Turtle Tank Heaters: A Buyer’s Guide

As cold-blooded animals, the temperature of an aquatic turtle’s environment has a huge impact on it’s health. Many guides to turtle care focus on set up and temperature of a basking area, but water temperature is equally important. Wherever your turtle is in its tank, you have to remember that its environment controls its body temperature. Tank water is often too cold, and this leads to problems like slow metabolism, food rejection, and illness. Luckily, there are a lot of quality options for turtle tank heaters to give you better control over your tank environment.

Finding The Right Water Temperature

Depending on the species there are some small variations, but most aquatic turtles have temperature preferences in the mid 70s (°F). For species-specific temperature recommendations, you can refer to this expansive collection of turtle care sheets. Turtles who are sick need higher temperatures than turtles who are well. Because turtles are cold-blooded, they can’t run a fever when they’re sick; so we have to raise their habitat temperatures a little to do that for them. In general, a sick turtle’s air and water temperatures should be raised about four degrees Fahrenheit (about 2 degrees Celsius) from its normal preferred temperature.

When you use your turtle tank heater, make sure you test it out a bit before adding your turtle. Water that gets too hot can discourage basking and lead to fungal and bacterial growth in the water. On the flipside, as mentioned above water that is too cold will mess with your turtle’s digestion, metabolism, and resistance to disease. Install the heater and use an aquarium thermometer to monitor the heat over a 24-48 hour period to make sure the temperature maintains the desired range.

Types Of Turtle Tank Heaters

There are two main types of turtle tank heaters on the market: inline aquarium heaters and submersible aquarium heaters. Check below for a quick comparison of the two types.

As laid out in the table, we prefer an inline aquarium heater because it complements canister filters. They are the most common and recommended filter for turtle owners, and if you want to learn more about them you can check out our post on turtle filters.

Turtle Tank Heater Wattage

When you’re purchasing your turtle tank heaters, you’ll probably see a few different options for wattage. Wattage is how the heat output of your heater is measured, so obviously more watts means more heat. Figuring what kind of wattage you will need for your heater is actually quite simple.

Raising Temperatures By 1-10°F

  • For every 10 gallons of water in your tank, you should have 25 watts
    • Ex: 50 gallon tank = 125 watts minimum

Following this formula gives you the wattage minimum for the ability to raise tank temperature by 10°F. So for example, if your room temperature is 65°F and you want the water temperature at 75°F this should be enough for you.

Raising Temperatures By 10-20°F

  • For every 10 gallons of water, you should have 50 watts
    • Ex: 50 gallon tank = 250 watts minimum

This formula gives you the ability to raise tank water temperature by up to 20°F. If you live in a cold climate and have times when your room temperatures fall to the 50s, this is the formula you’ll want to follow.

Best Inline Aquarium Heater

We’ll start off with inline aquarium heaters, which are our most recommended type. Remember that these must be paired with a canister filter to heat and circulate filtered water back into your tank.

Hydor In-Line External Heater
  • Protected by a solid two year warranty
  • Energy efficient
  • High precision electronic temperature control
  • Is highly durable and has a strong grip on its connections

The Hydor In-line External Heater is our top choice for inline heaters. The combination of its ease of use and generous warranty with its energy efficient design makes it an easy choice. In our opinion, at this moment there aren’t any other models that can match the reliability and durability of Hydor models. That’s why it’s the only model we feel comfortable recommending.

Users have noted that it’s great for keeping temperatures consistent throughout your water, and reducing evaporation when compared to submersible heaters. The temperature reading also gets points for accuracy, which can be a problem with badly-made models.

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Best Submersible Aquarium Heaters

Compared to inline aquarium heaters, there’s a bit more competition and selection for buying submersible heaters. For turtles we still prefer inline heaters, but if that is not an option there are a lot of good choices here.

Aqueon Pro Heater

Best Submersible Aquarium Heaters - Turtle Tank Heaters

  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Power monitor light so you know when it’s on
  • Shatterproof and nearly indestructible
  • Electronic thermostat for accurate temperature settings

Aqueon has a solid name in the aquarium world for providing quality and long-lasting products. The problem with submersible heaters is that often turtles can be rough on them and break them, but this model is made of hardened and shatterproof materials to avoid this.

Also, the warranty and customer service are top-notch. One customer reported that after 3 years his stopped working, and the company immediately sent him a replacement. It’s always worth it to go with a company that prioritizes its customers and product quality.

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Fluval E Aquarium Heater
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • LCD Temperature Display Screen
  • Built-in protective cage to deter curious pets

The Fluval Advanced Electronic Aquarium Heater is a highly accurate, safe and feature rich aquarium heater. It has plenty of bells and whistles while doing a great job of keeping your tank properly heated. We particularly liked the design of the heater’s housing, which there is no chance a turtle could get through.

The LED screen is also a great improvement over other heaters, offering tank stats at a quick glance. This can eliminate the need for a separate aquarium thermometer and help declutter your tank. With all of that plus a fantastic 5-year warranty, this heater is an excellent choice!

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EHEIM Jager Aquarium Heater
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • Power monitor light so you know when it’s on
  • Shatterproof and nearly indestructible

This is another aquarium heater which has been around for a long time and has a history of great reviews. Like the Aqueon above, it’s made of shatterproof material (shatterpoof glass vs. Aqueon’s aluminum). It suctions to your tank wall, and is made solidly enough to stop your turtle from destroying it. Reviewers note that it provides very even temperature control and is extremely user-friendly.

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