As a bearded dragon owner, it's your responsibility to provide your reptile with the ultimate habitat with adequate lighting, heating and the comforts of home. Remember that these reptiles come from hot desert climates and therefore have very specific habitat needs, not provided within your home.
UVA and UVB are essential to the overall health of your bearded dragon. Your bearded dragon will spend hours of its day basking under the lamps you have provided, soaking up the essential UVA and UVB rays.
Knowing why UV rays are important and what your bearded dragon UVB light options are, can help you identify the right solution for your particular habitat setup.
In a Hurry? Here's Our Top Picks...
Best UVB Light For Bearded Dragon
Zoo Med Reptisun Fluorescent Tube 10.0 UVB
The Zoo Med Repti Sun 10.0 UVB is a linear fluorescent bulb available in T5 and T8 to ensure the best care for bearded dragons. These lights come in a choice of sizes offering 10.0 UVB and 30 UVA. It is recommended to place the bulb (with reflector) between sixteen and eighteen inches above the basking area. The bulb is to be replaced every 6 months.
Zoo Med Reptisun Compact Fluorescent 10.0 UVB
This is the same as the fluorescent tube recommended above, except this is the compact version which offers 10.0 UVB and 30 UVA. This compact fluorescent has a threaded base for convenience, making changing the bulb quick and easy. The bulb (with reflector) should be placed between sixteen and eighteen inches above the basking area and the bulb will need to be changed every 6 months to achieve the best results and ensure the best health for your bearded dragon.
Evergreen Mercury Vapor Bulb
The Evergreen Mercury Vapor Bulb is a heat and UV lamp all in one, suitable to be placed twelve to fourteen inches above the basking area. This bulb provides a complete range of welcome benefits, which can help improve the overall health of your bearded dragon in the long run.
What Is UV Lighting
When it comes to setting up your bearded dragon habitat, UV lighting is one of the most important elements you are going to have to focus on.
UV light is ultra violet light, something your bearded dragon would access directly from the sun if it was in the wild. Natural sunlight will provide your beardie with the best health. Bearded dragons require a certain spectrum of UV light, which includes UVA and UVB. This offers your dragon a full range of welcome health benefits.
Signs Your Bearded Dragon UVB Light Setup Could Be Wrong
Your bearded dragon is going to tell you when things are not as good within the habitat as they should be. A dragon outgrowing its tank or in an overcrowded enclosure will wave up against the edges of the tank to escape, your dragon will do similar things to tell you that the UV in the habitat could be wrong.
Some of the signs something could be wrong, includes:
- Lethargy – Dragons tend to get lethargic when temperatures get too low.
- Appetite Loss – Your dragon may stop eating due to inadequate temperatures within the tank.
- Jerky / Shaky movements – This could be a result of calcium and Vitamin D3 deficiency. Vitamin D3 helps the dragon absorb calcium.
- Snout rubbing is another sign of an unhappy dragon, often resulting in temperature inadequacies.
General Guidelines – Bearded Dragon UVB Light
When it comes to selecting UV lights for your bearded dragon there are a few things you need to bear in mind when making your selection to ensure the best end result. Your dragon comes from a hot desert climate where he/she could bask in the sun for hours each day, soaking up the UVA and UVB rays it needs to ensure optimum health.
Indoors, you need to replicate this sunshine, which means you need to run your UV lights for between ten and twelve hours per day. It's recommended to invest in a timer switch to ensure your lights turn on and off at the same time every day.
UVA helps your dragon remain stimulated, healthy and enjoy a healthy appetite, while UVB is essential to metabolite Vitamin D3 and calcium.
Simply your beardie needs UVB. Fluorescent strip bulbs are often the preferred choice as they can be purchased based on the size of your tank. Mounted to the top of the enclosure with a reflector will ensure the UVB is directed towards the floor of the cage. Your dragon will regulate his/her exposure to UVB, which is why you need to take great care in the setup of your tank to ensure the best results.
Further note that always use a reflector with the UVB light bulb to enhance its performance. Reflectors are usually included in light fixtures. The utilization of a reflector can deliver an exceptional increment in UVB output. The reflector concentrates an enormous level of UV light from the sides and back of the tube, which would otherwise be absorbed by the walls of the tank, redirects this forward into the basking spot.
It's not uncommon for UVB lights to start decreasing how much UVB radiation they output over time. While the bulb may be working, the UVB radiation emitted is not enough for your beardie, which could result in some health issues. This is something to keep an eye out for.
Types of UVB Bulbs For Bearded Dragon
There are three main types of UVB bulbs which you can consider for your bearded dragon habitat.
Fluorescent Linear Bulbs
Fluorescent linear bulbs are full spectrum light bulbs that require a ballast and are placed at the top of the enclosure. These are long tubes, often used for larger enclosures. Ensure when making your selection the packaging states at least ten percent output of UVB rays, which is what your dragon needs to be comfortable.
Fluorescent linear bulbs come in general sizes, which makes them easier to measure for your enclosure. The sizes include:
- 18 inch – 15 watt
- 24 inch – 18 – 20 watt
- 36 inch – 30 watt
- 48 inch – 40 watt
These bulbs usually come in T5 and T8 versions (sometimes it also has T12). The "T" in T5 indicates the bulb is tubular shaped, while the "5" denotes that it is five eighths of an inch in diameter. The other common lamps are the larger T8 (eight eighths inch = 1") and T12 (twelve eights inch = 1½" tubes). It's important to note that the T5 tends to be slightly stronger than the T8. Therefore a T5 bulb can be mounted outside of the tank while a T8 one should be mounted inside.
