The Wonders Of Light
An insight into the world of captive
herpetological heating & lighting
The Wonders Of Light
An insight into the world of captive
herpetological heating & lighting
What is Full Spectrum Light? The Understanding
In recent years the understanding and What’s key to understand is that you need to
implementation of full spectrum lighting within get a good quality of light across the whole
the area of private captive herpetology has spectrum in order to ascertain the full benefits
greatly improved. We are starting to realise the of implementing your heat and light in this way.
true benefits of all aspects of heat and light Everything from the UV end of the spectrum
within our enclosures. all the way through the visible light, that the
human eye can see, and way beyond into the
So what does ‘Full Spectrum Lighting’ actually infrared end of the scale is required for your
mean? animal to thrive instead of survive.
Full spectrum lighting is not actually a true It can prove tricky when it comes to explaining
technical term but more scientific slang to mean exactly how this all comes together as you
part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The part can really delve into the depths of science and
it refers to is the range of wavelengths necessary wavelengths. However, a wise man (Mr Roman
to sustain life on Earth: ultraviolet (UV), visible Muryn) uses an analogy, which I’m going to
and infrared (See figure 1). borrow, of speakers for a hi-fi system which I will
explain as we go through.
Ultraviolet (UV) or the tweeter speakers of the
The UV side of the spectrum is now fairly well
understood in the hobby with the majority of
keepers now utilising T5 tubes or other methods
to provide the correct level of UV. I am a firm
believer that any and all reptile or amphibian
Figure 1 - The Full Light Spectrum
Sunlight is described as full spectrum lighting. species requires UV, with the only exceptions
being deep cave dwellers that never venture
It’s worth noting at this point that although out. The question you should ask is not do I need
throughout this article we are aiming to mimic UV, but what level of UV is required. It may only
sunlight in our enclosures, with the technology be a small amount for a nocturnal species but
that is currently available (and/or affordable) they will still cryptic bask in it during the day.
this is impossible. What we should encourage to
achieve is getting as close to it as possible.
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UV light in reptiles is the primary source of Also if you are using a live planted enclosure
vitamin D3 which is required in order for them you will mostly likely see more sustainable and
to absorb and use Calcium. Lack of the correct improved plant growth.
levels of D3 can result in conditions such as
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD).
FIGURE 2 – An example of a HO T5 Lamp from Arcadia
Visible Light or the midrange speakers of the hi-
FIGURE 3 – An example of a GU10 LED lamp
Most people would argue that providing a light Infrared or the subwoofer speaker of the hi-fi
emitting basking lamp along with the visible system:
light emitted from the UV source would class
as the ‘visible light’ element required. That is This part of the spectrum is not visible to the
partially correct but it only provides part of the human eye but is vitally important. Infra-red is
visible light spectrum (depending on the lamp known to have healing and medicinal properties
used). For example standard tungsten halogen which is why it is used in both human and animal
lamps usually produce around 2700-3000K which medicines to aid and speed up the healing
is down towards the red light scale end of visible process. In the case of keeping reptiles most
light. T5 tubes generally speaking sit around tungsten based halogen lamps along with the
7000K+ which is at the very blue/white end. So purposely developed Deep Heat Projector lamps
what about the bit in the middle? These tend from Arcadia will emit the correct infrared wave
to get forgotten or disregarded, but there are lengths. These are the real work horses when it
simple and effective ways to include these. By comes to warming your animals up. It’s these
using a selection of LED lamps of various colours wave lengths that penetrate the skin and warms
spread across the remainder of the visible light the animal up from inside. The same feeling you
spectrum you can fill this gap. get when your sun bathing on a beach and you
start to have that warm tingly feeling, that’s the
From my own personal experiences, and hearing infra red penetrating your skin.
the same from others, getting this part of the
full spectrum right can have huge positive What’s also important with this element of
impacts on the activity levels of your animals. the spectrum is to have an object with a large
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thermal mass (a large rock or similar) that can
absorb the infrared energy and release it again
when the lights go out.
To demonstrate this Roman visited with his
makeshift greenhouse as well as his FLIR infrared
camera. The point of the greenhouse experiment
is that keratin, the material scales and shells
are made of, has similar characteristics to the
greenhouse so that if you want the infra red
to properly warm the animal by penetration, it
has to be the right wavelength, i.e. near infra
red. Heat at other wavelengths is simply not as
FIGURE 5 – FLIR image straight after greenhouse is removed
This image (figure 5) was taken literally seconds
after the ‘greenhouse’ was lifted off. You can see
that the temperature of the rock surface within
the greenhouse is 44.2C. That’s a difference of
6.3C from only being under it for a few minutes.
The infra-red can pass through the glass on
top but the radiated heat coming off the rock
surface can’t escape. This is the same principle
with keratin. This shows these tungsten halogen
lamps are providing the correct infra red
wavelengths that they pass through the keratin
(the greenhouse) and warm and trap the heat
inside. Effectively the same as reptile skin.
FIGURE 4 – FLIR image with greenhouse in place
In figure 4 you can see the ‘greenhouse’ is in
place under the basking area with a surface
temperature showing of 37.9C. This was left here
for around 10 minutes after the lights had been
on for around 30 mins.
