Basking Light Setup -- Lets Discuss the Best Way to Setup a Basking Spot

Seeco

New Member
This idea came from a recent thread:

annonymous said:
i decided on the frosted ones, and i have a dimming clamp lamp, but currently have a 100 watt bulb and its a couple inches from the screen, but he has a perch further down..linus usually settles on the side of the screen between the top and the perch and i have the light in the corner, so he's directly under it..he gapes sometimes, but not often enough for me to permanently move the light, as my room temps fluctuate, sometimes hes right on the top under the bulb, sometimes not, but he has enough of a gradient he can feel comfortable wherever :)
I'm not so sure about that. It sounds to me like his basking behavior is just several variations on cramming his body in the corner as much a possible. You animal should never have to bask upside down hanging from a screen. Not very natural.

In my opinion having your lamp any more than one inch off the screen is a total waste of electricity and bad for your chameleon. The other problem is that it fails to optimize UV bulb basking. So get a weaker bulb and place it closer. Here's my theory:

You should visualize the heat coming off your bulb as a triangle pointing downward. When you use a hotter bulb and elevate it you get this situation where the tip of the triangle is the perfect temp but it is just a tiny lazer point of heat actually entering the cage. He has to line up this fine point with a imaginary bullseye on the center of his body. Imagine warming up your whole body in a beam of sunlight the size of your hand -- frustrating.

(Yes I know reptiles warm up differently than humans but the point still stands -- it would be annoying and unnatural for either of us)

If you use a weaker bulb and a big reflector and place it directly on the screen (or close) he will never need to cling to the screen and the functional basking zone will be much bigger (more of that triangle of heat will be in the cage). With this setup I see my animals just place their tails or butts under the dome and gradually warm up that way. This simulates what we call a "pool of sunlight".

There is another issue here as well. In addition to the triangle of light you have radiant heat coming off the bulb and housing. Remember, hot air rises. If your bulb is elevated off the cage you waste all this type of heat. It will just go up to the ceiling of your room.

If you place the reflector close he can just hang out to the side of the beam of light and still get some RADIANT heat coming off the bulb and the reflector and the warm branches and metal.

This is also the best way to get him to hang out near the UV light. If a broad area at the top of the cage is nice and warm he will spend more time there and incidentally get UV and HEAT at the same time.

Additionally, if you place another branch or two UNDER the hottest perch he can have several levels of basking intensity. With an elevated bulb these lower levels are useless and you are totally dependent upon the ambient temp in your whole room.

So I say lower the wattage and the height of the bulb your chameleon will be healthier and you will save electricity.

(Disclaimer -- if your house is super hot you have to figure out what works best for you. Same goes if you are using an undersized cage)
 
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Seeco

New Member
Ya in my opinion a 60 watt frosted bulb is a good starting point. Get the reflector from a hardware store too.
 

coldbloodedAL

Avid Member
Great thread to start! What about from the side or angling the reflector? That way you can position th UVB directly above the branch, and you cham doesnt have to angle their body to get the heat
 

Seeco

New Member
Hey I think angling the body is good exercise. Angling the bulb is just a waste (compared to getting the proper wattage and just placing it close and straight on).

On angling: Each bar of your screen casts a shadow so your animal actually gets hundreds of squares of light. When you tip the light those squares become narrow rectangles and you get a very hot screen but a not so hot animal. Those rectangles are useless after the light travels a few inches. Just use a weaker bulb

The one time angling is good is when you want a slight modification of temperature for something really sensitive like hatchling Jackson's etc. Since they don't make bulbs in every single wattage you might wish there was a " 34 watt" bulb and then angling is ok.

Regarding UV -- I use the exo terra uv lamp that just has 2 end caps to supply electricity and no hood over the top. A bare tube. The tube is about 1 inch thick. For hatchlings I sometimes angle my heat light dome and slide the UV bulb under the lip of the dome. A small angle but it really gets the UV in there and moderates the heat a bit.
 

Trace

Captain Awesome
Bear in mind I work with smaller species so my caging isn’t large.

I use those under cabinet halogen pucks for heat on my cages. While the temperatures those lights produce is warmer than what my montanes need or want I find the heat is concentrated in a smaller area and I can create a bigger temperature gradient within my cages thus creating more options for my chameleons to bask, eat, relax, sleep etc. Those household bulbs emit heat in a larger area and if left on for a long time (12 or more hours depending on season) that area area becomes even larger and takes away from that good, healthy gradient.

