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What Kind Of Light Should I provide?

Discussion in 'Tortoise Enclosure Lighting' started by Yvonne G, Feb 27, 2018.

  1. Yvonne G

    Yvonne G Old Timer TFO Admin 10 Year Member! Platinum Supporter

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    I would appreciate it if those of you who understand lighting and what we need to help our tortoises grow smoothly and not like dried out prunes would give your opinions here on this thread so I can post it in the FAQ section where all those researching lighting can find easily.

    I have always used the Zoo Med Power Sun (100 watt) for heat and UVB, and a 60 watt incandescent black light for night time heat. Recently I had to keep a couple of leopard babies a bit longer than usual (Will usually comes to get the hatchlings within a month or so of hatching and takes them home with him to sell). But I had these two babies for about 3 months. By the time Will came to get them you could see they were starting to pyramid. They had lived those three months in a swamp, with very wet substrate, and a covered enclosure. Tom advised me when he was here that my lights are probably having a bad affect on the babies.

    I have now bought fluorescent UVB lights, but I need to know what to use for heat, day and night.

    Thank you in advance.
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  2. Sterant

    Sterant Well-Known Member

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    Yvonne,
    I can tell you that I don't use basking lights at all for my babies in enclosed chambers, I know others do, but I don't and have really fantastic results with radiated tortoise babies. I run 1 reptisun T5 HO 10.0 UVB 46" tube, and then 1 6400K grow bulb. I set the height so that I get a UVI reading of 3.5 (or so) on my Solarmeter 6.5 UVI meter.

    My radiata room is heated so I don't do anything further for heat. Between the hot room and the heat the light fixture puts out into the closed chamber, I get day temps around 92 and night temps around 65. Again, others don't let the night temps drop so far, but for radiata, I do.

    If it wasn't in the heated room, I would run a 100w CHE on a herpstat or similar temperature controller / thermostat rather than a black light or some other devce that has a visible light component.

    This way you get good UVB, good ambient light, good day temps and good night temps with darkness.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
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  3. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    I'm with you Yvonne. My leopard hatchlings pyramid even though they have very high humidity. I do think it's the mvb and even the che's. If I have more eggs to hatch, I want to raise them in an enclosure within a heated enclosure. Similar to what Sterant is doing but keeping temps warmer at night. No direct heat within the torts enclosure, but surrounding it.
    I think the fluorescents are the way to go for uvb and possibly the radiant heat panels and/or pig blankets (kane heat mats) for heat in the smaller hatchling enclosures. I think @Tom uses the radiant panels and maybe he can explain how he uses them.
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  4. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I do not like the MVB and halide type lights. I feel they emit far too much near-IR and are just too desiccating. Additionally, they just don't seem to last very long producing reliable levels of UVB. In a properly enclosed chamber, they will overheat the chamber as well.

    My preferred minimum setup:

    A long T5 double fixture with one HO UVB fluorescent and one "grow light" 6400K tube. I like the 12.0 UVB as I can mount it a bit higher and get a broader coverage of good UVB, even under some of the plant 'shade" areas. I adjust the UVB so I get a 3.5 - 4.0 UVI reading just under it at tortoise level. I like the lighting bright, and prefer offering lots of shade options for gradient and natural hides. I then use a low wattage incandescent flood for basking stimulation. I like to mount it a bit higher to just get the temperature right in the basking area, but spread the heat out by a flood type bulb and mounting just a bit higher than normal. The type of IR anything emits is defined by the heat of the source. So the lower the wattage, the "farther" type IR is emitted. WIth the HO fluorescents, the enclosure will heat quite a bit with just them running as they run hotter than other fluorescents. So the basking bulb does not need to be as close to provide 95° - 100° basking area. This really mitigates the near-IR yet I like to provide something that stimulates the basking reflex and gets them to stretch out. At least for my leopards, sulcatas and stars, as they do seem to like to bask. I prefer CHE's on a thermostat for maintaining heat. Since they operate at a lower temperature than incandescent bulbs, they emit a mid-IR, not near-IR. That is important to me. Depending upon the size of the enclosure, I prefer to have two at either end and mount them high. I don't want them close to the tortoise level, I want them for ambient heat. They will never kick on when the lights are on, but usually only needed at night, when they kick on as needed to maintain ambient.

    The variation of this I run in all my larger enclosures is: (This sounds a bit complicated, but actually is quite easy and the extra is very inexpensive to add)

    I have two double 46" T5 grow lights covering an 8 foot enclosure. Those are 6400K grow light for a bright, daylight, ambient. I then have a single 46" T5 12.0 UVB fixture in the center of the enclosure. I also have two 65 watt incandescent floods mounted fairly high and towards the end of the UVB tube. I actually have these incandescent on a thermostat set for 90° so they kick OFF if the enclosure reaches an ambient of 90° - which it will. So the incandescent do kick on and off especially mid day, when the enclosure is warmest. Kind of like a partly cloudy day tortoises will normally experience in their peak growing season (monsoon).

    I have these on 3 timers!!
    The thermostat to the incandescents are set for 6AM - 8PM
    The ambient grow lights are set for 7AM - 7PM
    The UVB light is set for 11AM - 3PM
    (I also adjust these times shorter in winter and longer in summer)
    The 2 CHEs are on a thermostat set to 81°

    This gives a very realistic daytime lighting sequence. The incandescents have a natural sunrise/sunset light color to them. They provide a nice dawn/dusk sequence. The bright lights then come on without such a harsh flash of bright lights in the morning each day. The evenings provide a transition as well. The UVB is only on 4 hours midday. This is more in line with nature with the UVB at peak when the sun is highest in the sky. This also triples the effective life of this bulb as I do not need to run it 12-14 hours per day. This also does limit the amount of time the incadescent is on as when all T5 fluorescents are on midday, they produce quite a bit of heat themselves and the ambient in the enclosure climbs to about 92°.