FIGURE 6 – An example of a 50W GU10 Halogen Lamp
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Summary: enables the animal to freely move around and
choose at which level they wish to sit at. You
In summary think back to that hi-fi system. can easily map out an enclosures UV levels with
To get a good quality sound you need all the instruments such as a Solormeter.
different types of speakers. The tweeters (UV)
for the higher pitch, the mid range speakers for
the main bulk of what we hear (the visible light)
and the subwoofer (infra-red) for that deep
bass sound. Now imagine what would happen
to that quality of sound if you took one of those
away? The same principle can be applied when
designing the heating and lighting setups to
FIGURE 7 – Examples of ledges, hides and bushes to break-up the UV
In the image above (figure 5) you can see how
Now we have understood what the full I use different distances, ledges, burrows and
spectrum is and what benefits it can provide bushes to create different areas of UV levels.
how do we incorporate this into our enclosures?
Well actually its relatively simple if planned out Visible Light:
well. There are many different methods just as
good to achieve the same outcome, but what With the exception of the light emitted from the
I will explain below is how I have personally basking lamps and UV source most of the visible
implemented it. It’s important to remember that light spectrum is not usually included directly in
it’s not just about choosing the correct lamps to our enclosures. This can be simply added with
use but also about setting the enclosure up to the addition of LED lamps. Dependent on the
make use of them properly. size of the enclosure you would need a number
of lamps across different colour temperatures.
UV: Since the basking lamps are generally around the
3000K and T5 tubes around 7000K+ you want to
This area is generally well understood and the aim for a mixture of LED lamps between 4000K
advancements in technology now allows us to and 6000K.
choose from a huge range of products to enable
us to properly pick and measure the correct It’s worth looking for LED lamps that have a wide
levels of UV. beam angle so you get a good spread of light
from each lamp. The ones I personally use are
However, what is often missed is the need 6W GU10’s with a beam angle of 120 degrees and
for there to be varying levels of UV within an a lumen output of between 500-600. I normally
enclosure. This can be achieved in a number of split the number of lamps evenly between
ways such as providing hides, ledges, plants etc 4000K and 6000K lamps (see figure 5). Find the
at differing distances from the UV source. This ones with the highest lumens rating you can
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get. There is no such thing as too much light... probes but instead adjust my voltage based on
you will still be far off the values of sunlight. the reading of the surface temperature from an
To give you an idea sunlight on average can be infrared temperature gun.
around 100,000 lumens per square meter.
One thing I would change in my setup below
would be to have the 4000K and 6000K LED
lamps on separate circuits instead of just the
one. I will explain why a little further down.
FIGURE 7 – the voltage regulators that I use.
Mimicking The Days Light:
FIGURE 7 – My now typical lighting setup
Basking/Infrared: A lot of people use timers to automate the
turning off and on of lights. Most of them will
From personal experience I find using a group turn all the lights on and off at the same time. In
of lower wattage lamps instead of one single terms of sunlight that’s like somebody flipping
lamp to create an area of basking is much more a switch and the night suddenly becomes day.
effective (see figure 5 above). You want to create
a basking area that is large enough for all the So how can we best replicate the changes in light
inhabitants to bask at the same time and for the throughout the day in our enclosures? With the
full length of their bodies (including tails) to be use of a few more timers this can easily be done.
within it. For my enclosures I use a pair or more Generally speaking the colour of the light and
of 50W or 75W Sylvania 50 degree beam angle intensity follows a more or less identical pattern
halogen lamps for about £3-4 each. The wider at dawn and dusk (just mirrored at dusk). This is
beam creates a large smooth area of warmth. how I would time my lights:
There are multiple methods for controlling • Basking lamps: 08:00 – 20:00
the temperature of the basking area such as • 4000K LED lamps: 09:00 – 22:00
ready made commercial thermostats with • 6000K LED lamps: 12:00 – 18:00
one or multiple probes. I use dimming voltage • UV: 09:30 – 20:30
regulators within my wiring to control the
voltage to the lamp, which in turn controls By timing your lights in this way it simulates
the temperature of the basking area. I have no (to a certain extent) the differing colours and
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intensity of light that they would experience Special Thanks
in the wild. For example by turning on just the
basking lamps an hour before any other lights I would like to mention a special thanks to
creates a dawn effect with the much redder Roman Muryn whom without I would not have
light of the halogen lamps. the level of knowledge on this subject that I do
now. It’s an honour to call him a friend.
When you would normally have the hottest and
brightest part of the day in the wild you will I would also like to thank Frances Baines for her
want to have all your lights on. I usually set this inspirational talks on all things relating to UV.
to be between midday and 6pm. The level of understanding I have gained from
listening to these talks a number of times has
If you use digital timers (or even some of the enabled me to better use and adapt the UV in
wireless programmable ones) its really simple my enclosures as well as adapt the enclosures to
and easy to adjust the above times to create provide the different levels of UV.
seasonal changes, shorter or darker days etc.
There is loads of both good and bad information
out there online and in books. Some of my go
to Facebook groups for all questions relating to
heating and lighting are:
Advancing Herpetological Husbandry:
FIGURE 8 – My main vivarium stack
Also an article well worth reading is ‘How much
UV-B does my reptile need?’ This was written by
As you can see form the image above (figure 4) Frances Bains. You can find a link to it here:
not only are there benefits to your animals but
it can really make your enclosure much more https://bit.ly/2CAIKfQ
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