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    Lighting for Tokay Geckos

    I have a tokay gecko and am wondering if these reptiles require any exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. I have heard that crepuscular animals do not use UV at all – is this true?


    A crepuscular animal like the tokay gecko or even a leopard gecko is defi ned by its tendency to become more active, or at least more commonly seen, from about 6pm until 11am in its wild range. As you can expect, there is still plenty of natural sunlight evident over part of this period.

    >Images by Jonathan Dst

    Lifestyle

    Crepuscular animals use the sun and its energy in precisely the same way as desert reptiles, and they have exactly the same response in terms of their vitamin D3 cycle. The fact that they hide during much of the day has altered their skin thickness though, which therefore provides them with much less protection against the full power of the midday sun. But equally, it allows them to absorb these rays when the light intensity is lower, and more efficiently, over a shorter period of time too.

    The sun should be regarded as the biggest free energy resource in our world. It is available without effort and limitation to each species. It is simply illogical to assume that a species would evolve in such a way as to not make use of this free energy, when every other group utilises it to a greater or lesser extent for its well being.

    Like all reptiles, crepuscular species have a skeletal system and also other demands for calcium in their bodies. They therefore require suitable access to vitamin D3, so as to allow for the effective absorption and assimilation of calcium into the body.

    Natural behaviour

    Crepuscular species are just as vulnerable to the effects of metabolic bone disease (MBD) as diurnal lizards that are active during the daytime. Indeed, a quick search on RFUK will confirm the large number of leopard gecko – MBD linked threads, reflecting what can go wrong.

    MBD has only ever been reported in captive animals, which simply means to me that we as keepers still have much to learn from nature. In the wild, blood chemistry is maintained safely through and after exposure to the sun. A reptile cannot be overdosed with D3 after exposure to UV rays in the same way that you can potentially poison it with synthetic supplements.

    Excessive provision from the natural vitamin D3 cycle is passed through the system, whereas over-supplementation is not, and liver damage will follow. This is why it is always important to use supplements carefully, in accordance with the accompanying instructions.

    Tokay geckos will generally spend a few minutes here and there during the day in columns of light, as well as concealing themselves in logs and branches or in rocky outcrops. They will dart out from their hiding places for a few minutes in order to feed, but they can absorb the beneficial rays more quickly, thanks to their thin skin.

    You need to provide an environment that replicates the environmental conditions under which these geckos are found in the wild. It is a matter of finding the average UV index of that area and looking at the activities of that particular species. Do not forget that reptiles see the world in a completely different way to ourselves, with their vision extending into UV wavelengths. They can actually see where they need to bask to obtain benefit from the sun’s rays.

    Selecting a lamp

    Having decided on the correct average index, and matched this with the habitat by the way in which the vivarium is decorated, so it then becomes a matter of choosing the type of lamp that is required to re-create the index. As we know, UV output decreases massively in power the further that the light has to travel from the lamp.

    The higher an enclosure is, therefore, so the more powerful that the lamp needs to be, in order to ensure that the required index is available where the animal requires it and in a way which allows it to self-regulate its exposure.

    A tokay gecko in a vivarium that measures 90cm (36in) high by 61cm (24in) wide and 45cm (18in) deep would require a 6% 14W lamp which is 38cm (15in) long, fitted into the hot side of the vivarium and up near the roof. This is key to the light and shade method, and allows the lizard to move between a high and low index.

    Using a 38cm (15in) lamp in a vivarium that is 61cm (24in) wide will result in 23cm (9in) of the vivarium being allowed to drop off into usable shade at the cool end. You must then decorate the enclosure so as to provide lots of cover, but also areas where the gecko can bask under the rays of the lamp, so it can decide when it wishes to emerge and take advantage of the UV source.

    © John Courteney-Smith
    Taken from “Practical Reptile Keeping” magazine

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