Are you setting up a heat gradient for your box turtle’s (or other reptile’s) habitat?
Incandescent bulbs are an easy, popular choice. They’re safe, familiar and easy to use. After all they’re the kind of bulb you’ve been using in your household lamps for years. Although these days you’ve probably switched to fluorescent bulbs (but that’s a different issue!).
Many people actually do just use one or more regular, household incandescent bulbs as a heat source. And they work very well.
Reptile supply companies also make incandescent heat bulbs. Some are almost identical to your household bulb. Others use colored glass (or a coating) to change the wavelength of light that comes out.
Similar bulbs from different manufacturers may not be quite the same.
So when you’re faced with dozens of bulb choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused. Here’s a breakdown of the different incandescent bulbs you can find and what they do.
White Light Incandescent Bulbs
These are the regular light bulbs you use (or used to use) in your household lamps.
They’ll heat your boxie’s habitat just fine and at a much lower cost than bulbs made especially for reptiles. You’ll just need to experiment with choosing the right wattage and number of bulbs to create the right gradient in your setup. But you’ll need to do that even if you choose “special” reptile bulbs.
Now, some incandescent reptile heat bulbs are slightly different from “regular” ones. But not in a way that makes any real difference. Some of them have been “color corrected.” This correction supposedly makes your pet’s colors look more vibrant.
Actually some household bulbs are also color corrected. Often this is done by adding a mineral called neodymium to the glass. This makes the glass look purple, and it filters out yellow/yellow-orange wavelengths. So the light emitted is whiter.
Of course, if you’re using a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb for UV, then you’re adding those yellow wavelengths right back into the habitat … eliminating any advantage of the color correction!
Seriously, unless you’re using one of the specialty bulbs we discuss next, just use a household incandescent.
Of course, this assumes you can still find the wattage you need, now that incandescent bulbs are being phased out.
Daytime Blue Incandescent Bulbs
These bulbs are mostly designed to enhance your viewing pleasure. The blue bulb emits (no surprise) a bluish light. It has little in the way of red or yellow wavelengths.
The claim is that it enhances the color of your pet (basically like the neodymium bulbs).
Manufacturers of these bulbs also often make a point of saying that these bulbs emit UVA rays. These rays are important to your pet’s mental health. They stimulate normal feeding and mating behavior.
But regular incandescents also give off some amount of UVA, so this is not necessarily a selling point.
If you like the way it makes your pet look, go for it. Otherwise, a regular household bulb is still cheaper.
If you’re interested in trying a blue bulb, those made from real blue glass are supposedly better than coated ones. They apparently have better heat transfer.
Here are a few you can check out. They’re all uncoated blue glass:
Nighttime Incandescent Bulbs
These incandescent bulbs actually do serve an important purpose. Your pet needs to follow a normal day/night cycle. He can’t do that if you have a white (or daylight blue) light shining on him 24/7.
So if you need to have a heat lamp for overnight (not all reptiles need it), you can use one of these. Although it does give off light, the wavelengths don’t bother your pet.
You’ll find two different colors of nighttime bulb: red or deep blue (usually called moonlight bulbs).
Both give off less light (and obviously a different color) than regular incandescents. Even so, some bulbs are brighter than others, especially the red ones. So even if it doesn’t disrupt your pet’s sleep, it could disrupt yours if the habitat is in or near your bedroom.
These bulbs usually also put out less heat than daytime bulbs. This is good because it mimics the natural drop in temperatures overnight.
Unless your home gets very cold at night, you shouldn’t need an overnight heat source for a box turtle. They should be fine down to about 60° F overnight.
But if you want to be able to watch your boxie at night, then this is certainly a good option.
Here are some red and moonlight bulbs you may like:
- Zoo Med Nightlight Red – (See our Nightlight Red bulb review here)
- Zoo Med Moonlite Bulb
- Exo Terra Night Glo Moonlight bulb
- Fluker Black Night Bulbs (this bulb apparently gives off a barely visible purplish glow)
Basking Spotlight Bulbs
These are also white light incandescents, but they’re made especially to focus light and heat on a small area (a basking area). Reptiles love to bask (and some need to bask), and this bulb gives them a nice spot to do that.
These bulbs are shaped like a bell and have a silver coating that reflects light off the walls of the bulb and out the bottom.
These bulbs are also quite expensive compared to regular incandescents. But again, they do create a nice hot basking spot.
Is a basking spot strictly necessary? Probably not for a box turtle, as long as you have a good heat gradient with a warm side at least 80° F/26.7° C or so.
On the other hand, if you’ve ever watched a boxie basking, it’s clear they enjoy it. So you’d probably have a happier turtle if you do use one of these.
Some choices in incandescent basking lamps include:
- Zoo Med ReptiBasking Spot Lamp – (See our ReptiBasking spot review here)
- Exo-Terra Intense Basking Spot
- Exo-Terra Daylight Basking Spot
- All Living Things Neodymium basking bulb
If you have a pet that needs high heat overnight, you can get basking bulbs in red, too. You shouldn’t need this for a box turtle, but if you’re looking for this kind of bulb, here are a few choices:
- Zoo Med Nocturnal Infrared Heat Lamp – (Read our review of this overnight IR heat bulb here)
- Exo Terra Heat Glo Infrared Spot Light
Hopefully this has helped you understand your incandescent heat bulb choices a little better. And maybe made your decision a little easier?