Looking to set up a turtle tank? Keeping turtles has been becoming increasingly popular with aquarists who are looking for a new challenge. These reptiles need entirely different tanks than the fish we’re used to, but their fun personalities more than make up for the extra research you need to do before purchasing yours.
Did you know a turtle tank should always be filtered as well as heated? In cold water your turtle will become sluggish or even fall ill. If things are getting really chilly you might find it going into hibernation. Not good! A heater is needed to keep things in the acceptable range and prevent problems. We’ll be discussing some of the best turtle tank heaters that can heat large amounts of water safely and will withstand being bumped around by clumsy turtles.
Best Turtle Tank Heaters: Top Picks
Here are our picks for the best turtle tank heaters on the market:
1. Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm Heater
- Steady, accurate temperature control
- Super flat - 1/3" thick
Most aquarium heaters are pretty bulky and/or long as well as not very nice looking. Not the Cobalt Neo-Therm! This 200 Watt model is very flat and made of black plastic that won’t spoil your view. A little more pricey than some of the other models on this list, but you do get what you pay for.
It has a built in and very accurate thermostat that can be set anywhere between 66 and 96 °F using what Cobalt calls their easy ‘one touch’ system. For added safety two LED indicators are included: one that blinks when the heater is doing its job and another that turns on when the water is above the desired temperature due to external reasons like high ambient temps.
2. Eheim Jager
- Fully submersible
- Thermo safey control protects against running dry
- Will automatically turn off when water level dips too low
Eheim Jager is a range of heaters produced by German brand Eheim. In the aquarium world, German-made is often synonymous with high quality, and things are no different with the Jager heater line.
We like the Eheim Jager for turtle tanks because of the fact that it’s sturdy and made of shatterproof glass. Additionally, it has a very handy safety feature that not all aquarium heaters come with: run-dry protection. It automatically shuts off when the water level gets too low, which prevents it from overheating and potentially frying or even cracking. If you’re forgetful like yours truly and don’t always remember to turn off the heater before doing a water change, this is definitely a life saver.
Eheim Jager heaters are available from 25 to 300 Watts, which means there’s a Jager for pretty much all aquariums including large ones. They’re easy to adjust and can be re-calibrated manually if needed.
3. ViaAqua Quartz Glass Submersible Heater
- High quality quartz glass
- Visible temperature setting
Setting up your turtle tank on a budget but don’t want to compromise on heater quality? With the ViaAqua 200-Watt Quatz Glass heater you won’t have to! This sleek adjustable model by ViaAqua is suitable for aquariums of up to around 50 gallons, but don’t worry if your aquarium is a different size: the line features three other heaters between 50 and 300 Watt.
At its price point it’s unsurprising that the ViaAqua heater doesn’t have any special features. It just does what it’s made for with an insulated ceramic heating element, easy-to-read adjustable temperature setting and full submersibility. Its quartz glass design makes it shatterproof and thereby turtle safe.
4. Fluval E Electronic Heater
- Dual temperature sensors provide accurate and real time water temperatures
- LCD temperature display available in both Fahrenheit and Celsius; Range of 68 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fast heat technology built with a safety shut-off; Integrated fish guard to protect fish and invertebrates
If you’ve been in the aquarium hobby for a while you’re probably no stranger to Fluval. This brand is mostly known from its elegant aquarium designs and powerful filters, but did you know it also produces a line of high quality heaters? Available up to 300 Watt and with an unintrusive design, the Fluval E is a good contender for your turtle tank.
The feature we like most about the Fluval E heater range is its LCD temperature display. You can very easily see the temperature the heater is set to, and it will even switch from green to red if there is a risk of higher temperatures due to external causes like high room temps.
Like the Eheim Jager, this heater has a safety shut off to prevent problems if the water level happens to become too low. Additionally, its temperature can be set more precisely than most aquarium heaters out there (in 0.5° increments) and it has a built-in guard so your turtle can’t come into contact with the heating element and hurt itself.
5. Hydor In-Line External Heater
- Suitable for marine and tropical aquariums
- Easy to use
- High precision electronic temperature control
If you don’t want an ugly heater spoiling the view of your carefully scaped turtle tank, your best option is probably to go for an external model. When looking for an external aquarium heater the first brand you’ll likely run into is Hydor; their ETH heater is one of the most commonly used models simply because it does its job very well.
