How Long Should Turtles Bask in the Sun?

Sun is probably the most important thing for a turtle. Not only does it enhance its health but also works as a great entertainer and keeps your turtle occupied for a long period of time. However, the sun is very dangerous, especially for reptiles. Therefore, you should be very careful with your turtle’s sunbaths. So, how long should turtles bask in the sun? 

In direct sunlight, not more than 20 to 30 minutes every two days. Never let your turtle unsupervised in the sun, it can cause serious health issues. If you want to find out more about turtles and their sunbathing routines, read the article below. Enjoy! 

What is Turtle Basking?

a turtle basking in the sun on the grass

Turtle basking in the process of absorbing light and heat. Your turtle, a cold-blooded creature, needs heat and light in order to properly function. Therefore, some light and heat, either from the sun or a basking platform you set up, would be the best thing for its health and well-being. 

Also, there are some health benefits that you need to know about turtle basking. From the absorption of calcium to the good immune system and anti-bacterial effect, basking can do them all. And I’m even not talking about the psychological well-being of your little pet animal. 

Also Read: Best Turtle Light Wattage?

Why do Turtles Bask?

While every turtle owner knows about basking and its importance, not everyone knows why is basking so important for turtles. So, here is the list of the most important reasons why turtles bask and what is the connection between basking and good health. 


As you may know, calcium is the most important mineral a turtle must have in its organism. Now, the absorption of calcium is impossible without vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the only vitamin that can be obtained when the body is held in the sun. Direct sunlight transforms vitamin D into vitamin D3 and enhances the absorption of calcium from the food you feed to your turtle. 

But Why Calcium Is so Important for A Turtle?

From the vast amount and variety of minerals there is, calcium is probably the most crucial one for turtles. If you haven’t yet observed, turtles are covered by a shell. Under this shell are so many little bones and cartilages that desperately need a huge amount of calcium in order to properly function. 

The lack of calcium in a turtle’s body can only mean death. Not an easy one also. If you don’t deliver the amount of calcium that is necessary for your turtle for a long period of time, its bones will get softer, its muscles won’t work properly and even the nerves won’t have the ability to work as they should be. 

However, the absorption of calcium, while it happens better and faster during sun baths, can happen from any other source of light. 

Good Immune System 

Don’t you feel better in the summer when the sun it’s at its zenith every other day? That is because living beings need the sun in order to function properly. The heat and light that the sun is giving help not only maintain good general health but also actually improve the immune system. Regular basking can cause crucial improvements in your turtle’s immune system. 

If your turtle is on a good diet, has been medicated several times, and still doesn’t have a strong immune system and catches every infection there is, the sun might be the perfect thing to use. It will enhance the immunity, will make your turtle feel better, and improve its life expectancy and overall health. 


Bacterial and fungal infections in turtles are often caused by bacteria that live in water. The good thing is, that the sun literally kills the bacteria that live in water because they aren’t prepared for such direct heat and light. So, if you want to help your turtle get rid of the possible infections, just let it fry out in the sun from time to time. You’ll see how rare it will get sick after that. 

Also, the sun dries out algae. It is a common thing for turtles to be covered in algae. While algae aren’t harmful to turtles, it affects their ability to swim and doesn’t look very pretty. The good thing is that algae are not often encountered on pet turtles. However, if you see any green residue on your turtle, it would be better for you to let it bask for an hour or two. 

How do Turtles Bask in the Wild?

a red eared slider turtle basking on a rock

Do you wonder how do turtles bask in the wild? It’s actually very plain and simple if you ask me. In the wilderness, turtles don’t have basking platforms that humans build. They are using what nature is giving them. Usually, turtles will bask on a rock in the middle of the lake or just on the sand near the lake or stream. However, basking is a little risky for wild turtles. While, being in the water, they are fast and can get away from a predator, on the sand they are a slow and easy target for wild animals. Therefore, they usually tend to bask near the water. 

Now, how do wild turtles know how much time do they need to bask you might ask. Of course, pet turtles are taken care of fully. Turtle owners know the right way and length for a turtle to bask in the sun. However, wild turtles still have their instincts and sometimes know better than pet owners how long should they stay in the sun. 

How do Pet Turtles Bask?

Pet turtles, in comparison with wild turtles, are taken care of fully. They don’t have to find safe places to bask and use their instincts to find out how much time they need to spend in the sun. All these little details are for humans. 

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How Long Should Turtles Bask in the Sun?

While sunbaths are very useful for turtles, they can be as much dangerous. Long basks in the sun can lead to serious health problems. Don’t forget, turtles are reptiles, they love water and their skin isn’t prepared for so much heat and direct sunlight. Yes, it is true that an hour or two of dry skin is very useful for a turtle. However, a longer period of time will kill the turtle, which won’t benefit it. 

So, how long? Depending on the season and the power of the sun, from 30 minutes to an hour. If it is summer we are talking about, from 20 to 30 minutes. If we are talking about other seasons, from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. It really depends on the temperature and other important things. For example, if there are clouds in the sky, it is obvious that the sunlight isn’t direct and the turtle can stay a little bit longer. However, if the sun is at its zenith and there are no clouds, it is better to wait an hour or two before letting your turtle bask. 

Can a Turtle Bask Too Much?

