Buyer’s Guide To The Best Turtle Heat Lamp – Top 5

A heat lamp is a must-have item for your turtles' long-term health. This is something many new turtle owners often overlook or aren't told about when they buy their new pet.
Best Turtle Heat Lamp
Best Turtle Heat Lamp

There are a lot of products out there and finding the best heat lamp for your turtle can take up a lot of your time researching all the different options.

Well, you can relax, I’ve done the hard work and handpicked 5 great products, and put it all together in this best turtle heat lamp guide, so your little buddy will be toasty warm.

Best Turtle Heat Lamp Top Picks

To speed things up, here are my top picks:

Why Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp?

Turtles are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature, they have to use the environment around them to do this.

I’ve gone into much more detail in my post, do turtles need a heat lamp?

UVA & UVB Light For Turtles

A UVA UVB light is different from a heat lamp, it can be confusing knowing which lamps you need to keep your turtle healthy.

The simple answer is you need to provide UVA/UVB light and a heat lamp for your turtle.

This post is focused on heat lamps, but I’ll quickly run through why you need a UV lamp too and I’ll put a link to a more detailed post, best UVB light for turtles.

When it comes to UV light bulbs for turtles, don’t confuse UVA with UVB. They’re 2 different parts of the light spectrum and you need to provide your turtle with both if they are to live a long and healthy life.

Sunlight is broken into 3 sections:

The Light Spectrum
The Light Spectrum

UVA light is needed to help your turtle’s immune system, mood, metabolism, breeding health, and general activity levels throughout the day.

UVB light helps them produce vitamin D3 which metabolizes the calcium in their diet to keep their bones and shells healthy.

UVC light is harmful to living cells and should not be used at all. The earth’s ozone layer blocks out UVC which is why everything is moving towards being environmentally friendly and protecting the ozone layer nowadays.

Turtle Heat Lamp Wattage

The wattage rating of a heat bulb is straightforward. The higher the wattage, the more heat it will give off.

The wattage of the bulb isn’t the most important factor to consider.

It’s far more important to place the bulb at the correct distance from the basking area to maintain a consistent temperature of 80°-95°F, depending on the age and species of your turtle.

I recommend using a digital laser thermometer to monitor your basking area temperatures and I have found the Etekcity Infrared Thermometer to be ultra-reliable.

Etekcity Infrared Thermometer
Etekcity Infrared Thermometer

Distance From Lamp To Basking Area

There are a few factors that will dictate how far from the turtles’ basking area your heat bulb should be, including tank size and ambient temperature, etc.

Use the chart below as an approximate guide for the ideal turtle basking light distance:

Bulb
Wattage
Approx. Distance
From Basking Area
50 watts5-7 inches away
75 watts7-9 inches away
100 watts10-12 inches away
150 watts12 inches or more

Setting Up And Maintaining Your Bulbs

Turtle Tank Lighting Setup
Turtle Tank Lighting Setup

There are a lot of things to consider when setting up your turtle tank lights, but I’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be good to go.

Focus Heat & UV Lights On The Basking Area

Your heat lamp and UV lamp must be placed directly above the basking area, preferably at one end of it.

Your turtle will be able to move around the basking area to a cooler or warmer part of it as and when they need to cool off or warm up.

Use Deep Dome Light Fixings

Deep dome light fixings don’t allow UV radiation to spread outwards toward you when you’re watching your turtle.

They also focus the light and heat on a smaller spot of the basking area creating warmer and cooler spots.

This will allow your turtle to adjust their position within the basking area as and when they need to cool off or warm up.

Where possible in the review section I have included suitable deep dome fixings for your convenience.

Change Your Bulbs Every 6-9 Months

Your heat lamp will naturally deteriorate over time. Once it starts to struggle to maintain 80°-95°F you need to replace it.

The same applies to your UV bulbs. You can buy a Solarmeter 6.5 to measure UV levels to check if your bulbs are still emitting enough UV light.

Solarmeter 6.5
Solarmeter 6.5

Although this is an excellent product, it is on the pricey side, so I’ve recommended a much cheaper alternative below.

The Fischuel Quick Test UVB Cards are super cheap and you get a pack of 2. Each card will test your bulb up to 500 times so offers you great value for money.

Different Types Of Heat Bulbs

Heat bulbs come in 3 different styles.

1. Regular Heat Bulb

It doesn’t get any simpler than this, they look like a standard light bulb and you guessed it, give off light and heat.

2. Ceramic Heat Emitter

If you’re looking for a heat-only source, a ceramic heat emitter is ideal.

They screw into a standard light fixture so there’s no need to buy an extra fixing for them.

They warm up very quickly and are more durable than a standard heat bulb.

3. Mercury Vapor Bulb

These bulbs are an ‘all-in-one’ type of bulb, providing heat, UVA, and UVB light. They are convenient if you’re short on space or electrical outlets.

However, they focus their heat and UVB light on a small area directly below the bulb, so if your turtle doesn’t naturally bask a lot during the day, it may miss out on a lot of its UVB light.

Where the mercury vapor bulb really excels is the much wider spread of UVA light which means your turtle will get the right amount of UVA light wherever they are in their tank.

