If you are one of the people who have a challenge in deciding which UV light you need to buy, here is all you need to know, including what UV light is, the best UV bulbs to buy, how to set them up correctly, and much more.
What is UV light
Ultraviolet (UV) light is electromagnetic radiation whose wavelengths range from 10 nm to 400 nm and lies between X-ray and visible light. They are invisible to your human beings since our cornea blocks them.
Finally, the ultraviolet rays fall into UVA, UVB, UVC. Of much significance in our context are the UVA and UVB rays.
a). UVA light
UVA light has wavelengths ranging from 315 to 400 nm, can penetrate glass, ozone, windows, and cloud cover. If natural light can reach where your vivarium is, then these pets get UVA.
Providing UVA light is essential to your bearded dragon. It helps in circadian rhythms (wake and sleep cycle) regulation as well as daily and seasonal activity and behavioral changes, including eating, breeding, basking, and so own that will ensure optimum health and boost their appetite.
Finally, these reptiles can detect UVA rays using their third eye or pineal eye connected to their pineal glands.
b). UVB light
On the other hand, the UVB rays have 280 and 315 nm and are essential in the synthesis is of vitamin D3. The ozone absorbs most of the UVB from the sun and does not penetrate GLASS, plexiglass, or transparent plastics.
If you are placing them outside your enclosure, ensure you have a quality terrarium screen cover that allows these to penetrate it. Usually, ultraviolet rays can pass reptile screen covers. However, dense ones will cut up to 50% of the supply.
Do beardies need UV light?
Yes. Beardies need UVA and UVB light. These lizards are among the diurnal reptiles (active during the day and sleep at night) that need UV rays for various reasons.
While in the wild, they get about 12-14 hours of UV rays from the sun during summers and about 10-12 hours during winter. This amount is enough to meet their daily requirement.
As already seen, while UVA rays help in regulating their circadian rhythm, seasonal, and daily activities that will ensure your pets are healthy, UVB helps in the vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Vitamin D3 is essential for proper bone and skeletal development and optimal health since it helps in intestinal calcium absorption, utilization, and other physiological functions. Without calcium, your pet may suffer from metabolic bone diseases (MBD).
Usually, beardies get vitamin D3 from their diet, supplements, while some amount is synthesized by their skin using UVB light.
Without vitamin D3, even with proper calcium supplementation, your pets may still suffer from MBD and other health problems as they cannot absorb dietary calcium.
Therefore, in captivity, unless your beardies spend more than 12 hours on direct sunlight, you need artificial UV light source and optimum warmth to synthesize vitamin D3 optimally.
However, providing UV light doesn’t overrule the significance of calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamin supplementation. Among many reasons, supplementation is vital since artificial UV light is not as sufficient as opposed to that from the sun.
UVB requirement and light schedule (how much and for how long)
An adult bearded dragon requires 10% – 12% UVB rays, while a 5% UVB is ok for baby and young juvenile one. Avail ultraviolet light for a photoperiod of 12-14 hours every day, regularly following an interrupted cycle.
Do beardies need UV light at night?
No. These pets don’t need any light at night. Therefore, providing your bearded dragon UV light at night is unnecessary. Even in the wild, they don’t need it and don’t get it.
Since most of the ultraviolet sources also emit visible light that will disrupt your pet’s day and night normal sleep cycle.
Avoid blue, red, or black light, including moonlight bulbs, since these pets can see them, and they may disrupt their sleep.
Do beardies need a full spectrum light bulb?
Yes. Being diurnal reptiles, they do. A full spectrum light bulbs or lamps is one that provides visible rays that closely looks like the sun’s natural light and that coves from infrared to near UV light. It helps these pets to see, just like we need it to see.
Full-spectrum light means it does not produce UV unless it is a full spectrum UVB bulb or lamp, meaning it emits full-spectrum visible and UV rays.
Ultraviolet rays bulbs kinds- sources
The sun is the best source of ultraviolet rays. However, since you will be housing your reptile inside a sheltered place, you need to use an artificial source. The common types of lights to go for include the following:
a). Mercury vapor lamps
They are the most preferred for people with a vast habitat or vivarium as they produce visible light, UVA and UV rays as well as heat. Furthermore, they last longer and effective from further distances, particularly those high in wattage.
People have reported better appetite, coloration, and energy in their beaded dragons under mercury vapor lamps. However, they are expensive, cover a smaller targeted area such as basking platform if compared to linear fluorescent. Furthermore, they require a ballast controller unless they are Self-ballasted.
