Light can have many different wavelengths or energy levels, some visible and some not, and each wavelength is represented by a different color. Together, these wavelengths compose the electromagnetic spectrum which ranges from gamma rays and X-rays on the left to ultraviolet and infrared light on the right, and in the center is visible light.
Lighting plays an important role in your reptile’s environment. It can help to provide a normal cycle of night and day, can help to heat the habitat, and helps to your reptile to synthesize vitamins and minerals that promote a healthy immune system. A lack of proper lighting can have severe consequences such as stress, lethargy, refusal of food, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
All reptiles benefit from a 12-hour light/dark cycle and should be provided with visible light for 12 hours per day to simulate daytime regardless if they are diurnal or nocturnal. Most reptile habitats will require two different light bulbs: a bulb specifically designed to produce heat (often referred to as a heat bulb or basking bulb) and a bulb to provide visual/ultraviolet light.
When providing lighting for your reptile, you are attempting to simulate the light frequencies and patterns that occur in the natural habitat. This is why reptile lighting requirements can vary extensively depending on the species of the reptile. There are two primary types of light that reptiles require and those UVA and UBV, which are collectively referred to as UV lighting. The amount of UV light your reptile requires is dependent on the species. Some need daily exposure during daylight hours, while others only need a few hours.
UVA light cannot be seen by humans, but is detectible by reptiles. It enables them to recognize other reptiles and detect movement, stimulate their appetites, and promotes normal feeding, digestive, reproductive, and social behaviors.
UVB light regulates the synthesis of Vitamin D3, which helps regulate metabolism and absorption of calcium. A lack of UVB light can result in a chronic calcium deficiency which can lead to more serious conditions such as metabolic bone disease.
Reptile specific light bulbs come in a variety of types which include full spectrum, fluorescent, incandescent, and halogen.
All reptiles are cold blooded and require heat from their environment to raise their body temperatures. The majority of reptile habitats should have both a cool side and a warm side. For climbing reptiles, the temperature should be cooler at the top and warmer at the bottom. You should always monitor the temperatures and humidity levels in your reptile habitat to ensure that they remain within an acceptable range.
Diurnal reptiles should have raised basking areas with a concentrated heat source. Nocturnal reptiles don’t require a high temperature basking spot but do still need a heat source and both a cool and a warm side in their habitat. Nocturnal heat bulbs maintain the necessary habitat temperature while still providing the darkness required by diurnal reptiles at night or by nocturnal species. Other heat sources such as under tank heaters, heat cables and ceramic heat emitters also heat your reptile’s habitat without producing light.