Mercury vapor bulbs are not suitable for a smaller turtle tank as they give out a lot of heat and you risk overheating your turtle.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT USE A REGULAR HOUSEHOLD BULB.
They don’t give off anywhere near enough heat or UVA light.
They’re also prone to shattering if they’re splashed with water.

How Long Should A Turtle Basking Light Be On?

Your turtles basking lights should be on for 10-12 hours per day.

Like us, turtles are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day.

As most pet turtles are kept indoors you need to turn your lights off for at least 12 hours per day to establish a day and night cycle.

It’s best to use a light timer so that you don’t forget to switch them off.

Best Turtle Heat Lamp Reviews

Now we’ve covered what to look for in a turtle basking bulb, let’s look at my top picks in more detail.

1. Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB Heat Lighting Kit

Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB Heat Lighting Kit
Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB Heat Lighting Kit
  • Brand: Zoo Med
  • Type: Light Kit
  • Dimensions: 9.45 x 12.45 x 3.05 inches

✅ Pros

  • All in one heat, UVA / UVB kit
  • Separate plugs for each lamp
  • Looks neater than 2 separate lamps

Cons

  • Included UVB bulb is only suitable for small turtle tanks

The Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB And Heat Lighting Kit has everything you need in a single package:

  • 1 x Mini Combo Deep Dome lamp fixture
  • 1 x ReptiSun 5.0 Mini Compact Fluorescent (13 watt)
  • 1 x Repti Tuff Splashproof Halogen Bulb (50 watt)

The polished interior of the dome increases the heat, UVA & UVB depth penetration by up to a further 30% into your turtle’s tank.

The dome has separate plug sockets for the heat and UV bulbs, so you can control both bulbs independently. The only drawback to this is you need 2 power outlets available.

The heavy-duty Repti Tuff halogen bulb acts as a heat source and also emits UVA light. It has a splashproof coating that prevents it from bursting if it gets hit by water keeping your turtle safe from shards of broken glass or other injuries.

The ReptiSun 5.0 mini compact fluorescent bulb may not be strong enough if your turtle’s tank is over 20 gallons. I’d recommend upgrading to the larger ReptiSun 10.0 bulb.

There is also the option of purchasing a lamp stand for this kit, so you can safely hang the lights above your aquarium. The Zoo Med Reptile Lamp Stand comes in small and large sizes.

If you’re turtle lives in a stock tank, this light kit is a great option as it has a built-in metal hook, so that you can easily hang it above your stock tank.




2. Fischuel Reptile Adjustable Heat Lamp with Clamp

Fischuel Reptile Adjustable Heat Lamp with Clamp
Fischuel Reptile Adjustable Heat Lamp with Clamp
  • Brand: Fischuel
  • Type: Clip On
  • Watts: 25 & 50

✅ Pros

  • Affordable
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of space
  • Easy to attach & position
  • Comes with 2 different strength bulbs included
  • Provides heat, UVA, and UVB
  • Fully adjustable heat control
  • Great for smaller turtle tanks

❌ Cons

  • Adjustable neck tarnishes if it gets wet
  • Best suited to an open top tank
  • Power chord could be longer

For those with a smaller open-topped turtle tank, the Fischuel Reptile Adjustable Heat Lamp with Clamp is clip-on and provides heat, UVA, and UVB light for turtles.

You could look at this as a miniature mercury vapor bulb.

The 2.95″ wide clamp holds a firm grip on the tank yet is easy to open. The 11.8″ neck is fully adjustable through 360° so can be positioned almost anywhere you like.

Comes with a 25 watt bulb and a 50 watt bulb. Both provide heat, UVA, and UVB for your turtle and are splashproof so won’t shatter if they get wet.

The adjustable controller allows you to increase or decrease the temperature of the light bulb so you can fine-tune it for your turtles’ basking area, to get the ideal temperature.

A couple of niggles, the power chord is only 40″ long so you may need an extension cord. The adjustable neck doesn’t have any water protective coating so may start to rust after a while. Still, not bad when you consider the low price point.

All in all a great budget-friendly choice for smaller turtle tanks with an open-top, or one with a partially removable lid.




3. Zoo Med Repti Tuff Splashproof Halogen Lamp 75 Watts

Zoo Med Turtle Tuff Splashproof Halogen Lamp 75 Watts
Zoo Med Repti Tuff Splashproof Halogen Lamp 75 Watts
  • Brand: Zoo Med
  • Type: Heat Bulb
  • Watts: 50, 75 and 90

✅ Pros

  • Splashproof
  • Gives off heat and UVA
  • Great value for money
  • Variety of wattages are available

❌ Cons

  • 90 watts is the highest rating available

The Zoo Med Repti Tuff Splashproof Halogen Lamp 75 Watts offers excellent value for money from a popular quality brand.

The splashproof coating prevents the bulb from shattering should it get splashed with water saving your turtle from having shards of broken glass in its tank water and basking area.

Gives off both heat and UVA.

Also available in 50 watt and 90 watt options.

If you’re looking for a UVB bulb to pair with this heat lamp, I recommend the Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Mini Compact Fluorescent (13 watts).

