What is the best basking area for my turtle?

Red-Eared Slider Turtle Basking Platform

A good and suitable Turtle Basking Platform is extremely crucial for your red-eared slider turtles, as they are heliothermic species. This meant that they need to be exposed to UVB light for them to synthesize Vitamin D3. Dietary means of vitamin D3 are not enough for them as they manufacture Vitamin D3 in their skin. The best source of UV light would, of course, be from the Sun. However, we understand that not everyone may have full-time access to direct sunlight due to various reasons. It could be climatic and seasonal changes, or it could be due to the time schedule. If you have to work during the day, it is simply not feasible to bring your pet turtle us for some sun time if you don’t have a pond in your backyard.

If that is the case, you can always use artificial sources like a UVB fluorescent light as a substitute. But you should always try to bring your turtle out for some fresh air and natural sunlight whenever possible.

Often, the main focus is on the lamp and the light source and not enough attention is placed on the basking platform. In this article, we will explore all the factors and consideration to get the best basking area for your turtle.

What are the 2 main types of basking platform for red-eared sliders?

Basking platform for red-eared sliders can come in any design and form. But they are mainly classified into 2 types; Floating dock, as well as above tank platform.

Floating Dock

This is an awesome choice for baby red-eared sliders. All you must do is place the dock on the surface of the water by the side of the tank. Depending on the brand, floating docks are secured at the side of the tank with the various mechanism. Docks that are meant for baby red-eared sliders can be secured enough with magnets, while slightly larger docks meant for larger turtles are held using suction pads.


One main advantage of floating dock for your turtle is that it is super easy to set up. The dock will also adjust itself according to your tank’s water level, so you do not have to worry that your turtle not being able to climb up the dock due to evaporation that causes the water level to drop.

Another great thing about floating docks is that it takes up very little space, thus allowing your red-eared sliders to have more room in the tank for swimming around.


Although we have previously that you do not need to worry about the change in water level as the dock will adjust itself accordingly, it is very important that the water level cannot be too high. This is because the turtle will be able to climb out if the water level is too high. Lesser water in the tank will mean that the ammonia concentration will be higher, thus adding stress to your filtration system.

Another cause of concern would be the holding mechanism, which may not be reliable 100% of the time. This is especially true for magnets. Hence, floating docks may not be the ideal choice if you have multiple turtles of larger turtles. Smaller turtles may also have difficulty climbing up a platform that is not properly secured.

Zoo Med Turtle dock

One of the most popular floating turtle dock would be the Zoo Med turtle dock. The Zoo Med turtle dock comes in 4 different sizes. From 9″ x 5″ all the way up till 19″ by 8″.  It operates on a self-leveling dock that automatically adjusts to the water level in your turtle bank.

Click to check out the different sizes


Penn Plax Reptology Large Turtle Pier

Another option would be The Penn Plax Reptology Large Turtle Pier.

The Penn Plax Reptology Turtle Pier can be used as a floating platform. The pier floats above the water and is secured with 4 pylons using suction cups. What we love most about this dock is the thoughtfully designed ramp for smaller turtles to climb up from.

The pier is also constructed from high quality, non-toxic plastic. The material is very safe for both you and your turtle.


Above Tank

Above tank basking platforms, as the name suggests, are basking platforms that seat on top of your turtle tank with a slope your turtle to climb up.


Compared to floating platform, you will be able to afford to put more water in the turtle tank, granting more swimming room, at the same time lowers the concentration of ammonia for a cleaner and clearer water. it is also far sturdier than a floating dock, with the housing united seated firmly on top of the tank.


The downside of a typical above tank basking platform would be real estate. Yes, even though the housing unit is not inside the tank, there are more considerations to be made when it comes to the placement. For instance, if you are using an overhead filter or lightings that uses fluorescent tubes that stretch across the length of your tank, the above tank unit may not be able to fit.

Penn Plax Above-Tank Basking Platform

The Penn Plax Reptology Life Science Turtle-Topper  Basking Platform is a great above tank basking platform that fits most turtle tanks of up to 55 gallons. Since it is not a floating platform, it is not affected by the weight of your red-eared slider. You do have to ensure that the water level is high enough for your turtles to reach the plank. The turtle-topper also offers great flexibility if you are using a canister or internal filter. Another benefit of this platform is that it is literally outside the tank, which reduces clutter in the aquarium, giving your turtle more space to swim in. 

