Does My Turtle Need a Water Heater?

Stinkpot Turtle

You might be tempted to forego a water heater in your aquatic turtle’s enclosure, but you should strongly reconsider this temptation. The main reason for this is that the water in the tank will be cooler than the ambient air temperature, eventually becoming too cold for your turtle.

And if it does become too cold, it can make your turtle ill. The creatures become more susceptible to respiratory infections if they get too cold. This is because they are unable to raise their own body temperature. TurtlesOpens in a new tab. require a specific body temperature for certain functions to perform adequately, such as respiration, metabolism, digestion, and resisting diseases. As their body temperature will always be the same (within a degree or two) of the environment they are in, it is essential that their water is heated within a set range as well.

Getting the Temperature Right

To make sure the temperature of the water in your turtle’s tankOpens in a new tab. is correct, you need to know the species of aquatic turtle you have. Those such as the red-eared slider and painted turtle are by far the most popular turtle species as pets; in general, these require a water temperature of between 78F and 82F when hatchlings. Older turtles will do well in temperatures that are slightly lower (between 74F and 76F).

The recommendation is that once a turtle’s upper shell has grown to around 1.5 inches in length, the water temperature can be gradually reduced from the higher temperature range to the lower one. This should be reduced by around one degree every week until within the lower range.

Buying the Right Equipment

To ensure the water in the turtle’s tank is within the correct range, you should invest in a good quality aquarium heater, which can be purchased online or from a local reptile store. If you are interested, Amazon sells a great selection. Click here to take a lookOpens in a new tab. (the link opens in a new tab). Aquarium heaters are available for tropical fish too, and these ones tend to have a glass-cased outer cover. It is best to avoid these types of heater when it comes to your aquatic turtle’s enclosure and instead buy one that has an outer covering made from either plastic or metal. The reason is that there is a small risk that your turtle’s shell could smash the glass.

It is also important that when buying a water heater that is adequate for the size of tank you are placing it in. The bigger the tank, the more powerful the heater you will need. A more powerful heater will also be required if you live in a cold climate where the room temperature will be lower.

You need to make sure that the aquarium heater is always submerged as it will burn out otherwise. Note that the water level will naturally drop over time, so it is recommended that you place the heater at least an inch lower than the water level when you fill the tank.

You should also invest in a thermometer, which will allow you to monitor the temperature of the water. Again, avoid purchasing a glass thermometer to avoid the risk of breakage.

Mississippi Map Turtle
Mississippi Map Turtle


Aquatic turtles require their water temperature to be within a specific range to ensure their good health and wellbeing. Investing in a good water heater that will sufficiently heat the water of your tank to the required range is highly recommended.

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I am a content creator by profession but exotic animals are one of my great passions in life. Over the course of my adulthood, I have had the pleasure of looking after stick insects, terrapins, an Egyptian tortoise, giant African land snails, a crested gecko, a Chilean rose tarantula, a couple of curly-haired tarantulas, and a selection of millipedes, centipedes and worms!

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