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Reptile UVB Lighting Guide

Setting up your reptile’s habitat can present a few questions – especially when it comes to which lighting options you will need. With the help of Zoo Med, we’ve compiled the following information and recommendations in order to ensure your reptiles have a happy home.

Importance of Reptile UVB Lights

Having the correct reptile UV lighting, often including UVB light, in your companion’s habitat is extremely important as certain species need UVB to synthesize Vitamin D3 which allows them to properly absorb and metabolize calcium. Different lighting and heating bulbs help create the proper environment as reptiles use external sources to regulate their body temperature, while also promoting overall health. However, while all reptiles require the right temperature, according to their species’ needs in order to remain healthy, nocturnal animals do not have UVB requirements.

What is UVB Lighting?

UVB, or ultraviolet B light, is part of the sun’s natural light spectrum. However, you will need to provide the reptiles inside your home with a source of UVB since they will not be garnering it from the sun. Most reptiles require exposure to UVB in order to produce vitamin D3. UVB wavelength allows reptiles the ability to regulate their own Vitamin D3 levels naturally, enabling them to properly absorb calcium. Without sufficient UVB, these reptiles can develop metabolic bone disease, bone softening and deformation, or other serious illnesses.

What is the UV Index (UVI)?

The UV Index (UVI) is a unitless measure of UV radiation. In this index, the wavelengths measured are those that contribute most to a reptile’s ability to manufacture their own vitamin D3. This is important because not all UVB wavelengths are equal in their ability to promote vitamin D synthesis.

What Are Ferguson Zones?

Dr. Ferguson, a renowned herpetologist and researcher, observed and documented the daytime activities of many different reptile species and recorded the UV Index they were found in. Over time, and with the contributions of many other dedicated researchers, these observations and recordings have been used to create the “Ferguson Zones” we use today when recommending lighting zones for reptiles.

What Reptile Lighting Zone is Right for My Animal?

It’s important to keep in mind that every reptile habitat should provide a photo gradient with zones that go all the way down to 0 UVI, which allows animals to photo-regulate, or control their exposure to UVB. The upper zone limit should be based on your animal’s unique natural basking behavior. To help you determine what zone is your pet’s upper limit, you can reference the chart below. If your specific pet isn’t listed, you can also get expert advice at your local Petco location.

Reptile UVB Lights: Choosing a Bulb and Placement

Once you have determined what your pet’s upper zone and UVI limits are, you then can research what UVB bulb will suit your needs. To make this determination, you will need to consider not only your pet’s species and recommended zone, but also the habitat you have for your reptile. The size and type of the habitat will help you determine what bulb will give your pet the needed light spectrum throughout its home. The guide below will help you narrow down what bulb you can look to investigate further.

The other important consideration when searching for the right bulb is the optimal distance from animal to bulb.

To help create the different spectrum of UVI your pet needs, adding accessories like hideaways, rocks, and larger wood pieces can allow your pet to hide from the light or bask in it – depending on how they feel.

If you have further questions about reptiles and their habitats, discover additional information in our reptile guide and find the right reptile UVB light for your pet, today.