Chameleon Lighting
    By Rob Lane


    The Electromagnetic Spectrum is made up of many different parts, each defined by their wavelength.
    In reducing wavelength these are Radio Waves, Microwaves, Infrared, Visible light, Ultra Violet light (UVA UVB UVC),
    X-rays and Gamma rays.

    Light is a general term we use to refer to the range roughly between 400nm and 700nm. As we can see light between these wavelengths we term this "visible light".

    Light waves beyond "visible red light" produce heat, i.e. infra red and microwaves. Light beyond the visible violet spectrum does not, i.e. UV, x-rays and gamma rays.

    In keeping Chameleons successfully we must consider the important effects of Ultra-Violet light as well as "visible light".



    UV technical basics

    Ultra Violet ("beyond" violet) light can be broken down into three parts;

    In the USA the range accepted is UVA 400-320nm UVB 320-290nm UVC 290-200nm

    In Europe the range accepted is UVA 400-315nm UVB 315-290nm UVC 290-200nm

    UVA - or long wave


    UVA is actually part of the visible spectrum for reptiles. Primarily this wavelength affects the way a reptile perceives its environment and the resultant physiological effects.
    Reptiles exposed to UVA light show increased social behaviour and activity levels, are more inclined to bask and feed and are also more likely to reproduce as it has a positive effect on the pineal gland.

    It is interesting to note that cases of suicide are significantly higher in Scandinavian countries than in countries closer to the equator and is believed to be caused by reduced daylight hours and therefore reduced UVA with its resultant effect on the pineal gland.

    As Reptiles can see into the Ultra Violet A Spectrum this makes plants, their food and many other reptile's look very different to the way we see them.
    For example flowers have bright guidelines directing insects to the pollen and nectar and the tongue of a Blue Tongue Skink appears day-glo pink to another reptile.

    Left: This photo shows a dandelion as we see it in 'Visible light'
    Right: This photo shows the same flower but as it is seen in UV light

    Clearly, failure to provide UVA lighting dramatically alters the reptile's perception of their world and is likely to cause STRESS which will ultimately be detrimental to your chameleons health.
    It's probably the equivalent of us having to go back to black and white televisions. Not something any of us would relish.

    More is not always better

    Excessive UVA however can be a problem, causing blindness, skin damage, immune dysfunction, skin erythema , punctate keratitis, blepharospasm, cataracts, pterygium, photodermatitis, skin cancer around eye, conjunctivitus and precursor lesion - melanoma.

    For further pictures taken in the UVA spectrum follow this link Bjørn Rørslett - Professional Nature Photographer

    UVB - or mid wave


    This wavelength is required for the synthesis of Vitamin D3 in the skin. See MBD, Calcium and Vitamin D3

    UVB constitutes less than 0.5% of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface as the majority is blocked by our atmosphere. Greatest amounts of UVB are found in summer, at midday, at high mountain elevations where air is thin, in the tropics where light is most direct and around reflective surfaces such as water, concrete, sand and snow (some surfaces can reflect 85% of sunlight thus increasing the amount of UVB present).

    Generally on these high UVB areas clouds only reduce UV light by between 20-40%.

    More is not always better

    Too much UV-B to humans causes sunburn (erythema) and reduction of vitamin-D synthesis in the short term, development of skin cancer, cataracts and suppression of the immune system in the long term.

    Recent research with Panther Chameleons (Ferguson et al) has shown that UVB is more effective than D3 supplement in promoting egg hatchability as well as avoiding the risk of vitamin toxicity associated with vitamin D3 supplements.

    Ferguson in his scientific paper concluded that Panther chameleons require moderate levels of UVB. Commercial low level UVB producing bulbs (such as the Zoomed 5.0), when used correctly, produce adequate amounts for successful reproduction whereas too much UVB can negatively effect the hatchability of Panther chameleon eggs.

    Note on UVB lighting and reptile requirements

    We have established UVB is a range from 290nm to 320nm. As reptile keepers we are most concerned with readings from 290 to 300 nm (296nm +- 3nm). This is the range that triggers Vitamin D3 synthesis in the reptiles skin and is vital for calcium absorption. and will be referred to as UVB-D throughout this document.

    UVC - short wave


    No health benefits have been discovered for this wavelength however it is used in Ultra Violet sterilizers as it destroys bacteria. It is also harmful to all other life forms and is known to cause immune suppression and cancer in humans and animals

    From the above you can see that Chameleons need both UVA and UVB.

    UVA being for their general well being and UVB for calcium absorbtion. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a country that has a warm enough climate for them to be kept outside all year round, UVA and UVB will need to be provided by artificial means. Here the fun starts! Follow this link for a detailed look at reptile lighting.

    back to top




Any Problems? contact webmaster