Lizard basking in a warming lamp copyright 2014 Leisel1973

Lizard basking in a warming lamp copyright 2014 Leisel1973

January starts another new year and with it carries on the chilly days. As we are layering up and cranking the heater, we need to remember to keep our cold blooded critters warm as well. While there are specific environment needs for each type of reptile, there are four general areas of concern for creating a healthy and proper reptile vivarium. To establish a comfy and stable habitat for your reptile, accurately address required space, temperature, humidity, and lighting.

The Issue of Space

The issue of space can be solved by remembering the larger the cage, the better. This is especially true if housing multiple reptiles of the same species in one habitat. Overcrowding may lead to many different health problems including, stress and trauma related to competition over food, water, and warmth. Overcrowding may also cause reptiles to attempt to escape which can lead to biting, cage rub and chewing at the cage which can cause tooth fracture. With a larger cage, it is actually easier to formulate a well-balanced climate.


Reptiles rely on external heat sources to maintain a healthy body temperature, therefore, one needs to research the preferred climate for the specific species of reptile. Generally, the preferred temperature for most reptiles varies between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be achieved by utilizing basking lights, tubular heaters, or ceramic heating elements. It is good to arrange the vivarium with warm and cool areas so that the reptile can adjust as desired.


Many reptiles require various levels of moisture as well. It is important to research your specific pet to ensure you are recreating the ideal environment for a comfy and stable habitat. Humidity is vital for proper shedding. Humidity can be controlled through ventilation, temperature and introducing water into the atmosphere. Some sources for adding moisture are utilizing standing or running water and frequently misting your reptile’s cage with water. A hygrometer is a great tool for measuring and maintaining stable humidity levels.


Lastly, while building a proper reptile vivarium you must include full spectrum lights. These lights emit UVA and UVB rays that promote good health within reptiles. Regular light bulbs lack these rays resulting in impairment of interacting with the environment and other animals within it. This impairment can cause unnecessary stress that will affect the reptile’s overall well-being.

UVA rays promote proper foraging, feeding, digestion, activity levels, social behavior, reproduction, and basking.

UVB lights are extremely important in maintaining healthy vitamin D3 and calcium levels. Four functions of UVB rays for reptiles are to regulate the production of vitamin D3 in its skin, proper absorption and metabolism of calcium, stabilize the immune system and promote healthy organ development. It is ideal to have lights that emit between 290 and 320 nm wavelengths and are positioned in areas that the reptile can get within a foot of them. Lack of UVB lights can cause metabolic bone diseases resulting in irreversible bone deformities and sometimes death.

In conclusion, as January fades into February remember to keep our cold blooded babies comfy and healthy. Research your specific species to ensure that you are recreating the all around ideal environment. Temperature and humidity vary for each species and are very important for maintaining good health. Never use regular light bulbs for your reptile, full spectrum lights that emit UVA and UVB rays facilitate both healthy physical and mental well-being.