Lots of people have reptiles such as bearded dragons, leopard geckos, crested geckos, snakes, among others as pets nowadays. If you are the lucky owner of any of these reptiles, the chances are that you worry about your pet's well-being, a lot, especially if you are new to owning one. In this article, we are going to talk about reptile heat and light and how important they are for the well-being of your beloved pet.
Why does your pet require heat and light?
As a loving pet parent, you surely provide essential needs of your pet such as food, water, and proper housing. Surprisingly, however, many reptile owners do not have any idea that lighting and warmth are just as important for their pets as other necessities are. Providing an adequate source of heat and light has many benefits for your pet reptile and should be treated as importantly as providing other basic requirements that your reptile needs.
If you’vedone your research about reptiles, you will know that they are cold-blooded. In essence, these animals cannot regulate their internal body temperature to suit the environmental conditions in which they find themselves unlike warm-blooded creatures, which can do this. Therefore, reptiles require just the right amount of temperature to be able to function well and survive, as they cannot survive in, or adapt to extreme temperature conditions.
What this means is that if the weather is too cold, reptiles may find it very difficult to carry out certain important functions such as digestion, plus they may become very sluggish, unhappy, and unhealthy. This does not mean that it is right for them to be overheated, either. The external temperature has to be just right for them to be able to function properly and go about their activities normally.
Since reptiles are cold-blooded, they require a good source of warmth, which they usually get from external sources, to be able to functionproperly. In the wild, these animals depend on the sun and warm air to get this warmth, and when they get too hot, move to shady areas, away from the glare of the sun. However, conditions in your home, especially if you live in cold regions, may not be favorable to your pet reptile, hence the need for you to provide heat and light which will closely mimic that of the sun and suit the requirements of your beloved pet.
It is not enough to just provide a source of light for your pet and then leavethe light 24/7 though, especially if you are using lights such as daytime lights. In as much as you want your pet to have light and heat, you have to create a balance between day and night. Remember that in the wild, reptiles are used to both day and nighttime. They depend on daylight to know when to be active and on nighttime to know when to sleep.
How can I help my pet get the right amount of heat and light that it requires?
Now that you know that your pet reptile requires an optimum temperature, you may be wondering how to help your pet to achieve that. You can do this using a temperature gradient, which is basically a source of light and heat that will suit your pet’s requirements. This is usually in form of basking light or other types of lights or other heat sources. It is important to note that not just any light would do. There are special ones that are made especially for reptiles and these are the ones that you should get.
Major types of lights that reptiles need
Two major types of lights that reptiles need to stay healthy are the UVB and UVA lights, which are both types of ultraviolet lights. UVB lights stand for Ultraviolet B light and UVA light stands for Ultraviolet A light. Both types have their purposes, with UVB light providing reptiles with the ability to synthesize their own vitamin D, which is important for the absorption of calcium. If reptiles do not get enough UVB light, they may develop some serious diseases, such as bone deformation, metabolic bone disease, and bone softening, among others.
UVA light, on the other hand, helps to regulate certain behaviors in your pet, such as diurnal movement, feeding, and the likes. You can provide these lights for your pet with the use of different devices that emit them. Some of these devices provide both heat and light, some produce only heat and others produce only light. Reptiles require lights that provide higher amounts of UVB lights.
Lighting devices with which you can provide light and heat to your pet's terrarium
The following are devices with which you can light up your pet’s tank, as well as provide heating for the animal.
- Basking lights: Basking lights for reptiles provide a good source of light, as well as heat, for reptiles. There are different types of them, and they are listed below:
- Red heat lamps: These types produce infrared light and are good for providing light all through the day and even at night, because of their low red glows.
- Nighttime basking bulbs: These ones, as the name suggests, are preferable for use at night. They closely mimic the nighttime temperature and emit low lights that will not disrupt a reptile’s sleep.
- Daylight bulbs: These bulbs produce UVA and sufficient amounts of heat to an enclosure (the higher the wattage, the higher the temperature it will produce).
- Mercury Vapor bulbs: These ones produce both heat and UVA and UVB lights.
- Ceramic heat bulbs:These devices provide adequate heat, but do not emit residual light and so are perfect for warming up your pet’s terrarium at nighttime, as they will not disrupt the sleep pattern of the animal.
