Heating Your Sudan Plated Lizard Tank

basking sudan plated lizard tank

Like other reptiles, Sudan plated lizards are cold-blooded, which means that their body temperature is dictated by the temperature of their environment, instead of being able to maintain their own body temperature like humans and other mammals can. This means that your Sudan plated lizard tank needs to offer a range of temperatures so they can cool down when they get too hot, and warm up when they’re feeling too cold. This is called thermoregulation.

Observations of wild Sudan plated lizards correlate closely with distribution maps for the Tropical Savanna biome in Africa. This is also known as a Wet-Dry Tropical climate. This climate has two seasons: a long dry season and a short wet season. Average air temperature rarely get much above 90°F (33°C) during the hottest months, and even during the cooler dry season, monthly temperatures are consistently above 65°F (18°C) air temperature.

A good Sudan plated lizard tank must offer hot basking temperatures during the day and a cooldown at night:

  • Basking surface temperature (hottest): 105-115°F (40-46°C)
  • Cool side temperature: 75-80°F (23-26°C)
  • Nighttime temperature: 60-72°F (15-22°C)

The heat sources should be turned on/off at the same time as the light source so temperatures can naturally drop during the night. A lightless heat source such as a ceramic heat emitter is not necessary unless nighttime temperatures drop below 60°F/15°C.

How to measure temperature: Infrared thermometers (also known as temperature or temp guns) can be used to accurately measure surface temperature, and are commonly used to measure basking and body temperatures of wild reptiles. We recommend the Etekcity 774. A digital probe thermometer can be used to measure your air temperature — we recommend the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer for this, with the probe placed on the warm end of the enclosure.

Having both tools is important because while high basking surface temperature is a good thing, air temperatures that are too high can quickly kill a reptile from heat stroke if it can’t escape to a cooler area!

What should you use for heat?

A heat lamp! Heat lamps are the most natural way to create heat in your Sudan plated lizard tank because they mimic the way that the sun provides light and heat from above, warming both the air and ground beneath.

If you are using an enclosure with a mesh top, I recommend using a large dome-style heat lamp fixture with a ceramic socket, like the Zoo Med Dimmable 8.5″ Clamp Lamp.

As for your heat bulb, there are many different types of heat bulbs available, from reptile-specific brands to floodlight bulbs at your local home improvement store. Reptile-specific heat bulbs may be tempting, but they can be maddenly short-lived and don’t produce as much heat as I would like. Halogen floodlight bulbs tend to work best as a heat source. They have a wide beam and heat more evenly, enabling the lizard to warm its entire body at once, as it would in the wild. Personally I use the Philips 100w 120v PAR38 halogen heat lamp bulb with my plated lizard, and have been very satisfied with its performance and longevity.

  • Pro tip: Be sure to buy white or clear bulbs rather than red, blue, black, or whatever other color they’re offering. Colored bulbs do more harm to a reptile than good.
We do not recommend using ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), heat pads, heat tape, or radiant heat panels for Sudan plated lizards.

Where should you put the heat lamp in a Sudan plated lizard tank?

In order for your plated lizard to be healthy, it needs a temperature gradient. A temperature gradient (sometimes also called a thermal gradient or heat gradient) is the range of temperatures within your reptile’s enclosure. The easiest way to do this is by putting the heat lamp on one side of the cage. The side underneath the heat lamp then becomes the warm side, while the opposite becomes the cool side. Temperatures between the two sides will naturally flow from high to low depending on distance from the heat lamp.

What wattage should the heat bulb be?

This is a common question with no solid answer, sorry! But generally speaking, if your basking surface is 12” away from the heat bulb, then a 100w halogen floodlight bulb or 150w white halogen reptile heat bulb should work. Exactly what wattage bulb you will need depends on room temperature, enclosure height, distance between the heat source and basking spot, and which bulb you’re using.

What works for one person won’t always work for another, which is why I like lamp dimmers. When in doubt, try the higher-wattage bulb first and dim as needed. Keep in mind, however, that dimming a bulb too much can damage the bulb and reduce its lifespan, as well as create an annoying ringing noise, so it’s best to try to get as close as you can with the right wattage rather than depending on the dimmer.

  • Pro tip: Beware of energy-efficient floodlight bulbs that advertise a high wattage, but actually run on a lower wattage. They’re great for your electric bill, but not for producing the heat that your lizard needs.

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