That is not all. You cannot use thermostats, including dimmers or rheostats, to control them. Therefore, place them at recommended distances to avoid high-intensity UV rays and have a shaded area in your enclosure.
b). Metallic halide UVB lamps
These high-intensity discharge gas discharge lamps are a source of visible light, heat, UVA, and UVB light for big habitats. Go for brands such as Zoo Med PowerSun H.I.D. Metal Halide UVB Lamp.
Like mercury vapor lamps, they need a ballast controller unless you buy a self-ballasted one, and you cannot use a thermostat to control them.
Common ones are UVB Xenon, deuterium, and argon arc lamps. However, they are not a common source of reptile ultraviolet light.
c). UV strip, tube or linear fluorescent bulbs
The linear, strip or tube UVB fluorescent bulbs are a popular and excellent source of visible white light as well as UVA and UVB rays. Don’t confuse them with the usual household fluorescent bulbs.
They come in various sizes, ranging from 15-48 inches with most manufacturers recommending distances at which you need to place them since UVB rays intensity declines with an increase as you move them far away from your pets.
They are the best choice if you have a longer terrarium, or you want to cover its entire length. Furthermore, these bulbs are inexpensive, energy-efficient, and will give the right UV wavelengths. However, they have a shorter lifespan when compared to the mercury vapor lamps.
Some have a ballast and mounting hood with a reflector such as an aluminum reflector to increase their efficiency while others don’t. For instance, Zoo Med has the 26053 Reptisun T5-Ho Terrarium Hood or Dual Linear Fluorescent Canopy. Some of these fixtures have sockets for compact fluorescent, incandescent or mercury vapor lamps.
d). Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL)
They are similar to the UV fluorescent tube but have curled or folded bulbs with most fitting in incandescent or Edison screen sockets. They don’t need a separate ballast, consume less energy, and are very efficient.
Finally, ensure they overlap to the basking area, and they cover at least 80% of your vivarium. This setting will ensure your bearded dragons benefit from the UV rays even when they are on the cooler side or basking.
e). Reptile Blacklights
Blacklights are mercury vapor lamps, fluorescent lamps, LEDs, incandescent lamps, or lasers that emit UVB rays. They have violet filtering material that only allows UV light to pass through with very little light. However, they produce the long-wave UVA majorly.
Ensure you do not confuse them with the BLB lights used in lighting psychedelic paraphernalia, posters, fluorescent minerals, etcetera.
f). UVB emitting halogen lamps
These are incandescent quart-iodine, quart-halogen, or tungsten-halogen lamps specially designed to emit ultraviolet rays.
They have materials that filter most of the visible light and UV of 300 to 400 nm wavelengths and heat. However, they are not an efficient source of UVB rays.
Finally, you can control them with a thermostat, making them a good option for heating lamps too.
- Neodymium- They similar to tungsten with different being a coating that absorbs some red making the light to be bluer.
- Ultraviolet LEDs
- Ultraviolet lasers
h). Sunbathe them
If you live in areas that experience plenty of sunshine, supplement the UV light by taking these reptiles to bask in the sun for about 15 minutes, three times a day. Don’t keep them longer than 15 minutes to avoid a significant drop in their core temperatures unless you live in warm places
Do I have to replace UV light?
Yes. UV rays source decline with time. Therefore, this means you need to follow a manufacturer’s recommendations on when to replace or take them to an expert to measure if they are still valid. Having a UVB meter is one way of checking or determine if your source has declined.
Best UVA/UVB light bulb for bearded dragon
Having known the significance of UV radiation and sources. It is time to look at some of the best brands to buy.
1. Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Compact Fluorescent Bulb (Reptile UVB150 and UVB200)
This Reptile UVB150 and UVB200 are efficient desert terrarium bulb in either 13W or 26W.
For bearded dragons, go for the UVB150, 26W, and not the 13W. Alternatively, you can buy either the Reptile UVB200 intense compact fluorescent lamp 13W or 26W, depending on how efficient the UVB source should be as well as your terrarium height.
- They produce 10% UVB to ensure your bearded dragon doesn’t have a metabolic bone disease (MBD) since it will require high vitamin D3 synthesis.
- You can use it on top of your terrarium screen covers. However, if you have a very dense screen, it may filter about 50% of the UVB rays.
- The UVB 150 is ideal for up to 20 inches, while the UVB 200 can be further away.
2. Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Fluorescent Tube Lamp
If you desert dwelling reptiles who enjoy direct sunlight with little cloud cover, less shade, and low humidity such as a bearded dragon, African spurred tortoise, Hermann’s Tortoise, or Uromastyx (ornate spiny-tailed lizard), you need to buy the Exo Terra Repti Glo 10.0.
