When you’ve got an aquatic turtle as a pet, your turtle basking platform (also known as a turtle dock) is the item that will make or break your tank setup. For turtles, basking is a behavior that is critical to their health, growth, and metabolism. Part of this is sucking up heat from their basking light, but often overlooked is the fact that proper lighting lets their body produce vitamins essential to health and growth. There are a lot of badly-made/inadequate platforms and docks on the market, so we’ll show you what to look for.
Turtle Basking Platform Requirements
- Heat source – Although not part of the platform itself, necessary to entice basking. For more info on this, see our Lighting/Heat page *Note that although geared towards red-eared sliders, the recommendations are applicable to all aquatic turtles.
- Accessible – This area has to be partially submerged on at least one end or have a ramp. It must be very easy to climb onto.
- Safe – Your turtle should not be able to trap or wedge itself between the basking area and the tank walls. Your turtle should also not be able to use a basking area as point of escape.
- Non-toxic – Even platforms made of natural and organic materials may have water-altering effects. Be careful when using a home made platform – for instance, wood should not be chemically treated and metal should not rust or corrode.
- Stability – A platform should stay in place with no chance of falling apart, becoming dismantled or knocked down by the turtle or another pet. Also important is that the turtle dock does not sink under your pet’s weight, as many badly-made docks will.
- Textured – The platform should allow the turtle’s plastron (bottom section of the shell) to dry as well. A completely smooth surface can trap moisture under the shell and lead to conditions like shell rot.
Large Turtle Dock vs. Small Turtle Dock
Many turtle owners, especially first-time ones, underestimate the size to which their turtle will grow and fail to buy properly a properly sized turtle basking platform. Aside from a small handful of species that cap out under 5 inches, most will grow significantly larger. For example, female red eared sliders can grow to be from 7-10 inches long. Many small and medium-sized basking platforms will not support this much turtle, and as a result sink or be damaged by your pet’s size and weight.
The best initial investment is to buy a large turtle dock, as these are more sturdy and developed to accommodate large or growing turtles. For this reason, our recommended platform is a large turtle dock.
Best Pick For Turtle Basking Platform
Turtle-Topper Above-Tank Basking Platform
Without reservation, we can say that this is by far the best turtle basking platform currently available. Unlike others, this turtle dock is an over-tank fixture. For aquatic turtle owners, this is a huge plus because it essentially increases your tank space by leaving the swimming area completely unobstructed. Other platforms which are designed to sit on the tank bottom and protrude from the water effectively shrink your turtle’s swimming range.
This dock is big enough for turtles up to 12 inches, and because it sits on top of the tank there are no issues with it sinking. It is designed to fit up to a 55 gallon tank (the minimum recommended size for aquatic turtles). However, some users have been able to modify it to fit 65 or even 75 gallon tanks.
This platform also allows your to fill your tank with more water, allowing better filter operation. This is of course on top of giving your turtles more space for their underwater acrobatics. It checks all our above-listed requirements, and once properly set up your pet will love it!
Although we searched far and wide, we were unable to come up with any other turtle basking platforms that compared to the above-listed one. Most alternatives are of the “floating” variety, meaning they adjust to float on top of the tank’s water level. These are often inadequate for even medium sized turtles. They can’t support much weight and either sink or allow water to pool, which stops your turtle from drying itself properly.
Another popular type are suction-cup supported turtle docks, which we also do not recommend. They are subject to the same problems with inadequate weight support and sinking as floating docks. In addition, algae growth on the suction cups can cause them to lose their ability to attach over time.
Even more common are the rock-type basking areas, which are limiting in a few ways. First of all, they are space hogs. You wind up with a big rock taking up a chunk of your tank real-estate and limiting your pet’s swimming space. Even more importantly, these rocks are often not very high. Most aquatic turtles do best when the tank is filled to a water level that is twice their height, and rock-type platforms just aren’t tall enough.
We hope this has been useful to you, and that your turtle dock keeps your pet happy and healthy!