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UVB Meter Owners, Thread Excerpt

Hi Henry,

Basking platforms or amenities in my opinion would be species dependant. For arboreal or small critters that prefer to bask in camouflage, I would use a tree branch (wood) configuration with multiple tiers offering different levels of exposure. For ground dwellers, I would recommend a convex basking base with the center (high point) being the 'hot spot', gradually sloping down and away that center that effectively reduces UV exposure and temperature.

The material could be made of cement, or suitable rocks of really any variety (washed and sanitized) with a color preference towards mid-gray or light brown, arranged to created a 'rock pile' . The 'rock pile' probably offers the most flexibility to conform to an existing setup. The 'rock pile' approach also has the added benefit of offering the critter optional places to bask and some security in crevices if the species is prone to stress.

Although a bit off topic, one of the most the difficult enclosure design challenges I've been faced as of late was setting up a habitat for a pair of Hydrosaurus pustulatus, Philippine Sailfin Dragons. Challenging in the sense they are an aquatic species that are equally sun bathers. Resolving the design required a seven foot tall by four wide by three feet deep enclosure where the upper 1/4 (shelf) is the hot zone, providing good UV, white light, and heat; a basking spot between 100-110 degs F with a relative humidity of 40 to 50%, and a temperature differential to each side from center at about 15 degs F.

The lower section contains hanging plants (pesticide free pothos, which are a food source) and vertical tree limb structure as a passage way to travel up and down the enclosure. The hanging plants serve three purposes: an alternate food source; improves air quality; and a mid-level rest/sleep location (in the wild this species sleeps in tree foliage so hanging plants do well to service this need). To aid plant growth, a second florescent fixture (UV) was attached on the reverse side of the upper basking platform. This also provids more subtle lighting conditions for the pool area below that somewhat simulates a tropical river under a tree canopy.

The base of the enclosure has a water pool with filtration and upward pointing water jet (sports about two to three inches) which serves to increase humidity. To each side of the pool are live plants ( pesticide free fern and ficus) with resting areas. For humidity, I use a multi-port misting system that does not reach the upper level, and a consumer humidifier tucked in the corner I run at least once a day.

The biggest challenge was crating the upper and lower temperature differential where the lower ambient temperature is between 75 degs F to 80 degs F - the only solution was using an enclosure that was tall with an abundant upper venting system to relieve heat buildup over a day cycle. The heat convection also acts to pull the higher humidity from the lower part of the enclosure upward to facilitate the basking area humidity requirement (lower venting ports are used). To reduce the problem of mildew, the enclosure was completely skinned with PVC sheets (non-toxic/non-gassing) and the joints sealed with silicone seal. This makes for easy cleaning.

The reason for mentioning all of this is only to exemplify the importance of designing an enclosure based on the various light and heat sources. With enough space, even as marginal as it may be, one can create fairly decent environmental conditions for difficult species. As in the case of the Sailfins, they have a wide selection of environmental options to choose from that best fits their needs and preferences.

I might also ad our vivariums are air conditioned to reduce temperatures during the summer months (sunny California) just to enable us to control the internal enclosure temperatures. Without air conditioning the enclosures go into thermal overload within about 4 hours...

Hope this helps.

All the best.


Hi Henry,

One thing I forgot to mention was I don't believe there is any advantage one way or another in the insulating or thermal holding properties of the basking material, unless you have a species that prefers a blazing hot surface to bask. In that case I would use a dark material that soaks up heat. But in general I think a cooler base would better serve a basking spot given the abundant amount of heat produced by the lights and the need in most captive enclosures to keep temperatures under control, which is often very difficult to manage. By default, any basking material will have elevated temperature anyway.

Given most discussions focus on basking spots, it would be interesting to research the reverse, a cool spot or zone in the temperature range of about 68-70 degs F for tropic species to see if they periodically cool down. My adult free-roaming Cyclura and even Iguana iguana often seek the coldest area in the house to sleep or in their roaming, hang out in cool areas for a period of time, cool being 68-70 degs.



Hi Henry,

Quick reply...

With the exception of sand based reptiles, a fair number of reptiles I'm working with in the West Indies and in Central America, have a darker substrate (leaf litter, soil and sand mix, red soil (nesting), karst rock, etc. For surface dwelling reptiles, basking rocks are generally generally not bright white, but more neutral (50% gray) whitish colored rock or limestone; sometimes rocks are dark. For smaller creatures, e.g. anolis, often bask on elevated exposed branches or leaves. For beach dwellers such as Curly-tails, basking rocks are generally white coral that is cool to the touch.

Substrate Comment: There is always the concern of unnatural ingestion of the substrate due diet material that falls or is scattered about where the reptile consumes a mixture of diet and substrate. e.g. fruit that the substrates sticks to. This seems to be more of a problem in captivity than in the wild - go figure.

Basking rock. What I feel is important is the basking rock be large enough to provide some temperature gradient from the central "hot spot" with a differential of about 10 degs F or more if at all possible. The rocks I use in my enclosures fall into the 50% gray coloration - not too light, not too dark.

Reptiles that vary their coloration (light to dark) most often are dark when cold thus absorb available heat. The warmer they become (reaching optimal body temp) their color gets lighter or full-color, which reflects heat. For 'fixed color' reptiles, thermal regulation is done by moving in and out of direct exposure into varying degrees of shade.

I've recently started taking substrate temperature readings during my travels. So far on sunny days with good exposure, surface temperatures are high, e.g. 113 degs F to 120+ degs F, ( With lows in the mid 80's to 90's depending on what kind of day it is) with an ambient temperature of 85 to 95 degs F. I haven't measured large basking rocks or masses but based on 'touch' they are generally cooler, which is understandable because of their mass. Also 'rocks' in my region of work are generally not flat or smooth surfaced, rather jagged and/or porous allowing ventilation. For small 6 to 10 inch dark rocks they can be blazingly hot - but typically you don't critters basking on them - or at least for very long.

Since Chucks have been mentioned, our U.S. SW Chucks typically bask on very large boulders that are tannish in color (I've got photos if anyone is interested), but for the island types (Baja) Chuckwallas, the rock is generally karst and dark.

I still think the key and what best simulates natural habitat is a good temperature gradient from the 'hot spot", rather than the color of the rock itself. Thinking about it, dark rocks may in fact become to hot where the reptile may not want to venture for very long and therefore would likely reduce the duration of their normal basking session???

All the best.


You can read over the full thread here.