Owning a pet reptile or amphibian not only takes a lot of dedication, but also more supplies than you would normally need for such a small pet. Not only do they need special kinds of food and feeding/watering accessories but they also require a habitat that best recreates the kind of conditions they are used to in the wild. They need the right kind of organic materials and fauna for them to feel at home. One aspect of making an artificial reptile habitat is often marginalized, however, and that's the right kind of lighting. Reptiles and amphibians require specific types of lighting set-ups for indoor habitats that allow them to thermo-regulate their bodies.

This means that, unlike most other types of warm-blooded mammalian pets, reptiles and amphibians depend on direct sunlight to warm their bodies. They can also detect seasonal changes in the different ways they can view more of the light spectrum through their eyes and skin. As a result, they need special lighting that allows them to bask, or position themselves, directly in full view of whatever light source you provide for them. It's especially important for these types of pets to absorb as much infrared light (UVB) as possible since this type of photon radiation is the primary way they warm their cold blood and digest certain vitamins and minerals from the food they eat.

Ultraviolet light, or UV light, is also useful for them since reptiles can perceive more of the color spectrum than humans can and often adjust their finicky behavior as a result - making artificial lighting set-ups particularly tricky to get right. The right lighting can affect their eating habits, their activity and even their reproductive behavior if you have a male and female pet. You have to provide ample amounts of full-spectrum lighting to help heat their bodies and let them see all the colors their eyes are able to perceive if you don't want to their eyesight to deteriorate. This makes natural sunlight the preferred option but often people can't utilize sunlight depending on where the habitat is kept. The type of bulb you use (incandescent, fluorescent, halogen or LED) directly affects the kind of light spectrum you can artificially create.

Everything having to do with stands or lamp styles are secondary to the type of bulb used. With these obstacles in mind, here are the 5 best artificial lighting set-ups for pet reptile and amphibian habitats.

Zoo Med Basking Spot Lamp - 2 pack

There are a few features that any good lighting set-up for reptile habitats must have: infrared and UVA output and plenty of opportunity for your reptile or amphibian to bask in this light long enough. You need to make a basking area where your pet reptile or amphibian can warm its whole body - not only one section at a time. Basking flood lamp set-ups are the easiest and most low-tech options for providing effective habitat lighting for such pets.

These lamps are often cheap and need constant replacing but they provide an excellent low-cost option for those with smaller pets that don't need more than one basking area in their habitat. Zoo Med's offering comes in a 2 pack of bulbs and not much else. These, however, are 100 incandescent bulbs with a double reflector that focuses 35% more heat and light into a tight beam - perfect for tropical and desert diurnal reptiles that require basking time to thermo-regulate.

Pros

- Flood lamps are great for basking the entire reptile body, not just one spot

- Perfect for basking set-ups

- Affordable

Cons

- Need to buy a separate lamp set-up to use, Bare bones set-up

- Bulbs don't last very long when used as directed (10-12 hours daily)

Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Mini Compact Fluorescent (13 watts)

Incandescent lamps may be a great way to supply a reptile or amphibian with heat, but they are often woefully inadequate at providing full-spectrum lighting and can be extremely energy-inefficient. "Daylight" or "Natural" lighting fluorescent light set-ups can provide both heat and full-spectrum lighting at more than half the energy costs. Zoo Med has tried to fill this need by offering their ReptiSun 10.0 UVB Mini-Compact fluorescent built specifically for reptile habitats.

Using only 13 watts, this bulb has 10% UVB or infrared light output (best for heat) and 30% UVA output (for full-spectrum light). It uses a special UVB transmitting quartz glass for maximum infrared penetration. This bulb is also designed for use either horizontally or vertically in whichever type of lamp stand you use it with (which, unfortunately, also does not come with this Zoo Med product).

Pros

- Energy-saving fluorescent bulb

- Provides both heat and full-spectrum lighting

- More versatile than incandescent flood lamps

Cons

- Need to provide own lamp stand

Zilla UVB Fluorescent Bulb 18 inch

Zilla provides a T-8 UVB fluorescent bulb that releases UVB light rays and UVA rays to enhance their health and the natural colors of their habitat, plants and fauna. It's intended for use with Zilla's T-8 Strip light fixtures but any fluorescent strip where T-8 bulbs can fit in should be just fine. Just be sure to replace them every 12 months and position your light at least six inches away from any basking area.

Pros

- Offers full-spectrum light and infrared radiation for warmth.

- Ideal for desert dwelling reptiles and amphibians

Cons

- Needs T-8 Fluorescent bulb strip to be used properly

Exo Terra Repti-Glo 5.0 Compact Fluorescent Tropical Terrarium Lamp

Continuing with compact fluorescent bulbs, this tropical terrarium lamp bulb uses UVA radiation to stimulate reptile and amphibian appetites and activity. It comes with both 13 and 26 watt UVB output options that are effective for 12 inches. If you want a higher visual output, you want to combine this bulb with their Repti-Glo 2.0 bulbs for maximum heat and light output.

Pros

- Great from a distance between 6 and 12 inches.

- Energy efficient and affordable.

Cons

- Degrading UV output of fluorescent bulb, replaced after one year

Zoo Med Repti Sun 10.0 UVB

Finally, this last entry from Zoo Med is their 10 UVB fluorescent bulb with larger terrariums in mind where more output is needed. Larger reptiles and amphibians are especially vulnerable to metabolic bone disease. This bulb is best for providing enough UVB and UVA light for such larger pets where more than 12 inches of penetration is required.

Pros

- Best for larger terrariums

- Excellent for providing UVB light for larger pets

Cons

- Not appropriate for smaller reptiles or amphibians

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