVB light is needed to synthesize vitamin D3 which they need to grow strong bones and shells.


When it comes to heat lamps, you can go with mercury vapor lamps such as Exo Terra Swamp Basking Spot Lamp or you can go with ceramic heat lamps such as Wuhostam 100W Infrared Ceramic Heat Lamp

The main advantage of ceramic lamps over mercury vapor lamps is that ceramic heat emitters don’t produce light. As such, they can be on even at night.

Ceramic heat emitters are particularly beneficial to turtles that don’t sleep in water such as box turtles.

Mercury vapor lamps must go off during the night as the turtle needs to maintain a day-night cycle. The advantage of mercury vapor lamps is that they also produce UVB/UVA light so there is no need to acquire additional UV lights.

If you have any questions or information, kindly leave a comment.

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