Lighting and temperature in terrariums

You have probably heard that the right lighting and temperature in a terrarium are among the greatest challenges in terrariums.

The requirements for lighting and temperature cannot be generalized in terrariums but must be individually adapted to the respective animal species’ needs.

There are terrarium animals that prefer a warm, dry environment and those that need high humidity.

With an aqua terrarium or paludarium, the proportion of water and land must also be right.


Terrarium lighting can be divided into three categories:

  • The light that can be perceived by humans (daylight),
  • UV light
  • Infrared light.


To simulate natural daylight, we recommend fluorescent tubes or daylight lamps.

Fluorescent tubes ensure that the light they emit is evenly distributed in the terrarium.

With the help of daylight lamps, shady areas in the terrarium can also be brightened up.

For your terrarium to be properly lit and at a suitable temperature, additional light and heat sources are required.

UV light

UV light has a direct impact on the health of reptiles, amphibians and the like.

While humans take in important vitamins through our diet, the reptile’s body produces some vital vitamins itself.

Terrarium animals need sufficient UV radiation for this process to take place.

The metabolism of reptiles is also favoured by UV light, and the immune system is strengthened.

In addition to UV light, reptiles, amphibians, and the like need sufficient calcium.

A lack of calcium and UV light can cause rickets (curved bones).

Infrared light

The only source of heat for reptiles and amphibians in nature is the sun.

In a terrarium, infrared light is used to simulate sunlight.

However, infrared radiation is only one of many possible heat radiation for a terrarium.

Find out in advance whether infrared radiation is required for your terrarium or whether another heat radiation is sufficient.

To create the right combination of daylight, UV light, and thermal radiation, you have to cater to the respective species’ individual requirements.

Also, pay attention to the correct installation and the correct distance between the lighting and the substrate.

If you install the lighting inside the enclosure, you must ensure that the animals cannot burn themselves on the warm lamps.

There should be a distance of at least 30 cm between the lighting and the animal to protect the animals.

In the case of climbing animals, the lamps must be equipped with a base, a protective grille or other thermal protection so that reptiles, amphibians and the like do not get burned on them.


Reptiles, amphibians, and the like are cold-blooded animals, i.e., regulating their body temperature through their environment.

If it is cold in their environment, the body temperature of terrarium animals falls. If it is warm in their environment, their body temperature rises.

Your terrarium animals can regulate their body temperature themselves to not get too cold or too warm. They need both shady and sunny places.

Set up your terrarium so that you can divide it into the following three areas:

  • Sun places
  • Average temperature
  • Shady places

How high the temperature difference between the three areas should be varies depending on the species.

It should also be noted that the subdivision is different depending on the terrarium.

While in a dry terrarium, for example, the left side can be made warmer with sunny spots, the right side cooler with shady spots and the middle with an average temperature, the division into the three areas for climbing reptiles and amphibians takes place on the vertical line.

Climbing animals prefer when the upper area is warmer and the lower area cooler.

In principle, the following applies:

For residents of dry terrariums, the temperature difference between the warmer and cooler areas is higher than for wet terrarium residents. In the wild, reptiles often sunbathe on stones when they need warmth and hide in caves or shady places when it gets too warm for them.

Therefore, offer your terrarium animals enough caves and hiding places and stones and rocks to regulate their body temperature independently.

In addition to the heat generated by the lighting, heating mats and heating plates can be an additional heat source.


Most reptiles and amphibians need a higher level of humidity than is the case in our homes.

The following options are available to increase the humidity in the terrarium:

  • Damp & moisture-retaining areas such as live plants, moss & coconut fibres
  • Spray water regularly
  • Bathing opportunities (e.g. waterfalls )
  • Heating of water bowls and water basins
  • Sprinkler systems & nebulizers (not suitable for all terrariums)

If the humidity is too low, this often leads to moulting problems and the drying out of the mucous membranes, which weakens the defence against infection.

In addition to a weakened immune system, dry air promotes virus formation.

Inadequate ventilation and insufficient air humidity increase dust formation and lead to respiratory and eye infections.

If the lack of fluid is not compensated for by drinking when the humidity is too low, this can lead to kidney and metabolic diseases or even death from dehydration.

Excessive humidity can also have negative effects on reptiles, amphibians and the like.

Excessive humidity is usually caused by insufficient air circulation and promotes bacteria and mould.

This affects the lungs, liver and skin.

To avoid excessive humidity, you should make sure that there is adequate air circulation.

Humidity can be reduced by using materials such as stone and gravel that do not hold water.

Make sure, however, that your terrarium animal lacks nothing and that the environment is tailored to the respective species.

Adjustments to the life cycle of reptiles, amphibians and co.

The way of life of reptiles, amphibians and co.

It can also have an influence on the right lighting and temperature in a terrarium.

Find out about your terrarium animal’s natural way of life to derive important requirements for light and warmth.

The terrarium lighting must simulate day and night cycles adapted to the animal.

For this, you need automatic or manual control of the lighting.

Whether the heat sources remain switched on or switched off during the night varies depending on the species.

In addition to the day and night cycles, however, the different seasons must also be considered.

In terrarium animals that are frozen in winter or need a period of rest, the heat is usually reduced in addition to the food.