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What Temperature Is Too Hot For Turtles?

Turtles are ectotherms, just like other reptiles, although you’ve probably heard it described as ‘cold-blooded’. They amount to the same thing — turtles and other reptiles are dependent on external sources of body heat.  In turn, their metabolic rates are generally proportional to the environmental temperatures.

So, what temperature is too hot for turtles?

Well, as ectotherms, turtles, being cold-blooded organisms, rely heavily on their surrounding environment to regulate their internal body temperature. This is why the use of thermometers to monitor both water and basking platform temperatures in a turtle tank is an important aspect of their care.

Cold temperatures can cause them to become lethargic and they may even enter brumation (a form of hibernation specifically for reptiles).

On the other hand, hot temperatures can also trigger aestivation. This is also a period of inactivity and a lowered metabolic rate, but it’s a survival trait to avoid overexertion in the heat. For species like red-eared sliders and other aquatic turtles, maintaining the right temperature becomes even more critical. Warmer temperatures, while beneficial up to a point, can become harmful if they exceed the sweet spot necessary for a healthy turtle life.

If the temperature is too high, the turtle will be unable to function. For turtles, a good example would be when water temperature above 85 degrees Fahrenheit or when basking temperatures are above 95 degrees.

If temperatures are too low, the turtle will be unable to function as well, so you want to keep the water temperatures at 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and the basking temperature at 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Different turtles have different temperature requirements, which brings us to our subject of the day. Read on and we’ll share with you the correct temperature ranges for Mud and musk turtles, Map turtles, Snappers, Softshells, Sliders, Spotted turtles, Diamondback terrapins, Cooters, and Painted turtles.

Once you know the right range, maintaining the perfect temperature is a piece of cake!

Correct Temperature Ranges for Different Freshwater Turtles

The taxonomic families that consist of freshwater turtles include Geoemydidae (pond turtles), Emydidae (American pond turtles), Trionychidae (softshell turtles),  Kinosternidae (mud and musk turtles), Podocnemididae, and Pelomedusidae, but that’s not all.

You also have Chelidae (side-necked turtles), Platysternidae (just one turtle here – the ‘big-headed turtle’), and Dermatemydidae (also one turtle – Dermatemys mawii). In all, there are over 200 freshwater turtle species!

Of course we don’t have the space today to cover them all, but we can go over the correct temperature ranges for the freshwater turtles most commonly kept as pets.

If you’re ready, then let’s talk about turtles and temperatures!

Correct Temperature Ranges for Mud and Musk Turtles

Tabasco Mud Turtle

Mud and musk turtles are species of the taxonomic family Kinosternidae, which contains about 25 different turtles. These turtles are known for their aggressive nature and their preference for water bodies with muddy substrates. Musk turtles are also known as stinkpots in some locales.

Some common musk turtles are the eastern musk turtle, the flattened musk turtle, and the razor-backed musk turtle. Some commonly known mud turtles are the yellow mud turtle, the striped mud turtle, the narrow-bridged mud turtle, and the Arizona mud turtle.

For these turtles, the ideal water temperature should be between 74 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The basking area temperature should be 85 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient temperature should be in the low to mid 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water temperatures above 85 degrees should be considered too hot for the mud or musk turtle and the same goes for basking temperatures above 95 degrees.

Correct Temperature Ranges for Map Turtles

False map turtle
False map turtle (Graptemys pseudogeographica)

The designation of ‘Map turtles’ includes about 12 different turtles. They are known as map turtles because of the markings on their carapace, which closely resemble contours on a map.

Some examples of common map turtles include the Mississippi map turtle, the Alabama map turtle, the northern map turtle, the ringed map turtle, the Texas map turtle, and the Barbour’s map turtle. Map turtles belong to the genus Graptemys.

The water temperature within a map turtle’s enclosure should be maintained at 70 to 80 degrees and the basking area temperature should be maintained at 85 to 95 degrees. The ambient temperature should be in the 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit range.

Water temperatures above 85 degrees should be considered too hot for the map turtle and basking temperatures above 100 degrees should be considered too hot for the map turtle.

Correct Temperature Ranges for Snapping Turtles

Snapping turtle in an algae-heavy hiding place
Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Also known as ‘Snappers’, Snapping turtles are a species of the taxonomic family Chelydridae which contains 5 different turtles. Known for aggressively snapping at people who approach them, they can deliver powerful bites that have been known to sever fingers!