To use an external heater you’ll need a canister filter. Some heaters are placed inside the canister, which takes up precious space that could otherwise have been used for filter material. Hydor solved this problem by designing this heater so that it can be connected to the return tubing that feeds water back into your aquarium. Don’t worry if that sounds like a hassle to set up – it’s actually pretty easy to connect the heater and should work with most canisters.
6. Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater
- Adjustable heat setting 68 to 88°F, Electronic Thermostat accurate to +/- 1°
- Shatterproof and nearly indestructible
- Fully submersible; Auto Shut-Off when over-heats, resets when it cools down
Another heater that does what it’s supposed to do without any fancy bits and bobs is the Aqueon Pro. One of the most popular aquarium heaters out there, this model is advertised as ‘nearly indestructible’, making it a great contender for a turtle tank. It’s available in four varieties that range from 50 to 250 Watt and can be adjusted easily using a knob on top of the heater stick.
The Aqueon Pro is fully submersible, which means you can place it both horizontally and vertically. It shuts off automatically in case of overheating and has an indicator light that switches from green to red when the heating element is on.
7. Finnex Deluxe Titanium Tube Heater
- TH-300S: 40-80 Gallons
- Controller is needed to operate Titanium Tube. Purchased separately
- Deluxe Titanium Heating Tube with Protective Guard
In need of some real heating action for your turtle set-up? If you keep your turtle(s) in a large (indoor) pond or a location with lower ambient temperatures, a higher wattage is in order. Finnex delivers on this with their Deluxe Titanium Tube heaters starting at 300 Watt. The most powerful model delivers 800 Watt, which should be plenty for pretty much anything that’s indoors.
The Deluxe heater range comes with a heater guard included, which comes in handy to help prevent your turtle from touching the hot titanium casing. It’s run using an external thermostat device, which you’ll have to purchase separately but has the added bonus of usually being much more accurate than built-in thermostats. A fantastic option if you’re really dedicated to heating your large turtle set-up safely and effectively.
Why you REALLY Need a Heater for Turtle Tanks
As we’ve briefly mentioned in the introduction, heated water is vital to your turtle’s health. But why is that? Because turtles are cold-blooded, they can’t regulate their own body temperatures. Instead, they rely on environmental heat to keep them warm so their internal processes can keep working as they should. Consistently low temps make them unable to function properly, causing them to go into hibernation and potentially even killing them in the long run. Cold water causes stress and susceptibility to disease. It’s not enough to only provide a nice and warm basking area; your turtle’s water should be heated as well.
There are many different turtle species out there that can be kept as pets and all of them have different requirements. Always look up plenty of caresheets before you buy the species you’re interested in and make sure you know its preferred temperature range. Keep in mind that juveniles often like things a little toastier than older turtles, so you might have to adjust the temperature as your turtle ages.
Choosing the Right Type of Heater
If you have a quick look at all the aquarium heating options out there you might get a little overwhelmed: there are quite a few options. Not all of them will work well in your turtle tank, though. We’ll discuss which ones are preferable and which to avoid below.
These are the most popular heaters in the fishkeeping hobby; if you look at our list of best turtle tank heaters above you’ll notice that most of the models listed are of this type.
A submersible aquarium heater is usually stick-shaped and contains a heating element encased in a protective cover made of glass or plastic. Some of the cheaper models have a set temperature, which some aquarists like but isn’t ideal in most cases as you’ll want to be able to adjust the temp. A submersible thermostat heater is better; try looking for one with safety shut off so here is no risk of frying your tank if the water level gets too low or the heater malfunctions and overheats.
If you use a submersible heater, double check whether all areas of your tank are evenly heated, as the warm water can sometimes fail to reach parts with lower water flow. In a turtle tank this usually won’t be a problem because you should be using a powerful filter, but it never hurts to double-check.
