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Basking Overview

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On a log in a pond somewhere, a slider relaxes in the sunlight with its legs stretched out and neck perched up. RES and similar turtles bask in this way when they absorb warmth and vital UV rays. Turtles are cold-blooded and the warmth provided (which should be around 90-95 degrees F or 32-35 degrees C) entices them to bask. They are able to engage in thermoregulation and their metabolism functions become elevated; the efficiency of their immune and digestive systems increase. Another benefit is that sliders absorb important UVB rays that are provided in unfiltered sunlight or through a special bulb. UVB rays become metabolized into vitamin D3 which is necessary to process calcium. Basking strengthens the shell as well as reduces algae growth on the shell. A clean healthy shell is less susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.

All sliders should bask everyday for a few hours even if they need to stack up on each other. This dry and warm basking area should not be overlooked. Basking areas can be of a variety of shapes, sizes and materials but serve the same basic function. They are limited by your budget or creativity, but they should all have the same requirements.

Basking Requirements

Providing basking warmth is probably the easiest aspect of turtle keeping. This warmth encourages basking in which a turtle would come out of the water to dry off and warm itself. Outside, it would do this under the Sun’s rays while absorbing UVA and UVB rays. For turtles kept indoors, using an incandescent bulb, a ceramic bulb or a mercury vapor bulb are several options to provide basking warmth. It is important to note that the basking area only needs to be 10 degrees F warmer than the water temperature to entice basking. Basking and other related issues are discussed thoroughly in their own sections.

Basking area requirements are:
  • Heat source – Necessary to entice basking. This should be approximately 10 degrees F warmer than water temperatures. Areas that are too hot may not encourage basking or even expose a turtle to hyperthermia.
  • Accessible – This area has to be partially submerged on at least one end or have a ramp. It must be very easy to climb onto.
  • Safe – Your turtle should not be able to trap or wedge itself between the basking area and the tank walls. Your turtle should also not be able to use a basking area as point of escape.
  • Non-toxic - Even platforms made of natural and organic materials may have water-altering effects. Be careful when using a home made platform – for instance, wood should not be chemically treated and metal should not rust or corrode.
  • Stability – A platform should stay in place with no chance of falling apart, becoming dismantled or knocked down by the turtle or another pet.
  • Textured - The platform should allow the turtle's plastron to dry as well.
Highly recommended suggestions are:
  • UVB – Offering a UVB rays to your turtle is highly beneficial. Remember, UVB rays are blocked by glass and are filtered out by water.
  • Feeding – Offering food prior to basking will allow your turtle to digest more effectively.
  • Privacy – Most RES do not like to be disturbed when basking. Some RES may start begging for food while others become very startled. Covering the sides of the tank may be helpful for reluctant RES.

Basking Heat Sources

It is necessary to have a basking light or heat lamp to provide the warmth needed to entice your turtle into this behavior. To achieve a desirable temperature of 90-95 degrees F at the top of the shell, your basking light should be positioned above your turtle. You will need to regularly use a thermometer to measure the temperature. Be careful so that the light is out of reach and not so close that it can cause a burn, especially if you have a turtle that stacks above another to get closer. Also be careful that the bulb cannot get wet from your RES splashing water. A hot, wet bulb can easily shatter causing an instant safety and health hazard. The only acceptable barrier between your turtle and basking lamp should be a metal protective screen. Do not rest lamps on top of glass surfaces. Make sure that it is not excessively hot because a turtle, especially a smaller one, can experience hyperthermia and pass out.
Heat is a form of energy that can come from various sources. Technically speaking, electromagnetic radiation from visible light and infrared radiation are the most common sources of heat used for basking. Thermal radiation, for example, is created through the infrared radiation from an emitter or light from an incandescent bulb.
Possible indoor basking heat sources
  • Incandescent bulb
  • Halogen bulb
  • Mercury Vapor bulb
  • Ceramic heat emitter
  • Red heat bulb

The light fixture that you will choose to hold a heat lamp should have a ceramic or a porcelain socket. This will resist the melting that a plastic socket might experience. Most people choose to use a clamp lamp style fixture. [Insert pic] Ceramic heat emitters, incandescent light bulbs and mercury vapor bulbs all are bulbs that can be used to provide heat. Ceramic heat emitters are not made of glass and emit no light. Incandescent light bulbs are everyday household light bulbs that can be used as long as they give the desired temperature. Mercury vapor bulbs provide heat, UVA and UVB but are too powerful for smaller enclosures.

Sunlight is not a reliable source of basking heat for indoor enclosures. They can not be relied on to offer regular and stable basking temperatures. They can cause additional problems such as excessive algae growth.

A basking heat source is not a substitute for a submersible water heater. It cannot be effectively or reliable done. Always use a thermometer to monitor water temperatures.
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This page updated: 2011/01/28 Copyright © 2005-2011 Red Ear Slider. All rights reserved.