You can now download a Free PDF of this series by clicking here! The moonlight bulbs are supposed to replicate a nighttime moon effect for the reptile. This again seems like a proper thing to do, it provides both heat and a way to observe our reptiles at night. In my experience of searching for reptiles in the field I became aware that reptiles avoid bright moonlit nights as this would expose them to predators. I have come to the conclusion that providing a moonlight bulb would also make the reptile less comfortable when kept in a captive environment with such lighting especially if they are a nocturnal species.
Ceramic heating elements which emit no light whatsoever have been my heating element of choice since I read the aforementioned article. I have seen a change in behaviors in all of my reptiles that I currently keep. They seem to be more active during the day and the nocturnal species that I also keep are more active at night. The Ceramic elements are more costly but they are in my experience more durable as evidenced by their life spans when compared to the other incandescent bulbs.
With any overhead heating element you must have a reflector to “aim” the heat onto the basking area; for this purpose the best ones to use are the ones that have ceramic sockets. The plastic sockets seem to be unable to handle the heat over long periods of time and they typically melt or warp in the on position. As mentioned before I use a two fold heating regime for my Bearded Dragon Pogona sp.
The second half of this heating regimen is heating the actual substrate itself. To do this there a few elements to speak of only one of which I have personally used. The one that I have used and had success with is the U.T.H. or Under Tank Heater. These are basically mats which have a sticky surface on one side and are prefabricated to fit specific enclosure sizes. There are other styles of the U.T.H. that requires the use of double stick tape to make them stick to the underside of the enclosure. For whatever reason, I have not had as much success as those which are stuck directly to the surface of the enclosure. If you’re building a true vivarium this type of heating element will most likely not work as they will not get hot enough to warm the dense substrate that is needed for the plants, other methods will have to be used.
Heat cables are something that I have seen but have never used it has been reported that they are safe to use within a vivarium setting as they will heat the substrate to the desired temperatures if used with a rheostat or dimmer switch. You can also use what is known as heat tape in the same manner that the U.T.H. is used. In my experience this element is best used with a commercial breeder set-up which consists of racks and a drawer system.