Trace
 

Seeco

New Member
Thanks for the montane input Trace. Reminded me to add that I use two of these thermostats at all times -- if the room temp goes above 75 all my heat lights shut off.

http://www.amazon.com/RZilla-11939-Temperature-Controller-1000-Watt/dp/B002CZ0J3E

That said this advice is directed toward a typical keeper with a single large cage for a panther or veiled in a house with climate control. I don't think you can ever overheat a 3 x 2 x 2 with a 60 watt bulb in a house with central air. Right?
 

Trace

Captain Awesome
That said this advice is directed toward a typical keeper with a single large cage for a panther or veiled in a house with climate control. I don't think you can ever overheat a 3 x 2 x 2 with a 60 watt bulb in a house with central air. Right?
Central Air? :confused: I'm from the Great White North I don't think I've ever heard the term before. :p Obviously climate needs to be considered when setting up a proper cage.

But yes you are correct for the needs of an average keeper; an incandescent bulb would be perfectly fine.
 

Seeco

New Member
Woah you are! I actually contracted giardia from all the freaking beavers up in your area....
 

Sticktongue

Avid Member
Great thread! I've had so many different thoughts because of everyone having a different opinion that it'll be nice to have everyone discussing it here.

I personally put my lamps right on the screen, in the corner of the cage (2x2x36) I also have multiple vines and branches in that area so they can pick and choose where they want to be. I put my gauge on the highest vine and find the best wattage for what degree window i'm looking for. I've never had an animal climb on the screen to bask. They always head to the highest vine in the morning, and then just put a part of their body in the light in the afternoon or just go to a lower branch.

Now, i dont get the point of putting lamps on an angle.. I've read people do it so that the animal does not have to lay flat. Why dont you want them flattening themselves out? I bet if we went to Madagascar or Africa we would find chams sunning them selves side way like we see in our cages sometimes.

Now ive got a question. People say if you leave the lamp on the screen it can burn the animal if they get to close. If they are climbing onto the screen to get closer, doesn't that mean your temps are to low for what they want/need?
 

coldbloodedAL

Avid Member
I was just thinking about the barring of the screen at an angle last night, but more on a sight level. As in if I had one screen cage on one wall, and a second on another.. Can two chams see each other given that the sides of the cages are covered? But I didnt apply it to the whole light thing situation.. Thanks Seeco
 
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reptoman

Avid Member
I personally thnk its necessary to raise and lower the light to get the best basking temp. If you can see in the attached pic, the top of the cage has a wood rail to clamp a light to that can be turned to raise and lower the light as temps change. I also have to change the wattage for certain times of year but this method allows me to change the basking temp quickly and keep the reflector either straight or angled. Has worked well for me so far. For applications where you have an all aluminum screen cage I have screwed a small shelf to the wall with a single screw so that the shelf can be rotated to raise and lower the clamp light.
 
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fluxlizard

New Member
My 2 cents-

I place my light reflectors right on the screen. The lizards only angle themselves if they are cold such as when first waking- they don't do it much most of the day when basking.

I tend to place them centered over one half of the terrarium- not in one corner or completely at one end.

My goal is to provide a true thermal gradient with varying degrees of warmed air over a large part of the enclosure, not a hot spot in one corner with cold air everywhere else. Somewhat gradual variation in thermal environment is the most natural way, the way the lizards can understand, and the way that prevents thermal burns and underheating. The lizards respond well to adjusting their position gradually to conserve, cultivate and control their body heat. When it is an all or nothing proposition, it is much harder on them and me to get things right.

This philosophy and set up is also why I don't need to worry about getting an exact basking temperature. Even if things directly under the basking light are extremely hot (lets pretend 110, which is not what I aim for but I'm using this as an illustration to make a point) if the temperature gradually tapers down to something more comfortable, the chameleons won't use the extreme temperature because they have the 90 or 85 degree temperature available a little ways away so they choose that instead if that is what they prefer. Most of the time the hottest point under the spot is only used for a little while first thing in the morning, after eating or drinking, and perhaps for a little while in the evening.

If they do decide to venture into the hottest spot, I don't have to worry about burns because by the time they get there, their bodies are already warmed up so they don't sit burning their outsides while their core temperature raises- they are able to tell it is too hot and they need to move on because their core is already warmed up. Lizards thermal regulate from the core- not the skin. Which is why when you have a really hot spot and cold rest of the cage you end up with a cold lizard burning its outer surface to warm it's core temperature.

This is also why I prefer normal incandescent globes for heat rather than some type of "spot" light. I am trying to warm the air around the basking spot, not only the basking spot.

That isn't to say that part of the cage is not cooler either- I make sure part of it is and escape from warmed air is possible. But I consider gradual thermal gradient to be important.

