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FAQs About Turtle Systems: Heat/ing, Cooling

Related Articles: Turtles, AmphibiansRed Eared Slider CareThe Care and Keeping of the Red Eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans by Darrel Barton,

Related FAQs:  Turtle Systems 1, Turtle Systems 2, & Further Subdivided FAQs on Turtle Systems: Turtle Enclosures, Turtle System Filtration, Turtles & Light (UV plus), Turtle Substrates & Decor, Aquatic Turtle Basking Areas, Turtle System Maintenance, Overwintering Environments, RES Systems, & Turtles 1, Turtles 2, Red Ear Sliders, Turtle Identification, Turtle Behavior, Turtle Compatibility, Turtle Selection, Turtle Feeding, Turtle Disease, Turtle Reproduction, & by Species: Cooters/Mud Turtles, Softshells, Snapping Turtles, Mata Matas, Tortoises, & AmphibiansOther Reptiles


Red Ear Sliders; overwintering         1/5/15
Hi there,
<Hiya - Darrel here>
I have two red eared sliders that I got as babies 8 years ago. They lived in an inside aquarium up until last year as they got too big. They now live outside on my balcony in a prefab pond. I have a filter, basking area and a heater. I live in Southern California where it's generally warm.
<Yes. Generally they don't need a heater at all.>

However, we've had some really cold nights and I'm frightened that the turtles are suffering...daytime highs are mid sixties. Nighttime lows are low forties/high thirties. I know sliders are supposed to hibernate at temps below 50, but I'm afraid it's not cold enough....or that it's cold enough at night, but not during the day. I've heard that this "middle ground" can be very stressful for the turtles.
<That is right, it can be>
Should I bring the turtles in for the season?
<You certainly can.>
Perhaps just in at night?
<Some people do that as well>

I would appreciate any guidance you can give me. I've spent hours reading about hibernation, but haven't found any real information on what to do in this "middle-ish" climate.
<OK - here's the deal. It depends on your pond. The deeper the pond the more heat it will retain during the night, especially if you have a heater. My adult Sliders, also here in Southern California, live all year long in an un-heated outdoor pond that is two and a half feet deep. During the month or so that it gets chilly here, they tend to settle to the bottom when there's no sunshine to soak up and they get along just fine.>
<Other people take their sliders in for the winter by placing them in a closed cardboard box in a corner in the garage.>
<In your case, if the water is heated to at least 60 degrees during the day, all I'd add is a 125 watt heat lamp over the basking area. If they are otherwise healthy they'll be fine. I wouldn't feed them again until it warms up … but they act so needy and beg so well that I'll even break that rule once in a while myself>
Thank you so much for your help.
Re: Red Ear Sliders        1/5/15

Thank you SO much for getting back to me! This is just the info I needed!!! I appreciate your help! Happy New Year!! :-)

RES Turtle heater HELP! PLEASE!      2/10/14
<Hiya - Darrel here>
So … I have two baby red eared sliders and I got almost everything but I'm having a problem with the temp levels. I'm wondering if there's a heater that runs on batteries or no.
<You shouldn't need a heater at all>
And if so is it submersible? I really would like to keep my turtles but if I cant find this kind of heater it most likely seems like I wont be able to keep them :/
<No -- you'll do fine without one.  If you keep them in the house and the temperature is within\ normal for YOU … no need to heat their water!   You need a basking lamp over their dock or rock or whatever they use to get out of the water and the idea is to give them a choice:  Nice warm basking rock or nice cool water.  And you can use an ordinary incandescent lamp for heat.
Here is EVERYTHING a beginner needs to know:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RESCareBarton.htm  >
Thank you. I really appreciate the time and help.
<Yer welcome!>

I have some question bout my painted  turtle and my yellow bellied slider  
I have a heat mat  under the tank is this ok ?     12/11/13

<A heat mat under the tank is not necessary. What are essential are (a) a heat lamp over a rock for basking; and (b) a source of UV-B, without which reptiles become prone to all sorts of (eventually fatal) deformities and diseases. You can buy heat lamps that include UV-B as well, and such lamps are very convenient. The water in the vivarium should be at room temperature, and there's no need at all to warm the water. Turtles move between the basking rock (to warm up) and the water (to cool down) and thereby keep the right body temperature.>
And can they mate in the winter
and why do they keep try to escape there tank all they do all day is  run into the glass   like there saying let me out  

