Reptiles are unusual creatures, far different than the mammals we are. Whereas our bodies are heated from within, and will fight to maintain warmth, a reptile’s body changes and adapts to whatever climate is presented to it.
They do enjoy heat, though, which is why you’ll find lizards, snakes and other reptiles sunning themselves on rocks in their natural habitats. For your pet reptile, the best way to simulate the toasty glow of the sun is to creating your own homemade heat lamp.
Homemade reptile heat lamp
While some argue that simply having a warm cage should be enough for reptiles, others say that these fascinating creatures live longer, healthier lives if you take the time to accurately simulate their natural warming source--the sun. Whereas a heated cage has no directed light or heat source, a heating lamp provides both, simulating the sun beating down.
To create your own reptile heating lamp, first obtain a generic clip-on reading lamp that uses standard 50- or 60-watt bulbs. Replace the light bulb with a 50- or 60-watt infrared reptile heating bulb, available at pet stores or online pet-supply companies. Clip the modified lamp to the top of the reptile’s tank and angle the direction of the light to shine directly upon an exposed branch, flat rock surface or other easily accessible area near the top of the cage.
By using the lamp to heat an area near the top of the cage, you’ll allow your reptile to choose between basking lazily in the warm glow of your lamp or to hide in the cool shade thrown by the other environmental pieces in their terrarium. This is a choice available to the reptile in the natural world, and as such, is imprinted in their behavioral patterns.
Test the heat of the surface being warmed; too hot and your reptile won’t be able to make use of it without injury. Too cold and they’ll most likely choose to stay in the shadows over braving the open air for negligible warmth.
Your reptiles need to feel as though they are outdoors as much as possible. It’s why we fill their terrariums with sticks, rocks, and leaves, and its why turning their “sun” off at night serves the double purpose of simulating nighttime to your reptiles, as well as saving you money on your electrical bills.
Moving the heat lamp around the top of terrarium occasionally, along with rearranging the contents of the cage, will work to change the reptile’s environment and keep them active.
Be sure to replace your bulb regularly with long-lasting energy-saving versions if at all possible.
Jordan Gaither is a degree-holding communications major with a successful freelance career. He's been writing professionally for over a year, and has just recently made the jump to full-time freelancer. Among others, he's been published by Internet Brands, Apartment Ratings, eHow, CV Tips and the Examiner.