Yes, a turtle can bask too much. Too much direct sunlight can cause serious health issues, dry skin, and even different levels of sunburns. Your turtle’s skin is very sensitive. While it loves to be dried out for an hour or two and it’s even proven to be healthy, it can’t be dry for a day long. Your turtle is a reptile and its skin is the only thing that keeps its blood from being too hot. Turtles are cold-blooded animals and it would be a problem if they are too heated. 

Also, don’t forget about sunburns. While you can protect yourself with different kinds of lotions and cremes, your turtle can’t do that. Therefore, it is practically impossible to prevent sunburn if the turtle stays in the sun longer than it needs to stay. Also, there are no lotions that would heal a turtle from a sunburn. And no, it isn’t a good idea to apply human lotion on a turtle. In the best-case scenario, it won’t help. Worst case scenario, the sunburn will get even worse. 

How Long Can My Turtle Go Without Basking?

It really depends on the environment you build for your turtle inside. The thing is, the only vital thing light is doing for your turtle is letting it absorb calcium. Also, you need to understand that not all species love sun and heat. Some of them, even in the wilderness, are basking in the water. It could be the case for your turtle because, if you have a good light system to place above the aquarium, it won’t be necessary for your turtle to go outside. 

Nevertheless, if you have a turtle that loves the sun and heat and is also a species that is basking outside the water, it could be a great idea to let it bask from time to time. Of course, it won’t die if you won’t let it bask. However, it will definitely feel better and look better after some sunbathing sessions. 

Also, don’t forget about infections. While, for humans, sunbathing is just fun, turtles need direct sunlight on their skin. It kills whatever bacteria and fungus they have on their skin, protecting their internal organs from infections they couldn’t handle. 

Also Read: The Ideal Painted Turtle Tank Setup

What Happens if Turtles Don’t Bask?

turtle on the grass

Depending on the species we are talking about, many things can happen. The first and most dangerous thing that could happen is the spread of infections and fungus. Infections, especially bacteria, are not dangerous to live on the skin until your turtle got a bruise or a cut. Then, all the bacteria and fungus that have gotten on your turtle’s skin will get into the bloodstream and, after that, you’ll need medication. 

Also, remember that turtles are cold-blooded animals and they need heat. If your aquarium has a light that can heat them up a little, ok, no problem. However, if they don’t have access to heat, they will simply get sick and eventually die if you won’t rush them to a veterinarian. 

Lastly, sunlight has the perfect spectrum to turn vitamin D into vitamin D3. Therefore, a little sunbath can improve your turtle’s general health and well-being by far. Again, if you have a good lighting system with full-spectrum light on your aquarium, there is no need for basking. However, there are not many pet owners that can afford such expensive items. 

Do Turtles Sleep when They Bask?

Honestly, it’s up to every turtle whether it sleeps or not during the basking session. However, you need to keep an eye on your turtle if it is basking outside the water. Of course, a turtle can sleep during a basking session, especially if it is a species that can last a long time under the sun. Red Eared Sliders, for example, can be in the sun for up to 8 hours. It won’t be a problem for them to take a quick nap in the sun. 

Related Reading: How to Give Your Turtle a Bath?

The Ideal Basking Platform Setup

If you don’t have the opportunity to let your turtle bask outside in the sun, there are some things you can do to make it feel more comfortable. You need to set up a basking platform. Here is what to do to make it perfect. 

The Shape and Materials

The first thing you need to worry about is the shape of the basking platform. It needs to be climbable and comfortable for the turtle. Make sure it doesn’t have sharp or pointy parts that can hurt your turtle. Also, on the contrary, it shouldn’t be completely smooth because your turtle won’t be able to climb it at all. 

The materials are also very important for a platform setup. Remember the fact that this platform will be exposed to powerful lightning and water. It mustn’t be made of toxic plastic or other materials that can get some residue into the water. In addition to that, you’ll have to clean the platform, so, make sure the materials are easy to clean and also stay clean for a long period of time. 


The light bulb is very important. The lightning you must choose shouldn’t be a simple light bulb from your local store. The best thing you can do about the lighting on a basking platform is to talk to a consultant in a pet shop. They will definitely have the information and possibly even the products you need to make the perfect basking platform. 

Remember, the light needs to provide heat and essential UV rays. Also, it should be a full-spectrum light bulb that will provide both nighttime and daytime light. 


While you might think the design it’s not such a big deal, it is. Not for your turtle, but for you, if you won’t like the basking platform and it won’t go well with the other stuff you have in your turtle aquarium, it will be hard to love the aquarium. You need to either find or build such a basking platform that will go well with the habitat you previously build. The best idea for what you can think about the design is to incorporate the basking platform in the initial aquarium. This way, you won’t miss the chance to make it right. 

Also, remember the fact that your turtle’s aquarium will be with you for a long period of time. Turtles live a long life if properly taken care of, so, build a basking platform and an aquarium you would want to be with for 10-15 years at least. 

Also read: Best Tanks for Red-Eared Sliders


Now you found out all there is to know about turtle basking. Remember, basking is a very important thing for a turtle. Your little pet friend literally needs the basking you give to him, so be smart about it. If you don’t have a yard or a place you can go with your turtle, just make a basking platform that will do everything for you. 

Dorothy Razo

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