Tank Lighting: Timers and Spectrum Minimums
Lighting for red eared sliders is just as important as proper temperature and diet. They, and all reptiles, need it just as much as they need anything else. Without exposure to the proper spectrum of light, your slider will quickly crash, as his systems cease to function like they are supposed to.
So obviously you need proper lighting before you ever even get your slider home. But what kind of lighting do you need? One glance at the wall of reptile lights and bulbs might set your head spinning, but don’t get overwhelmed. There’s just one thing you need to remember: sliders need exposure to full spectrum UV lighting. More specifically, they need UVA and UVB fluorescent lighting to ensure proper Vitamin D3 production. This light cannot be filtered in any way, meaning that there should not be any plastic or glass between your slider and his light. Yes, visible light gets through clear glass or plastic, but UV rays are diluted by the barrier, which is not good for your turtle. The light should be positioned 18-24 inches above your turtle and should light the entire tank. You can even use a mercury vapor bulb to produce both heat and proper UV light, instead of using two different fixtures.
Timers are another issue. In general, your slider should have about 12 hours of uninterrupted exposure to full spectrum UV lighting every day. A timer can easily be set for lighting to this standard and you’ll never have to think about it. You can use a simple timer that you can get from a hardware store (the kind that can be used for any electrical device) or get one made specifically for reptiles from the pet store. There isn’t a huge difference, but the kind you get at the pet store will present you with more options, such as the ability to plug multiple devices in (and have different time settings for each one) and the ability to set up smaller intervals for each device throughout the day.
All in all, just remember that red eared slider lighting is all about consistency. There’s little margin for error here. Your slider can actually go longer without food than he can without proper UV light. In fact, some experienced slider keepers suggest not feeding sliders every day, but no slider enthusiast would suggest depriving sliders of UV light unless you are hibernating your turtles.
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