What Reptile Lighting Needs : Reptiles and amphibians are quickly becoming the largest non-dog and feline pet group in the United States. We are often asked about this lighting for pets and it seems like a lot of people really don’t know what lighting needs for their pets are.
Metabolic Bone Disease and stress are the two leading causes of ill health and, ultimately, death in pet reptiles and amphibians. Both may be caused by inadequate lighting from the pet’s house. There are many different types of lighting and it is important to research the needs of the species you are keeping. The terms that will be discussed here include photoperiod, heat, UVA rays and UVB rays.
Different species of reptiles and amphibians have different periods of activity during the day. Some are active during the day (diurnal), some are active at night (nocturnal) and some are active at dawn and dusk (crepuscular). It is usually unwise to mix this group in one cage unless sophisticated lighting arrangements can be made. . maintained. All reptiles need a proper photoperiod or day and night cycle to stimulate their normal activity patterns.
Animals that do not have the proper photoperiod become stressed and most often deteriorate to poor health and eventually die. There are special lamps in the pet market to provide light day or night. The nocturnal red light not only helps the reptile in promoting normal activity, but also allows the owner to easily observe its activity.
Reptiles and amphibians are known as ectotherms, animals that must move in and out of heat to maintain their body temperature. Lighting can be the main source of heat in a terrarium. Pet reptiles need a temperature gradient to provide a higher heat source and a place to escape the heat when they get too warm.
It is always best to turn off the heating light on one side of the cage so that when the pet gets warm, it can move to a cooler place to regulate its temperature. Without a good temperature gradient in the terrarium, pets cannot retain body heat and can become very sick. In desert reptiles high heat is required for the digestion of food and without it the reptile can eat, but cannot digest the food it eats.
Reptiles and amphibians can see all the colors and lights of the rainbow that we cannot. UVA rays are one of them. Even without UVA light, reptiles are color blind, so UVA light is important for your reptile’s psychological health.
This helps stimulate natural behaviors such as feeding and breeding and the kinds of behaviors that cause us to want to keep them as pets. Again, without UVA rays, reptiles can become stressed leading to lethargy and poor health. All pet reptiles should have access to UVA lighting and most fluorescent light bulbs made for the pet reptile industry now offer this type of light.
Reptiles in nature and we humans get UVB rays from the sun. UVB light is required for the production of vitamin D. Vitamin D controls the ability of animals to use the calcium in their bodies for bone or shell growth. Without it reptiles can develop Metabolic Bone Disease in six months or less in captivity. There are a few things to remember about UVB rays.
It won’t pass through glass, plastic or plexiglass so placing a pet terrarium in a window to get sunlight won’t get UVB lighting. The sun must be direct and if you cannot provide direct sunlight to your pet, there are a number of fluorescent lamps on the market that provide this type of light. Not all reptiles need UVB light. Again, it is important to research your pet’s needs.
Nocturnal reptiles and amphibians include many snakes and most amphibians do not get sunlight in nature as they are most often active at night before sunrise. These animals are able to metabolize calcium and absorb vitamin D from food sources.
Most snakes do not need UVB light because they are whole prey eaters and can obtain calcium from the bones of the vertebrate prey they eat. Small insectivorous snakes such as the Coarse Green Snake and Smooth Green Snake which are truly insectivorous require additional UVB light as do all diurnal lizards, tortoises and tortoises.
Remember to always research the needs of the species you are keeping. With the right lighting, your pet reptile can live a long and healthy life and provide years of fun.