If you’re looking for a water heater for your turtle or terrapin then you’ll no doubt have discovered just how difficult it is to choose the right model.
There are just so many different aquarium heaters that it can be difficult to know where to start your search. Sadly, some of the models sold specifically for turtle keepers also aren’t the ideal solution so it’s easy to make a mistake and end up buying the wrong product.
Fortunately, in response to such queries from readers we’ve decided to put together this simple guide to the best turtle water heaters currently on the market…
- 1 Features to Look for in a Turtle Water Heater
- 2 What are the Best Turtle Water Heaters?
- 3 Tips for Using Your Turtle Water Heater
- 4 Conclusion
Features to Look for in a Turtle Water Heater
The first step in buying the best turtle water heater is figuring out what you actually need. At first glance it’s easy to think that all aquarium heaters are the same, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that some features are far more important than others…
Many commonly kept species of turtle – such as the red eared slider – grow to quite impressive dimensions. Alongside their body length, however, they also develop long claws and can have an impressively strong bite. I have also found that my own turtles like to “rest” on the water heater, using is as a ledge to grip on to.
Lastly, turtles – especially the bigger specimens – can be quite destructive in a tank environment, as they swim around and dig. This means that any piece of kit you’re planning to use should be built to last.
While some turtle keepers opt to use a standard glass water heater there is a risk that such heaters might either become damaged by your turtle, or may risk burning them if they rest against them.
A good solution is to choose a turtle water heater that has a protective casing. In most cases this is made from tough plastic, and can significantly reduce any risk to your turtle or heater alike.
While pretty much all commercially-available aquarium heaters these days come with a built-in thermostat to control the water temperature, not all of these give you the opportunity to change the water temperature.
Indeed, there are a number of models on the market designed to only heat your water to a single temperature. While you might think this is a good idea – saving you hassle – numerous complaints exist about such models.
In cooler rooms, or during the winter, or in larger aquariums, such heaters can struggle to keep up. There are also stories of this “one temperature” being incorrectly calibrated, with the water temperature sitting much lower than is ideal.
The best turtle water heaters, therefore, tend to have a variable temperature that you can adjust as necessary. Combine this with a decent-quality aquarium thermometer and you’ll be ideally placed to keep your water at the perfect temperature.
Suitable for Your Aquarium Size
Aquarium heaters are designed to heat a specific volume of water. Placed into a larger volume of water there is a risk that they will be unable to maintain the right temperature. A smaller volume of water may be at risk of overheating. Consequently it’s crucial to choose a turtle water heater that is designed for your tank dimensions.
So how do you do this? Fortunately the answer is quite simple. Start off by estimating how much water your turtle tank contains. You can do this by measuring your aquarium, then multiplying the length of the water area, by the width of this area, by the height of the water (length x width x height).
This will give you the volume, which you can then compare with the heaters available to be confident in purchasing the right model.
What are the Best Turtle Water Heaters?
Now that we’ve addressed some of the most important features you should look for, let’s take a look at some of the more popular heaters available. In doing so, you’ll gain a better idea of the options on offer to you, and you’ll be in a better position to choose the best turtle heater for your needs…
HyggeR Adjustable Submersible Aquarium Heater
First off, this heater is made from toughened quartz glass, which is then covered in a protective plastic sleeve, making it a very study model that is more than capable of dealing with anything your turtle throws at it.
It is easy to set the temperature, which can vary anything between 20’C and 34’C (68-93’F) making it perfect for your turtle’s water. The HyggeR aquarium heater has also developed a strong reputation for its reliability and accuracy, which contrasts sharply against some other heaters where water temperatures are known to fluctuate wildly.
Unlike virtually any other aquarium heater on the market there are two different ways to change the heat setting. On most heaters – including this one – there is a small dial at the end that can be twisted to turn the temperature up or down.
