A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Reptile Lights for Your Tropical Terrarium

Creating an ideal habitat for your pet reptile goes beyond providing food and water. One of the most crucial aspects of reptile care is ensuring an appropriate lighting setup. The proper lighting not only stimulates their natural behaviour but also aids in their health and well-being.

This comprehensive guide explores the intricacies of reptile lights, their importance, various types, and how to select the most suitable one for your tropical terrarium.

What are the Best Reptile Lights to use?
Understanding the Importance of Reptile Lights.

Lighting is pivotal in maintaining a healthy environment for your scaly friend. In the wild, reptiles are exposed to various light conditions, including sunlight, moonlight, and the light spectrum. Replicating these conditions in a terrarium can help ensure your pet’s health and happiness.

Regulating Biological Rhythms

Proper lighting helps establish a day-night cycle in the terrarium, regulating the reptile’s circadian rhythm – their biological clock. This rhythm influences their sleep patterns, feeding habits, and overall behaviour.

Promoting Health and Growth

Certain reptile lights emit ultraviolet (UV) rays, similar to the sun. These UV rays are crucial for synthesising Vitamin D3 in reptiles, which helps them absorb calcium from their diet, promoting bone health and preventing metabolic bone disease.

Encouraging Natural Behaviour

The right lighting encourages natural behaviours in reptiles, including basking, foraging, and mating. It can also enhance their colours, making them more vibrant and attractive.

Types of Best Reptile Lights

When it comes to the best reptile lights, one size does not fit all. Different types of reptiles have varying light requirements. Here are some common types of reptile lights you might consider for your terrarium.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs are a traditional choice for providing heat in the terrarium. They emit a warm, yellowish light and are typically used in fixtures with a reflector to direct the heat and light into the terrarium. However, they do not emit UV light, so they should be used in conjunction with other light sources for reptiles that require UV exposure.

Fluorescent Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs are commonly used for reptiles that require UVB exposure, such as tortoises, lizards, and snakes. They produce bright light with a high colour rendering index, making the colours in the terrarium appear more vibrant. These bulbs generate relatively low heat and are ideal for reptiles that prefer cooler environments.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs offer similar benefits to conventional fluorescent bulbs but in a more compact design. They fit into standard heat lamp fixtures and are ideal for smaller terrariums. Some compact fluorescent bulbs emit both UVA and UVB light, making them a good all-around choice.

LED Lights

LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights are an energy-efficient option that produces high-quality light with little heat output. They are great for illuminating the terrarium without significantly raising the temperature. However, LED lights do not emit UV light, so they should be used in combination with other light sources for reptiles that require UV exposure.

Mercury Vapor Bulbs

Mercury vapour bulbs are a popular choice for reptiles that require both heat and UV light. They produce a significant amount of heat and UVB light, making them ideal for sun-loving reptiles. However, due to their high heat output, they may not be suitable for smaller terrariums.

Selecting the Best Reptile Lights: Factors to Consider

Choosing the right reptile lights can be a bit daunting, given the variety of options available. Here are some factors to consider when selecting the best lights for your tropical terrarium.

Reptile Species

The type of reptile you have is a major determining factor in the kind of lights you will need. Different reptiles have varying light and heat requirements. For instance, desert reptiles may require more intense light and higher temperatures than their jungle counterparts. Research your specific reptile species to understand their unique light requirements.

Terrarium Size

The size of your terrarium will also influence your choice of lights. Larger terrariums may require higher-wattage bulbs or multiple light fixtures to ensure adequate light and heat distribution. Smaller terrariums, on the other hand, may require lower-wattage bulbs to prevent overheating.

Heat Output

Consider the heat output of the light bulb. Some reptiles require a basking spot with higher temperatures, while others prefer a cooler environment. Make sure the bulb you choose produces the appropriate amount of heat for your reptile’s needs.

UVB Requirements

Many reptiles, particularly diurnal species, require exposure to UVB light for Vitamin D3 synthesis. If your reptile needs UVB, ensure you choose a light that emits the appropriate level of UVB radiation.

Day-Night Cycle

Reptiles need a regular day-night cycle to regulate their circadian rhythm. Consider using a combination of different lights to mimic the changing light conditions from day to night. A timer can be handy in automating this process.

Practical Steps to Choosing and Installing the Best Reptile Lights

Here are some practical steps for choosing and installing the best reptile lights in your terrarium.

1 Research your reptile’s specific light requirements. Different reptiles have different needs in terms of light intensity, heat, and UV exposure.

2 Choose the right type of bulb. Based on your reptile’s needs, select a bulb that provides the right amount of light, heat, and UV radiation. You may need a combination of different types of bulbs to meet all your reptile’s needs.