<May be "saying" exactly that. If the vivarium isn't adequate, your turtles will try to move somewhere else. That's an instinct. If I throw you into the water, you'll try to get out! You aren't really telling me anything about their environment, so I can't say what's good and what's bad. But have a read here:
Providing the right conditions isn't hard (realistically, for juvenile turtles budget $50-100, adults a bit more because they'll need a larger --
55+ gallon -- tank). The ongoing expenses include food and replacement heat/UV-B lights every 6-12 months. So while turtles are definitely cheaper than dogs or cats, they're not exactly cheap pets. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
re: I have some question bout my painted turtle and my yellow bellied slider    12/12/13

There in a ten gallon tank i knw that they need something bigger and the water in there   tank is to cold i think that why i put the heat mat down  and it seems like she wont eat
<Well, it sounds like you understand that the vivarium you have is totally inadequate. Your turtle is suffering (hence trying to escape and not eating) and kept this way for a few weeks it will soon become sick and then die. Time to spend some money. Do understand you need a large tank (anything less than 55 gallons will need replacing within a couple years), a heat lamp, a UV-B lamp, and a suitable flat rock or something similar for the turtle to crawl out of the water onto. Budget $100 or so, and you should be fine, especially if you shop wisely. Read.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/RESCareBarton.htm Cheers, Neale.>

RES Turtle, heat lamp
<Hi Josefina, Sue here with you.>
Does the heat lamp need to be turned on all the time in order for the turtle to be comfortable?
<No, not at all. Essentially were trying to mimic nature with warm days and cool nights. As long as your turtle isnt exposed to cold drafts, hell be fine. I would go with a 12 hours ON, 12 hours OFF schedule. Hook it up to a timer if you have one, so it will come on and off automatically.>
<You didnt mention UVB, but your turtle must have this type of light also along with the heat lamp. Hope this helps! Sue>

RES Basking under water?   5/14/11
<Hiya - Darrel here>
My Red Eared Slider, who is a 1yr and months, hasn't been basking on his dock lately.
I do see him on the bottom with his legs stretched out like he would on the dock and his head stretched out too.
<hmmm again>
His water is on the warm side ranging from 76 - 78 degrees.
<Yes it is>
I can't get the temp to drop. I don't remember having this problem last summer. How do I get his water to stay cooler?
<Assuming the room isnt 76-78 degrees, you have to find out the reason why. Some obvious things are the basking lamp shines too much of its energy on the water -- or too close to the water. Some filters, pumps, etc. are inefficient and transfer their heat to the water. Sometimes having return water from a filter fall through the air helps to cool the water. You've probably seen terrariums where the return water slides down a piece of glass and then trickles into the water? This helps cool that water.>
<And SPEAKING of "obvious" I deliberately didn't mention that if you have a water HEATER that is likely the problem!!>
<On the other hand, if the ambient temperature of the room Edward lives in is 76-78 degrees, then you can't do much about it.>
I've tried placing frozen bottles of water in a Ziploc but he put a hole in the bag. Don't want to risk him eating the bag.
<Besides that's WAY too much work>
<If nothing specific is heating the water, then maybe there just isn't enough water. A bigger (deeper) tank will not increase in temperature so readily. But my guess is that the basking lamp is heating the water by being too close (or too powerful) and this ALSO explains why he doesn't bask -- if the basking lamp is heating the water 3-6 degrees over room temperature, then it's likely BAKING the basking area and making it way too hot for Edward.>
He does eat normally and swims around too.
<Then, for the moment, we have only a puzzle - no health issues>
He's even started fluttering to his reflection.
<He must think he's a hottie!!>
Thanks for your help :)

