Lighting Your Sudan Plated Lizard Setup

rough-scaled plated lizard uvb and lighting
Photo 26384903” by John Lyakurwa is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Reptiles have evolved over the course of thousands and millions of years to be very good at living in a very particular type of environment. As such, their health and wellbeing is very dependent on this environment. They’re not as adaptable as mammals like humans and cats and dogs. So when we keep a Sudan plated lizard as a pet, we need to make sure that the Sudan plated lizard setup recreates the natural conditions of its native habitat. This habitat re-creation starts with setting up the right lighting, heating, and humidity.

Sudan plated lizards’ natural distribution falls between about 10° north and 20° south of the equator, where sunlight tends to be strongest and UVI (UV Index) readings tend to be highest. These lizards are diurnal, which means they’re most active during the day, preferring to bask in the morning before the sun reaches its apex. They also have thick scales that help protect them from the intense UVB radiation in their habitat.

Sudan Plated Lizard UVB Requirements

A Sudan plated lizard setup must include the UVB radiation naturally found in sunlight in order to the lizard to be healthy. The best way to replicate the sunlight in their natural habitat is by using a high-quality fluorescent tube UVB lamp.

The Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 T5 HO UVB, Arcadia Desert 12%, and Arcadia Dragon 14% are fluorescent bulbs that don’t produce heat, but provide plenty of good quality UVB for Sudan plated lizards in a 24″ tall enclosure. These bulbs are T5 fluorescents, which means that they have a stronger UVB output than standard T8s. They also last longer — up to a year!

For maximum effectiveness and safety, the bulb should be roughly 1/2 the length of your enclosure and placed on the same side as your heat lamps. You will also need to be careful about the distance between the basking area and the UVB bulb, as UVB strength actually varies depending on distance from the bulb, and whether it’s mounted over or under the mesh:

(These recommendations are an approximation based on the assumption of a ~45% mesh block. For more details on adjusting basking distance based on mesh obstruction, see the Facebook group Reptile Lighting > Guides > Guide 1: Using T5-HO lamps above a Mesh Screen.)

Don’t forget to add 2-3″ to the recommended distance to account for your lizard’s height. The basking area should be the highest point in the enclosure, and closest to the UVB bulb.

For more accurate monitoring of your bulb’s UVB output, I recommend investing in a Solarmeter 6.5. This will help you keep track of the UVI (UV index) within your pet’s enclosure, and whether it is actually getting too much or too little exposure. The optimal UVI gradient for a Sudan plated lizard is 0 to 4.0-6.0, from lowest (furthest from the bulb) to highest (basking area). For a visualization of the optimal gradient, refer to Arcadia’s Lighting Guide for Full Sun Baskers.

Other Lighting for Sudan Plated Lizards

A Sudan plated lizard setup also requires plenty of bright “sun”light to stimulate activity, appetite, and general wellbeing. Aside from using a UVB tube, this can be accomplished by using a 6500K LED or fluorescent light of the same length and a light-producing heat source (more on that later). These lights and their fixtures are usually pretty easy to source. I prefer T5 HO lamps for setups without plants, and a LEDs if plants are present, as growth tends to be better with the LEDs.

Here are ReptiFiles’ preferred lamps for general illumination:

Your daylight lamp should span at least 75% of the enclosure’s length.

According to Reptile Database and iNaturalist, Sudan plated lizards have a wide distribution from as far north as Etritrea to as far south as the Republic of South Africa, which means that they do well with relatively consistent day lengths of 12 hours/day year-round, or a seasonal cycle of 14 hours/day during summer, 10 hours/day during winter, and 12 hours/day during spring and fall. Creating a gradual seasonal light cycle may be more beneficial to the lizard’s long-term health by promoting hormonal cycling.

You can do this by manually turning the lights on and off or by putting them on a timer like the Zilla 24/7 Power Center. If you wish to create “seasons” for your pet, it’s easiest to simply program your lights to sync with local sunrise and sunset times. I prefer to use Kasa smart power strips for my own setups.

"Photo 30406384" by mikeloomis is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

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