Veiled Chameleon Lighting: UVB Heat Bulbs

Veiled chameleons come from different regions and the amount of light they get from the sun varies. In captivity, we need to try to duplicate the natural sunlight as well as control the temperatures by using heat lights and UVB bulbs. Depending on the species, the heat temperatures and UVB requirements differs. Some species need it warmer and will bask longer than other species. The individual care information for the species you have.

This section of information will go into the heat lights and UVB lights. Both play a very important role in the overall health of your chameleons. Of course, there is nothing better than natural sunshine on a good day, but in a captive environment in most countries, we cannot provide them with the adequate amount of sunlight and temperatures that they require year round. The lights discussed here have been tried and tested for veiled chameleons. There are many different kinds of lights on the markets, but not all produce the same results. I would advise you to stick with what we know works for chameleons and not risk the health of yours by trying to save money on new products or not buy the proper lighting at all. In the long run, there is no saving by cutting corners if the chameleon becomes ill.

What is UVB?

The sun, as well as some artificial lighting have three different wavelengths, UVA, UVB and UVC:

  • UVA is the visible light which is thrown from bulbs and the sun which we can actually see. UVA plays an important role in the animals behavior. UVA light tells the animal when it is day, induces appetites, breeding behavior and other activities such as climbing, running, jumping and hunting.
  • UVB is not visible. It is a form of radiation put out by the sun and special coated bulbs made to produce UVB wavelengths. UVB in reptiles allows the animal to process calcium in their system which helps to prevent and reverse metabolic bone disease. UVB in excess amounts can be harmful to both humans and animals causing problems such as damage to the retina of the eyes, burns and other health risks. UVB is what causes humans to suntan and sunburn. It is important to control the UVB lighting, or if using natural sunlight, to give the animal shade and areas where they can escape the constant exposure of UVB.
  • UVC is the wavelength used for Ultraviolet Sterilizers which kill harmful bacteria. This is a very dangerous wavelength to all animals as it can damage DNA.

All chameleons require both UVA nd UVB light. Montane species do not need as much each day as lower region species. Many chameleons will spend several hours throughout the day basking in the sunlight, most often when they have just woke up, after they have eaten and after they have had a good drink. Even the rhampoleon and brookesia species which are found on the floors of the forests and low bushes need to bask and get UVA and UVB exposure.

Veiled chameleons regulate the amounts they need themselves by basking. When their system has had adequate amounts, they will move into shady or lower areas of the trees where the UVB wavelengths are not so strong. Heat also plays an important role as to how long a chameleon will bask. On hot arid days, they will tend to hide in shady areas more than normal. In the captive environment, we can control the temperatures, provide well planted cages with shaded areas for the chameleon to go too when it is not basking and absorbing UVB, we call this thermal regulation.

UVB Lighting

The most important lighting to provide your chameleon with is a special light that produces UVB. Do not confuse UVB with UVA. ZooMed makes two brands of lights which come highly recommended for veiled chameleons, the Reptisun 5.0 and the Iguana Light 5.0. Both are the same light, just different packaging for marketing purposes. Both lights are florescent bulbs. They need to be placed with in 12 inches of the chameleon where it basks to achieve maximum UVB exposure. Also note that these lights MUST be replaced every six months. Even thought they still throw light, the UVB coating has worn off and the chameleon will no longer be getting the necessary UVB to maintain optimal health.

One other source for providing your chameleon with UVB and UVA is using metal halide lights. These are very expensive and require special fixtures. These lights also produce a tremendous amount of heat and should be used with care. If you plan to install and use metal halide lamps, do some homework to find out what wattage would be best. I also do not recommend these bulbs for smaller enclosures where the chameleon is placed at higher risks of too much exposure and warmer temperatures.

Checking the UVB of a light

Over time, the UVB given off of these light bulbs will be reduced to the point they are no longer putting out sufficient UVB. I highly recommend that you purchase a Digital Ultraviolet Radiometers from Zoo Med or Radio Shack. This instrument will allow you to get accurate readings of the amount of UVA and UVB output at various distances from the bulb. It is good husbandry practice to test the UVB bulbs periodically. Very useful to help you know when the UVB bulbs need to be replaced before your chameleon starts showing signs of MBD or other health problems associated with not getting enough UVB exposure.

Heat Lights

Providing your chameleon with the proper temperature gradients and a good place to bask is very important. Like many other reptiles such as snakes, veiled chameleons thermal regulate themselves to keep their body temperatures where they need to be. To do this in the captive environment, we need to use some type of heat light bulb. There are many different companies who manufacture heat bulbs, it would be impossible to list and describe them all. Here, you will find the three different types of heat lights most commonly used.

These bulbs come in a variety of wattages. You will need to access which watt bulb would be right for your enclosure. If it is a very small cage, then you may find that the 50 watt light works best while larger enclosures would need the 150 watt bulb. Before using any heat light on your chameleon, you should check the temperatures in the cage the first few hours to make sure the light is not too hot, or that the bulb is providing adequate heat. You will want to place a good thermometer on the branches the chameleon likes to bask to check for basking temperatures for your specie of chameleon. Also, place the thermometer down towards the bottom of the cage to see if their is proper gradients of temperatures to allow the chameleon to escape the heat in lower regions of the cage. Once you feel comfortable that you have the temperatures right in the cage, you can place the chameleon in the enclosure.

Basking Spot Bulbs

These bulbs are used to provide warmer temperatures as well as UVA for your veiled chameleon. Usually used with a reflector type light fixture which allows the heat and light itself to radiate further than without. Zoo Med makes the Repti Basking Spot Lamp which is made with a patented double reflector which puts out 35% more heat and UVA in a tighter beam.

Lower Heat Spot Bulbs

Some species of chameleons bask very little and do not need the intense heat that the Heat Spot lights provide. There are heat bulbs which produce lower amounts of heat while still allowing your chameleon to get the adequate amount of UVA and bask at the cooler temperatures needed. These types of lights are also excellent for use on large enclosures where more than one spot light is necessary to insure that the chameleon is getting enough light, but the more intense heat is not needed in other areas of the cage.

Night Heat Lights

During cooler months in regions where the outside temperatures drop low enough that the night temperatures in your chameleon cage with the lights off are too cold. If not kept warm enough around the clock, your veiled chameleon can get URI (Upper Respitory Infection). Checking the cage temperatures at night at least two hours after all lights are out is important to find accurate cage temperatures. If the temperatures drop too low, then you may have a need to use a night heat light which the chameleon does not see and can sleep. Use of regular spot or basking lamps will trick your chameleon into thinking it is still daytime and it will not get the rest it needs. A chameleon should have 12 to 14 hours of daylight or simulated daylight by using the UVB and Spot light heat bulbs. Night heat bulbs are specially coated lights in either red or black which emit heat without the light and UVA.

Leave a Comment