I’ve read many recommendations for making a platform just a few inches under the water surface for your turtles and I decided it was time I tried it out.

For my tank, I decided that I wanted a wooden platform for the turtles. Except for the glass bottom (no gravel) I want my tank to look as natural as possible – of course my white eggcrate divider is an eyesore, but I haven’t found a more natural looking divider that works just as good.

Since the wooden platform will be submerged throughout its use, it’s important that the wood be durable and not float (like corkbark would). The natural choice for me was African mopani wood. They sink right away and are strong and durable.

Now for the instructional…

Materials and equipment needed:

Shop for mopani driftwood and aquarium suction cups from That Pet Place.

Step 1: Find suitable pieces of driftwood

Preferably a single piece of mopani wood with a 90 degree curve. Or two separate pieces that you can join together. Make sure that it will be long enough to be able to get near the surface of the water, that it has enough height. (You can see Cinderella, my female red eared slider turtle, in the tank):

DIY underwater turtle basking platform

For Rex, my male red ear slider turtle, I found a nice single piece of driftwood with an angle. It’s Y-shaped, with the bend in the center. Perfect:

For Cinderella, I found two pieces of driftwood that can be joined together like so:

(note: I had already completed step 1.5 and step 2 when I took the photo)

Step 1.5:
Connect driftwood together

This step is for multiple pieces of driftwood to make one platform. Drill holes near the connection points. See my notes on drilling holes onto mopani driftwood in Step 2.

Holes for the connecting points to join separate wood pieces together:

DIY underwater turtle basking platform

Attach the separate pieces together with zip ties:

But the two pieces kept angling and moving away from the perfect position:

DIY underwater turtle basking platform

I fixed this by connecting the pieces by more zip ties, like so:

DIY underwater turtle basking platform

Step 2: Drill attachment holes

These are the holes that will be used to attach suction cups to your underwater basking platform. You will need at least two suction cups to hold your platform steady. More is better.

I used a 3/8″ drill bit to make my holes. Mopani driftwood is very strong wood and made the drill bit extremely hot. I was afraid to use my regular drill under running water, so I kept dunking water onto the drill spot every couple of seconds. Be patient with this step, it will take several minutes. Finished holes:

Step 3: Attach suction cups

I attached my suction cups to the driftwood by:

  1. tying one ziptie around the base of one suction cup
  2. tying another ziptie around the first ziptie and into the holes you drilled in Step 2.

attaching the suction cups:

Step 4: Clean everything

Cut the extra bits of ziptie material off so they don’t poke your turtles eyes. Or so they don’t eat them. And it looks better.

Cut them off:

DIY underwater turtle basking platform

Then wash and clean your work. Make sure to remove any sawdust, dirt, stickers and whatever else might be on your wood, suction cups, and zip ties.

Step 5: Put it all in the tank

Put your platform/s in the tank. Attach the suction cups to the glass. Hope that your turtles will like them and use the platforms.

You can adjust the height of the platform by sliding the suction cups around. This is great as you can adjust the height of the platform as the water level recedes between water changes. I do this. One of my turtles, Rex, has figured out how to adjust his platform. I don’t know how he does it, but he gets it done.

Step 6: Enjoy!

Smile as you see your turtles enjoying their underwater basking platforms. Marvel as they sleep on it, make poses, climb all over, and just plain look cute and cool. Take lots of photos. Share those photos here, in the comments section below.

Please feel free to leave any comments, suggestions, questions, and links to photos of your platforms & turtles in the comments section below.


  1. 1) Why are the basking platforms partially under water, don’t the turtles prefer to be free of the water when they bask ? In other words, is it better to have the basking area above the water ?

    2) How does the platform which is attached to the partition/separator on one side only, remain stable, so that a turtle can climb on them ? I imagine they would turn over or at least bob downwards when a turtle tries to climb aboard.

    1. Hi,
      1) you are right, my turtles regular basking areas are partly underwater – that is so that they can climb from the water onto the dry basking area. Yes, there should be a completely dry basking area for pet turtles.

      2) I use corkbark and it does go down a bit, but the area they are on stays completely above the water and dry. My turtles are getting bigger and heavier, soon I’ll need to find a way for the corkbark to not go down under their weight or replace the basking areas altogether.

    1. glass bottoms don’t look natural. The underwater pet turtle platform that the post is about is what looks natural.