The Best Heat Lamp for Tortoises (2021)

by Carl Crane | Updated: June 4, 2021

There is a lot of confusion about the type of lighting that you need to provide to tortoises.

Much of the blame for this uncertainty can be placed upon the manufactures and retailers who often advertise inadequate and often dangerously misleading information on the topic.

In the wild, tortoises and other reptiles have a good supply of heat of light from the natural sunlight.

Most tortoises require high quality and proper lighting to meet a number of various metabolic needs.

The only exceptions are some nocturnal and dense rainforest species.

It is not necessarily the case that all of these needs can be provided by one single form of lighting.

A mixture of different lighting may be required in some cases.

The Best Heat Lamp for Tortoises

Self-Ballasted Mercury Vapor

Top Pick

TEKIZOO UVA UVB Sun Lamp High Intensity Self-Ballasted

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These heat lamps appear similar to a normal incandescent reflector lamp, but unlike a regular incandescent spot lamp, they also emit very meaningful levels of essential UVB rays. 

The color of the light they release is also much whiter, and brighter than a regular spot basking lamp. 

Not only that, but they also emit a very useful amount of heat

The levels of UVB and UVA offered by these lamps are extremely effective. 

The lifespan of these lamps is also great, with very useful levels of UVB being produced even after 3,000 hours of use.

As the levels of UVB and radiant heat generated are very high, you must install them thoroughly and follow the manufactures instructions.

A heat-resistant lamp holder is required.

Top Pick

TEKIZOO 8.5″ Deep Light Dome Reptile Lamp Fixture

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Complete Guide for Best Heat Lamp for Tortoise

Sources of heat for your tortoise come in different forms, and you can choose from them depending on your tortoise specie, your budget, or your preference.

No matter what you go for, avoid overheating the entire tortoise enclosure with a heat lamp that is too powerful for your enclosure size.

Also, place the heat lamp for tortoise away from direct contact to avoid your pet getting burned.

In the wild, tortoises do not bask regularly and they are often not active at mid-day.

Types of Heating Products for Tortoise

Heat Pads and Panels

Heat pads and panels are available in various sizes and strengths and have the common design of being attached to the bottom or sides of your terrarium.

This way it heats the enclosure by spreading heat through the wall or floor of the tank. Even though many pet owners prefer to place heating pads at the bottom of the enclosure, they can also be placed at the top so that the heat can be radiated downward.

Since it’s not good practice to heat the entire terrarium at once, place the heating pad at one end of the enclosure so that the opposite side can remain cool.

Before buying lighting equipment, research the species of tortoise you own, and then look at both its natural habitat and behavior.

This way your tortoise can alternate between hot and cold depending on its needs. Since heating pads and panels don’t emit light, they can be used all day to keep your tortoise warm and that’s an alluring feature.

Tortoise species that don’t require basking lights can also benefit from the use of heat pads as their sole source of heat. They however make use of adhesives for attachment and once attached, they can’t be taken down.

It is good practice to raise the bottom of the enclosure if the heat pad is to be used at the bottom. This way, air can circulate beneath and prevent overheating the terrarium or even cracking it.

Top Pick

BN-LINK Heating Pad Waterproof

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Radiant Heat Lamps

These lamps come in the forms of halogen and incandescent lamps and are used for tortoises that love to bask.

Halogen lamps are preferable for terrariums where the humidity is necessary as halogen lamps are less likely to dry out the moisture in the air.

Incandescent lamps are the cheaper options and produce a lot of heat, depending on the wattage of course.

There are different types of radiant lamps and they include:

1. Ceramic Heat Emitters

They give off infrared heat and can be used all day without disturbing the day/night time cycle of your pet tortoise.

These emitters are popular used especially in high humidity terrariums because they do not dry the air as opposed to incandescent bulbs.

Top Pick

Simple Deluxe 150W 2-Pack Ceramic Heat Emitter Reptile Heat Lamp Bulb

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2. Nighttime Incandescent Basking Bulbs

These types of bulbs warm your reptile without producing light. And so since they don’t produce light, they can be used at night to heat the terrarium.

Top Pick

Fluker’s Reptile Incandescent Bulb

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3. Red heat lamps

These lamps emit infrared radiation together with a soft red glow that allows you to see your pet at night without disturbing their night time.

Since it doesn’t interfere with their sleep, the lamps can be used all day to provide heat.