Sadly, of course, this not only means that you’re going to have to disturb your turtle to change it, but you’ll also end up getting wet as you stick your hand below the surface. The HyggeR turtle heater is rather innovative in that it has a second temperature controller on the power cable – allowing you to turn the heater up or down at will from outside the tank.
Speaking of temperatures, it is worth highlighting that taking your aquarium heater out of the water while it is still warm can cause serious overheating problems. In some cases the glass casing may even break. A further useful feature of the HyggeR aquarium heater is that it automatically turns off if it is taken out of the water – helping to preserve its lifespan in the case of accidents.
Lastly, this turtle heater comes in four different sizes, meaning that there is almost certainly a model suitable for the size of aquarium or turtle tank that you have chosen.
The lowest power is 50 watts, and will heat tanks of 10-25 liters. The 100 watt model will heat tanks of 50-90 liters, while the 200 watt model will cope with up to 150 liters of water. Finally the 300 watt model – the largest in the range – will cope with water volumes of between 120 and 250 liters.
LINEBA Anti-Explosion Submersible Quartz Glass Aquarium Heater
Temperature ranges are perfectly adequate once again – ranging from 68’f to 94’f (20-34’C) though it lacks the external temperature controller seen in the HyggeR model. On the other hand, this turtle water heater comes in a higher wattage range, with the most powerful option being the 500 watt water heater.
The manufacturer reports that this top-end model will heat a water volume of 250-250 liters (53 to 93 gallons) making it an absolute beast – and perfect for the limited number of readers with a truly huge turtle tank.
Overall, this is quite a solid heater for your turtle tank, though it is worth mentioning that the build quality doesn’t seem quite as good as the HyggeR alternative, with some customers complaining that their heater died unexpectedly after a minimal amount of use.
Overall, this is a heater for owners of huge turtle tanks, otherwise I would suggest that the HyggeR aquarium heater – with it’s better reliability and innovative features – is likely to be a better investment.
U-picks Aquarium Heater with Extra Thermometer
While there are many fans of the U-picks heater, there are a number of reasons why I have chosen to rate this lower than the two previous heating options. Firstly, it can be quite fiddly to set the temperature on the dial, and some keepers have reported that the temperature produced by the heater doesn’t always match the chosen setting.
Fortunately this aquarium water heater also comes with a separate digital thermometer, so you can easily monitor the temperature of your turtle’s water, and change the temperature settings on your heater if needed.
The second concern directed at this particular heater is that the suction cups aren’t always quite as effective as on the previous two models. This means that some people have struggled to properly attach the heater to the inside of their tank; hardly ideal if you’re keeping one or more boisterous turtles at home.
On the flipside it isn’t difficult to see why some keepers swear by this piece of kit. While there is only one model at present, the 300 watt aquarium heater will cope with a wide range of different tank sizes – from 135 liters to 340 liters (30-75 gallons).
Within these tank dimensions the temperature can be set to between 68’F and 94’F (20-34’C) meaning that this is possibly the heater with the broadest range of applications featured in this guide.
Overall, not a bad heater overall, but for the money one of the two previous models is probably the better option.
TetraFauna Aquatic Reptile Heater
For example, unlike all the heaters discussed so far, the TetraFauna heater doesn’t have a dial to control the temperature output. Instead it is designed to heat your aquarium water to exactly 78’F (25.5’C).
While this temperature is likely to be suitable for most turtles and terrapins, it means that when the weather is particularly cold you don’t have the option of turning it up a little. If you’re keeping a species with very specialist temperature requirements this heater also may not be the best option.
Lastly, and most importantly, the TetraFauna is a reasonably low-powered heater, producing 100 watts of power which is designed to heat just 30 liters (6.5 gallons) – which is a tiny volume of water. While this turtle heater may just about heat a small tank for one or two hatchling turtles, it simply won’t be able to keep up when they move into a larger tank.
Therefore unless you have your turtles in a miniscule tank (and in that case I would ask why they don’t have more room) then this is unlikely to be the best possible turtle heater.
