Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area?

If you’re a proud owner of a softshell turtle, then you know Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area? Providing them with the right environment and equipment is key to maintaining their health.

Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area
Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area

Softshell turtles need a basking area. The basking area should be large enough for the turtle to stretch out its body and receive direct sunlight completely. A basking platform or log placed in the water near the edge of the turtle’s enclosure is ideal.

The blog post will discuss why a basking area is essential and provide tips for creating one in your turtle’s enclosure.

Why Do Softshell Turtles Need A Basking Area?

Basking is an essential behaviour for turtles, allowing them to regulate their body temperature. Without a basking area, turtles would be unable to thermoregulate and eventually die.

 Softshell turtles rely on basking as they lack other turtles’ hard shells. This shell acts as insulation, helping to keep the turtle warm even when submerged in cold water. Without this insulation, softshell turtles must rely on basking to stay warm.

Basking also allows softshell turtles to dry off, as their skin cannot absorb oxygen from the water. This makes it essential for anyone that owns a softshell turtle to provide an area where it can dry off and warm up.

How To Build A Basking Area For The Softshell Turtle?

To build a basking area for your softshell turtle, you will need a few supplies:

  1. Large, shallow container (big enough for the turtle to fit in)
  2. Gravel or aquarium pebbles
  3. Water heater (check the temperature of the water before placing it in the container)
  4. Substrates such as sand or soil
  5. Driftwood for basking surface
  6. Rocks for decoration
  7. Aquatic plants
  8. External filter (optional)

Once you have your supplies gathered, it’s time to assemble the basking area:

  • Place your large shallow container on a flat surface; add gravel or aquarium pebbles at the bottom to about one inch deep for the filter system to be effective if needed.
  • Place an appropriate water heater in the tank and adjust its setting according to the correct temperature range for your turtle species (roughly 80-85F). Ensure it does not directly touch walls, which may cause overheating and eventually burn out your heater motor.
  • Next, create a substrate floor with either sand or soil, depending on preferences and suitability of choice, ensuring that it is not too deep or too thin to allow adequate support to move around without causing any issues.
  • Position the driftwood at an angle to create a natural basking zone, and add a few rocks for decoration and visual appeal.
  • Finally, introduce aquatic plants into your turtle’s environment. Not only do they look aesthetically pleasing, but they also provide additional hiding places and food sources for the turtle.

Once everything is in place, check the temperature again and turn on the filter if you have opted for one. You should also monitor your turtle’s behaviour to ensure it likes its new home.

Types of Basking Areas for Softshell Turtles

There are three main basking areas for softshell turtles: terrestrial, aquatic, and semi-aquatic.

  • Terrestrial basking areas are typically dry land areas exposed to direct sunlight. This could be a sunny spot in your yard, a sandy beach, or a rocky outcropping. Softshell turtles often bask for long periods to soak up as much heat as possible.
  • Aquatic basking areas are usually submerged logs or rocks in sunny spots in the water. Turtles will perch on these logs or rocks and extend their necks and limbs out of the water to absorb heat from the sun.
  • Semi-aquatic basking areas are a combination of terrestrial and aquatic basking areas. These areas are usually partially submerged and offer dry land and water for the turtle to bask in. Semi-aquatic basking areas can be created by filling a shallow basin with sand and water or providing a floating dock for the turtle to bask on.
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1. Penn Plax reptology turtle topper

2. Zoo Med turtle dock

3. Penn-Plax Reptology

4. Tetra Aquatic Turtle Deluxe Kit 20 Gallons

Spiny Soft Shell Turtle Aquarium Set Up - Food Tray basking burying tray.

Additional Setups In The Softshell Turtle’s Tank:

  1. TANK:  The most important first choice for a softshell turtle tank is the tank itself. It should be large enough and have places to hide, swim, and bask.
  2. BASKING PLATFORM: A basking platform with a light source should be included in the tank to imitate the conditions of their natural environment. This will give your turtle somewhere warm to sunbathe and dry off when they come out of the water.
  3. SUBSTRATE: A substrate like river rocks will help create a comfortable habitat for your softshell turtles. The substrate can cover the bottom of the tank to give your pet something more natural to crawl around than bare glass or plastic.
  4. HEATER: The water temperature in the tank needs to remain between 75-80°F, so it is important to install an aquarium heater that is safe for aquatic turtles. This will keep your softshell turtle healthy and happy by maintaining proper temperatures in its living environment.
  5. FILTER: A filter is necessary for any aquatic animal’s tank as it helps keep the water clean and free of dangerous ammonia levels that can harm turtles’ health over time.
  6. LIGHTS: UVB and UVA lights will be important for your softshell turtle’s health, as they need UV light to synthesize Vitamin D.
  7. DECORATIONS: Decorations like logs, rocks, and plants can be used to simulate their natural habitat. These objects will provide a more interesting environment for your pet as well as additional places to hide and explore
  8. FLOATING DOCK: Turtles love floating docks where they can rest and sunbathe in the warm waters of their tank. This is especially important for aquatic turtles that don’t have access to a basking platform or spot dry land in their tank.
  9. FOOD DISH: To ensure your turtle gets the proper nutrition each day, consider providing a designated food dish with fresh vegetables and fruits cut up into bite-sized pieces so your turtle can easily eat its meals.
  10. FOOD & SUPPLEMENTS: A high-quality pellet-based diet is essential for softshell turtles since they require a higher nutrient density than other aquatic turtle species. Variety is also important; supplementing foods like worms, snails, and insects and plant-based snacks like romaine lettuce will provide balanced nutrition for adult turtles.


A softshell turtle’s basking area is important to its habitat. Without a basking area, a softshell turtle cannot properly thermoregulate its body temperature.

A basking area should give the turtle a warm and cool side to regulate its body temperature. It is also important that the basking area have enough space for the turtle to move around and stretch its legs.

I hope this article has helped you better understand the importance of providing a basking area for your softshell turtle.

My name is Shayan Mondal, and I am a passionate turtle owner and enthusiast who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with fellow turtle lovers. As a proud owner of several turtle species, I understand the importance of proper care, habitat setup, and nutrition for these delightful creatures. This website regularly updates the latest insights into turtle health, diet, and conservation efforts.

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