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Importance of UV light for reptiles

Posted by Petmonde Team on

What is UV (ultraviolet) light and why is it important for our reptiles?

Simply put, it is radiation from sunlight and consists of wavelengths ranging from 100 to 400 nanometers. There are 3 types of UV in this wavelength range: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C.

In the wild, turtles, snakes, reptiles in general are often seen sunbathing and sunbathing. The latter supplies them with both heat (wavelength in the infrared range) and UV light.

Even though this article is primarily about UV light, the heat source goes hand in hand with it. Reptiles are cold blooded. Unlike mammals which have a stable internal body temperature that regulates itself, reptiles rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature, which is directly affected by their environment. This is why we must provide them with both a source of heat, a source of light and areas where they can also hide (shade).

There are bulbs on the market that provide heat or light, or both.


UVA - this radiation is very important for our reptiles and helps regulate their natural behaviors such as when to eat, sleep, mate, etc. It makes the animal happier and allows it to better perceive its environment.

Compared to humans, reptiles see additional colors through UVA light. For example, food becomes more colorful and tasty for them (green is more green, red is more red, etc.).

All "UVA lamps for reptiles" emit a lot of UVA; Metal halide bulbs are particularly efficient sources which, combined with their extremely high light output, make them excellent simulators of sunlight.
Lamps that do not emit UVA, such as white and colored LEDs and infrared-emitting heat lamps, do not provide color vision to reptiles and should not be a primary source of light in the vivarium .

UVB - also very important for our reptiles. UVB radiation aids in the synthesis of vitamin D3, which in turn allows reptiles to absorb calcium and maintain healthy bones (and shells for turtles).

UVB rays work in conjunction with heat and proper nutrition for vitamin D3 conversion, so ensure that heating and UV exposure is even across the reptile's body in the tan area.

For example, many reptiles that tan in the wild but do not receive the proper amount of UVB radiation in captivity will eventually develop metabolic bone disease. Reptiles that require a higher amount of UVB light are water and land turtles, bearded dragons, iguanas, chameleons and many others.

Metal reflectors can significantly improve UV dispersion - ideal for desert species, but use with caution. Even nocturnal geckos or shade-dwelling turtles and lizards can benefit from UVB.

The easiest way to find out how much UVB reptiles need is to determine their natural habitat and climate! If they live in a desert climate, they usually get plenty of sun and are used to having more infrared and UV radiation, but they also need a dark, dry place to hide from UV rays. and heat. If they live in a tropical climate, the environment in their terrarium/vivarium should also mimic that.

So to choose the appropriate UVB bulb for your reptile, just look at its UV-B index. For example, a pogona lives in a desert climate, so it needs a UV-B index of around 10.0. On the other hand, a UV-B index of 3.0 is more than enough for a water turtle, because it does not live in the desert! 4.0-5.0 for a land tortoise, etc.

UVC - It is germicidal radiation, but a large amount of UVC or prolonged exposure is harmful to all living things.
It is shorter wavelength radiation than UVA/UVB and in nature it is almost completely blocked by the ozone layer and oxygen in the atmosphere. However, due to its harmful effects, it makes a good germicide and can help eliminate pathogens. UVC purifiers are sold separately in the store.

Can UV bulbs replace natural sunlight for reptiles and pets?

Yes. UV bulbs exist for the purpose of providing "natural" light to reptiles that are kept in an enclosed space without access to direct sunlight. Pet owners should be sure to choose the right type of bulb for their pets, often combining different light and heat sources.

Please find below the favorite products of our customers and their reptiles

Effective use of UV bulbs?

Each animal has its own needs, but it is generally recommended to keep the UVB bulbs and heat source on for 10 hours. It is also advisable to provide a source of night heat (ceramic bulb that only provides heat and no light or a heating mat, black or red night bulbs).

Be aware that UVB will decrease with improper use.

Many pet owners may not know this, but any material, even transparent such as glass or plastic, attenuates the power of UV radiation. Some more than others, depending on the nature of the material, its thickness, its refractive index, etc. Therefore, placing an aquarium near the window will not necessarily provide enough UV radiation for your animal. . This must be exposed directly to the light source.

Another thing we pet owners need to know is how long bulbs last.

Because we don't see UV rays ourselves, we can't really tell when we need to change the bulb. This is why it is generally recommended to replace it after 6 months of use, even if it is still functional, especially if the bulb in question emits UVB.

No bulb should be placed at a distance of less than about 15 cm from the animal; 12 inches is the standard minimum for neon tubes, but some require a minimum distance of 15 inches, depending on their wattage and/or UV-B rating.

Thank you for your attention and see you next time!


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