You have an option of going for the Repti Glo 10.0/T10 that comes in 30 Watts (36 inches) or the 40 watts (48 inches). Alternatively, go for the Repti Glo 10.0 T8 that comes in the following lengths and watts.
- 15 inches 14W
- 18 inches 15w
- 24 inches 20W
- 30 inches 25W
- 36 inches 30W
- 42 inches 40w
- 48 inches 40w
- Designed for pets desert reptiles like bearded dragons
- It has a high UVB output (10% UVB needed for vitamin D3 synthesis
- Sufficient production for up to 20 inches away
- It can penetrate screen covers. However, dense ones will cut up to 50% of the UVB rays.
The Repti Glo is a useful source of UVB rays primarily if you use fixtures such as the Exo Terra Electronic Terrarium Lamp Controller and Exo Terra Light Cycle Unit Electronic Dimming Terrarium Lamp Controller that has a dawn and dusk timer.
3. Exo Terra Solar Glo (80W, 125W or 160W)
These self-ballasted mercury vapor reptile bulbs come in either 80W, 125W, or 160W and the right choice for those looking for an all in one lighting and heating lamp.
- Produces visible light that closely resembles natural sunlight, heat (infrared rays), and optimum UVA and UVB rays.
- Easy to install
- Will prevent metabolic disease by providing the required UVB rays for vitamin D3 synthesis.
- The correct heat, UVA, UVB, and visible light will boost appetite, improve pet’s coloration, activity, and overall health.
- Sufficient for over 10 inches with the higher wattage giving your more heat and UV radiations from further points.
Mounting it with the Exo Terra Porcelain Clamp Lamp or Exo Terra Mirror Dome Light will work perfectly well.
4. MyComfyPets UVB Light and UVA 2-in-1 Reptile Bulb
MyComfyPets UVB Light and UVA 2-in-1 Reptile Bulb is a self-ballasted vapor mercury bulb that comes either in 100 or 125 watts.
- Produces UVB, UVA, and heat at the same time.
- Doesn’t produce damaging UVC rays
- It helps in vitamin D3 synthesis for maximum calcium absorption.
- Will boost color, activity, the appetite of your pets
- It has a long lifespan, about 10000 UVB hours.
- Fits in any E26 lighting fixture
Ensure you don’t use this bulb with dimmers since it cannot work well.
5. Evergreen Pet Supplies 100 Watt UVA UVB Mercury Vapor Lamp
This Evergreen Pet Supplies bulb is a self-blasted mercury vapor lamp ideal for not only your bearded dragon but also other pets, including snakes (such as pythons and boas), tortoises, geckos, turtle, among others.
- It will produce heat, UVA, UVB, and visible light for different cage types, including vision cages, terrarium, vivarium, and so on.
- It has a long lifespan and comes with a warranty.
- Value for money
Do not use it with dimmers and experiment with various distances until you achieve desired levels of heat. Also, use it with an excellent quality ceramic fixture and a dome if necessary.
6. Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb
The Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb is an excellent choice if you are looking for a self-ballasted lamp that comes in 70, 100, 160, and 275 watts. Therefore, your pick will depend on the size of your vivarium or habitat.
- Great source of heat, UVA/UVB rays, and visible light.
- They have a longer UVB lifespan when compared to other self-ballasted mercury vapor bulbs.
- They come with a warranty for the remaining period in case they fail before six months.
- It features a narrow design that directs most of the UVA and UVB to the bulb’s face.
- Its manufacturer gives give email advice on which bulb to buy if you tell them the kind of pet you have, your enclosure type and size, ambient temperature, and distance to the basking area.
a). Mega-Ray 70 Watt bulbs
They are ideal for small habitats such as the one for baby bearded dragons.
b), 100-watt bulb
It is the most popular for people with bearded dragons whose UVB, UVA, and light closely mimic that of the sunlight. Place it a minimum distance of 12” and a maximum one of 20”. At 20”, it will provide enough UVB for a circumference of 30 inches.
c). Mega-Ray 160 watt bulb
If you have a big habitat, consider going for the 160-watt lamp. Place it at least 18” and at most 24” distance. Expect effective UVB to cover a circumference of 30” when placed at 20” range and more if set at 24 inches.
d). Mega-Ray 275 watt bulb
If you have a vast vivarium, the 275-watt lamp will serve you well. Place it at a minimum and maximum distances of 34” and 46” respectively. At a range of 34″, it will cover a circumference of 30 inches.
7. Zoo Med PowerSun UV
The Zoo Med PowerSun UV is a self-ballasted mercury vapor lamp that comes in 80, 100, and 160 watts. Like other mercury vapor lamps, they have a longer lifespan, i.e., you will need to replace them after 12 months.
