Do I need a Safety Guard on my vivarium bulb?

I wish I had a pound fro every time I have been asked this question and I could have retired years ago.

If you had seen some of the horrors that I have seen because the owner did not provide a guard on the vivarium light, you would never leave a viv bulb unprotected.

Royal Pythons seem to be more prone to wrapping themselves round a heat source and getting severely burnt (graphic picture).

This is probably due to their thermal receptors picking up the heat signature. Reptiles do not appear to feel the thermal burn until it is too late and the burn is severe and deep. So for the sake of a few pounds now will save you a lot in veterinary bills later on and peace of mind.

So what should be guarded?

Any Infra red heating, incandescent, spots and especially ceramic heat emitters. In fact any heat source or glass bulbs or tubes.

The fluorescent tube and the new compacts do not get hot enough to cause problems with burns, and I use them without any problems but if you are extremely safety conscious there is a slight possibility of a snake wrapping around one and smashing the tube or bulb.

ValueAquatics now offer Ceramic and Lamp safety Guards, these are easily screw fitted into position over the bulb and fitting providing a safe environment for your reptile. These covers are well made and very sturdy. They are available in two sizes 23.5 x 12 x 12cm and 16 x 11 x 11 cm in black.

If you have a reptile that has been burnt in any way you must get it to a qualified veterinary surgeon ASAP as it will require antibiotics and maybe specialist care.

If you cannot get to a veterinary surgeon take the animal out of its cage and keep it on kitchen paper or newspaper. Get some Pure Aloe Vera gel from a chemists make sure it has no added perfumes etc., Put some on the palms of your hands and let the snake run through them getting well coated and do this two or three times a day. If a lizard then rub the gel into the affected area carefully.

Make sure everything is spotlessly clean as infections are very common with burns. Always get veterinary help as burns are very dangerous left untreated.


Bearded Dragon set up

At ValueAquatics we are often asked for a bearded dragon set up and normally we tailor the set up to the individual’s preferences. Most people are buying a baby or juvenile Dragon and are told to start with a small 24” vivarium as it causes stress in babies if they are kept in too large a vivarium.

Show me in the wild where they are restricted to a small area? I have been keeping reptiles for more than 30 years including Bearded dragons (Pogona Vitticeps) and have always kept them in a large vivarium from the start with no ill effects. Youngsters can hide for a day or two when they are first introduced to their new environment, this is normal behaviour weather the vivarium is large or small. Beardies being very inquisitive by nature will soon be out and about exploring their new home and smells.

So for a single baby Beardy to adult I would go with ValueAquatics VX48 vivarium they are extremely robust and well made.

The next thing to consider is lighting as Dragons come from areas of high intensity light they require high UV output lighting for 10/14 hours a day. The best lighting is a Mercury Vapour lamp these lamps give out heat and UV at as close to natural sunlight as you can get. Exo Terra Solar Glow bulbs are excellent and come in two wattages 125w and 160w. I have used the 125w in a 48” vivarium and the heat levels were in the correct ranges. These bulbs also bring out the animals colours much more than conventional UV fluorescents. Mercury vapour lamps do not work on a thermostat you regulate the basking temperature by raisin or lowering the lamp. If you cannot get the correct basking temperature then either upgrade to the 160w Solar Glo or add an Exo terra sun glo spot lamp. If you go the spot lamp rout remember it will need a dimming thermostat. Both the solar glo and the spot lamp will need safety guards to stop the beardy from getting burnt as both lamps get hot. The best guard for the solar glo and the spot lamp is the Komodo Black Dome Ceramic lamp holder 21cm with the Zoo Med 20cm safety covers.

The Décor is of personal choice some people add artificial plants but I have found that Beardies will try to eat them; If you want to try artificial plants go with the plastic plants rather than the silk ones as they are much more robust and less likely to be chewed.

Even though Beardies do not take water from a bowl as they cannot see still water a water bowl like the Exo Terra water bowls should be included in case they do require water, I have had Beardies that learnt to drink from a bowl. When they are babies place them Into the water bowl and gently push their nose into the water do this for four days and if they have not learnt by then stop. As long as they have plenty of vegetables and greens in their diet and you spray them once a day they will get their required water intake. Feeding bowl to keep the salad in place is a good idea they can be messy eaters.

A hide is a good idea something similar to the Exo Terra caves/hides get one to suit your dragons size, Rocks especially under the basking spot is a good idea as it will heat up and radiate the heat and the dragon will enjoy laying on it. Some stout branches should be included as the love climbing especially babies to get as close to the UV light as possible. Most branches are excellent especially from fruit trees like apple, plumb or pear. Do not use pine, conifer or cherry as the resin in these is harmful to reptiles.

