Mark A. Mitchell, DVM, PhD
Saturday, January 17 • 8:00-8:50, Marriott
Full-spectrum light should mimic natural exposure to the sun and provide the essential spectrums of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared light. Most light bulbs, however, provide only 1 or 2 of the different forms of light. This presentation is an overview of the different types of lighting available for captive reptiles and discusses how best to use them. Artificial light is provided in 2 forms: incandescent and fluorescent. Incandescent bulbs have the advantages of being inexpensive and available in different colors and lighting spectrums, and can generate heat. Fluorescent coil bulbs produced for reptile enclosures can provide ultraviolet B radiation in the appropriate range for synthesis of vitamin D3 (290 to 310 nm) and provide high-quality visible light, but produce little heat. Infrared light in incandescent bulbs provides heat, and incandescent bulbs of various wattages can be used to provide a gradient of temperatures for the reptile enclosure. The author feels that all 3 components of natural light (ultraviolet, visible, and infrared) can be provided by using no more than 2 types of bulbs (fluorescent and incandescent), but it is important to research the bulbs before making recommendations, as not all manufacturers' products meet their stated claims.
COMMENTARY: We are veterinarians (not physicists), so the complexities of evaluating and interpreting the plethora of manufacturer claims and reptilian requirements for the spectra of lighting available are often misunderstood or ignored. This article goes a long way to present a logical, organized discussion of both the types of lighting available and what the generic captive reptile needs. By breaking down off-the-shelf lights into 2 basic categories, incandescent and fluorescent, the author frames the discussion in a way that can be understood by all. "Light" is then further subdivided into 3 spectra, ultraviolet, visible, and infrared. By describing the importance of each to the reptile, in particular the physiologic basis for that need, the author is able to provide a basis for the evaluation
of the lighting provided to captive reptiles. While one can certainly understand why there is no specific product endorsement provided, it is unfortunate that there is no bottom-line recommendation. What we need now is a primer on how to read labels and perhaps a reference to an outside source for unbiased evaluation of specific brands and lights.