- You get heat, UVA and UVB rays from the same bulb
- It uses the standard ceramic lamp socket without a ballast (self-ballasted)
- Variable voltages to give you needed heat and UV rays intensity at different distances depending on the size of the vivarium. For instance, the 160W bulb is ideal for a large terrarium you can place several feet away.
- It comes with a one year warranty.
- Its threads are corrosion-resistant (nickel coated)
Avoid using dimming terrarium thermostats if you buy this Zoo Med PowerSun.
8. Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 Mini Compact Fluorescent
This 13 W UVA/UVB compact fluorescent bulb is an excellent choice for people with smaller desert terrariums.
- It uses quartz glass that allows maximum UVB penetration.
- It fits into the standard thread sockets, is a cool burning (doesn’t get hot), and don’t require separate ballast.
- You can place it vertically or horizontally
- It has a 10% UVB and 30% UVB to help increase natural behaviors like eating, mating, as well as reverse metabolic bone disease.
Best suited with either the Zoo Med Mini Deep Dome Lamp Fixture with 5.5-Inch Dome for vertical placement or Zoo Med Single Socket Hood in case you want horizontal orientation.
9. Zoo Med T8 and T5 HO Repti Sun 10.0 UVB
The Zoo Med Repti Sun 10.0 UVB are linear or tube fluorescent bulbs that come in two versions, the T8 and T5 HO.
The T8 emits 10% UVB and 30% UVA is suitable for large terrariums that need at least 12 inches of UVB penetration. It will help reverse metabolic bone disease and is usable on screens but may reduce its efficiency by 50%. It comes in 18″ (15W), 24″ (17W), 36″(25W) and 48″ (32W).
On the other hand, with the T5 HO being twice stronger than the T8, meaning it is ideal for an even more giant terrarium that requires up to 24 inch UVB penetration, has brighter light, and produces more UVB. It comes in 12″ (25W), 22″ (24W), 34″ (39W) and 46″ (54W).
10. Zilla UVB Fluorescent Desert Coil Bulb
This Zilla Desert 50 Bulb is a 20 watt UVA/UVB full spectrum compact fluorescent bulb suited for desert dwelling pet reptiles, including your bearded dragon or uromastyx.
- It provides a full UVB range that these pets need to properly absorb and utilize calcium as well as UVA light that is also essential.
- It is a good source of full-spectrum light (visible light) very essential for the proper coloration of your beardies.
- Energy-efficient and lasts long. You replace it once a year.
- The bulb fits in most standard bulb sockets for incandescent bulbs.
11. Zilla Desert 50 T8 Fluorescent Bulb Tube (18 inches)
This bulb is a full-range UVB, and UVA ray bulb is ideal for desert reptiles that bask at midday, including your beardie.
- It provides sufficient UVB to enhance calcium metabolism as well as the necessary UVA.
- Will enhance your terrarium environment and pet color being a full spectrum bulb
- Energy efficient
- It lasts long. Replace it after a year.
- It comes in various lengths including 18”, 24”, and so on.
12. Others UV bulbs
- STTQYB Sun Lamp Reptile Heat Lamp UVA + UVB Full Spectrum Sun Lamp Sunbathe Reptile Lizard Lamp UV Heating Lamp
- Full Spectrum Pet Light Bulb VITA-Light Great for Birds & Reptiles. UVA & UVB
- REPTI ZOO Energy Saving Lamps UVB Bulb, Spiral Compact fluorescent bulb
- LUCKY HERP 10.0 UVB Fluorescent Desert Terrarium Lamp – Compact fluorescent bulb
- Arcadia D3+ Reptile Lamp T8 12% UVB AND Arcadia D3+ Reptile Lamp T5 12% UVB TUBES – Later produces 95% more UVB and a better bulb
- Exo Terra sunray bulb/metal halide bulb – an excellent source of visible light, UVA, UVB, and heat.
Bulbs to avoid
- Avoid any lamps, avoid, that emit perilous shortwave UVB as they may result in photokeratoconjunctivitis and other eye problems.
- Aquarium or fish tank lights as they do not emit the UV spectrum.
- Grow plant lights since plants only need visible light
- Avoid household light bulb
Use a reptile timer to help keep the day and night cycle, such as the Zilla Reptile Habitat Lighting & Terrarium Heat Power Center.
A fixture with a reflective surface to ensure most of the UV rays and visible light goes into your vivarium.
Now that you know the in and out of UV light, here are things we feel you might find vital also to understand.
- Terrarium supplies and set up
- Bearded dragon ideal temperature and best heat lamps
- How to care for your beardies
- How to feed your bearded dragons
- Which hygrometers should you buy?