HOW TO SET UP THE CORRECT LIGHTING FROM SWELL REPTILES25/11/2015 10:46
How to set up your tortoise lighting
THIS IS AN INFORMATIVE ARTICLE ABOUT LIGHTING ESPECIALLY THE LAST PART REGARDING THE MERCURY VAPOUR BULB WHICH YOU ALL HAVE TO BUY. AS YOU KNOW I WRITE ALOT ABOUT THE LIGHTING IN YOUR CARE SHEETS BUT I THINK YOU WILL FIND THIS ARTICLE INTERESTING..
Despite the growing interest in keeping tortoises, information about tortoise lighting is still a little difficult to find, and often a little too vague to make much use out of.
Tortoises need light, UVB and heat
Tortoises are no different from any other species of reptile – cold blooded, they need enough light to be able to move around comfortably, enough heat to thermos-regulate their metabolic processes, and enough UVB light to create vitamin D3 in their bodies.
The latter part about UVB and D3 is where a lot of tortoise keepers go wrong, and sadly it can have fatal consequences.
Tortoises need plenty of UVB light from above in order to put their dietary calcium to good use. UVB light helps them to synthesise vitamin D3, helping turn the calcium in to a strong skeletal structure and shell.
Without this process in place, tortoises suffer from a lack of ability to generate D3, absorb calcium, and therefore weak bones and shells. This is called Metabolic Bone Disease, or MBD for short, and is characterised by a lack of movement, brittle bones and a soft and spongy shell, unable to take the weight of their internal organs, crushing the tortoise under their own weight – sometimes fatally.
This is why a source of UVB light is essential, especially during the early developmental years, and for females undergoing the reproductive process, and therefore needed more calcium to forms the eggs and embryos inside them.
How much light, heat and UVB does my tortoise need?
This all depends on what species your tortoise is, and therefore what kind of habitat they have evolved in during their species’ time in the wild.
Some may require a little more heat than others, coming from a hotter climate and therefore thermo-regulate at higher temperatures. Likewise, some might require less or more UV depending on their optimum exposure levels in the wild.
But one thing is for sure, being non-nocturnal reptiles, they need all 3 types of lighting to live healthy, happy lives.
The most likely to enjoy a spell outside in an open topped, wire covered run where they can enjoy the heat, light and UVB from the sun in British summer time, European tortoises like Horsfield and Russian enjoy a more temperature climate. A UVB lamp (flood type lamps work best to ensure the UV light reaches every bit of the environment) that provides around 10% to 12% UVB light, and heating set to around 34 degrees as the basking end of the setup.
Slightly warmer, Med species like Marginated, greek and leopard tortoises enjoy 12% UVB for vitamin D3 synthesis and temperatures just above 34 degrees Celsius at the hot end.
Hotter temperatures are needed for metabolic function (34 degrees or more), but tortoises like Redfoots receive only a little UV in comparison. This is due to the blocking effect of the rainforest canopy and vegetation, meaning around 5/6% UV bulbs are just fine for these guys.
Mercury Vapour Bulbs
Designed and made to cater for all the needs of tortoises, Mercury vapour bulbs provide all the heat, light and UVB needed by your tortoise, all from one handy source!
While the components of a tortoise setup and be bought separately in the form of a UVB light, halogen light and various other overhead heat lights, a mercury vapour bulb has everything covered in one.
Available for the last 4 years, and the new generation just being released at the moment, these bulbs are superb for those keeping their tortoise in an open-topped environment like a tortoise table.
Position the bulb vertically (to protect it from the powerful convections currents inside when switched on), Mercury Vapour Bulbs work best at around 17" to 19" inches above the tortoise to achieve the right temperature without being so hot that your tortoise won’t want to spend time under it.
Tortoises don’t tend to bask much, so if you never find your tortoise under the light itself, you might want to consider moving it to their favourite spot. ALWAYS, put food under the bulb area so your tortoise gets the best rays whilst eating...to change food into calcium rich strong bones..