3 Decide on the best placement for the light. The light should be placed in a way that illuminates the entire terrarium evenly. If your reptile requires a basking area, the light should be positioned to create a warm spot in the terrarium.

4 Set up a timer to create a day-night cycle. A timer can help automate the process of switching the lights on and off, mimicking the natural day-night cycle.

5 Monitor the terrarium’s temperature. After installing the lights, monitor the terrarium’s temperature to ensure it is within the suitable range for your reptile. Adjust the lights as necessary.

Recommendations for the Best Reptile Lights

To help you make an informed decision, here are some top product recommendations for the best reptile lights for your tropical terrarium.

Exo Terra Reptile UVB100 Tropical Terrarium Bulb 13w

The Exo Terra Reptile UVB100 provides UVB radiation levels that are comparable to those found in shaded environments like tropical rainforests and other similar locales. In these natural habitats, reptiles are exposed to moderate levels of UV radiation, as factors such as high humidity and fluctuating weather conditions limit the direct sunlight reaching the basking areas of the reptiles.

This UVB bulb is designed to promote the synthesis of Vitamin D3, aiding in the absorption of calcium and helping to ward off metabolic ailments.

Exo Terra Daytime Heat Lamp – A19 / 60 W

A wide-ranging daylight bulb that comes with a Neodymium coating.

This particular spectrum is well-suited for supporting the photosynthesis process in plants, and its emission of UVA (ultraviolet A) light plays a role in maintaining the physical health of reptiles. Additionally, the heat generated by this lamp helps in raising the overall temperature within the terrarium.

Exo Terra Intense Basking Spot – S30 / 150 W

This lamp is specifically crafted to function as a basking spot lamp. Its focused beam can be accurately aimed at a particular spot to establish a basking area. The concentration of both heat and light within the beam is amplified by 35%, enabling more space between the bulb and the designated basking site. Furthermore, the UVA (ultraviolet A) light emitted by this lamp plays a vital role in supporting the physical health of reptiles.

Exo Terra Glow Light – Medium – 21 cm (8.5″)

The Exo Terra Glow Light offers flexibility in positioning heat and/or light sources within your terrarium as needed. Built robustly, it features a metal reflector, a heat-resistant ceramic socket, and a spring-loaded swivelling clamp. Control is simple, with an on-off switch located on the extra-long power cord.

Within the reflector lies a special luminous coating that retains its glow even after the lamp has been switched off. This glowing effect supports diurnal reptiles and amphibians, allowing them to retreat to their night burrows or hiding spots without stress. For nocturnal species, the moon-like illumination helps them see properly without interrupting their natural nighttime rhythms.

This feature also enables you to observe your animals at night without the need to turn on lights, avoiding unnecessary stress and disorientation for the creatures.

The innovative coating not only reflects but also stores light energy during the day, releasing it slowly during nighttime. This design enhances the efficiency of the fixture, making it more energy-conscious.


Selecting the best reptile lights for your tropical terrarium is an essential task for any reptile owner. By understanding the different types of reptile lights and the specific needs of your reptile species, you can create a lighting setup that promotes a healthy and natural environment for your pet. Remember, the right lighting can significantly impact your reptile’s health, behaviour, and overall quality of life. Our staff at Porton Aquapet are very happy to discuss you reptile setup and answer any questions and give our advice and experience to help you make the most of your reptile ownership!


Frequently asked questions about reptile lights:

What light is good for reptiles?

Reptiles have specific lighting needs that are essential for their health and well-being. These needs often mimic their natural habitat’s lighting conditions. Here’s a summary of the types of lights that are typically good for reptiles:

UVB Light: UVB light helps reptiles synthesise vitamin D3, which is crucial for calcium metabolism. This is particularly vital for species that have high dietary requirements for vitamin D3, such as iguanas and tortoises. Look for bulbs labelled as providing UVB, with the specific percentage needed depending on the species.

UVA Light: UVA light can help to stimulate feeding, mating, and other normal reptile behaviour.

Basking Light: Many reptiles require a basking spot that mimics the warmth of the sun. Incandescent bulbs or specially designed basking bulbs can provide this heat source.

Full Spectrum Light: This type of light provides a broad range of wavelengths and is beneficial for creating a more natural-looking environment. Full-spectrum lights usually include both UVA and UVB radiation.

Heat Lamps: Reptiles are cold-blooded and depend on their environment for thermoregulation. Heat lamps can be used to provide the necessary warmth, but it’s essential to monitor the temperature to ensure it’s in the appropriate range for the species.

Night Time Heating: Some reptiles may require heating during the night but without bright light that would disrupt their natural day/night cycle. In this case, ceramic heat emitters or red or blue bulbs designed for nighttime use may be appropriate.

