Shedding Light on Bearded Dragon Lighting (UVB)
Setting up your bearded dragon lighting correctly will provide greater comfort and reduce potential health issues caused by poor setups. The type and location of UVB bulbs, will directly impact the effectiveness of the whole environment. UVB is required to provide the means for the bearded dragon to synthesize vitamin D3 which is absolutely vital to their health. For bearded dragons, vitamin D3 cannot be replaced by providing it orally through supplements, which has its own set of risks in doing so. Don’t waste money on calcium with vitamin D3 supplements.
Mercury vapor bulbs
The Mercury vapor bulbs will produce both light and heat which will contribute to the heating of the environment. This can make them ideal for areas that require additional heat sources and certainly encourage basking since the heat and UVB are focused directly over the same spot. The Mercury vapor bulbs are extremely unlikely to take the heat of the environment to the required levels on their own except perhaps in summer or hot climates.
Mercury vapor bulbs should not be hooked up to a thermostat. A thermostat will quickly ruin the bulb and cause the light to turn on and off when heat rises above the desired settings turning the light on and off interfering with the environment.
Fluorescent tube lights
UVB fluorescent tube lights will provide a greater area of coverage. The Arcadia T3 D5 has earned a reputation of being one of the best UVB lights available particularly when coupled with a reflector.
Arcadia Reptile Introduction to our brand from Arcadia Reptile.
The heat produced by UVB fluorescent lamps is so insignificant that it will not support the temperature of the environment to any degree.
The fluorescent tube light should not run the entire length of the enclosure. Bearded dragons are quite capable of regulating their own UVB exposure in a correctly set up habitat. Restricting the UVB to the basking spot or half the enclosure width will allow the bearded dragon to move in and out of the UVB as it requires.
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Compact fluorescent lights
Compact fluorescent lights have been known to cause issues and are best avoided. Their inadequacies at distributing UVB are clearly highlighted in this video by Frances Baines, M.A., Vet.M.B., M.R.C.V.S which also shows the distribution of the the tube fluorescent and the Arcadia D5.
Should the compact fluorescent be used the setup will be similar to that with the mercury vapor bulb however the basking level will need to be elevated close to the UVB bulb given its very limited UVB spread. This may cause issues with the bearded dragon being positioned too close to the heating and subsequently may resulting in the animal being exposed to burns to simply get adequate UVB.
Selecting the UVB light
The type of UVB light to be used will depend on the enclosure size and other requirements. Hot climates will need to avoid additional heat during summer months and therefore the mercury vapor is unlikely to be a good choice during those months. Mercury vapor lights are an excellent choice with a focused distribution of UVB. Large enclosures may be better fitted with fluorescent tubes that can cover a larger area and aid lighting levels.
There is no scientific evidence to suggest exactly how long UVB lighting should be on for. However in captivity UVB is typically provided for 12 hours during summer and 8-10 hours during winter. The reduction in lighting in winter provides a more natural environment and may induce brumation.
Light Fittings for the Habitat
The appropriate lighting determines the type of fittings to be used, however the type of fitting may also influence the decision on the type of lighting. The choice of enclosure should be heavily influenced by the lighting setup that will be provided. For example, an enclosure short in height, i.e. 2 foot, will not accommodate light fittings on the inside of the enclosure, instead they will be placed on top and so a dome type fitting is likely to be more suited. Other influences include preventing the animal from directly touching the elements.
Removable fittings (ready to plug in) made specifically for reptile habitats typically have benefits such as reflector shields and are certainly easy to move around. Regardless of which type, care should be taken to purchase porcelain fittings that will cope with the heat the bulbs will generate. If the ready to plug in fittings are to be hung within the enclosure then wire shields can be purchased for some of the more popular brands.
To ensure the fittings are flexible with different bulb wattage’s, purchase the fitting with the highest wattage rating that you are likely to use, i.e. a 100 watt fitting will allow the use of 50 watt, 75 watt and 100 watt. By purchasing for flexibility different wattage bulbs can be used as seasons change.
Guards may be placed over light and heat fittings to protect the reptile from burns should it jump up onto the light fitting or get too close. However the guards themselves can be attractive to climb. Ensure the fittings provide sufficient room to bask underneath with climbing accessories around (such as branches) are angled away from the lights.
Objects inhibit UVB penetration
UVB does not penetrate objects like metal, plastic or even glass. If the lighting must be fitted on top of the enclosure, which will normally have a wire screen if it is a glass enclosure, then consideration must be given to the effectiveness of the UVB lighting since the screens will block out some of the UVB. The tighter the screen mesh, the more it is blocked out. Tanks will typically have quite a tight metal mesh screen, just another reason that glass tanks do not make for ideal enclosures.
Replacing UVB lights
All UVB lights will require replacing according to the manufacturers instructions. Check the box for replacement frequency which will typically be around every 6 months. Always keep a spare UVB light on hand, it will not be wasted even if the current bulb does not fail since it will serve as a replacement for the existing light once it must be replaced. But there is nothing worse than having a light blow and trying to find a replacement the same day.
Beware of mesh screens and heat
For glass tanks, or any other types of enclosures where the heat source will sit on top of the enclosure, there will typically be some form of mesh screen top that helps protect the bearded dragon from directly touching the heat source. However the mesh screen itself can become used to climb on and hang upside down by the bearded dragon. This could result in burnt toes and other body parts too close to heat sources.
Where lighting and heating is fitted internally (usually hard wired), protection must still be provided from directly touching any heat source. Placing accessories in a manner that does not allow elevation towards heat sources will help. Mesh guards can be fitted to help prevent direct contact but can themselves be used as a climbing object.
No matter which choice is made, there will always be some danger. Place accessories wisely and choose a good sized enclosure to reduce risks.
Get your bearded dragon lighting right, before you introduce your new pet.
Changing reptile lighting to Arcadia Reptile D3 T5 The RSPCA in Brighton have changed their lights to the Arcadia Reptile D3 T5. R.S.P.C.A reptile rescue