From a basking bulb, to understanding the difference between both UVA and UVB… there’s definitely a learning curve to ensuring your bearded dragon has an ideal setup that will allow them to thrive.
And while measuring temperatures tends to be fairly easy and straight forward, it is often times the UVB setup that needs to be addressed with new owners.
This article will serve as a guide to help bearded dragon owners, both new and experienced, make sure they are using only the best UVB bulbs for their bearded dragon.
In addition to this, this article will also aim to answer some common questions associated with UVB bulbs, so that readers will feel both confident and educated in their understanding of this often-confusing topic.
However, before diving headfirst into the product recommendations, it would probably be beneficial to actually provide you with some background information on all things UVB. But, if you’re looking strictly for UVB bulb recommendations, simply scroll down the page!
Because bearded dragons in the wild rely on natural sunlight to stay healthy and because natural sunlight emits both UVA and UVB… bearded dragons in captivity need both UVA and UVB.
Now, the difference between the two is that UVA can essentially be transmitted from any light bulb, whereas UVB has to come from a special UVB bulb.
So, while your dragon is most likely getting adequate levels of UVA from their basking light alone, you will need a special UVB bulb to make sure their UVB needs are met.
As aforementioned, practically any light bulb is going to emit UVA light, which is the light with longer rays, as opposed to the shorter rays of UVB. UVA bulbs are going to be primarily just regular light bulbs that emit physical light.
UVB bulbs on the other hand, are a special type of bulb that will emit the shorter UVB rays needed by your dragon to be able to produce Vitamin D3 and absorb calcium.
In the warmer months like Spring and Summer, you will typically want to leave your UVB bulb on for 10 to 12 hours, turning it on sometime in mid-morning and then turning it off in the mid evening.
For colder months like Fall and Winter, you can turn the UVB on for only 8 to 10 hours. Adjusting how long the UVB light is on throughout the year, will help regulate the seasons for your bearded dragon and can create a more natural environment for them to live in.
Nope! Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’ve left the UVB bulb on long enough to meet the daily requirements outlined in the section above, but once it comes time to turn the lights off in the tank, you’re good to go.
However, it should be noted that turning off the lights too soon after a feeding can make it a little tricky for your bearded dragon to digest their food properly, so try to feed your beardie at least an hour before you plan on turning the lights off.
So, now that you have some general background information on UVB light and why it’s so important, let’s discuss some of the best options for UVB lighting for your bearded dragon.
To be quite frank, most UVB options on the market are not exactly as safe as most of us would like them to be, which is why this list is rather short.
Also, you’ll notice below that there are essentially two options for UVB bulbs, fluorescent or mercury vapor bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs will simply supply UVB for your bearded dragon and will last around 6 months, and tend to be pretty affordable.
On the flipside, Mercury Vapor Bulbs will supply UVA, UVB, and heat for your bearded dragon… making them a kind of “all in one” option. Mercury Vapor Bulbs also tend to be more expensive, last longer, and are a lot stronger.
This is without a doubt, one of the most trusted if not THEE most trusted UVB bulb on the market right now for bearded dragons. This fluorescent light will provide an adequate amount of UVB for most enclosures and will last anywhere from 6 to 12 months on average.
However, you may want to switch it out for a new one at 6 months just to make sure optimal levels of UVB are being put out to ensure your bearded dragon stays healthy.
This is the UVB you should go with if you’re a newbie and have a tank that is at least 40 gallons.
Need a fixture to go with this bulb? Check out the two recommendations below, one of which is best suited for those on a budget and the other for those who like to use reptile specific brands.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one kind of bulb or simply know that you prefer Mercury Vapor Bulbs, then I definitely recommend checking out this one from Mega-ray. This one bulb provides all the necessary UVA, UVB, and heat your bearded dragon could need!
However, it is important to note that Mercury Vapor Bulbs (MVB) are much stronger than fluorescent lights and as such, should never be mounted or hung INSIDE the bearded dragon’s tank, but instead above it.
If you need a fixture for your Mega-Ray bulb, check out the recommendations below, either of which will work great, but vary depending on how many Watts your Mercury vapor bulb is.
Not as popular as the Repti-Sun above, though still a viable option, this UVB bulb from Zilla is a good option for those looking to provide adequate levels of UVB to their bearded dragon, especially if they are in a smaller sized tank.
If you need a fixture for the Zilla UVB bulb, check out the recommendation below which is actually made to pair right with the bulb itself!
Whether you opt for the 5.0 or the 10.0 is going to essentially come down to one thing: tank size.Tanks that are 20 gallons can get away with the UVB provided by the Repti-Sun 5.0… but bear in mind that you’re just going to need to switch your bearded dragon to AT LEAST a 40-gallon tank soon anyways as they mature, which will require a 10.0.
Typically, 5.0s are adequate for only a short period of time before they’re an insufficient source of UVB for adolescent and adult dragons in 40+ gallon tank.
So, I recommend just getting a Repti-Sun 10.0 to begin with and keeping mounting it at least 6-8 inches away from your bearded dragon.
If you’re using a regular UVB bulb (such as the Repti-Sun mentioned above) you’ll want to make sure you mount the UVB bulb on the inside of the tank, as UVB can actually be filtered by screens and glass.
Mount your UVB 6 to 10 inches from your dragon’s basking spot so that while they bask, they can also absorb UVB.
Now, if you’re opting for a Mercury Vapor Bulb which are much more powerful (such as the Mega-Ray mentioned above), you’ll want to place it on top of your tank’s mesh lid, just make sure the bulb itself is several inches above the screen with the lips of the fixture resting on the lid.
If you are using an especially powerful Mercury Vapor Bulb, you can always hang it about a foot above the tank’s lid as well.
Although it can sometimes be tricky figuring out the right UVB bulbs and setup for a bearded dragon (especially for new owners), your best bet is to ultimately go with one of the 3 bulbs mentioned above, especially the Repti-Sun 10.0.
And as long as you have the right fixture and a little patience, you’ll be on the right path to providing your bearded dragon with enough UVB to ward off Metabolic Bone Disease and other troubling illnesses.
I’m Stacey, the owner of this website and lifelong reptile lover, caretaker, and educator. Here you will find everything from information on how to care for reptiles, to even how to give your reptiles the best fighting chances against a range of common reptile diseases and illnesses, and everything in between!