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Do Turtles Need Light at Night: A Comprehensive Discussion

Owning a turtle is a great responsibility. You have to ensure the best living environment for the turtle inside its tank. It includes proper space, basking area, access to water and land, and even hiding space if need be. But the need for proper heating and light perhaps is the most important thing for turtles to live happily and healthily.

And we all know that turtles need enough light and heat during the daytime, particularly for the basking spot to keep them warm. But do turtles need light at night?

In short, turtles won’t need light at night. At times they may even feel a little annoyed and disturbed with lights on in their tanks during nighttime. However, during the daytime, you have to ensure proper lighting for them.

The following discussion will elaborate on why turtles don’t require lighting at night and what type of lighting arrangement is ideal for them during the daytime.

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Why Do Turtles Need Lighting?

First, let’s put the facts right. You have to understand the necessity of external light and heat for turtles if you want to know why they can live without light at night.

So, here’s the answer-

Turtles are reptile and cold-blooded animals. They can’t regulate their body temperature on their own. So, they depend on external heat to keep them warm. That’s why during winter, they will start hibernating for survival. It happens since during cold seasons, temperature shrinks quickly, and turtles will lack heat to stay warm. You must understand that the heat comes mainly from the light, such as sun rays for turtles.

However, the heating and lighting necessities of turtles will vary from one species to another. There are two different temperature necessities that you have to maintain for turtles-

  1. The standard room temperature for turtles is from 75°F to 95°F. It may vary between 1 degree to 3 degrees, mostly for different species.
  2. You will also have to maintain the water temperature. It should be 75°F to 85° during the daytime. However, at night it could drop by 5°F to 7°F, and it is pretty normal. Turtles won’t bother with this temperature drop; rather, they would find it ideal for sleeping.

Apart from the heat, you also have to ensure proper lighting for the turtles. You should mimic the natural lighting of turtle habitats. It keeps them in the best condition.

Do Turtles Need Light at Night?

Now, let’s come to the main discussion on whether or not turtles need light at night. The answer is no, a big no. Turtles won’t need external lighting at night.

You may ask why turtles don’t light at night. The answer lies in their natural habitat. Although we now keep turtles at home, they are primarily wild animals. And in the wild, they don’t have any lighting at night. It has been printed in their DNA.

So, their structure and genes are made to live without lights at night.

In fact, arranging light in turtle tanks for nighttime will hamper their natural habitat, and they will feel uncomfortable. If you put light close to the turtle or their tank, it will disturb their sleeping cycle and hurt their health badly.

It happens because their internal clock will find it difficult to differentiate between the day and night with lights exposed close to their habitats. And that’s not a good sign.

Yet, if you want to look at your favorite pet during nighttime, there are a few lighting options that you can opt for safely. These lights are comparable to dream lights in our home, which shouldn’t bother the turtles much.

The Light That You Can Use at Night

You can use a special type of dim light to install in the turtle tank for nighttime. There are many night lamps for turtle tanks. This light produces a pretty dim light and has red, blue, yellow, or black glasses mostly, reflecting minimum illumination. Therefore, your turtle is less likely to feel bothered at night by these lights.

Plus, these lights are energy-efficient and generate minimal heating as well. Thus, the bulbs are more suitable for juveniles. It is because juveniles have no control over their body temperature and even need heat at night to regulate their warmth.

Which is The Best Light for Turtles During the Daytime?

We have already seen that the turtle doesn’t need any lighting at night. However, you can use special night lights with extreme dim effects. But what type of light should you install inside the turtle tank for daytime light and heat necessities?

You have to ensure that the light you choose offers optimal UVA and UVB lighting since it is essential for turtle health. Also, make sure it mimics the natural lights that turtle gets in their wild habitat. You may choose the following three types of light for turtles-

  • Mercury vapor lights: These lights are the best source of UVA and UVB lighting inside turtle tanks. Besides, you will get sufficient heat to keep the turtle home warm with these lights. Hence, you get 2-in-1 service from the mercury vapor lights. The tradeoff of these lights is their higher electricity consumption.
  • Lamplight system: You may alternatively use two separate lamp lights inside the tank. Two lights should facilitate UVA and UVB lighting separately. Also, you have to get the UVA light with a basking lamp to provide enough heat inside the tank. These lights will consume less electricity compared to mercury lights.
  • Additional lighting systems: Many turtle owners add optional lights in the tank. They will mostly include nightlight and viewing light optionally. We have already described the nightlights in the previous section. The viewing lights are suitable if your turtle loves spending time mostly in the water.


Do turtles need light at night? No, turtles don’t need light at night. If you use lights in a turtle tank at night, it will, in reality, disturb the natural body clock of turtles. Therefore, their sleeping will be hamper, and they may lose weight.

However, you may still use special nightlights with red, purple, yellow, or green illumination. These lights work much like standard dim lights in our home and allow you to see the turtles even in darkness. But, we recommend you keep the turtles without lights at night unless these are juveniles.

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