Turtle Lighting

Key Basking Light Tips:

Key Turtle Tips:

  • You need UVA (Heat) and UVB spectrum bulbs

  • Heat bulb must produce the correct temperature at your basking surface and UVB bulb must be effective at installed distance

  • Light fixtures must be able to withstand high temperatures due to bulb heat

  • Bulbs should be safely located above basking area

If you have not read up on it yet, please read about turtle basking! Find it here: https://www.longliveyourturtle.com/turtle-basking-area once you do, head back this way to learn how to set up a the lights for a proper basking area.

To create an adequate basking area, you need to light it with a make-shift sun. Woaw… that sounds impossible. But think about what the sun provides us. Heat of course. You can get real toasty spending time under the sun. When the sun is not shining down though and it is not directly shining on you, it can get incredibly cold! 

How about if you expose yourself to too much sunlight? Besides possibly overheating, you would probably burn right? Well that is because of solar radiation, more specifically, UltraViolet radiation! No, getting sunburned is not beneficial to you or I even if it might result in a sexy bronze. Wear sunscreen! However, as we discussed (https://www.longliveyourturtle.com/turtle-basking-area), turtles require UVB light to produce Vitamin D3 and to help them properly metabolize calcium and other nutrients. Turtles lacking the appropriate amount of  UVB light can lead to poor shell health and metabolic bone disease. A lack of UVB light for too long will lead to a turtle’s death 🙁


Don’t worry though! There have been lots of improvements in pet turtle keeping that have led to products that easily satisfy a turtle’s lighting needs. So for your turtle you need your basking area to provide two types of light. UVA and UVB radiation.  Let’s look at the two UV’s shall we


Heat (UVA) Bulb –  Halogen or Incandescent Bulb

UVA (Ultra Violate – Alpha) –  this is what we call a heat producing bulb or basking bulb in the hobby. Typically an incandescent or halogen bulb that produces a yellow/white luminescence, you want a spot light bulb that concentrates the heat this bulb produces directed at your basking area. You will notice wattage is an important property of your bulb. Wattage for a heat lamp relates to the intensity of the heat emitting from the bulb. So depending on the location of your light fixture, the size of your basking area and the reflectivity of your lamp, you want a bulb that produces the right temperature on your basking area. This can be trial and error but is simple to track using a thermometer like this one https://amzn.to/35L2FWi


Check out this bulb here (confirm wattage):

UVB Bulb –  Fluorescent Bulb

UVB (UltraViolet -B)– Typically emitted by a fluorescent bulb. These bulbs have come a long way in the past couple of decades to ensure efficient and expected UVB output. It is recommended you stick with the non desert style UVB bulbs as they produce too much UVB which can be unsafe for your shelled friend (stick to 2-5% UVB). The bulb comes in compact and regular sizes. Only compact UVB bulbs will fit in a mini deep dome lamp (shown below). There has been lots of debate on whether UVB can penetrate water. In my opinion and from my own research, it is not guaranteed that enough UVB will penetrate the water and your turtle may not get enough. I recommend placing it over your basking area to ensure your turtle will get the UVB light they need. But don’t take my word for it!

Check out this bulb here: https://amzn.to/2YfQi1G

2-in-1 Bulb – Mercury Vapor Bulb

Now we have discussed two different bulbs. It might please you to know that there is a bulb that combines both heat and UVB. It is a Mercury vapor bulb. While more expensive, you only need one bulb and one light fixture so the pros are obvious. I use both the dual bulb and single bulb method for my setups. Really just matters what you want to look at and what you can setup on your individual enclosure.

Check out this bulb here (confirm wattage): https://amzn.to/357IzFt

Now there are essentially three types of lamp fixtures to choose from when it comes to house your UVA, UVB or 2-in-1 bulbs. Basking lamp fixtures should be designed to withstand high heat (wattage). It is safest to stick to the reptile specific brands as they are designed to not only take the heat but also magnify it toward the basking area (reflective surface).

Deep Dome

The deep dome is a classic lamp fixture that can hold the full size of all 3 types of bulb. I personally use this bulb with my 2-in-1 Mercury vapor bulb where this light fixture is the only one I need for the basking area.