Simply wash the branches in hot water with a tablespoon of bleach to a washing up bowl and rinse well and leave outside in the sun to dry, if you can smell the bleach rinse again and dry out.

The substrate for a baby should be paper kitchen towel or newspaper for the first year or 18 months then use a mixture of play pen or Calci sand and either peat or Coir mixed 1:1. The babies can ingest the substrate when feeding which can cause impaction of the gut and can kill them, when they are older they can usually cope with small amounts.

An excellent video on setting up a dragon’s home and the care of Click Here.  Note: There is an advert at the start of the video.

List of Equipment

Vivexotics VX48
Light/heat       Exo Terra Solar Glo
Exo Terra Sun Glo tight beam spot bulb
Dimming Thermostat for the spot bulb
Komodo 21cm Black dome ceramic lamp holder or the Exo Terra 21cm Glow Light ceramic lamp holder
Zoo Med safety covers
Water bowl
Feeding dish


Aspen Bedding/Substrate

There is a lot of talk about which substrate is the best as some have a bad name for causing impaction of the gut or intestine.

We must look at the pro’s and con’s as there is no perfect substrate, if you look at the natural habitats they have all sorts of health and safety issues and impaction occurs even in the wild. The difference is we care for our animals and try to give them the best.

For snakes in general I have found that Aspen is the best type of substrate to use for Rat snakes, Corn snakes, Milk snakes, Gopher, Pine, Bull snakes and most Pythons and Boas to mention a few. It can also be used for many lizards especially the burrowing ones like Blue Tongue Skinks and also as bedding for rodents and other small animals.

Aspen is clean, non toxic and almost dust free. It completely absorbs odours and moisture quickly, it is also very easy to spot clean.

For very young snakes and lizards I would recommend keeping them on newspaper or kitchen towelling for the first year as this is when they are most at risk from impaction.

ValueAquatics have Aspen available in two sizes 1kg or multiples of and a bulk buy 14kg sack


Zoo Med Lamp Safety Covers

ValueAquatics now have in stock the Zoo Med Clamp Lamp Safety Covers. These wire mesh covers clip onto the front of the Clamp Lamp to stop the animal from burning itself on the Bulb or Ceramic Heat Emitter. Snakes are most prone to this and can wrap themselves round the bulb etc., Royal Pythons seem to be attracted to the heat source probably due to their heat receptors. Also Reptiles do not seem to feel pain until it is too late and the damage is done.

ValueAquatics now offer the Zoo Med Clamp Lamp Safety covers to fit the 14cmØ, 20cmØ, and 25cmØ Exo Terra Clamp Lamps and the Komodo 14cm and 21cm Black Dome Ceramic Lamp Holders.

With the vast majority of heat sources a heater or bulb guard should be used as a matter of course for your animal’s safety and vet bills.


Corn Snake starter kit (Hatchling – 18months)

ValueAquatics we are often asked for a starter kit for a Cornsnake often for a hatchling. Usually we like to tailor the equipment for the individual animal and owner. So I have put together a kit for a hatchling snake that will do a hatchling for the first year to 18 months.

The Fer Plast H43 Flat plastic tank or the Exo Terra flat Faunarium large. The size of the tanks is 460 x 300 x 170 mm (18″ x 12″ x 6½”) Making them ideal or baby snakes including Milk Snakes, King Snakes, House snakes and Royal Pythons.

The tops are well ventilated and secure with two service hatches for easy maintenance.

Next heating, a heat mat that covers half the bottom of the vivarium. The Royce heat mat 7” x 12” will do with a Komodo Habitat thermostat. Half the vivarium is stood on the heatmat and the probe from the thermostat is placed on the bottom of the vivarium on the inside and fixed in the centre of the heatmat floor area.  Set the thermostat to 80°f so the heat mat will be controlled at that temperature and not get any hotter.

Corn snakes do not need any special lighting as long as they are in a light room with a window getting the light (not direct sunlight) they will do fine.

The substrate should be kitchen roll or newspaper for the first year otherwise they may accidently eat sand or substrate material causing impaction of the gut and intestine. When they are upgraded to a full size vivarium (36” x 12” x 12” min.) then we recommend Aspen bedding.

Finally small water bowl one that cannot be tipped over easily and a hide or cave. There are many types available from ValueAquatics I would recommend the Exo terra small water dish and their small hide/cage.

List of equipment
Fer plast H43 or Exo Terra Flat Faunarium Large
Royce heat Mat 7” x 12”
Komodo Habitat thermostat
Small Water Bowl


Habistat Mat Stat

The most popular type of heating is with a Heat mat. ValueAquatics recommend the Habistat Mat Stat (maximum load 100w). It is typically an on/off switch type and will control the temperature of the heat mat very accurately. The Habistat mat stat is calibrated in Fahrenheit and Celsius. Setting them up is very simple just follow the instructions that come with them. With heat mats lay or fix the thermostat probe on top and in the centre of the heat mat then put the substrate on the top, no more than about an inch thick. Also used with greenhouse tube heaters and cable heaters.

