Bioactive Hedgehog Enclosure, Part 4: Lighting, Heating, etc.

I'm so happy to say that equipment for maintaining temperature, lighting, and humidity conditions in enclosures have gotten so much more accessible and affordable over the years. It used to be that thermostats would cost $50 or more, and now you can consistently find them for about $20. 

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Tech to Monitor Conditions

Govee thermometer / hydrometer in bioactive hedgehog enclosure 

First things first, you're going to want to be able to verify temps and humidity. My personal preference is to have a device that will continually monitor both, that way I can get a full picture of how things change over a 24hr cycle, over a season, or over a whole year. There are a couple great Bluetooth devices that connect to a phone app - my favorite is the Govee Hygrometer/Thermometer. For accurate temperature readings in the moment, I do like to have a laser temperature gun too - there are lots of options, but below is the "cheap and reliable" brand/model we use.

(you might also want a soil moisture meter, which we'll talk more about in the plant section)

 

Tech to Control Conditions

Smart plug outlet timer and power strip

This is mostly for light, and for heat.

Light is easy - I highly, highly recommend setting your enclosure up on a timer so you don't need to turn things off/on every day. Your hedgie, and the plants in the viv, will thank you for the consistency.

I recommend setting your lights to be on for 12-14hr/day.

You can use a manual-set timer, or if you're like me and want to easily check and update schedules for multiple plugs, you can get a smart plug. This is especially helpful if you want to have different fixtures on at different times. (The Govee dual smart plugs below allow you to set/monitor each outlet individually.)

What if the power goes out? 

Most smart plugs default to "on" once the power comes back on, and will need the power button pressed to resume the normal programmed times (though there might be adjustable settings for power outages). A manual timer will simply ignore the amount of time the power was out, so you'll need to readjust the "current time."

For temperature control, a good old thermostat will do the trick. Even if simply having your heating element "on" all the time keeps things at the right temp, a thermostat can act as a safety backup which would turn the fixture off if the enclosure started to overheat. 

Depending on the ventilation in your enclosure, humidity or stagnant air may become an issue. You can set up a small fan for air circulation and turn it on as needed, or put it on a hygrostat/humidistat (like a thermostat, but humidity controlled rather than temperature) so that a fan kicks on when the humidity goes over a preset limit.

Heating/Lighting Fixtures and Bulbs

LED strip light mounted inside bioactive hedgehog enclosure

Let's do lighting first, since in most cases they partially contribute to the enclosure temperature during the day. Your hedgie mainly needs a consistent day/night cycle, so any visible light will do. Your plants, however, will want a good full-spectrum light. There are tons of ways to achieve this, but my preference is for long tube/strip lights that offer good coverage over the full enclosure. We used two of these lights for the 5' bioactive setup. They have a nice warm white color, and only use 10W each. These LED bulbs also work great placed over plants.

50W deep heat projector mounted in a bioactive hedgehog enclosure

Heating can be a little more challenging, depending on the setup of your enclosure. It's easiest if you can secure your heating element on top, or to the roof of the enclosure. Remember that your heating element will be turned on and off by the thermostat to maintain a consistent temperature, so you don't want to use something that produces light. Options include Ceramic Heat Emitter (CHE) bulbs, Deep Heat Projector (DHP) bulbs, a Radiant Heat Panel (RHP), or heating the whole room with a space heater. I've been testing DHPs over the past year or so and prefer them over CHEs. For CHE or DHP bulbs, you'll want a light fixture with a ceramic socket which is rated for the wattage you'll use. Many fixtures out there are not rated for much above 20 watts, and will burn out (or burn out bulbs) quickly. You can find affordable, durable lamps in hardware stores - they typically come with a 10.5" aluminum reflector. Pet stores will carry great options, but they're typically more expensive.

  

Safety Concerns

When adding lighting, and especially heating, to a setup you want to be sure fixtures are secure, power cords are plugged in and grounded as appropriate. Use good judgement here and monitor how hot things get when initially testing fixtures and bulbs. We normally put all the power devices on one surge protector power strip, and secure it up off the ground to avoid inadvertent fumblings by dogs, children, robot vacuums, etc. 

Head to another Hedgehog Bioactive section:

1. Overview
2. Substrate
3. Cleanup Crew (CUC)
4. Heating and Lighting (this page)
5. Plants and Accessories