The lighting you choose to use in your reptile's habitat is very important, both for its physical and mental well-being. Natural, unfiltered sunlight is the best source of UV light, however this can be difficult to provide, especially when you take into consideration that the natural lighting for many of these reptiles is much different than what they will receive in most of the United States.
Proper lighting is much more involved than simply hanging a regular light bulb over their habitats. Most reptiles need full spectrum lights in their habitats to provide them with UVA and UVB light, neither of which is supplied by regular light bulbs. Determining which bulbs to use, how to use them, and then setting them up is a process that takes time and effort. But why is the light in your herp's habitat so important to his overall health?
Reptile Vision and UVA Light
Seeing UV light allows them to recognize other reptiles of their same species and detect movement. It also stimulates appetite by making food more appealing. The presence of UVA light promotes proper foraging, feeding, digestion, activity levels, social behavior, reproduction, and basking.
Using artificial lights that have been designed for humans or lights that do not provide full spectrum light deprives reptiles of UVA light and causes serious behavioral, physiological, and health issues. Lack of UVA light impairs their ability to interact with their environment and other animals within it, causing unnecessary stress and affecting their overall well-being.
UVB Light and Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 functions in a number of different capacities in a reptile's body, including:
Reptiles that do not get enough UVB light do not make enough Vitamin D3, and they suffer from chronic calcium deficiency, or hypocalcemia. Lack of calcium can cause painful diseases, such as metabolic bone disease.
While it is highly important that reptiles of all ages get sufficient exposure to UVB light, it is crucial that young and juvenile reptiles get enough. If a reptile does not get UVB light after he is born and during the first couple years, he will never be able to properly use UVB light to synthesis Vitamin D3. He will suffer from calcium deficiencies the rest of his life.
To serve its purpose, UVB light must fall into the proper wavelengths between 290 and 320 nm. UVB light that is too low will not induce the synthesis of Vitamin D3. UVB light that is too high can raise the skin temperature too high, which also impairs the reptile's ability to create D3.
Tips for Providing UV Light
Reptiles vary widely in their UV light requirements, but one fact is common to all species: they are all adapted to natural sunlight, and there is no way that you can exactly replicate their natural environment in captivity. However, with the right knowledge and set-up, you can copy it as closely as possible.