Known snapping turtles include the alligator snapping turtle, the Suwanee snapping turtle, the common snapping turtle, the Central American snapping turtle, and the South American snapping turtle.

The water temperature of a snapping turtle tank should be 75 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. For hatchlings, the temperature should be slightly warmer — 78 to 80 degrees is ideal. The basking area should be 85 to 92 degrees and the ambient temperature should be in the 80 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water temperatures above 85 degrees should be considered too hot for a snapping turtle and basking temperatures above 95 degrees are also too hot for snappers. Snapping turtles are actually cold-tolerant, and do not mind low temperatures during the night.

Correct Temperature Ranges for Softshell Turtles

Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera)
Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera)

Softshell turtles are turtles that belong to the taxonomic family – Trionychidae. While most turtles have hard upper shells, these turtles have a leathery upper shell, and this characteristic gives the softshell turtle its common name.

Some softshells commonly kept as pets include the Florida softshell, spiny softshell, and the smooth softshell turtle.

The water temperature of a softshell turtle tank should be 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while the basking area temperature should be 90 to 100 degrees. The ambient temperature should ideally be in the 75 to 80 degrees range.

Water temperatures above 85 degrees should be considered too hot for a softshell turtle, as well as basking temperatures above 100 degrees. Like snapping turtles, softshells are cold-tolerant and do not mind low temperatures during the night.

Correct Temperature Ranges for Sliders

Red-eared slider basking
Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

Sliders include turtles of the genus Trachemys which has the most popular and invasive red-eared sliders. Endemic to North America, Sliders get their name from their habit of quickly sliding back into water when approached by humans.

There are about 15 to 20 different types of sliders, with the most common being the red-eared slider, yellow-bellied slider, the Cumberland slider, and the ornate slider.

These turtles are a little pickier about temperature, so you’ll want to maintain a water temperature of 80 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and a basking area temperature of 90 to 95 degrees, with an ambient air temperature of 75 to 82 degrees being ideal.

Water temperatures above 85 degrees and basking temperatures above 100 degrees should be considered too hot for a slider.

Female sliders need a nesting box, even without a mate. Find out how to make one here.

Correct Temperature Ranges for Spotted Turtle

Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata)
Spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata)

Spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) are named after the yellow spots on their carapace, head, and tail. These spots are yellow on a dark background. Commonly kept as pets, the spotted turtle is actually the only turtle within its genus.

For spotted turtles, it is important to maintain a water temperature of 74 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit and a basking area temperature of  88 to 95 degrees. In addition to this, maintain an ambient temperature of about 75 to 85 degrees.

Water temperatures above 88 degrees should be considered too hot for this species, and the same goes for basking temperatures above 100 degrees.

Correct Temperature Ranges for Diamondback Terrapin

Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)
Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)

Diamondback terrapins are named after the diamond patterns on their upper shell and are the only species within the genus Malaclemys. The binomial name of the species is M. terrapin and there are seven subspecies which are generally named after their geographic range.

While not among the most popular turtles kept as pets, they are still fairly common pets, as their care is relatively simple.

For diamondback terrapins, we recommend maintaining a water temperature of 76 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit and a basking area temperature of 90 to 97 degrees.

Water temperatures above 85 degrees should be considered too hot. Basking temperatures above 100 degrees should be considered too hot.

Correct Temperature Ranges for Cooters

Florida cooter turtles basking on a log
Florida cooter (Pseudemys concinna floridana)

Cooters refer to turtles of the genus Pseudemys. Interestingly enough, cooters are predominantly herbivorous. This is odd, as most freshwater turtles are predominantly carnivorous or omnivorous. Their name originates from “kuta” – the word for turtle in the  Malinké and Bambara languages.

Cooters are commonly kept as pets and popular examples include the Texas cooter, the Suwannee cooter, the Northern red-bellied cooter, the peninsula cooter, the Florida red-bellied cooter, the Rio Grande cooter, the coastal plain cooter, the river cooter, and the Alabama red-bellied cooter.

Cooters thrive in water temperatures of  77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and basking area temperatures of 87 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water temperatures shouldn’t go above 85 degrees and basking temperatures shouldn’t go above 100 degrees, as both of these are simply too hot for cooters.

