Reptile Lighting: What Is Necessary?

Reptiles and amphibians are fast becoming the largest groups of non dog and cat pets in the United States. We are often asked about lighting for these pets and it seems that many people really do not know what the lighting needs are for their pets.

Metabolic Bone Disease and stress are two of the major causes of poor health and, ultimately, death in pet reptiles and amphibians. Both may be caused by inadequate lighting of the pets home. There are different kinds of lighting and it is very important to research the needs of the species you are going to keep. Terms to be discussed here include photoperiod, heat, UVA light and UVB light.

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 generally not wise to mix these groups in a single cage unless an advanced lighting setup can be maintained. All reptiles need their proper photoperiod or day and night cycle to stimulate their normal activity patterns. Animals which do not have the proper photoperiod become stressed and most often fade into bad health and eventually death. There are special bulbs on the pet market to provide for daylight light or nocturnal light. The red nocturnal lights not only aid the reptile in promoting normal activity, they also allow the owner to easily observe the activities.

Reptiles and amphibians are known as ectotherms, animals which must move in and out of heat to maintain their body temperature. Lighting can be a major source of heat in the terrarium. Pet reptiles need a temperature gradient to provide a source of higher heat and places to retreat out of the heat when they get too warm. It is always best to put heat lamps off to one side of the cage so that when the pet becomes warm, he can move to a cooler site to regulate his temperature. Without a good temperature gradient in the terrarium, the pet cannot maintain its body heat and can become very sick. In desert reptiles high heat is needed for food digestion and without it the reptile can eat, but cannot digest the food it eats. things to do in pomona this weekend

Reptiles and amphibians can see a whole rainbow of colors and light that we cannot see. UVA light is among these. In fact without UVA light, reptiles are colorblind so UVA light is important to the psychological health of your reptile. It helps to stimulate natural behaviors such as feeding and breeding and the types of behavior that cause us to wish to keep them as pets. Again, without UVA light, the reptile can become stressed leading to listlessness and bad 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 our UVB light from the sun. UVB light is needed for vitamin D production. Vitamin D controls the ability of the animal to use calcium in their body for bone or shell growth. Without it reptiles can develop Metabolic Bone Disease in six months or less in captivity. There are several things to remember about UVB light. It will not pass through glass, plastic or plexiglass so placing the pets terrarium in a window to get the sunlight will not gain any UVB lighting. The sunlight must be direct and if you cannot offer direct sunlight to your pet, there are a number of fluorescent bulbs on the market which provide this type of light. Not all reptiles need UVB light. Again, it is important to research the needs of your pet. Nocturnal reptiles and amphibians including many snakes and most amphibians do not get sunlight in nature because they are most often active at night when the sun is not up. These animal are able to metabolize calcium and absorb vitamin D from their food sources. Most snakes do not need UVB light because they are whole prey feeders and are able to obtain their calcium from the bones of the vertebrate prey that they eat. Small insect-eating snakes such as Rough Green Snakes and Smooth Green Snakes which are totally insectivorous do need the additional UVB light as do all diurnal lizards, turtles and tortoises.



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