Can I Put My Tortoise on a Hot Water Bottle?

If your tortoise’s heat source breaks down unexpectedly, don’t panic! There are quite a few different short-term methods of producing heat that should do the trick until you’re able to purchase a new heat source. You may be wondering whether you can use items you already have at home to keep your tortoise warm, such as a hot water bottle.

So can I put my tortoise on a hot water bottle? A hot water bottle can provide enough heat for your tortoise for a short period of time, but it’s important to refill it frequently to keep the temperature up.

Below, find out more about tortoises and hot water bottles, along with some other emergency heat sources. You can also read about whether tortoises are able to survive without a heat source, the importance of UVB light, and different types of heat sources you can use on a regular basis.

Tortoises and Hot Water Bottles

In an emergency situation where you can’t use your typical heat source, a water bottle can be sufficient–but you’ll need to remember to refill it rather frequently, because its temperature will drop rapidly.

A water bottle is only a temporary solution and will need to be replaced by a more efficient heat source as soon as possible, but it will work for a short period of time. 

Other Emergency Heat Sources

If you’re in a pinch, here are some helpful suggestions to keep your tortoise warm! Keep in mind that none of these solutions should be used on a permanent basis. They should only be utilized as an emergency measure if your primary heat source stops working. You can try:

  • Placing a desk lamp with a strong lightbulb over the enclosure
  • Wrapping hand warmers in a towel to act as a heat mat
  • Filling 2 one-gallon jugs with hot water, putting them in a cooler with a board on top of them, and placing the tortoise on top with a blanket
  • Filling tube socks with rice and heating them in the microwave

Can a Tortoise Survive Without a Heat Source?

A heat source is very important for your tortoise to function properly. Heat keeps its metabolism going and helps your pet digest food. According to some experts, tortoises are actually very good at adapting to climates that are a bit colder than the ones they would encounter in nature.

For example, tortoises that live outdoors, especially over the winter months, often experience cooler temperatures than they would in the areas they’re native to.

However, it’s not recommended to set up an enclosure outdoors for your tortoise without any kind of heat source. Although tortoises are sometimes capable of adapting to other environments and climates, that doesn’t mean they should have to.

It’s much better to imitate their ideal environment. This means temperatures that range from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the nighttime. During the daytime, you’ll want to create a temperature gradient of about 70 to 75 degrees on the cool side and 80 to 90 degrees on the warm side. 

Signs Your Tortoise Is Too Cold

One serious condition that can develop as a result of not getting enough warmth is an upper respiratory infection. Some symptoms of a respiratory infection include nasal discharge, lethargy, and trouble breathing.

Your tortoise may also struggle to digest food if it’s not getting enough heat. However, these problems won’t develop overnight; they’re more likely to become issues if your tortoise has been without a proper heat source for a prolonged period of time. 

Does My Tortoise Need a Heat Source and a UVB Light?

Yes, a UVB light is necessary even if you have a good heat source! UVB light is very different from the type of light your heat source may give off. It’s essential for tortoises because it helps their bones and shell grow and develop properly. Without UVB light, your tortoise will become very ill and can even die.

Make sure to replace your UVB light every six months to a year. If you have to go a couple of days in between your UVB light going out and buying a new one, your tortoise shouldn’t suffer–but be sure to replace it as soon as you can. 

You should aim to have your tortoise’s UVB light switched on for about 12 hours a day, creating a day and night cycle similar to what your pet would experience if it lived in the wild. Even if your tortoise seems to prefer burrowing to basking, it’s very important to have the light available.  

Heat Sources for Tortoises

Here are some common heat sources used for tortoise enclosures, along with their pros and cons.

Ceramic Heaters

Also known as infrared dull emitters, ceramic heaters are a good choice if you need to heat a large area. One thing to keep in mind is that these heaters do get very hot and can burn you or your pet if you’re not careful. It’s very important to position them carefully and take the necessary safety precautions, such as using a warm-air humidifier along with a ceramic heater. 

Although ceramic heaters can be a somewhat large investment upfront, they last for a long time–upwards of 10 years! You will still need to purchase a UVB light in addition to your ceramic heater. Although it provides plenty of warmth, it doesn’t give off the necessary rays that will keep your tortoise healthy.

Hot Rocks

Avoid these at all costs! Although they are marketed as being safe for reptiles, they can actually cause horrible burns. Additionally, only the surface of the rock heats up, rather than the environment around it.

Heat Pads

Heat pads are often recommended, but they do come with a few downsides. Some experts have noticed issues with thermoregulation (regulation of temperature) in tortoises that have heat pads.

Heat pads are also unnatural compared to ceramic heaters because the heat comes from below the ground rather than from above like it would in nature. Because of this, heat pads don’t encourage basking, which is a natural tortoise behavior. Additionally, heat pads give off a gentler, lesser amount of heat than other sources.

Even if you don’t want to use a heat pad as your tortoise’s main source of heat, it’s a good thing to have one on hand. They come in handy for travel or to help a sick tortoise maintain its body temperature. You could also choose to use a heat pad in addition to another source of heat.

Heat Panels

Heat panels are great for heating large spaces, and unlike heating pads, they’re made to be placed on the ceiling or the back wall of your tortoise’s enclosure. Placing them on the top of the enclosure encourages basking and imitates the way the sun shines in the wild.

They’re considered extremely reliable and can be controlled easily with an electronic thermostat. Keep in mind you’ll still need to provide a UVB light for your tortoise, however.

Do I Need a Thermostat?

You absolutely do! It’s essential to keep your tortoise’s environment at the correct temperature. This will keep your tortoise healthy and active. While you may be tempted to purchase a mechanical thermostat because of the low price point, remember that it won’t be as accurate or reliable as a digital thermostat. 

It’s a wise idea to invest in a good thermostat for your tortoise’s enclosure. Higher-end thermostats have the capability to adjust temperatures automatically according to a set day and night cycle.

Even with a more expensive thermostat, you’ll still want to invest in some high-quality thermometers so you can double-check that the optimal temperature is maintained. 


You can definitely use a hot water bottle as a temporary measure to keep your tortoise warm, but you’ll need to invest in a more permanent heat source as soon as you can. You can choose between a ceramic heater, heat pad, or heat panels. Always avoid hot rocks, even if they’re marketed as being safe for tortoises!

It’s essential to have a good digital thermostat and a couple of digital thermometers so that you can always monitor the temperature in your tortoise’s enclosure. During the day, the cool side of the enclosure should be about 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the warm side should range from 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember that your tortoise most likely won’t suffer any ill effects from going without a strong heat source for a day or so, as long as you provide an alternate heat source. But it’s definitely important to invest in a high-quality heat source for your pet! Not only will it help your tortoise stay healthy, but it will also keep it active and happy.


I’m Devin Nunn, an average joe that just so happens to have a deep love and passion for everything to do with reptiles. Because taking care of them for the vast majority of my life wasn’t fulfilling enough, I decided to begin educating others about them through my articles. read more...