Raising an Eastern river cooter? Be sure to check out our care guide before you go!

Correct Temperature Ranges for Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle
Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

Painted turtles are species of the genus Chrysemys, which contains only two species. These are the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) and the southern painted turtle (Chrysemys dorsalis).

The painted turtle is endemic to southern Canada all the way to northern Mexico, while the southern painted turtle’s range is the south-central United States.

There are a total of four different types of painted turtles that are defined by their particular range. These are the eastern painted turtle, the midland painted turtle, the western painted turtle, and the southern painted turtle.

Painted turtles need a water temperature of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and a basking spot temperature of 85 and 95 degrees. An ambient temperature of 80 and 85 degrees is also just about perfect.

Water temperatures above 85 degrees should be considered too hot for a painted turtle, as well as basking temperatures above 100 degrees.

Keeping Temperatures Within The Correct Range

The correct temperatures are essential to the health of the turtle. For indoor turtles, especially during higher temperatures, ensuring the right temperature and avoiding warmer water is essential for their health. For the most part, the temperatures we like are usually compatible.

Room Temperature

The room temperature has an influence on the ambient temperature of the tank, the water temperature, and the basking temperature. There is a lot you can do to ensure the temperature is just right.

For instance, you can relocate the tank. We do not recommend having the tank close to a window if it faces the sun at any point during the day and the aquarium is glass. Sunlight can quickly heat up glass containers, causing the temperature in the tank to rise to dangerous levels.

Try and keep the tank in a place that doesn’t get too warm during parts of the day and this will help to ensure that the external temperature is consistent. You can also place the turtle in a temperature-controlled room such as a room with an air conditioning unit.

As long as the glass aquarium doesn’t receive direct sunlight and you’ve got some thermometer stickers on the tank, you should have little to worry about. If you don’t have the stickers, then you might want to invest in these or in a digital thermometer designed for enclosures.

Have Thermometers In The Water and the Basking Area

You should have a thermometer in the water at all times and you’ll want to keep the water temperature lower than air temperature. The ideal temperature of the water will depend on the type of turtle that you have, as we’ve discussed today in the previous sections.

To ensure that the temperature is right, install a thermometer into the water that will remain there at all times. A simple aquarium thermometer works, but there are different types available. For instance, it’s not uncommon for aquarium thermometers to have a probe that needs to be placed directly into the water.

A great example of this is the AikTryee Aquarium Thermometer. There are also some that you can stick to the outside of the tank that will give an accurate reading of the water temperature in the tank.

A good example of this is the PAIZOO Fish Tank Digital Thermometer and the LCR Hallcrest Liquid Crystal Aquarium Thermometer is another excellent option.

The temperature within the basking area also needs to be within the correct range and to achieve this, you’ll need to have a thermometer in the basking area at all times. This is very important, as it is very easy for the basking area to become overheated.

The thermometers mentioned above will also work well for the basking area and any thermometer designed for a reptile enclosure will work. These thermometers generally have suction cups that allow you to stick them to the wall of the enclosure, so they’re very easy to add to your turtle’s tank.

The  SunGrow Reptile Digital Thermometer, REPTI ZOO Reptile Terrarium Thermometer are our final 2 recommendations for monitoring enclosure heat and they also perform very well.

Install An Aquarium Heater With A Thermostat

Generic thermometer pic

Most modern aquarium heaters already have thermostats that are designed to turn off the aquarium heater when water temperatures are too high. The thermostat turns the heater back on when temperatures lower beyond the range that you’ve defined.

We highly recommend installing a thermostat-driven heater so you can automate the temperatures within the enclosure. After all, you won’t always be home, and automating the process helps to ensure that your turtle will be safe and comfortable even if the temperature outside of the tank changes while you’re away.

When acquiring an aquarium heater and a thermostat, ensure that it is of high quality. There is nothing to be gained by using a low-quality aquarium heater and thermostat, as they could easily fail and then you’ll be endangering your turtle. It is worth investing in a quality, reliable heater and thermostat.

Some aquarium heaters with inbuilt temperature control to consider include Fluval M150 Submersible Heater, Penn-Plax Cascade Heat Aquarium Heater, HiTauing Aquarium Heater, EHEIM Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater, and the Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm Pro Aquarium Heater.