ValueAquatics offer two other Habistat on/off thermostats the Habistat Temperature Thermostat which is a standard on/off type for heat mats, tube heaters, cables with a maximum load of 300w.

The Habistat Twin Thermostat is simply two on/off thermostats in one box. It is perfect for controlling two heaters separately to give a specific temperature gradient… For heat mats, tube heaters, cables where the maximum load is 300w on each heater.


Heating Your Vivarium using Bulbs

Heating a vivarium or Terrarium with bulbs at first sounds strange but bulbs are a good source of heating both the animal and Air by radiant heat. The first bulb I’ll mention are the Infra Red bulbs, ValueAquatics offer the Exo Terra Heat Glo Lamps which come in four sizes 50w, 75w, 100w and 150w. These bulbs work by emitting infra red heat waves, they also have a built in reflector to send the heat where it is needed. The red light that is emitted is not seen by the reptiles so can be used 24:7 as a heater.

Incandescent bulbs also radiate heat and light so can only be used for daylight hours. They only give out a small amount of UVA (Ultraviolet A) but no UVB (Ultraviolet B) which most reptiles require. So should not be used as the sole source of lighting except for most snakes and a few lizards. These tend to be used to create a basking spot in the vivarium. At ValueAquatics we offer the Exo Terra Sun glo tight beam heating spot lamp. The tight beam on these means that the heat can be directed exactly onto a rock giving a basking area. They can be combined with a heatmat, ceramic heat emitter or Infra red bulb to give 24 hour heating.

The Neodymium day basking lights give out a white light that simulates the full spectrum of daylight and can be used as the incandescent bulbs. At valueaquatics we offer the Komodo range of bulbs (50w,75w & 100w), Also the Exo Terra Sun Glo Neodymium daylight lamps, these are available in different bulb types the long torpedo shape 15w, 25w, 40w & 100w and the ordinary bulb type 60w, 100w & 150w. They also come as a spotlight type as in the Exo Terra Neodymium Daylight Basking Spot Lamp available as 50w, 75w, 100w and 150w.

Broad spectrum of daylight light
Creates hot spots for thermoregulation
Increases ambient temperature of the air
Can be combined wit other heat sources to give a 24 hours cycle

These bulbs do not give out any light in the UVB range.
Fitting these is easy with the ADCH Arcadia ceramic fitting and bracket or the Komodo Ceramic lamp fixture. These bulbs also need a bulb cage to stop the animal from climbing onto them and getting burnt. All these bulbs should be used with a Dimming thermostat similar to the Habistat Dimming or the Habistat Dimming day night model.

Finally the Mercury Vapour Lamps, more and more people are starting to use these as they give out UVA and UVB light and also heat so there is no need to supplement them with UVA/B bulbs or tubes. Most tortoise owners now use these, they can also be used for Bearded Dragons, Monitors and other large lizards.

ValueAquatics sell the Exo Terra Solar Glo which is available in 125w & 160w.  The Solar Glo is a full spectrum light with carefully tuned peaks to ensure appetite, activity, brilliant colours, and calcium absorption through Vitamin D3 production, and above all to prevent metabolic bone disease.

Optimal levels of UVA and UVB, visible light and heat in one bulb.
Self ballasted
Helps prevent metabolic bone disease
Increased UVB penetration distance (+30 cm) As these are self ballasted bulbs they do not work with a thermostat so you have to raise or lower the bulb in order to obtain the required basking temperatures.

These are best used with a reflector with a fitting cage.

Ceramic fittings like the Arcadia ADCH and Komodo ceramic lamp fitting should be used.


Cornsnake Question

Q. My partner and i have recently acquired 2 corn snakes, with a vivarium, UV light and heat mat. we need to get a bigger viv, I’m probably going to buy the LX48. But I am not sure what would be the best equipment to put in it. i.e.; lighting, basking lamp, thermostat, thermometers and anything else i need. would be greatfull for any advice as I’m new to keeping snakes.

A. First thing is that you should never keep two snakes together. Snakes are all canabalistic and just because they have been kept together for years is no indication that they will remain so. One day you will wake up to one bigger snake. Never feed them together this will stimulate them into a feeding frenzy especially if they both grab the same mouse you will end up with one snake. I learnt this the hard way many years ago when I first started keeping snakes. You do not say what size vivarium they are both in and how old or what size they are. I would keep one in the existing vivarium until you can afford another 4foot and one in the new setup. This is what you need including the LX vivarium. Use the heatwave rock as the basking spot. The basking spot is where the light is above the heatwave rock which is on the heatmat. The heatmat is plugged into the thermostat.