Check out this dome here: https://amzn.to/2FDA5gp

Mini Deep Dome Combo

The mini deep dome combo is a two smaller versions of the deep dome combined into one. This lamp is great when you want to put your basking bulbs relatively close to the basking area. It is compact and can fit both heat bulbs and compact UVB bulbs. Be careful and know that sometimes compact UVB bulbs still stick out the bottom a little bit and your fixture will not sit flat on a screen.

Check out this dome here: https://amzn.to/2N8HO6b

Clamp Lamp

The last style is one I use for specific setups. The clamp lamp does exactly as the name suggests, it can clamp to appropriate features near your basking area. Whether this is the side of your tank or a custom addition it allows you to avoid hanging or having your lamp rest on part of the tank setup. Keep in mind that you typically cannot rotate the lamp straight down when clamped vertically and your light will shine at an angle. This is fine for certain setups but could be annoying in your living room. It also can hold your light close to things in your tank that might melt, like the plastic trim around the rim of your tank. Just take heed and consider this before you choose this type. Most clamp lamps fit all basking type bulbs. If it is not reptile specific just make sure it is designed for the wattage of the basking bulb you plan on using.

Check out this lamp here: https://amzn.to/2FDyreR

Adjust Height of Lamp!

If your living space ambient temperature fluctuates (e.g. 55 deg in the winter and 90 deg in the summer) consider buying an adjustable stand that allows you to move your light closer or farther away from the basking area to modify the temperature. This can also help to set a height for your lamp in general. Check the suggested distance for the UVB bulb as well to make sure enough UVB reaches the basking area for your turtle.

DIY tip: If you need your light to hang higher than the screen top on the tank, you can use a hanging plant hook or a reptile specific lamp like the one’s linked here: https://amzn.to/2VevoOX

CAUTION! The height suggestions provided in the picture on the left are not guaranteed locations. Please measure the actual temperature of your basking area where your turtle will bask. You can get a cheap thermometer that you can use dry or wet here: https://amzn.to/35L2FWi

How long should the lights stay on?


Easy! Match the sun! Your turtle rests and sleeps when the sun goes down and they no longer need to regulate their body temperature like they do during the day. Keeping the light on 24/7 will confuse and potentially stress your turtle and could cause health issues.  If you live somewhere where winters and darkness are prolonged, just keep it at summer day length. I have my lights on for 10 hours. I recommend 9 to 11.

Word of CAUTION!


Nothing is free of hazard! It has been reported that basking bulbs have burst! This could be a result of water splashing onto them or just complete failure. It is recommended that you put a screen between your lamp and your basking area to reduce the risk of your turtle getting injured from something like this happening.

Examples of Basking Area Lighting:

Deep Dome with Mercury Vapor Bulb (2-in-1 bulb emitting both UVA and UVB light)

  1. Deep Dome -> https://amzn.to/2FDA5gp

  2. Mercury Vapor Bulb (UVA and UVB) -> https://amzn.to/357IzFt

Optional: Light Stand ->  https://amzn.to/2VevoOX

Mini Deep Dome with compact fluorescent and 50 watt heat bulb with a stand

  1. Mini Deep Dome -> https://amzn.to/2N8HO6b

  2. Heat Bulb (UVA) -> https://amzn.to/3hKlXQD +

  3. Compact Fluorescent (UVB) -> https://amzn.to/2YfQi1G

Optional: Light Stand ->  https://amzn.to/2VevoOX

Mini Deep Dome with compact fluorescent and 50 watt heat bulb on a screen

  1. Mini Deep Dome -> https://amzn.to/2N8HO6b

  2. Deep Dome -> https://amzn.to/2FDA5gp
  3. Heat Bulb (UVA) -> https://amzn.to/3hKlXQD

  4. Fluorescent (UVB) -> https://amzn.to/2YfQi1G

Optional: Aquarium screen top (check sizing) ->  https://amzn.to/345rA7a

Clamp lamp with Mercury Vapor Bulb (2-in-1 bulb emitting both UVA and UVB light)

  1. Clamp Lamp -> https://amzn.to/2FDyreR
  2. Mercury Vapor Bulb (UVA and UVB) -> https://amzn.to/357IzFt