Pet Blue tongue skinks require special reptile bulbs to light and heat their enclosures. Without appropriate lighting skinks can develop a multitude of problems. By knowing what kind of lighting your pet needs you can prevent these problems and help them live a long and healthy life.
I specifically said heat lights and not hot rocks or undertank heaters for skinks for a reason. Hot rocks can cause thermal burns and undertank heaters make it difficult to regulate the temperature in the enclosure accurately. The bulbs needed to heat an enclosure all fit in the same type of fixture, an incandescent ceramic socket, and can be purchased from almost any pet store.
Skinks should have a basking temperature in the upper 90’s to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a cooler side of their tank in the upper 70’s.
- Ceramic Heat Bulbs
Ceramic heat bulbs provide no light to an enclosure but they do provide heat. Just like regular incandescent light bulbs, they come in different wattages. The wattage needed depends on the size of the enclosure and if any other heat bulbs are used. Unlike regular incandescent bulbs, they last for an extremely long period of time, making them more cost effective, but they do not deliver UVA rays. Therefore, these are a heat assist device to a bulb that emits UVA rays (full spectrum fluorescent or UVA ray emitting heat bulb). Make sure these bulbs are not placed on a surface that will melt.
- Incandescent Heat Bulbs
These are your typical heat lights that emit light, UVA rays, and varying wattages of heat. Different bulb sizes and shapes are available, as well as colors of light (wavelengths). Daylight bulbs are regular white lights, nightlight bulbs are blue/purple lights (make sure the bulb isn't painted blue/purple glass, but in fact blue/purple glass), and nocturnal lights are red (don't use painted bulbs). The wattage needed depends on the size of the enclosure and if any other heat bulbs are used.
The shape of the bulb usually serves a purpose. Basking lights are shaped to direct heat into the area directly below the bulb as opposed to the entire tank, and are usually shaded on the sides to assist in directing the light downward.
- Halogen Heat Bulbs
These bulbs do all the same things as incandescent heat bulbs and even though they cost a bit more, they emit more heat, light, and UVA rays than an incandescent bulb of the same size. They also usually last longer and use less energy than an incandescent.
Some halogen bulbs fit in incandescent fixtures and others fit in halogen fixtures. Make sure your bulbs fit into your fixtures before purchasing them.
Blue tongue skinks, and most other reptiles, require UVB light. This is an invisible wavelength of light that the sun naturally emits to help reptiles metabolize the calcium they eat. Without UVB light your skink may be lethargic, not eat, and develop metabolic bone disease, among other things. Skinks need 10-12 hours of UVB light on a daily basis to stay healthy.
Aside from sunlight (not filtered through a window), there are a couple of different sources of that give off these invisible UVB rays. Fluorescent bulbs are the most commonly used sources of UVB in the pet world and the most appropriate for skinks.
- Fluorescent Bulbs
Special fluorescent bulbs that fit into fluorescent fixtures give off varying levels of UVA and UVB (usually given as percentages) rays. These full spectrum bulbs run out of rays before the lights actually burn out, therefore they need to be replaced per manufacturer recommendations, or every 6 months.
UVB bulbs are to be placed 6-8 inches from where your skink can get to to soak in the rays. Also, make sure the bulb is not placed on a plastic, plexi-glass, or glass surface. These types of substances will block the rays from penetrating into where your reptile needs them. Newer research also shows that the typical metal mesh screen commonly used for reptile tanks blocks a significant amount of UVB rays as well. Therefore, try to mount your bulb on the inside of the enclosure to make sure as many rays reach your skink as possible.
- Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
These bulbs do all the same things as the regular fluorescent bulbs but they fit in an incandescent fixture. They also use less energy than a fluorescent bulb and should last longer but some research shows the UV is much too high for reptiles and they don't last as long as they should. They are also only good for small enclosures since they concentrate their light in one small area instead of several feet like a traditional fluorescent tube light does.
The most common reason why pet reptiles run into issues is due to their lighting. You can prevent a multitude of issues (and trips to your exotics vet) by simply providing your skink with the heat and UVB lighting he needs.