Best Turtle Basking Platform or Turtle Dock

Best Turtle Basking PlatformWith the great popularity of basking turtles, it is no wonder why so many people are looking for a a good turtle basking platform or turtle dock. While one can certainly pile up bricks, rocks and use substrates to create a land area, this makes a tank very heavy and displaces a lot of water your turtle could otherwise use for swimming. In addition, submerged rocks and objects needed to create land also have the disadvantage of trapping waste and uneaten food, which can be very hard to retrieve and lead to a foul-smelling setup that’s bad for both you and the turtle. Thus, if you are using an aquarium to house your turtle, a good turtle basking platform is the way to go.

If you are handy and can make your own, great. But if you’d rather buy one, in our view there are really only two very good options:

1) Turtle Topper Turtle Basking Platform & Turtle Dock

The Turtle Topper is definitely the most popular and highly-rated basking platform at the moment, for good reason. Unlike most aquarium platforms, this one sits on top of your tank and creates an above-tank, enclosed basking area that is accessible by a ramp positioned underneath. The great thing about this that it allows you to bring water depth up toward the top of the aquarium, thus giving your turtle more swimming area. A higher water level also makes it easier for people to use hang-on-back filters that require a nearly full tank to operate.

The basking area has a cage-like top that can be opened easily and is setup to work with heat lamp clamps. The unit is reported to fit most standard, rectangular-shaped aquariums up to 55 gallons in size. While there is no stated turtle size limit, many reviewers with turtles in the 7 and 8 inch range reported it working well, and some suggested a turtle of up to 10 inches could potentially fit in the basking area.

User reviews of this product are truly outstanding. People love the sturdiness of the unit, the extra water area it allows, and that it does not require suction cups. Tellingly, many users who reported satisfaction with the turtle topper have been through other models that they claimed were prone to sinking or just didn’t work.

With such stellar reviews, there were very few complaints abut the turtle topper. However, several comments were aimed at the “look” of the unit; some claimed it was a bit “wobbly” on smaller, 10 gallon tanks; and some said the ramp was a bit slippery for their turtle to navigate. Nevertheless, these criticisms were few and far between.

In our view, the Turtle Topper Above-Tank Basking Platform is literally an “out-of-the-box” concept that we really like. This platform will not sink, come un-stuck, or fall apart. Moreover, it is the only one available that makes use of the vertical space in an aquarium that is otherwise wasted. While it may be big enough for a 10 inch turtle, we suggest using it for turtles no larger than 8 inches in total carapace length to err on the safe side.

2) OASIS Turtle Ramp / Turtle Basking Platform

This is clearly the best in-tank turtle basking platform or dock out right now, and is the only one that comes in a large size suitable for larger tanks and turtles. The large model measures 16 inches by 11 inches by 4-1/2 inches. Indeed, users with red-eared sliders of up to 10 inches routinely report that the large ramp not only supported their turtle’s weight, but also provided ample room for turning around. In addition, at least one user with a whopping 12-inch red-eared slider also recommended this ramp!

OASIS Turtle Ramp

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The OASIS Turtle Ramp has a very appealing, minimalistic yet practical design and is secured to your aquarium with six suction cups. Although you may have had bad experience with suction-cup docks, we can assure you these do create a very firm hold. Notably, there were no significant reports of the dock failing under the weight of even very large sliders. The traction coating that lines the ramps is also a very nice touch, and helps your turtle get out of the water easily despite the pitch.

As far as durability, this ramp is also outstanding. Unlike foam docks, this one is composed of acrylic, which is virtually indestructible and easy to maintain. Similarly, the suction cups should last for years. And if/when the suction cups do fail, they can usually be replaced easily with aftermarket suction cups available at any good hardware store.

The only real consistent criticism of the OASIS Turtle Ramp was that the non-stick rubberized coating would eventually wear off (and was sometimes bitten off). Some reported this coating lasting for years, and some indicated that it began to come off after months. This is not surprising given the sharp claws of most basking turtles. Many users stated that they would simply buy a new OASIS ramps when the coating began to deteriorate. However, this is totally unnecessary. Rather than spending the money on a brand new ramp, just go to your local hardware store and buy: (1) a tube of silicone sealant [$2.00]; and (2) a thin rubber kitchen mat [$2.00] or something similar. Take the mat, cut it to size, and silicone it to the ramp (make sure you scrape off all of the old rubberized material first). Good as new for a total of four bucks!

For our money, there is virtually no other commercially-made turtle ramp or turtle dock that is sufficient for most mature basking turtles, particularly big red-eared sliders. And as long as you are comfortable with buying new suction cups every 5 years or so, and perhaps a little DIY when the ramp surface begins to come off, the ramp itself should last a lifetime. Remember that the “large” OASIS Turtle Rampk is best for tanks of roughly 40 gallons or more. Use the medium and/or small sizes for smaller turtles and tanks.

Turtle photo credit: StockFreeImages

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