If you require a dome to hang the bulbs from, check out the Zoo Med Deep Dome or Zoo Med Combo Deep Dome.




4. LUCKY HERP 2 Pack 100W Ceramic Heat Emitter

LUCKY HERP 2 Pack 100W Ceramic Heat Emitter
LUCKY HERP 2 Pack 100W Ceramic Heat Emitter
  • Brand: Lucky Herp
  • Type: Ceramic Heat Emitter
  • Dimensions: Height 3.93″ x Diameter 3″
  • Watts: 100

Pros

  • Heats rapidly
  • More durable than standard bulbs
  • Self-ballasted
  • Heat only, won’t disturb turtles’ sleep
  • Great value
  • Great customer service

❌ Cons

  • No light output

I really like the LUCKY HERP 2 Pack 100W Ceramic Heat Emitters as they are well made, offer great value for money, and you can keep them on at night without disturbing your turtles’ day/night cycle, as they don’t give off any light.

If you already have a UVA and UVB combo bulb and just need something to keep your turtles’ enclosure warm, a ceramic heat emitter is a great option.

Made from ceramic instead of glass they are more durable than traditional glass heat bulbs and warm up to temperature within minutes.

Self-ballasted with a standard E26 fixing means you don’t have to buy an extra fixture to hang it from.

Lucky Herp has excellent customer service offering you a no-quibble 30-day refund for defective items.

If you do need a deep dome fixture there’s the LUCKY HERP Aluminum 5.5inch Deep Dome Reptile Light Fixture.




5. Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb – 100 Watts

Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb - 100 Watts
Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb – 100 Watts
  • Brand: Mega-Ray Pet Care
  • Type: Mercury Vapor
  • Dimensions: Height 7.5″ x Diameter 5.5″
  • Watts: 100

✅ Pros

  • Longer lasting than other MVB’s
  • All in one heat UVA, and UVB source
  • Safer emission of UVB
  • Self-ballasted
  • Best heat bulb for red-eared slider

❌ Cons

  • More expensive than other MVB’s
  • Not splash proof

The 100 Watt Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb is a quality all-in-one bulb that provides heat, UVA, and UVB light for your turtle.

It screws into standard threaded sockets without needing an extra ballast so is super easy to install.

When placed 20″ above the basking area this bulb will put its heat and UVB down in an area of 9.5″ in diameter. If you have a mesh screen in place obviously this will affect the amount of heat and UVB hitting that spot so you’ll need to adjust the height of your bulb accordingly.

Not the cheapest mercury vapor bulb on the market, but it lasts much longer than most others, you should get approx 2 years out of this bulb, so saves you money in the long run.

Also available in 70 watt, 160 watt, and 275 watt ratings.

A recommended shade for this bulb is the REPTI ZOO 8.5 inch Reptile Light Fixture.




Turtle Heat Lamp FAQ

I’ll go through a few frequently asked questions.

How Warm Should A Turtle Heat Lamp Be?

It’s not the heat lamp that should be at a specific temperature, it’s your turtles’ basking area.

You should aim to keep your turtles’ basking area at a consistent 80°-95°F, depending on the age and species of your turtle.

Do Turtles Need A Heat Lamp At Night?

Not necessarily. It all depends on where you live and the ambient temperature in the turtles’ enclosure.

Turtles are subjected to cooler temperatures at night than during the daytime in the wild, and It’s best to replicate your turtles’ natural conditions as much as possible.

If you find that you need to keep your heat lamp on at night you’ll be better off using a ceramic heat emitter (such as the Lucky Herp ceramic heat emitters listed above), or a night heat lamp, so you don’t disturb your turtles’ sleep pattern.

If you have a turtle that sleeps in the water, your turtle tank water heater should be enough to keep your turtle warm through the night.

Do Red Eared Sliders Need A Heat Lamp?

Yes, like all semi-aquatic turtles, a red-eared slider will need a heat lamp.

How Long Can A Turtle Go Without A Heat Lamp?

A turtle can survive for a considerable amount of time without a heat lamp, however, I do not recommend it. 

A turtle deprived of heat over a prolonged period will suffer a miserable existence and will be at risk of:

  • Calcium deficiencies
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Metabolic bone disease
  • Respiratory infection
  • Shell rot

Not providing enough heat for your turtle also puts them at risk of going into hibernation, which isn’t good for a pet turtle.

How Do You Keep A Turtle Warm Without A Heat Lamp

If you want to keep a pet turtle without a heat lamp, you should keep it outdoors in a pond so it has access to direct sunlight. 

Turtles kept indoors should always be provided with a suitable heat and UVB lamp as it’s so important to their long-term health.

Closing Thoughts On The Best Basking Lamp For Turtles…

Now we’ve established that a heat lamp is essential for your turtle’s health and well-being, it’s time to pick one that suits your tank setup the best.

Here’s a quick recap of my top picks:👇

Check out the turtle section for in-depth product reviews and guides on keeping your pet turtles happy and healthy.

For the most environmentally friendly way of disposing of your old bulbs, please visit https://lamprecycle.org/en/