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Turtles/Turtles not basking


tank topper
tank topper  
QUESTION: Species: Red eared slider
Habitat size: 55 gallon
Substrate: n/a
Humidity %: Not measured
Bask/ambient temps: 84/ 75
Lighting: basking light 75 watts zoo med, uvb lighting zoo med
Vet history: n/a
All food offered: fluker's dried crickets, mealworms. Tetra dry pellets. Petsmart's finest red minnows
Feeding schedule: once every day. 730 a.m.
Last time ate: this morning
Water: water changes every two weeks. Treated with zoo med.
Last defecated: not sure
Captive bred
Shed recently: shell is peeling but not much

About two weeks ago, I bought an above the tank topper from reptology and in those two weeks, maybe a little over two weeks, my turtles haven't been up to bask. I bought a new basking platform because the one that they had sunk with their weight and they couldn't get completely out of the water to bask. Both uvb light and basking light are mounted on top of the tank topper and it's warmer than the water temp. I have read that it takes time for them to adjust but how long should i give them? I don't want them to be adversely affected because they haven't basked. I've tried lowering the water temperature to encourage them to bask but no success. What can i do to ease them into the new basking platform?

ANSWER: Thank you for trying to follow the directions. I need to know specifically what the UVB lighting is. "Zoo Med" is not sufficient for my purposes.

How many turtles occupy this habitat?

What are your water temps, and do you have a thermometer installed to measure that?

DO NOT lower water temps to encourage basking unless water temps are excessively high to being with (however, I don't know what that is), otherwise you are stressing their immune system into possible compromise or possible impaction.

I also need to know how large they are.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I have two red eared sliders. I got them when they were just about 4 months old. They're two years old. One is 6 inches the other 8 inches. The uvb light is coiled. I'm not sure about the wattage and I'm not at home to check, sorry. I have a water heater always set at 72 and i do have a thermometer to verify that. I also have a thermometer for the basking area and its at 84. I lowered the water temp to 68 only for a day because i read that if the water is too warm they won't want to bask.

Coiled is all I need to know. It's worthless and potentially dangerous. I recommend getting rid of it and get them either a couple of linears (Arcadia is a good brand), or a Zoomed Powersun, or preferably my recommendation is that turtles this size be housed outside, where they do best.  

55g gallons is inadequate space for 2 sliders of this size, so that could be a contributing factor. You're going to have trouble finding any basking space sufficient for them that still allows enough space for exercise in conventional terrariums, unless you start getting 100 gallon and over. Turtles this large should be kept in outdoor habitats, like pond liners or Waterland tubs. I use a large Waterland tub outside for my adult sliders, and for babies, a 110 gallon Rubbermaid trough.

Do you know their genders? Females MUST have an area of soil to dig and deposit eggs or they risk egg binding (will prove fatal in most cases), as well as from muscle atrophy if they don't have sufficient exercise space.

You're source isn't really reliable on the water temp. Small fluctuations are going to happen, but *intentionally lowering the water temp below 72-75F should never be the way to address this. Reptile immune system is temp dependent, and reduction of temps below established husbandry norms (unless you are brumating them), risks their health. It is the basking area that needs to be addressed, because even when water temps are within the correct range, or often higher than 75F, they will bask unless something else is wrong.

A recent change in the environment or layout in some form is likely the factor here, but the way to correct is to establish baseline correct habitat conditions, and proceed from there.

Assuming water and basking temps are correct (you could raise basking are to 86-88F to encourage basking by promoting wider thermal gradient), then the UVB source and the layout, size, and quality of the basking platform itself should be examined. I have not seen in person this tank topper product yet, but offhand I could see how a turtle might not like it.

Reptiles typically don't like change in their habitats and take time to adjust, that said, I think your housing space and you UVB source is a concern to be addressed and will be a source of problems regardless.

