!Header Content 1

Animal Care Hospital
Call us today! 319-378-9000
Call us today! 319-378-9000

1146 Blairs Ferry Rd NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

Choosing Reptile Lighting

September 1 2023

One thing that is crucial to many reptiles is proper lighting. Reptiles have very different physiology than mammals. They depend on external temperatures to regulate their body heat. Some also require ultraviolet light to metabolize nutrients properly.  As your Marion, IA area veterinarian, I offer some insight on this below.day white light, day blue light, night black heat, or night red heat.

Heat Bulbs

Heat bulbs in reptile cages act almost as artificial suns, providing both light and heat. There are several kinds, such as halogen bulbs, incandescent bulbs, and ceramic. These produce various types of light, such as day white light, day blue light, night black heat, or night red heat.

Reptile Needs

Different reptiles have different environmental needs. A tropical lizard, like an iguana, may do best with a gradient that ranges from 75 to 105. Bearded dragons need more heat, with a gradient that ranges from 90 to 100. It’s crucial to find out what temperature your little buddy needs before shopping. This will vary depending on their age, size, and natural habitat. For instance, a lizard that is adapted to desert environments will need brighter light than one from a rain forest. Do plenty of research, and ask your veterinarian for tips. 

Tank Size

Another thing to consider is the size of your pet’s habitat. If the bulb is meant for a bigger tank, your reptilian pal could overheat or even get scalded! The UVI, which is the measurement of UV light, also weakens with distance.

UVB Lighting

In addition to visible UVA light, reptiles also require UVB light to process Vitamin D3 and calcium. Deficiencies in Vitamin D3 are very dangerous for reptiles, as it can lead to metabolic bone disease, a very painful and potentially fatal condition. There are several kinds of UVB lights available, such as mercury vapor bulbs, compact UVB bulbs, T8 and T5, and fluorescent tubes. Compact bulbs look a lot like standard light bulbs, while the T8 and T5 tubes are strip lights, with the T5 being the more powerful. Mercury vapor bulbs emit both light and heat, but cannot be controlled by thermostat. 


You’ll need to replace the bulbs regularly. They may weaken before they burn out, so your pet may not be getting the UV they need even if the habitat looks fine. You’ll also need quality equipment for monitoring conditions. 

Do you have questions about reptile care or habitats? Contact me, your Marion, IA area veterinarian, anytime!