outdoor turtle pond heater....also red worm problem   2/28/10
Just discovered your site...hope you can help.
<We often wonder that ourselves>
We have 2 turtles (red slider and African side neck) in a fiberglass pond (with a small pond above with waterfall) We have had them for years and they have grown from 1" to dinner plate size. We live in central Florida (Tampa) and they have done well outside for years.
<Normally the turtles you describe will do fine over winter in the mild Central Florida climate>
Now I find with the weather changes that we need a better heater (rather than bringing them into the bathtub, which I have done for the past few weeks) The pond is apprx 100 gal. so what size heater should I buy?
<It's an interesting question, Mike. Unlike an indoor 100 gallon aquarium, where we'd need a 300 watt heater to raise the tank 8 degrees above room temperature, a pond should work WITH nature and not against it -- the
day/night cycles, cooler air all conspire to initiate a slowdown of their metabolism in a very natural way and oddly enough, having 70 degree water and 56 degree days is BAD for them.>
<So what I suggest is a low watt pond de-icer and a thing called a "Thermo-cube." The model I use senses air temperature and turns on the de-icer when the temp gets below 35 and turns off when it gets above 45.
Since water resists temperature change better than air, it just runs the heater during the coldest "snaps" that come from time to time. (Make sure you get the 45/35 degree model and not the 30/20 degree model)>
<The most important things are that they have been well fed and cared for during spring, summer and fall and that you slow the feeding down by November and nothing at all from December to March - then start slowly again in April until May.>
Also, there is a problem with small red worms in the water. I haven't been able to find out what kind of worms they are but it can't be good.
<read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PondSubWebIndex/pdinvertfaqs.htm >
Any idea what they are and how to get rid of them? After cleaning the pond it only takes a couple of weeks for them to be a problem again. Our cats like to sip from the water's edge so I am concerned for their health as well.
<The pond professionals here usually recommend that you leave them be & accept them, but I can't do that either. The thing you have to do when you clean is sterilize as well. I clean and then I use 1 cup of chlorine bleach per 5 gallons of water, leaving the pump and filter running for 24 hours. (this is while the turtles are taking a vacation in the bathtub, of course). Draining the water into a proper drain, not the lawn, then filling a rinsing for 6 hours TWICE before a final fill and restocking.>
Please help. ....the sooner the better so I can take care of both problems.
<Hope it helps, Darrel>

Map Turtle Queries   8/30/07Hi, <Hiya right back! -- Darrel here> I'm just curious if I am caring for my Mississippi Map Turtle, as best I can? I got him in March and researched thoroughly beforehand and afterwards but still some things I'm unsure about. <Wow! Just researching before you obtain makes you special, Melissa! Congrats> He currently has a large 3ft x 2ft x 2ft tank (I don't know how many gallons of water it holds, but takes ages to clean!), even though he's only approx 4.5 inches long from tail to head. We have just upgraded his tank as he's grown from 1 inch to 4.5 inches in just 6 months!! (..is that right for a Map Turtle?) <That's fast .... way too fast. Map Turtles are actually one of the more slow-growing turtles> The tank is set up with gravel lining the bottom, sloping up to where the basking rock is placed, with UV lighting which is lit for about 8 hours a day. The water is heated to approx 90F and to the touch is always lukewarm. The water is also filtered and pumped around the tank, which is filled with water to the depth of about 8 inches. <everything you have there is PERFECT ..... except the water. Turn the heater OFF. Any room temperature YOU can stand is good for him. The point is to offer cool water and a warm rock and let him choose between the two. With the water at 90 degrees you have his metabolism in over-drive and that's why he's growing so fast.> My main concern is with his diet, I feed him in the morning and some extra food sticks through the day if he's searching the gravel. I give him about 10 food sticks each morning and if they haven't all been munched by about 15 minutes, I clear any that are left. I do give him washed, small pieces of lettuce and cucumber (without the skin) but I'm not sure if these are okay? Therefore I only feed him this once a week (although he seems to like it!) Would you suggest he needs more/less green veg? <They are omnivorous, Melissa and eat almost whatever is offered. The food sticks are just fine -- as I wrote in an article (I'm sending you the link) I've raised sliders, maps and cooters from hatchlings to breeders on nothing but Koi food. Just like your food sticks, it's nutritious, plenty of vegetable matter and just a fine food.> I am quite squeamish, and couldn't chop up live earthworms, or watch him eat a goldfish, so will he be okay just with food sticks and some veggies occasionally? Or are there less 'messy' live foods I could give him that are suitable for a Map Turtle? <Goldfish aren't all that good a food for them anyway. And they don't taste very good, either. Er..... ah .... um .... so I hear. If you feed him an earthworm every so often, don't chop it -- just put it in there and walk away.> He is a lovely turtle and I want to make sure I'm doing the best I can to take care of him, He is healthy and does the usual "begging" every morning, splashing water loads at about 6am!! He's definitely got us well trained! Even though he can make a racket and takes time to clean, I love him to bits! Any help or advice would be great to help my turtle, "Squirt", live the best life possible! (Sorry for the massive email!) <Melissa -- you're doing GREAT except for the heat thing, which I'm sure you'll correct. Down below is a general outline on the water turtles (sliders, etc.) and the main addition with regard to Map turtles -- is water quality. They are far more susceptible to disease and debilitation from substandard water than most of the rest of them, so keep cleaning that tank and tending to that filter.> Many Thanks <You are most welcome!> Melissa Tostevin (UK) <Darrel Barton (Torrance, California, USA)> <By the way, Melissa, I used my Word Editor to add a LOT of apostrophes to your letter. Is there a shortage of them in the Old Empire?>