Mercury Vapor Bulbs: These can be a good all-in-one solution, as they provide both UVB and heat. However, they can be quite strong, so they are usually best suited for larger enclosures.

It’s essential to carefully consider the specific needs of the species you are keeping. Different reptiles have different requirements for UVB exposure, heat, and light intensity. Investing in a good quality thermometer and hygrometer will also help in maintaining the right conditions.

Is a basking light the same as a UVB light?

No, a basking light and a UVB light are not the same and serve different purposes in a reptile’s enclosure.

Basking Light: A basking light is primarily designed to provide heat. It creates a warm spot in the enclosure that allows the reptile to thermoregulate, mimicking the sun’s warmth. Many reptiles will bask under this light to increase their body temperature. Basking lights are often incandescent bulbs, and while they may emit some UVA light, they typically do not provide UVB rays.

UVB Light: UVB light, on the other hand, is essential for the synthesis of vitamin D3 in reptiles. Vitamin D3 helps with the absorption of calcium, which is vital for bone health. UVB bulbs are specially designed to emit UVB radiation and are crucial for species that need UVB for their well-being.

Some reptile owners use both types of lights to create a habitat that meets all the needs of their pet, including warmth (from the basking light) and UVB exposure (from the UVB light). There are also some combination bulbs on the market, like mercury vapour bulbs, that provide both heat and UVB radiation.

What does blue light do for reptiles?

Blue lights are often used in reptile enclosures, particularly as nighttime heating solutions. They provide a source of heat without emitting bright white light that can disrupt the animal’s natural day/night cycle. Here’s what you need to know about blue lights for reptiles:

Nighttime Observation: Blue lights allow you to observe your reptiles during their nighttime activities without disturbing them with bright white light. Reptiles do not perceive the blue wavelength the same way humans do, so it’s less likely to interrupt their normal behaviour.

Providing Heat: Like other incandescent bulbs, blue lights can provide heat, which is necessary for reptiles to regulate their body temperature.

Aesthetics: Some reptile keepers prefer the look of blue light in the enclosure, as it can create a calming or naturalistic appearance.

No UVB Emission: It’s important to note that blue lights generally do not emit UVB rays. If your reptile requires UVB for vitamin D3 synthesis, you’ll need to provide a separate UVB light source.

Species-Specific Needs: Some reptiles may be more sensitive to different types of light, so it’s essential to consult with a reptile expert or veterinarian to make sure that blue light is suitable for your specific species.

In summary, blue lights can be used for nighttime heating and observation, but they are not a substitute for UVB or basking lights if those are needed for the species you are keeping.

Do reptiles need light at night?

Reptiles do not generally need light at night in the same way they require specific lighting during the day. However, the night-time lighting needs can depend on the specific species and the temperature requirements of their natural habitat. Here’s a breakdown of the potential night-time lighting needs for reptiles:

Temperature Regulation: If the ambient temperature in the room drops below the required temperature range for the reptile species, a night-time heating source may be necessary. This can be achieved using a ceramic heat emitter, under-tank heating pads, or specialised night-time bulbs like red or blue lights that emit heat without bright light.

Observation: If you want to observe your reptile’s nocturnal behaviour, you might choose to use a dim, non-disruptive light, such as a blue or red bulb. These colours are less likely to be perceived by reptiles, allowing them to go about their night-time activities without disturbance.

Natural Day/Night Cycle: Many reptiles benefit from having a natural day/night cycle that mimics their natural habitat. This means providing a period of darkness during the night. If the enclosure is in a location where ambient light (such as from streetlights or household lighting) might disrupt this cycle, you may need to consider ways to shield the enclosure from this light.

Avoid Bright or UVB Lights: Using bright or UVB lights at night can disrupt the reptile’s natural sleep-wake cycle and may lead to stress and health problems.

Species-Specific Needs: Some species might have specific nighttime requirements, so it’s always good to consult with a veterinarian or reptile expert to understand what’s best for the particular reptile you are caring for.

In summary, while reptiles generally do not need light at night, they might require a source of heat if temperatures drop, and some keepers may choose to use dim, non-disruptive lighting for observation or aesthetic purposes. Ensuring that you understand the particular needs of the species you are keeping will help you create an environment that promotes its health and well-being.

What is an alternative to a reptile heat lamp?

Reptile heat lamps are commonly used to provide the necessary warmth that reptiles need for thermoregulation. However, there are alternatives available if you need or prefer to use something different:

Ceramic Heat Emitters: These devices produce heat without emitting any visible light. They are a popular choice for maintaining warmth without disrupting a reptile’s day/night cycle.

Under-Tank Heaters: Also known as heat mats or heat pads, these provide heat from below the enclosure. They’re often used for reptiles that need belly heat or as a supplemental heat source. Make sure to use them with a thermostat to regulate the temperature accurately.