Further note that these bulbs will require a specific power supply that will offer the correct wattage for the bulb. This is purchased separately.
Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
These are the same as your fluorescent linear bulb, but in a smaller version which can be screwed into a thread base fitting. Compact fluorescent bulbs are best suited for smaller enclosures of no more than twenty gallons. Reports show that these bulbs use less energy than the full size fluorescents and they last longer, only having to be replaced annually.
Mercury Vapor Bulbs
Mercury Vapor Bulbs are ideal for smaller tanks up to twenty gallons. These bulbs are everything rolled into one, offering UVA, UVB and heating in one compact light bulb. These bulbs are slightly more expensive than the fluorescents, but they last longer, enabling you to save money in the long run. It's recommended when it comes to placements that the bulb is placed between twelve and twenty-four inches above the basking area for the best results.
Enclosure Lid Selection
The lid you use for your bearded dragon enclosure will have an impact on the UVB solution that you choose. Some important things to bear in mind include:
- Do not use glass or plastic lids if you intend to mount your UVB bulb outside of the tank. It's a fact that glass and plastic both absorb up to 99% of UVB.
- Some of the fluorescent tubes you can purchase come with a transparent shield which stops UVB from passing through. If you purchase one of these tubes, you will want to remove the transparent shield to allow the UVB to flow freely.
- Wire mesh lids are the top choice, even though it has been proven that they can reduce UVB by 30%. In the event, you feel your dragon isn't getting the UVB it needs, then consider mounting the UVB bulb inside the tank to achieve a better result.
Bearded Dragon Light Setup
The placement of the UV light is critical to your bearded dragon’s health. How far between the UVB light bulb and the basking spot depends on the specific bulb. Therefore, read the product description before making any purchases.
Always place your UV lights at one end of the enclosure to create a welcoming basking area for your reptile, while keeping the other side slightly cooler. This gives your dragon an opportunity to escape the heat if it gets too much.
A good rule of thumb is to try and keep different temperatures throughout the enclosure. This enables your dragon to get the heat and UV rays it needs while enabling it to go to a cooler side of the tank to regulate their temperature with ease.
To the one side of the tank you should place your basking platform with your heat lamp, ceramic heat emitter and UVB lamp above. This will ensure your dragon can get the heat and UV rays it needs throughout the day. It's recommended to place a thermostat on that side of the tank to keep an eye on temperatures to ensure your dragon is comfortable.
On the other side of the tank you can place your housing area, a cave or place for your dragon to hide, along with food bowls. Ensure you have a thermostat on this side as well to manage the temperature accordingly. This side of the tank should be cooler than the basking area.
An adult bearded dragon will benefit from their basking area being in the region of 95 – 105 degrees Fahrenheit with the cooler side of the tank sitting at between 85 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Important Placement Tips
- Whichever of the UV lights you choose, you will want to ensure the bulb is at least two thirds of the length of your enclosure. This ensures your dragon gets the UV rays to keep it healthy while offering a comfortable habitat for your cold-blooded reptile.
- As tempting as it might be, you should never lower your UV bulb in the enclosure so it's horizontal to your dragon’s head. Remember when your dragon basks in the sun, its head will be lifted, which means the light goes directly into his/her eyes. This can be a serious concern as it can cause blindness.
- Taller enclosures can be tricky to get the perfect balance for your beardie, which is why it's recommended that the decorations you use to create your basking zone should be increased in height, ensuring that your reptile is close enough to the UV light. Remember when your beardie has had enough, they can move to the “cool zone” within your tank.
Every bulb is different, but it is recommended that you replace your UV bulbs every six months. Some of the manufacturers state their bulbs can last up to one year. It's recommended to keep a constant note of the temperatures within the enclosure. A steady reduction in temperature could mean it's time for the bulb to be replaced.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Does bearded dragon need light at night?
A. No, bearded dragons need light for 10 to 12 hours per day. There should be no light in the tank at night.
Q. How much UV light does a bearded dragon need?
A. In order to provide your bearded dragon a healthy life, you need a T5 or T8 UVB fluorescent linear tube with at least 10 percent output of UVB rays and proper light setup.
Q. How long does a bearded dragon go without light?
A. It depends on the current health of the beardie. However, a couple of days without proper UVB light can cause serious stress and health issues for an adult bearded dragon.
It's important that you make the right decision for your bearded dragon before you bring him or her into your home. Your habitat should be set up and temperatures should be controlled before you welcome your new reptile to your family.
Choosing the right UV lighting system can appear daunting and it's recommended to get advice based on the size of the enclosure you intend using. Remember a fluorescent tube is suitable for larger enclosures, your mercury vapor bulb and your compact fluorescent can both be used in tanks under twenty gallons. While the choice is determined by your tank size and your budget, you need to look at the long-term impacts and costs when making your selection.
You may have to try a number of different bulbs over your beardie’s lifetime before you settle on one you prefer. The final decision is down to what you can afford, what works best in your enclosure and what keeps your dragon happy and healthy.