Although there are many elements to an aquatic turtle’s tank or enclosure, it is often stated that the basking platform or ‘turtle dock’ is the most important of them all. After all, basking is a behaviour that is absolutely critical to a turtle’s healthy, vitality, metabolism, and happiness.
Although most basking platforms cover all bases where heat is concerned, what is often overlooked is the fact that turtles require proper lighting to facilitate the production of essential vitamins that are necessary for their health. Unfortunately, this has lead to a wide array of inadequate basking platforms on the market, which is why we suggest either finding one that covers both the light and heat aspects or simply build a DIY basking platform from the requisite component parts.
To help you decide which might be the best option for you, we’ve written this article to cover all the important information relating to turtle basking platforms. So, by the end of it, you should be equipped with the knowledge to proceed in the way you feel best suited to you and your budget.
Turtle Basking Platform: What are the requirements?
A heat source: While the heat source isn’t part of the basking platform itself, it is needed to entice your turtle over to the basking area.
It must be easily accessible: If your basking area is accessible, your turtle simply won’t use it. It should be partially submerged on either end or have some form of ramp that allows for easy access, i.e. so your turtle can climb on it with very little effort.
It must be safe and secure: Safety is paramount; therefore, the turtle mustn’t be able to wedge themself between the walls of their tank and the basking area. Furthermore, your turtle should also not be able to use the basking area as a way to escape their tank (it has been known to happen!).
It must be non-toxic: Even basking platforms that are constructed from organic or natural materials can have water-altering effects. Therefore, if you are considering building your own turtle dock, you must think about how the material(s) may impact the water. For example, if using wood, choose wood that hasn’t been chemically treated, and if using metal, choose a metal that won’t corrode or rust.
It must be stable: Your turtle’s basking platform should be 100% stable and not able to fall or fall apart or be capable of being knocked over by your turtle. Plus, it’s also imperative that your turtle’s basking platform does not sink under their weight.
It must be textured: Your turtle’s basking platform should enable the bottom portion of their shell (the ‘plastron’) to dry easily. A textured surface is the best option of this as smooth surfaces can often lead to moisture becoming trapped under the shell, which can potentially cause shell rot.
You must take growth into consideration: Many owners (particularly first-time owners) often underestimate how much their turtle will grow and, therefore, buy (or build) a basking platform that their turtle will outgrow. It’s always best to buy as large a basking platform as you can afford as these will be more sturdy and are built to withstand the weight of larger turtles.
What material should a turtle basking platform be made from?
If you’ve done any research into turtle basking platforms, you’ll be aware that they are made of a variety of materials. The question is, which is best?
As mentioned above, the choice of material(s) is exceedingly important because the wrong type of material can adversely impact the water quality, which can, in turn, affect the health of your pet. Luckily, many manufacturers use non-toxic plastic for their basking platforms but always check prior to purchase.
However, plastic isn’t the only material available; there are, in fact, three other common types of material used for turtle basking platforms, so let’s take a look at each in turn and discuss their pros and cons.
#1 – Plastic
Plastic is the most commonly used material for basking platforms; however, not all is suitable. Always check the product information prior to purchase, and if you’re unsure, speak to the manufacturer.
#2 – Metal
Metal is an exceptionally sturdy and long-lasting material; however, it can corrode over time. Aluminium is a good choice for a basking platform as it can last a long time before it begins to rust and corrode. Regardless of which mental you opt for, we recommend using a waterproof coating (one that’s safe for animals, of course!).
#3 – Foam
The most lightweight of the materials in the list, but one that is surprisingly strong. Styrofoam boards are quite popular for basking platforms; however, the strength and density of Styrofoam boards does vary from brand to brand. It’s also important to note that they don’t tend to last very long and can break down into crumbs that could potentially harm your turtle.
#4 – Ceramic Tiles
Just like metal, ceramic is both long-lasting and durable. Plus, they don’t corrode, which is obviously a positive. On the flip side, however, they don’t float due to the fact that they are heavier.
So, which material should you opt for? Plastic, metal, or ceramic are all feasible options; however, we recommend a non-toxic plastic or metal.
Which are the best turtle basking platforms?
Ok, so now it’s time to look at the turtle basking platforms that we think are the very best currently available on the market. We’ll look at the features, pros, and cons of each product in turn.
#1 – Penn Plax Turtle Tank Topper
– Gives your turtle a spacious addition to their environment.
– Made from non-toxic, durable, easy-to-clean plastic.
– Measures 12 x 14 x 10 inches and is suitable for tanks up to 55 gallons.
– Features a suspension platform slightly below the waterline, meaning your turtle can rest when semi-submerged.
– Comes complete with a docking ramp that helps your turtle to climb to the top of the deck. Additionally, it has a flat top and two areas for mounting heat lamps (which, as you learnt above, are essential for basking areas).
– Grill is easy to open, giving you quick access to your pet.
– Suitable for most aquatic turtles.
– Very spacious.
– Exceptionally durable.
– Super easy to clean.
– Suitable for most tanks.
– Comes complete with a suspended platform.
– Included ramps are easily reachable and to climb on to.
– The cover can be opened to ensure better ventilation and heat absorption.
– Would need to be modified for larger turtles.
– The top and bottom portions don’t adhere together.
– The suction cups aren’t of the highest quality.
#2 – Zoo Med Turtle Dock Large
– Comes in a variety of sizes to suit your turtle and tank.
– The included dick is unique and designed specifically for aquatic turtles.
– It has a self-levelling feature meaning it will automatically adapt to the water level regardless of how low or high it is.
– The submerged ramp aids quick entry to the dry basking area (which is great for your turtle as it allows them maximum UVB exposure and heat as quickly as possible).
– Can also be used for aquatic frogs and/or newts.
– Slightly inclined ramp makes getting on and off the platform very easy and stress-free.
– Can be secured to the inside of the tank using the included suction cups.
– Automatically adjusts to float above the water level.
– Comes in a variety of sizes.
– Very small turtles could potentially become stuck in the wireframe that connects the dock to the aquarium; therefore, not suitable for really small turtles.
– May sink under the weight of large turtles.
#3 – Komodo Turtle Ramp, Large
– A very simple yet versatile designed platform that can be connected to your turtle’s tank with either suction cups or via hanging it from the top of the tank. It can be placed exactly where you want it.
– It’s made from non-porous acrylic, making it the perfect choice of material.
– It measures 16 x 11 x 5 inches make it fairly spacious.
– It can be used both in and out of the water.
– The surface is covered in friction grip tape, which will help your turtle to grip to the ramp.
– Can be used in tanks of various sizes, given that its height is adjustable.
– Versatile and can be used in any size tank.
– Has not one but two mounting mechanisms (suction cup and hanging).
– Very easy to clean given its simple design.
– Although it can be used in any tank, from experience, it too narrow for very large tanks.
– Does not have a natural, organic appearance, which is a negative if you prefer natural-looking tank accessories.
– It’s quite expensive for what you get.