All of these heaters have temperature control and you can also install a standalone thermostat that checks the water temperature and regulates the heater and this can also replace the aquarium thermometer.

Want more info on aquarium heaters for your turtle? Be sure to visit our aquarium heater guide when you’re done here. Link will open in a new window.

Install Ceramic Heat Lamps

It is important to install heat lamps over the basking spot where your uvb light is so that it will be significantly warmer than the rest of the enclosure. This encourages the turtle to bask and dry off.

There are basically two types of basking lamps: Ones that produce light as well as heat and ones that produce only heat. Mercury vapor bulbs produce both heat and UV light and ceramic heat bulbs produce only heat. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages of mercury vapor bulbs are a cut in cost and the simplicity they offer. You need only one bulb to produce both light and warmth, but the main disadvantage is the inability to control the temperature of the basking area independently of the light within the enclosure.

If the enclosure is too warm, turning off the mercury vapor bulb means that there is no access to UV light.

The ceramic heat lamp requires you to install a separate UV light lamp. With this setup, if the basking spot is too warm, you can dim the ceramic heat lamp.

Ceramic heat lamps can be hooked up to a thermostat, allowing you to easily regulate the temperature of the basking spot without worrying about it affecting the lights. An excellent ceramic heat bulb for this is the LUCKY HERP Ceramic Heat Emitter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best temperature for a turtle tank?

Different turtles require different temperatures but with that said, the following is a good general guideline for turtle tank temperatures. Maintain water temperatures at 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 25 degrees Celsius) and basking temperature at 85 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (29  to 35 degrees Celsius).

At night, temperatures can drop to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) but should be at most 75 degrees (24 degrees Celsius).

Do turtles like hot water?

Turtles do NOT like hot water and the water in the turtle’s enclosure needs to be a lower temperature than the air outside and than that of the basking spot.

Different turtles require different temperatures, so you’ll need to check species-specific information for your own turtle to ensure that water temperatures are well within the ideal range.

What is the maximum temperature for turtles?

The maximum temperature for turtles depends on the species, but most turtles can tolerate water temperatures of up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and basking temperatures of up to 100 degrees.

Some species are more heat or cold-tolerant than others, however, so you’ll need to check species-specific information for your turtle.

Do turtles get hot in the sun?

As ectotherms, the turtle’s body temperature is mostly reliant on the temperature of its environment. When the sun is hot, the turtle will get hot as well. Turtles regulate their body temperature by basking in the sun and swimming in cool water.

How do I cool down my turtle tank?

If temperatures are too warm, there are ways to cool the turtle’s tank, with the easiest way being to simply change the tank’s location. You can place the turtle in a temperature-controlled room, such as a room with an air conditioning unit.

You should also remove heat sources such as UV sterilizers and aquarium heaters. Finally, you can also install an aquarium chiller such as BAOSHISHAN Aquarium Chiller.

Conclusion

Keeping temperatures within the correct range is essential to your turtle’s health. Overheating can lead to health complications and aestivation, while temperatures that are too low may cause the turtle to become lethargic, refuse to eat, and even to brumate.

As far as answering ‘What temperature is too hot for turtles?’, while different turtles have different temperature requirements, as a general rule water temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit are generally considered too hot.

Basking spot temperatures above 95 degrees should be considered the same — too hot for your turtle.

There are different ways to keep the enclosure from overheating, such as keeping the turtle indoors so that you can easily control the ambient temperature of the enclosure. Having a thermometer in the water and another in the basking area also allows you to easily monitor the temperature within the enclosure.

Finally, you can install thermostats to regulate the temperature of the aquarium heater and the basking heat lamps so that temperature regulation is automatic. Just take advantage of the tips that we’ve shared today and like we told you in the beginning, maintaining the perfect temperature is a piece of cake!

In the face of climate change and rising global temperatures, the specific needs of your turtle species, including the importance of a basking platform and exposure to natural sunlight for vitamin D, become even more pertinent. Ensuring the right temperature, be it through external heat sources or natural environment adaptation, supports the well-being of both tropical species and terrestrial species like ornate box turtles.

Heat is one thing, but what about when a turtle gets too cold? Find out more about brumation in this article from Ashley Navarette DVM at TexVetPets.

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