- Heat mats or under-tank heating pads: Heat mats for reptiles are great devices for keeping them warm at home. These devices make use of infrared heat for heating enclosures, and they are quite affordable. Before purchasing one, however, you should consider different factors, such as its wattage, whether it can be used with a thermostat, etc.
These devices come in different wattages, and so it is best that you research the best wattage for the type of reptile that you have and make sure that the one you are buying falls into that range before you make a purchase. In the same vein, it is necessary that the device should be thermostat-ready so that the temperature in the terrarium can be automatically regulated.
Note that it is not advisable to place heating elements such as heating rocks in your pet's enclosure directly as these devices may get too hot and burn the tender underbelly of your pet. If you decide to use them, it is advisable that you place a barrier that will shield your pet from their hotness on them.
Things to consider before getting a source of heat and light for your reptile’s enclosure
As with any appliance that you get, it is important to consider certain things before you get any heating device for your reptile’s tank. Remember that appliances that produce heat can be dangerous if they are misused. Below are the things you should note before purchasing a source of light or heat for your pet’s terrarium:
- Buy products that are specifically made for reptiles: This point cannot be overemphasized. Reptiles are quite different from humans and so are their needs. Therefore, it stands to reason that what works for you may not work for your pet and can even be dangerous and pose a hazard to the animal. For instance, there are heating pads for humans, and you may be tempted to use your own for your pet. You should resist this temptation though, as these pads are not the same and may not serve the purposes of your pet.
- Consider the wattage of the product: Different heating devices have different wattages. Generally, the higher the wattage of the device, the greater the heat that will be emitted, so it is best that you check the temperature requirements of the species of reptile that you have and make sure that the device you are getting has a wattage within that range.
- Overhead heating or under-tank heating? Overhead heating devices can be hung on the roof of the terrarium and will mimic the heat of the sun more closely. Under tank heating devices are placed below. You can decide to use either, or even both together.
- Is the device thermostat ready?As much as possible, it is better to get a device that is thermostat-ready so that you can regulate the temperature in the terrarium automatically. This is necessary to prevent the temperature from going above what you have set and overheating the terrarium, as the thermostat will turn off your heating device when it attains the temperature that you have set. In the same vein, it will turn it on when the temperature is low.
Does my pet need heat at every hour of the day?
In the wild, reptiles are used to having the temperature drop lower than it would have been all day in the night. Since you want your pet to be as comfortable as possible by making conditions in its tank as close to that of its natural environment as possible, it stands to reason that at night, you should lower the temperature of your pet’s tank.
This is not to mean that reptiles do not require any heat at night. They do, only in lower amounts. To effectively manage the temperature in the tank, we recommend that you get a thermometer or more to monitor and regulate the heat in the tank as needed.
Not only that, but you also need to control the light in the terrarium. Remember that light plays a huge role in the circadian rhythm of reptiles. Your pet needs to know the difference between daytime and nighttime so that it knows when to sleep, eat, and so on. Leaving the light on at all times defeats that purpose, and so it is recommended that at night, you turn on the nighttime light.
Apart from the circadian rhythm, leaving UVB light on at all times can lead to the animal getting too much calcium. Instead, it is preferable to invest in a nighttime light, which will be low enough not to disturb the animal’s sleep. This way you can turn on the daytime light during the day, and the nighttime one at night.
What other thing does my pet need in addition to heat and light?
Depending on the type of reptile you have, it would be nice to add some elements to your pet’s tank. Doing this would make it possible for your pet to hide away from the light if it does not need it at any time. Examples of such elements include pieces of wood, rocks, etc, which would provide a shadow or space that blocks out the light in some areas so that your pet can move there if it does not want the light.
It is advisable to provide these elements in both the warm and cool parts of the terrarium, especially if you have a pet that enjoys hiding. This way, the animal will be able to hide comfortably at optimum temperature.
Every living creature requires light and heat in varying degrees and it is no different for your pet. It is important for your pet reptile to have a reliable source of heat and light that mimics its natural habitat as much as possible. Light and heat have many benefits for reptiles, including helping them regulate their body temperatures and helping them carry out important functions like digestion of food, among others.
If possible, you should get different types of lighting for the different parts of the day so that you can keep conditions in your pet's tank as similar to the ones in its natural habitat as possible. Doing this, along with providing the animal with adequate food and water will keep it healthy, happy and will prevent serious illnesses like bone softening and the likes.