Heated Turtles 6/29/07 Hello <Hello back to you> I just recently bought two baby turtles and provided them with everything. I have an aquarium heater which keeps the water temp to ~78 Fahrenheit. The basking area is set to 85-90 F. The problem is that my turtles don't seem to bask a lot anymore. They spend a lot of the time in the water swimming, even sleeping in the water. I just wanted to know if this was healthy. They are both eating regularly and seem healthy. If there's something wrong with them, can you provide some suggestions as to what I can do to make it better. <Yes, I can. The water temperature is too warm and this dampens their desire to bask. Unfortunately, without drying off it subjects them to opportunistic fungal and bacterial infections that take root in the constantly wet skin. The water temperature should be no warmer than 73 degrees. In fact, if you have the turtles indoors you should probably take the heater out altogether. Unless their water temperature drops below 60 degrees, they can regulate their heat just by swimming or basking -- and the risk of them getting burned on the heater is greater than the value of heating the water. SO .... just unplug the heater and see how they respond over the next 7 days> Thanks <Yer Welcome, Darrel>

Slider Care Continued 7.24.05 Thanks for replying. Yes, the water is deep enough so that the water covers his back. About 3 quarters of a inch above his back. So do you think that the temperature of the water in the day time(76-78F) is a good temp. for a young slider turtle? What about the night time temp. (about 72F). I have to turn the lamp off, so the temp. goes way down. Is that too low of a temp. to keep the tank at? <72 is hitting the lower end of the scale, when winter time rolls around this could definitely become a problem, I would add a small aquarium heater to keep the tank around 75-78.> I feed him Reptomin Baby pellets. He gets sun-dried shrimp 3 times a week, the Reptotreat brand (b/c it's too fatty to feed everyday.) I just started to feed him gold fish flakes (like 2) once a week. I noticed that on his plastron, he has pale pink lines (like where the shell seems to join in the middle). When I lightly touch it, it turns white for like a second and then it turns back to pink again. It's kind of like when you have a sunburn and touch your skin. I'm thinking it is because he's growing too fast. When I first got him, I fed him about 15 pellets 2 times a day. I know that was way too much now, so he only eats 7 pellets 2 times a day. I heard goldfish food was okay for turtles as a treat, am I right? <I have not heard that, I doubt it will hurt him, I like to stick to turtle food.> So you think in about another year, I'll have to invest in a 20 gallon tank? <I say the sooner the better for a few reasons, you will have improved water quality with a larger body of water, the temperature will be more stable, a warmer side and cooler side of a tank allows reptiles to thermo regulate as needed, more room to swim and exercise, and you can provide places for him to hide.  In a year I think he will definitely have outgrown his current tank.> Is it okay to feed him a blueberry once in a while? <Blueberries should be fine, you might also mix in some salad greens and freeze dried crickets from time to time.> He seems to enjoy munching on it throughout the day. Thanks for your help. Please respond ASAP. Thanks again! Is it too early of an age for him to be showing mating behaviors? Like wiggling his toes and puffing out his neck? I put a stuffed animal by the cage and he showed lots of interest in it. <He might be a little young yet, off the top of my head I cannot recall what age they become sexually mature.  Best Regards, Gage>

