Reptile Health: UV Lighting

Besides a bright light and heat source such as incandescent lights, most reptiles need broad spectrum UVA/UVB lighting. Providing your reptiles with the proper amount of UV is vital to their health. In their natural habitat, lizards spend a lot of time basking, which provides these essential rays of light, but in captivity it is very important that we provide it to them.

Difference between UVA and UVB Light

UVA is a long range ultraviolet light. UVA light encourages your reptile to normal daytime activities and is important in establishing day/night routines. Reptiles that get enough UVA are more active, eat more, breed more easily, and exhibit general well-being.

UVB is a short-range ultraviolet light that is essential for the digestive process of reptiles. Exposure to UVB produces vitamin D3 in reptile skin.

The Importance of UV Lighting

Reptiles need a day and night cycle to maintain optimum health and temperament. Without a consistent day/night cycle, your reptile will become stressed and may show symptoms such as loss of appetite or bad temper. This is where UVA comes into play. UVA rays tell reptiles that it is daytime and stimulate the animal to resume normal daytime activities such as feeding, bathing and exploring.

Vitamin D3 is necessary for your reptiles to absorb and use calcium. D3 is produced inside the reptile’s skin as it sunbathes and absorbs UVB rays. In captivity, exposure to natural sunlight is limited, and materials such as glass, fiberglass, plexiglass and screens filter out UVB, so we must provide an alternative source of UVB rays.

Many health problems can arise if your reptile is not getting enough UVB due to a lack of vitamin D3. Symptoms can range from decreased digestion, loss of appetite, and mouth or stomach rot to more serious problems such as blindness, paralysis, and even death. UVB deficiency also causes Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) in reptiles.

With MBD, the bones don’t grow properly, even in an adult lizard they bend, become brittle and break easily.

Reptiles That Don’t Need UVA/UVB

If providing artificial UV is not a viable option for your reptile, consider a reptile that does not require UV. There are some lizard species that are nocturnal (awake at night) and therefore have adapted to live without the UV rays provided by the sun. Geckos are a great example of this. Some of the most popular lizards are the Leopard Gecko and the Crested Gecko. If you can’t provide UV, frogs are another great choice. Frogs are amphibians and do not need UV to digest food, absorb calcium and be healthy.

Thoroughly research the UVA/UVB requirements of the reptile or amphibian species you wish to keep as pets. UV bulbs are expensive and should be replaced every six months, even if they still burn.

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