Heaters that go outside of the aquarium are a convenient option for those that don’t want to have an unsightly stick ‘spoiling’ the view of their tank. They are quite a bit less popular than submersible heaters, likely because they require you to use a canister filters and some aquarists view set-up for external in-line heaters as intimidating. As mentioned in the discussion of the Hydor In-Line External Heater above, though, it’s actually not that difficult at all.
If you’re still a little iffy about the thought of having to connect a heater to your filter’s tubing (leaks! Disaster!) but also don’t want a submersible heater inside your aquarium, there’s another external heating option. There are canister filters out there that have room for a heater, which makes it easy to hide away this piece of equipment so you can enjoy your turtle tank to the fullest.
If you’ve been in the aquarium hobby for a while you might have heard of the concept of an undergravel heater. Theoretically sounds like a good hidden heating option for your turtle tank, but unfortunately this is not the case. Undergravel heaters are designed to help aid plant growth and even there their effectiveness is debated.
Like undergravel heaters, heating mats really aren’t a good way to keep your turtle warm. These mats, which go under the tank, are best left to the terrestrial reptile keepers.
Rock-shaped ornaments that contain a heating element would be a great unobtrusive way to regulate the temperature of your turtle tank, but unfortunately as far as we know all the models for sale right now are meant for use in terrestrial reptile set-ups. Don’t put them in your aquarium – they’re likely not water-proof!
Turtle Tank Heater Size Guide
Aquarium heaters are available in many different sizes and models. You can figure out a heater’s power by looking at its wattage, which can vary from a tiny 10W to an immensely powerful 800W or even more. If you’d like to know what heater size work best for your turtle tank, there are three factors to keep in mind: wattage, aquarium size and ambient temperature.
If your turtle tank is located in a spot that stays at room temperature and doesn’t have to be heated more than 10 degrees, the table below should give you a good indication. It assumes that you need about 2.5 Watts to heat 1 gallon of aquarium 10 degrees F. It keeps in mind the most common aquarium sizes and heater wattages. For example, you’d need about 37.5W to heat a 15 gallon aquarium 10 °F, but 37.5W heaters don’t really exist. The closest common option is 50W.
|Aquarium size||Heat aquarium 10 °F||Heat aquarium 20 °F|
|75 gal||200W||2x 200W|
|80 gal||200W||2x 200W|
|90 gal||250W||500W or 2x 250W|
|100 gal||250W||500W or 2x 250W|
Aquarium Heater Safety Precautions
Your heater is probably the most risky piece of equipment that will be in your turtle tank. It’s not difficult to find heater horror stories involving overheating, electrocution and even explosion! Unfortunately, as we discussed, you do need one to keep your turtle healthy. There are a few things you can do to keep things running smoothly and avoid potential issues.
You should always have at least one thermometer in every aquarium you own; some aquarists even like to use two just in case one is off. Having a thermometer and checking it often (every time you feed your turtle, for example) is crucial for spotting temperature problems in time.An aquarium thermometer doesn’t have to be expensive. A classic glass thermometer works perfectly well and this type is still widely used. You can also try an LCD thermometer with a probe that goes into the water and a little screen to display the temp, or a temperature gun.
Aquarium heaters can become pretty hot, even with the plastic or glass casing that surrounds the actual heating element. To prevent your turtle from hurting itself it might be a good idea to use a heater guard. Simply slide the heater into this plastic ‘cage’ and your turtle will be protected from the hottest part of the heater.
Worried that a broken heater might either boil your turtle alive by overheating or give it a taste of winter by malfunctioning? One relatively easy way to lessen the chances of this happening is by using dual heaters. This means that, for example, you get two 150 Watt heaters rather than one 300 Watt one. The thought behind this is that if one goes rogue and overheats, it doesn’t have the power to get your tank to boiling temperatures before you notice something is off. In a similar vein, if one heater stops working entirely the second one can keep things at least relatively warm until you manage to acquire a replacement.
Temperature controller. In the section on best turtle tank heaters we discussed a heater that is meant to be used in combination with an external thermostat: the Finnex Deluxe Titanium Tube Heater. Using one of these separate controllers really helps keep things as safe as possible, as it controls your heater so that it can’t overheat. A built-in alarm that goes off when the tank is too hot or too cold can be what makes the difference between life or death for your turtle in extreme cases.