Exo Terra Terrarium Submersible Turtle Heater
At first glance the Exo Terra offering largely resembles the TetraFauna heater discussed earlier; it has no variable temperature but is instead calibrated to provide 78’F (25.5’C) of water.
There are three different models available; the 25 watt heater for 5-10 gallon aquariums (19-38 liters), the 50 watt model designed for tanks of 10-20 gallons (38-75 liters) and lastly the 75 watt model for 20-26 gallons (75-100 liters) of water. Once again, therefore, this range of turtle heaters is really only suitable for smaller species/tanks – people keeping larger specimens may struggle to use this heater.
However there are greater concerns that have been raised on discussion forums. For example, some turtle keepers have claimed that the thermostat included in this heater is less than reliable, with temperatures oscillating considerably.
Worse, of all the heaters reviewed here it is probably this model that has the lowest record of reliability. There are numerous reports of the heater either not raising the terrarium water enough, or simply packing up and stopping working after just a matter of a few weeks.
Despite the modest price of this particular turtle heater I therefore don’t feel that I can recommend it to you – particularly when you compare it with some of the better heaters it is competing against.
Tips for Using Your Turtle Water Heater
If you’re setting up a turtle tank then of course there is more to keeping the water warm than just buying a suitable heater. You’ll also need to use it correctly if you’re to get the very most possible from it. Before we draw this guide to a close, therefore, it does perhaps make sense to consider some “best practise” tips for using your aquarium heater…
Consider Submersion Level
Most aquarium heaters are designed to be fully submerged beneath the surface of the water, with just their cable protruding. Most, but not all. Some manufacturers also recommend that your heater is affixed in a certain manner – for example that it should be positioned in a horizontal direction. Once you’ve chosen your turtle water heater, therefore, be sure to read the manufacturers instructions to ensure proper use.
Allow to Run for 24 Hours Before Introducing Your Turtle
While most aquarium heaters should be properly calibrated there are cases where setting a heater to 25’C actually produces water that is 22’C or 28’C. It is therefore a smart idea to consider installing your heater a day or more before you actually introduce your turtle(s). In this way you can monitor water temperatures using an external thermometer, satisfying yourself that the new heater does exactly what you need before you stake your pet’s life on it.
Permit Heater to Cool Before Removing It
All aquarium heaters get incredibly hot when they’re in use. Pulling an aquarium heater straight out of the water is like throwing boiling water on your car windshield in snowy weather. The sudden change in temperature can instantly fracture the glass, rendering your heater useless. Consequently if you need to remove your heater from the water at all then unplug it and allow it to cool entirely before it is taken out of the water.
Ensure Suitable Water Circulation is Present
Turtle water heaters are designed to gently warm the water around them. In larger tanks, however, they may struggle to warm up water at the other end of the tank. Therefore, when positioning your heater ensure that water can move freely around.
This means you should avoid placing your heater near any tank decor such as rocks or plants. It also means that using an aquarium filter to gently circulate the water is also a very good idea to ensure even heat distribution.
Pay Attention to Water Chemistry
Problems can occur in aquariums when harmful chemicals are allowed to built up. Remember that sunlight may encourage bacterial growth, while the waste that your turtle produces can rapidly increase nitrate levels.
Both of these issues can lead to your turtle tank slowly turning green or brown, which includes your aquarium heater. A heater covered in algae won’t be able to do its job as well, and may end up having a shorter life as it tries so hard to do its job.
Keeping an eye on your aquarium to ensure the water is clear and fresh will therefore help to extend the life of your equipment – and arguably your turtles too.
While it can be difficult to select the best turtle water heater a closer inspection of the available options does yield a few clear winners. I would suggest that in most cases either the HyggeR or the LINEBA would be the best option available, and will be more than suitable for most turtle tanks. All you need to do is measure up your tank so that you make sure you buy the right power of heater to meet your needs.
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