Heat Cables: These are flexible cables that emit heat and can be arranged to provide warmth in specific areas of the enclosure.

Radiant Heat Panels: These are often used in larger enclosures, providing gentle heat without visible light. Like heat emitters, they can be controlled with a thermostat to maintain the proper temperature.

Heat Rocks: Though sometimes used, heat rocks can be risky as they might cause burns if they become too hot or if they malfunction. They are generally not recommended by reptile experts.

Room Heating: If possible, maintaining the entire room at an appropriate temperature for the reptile can eliminate the need for individual heating devices within the enclosure. This method requires careful monitoring and control of the room’s temperature and is generally more feasible for dedicated reptile rooms or large collections.

Infrared Heat Bulbs: These bulbs emit infrared heat without bright light and can be used to provide warmth, especially during the night.

Water Heaters: For aquatic or semi-aquatic species, submersible water heaters can help maintain the proper water temperature.

Incubators or Controlled Environment Chambers: For very specific or sensitive needs, specialised environmental control chambers may be used, though this is generally more common in research or breeding applications rather than typical pet care.

It’s essential to understand the specific heat and temperature gradient needs of the reptile species you are keeping and to monitor and regulate the temperature closely. An incorrect temperature can lead to various health problems, including digestive issues and decreased immune function. Combining some of these alternatives with a thermostat to regulate the temperature can create a more controlled and comfortable environment for your reptile.

Why are reptile night lights red?

Reptile night lights are often red because it is believed that most reptiles do not perceive the red spectrum of light in the same way humans do. This allows the keeper to provide heat and observe the reptiles without disturbing their natural nocturnal behaviours. Here’s a closer look at why red lights are commonly used:

Less Disruptive: Red lights are thought to be less visible to many reptiles, so they don’t interfere with the animal’s normal day/night cycle. They enable reptiles to go about their nighttime activities without being disrupted by bright white light.

Heat Source: Red bulbs provide a source of heat, allowing reptiles to thermoregulate even when the lights in their habitat are off for the night. Maintaining the right temperature is vital for the reptile’s metabolism and overall health.

Observation: Using a red light allows keepers to observe their reptiles’ nighttime behaviour without interrupting their natural activities. It can be an important tool for monitoring the health and well-being of the animals.

Aesthetic Appeal: Some keepers prefer the appearance of red light at night, as it can create a calming or naturalistic ambience in the enclosure.

Species-Specific Considerations: It’s worth noting that not all reptiles will react the same way to red light, and some may be more sensitive to it than others. Always consult with a reptile specialist or veterinarian to ensure that you’re providing the appropriate lighting for your specific species.

Remember that the primary purpose of a red night light in a reptile enclosure is usually to provide heat without disturbing the animal’s natural behaviours. If heat is not needed at night for the specific species you are keeping, then a night light may not be necessary at all.

How often do you need to change a UVB bulb?

UVB bulbs play an essential role in the health of many reptiles, providing the ultraviolet B radiation needed for the synthesis of vitamin D3. Over time, the output of UVB radiation from these bulbs can diminish, even if the bulb continues to emit visible light. As a result, UVB bulbs need to be replaced regularly to ensure they continue to provide the required levels of UVB radiation.

Here’s a general guideline for when UVB bulbs should be replaced, but it can vary depending on the specific bulb and manufacturer:

Linear Fluorescent UVB Bulbs: Usually, these need to be replaced every 6 to 12 months. Some high-quality brands may last towards the longer end of that range, while others may degrade more quickly.

Compact Fluorescent UVB Bulbs: Similar to linear fluorescents, these generally need to be replaced every 6 to 12 months.

Mercury Vapor Bulbs: These bulbs often last longer, sometimes up to 12 to 18 months, but they can vary by brand and usage.

UVB Testing: If you want to be more precise, you can use a UVB meter to measure the output of the bulb. When the UVB levels drop below the required range for your specific reptile species, it’s time to replace the bulb.

Follow Manufacturer Guidelines: Always refer to the instructions or recommendations provided by the bulb’s manufacturer, as they can provide the best information for that specific product.

Consider Usage: Bulbs that are on for longer periods each day may need to be replaced more frequently. Similarly, if the bulb is placed farther from the basking area, it may need to be replaced sooner, as the UVB output at the basking site will be less.

Replacing UVB bulbs on time is crucial to your reptile’s health. If the UVB output drops too low, it can lead to metabolic bone disease (MBD) and other health problems related to calcium deficiency. Regularly checking the bulb and adhering to a replacement schedule based on the guidelines above can help ensure that your reptile continues to receive the UVB radiation it needs