    I do the same thing in may smaller enclosure for hatchlings. There I have a single T5 grow light. A single T5 UVB. A single incadescent flood bulb. A single CHE. All set up the same way.
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2018
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  5. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    I've seen how @Sterant does it, and it is awe-inspiring and clearly working well for him. I tried something similar with sulcata hatchlings and the results I got were mediocre. I hatched a bunch of babies, and Dean raised some his way and I raised my batch this way: https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/2015-growth-experiment.119874/
    My babies didn't die or anything, but they didn't grow as much as my babies usually grow, and they certainly were not thriving the way their clutch mates were thriving with @DeanS

    I abandoned the experiment and concluded that the style of raising radiata that Sterant and @zovick use so successfully, does not work as well with sulcata in my reptile room. When I put the basking lamp back in, the growth rate picked up and these guys started catching up to normal growth speed. I have not tried the "non-heat lamp" method with any other species yet, but I'd like to since it yields such nice results with radiata. I don't know why it works with radiata and didn't work with my sulcata, but I know that it didn't. Perhaps sulcata need a higher temp to thrive that can only be afforded by a basking lamp. Maybe a warm room temp isn't enough for sulcata, but it is enough for radiata?

    There is no doubt in my mind that basking lamps of any kind are desiccating the carapace, even in a humid closed chamber, but I have not yet found a solution for the problem that works for me. I also cannot fully explain why when you raise a group of tortoises in the same conditions, 10-20% will show some pyramiding and the rest don't. Personal habits and basking preferences are the only plausible explanation I can find, but I have not put in the time to collect cold hard data on individual basking habits. Anyone want to come park themselves in front of my closed chambers and watch the babies for hours every day to see who is basking more or less than their siblings?
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  6. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    Now what if we added thick damp leaf litter in there. Making it hard to find them, like it would be in the wild. 80 degrees, in the litter, using heat ropes and one other heat source making the rest of the environment 90-95.
    No basking spot as the whole enclosure would keep them warm enough to digest.
  7. motero

    motero Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    Sorry for diverting, Tom said "I also cannot fully explain why when you raise a group of tortoises in the same conditions, 10-20% will show some pyramiding and the rest don't. Personal habits and basking preferences are the only plausible explanation I can find, but I have not put in the time to collect cold hard data on individual basking habits."
    This is true personal habits of the individual tortoises cause different outcomes. Little brats that never drink on thier own vs the ones who drink every time water is freshened up. Having grown out dozens of sulcatas and leopards, this is my observation.
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  8. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    This is what I did in the experiment linked above, minus the leaf litter. It didn't work. Not for sulcata.
  9. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    I think there is possible merit to the leaf litter. I know I am seeing a difference with that increase of amounts of overhanging plants I am now using. I think that they are spending a lot of time resting under plants now, instead of just resting in a corner, or by the food dish as they used to, is making a difference. Ir is certainly blocked by Direct line of sight objects. UVB can bounce off sides and get deflected.
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  10. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    I understand that. I'm wondering though if the thick damp leaf litter would make a difference with the pyramiding. Always keeping the top of the shell damp/wet. Mine live in very wet soupy high humidity conditions and yet they still pyramid. I do use the mvb but have it where they can't lay right underneath it to bask, which they don't really bask much anyway, yet still they pyramid. I'm thinking a constant wet top shell is needed as much as a high humidity.
  11. Markw84

    Markw84 Well-Known Member 5 Year Member

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    If interested - to go along with my post above about how I set up lighting, here are some diagrams of the three different types of enclosures and how exactly they are set up now.

    Lighting 3X5.jpg Lighting 3X8.jpg Lighting 4x8.jpg
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  12. wellington

    wellington Well-Known Member Moderator 5 Year Member

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    That's what I'm thinking. In the wild, hidden within leaf litter, tall grasses and weeds, bushes etc, they aren't getting as much direct heat beating down on them, as much as they are getting less intense filtered heat/uvb.
  13. Tom

    Tom The Dog Trainer 5 Year Member

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    We are talking about several variables here in the same conversation.
    1. Leaf litter or no leaf litter.
    2. Basking lamp or no basking lamp.
    3. All one temp with warmer days and cooler nights, or a basking area.
    Bill and Dan don't use leaf litter in their radiata enclosures.

    I've done a form of your leaf litter idea with mulberry, grape and lavatera branches, but I haven't done it consistently enough, or full time enough, to see if it would make a difference.
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  14. Sterant

    Sterant Well-Known Member

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    I wish I could provide more information as it relates to sulcata and leopard but I have never raised any of those species in a closed chamber. It would seem that radiated tortoises respond differently. I don't use basking lamps. I have significant night drops (nearly 30 degrees) and the results are fantastic. I also tend to lean towards an opinion that humidity isn't quite as important to the smooth growth of a radiated tortoise as it appears to be with other species such as sulcata and leopard. I don't use misting systems or keep the substrate constantly soaked, but I do keep the humidity around 80% and soak daily. One thing to note is that when the fluorescent lights are set correctly, the tortoises do bask under them. I will often see all ages of radiated tortoises under the fluorescent lights, all sprawled out, seemingly enjoying it. Then they might retreat to the hide or a corner of the enclosure where the light isn't direct.
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