We also love Penn plax’s effort in the aesthetic appeal of this platform. It is Sculpted in a Jurassic style, which fits perfectly into the turtle’s habitat, creating a very natural feel. The vent on top provides good air circulation and works well with lamps such as the Zoomed 2 in 1 lighting kit without the need for any additional fixtures.

What to consider when setting up your turtle basking platform?

Tank setup

Tank setup is a very important issue when it comes to choosing the right basking platform for your red-eared slider. How big is your turtle tank? Does your turtle tank have any cover? Is there enough space for your turtle to swim? Will the placement of the platform hinder the flow of water?

Another area you should pay attention to would be the water level in your turtle tank. If you have a platform that seats inside of your tank, make sure that the water level is not too high. Your red-eared slider may able to climb out and escape from the tank if so. They may not look like it, but they are very capable of doing muscle ups!

This does not mean that you go ahead and set your water at super low levels. Remember, lower water volume means a tendency for higher concentration of ammonia build-ups. Our suggestion would be to have as much water as you can afford without letting the turtle climb out.

How big is your turtle?

The size of your turtle also plays a part in determining which basking platform is suitable for you. Bigger turtles have more physical strength and will be able to yank a less sturdy dock out from the anchor. If you only have a small baby turtle, you may probably get away if a simple floating platform anchored with magnets or suction pads. However, these may not be sufficient for larger turtles.

Also, as adult turtles are heavier, a small floating dock may not be able to stay afloat well under too much weight. Remember, the main function of a dock is to help keep the turtle dry.


Depending on the brand and type of basking area for your turtle, the cost can vary by a lot. For starters, you can easily buy a very decent turtle dock from the internet like this for less than 15 bucks. An overhead basking platform, however, can cost around 3 times as much.

If you have suitable materials lying in your garage, you can consider building your own DIY basking platform at minimum cost! Not to mention the sense of satisfaction you will achieve to have a unique one and only basking platform in the world!

Materials & built quality

Turtle basking unit can be made from many different materials. The materials used for the basking material is not only important because it affects the durability of the platform. Using unsuitable materials can have a negative impact on your water condition causing harm to your turtle’s health.

For commercial platforms manufactured by reputable companies, they are typically made from non-toxic plastic. We have little doubt that the materials they use to construct their products are safe for aqua life. The main consideration comes when you want to DIY your own basking unit.

Do a simple search on the internet, and you will see lots of DIY turtle basking areas of all shapes and sizes, made from so many different materials and ways. You are only limited by your creativity and budget when it comes to making your own basking area.

We will discuss on some of the more common considerations when making your own basking area for your turtle


If you are using plastics, make sure that it is toxin free and does not release any Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical compound that is released by plastic that may be detrimental to the health of your turtles.

Foam boards

Click on Images for more designs!

Foam boards are a very popular option for constructing a basking platform for turtles as it is very lightweight and extremely buoyant. These foams are known as Extruded polystyrene foam (XPS), or more commonly, Styrofoam. There are many different types of foam boards or polystyrene differing in its density and strength.

If you want to use this material as the base of your turtle’s basking area, choose something that is hard and smooth. Such as those that are used to make swimming boards. These are made of Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA).

You should not be using those weak Styrofoam boards like those in art & craft stores for your turtle for it will easily break apart under minimal stress from your turtle. These kind of foam boards are also very flaky. Foam bits and crumbs will easily fall off when your turtle try to bite or scratches it. These flakes will not only pollute your water, it is also disastrous if your turtle ingests it.


metal sheet/plates

Metal plates are another base material option that is popular. Metals are very strong and sturdy. But you will need to take into consideration tendencies to rust and corrode. Carbon Steel is more susceptive to rust than stainless steel. Although Aluminium does not rust, it will be subjected to corrosion.

One way to prevent rust and corrosion would be to apply a layer of preventive coating. However, ensure that whatever coating or paint use does not release any toxic into your water!

ceramic tiles

Ceramic tiles, like metal sheets, are very strong and sturdy. The best part is that ceramic tiles are not subjected to any rust or corrosion like metals. The various patterns on ceramic tiles look a lot more aesthetically pleasing compared to plain old metal sheets.

So, what’s the downside to ceramic tiles? Compared to aluminum sheets, ceramic tiles are much heavier than aluminum sheet. It is also not buoyant like foam. If you are incorporating ceramic tiles for turtle basking area, ensure that every part of the structure is secured and stable. Don’t let your turtle have the chance to yank and compromise any part. If the structure of ceramic tiles collapses, it may break your turtle tank or trap your red-eared slider.