Why Do Turtles Climb On Each Other?

Why Do Turtles Climb On Each Other

Turtles are usually seen stacking up on each other when they are basking. Basking is needed to get warmth and UV lights to maintain their bodily functions. In wild turtle basks under sunlight, they should have access to UV light for proper basking in captivity. 

Turtles, when grouped together, could be seen stacked on each other. This is more commonly seen for turtles in the wild than captive turtles. 

Due to the lack of enough space on the basking dock, turtles are usually seen climbing on each other. Other than that, sometimes their survival instincts make them stack on top of others. Let’s discuss everything about turtle stack in more depth.  

Related Article: Do Turtles Fight Each Other?

Why do turtles climb and stack on each other?

Many of you have seen turtles stacking up on one another. You might wonder why they do so. Turtles climb on each other to receive heat and UV rays from the sun or any other source of light and heat.

When the basking area is too small for turtles, they stack on each other to bask. It becomes a competition for them to be on the top, so they climb as high as possible and end up being on another turtle’s back.

There are some other reasons as well for this behavior of the turtles. When turtles climb on each other or stack themselves, they appear bigger, and hence it can be used to scare off any predators near them.

Turtles also like to climb on each other to assert dominance. The most dominant one will be on the top of all the turtles to receive the heat. These are the reasons why turtles climb on each other. It might sound very odd to people for the first time, but the reason behind it will surely blow up their minds.

A lot of times, people think that turtles stack to be sociable. But the answer is no. They aren’t sociable animals. Even though many of their species live in large groups, they just share common habits and normally ignore one another. They often bask at the same spots in ponds, lakes, and rivers resulting in stacking on one another simply because there is not enough space for all of them.

Do turtles like to stack?

Turtles stack whenever they need light and warmth. They can also show this behavior in self-defense against predators. We cannot say if they like it or not. Studies suggest that they pile up on each other out of compulsion.

The stacking of turtles is not harmful as long as they are healthy and their shells are strong enough to withstand the weight of the overlying turtles. It can be harmful only if the turtles are ill or their shells are injured. The bottom turtles might get less sunlight than the others. Because of less availability of light, turtles may indulge in occasional fights during stacking. It is a very common behavior by the turtles for survival.

Whenever you see your pet turtles climbing on each other, please don’t remove them. It will do more harm than good. After getting enough warmth and light, they will separate themselves. In the wild, most of the time there is not enough basking space for the whole group of turtles. So not all of them may not get the chance to bask. To solve this, they stack on each other.

Turtles are ectothermic animals and cannot generate heat in their bodies. They depend on the sunlight to warm their body. They can swim for hours underwater, but they have to come to the surface to dry their bodies from time to time. Stacking helps them to generate heat faster. When they climb onto each other and stack, the sun’s warmth is more effective.

Is turtle stacking harmful for them?

Turtle stacking may increase the concern of fights among turtles, but there is not enough evidence to support it. However, there are worries about pressure on the shell, less exposure to warmth, and bullying.

While the warnings on bullying and lesser warmth exposure are up for discussion, there is no need for you to worry about the shell weakening or getting fractured.

The most common concerns about turtle stacking would be things such as:

  • Damages may be caused to the weaker and smaller turtle’s shells.
  • Turtles may become sick or be affected by the disease if less exposed to UV rays and warmth.
  • There may be occurrences concerning bullying and aggression.

The stacking positions, in most cases, aren’t permanent. They often swap between sessions. Thus, there shouldn’t be any worries about the bottom turtle not getting enough UV or sunlight.

Stacking is generally considered harmless and is not usually damaging to the turtle’s health.

If a turtle is always at the bottom of a pile, it can suffer from vitamin D deficiency, especially if the lights in the enclosure are outputting less than the needed UVB light. However, the possibility of this is likely to be low.

In captivity, stacking could be dangerous if the topmost turtle touches the basking light. In the worst case, it can even cause burns. In indoor enclosures where the main source of warmth is a heat lamp or ceramic emitter, you should be careful if your turtle stacks.

Related Articles:
Turtle Shell Rot Vs Shedding
Do Turtles Need Sunlight?

How to stop turtles from stacking on each other?

When there is not much space left under their basking spot, turtles start piling on each other. In such a situation, you need to upsurge the basking area. However, do not increase the size of the bulb. If you do that, you’ll have to balance the basking spot temperatures again, and the turtles will continue to pile up. It would be much easier for you to increase the basking area to accommodate more turtles underneath.

Another option you could go for is getting two lower-watt basking bulbs and putting them side-by-side or close to each other. This does two things concurrently:

  • The size of the basking area is increased.
  • However, the basking temperature remains the same.

This will be a good option if you have three or more turtles in the same habitat. If that’s the case, your tank or habitat should be of the appropriate size to house not only all the turtles but also the bigger basking space.

The other possible decision would be to make two different basking spots in your tank, but it’s not recommended for the following reasons.

  • To start with, it’s basically more of a bother organizing everything this way.
  • There’s a good chance that your turtles will keep stacking on each other anyways.


Turtles make a climb on each other to get more warmth from the heating source. This could happen when there is not enough space on the basking platform. Another reason for this is to scare predators. Turtles are clever enough to stack on each other to appear less vulnerable in front of the predators. This theory would be more intimidating and considered a good way to scare off potential predators. While it is an innate behavior of turtles, you can help them by providing more basking areas in their enclosure.