VivExotic – LX48 Vivarium-Ellmau Beech
PT-2191 Repto Glo 2.0 Compact NEW 26W
Geocel Aquarium/Vivarium Silicon Sealant 310ml
Vivarium Heat Mat – Royce Heat Mat 22×12
Komodo Habitat Thermostat
PT-2004 Heat Wave Rock Large
PT-2847 Exo Terra Snake Cave Large
PT-2803 Exo Terra Water Dish Large
Shredded Aspen Bedding Substrate 1kg


Reptile Emergency First Aid Kit

We all know that if something is going to happen it will be outside the vet’s hours and at weekends. So I thought I would let you know what I keep in my Reptiles First Aid Box. Firstly these are only first aid treatments to stabilise the animal until you can get it to a visionary’s surgery ASAP. First get a good plastic box that is large enough to take everything; I like those sandwich boxes with the flaps that lock down the lid. Some Ziploc plastic bags and a marker pen. Keep a list of important telephone numbers like.

  • Vet’s surgery number.
  • Any Emergency Clinic numbers
  • Directions to the Emergency Clinic
  • If you have any venomous animals your local Hospital phone number.

What to keep in the box.

  • Scissors not too large and rounded
  • Tweezers small and medium
  • Magnifying glass
  • KY Jelly make sure it is the NON SPERMICIDE one
  • Nail Clippers and a nail file
  • A small Penlight torch
  • Eye dropper
  • Syringes 0.5ml, 1.0ml, 5ml, 10ml, 20 or 25ml
  • Cotton buds (Q-Tips)
  • Cotton swabs
  • Dry Sterile pad packs various sizes (non stick).
  • Pack paper towels
  • Disposable gloves
  • Tic Hook


  • New Skin A liquid that seals cuts and abrasions
  • Wound disinfectant such as Betadine, Tamodine or Nolvasan
  • Sterile saline solution for washing wounds
  • Zoo Med Mite off or similar Mite treatment
  • Zoo Med Repti shedding aid for stubborn shedding skin
  • Zoo med Repti Wound Aid Mild antiseptic
  • Aloe Vera Gel (make sure it is the pure type with no added perfume etc.) Skin problems and burns
  • Vetarc Critical care formula for wasting problems
  • Vetarc Avipro For dehydration problems
  • VetArc Oxbow Critical Care for Herbivores e.g. tortoises
  • Vetarc Reptoboost dehydration problems and a tonic boost.
  • Small bottle 25ml) of gin or vodka If a snake or lizard bites simply place a few drops into the side of the mouth to get it to release.
  • Panacure is an all round wormer and can be used for snakes and lizards use the 10% solution type. Ask your vet for the correct dosage ml per grams of animal.


Bearded Dragon Set Up

Q. I am getting a bearded dragon as soon as she is old enough (he/she is 5 days old now ), I am very interested in your Black Viviariums, can you tell me what size you would recommend and can I have it directly on the floor or should it be up off the ground

A. Some people like to keep baby dragons in a 24x12x12″ vivarium then go onto  a full sized one after 12-18 months. From personal experience I do not believe there is any need to do this, remember it can take them up to a week to settle into the new Vivarium and  surroundings. Do not over handle them for the first week, and make sure they are feeding well first.

I’ll give you two options one using the solar glo basking and UV lamp (preferred). These are mercury vapour lamps so they will not work with a thermostat, you raise or lower them till you get the correct basking temperature underneath (90-110f).Option  two is with ceramic heater and UV separate, If you want to go with the 24″ Vivarium change the vivarium for the 24″ one and the UV to fit.

Option 1.
Vivarium Viv-Exotic EX48x24 inch Black Limited Special Edition
Komodo Black Dome Ceramic Lamp Holder 21cm
PT-2192 Exo Terra Solar Glo Sun Lamp 125W
PT-2852 Reptile Hide Out Cave – Medium
PT-2802 Exo Terra Water Dish Medium
PT- 2472 Digital Thermometer
PT-2812 Exo Terra Feeding Dish Large

Option 2
PT-2852 Reptile Hide Out Cave – Medium
PT-2802 Exo Terra Water Dish Medium
PT- 2472 Digital Thermometer
Vivarium Viv-Exotic 48 inch Black Special Edition VX48
PT-2047 Ceramic Heat Emitter Heat Wave Lamp 150W
PT-2062 Porcelain Wire Clamp Lamp 250W
PT-2174 Exo Terra Repti Glo 10.0 (42\”) 40 Watt
ACR38 Arcadia IP64 Dry Vivarium Controller 36/38W
PT-2812 Exo Terra Feeding Dish Large
Habistat Pulse Proportional Thermostat

Hope this Helps