As previously stated, coil UVB lamps are potentially dangerous, and a waste of money in my opinion. I am currently rehabilitating a lizard who was blinded for about 2 months by one. Two vets saw her and couldn't figure it out, and it took her keeper overnighting her to me for treatment before she improved. These lamps have led to deaths in reptiles, and that information is prevalent on the net. I recommend you see for more, or see the articles written on the subject on my facebook page at  


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YOU WILL GET A REJECTION OF YOUR QUESTION IF YOU FAIL TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS TO QUESTIONER IN FULL!!. I am primarily here to assist with health concerns. I am here for the more difficult questions. Not for questions that you could research and easily find the answer yourself. I have stringent standards that you provide DETAILED and RELEVANT background history on your pet before you ask me ANY question about it other than GENDER or ID. The requested information is in the instructions to questioner. Failure to answer EACH of those questions to provide that background will result in your question being REJECTED. I can answer questions related reptile husbandry, identification (esp. in Texas and the SW), legal aspects, and intermediate-advanced level medical care. I am the director of Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue (TX), a wildlife rehabilitator specializing in reptiles, a founding member of The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation, a subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service,,, and a Dept of State Health Services certified animal control instructor (CE) for reptile handling. I do most of my own veterinary care in-house. I am most experienced in Chelonia (turtles&torts) with box turtles and common smaller tortoises; and in Squamata (lizards & snakes) with everything from Anoles, Geckos, Beardies, and Monitors, to venomous snakes. I am most known for my expertise with horned lizards (Phrynosoma). With snakes, my primary expertise is in Crotalids (rattlesnakes), but I can answer a broad range of questions about various species. I am not aware of any reptile related question, in general, that I would not be able to provide some reasonable answer for. I have a direct style and may tell you something you did not want to hear; but the welfare of the animal comes first with me, and I will always reflect that position in my answer.


I am an amateur herpetologist, with 20+ years experience in reptiles. I am a reptile rescuer and subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service. I have medical and scientific resources available, and have had to learn herp medical care over the years. I am not a vet, but I read from the same materials and have had to correct a few in the past, as it related to reptiles. My specific area of expertise is in Chelonians ( primary- Box Turtles ), Phrynosoma ( Horned Lizards ), and Crotalids ( primary- Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes ); though I have some knowledge and/or experience also with aquatic turtles ( primary- Red Eared Sliders ), tortoises ( primary-Sulcata and Horsfieldii ), monitors ( primary- Savannah ), many other smaller lizards, and with some colubrid snakes.

I am currently the caretaker of 5 Horned Lizards, 22 Box Turtles, 18 aquatic turtles, 7 fire Bellied Toads, 3 Green Iguanas, 1 Spiny Lizard, 1 Bullsnake, 5 Eastern Ratsnakes, 4 Great Plains x Eastern Ratsnakes, 1 Albino Great Plains Ratsnake, 1 Massasauga Rattlesnake, 1 Leopard Gecko, 7 Fox Squirrels, 2 Deer Mice, 2 Hispid Cotton Rats, 3 Merriam's Pocket Mice, 1 Cotton-Tail, 1 Former racing pigeon, and 1 Budgie. Previously: Leopard Geckos, Golden Gecko, African White-Spotted Wall Gecko, Mediterranean Geckos, Bahama Anoles, Ca. Kingsnake, Brazilian Rainbow Boa, Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, Russian Tortoise, Savannah Monitor, and Eastern Cotton-tail rabbits.


Co-Founder & Director: Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue

Founder: The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation

Publications contributor. The Horned Lizard Husbandry Manual - self published 75 pages of care information on genus Phrynosoma.

Wikipedia entry "Horned Lizards" - contributed to a majority of the content., and various reptile related forums and email lists under the handles "fireside3" and PhrynosomaTexas".

My 20+ yrs of hands-on field, rehabilitation, and captive husbandry experience beats a PhD any day of the week. I am also a state accredited animal control instructor for reptile handling.

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I was requested to provide my care manual on the Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos), for the Montreal zoo. My manual is also used by several other zoological institutions in N. America. I also teach reptile education to summer camps, and instruct wildlife rehabilitators on live saving and rehab techniques with reptiles.

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