First turtle questions 8/2/04 Tomorrow morning I'm going to go pick up my very first turtle (red eared slider).   The guy at the pet store told me all I need was a little water and something for the little guy to crawl up out  of the water on to.  This sounded far too simple to me.  One would think he'd me more apt to try to sell me  several things I don't need rather than what I can scrape by with.  I've been online all day looking up information to ease my anxieties and make sure I can make my little turtle happy.  He's about the size of a half dollar right now, so I bought a 10gal. tank, figuring that should do for now.  My question arises in the lighting and heating deportment.   What is better, a heating lamp or a submersible water heater? < Always use a lamp and never a heater. When you heat the water it dive up the humidity in the tank and has been suspected to cause respiratory problems in turtles.> Also, will a heating lamp take care of his lighting needs, or do I need a separate light? < You need at least a incandescent light with a plant light bulb. This bulb most closely resembles sunlight>   I plan on getting a thermometer to keep track of the temperature.  Should I place that in the water or  near the heating lamp? < Place it in the water as far away as possible from the lamp.> And just one more question.  Is it alright to turn off the lighting/heating at night? < Absolutely. Turtles need to sleep too. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands after handling your  turtle so you don't get sick. They have been known to carry diseases when they are kept in dirty water.-Chuck> Thanks for your time in easing me "new mommy syndrome" anxieties.  ~Lynsey~

Red Ear Sliders I have had two red ear sliders for about 6 months. They were about quarter size when I first got them. They seem to being doing well. I am getting ready to purchase a 90 gallon tank for them. I don't know what kind or equipment I should get for them,( i.e. filter, lighting, heaters) I currently have a basking light and a UV light in a 20 gallon tank. I have been doing a lot of reading but can seem to find any answers. Can you help? Thanks a bunch Joni >>>Greetings Joni, Good on ya for taking the time to learn about your charges! These animals need a warm basking spot which can be provided with a heat lamp. This basking area should be in the high 80's to low 90's. Water temps should be maintained with an aquarium heater in the mid 70's. The ambient air temperature of the enclosure should remain in the low 80's or so. They require UVB exposure, so keep this in mind when shopping for lights. Now personally, I don't believe these UVB bulbs on the market are worth the cardboard they're packaged in. My reptiles ALWAYS get natural sunlight when possible. I would create an outdoor area, or small enclosure for them to allow them bask during warmer weather. Having said that, you can use a commercial UVB bulb in the interim. The main heat in the enclosure can be provided with a ceramic heat element, which may only come on rarely (hooked to a thermostat) when the basking light is on during the day. At night, the heater will kick on more often. Thermostats can be purchased at most better pet stores.   Use 1 or 2 Aquaclear power filters on that tank to filter the water. You need filters that provide a rapid turnover, and are easy to clean. Canister filters are appropriate as well. Does all that make sense? Please feel free to drop me a line back if you need clarification. Remember, ambient air temps are what the enclosure is generally kept at. The basking spot is hotter, and the animals should be able to move around within that spot to thermoregulate. Water temp is separate as well, and maintained with an aquarium heater. Good luck Jim<<<

Water temp too warm on water change Hi, I need some answers quickly to this question? I have 2 red ear sliders that are about 1 year old. I was changing the water in their tank this evening.   I'm afraid that I may have killed them because the water may have been too warm or hot?   I can't tell because I forgot to test the water's temperature. when I had them in the water, they were both swimming around very frantically and I didn't think anything of it since that seemed normal whenever I moved them into the temp container while I washed the tank.   but, they both stopped moving suddenly and have not moved for at least an hour: Nothing seems to affect them right now. Their heads are shrunk in towards the shell but, still outside of the shell and visible.   The eyes are closed.   All four legs are pointing outwards but, no sign of movement at all Please advise?? Thank You!! <Hello, I am really sorry to hear this.  If the water was too hot it is possible that they were killed.  The best thing to do would be to restore the water to the temperature that they were used to and see if they come around.  If you pick them up you could try to see if you can hear them breathing, also a light poke behind the legs with your finger, or anywhere under the shell that they would normally defend should get some reaction out of them.  Best of luck, Gage>

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