Do Tortoises Need A Heat Lamp? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

One of the numerous products you’ll be suggested for your tortoise is a heat lamp, but why do they need one and how should you use it? Everything you need to know about tortoise heat lamps is right here.

As cold-blooded creatures, tortoises need an external heat source to charge their metabolism and give them energy. As a result, a tortoise maintained in a box will be at the same temperature as the room or box in which he is kept. A tortoise has to be able to warm up to at least 80 degrees in order to be able to digest his food. Your body temperature is almost 100 degrees. And if you lay on the kitchen floor in your skivvies you can see just how cool your house is at floor level. So, yes, a tortoise being kept in the house has to have a heat source.

do tortoises need a heat lamp

Does A Tortoise Need A Heat Lamp?

Yes, sulcata tortoises will need a heat lamp if they do not have access to the sun. They will need the heat to help them control their body temperature as they are cold-blooded animals. Moreover, suitable heating is needed to help younger tortoises grow up healthy as they are underdeveloped.

Heat during the day 

Sulcata tortoises that live in the wild are often tolerant of a broad variety of temperatures. They don’t mind the heat as long as there are shady spots where they may retreat anytime they desire.

They can also withstand temperatures as low as 45 degrees F without issue. When keeping a sulcata tortoise indoors, keep the room temperature between 68 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day.

You’ll also need to give them a warm location to bask in, about 100 degrees F. In addition, they will require a UVB lamp in their enclosure that will be on for 12-14 hours every day.

Heat at night 

Sulcata tortoises require a reduction in temperature and darkness at night. At night, the temperature might dip to around 80 degrees F.

If the nighttime temperature dips below 50 degrees F, you will need to offer a heated hide box for your sulcata tortoise. When this happens, you can bring your turtle inside.

When keeping your sulcata tortoise indoors, make sure the temperature in their nightly cage does not drop below 70 degrees F.

Can A Tortoise Survive Without A Heat Lamp?

Keeping your tortoise in good health may be accomplished in a variety of ways. Some individuals purchase heat lamps, heat mats, heat and light bulbs, or lights that emit no color at all. All of these solutions, however, have advantages and disadvantages.

How Long Should a Tortoise Heat Lamp Be On

Changes in the tortoise’s surroundings govern their routines in the wild, and none are more significant than the sun’s cycle. A tortoise heat lamp, used in conjunction with a UV lamp, is designed to mimic the heat and ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun. That’s why, in order to provide your tortoise a healthy lifestyle, you need supply heat for 8 to 12 hours every day, similar to how humans get sun for roughly the same amount of time outside.

Of course, keeping your tortoise’s heat lamp on for more than 12 hours every day, especially during the summer, might be harmful to his or her health. Too much heat can lead to dehydration, heat stroke, and even death in some cases. As a result, tortoise heat lamps should only be used when absolutely necessary. Lamps are solely intended to keep tortoises at the right, healthy temperature, which varies by species.

Desert or Mediterranean tortoises require a temperature of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) in the basking area and no less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) in the rest of the enclosure. Forest species are more resistant to cold temperatures, and some don’t even take use of the sun. Still, for forest and tropical species, ambient temperatures should not fall below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), and the basking area should not go below 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius).

Read more: How Long Can Tortoises Go Without Food?

How Can I Provide My Tortoise With The Heat it Needs?

There are various ways to keep your tortoise warm without using a heat lamp. A heat mat may be suitable for reptiles, however not for tortoise, as previously stated.

Here are some alternatives you can use:

Heat Lamps

Heat lamps come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types. Each works in different ways and so you should do your research into which is best. 

Mercury vapour bulbs are also known as combo bulbs since they create heat and emit UVB light. If you get a mercury vapour bulb, you will just need to purchase one bulb for your whole system rather than purchasing separate heat and light bulbs. This has some apparent advantages, but it also implies that you can’t merely deliver heat when the light is turned off. If the room where your tortoises are housed gets really chilly at night, you may need to use a separate heat light.

Heat lamps that solely emit heat rather than UVB radiation are also available in a number of styles. Those with a red glow are called basking bulbs, and they make excellent day lights since they raise the ambient air temperature in your tortoise’s surroundings, which is beneficial to your tortoise. Nighttime heat lamps, on the other hand, provide a blue glow and have no effect on your tortoise’s circadian cycle, so they may be left on all night long without the need for a UV light source. These are great if your house becomes cold at night and the temperature dips below what it should be.

Make sure you understand how to properly put your heat bulb; if it’s too close, your tortoise may burn or get dehydrated; if it’s too far away, your tortoise may grow sluggish. Depending on the wattage, each heat bulb will have different recommendations, so check the box and make sure you follow the directions.

Heat Pads

Heat mats are fantastic for other reptiles like lizards and snakes, but we wouldn’t advocate using them as the primary source of heat for tortoises. Because of the form and surface area of their shell, tortoises require heat from above to be most effective. The heat from heat pads will come from below, which will not provide the same advantages and is believed to be just 35% as effective.

Some individuals use heat pads on the sides of their tortoise cages, which is a better alternative, but it still pales in comparison to the advantages of placing a heat lamp. If you do decide to use a heat pad, it will keep them warm at night, but we recommend using it in conjunction with an overhead heat lamp.

Ceramic Plates

Ceramic plates are often fitted into the same light bulb socket that heat lamps are used in.

These gadgets, often known as ceramic heat emitters, produce heat without emitting visible light. This can be effective when tortoises need to sleep in the dark yet stay warm, according to the Handbook of Exotic Pet Medicine.

They may be configured to deliver the same amount of heat as a heat lamp, producing the perfect basking atmosphere.


In conclusion,  tortoises need an external heat source to charge their metabolism and give them energy. There are plenty of ways to heat your tortoise up, you can choose using lamps, heat pads or other alternatives like ceramic plates.

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