Achieving The Right Temperature For a Tortoise at Night

Achieving The Right Temperature For a Tortoise at Night

With tortoises being cold-blooded reptiles getting the temperature of their enclosure correct is crucial in keeping them happy and healthy. Cold-blooded reptiles are unable to maintain their body temperature. So we need to provide our tortoises with a heat lamp this is common knowledge but what should we do during the night? How do we achieve the right temperature for a tortoise at night? Do we even need to think about it?

Your tortoise enclosure during the night should be around 12°C – 15°C (54°F – 59°F). This can be achieved without a heat lamp during the night in most instances. If your enclosure drops below this, your tortoise may start to fall into a hibernation state.  

A tortoise required their blood warmed up so they can function correctly and digest their food correctly. We know how important heat is to our tortoise, and we know the nighttime temperature, but let’s dig into how to achieve this and what tortoises are more at risk to overnight drops in temperature. 

Do Tortoises Need a Heat Lamp at Night?

There are many factors to consider when it comes to giving your tortoises a heat lamp at night. A significant bearing on this will be where you keep your tortoises and what the ambient temperature drops to during the night. Next would be the tortoise species you own, as some are more resilient to lower temperatures than other species. 

Suppose you are in a situation where the temperature drops below the ideal range for your tortoise species. You will need to offer additional heat; however, I would advise against a heat lamp as your tortoise will need darkness to sleep. 

Some good alternatives to heat lamps for nighttime heat are ceramic heat emitters and heat mats. I would avoid using these during the day as they don’t encourage basking, which your tortoise needs to take on vital vitamins. 

How Should I keep a Tortoise Warm at Night?  

Keeping your tortoise warm at night can be a real consume too many tortoises owner, especially those who live in colder climates. However, with some simple tips and best practices, you will be able to keep your tortoise happy and content during the night.

Ceramic Heat Emitters & Heat Mats

Within the tortoise communities, there are many debates about ceramic heat emitters and heat mats. I feel the discussion gets a little lost where people are looking for nighttime use only to get the correct temperature.

Heat mats have a terrible reputation, but this is when they are used as the sole provider of heat. You should not do this as your tortoise needs to bask to take vitamins from their basking light or the sun. A heat mat doesn’t encourage a tortoise to bask; in fact, they have the opposite effect. 

So recommending them may sound a little funky; however, I only recommend nighttime use and only daytime use in exceptional circumstances. 

Many heat mats come with a built-in thermometer that auto turns off at the required. Allowing you to set the perfect temperature for your tortoise during the night. 

In most cases, a ceramic heat emitter will not have this option, and you will need an additional thermostat which can be expensive and hard to setup. 

Species of Tortoise That Require Additional Heat at Night?

When it comes to tortoises, we are best listening to mother nature than taking guesses at things. Tortoises have survived the wild since records began, so trying to replicate that as best as we can be best practice. 

As tortoises owners, we should determine the best temperatures during the night by looking at the average nighttime temperature they would live in the wild. If you cant offer them this, you will need to provide additional heat. 

Testudo Genus Tortoises Night-Time Temperature?

The Testudo genus, the Mediterranean tortoise’s groups, are found mainly in North Africa, Western Asia, and Europe. Many our undertreat of becoming indistinct in the wild down to habitat destruction. 

  • Hermann’s Tortoise
  • Greek Tortoise
  • Russian Tortoise
  • Marginated Tortoise
  • Egyptian Tortoise

During the warmer months of the year, the natural habitat of these tortoises during the night is between 18 °C to 20 °C (64.4 °F to 68 °F).  

In many cases, both in Europe and North America, the nighttime temperature indoors will be very similar. So if you keep your tortoise indoors, you shouldn’t need to offer any extra heat to your tortoise during the night.

Outdoor living is a little different, and it can drop below these temperatures even during the summer months. These spieces are considered hardier than other species and do cope with lower temperatures. If the weather gets below the ideal, they will slip into a perfectly normal semi-hibernation state. 

While this is fine, keeping their temperature as close to their natural habitat as possible is desirable. A tortoise that is allowed to keep falling into a semi-hibernation state is more likely to pick up more illness. As they fall into this state, the immune system starts to shut down, making them more susceptible to infection. 

During the winter, with most tortoises, it is advisable to overwinter or hibernate your tortoise in controlled conditions. If you live where the temperature will drop below 0°C, then you definitely should not have your tortoise outside during the winter. 

Tropical Tortoises Night-Time Temperature?

Tropical tortoises can come from vastly different areas of the world; however, what does unite them is there first for warm weather conditions all year round.

The resistance to cold weather varies from spices to spieces within tropical categories, with the Red Foot Tortoise being one of the most tolerable to slightly more frigid conditions. However, if you look at the Indian tortoise, a common species that will fall ill if you don’t provide the heat they require. 

In the tropical tortoise’s natural environment, the nighttime temperature will rarely drop below 22 °C (71.6 °F). You will need to offer more heat than you would to Testudo genus tortoises, so a heat mat or ceramic heat emitter may be required.

Tropical tortoises don’t hibernate, so as soon as the temperature starts to get anywhere near 13 °C (55.4 °F). You will need to bring your tortoises indoors and offer them the temperature they need by a heat lamp

Do I Need an Additional Night-Time Heat Source For Outside Tortoises?

If your temperature outside is starting to get to the point where you need to consider an additional heat source, it is prudent to begin to take action early.

Some tortoise species are hardier to cooler climates, and while a lower temperature during the night will do little harm, you still may want to provide additional heat. A tortoise that is kept at temperatures that are too cool can often get a respiratory infection.

Whether you should offer extra heat during the night for outside tortoises will be your judgment. See what the ideal nighttime temperature is for your species, and if their enclosure is dropping below this, you will need to offer additional heat.

The best practice would be to bring them inside as it can be challenging to rig up outside heating and not to mention a lot more expensive to run. 

There are specific outside enclosures that are built to keep the heat inside the enclosure better. However, they are hard to keep an eye on their temperature, and you will need to keep checking the temperature gauge. 

Should Outdoor Tortoises Be Brought Inside During Winter?

A question that tortoises owners often ask is should you bring a tortoise in during the winter months. The answer will always be that it depends on where you live and the temperature during the winter. 

Now some people pride themselves on leaving their tortoise outside no matter what the weather. While this may be right for their area, we need to be careful not to put our tortoises through unnecessary harm.

There is a reason captive-bred tortoises live for much longer than wild tortoises. That is because, in most cases, they have a much easier life without having to live through harsh weather conditions. 

The temperature will drop during the winter months, that’s for sure, and in the wild, a tortoise will hibernate throughout the colder months. If you are the temperature that mirrors that of the wild tortoise’s natural habitat, you will be fine leaving your tortoise outside.

However, if your winters drop below your tortoise’s natural habitats, winter temperatures overwintering your tortoise or hibernating them in more stable conditions is necessary. 


Achieving the right temperature for a tortoise at night is not all that difficult in most parts of the world, and your natural room temperature should be ideal. Tropical tortoises need to be treated with more care as they don’t like cold conditions and quickly become ill.

Try to offer your tortoise daytime and nighttime temperatures that closely match their natural habitat. Doing so will keep your tortoise much happier and content and give them a much longer, more comfortable life.