The Importance of Basking Lamps for Reptiles by Roman Muryn

Credit for banner image of basking zone -  Matt Versweyveld

Sitting on a hot rock, a heat mat or near a heat panel (RHP) at 40 degrees C (104 Fahrenheit) or more is not basking, it is simply gathering heat to enable the animal to burn energy. Run Ceramics at a higher temperature and you risk burns.

All reptiles bask to some extent or another. When they bask, it is not necessarily to just get hot, it is also for good biological and physiological reasons. Basking requires a special wavelength called Near InfraRed as well as UVB and bright light. Here are some reasons why reptiles and even humans bask.

• Sheer pleasure. – and a feeling of well-being. DOPAMINE.
• Increase metabolism through warmth
• Digesting food
• Drying and heating to aid in shedding
• D3 synthesis through UVB
• Parietal eye stimulus/ pineal gland stimulus
• The initiation of the annual cycle; hibernation and spring wake up and the Circadian cycle.
• Use UV and IR for managing Fungal and Bacterial infections
• Raise temperature to manage viral infections.
• Use NIR for wound healing
• Use NIR for deeper heat penetration and heat sinking
• Use NIR for egg and neonate incubation
• Parasite management

Depriving animals of solar basking opportunity is not advancing our husbandry. All reptiles, be they lizards, snakes or turtles use sunlight.
You see not all infrared is equal. The ceramic heater produced Infrared is grouped with wavelengths that are considered background heat, such as domestic radiators, heat mats, heat panels and underfloor heating. They heat stuff up through contact conduction but mostly through heating surrounding air and thus using convection to heat a space. Their radiation is not suitable for reflection, that's why they don’t come with reflectors. They are very reliable as they operate only up to the low hundreds of degrees but that’s all they do - they get hot but produce no irradiation of medical value. They are cheap to produce.

A tungsten halogen lamp produces visible light (about 10% of its energy) then the rest of its energy is mostly Near Infra-Red light.

The shorter Infrared wavelengths from a tungsten halogen lamp are really light waves that you can’t see. Tungsten halogen lamps ARE incandescent lamps. Their Infrared light therefore can be directed; straight away, because all of their radiation is focused, they become much more efficient at heating a spot.

When any object is irradiated some of the energy is captured by the object being irradiated. The amount of energy that is captured depends on the objects’ material absorption properties and its colour. Some of its energy is absorbed and stored, some is reflected back as visible light and some is re-emitted as infra-red and shed through convection; ie heat. Whilst the lamp is shining the object will continue to absorb the radiation and grow hotter until it reaches an equilibrium where the amount of heat received and the amount being lost to the environment are the same. As soon as the light stops shining the object will start releasing the absorbed heat slowly but at a much longer wavelength than the original energy source. It will release this long-wave radiation (IRC) until a new equilibrium at the ambient temperature is reached. This is what happens with tarmac roads in warmer climes and why reptile hunting is good after sunset. The animals that operate at night seek out that asphalt heat source in order to charge themselves up through belly conductive heat exchange in preparation for the nights' hunt.

IRA from a TUNGSTEN HALOGEN lamp does this magic and the radiation from a ceramic heater emitter (CHE) or radiant Heat Panel (RHP) or a heat mat does not. Get a Tungsten halogen flood lamp.

However, the most important thing about short wave Infrared, or Near-Infrared or IRA (all the same thing) is that these wavelengths actually can penetrate deep into our body and provide therapeutic value. Medical IRA lamps are used in hospitals. Healing is much speeded up. We see these lamps most frequently on food counters to keep food hot. Ceramic heaters are never used to keep food warm, are they?

How many times have you been at a bonfire and rubbed your hands in front of the red coals? That, there, is IRA. The red colour is the visible part of IRA. How many times have you rubbed your hands in front of a radiator? That there is IRC.


The above information is courtesy of the Reptile Lighting Facebook Group 

For any help and advice for your reptile lighting and heating, we thoroughly recommend joining this group. The moderators include some of the industries leading experts on reptile lighting and heating and the complex science behind their needs. 

Credit for banner image of basking zone -  Matt Versweyveld