Top Pick

Fluker’s 22800 Red Heat Bulbs for Reptiles

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4. Daylight bulbs

Daylight bulbs go beyond just providing heat as they also provide UV rays. They provide UVB that is necessary for vitamin D3 synthesis and calcium metabolism.

Daylight bulbs that are meant for use with reptiles are tweaked to reduce the emerging yellow light so that the bulb doesn’t change the color of your pet.

Top Pick

Zoo Med Day Night Reptile Bulbs (60 watts) Combo Pack

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5. Spotlight basking bulbs

These bulbs produce both heat and UV light, and directs them onto a specific and smaller area. It creates a hotspot where your tortoise and other reptiles can gather for warmth.

Top Pick

Fluker’s Basking Spotlight Bulbs for Reptiles

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6. Mercury vapor lamps

These are a new addition to the market and provide both heat and UV rays. They are convenient to use as they fit into regular incandescent lamp fixtures.

Mercury vapor bulbs can’t be used with a rheostat, so its important that you choose the right wattage for your pet’s enclosure.

Top Pick

Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb – 100 Watts

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The Right Temperature for Your Tortoise

The right temperature for your tortoise depends on its heat needs and specie.

Generally, with a temperature of 90 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you would satisfy the heat needs of your pet tortoise irrespective of its specie.

This temperature can be obtained by putting some factors into consideration like bulb wattage and installation distance.

With a good reptile thermometer, you can tell the temperature of the basking area and adjustments can be made by moving the bulb closer or further away from the basking area.

Don’t place the bulb too close or you’ll burn your tortoise.

The tank should have cool spots so your tortoise can regulate its heat based on its need, so don’t heat the entire enclosure.

Different species have different needs. Tortoises from forest habitats, for example, have varying needs from savannah environments.

Turtle Basking Temperatures

Things to Look Out for in A Good Heat Lamp for Tortoise

1. Wattage

The major difference between heat lamps is their wattage.

Most heat lamps come in wattages of 50, 75, and 100 watts and these are ideal for different tortoises depending on the number of tortoises you have, their size, their heat demand, and the size of the enclosure.

So when making your choice have these factors at the back of your mind.

2. Nighttime or Daytime Use

Not all heat bulbs produce light as some of them are specifically for heat.

So if you want a bulb that is just to provide warmth for your tortoise, you can make use of the infrared heat lamp.

But if you want to provide light as well as heat for your pet, you should look for a bulb that does both.

3. UVA and UVB

Apart from the heat needs of your pet, they also require UVB for vitamin D3 synthesis and UVA for physiologic function.

Some heat lamps provide all these too and you could get an all in one bulb.

But if you want a bulb that heats the air only, then you can go for a heating bulb.

4. Lifespan

Just like other bulbs, heating bulbs tend to explode fast.

This is especially because of the heat they produce.

So go for a well-recognized brand, and test the bulb for some days before use with your pet t be sure that it isn’t going to explode.

Follow the manufacturer’s guide to improving the lifespan of your bulb.

Commonly Asked Questions About Heat Lamps for Tortoise

How Many Hours of Lighting Does a Tortoise Need?

Tortoises need about 8 to 10 hours of both heat and UV light each day.

This would mimic their natural life in the wild and give them an adequate amount of heat, UVA, and UVB that they need to stay healthy.

How Long Can a Tortoise Go Without a Heat Lamp?

Juvenile tortoises in particular can’t handle the long absence of heat as they require a continuous supply of heat and UVB.

If you would be transferring them to another location, or cleaning their enclosure they can manage the short interruption but longer than that, it could lead to adverse health effects.

Do Tortoises Need a Heat Lamp at Night?

No, tortoises don’t require the heat lamp on at night. Just as in the wild, the heat lamp should be on at the same time the sun is up.

The exception to this is during winter.

Since the days are usually short, you can leave the heat lamp on for a little longer.

Can You Use a Regular Light Bulb for A Tortoise?

No, you can’t.

This is because regular bulbs don’t produce enough heat to keep your tortoise warm, and they don’t emit UVB or UVA that your tortoise needs.

Conclusion

Despite the improvements in lamp design, there is still no perfect substitute for natural sunlight, so using outdoor enclosures as much as possible is advised.

Even the very best artificial light source completely pales into insignificance compared to the sun.

And so with these best heat lamps for the tortoise that have been reviewed, you can choose from amongst the bulbs to improve the health and comfort of your pet.

Carl, the reptile-obsessed creator of this website, got his first turtle years ago and he made a ton of mistakes along the way. His goal now with TheCritterCove is simple: help others to not make the same mistakes that he did!