Reptile Enclosures: dangers and risks

PART I -- Heating and Lighting


There are many commonly used and recommended items for reptile enclosures that may cause harm if not used safely or appropriately.


Heat mats

a) May cause thermal (heat) burns

To avoid burns there should be an airspace between the mat and the bottom of the enclosure, with no direct contact between the reptile and the mat.

b) May fail to adequately heat the enclosure

Do not use heat mats as the only source of heat (except for very small  containers for juveniles) as they often will not adequately heat larger enclosures appropriately.


May lead to overheating or cooling if not calibrated

Many thermostats only give an indication of the temperature, not an accurate temperature. A thermometer is needed in the enclosure to confirm the thermostat is working within the correct temperature range.

 Heat lamps


Infra-red or basking lights

a) May cause thermal burns

All heat lamps should be out of reach and well-protected within a non-toxic, heat resistant cage, with gaps small enough to prevent access by curious reptiles.

b) May reduce the overall humidity within an enclosure

Humidity can be increased by using water bowls, water features and different substrates, and can be measured using a hydrometer.

UV lights

Inappropriate use can result in too much or too little UV, or may provide the wrong type of UV needed by your reptile.

         Both UV-A and UV-B are generally required; the amount of each depends on the type of reptile and whether you intend to breed them.

         UV-A affects behaviour and hormones, and (depending on the season) needs to be on for 10-14 hours per day.

         UV-B assists in the absorption of calcium in many reptile species.

         UV lights that have too high a UV level or are placed too close to the reptile may cause skin and eye damage. UV lights that are old (over 6 months), too weak, filtered through glass, or too far away from the reptile may give inadequate UV light.

         Follow the manufacturer’s instructions combined with veterinary advice to ensure the correct amount of UV is provided for your reptile.


We do not recommend the use of hot rocks as they allow direct contact between the heat source and the reptile which may cause thermal burns.


All heating devices should be connected to a thermostat and set to an appropriate temperature to prevent overheating the enclosure.

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