Which is also why I consider the ability of the chameleon to move around inside of the cage and use all the available space to be just as important as the way I provide the heat light on top. Without plenty of branches at varying distance away from the heat spot, the lizard cannot use the thermal gradient effectively anyway. A single location to bask on a branch located beneath the heat spot, and no other branch options within several inches pretty much defeats the gradual thermal gradient.

Similarly, if the cage is in a cold home in the winter (let's pretend 68 degrees) it may need more than one basking light/site even if there is only one lizard because more air will need to be warmed in the cage to avoid the hot spot/cold cage problem.

Just my thoughts on the topic anyway.
 
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fluxlizard

New Member
One other quick thought- I judge the effectiveness of the basking light situation by observing the chameleon. A thermometer can get you into the ball park, but after you have a little experience should not be the only guide. When conditions are correct the chameleon will use the warmest basking spot at the times I already mentioned (first thing in the morning, after eating and drinking, and perhaps for a while in the evening at some point a few hours before bedtime), and most of the rest of the day will select a location to warm itself that is not the hottest part of the cage, but still near the light.

If it warms itself all day under the basking light- that's not a sign that it loves to bask- it is a sign that it is a cold lizard that cannot warm up to where it wants/needs to be.

And if it never approaches the basking light or maybe only first thing in the morning- things are too warm.

But think about things this way too- how many places in the world are 84 degrees exactly all day each and every day?

No places.

A basking spot that is not exactly the correct temperature by raising or lowering a lamp is fine- they deal with warmer basking temperatures than they want in nature every day of their lives... It is why they move about to thermal regulate...
 

MamaD

New Member
I always use a household 60w bulb and have had great success with them. I use a clamp lamp from home depot. Comes in a couple sizes, I use the smaller. If you don't mind putting a hole in you ceiling, then, use a hook to suspend the light and this makes it easier to adjust the distance of the light from the top of the cage as necessary to achieve the right temp at their highest basking point. I check their temps with a little temp gun. Not expensive at all. I get as close to the cham as possible to temp and if they aren't on the basking branch, then I temp the branch. I live in OH and we have a lot of crazy weather and that's why I try to temp daily. Great answers and explanations guys!
 

LLLReptile

Established Member
Site Sponsor
One other quick thought- I judge the effectiveness of the basking light situation by observing the chameleon. A thermometer can get you into the ball park, but after you have a little experience should not be the only guide. When conditions are correct the chameleon will use the warmest basking spot at the times I already mentioned (first thing in the morning, after eating and drinking, and perhaps for a while in the evening at some point a few hours before bedtime), and most of the rest of the day will select a location to warm itself that is not the hottest part of the cage, but still near the light.

If it warms itself all day under the basking light- that's not a sign that it loves to bask- it is a sign that it is a cold lizard that cannot warm up to where it wants/needs to be.

And if it never approaches the basking light or maybe only first thing in the morning- things are too warm.

But think about things this way too- how many places in the world are 84 degrees exactly all day each and every day?

No places.

A basking spot that is not exactly the correct temperature by raising or lowering a lamp is fine- they deal with warmer basking temperatures than they want in nature every day of their lives... It is why they move about to thermal regulate...
This is pretty much one of the best explanations of judging appropriate basking temperatures that I have read in quite some time. Props!

In the stores, our chameleons all have their lights directly on the screen, and at almost 3' tall the cages allow for a nice gradient throughout. The top of the cages reach warmer temperatures, and we adjust based on the behavior of the animals within the cages.

We provide basking spots within 6" of the heat lights, and most species we keep are able to fit within the beam without any problem. We use Powersun bulbs on our chameleon cages and find this set up works well in most situations. Having adequate space within the cage for the chameleons to seek out different temperature zones is beneficial and helps simulate natural conditions, where they would engage in similar behaviors.

Different style bulbs also emit different sized basking zones. Within the stores we will use differently designed bulbs within various cages to achieve different types of basking spots for different animals. ZooMed makes a few different style bulbs, ExoTerra really takes the cake at bulbs with different sized "hot spots", with narrow beam, wide beam, and plain general heat lights.

Fun topic!

-Jen
 

ataraxia

Avid Member
Things to take into consideration when setting up the correct watt and type of basking bulb. A normal house bulb is not the solution to every situation.

Not in any particular order.
1. Room ambient temps.
2. Type of caging method: All Screen, Glass screen combo, Free range, etc.
3. Size of reflector/dome used.
4. Species of chameleon.
5. Height restriction. Whether in or outside of the cage. Correct distance from basking site to bulb.
6. Geographical location. You may need two different light set ups for the seasonal changes in your area.
7. I just like the number 7.
 
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