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Heating and Lighting for Reptiles

When you consider the needs of your reptile pets, one of the most important should be the maintenance of the correct types of heat and light. The correct temperatures are required by your pet to properly digest food, utilize nutrients and for the proper functioning of the body organs. Two types of light are required. UVA creates the day/night cycle and is the type of light emitted by a heat bulb: UVB is the type of light that is used by the reptile body to metabolize the vitamins used by the body to utilize calcium and other minerals. In today’s technology, UVB is not produced by any incandescent bulb. UVB is only produced in fluorescent tubes. There are companies who market "full spectrum" bulbs, but this is inaccurate. Failure to supply UVB specific lighting to a reptile that requires it is a gross error and will, eventually, result in the death of your pet.

One of the most important steps in properly caring for a pet is to research the needs of his species. The reptile pets of today come from many climates, areas and geographic regions. It is impossible to find one formula of care that will serve such a diverse group.

UVB lights come in more than one "strength". The amount of UVB required is determined by the origin of the pet, whether it is a nocturnal animal and whether it is a snake, lizard, tortoise or amphibian. The best source of correct information is a reputable exotic pet store. If a store attempts to sell you a heat rock while you are purchasing ANY reptile, this is questionable. If a store tells you that a heat rock is THE ONLY source of heat required by any reptile, this is not the place to buy a reptile pet. Heat rocks cause many deaths each year due to burns. Sometimes the rocks malfunction. More often, the animal simply lays on the rock for such an extended amount of time that it eventually burns. Reptiles are not designed to feel heat from the under belly. Reptiles are designed to regulate the heat coming from the sun, or overhead. This analogy may help explain this concept better.

Imagine that you are in your underwear, in a room kept at 50 degrees F. All you are provided with is a plastic mat whose temperature is kept at 140 degrees F. This is hot to the touch but would not burn you if used for very short intervals. Being kept at a temperature of 50 degrees will eventually result in hypothermia, but it might take awhile. In the meantime, you are VERY uncomfortable. Given the options of continual discomfort from the cold, or lying on this mat, which would you choose? Even if you choose the mat, only half of your body is warmed at one time. If you lie on your back, your chest is cold. Wouldn’t it be much more comfortable to be in a room where the temperature was 72 degrees F? There is nothing there that can burn you and you can be comfortable anywhere you go. This is the plight of an animal given a heat rock.

Heating and lighting are only two of the many aspects of proper reptile care. Consumers must take the time to properly research the needs of their pets. Keeping reptiles can be a very rewarding and simple project if you supply the animal with the proper environment, nutrition, humidity and supplements. Please take the time to find out the needs of your pet.

Presented as a public service by Scales of Brandon, 813-661-7700


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