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Choosing the Right Reptile Heat Lamp

Choosing the Right Reptile Heat Lamp

Reptiles make fantastic pets, but the belief that they are “easy” to care for isn’t entirely accurate. It is essential to research their appropriate diet, handling, enrichment and habitat needs. So while your reptile may not require daily walks, other considerations – especially crafting the perfect habitat – will require some focus and dedication.

When it comes to reptile habitats, one of the most essential elements to creating the happiest and healthiest spot for your pet to live will be including the appropriate type of lighting sources. Reptiles need vitamin D3 to stay healthy and to help absorb calcium and a light is the best source for it. The right light also provides an essential heating source and can affect feeding, social behavior and overall activity.

There are many different types of reptile lighting available, and what you end up needing will depend on your reptile and habitat size, among other factors. We’ll walk you through the process to ensure that you pick the right lighting based on your reptile’s particular needs.

Reptile lamp types and features


Reptile lamps come with many different features. Some important ones to familiarize yourself with include the following “types” of light that different bulbs offer:


  • Visible daylight helps establish a natural light cycle for the reptile and should be used 10-14 hours a day, to establish the appropriate light cycle by species
  • Night light provides diffused heat without disrupting the sleep cycle to ensure that the reptile stays properly heated at night
  • Heat levels for bulbs come in varying wattages in order to maintain optimum terrarium temperatures based on your particular reptile
  • Basking bulbs give off a focused beam of heat, which allows your pet to thermoregulate, or keep its body temperature within a healthy level
  • Diffuse bulbs deliver a less concentrated heat, which is great for warming upper canopy areas
  • UVB light is essential for the production of Vitamin D3 in reptiles, enabling them to absorb calcium and helping them maintain strong bones
  • UVA helps stimulate appetites, breeding and can promote natural behaviors

You can use the chart below to determine which lamps offer key features your pet will need. Once you determine which features are right for your pet’s habitat, click on the link for more information particular to that specific Zoo Med lamp.


Zoo Med Reptile Lighting Guide

Different reptile light needs

After familiarizing yourself with the features of the various lamp types, you can determine which one you’ll need based on your reptile. For example, the following is lighting advice for some of the most common reptile pets:

  • Corn snake: Provide eight to 12 hours of light daily; don’t leave white light on at all times; a nocturnal or infrared light should be used at night
  • Leopard gecko: Provide 10 to 12 hours of light per day. Because these reptiles are nocturnal, they don’t require UVB lighting. An incandescent bulb can be used for basking during daylight hours only; a ceramic heater or nocturnal heat bulb can be used at all hours.
  • Russian tortoise: Provide UVB lighting for 12 to 14 hours per day
  • Bearded dragon: Provide UVB rays with full-spectrum lighting for 10 to 12 hours per day; an incandescent day bulb can be used to provide basking light during daylight hours only, and a ceramic heater or nocturnal bulb can be used at all hours
  • Ball python: Provide eight to 12 hours of light daily; white light should never be left on continuously; use a nocturnal or infrared light at night

Using the above resources as a guide, you can help determine which types of lighting are necessary to keep your particular reptile healthy and happy. If you need additional help picking out the best bulb for your pet, consult with your veterinarian, or check with Petco for additional reptile lighting guides.

With the appropriate housing, diet, and grooming and hygiene techniques, you can ensure that your reptile remains your happy and healthy companion for many years to come.