In the reptile hobby there are two important variants of temperature, ambient temperatures, and surface temperatures. Both play key roles in our reptile’s wellbeing. While each reptile has specific needs for each to aid in thermoregulation and digestion, we are going to cover the general principles, how to accurately measure them, and which heating elements achieve these.
The temperature of the air in the enclosure is referred to as ambient temperature. Ambient temperatures ensure that your cold-blooded friend can properly regulate their body temperature. These temperatures should be kept in a gradient, keeping the air on one side of the tank hot and gradually going to cool creates an ideal ambient gradient and environment. Depending on the species of reptile kept, these hot to cool gradients will vary in temperature. Below is a diagram showing how this works in both arboreal and terrestrial enclosures.
To accurately measure your ambient temperatures, you’ll want to use a digital thermometer such as the Exo Terra Digital Thermometer or Zoomed Digital Thermometer. Heat sources such as basking bulbs and ceramic heat emitters are effective options to create an ambient gradient in the enclosure.
Surface temperatures can be the temperature of the surface under a basking spot/heat source, or the temperature of the glass/substrate made by an under-tank heater. Surface temperatures play a significant role in digestion, as well as thermo-regulation for reptiles who do not typically bask. Below is a diagram showing examples of surface temperatures.
Surface temperatures are best measured using an infrared heat gun, such as the Zoomed ReptiTemp Digital Infrared Thermometer. Heat sources for surface temperature can include under tank heaters, heat cable, heat tape, or rocks and logs placed under basking lights to absorb heat.
It is important to know both your ambient and surface temperatures. Proper ambient air temperatures with gradients are pivotal to the health of your animal. Proper surface temperatures allow healthy digestion. Both assist your reptile in properly thermoregulating. It is important to know what temperatures your reptile requires for both ambient and surface temperatures. Reptiles that do not bask regularly, such as nocturnal species and snakes, will rely the most on surface temperatures to provide adequate warmth to their bellies. While other lizards receive the most benefit from radiant heat lamps while basking.
It is important to use thermostats or rheostats to keep temperatures in the proper range. These help to protect your reptile from a malfunctioning heat mat or light that could lead to burns and other health issues.
If you have any questions about providing the proper heat for your reptile, give us a call or visit us instore today!