The leopard gecko is a small ground-dwelling lizard found mainly in semi-desert areas. While they are relatively easy to care for, they do have certain lighting requirements you need to be aware of.
Leopard geckos need UVA/UVB to help their bodies produce vitamin D3, which is essential to bone health. A 6% UVB bulb left on for no more than 8 hours per day should be sufficient. If you are supplementing their food with D3, a UVB bulb is not necessary, however.
The presence of UVB light also ensures that their natural environment is replicated as much as possible. (By the way, if you just want a quick answer on a bulb to get for your leopard gecko, try this one from reptisun.)
To learn more about why leopard geckos need UVB light, read on.
Why Leopard Geckos Need UVB Lighting
If you plan on keeping a leopard gecko as a pet, you have to provide it with proper lighting. That means using a distinct light that emits UVB rays.
Understanding and knowledge of the role that UVB light plays in the lives of leopard geckos have increased considerably over the past few decades. Scientists have learned that leopard geckos, like almost any reptile, will benefit considerably from exposure to high-quality UVB light.
The natural rays of the sun are composed of many different types of light. The types that are especially important to reptilian health are UVB and UVA rays.
As I mentioned earlier, UVB rays help leopard geckos produce vitamin D within their bodies. Vitamin D is important for proper bone density and overall bone development in these lizards. When a leopard gecko is not able to synthesize vitamin D in the body, its bones won’t develop properly. As a result, a leopard gecko that lacks sufficient UVB exposure is likely to suffer from bone development problems.
Metabolic bone disorder is one of the most common bone problems in lizards who aren’t getting enough Vitamin D. Geckos with metabolic bone disorder pull calcium from their bones and replace it with fibrous tissue. Because of this process, they suffer growth deformities as well as difficulties in feeding and locomotion.
Herpetologists have also noted that a leopard gecko’s skin absorbs considerably more UVB light in low light compared to other reptiles. So when leopard geckos scurry around and bask in those few hours just before sunrise, they are actually absorbing all the UV light that they will need. In a natural environment, this UV exposure is crucial even though these creatures only need temporary exposure to lower levels of light.
Many people have argued that leopard geckos are ‘nocturnal’ and don’t need UVB light. This is not true. Vitamin D3 is naturally produced by the body after adequate exposure to natural sunlight. If it were true that a leopard gecko was, in fact, ‘nocturnal’ and had no access to UV light in their natural surroundings, there would be no need for vitamin D3.
So if they aren’t nocturnal, then what are they?
Leopard geckos are actually crepuscular, which means they come out at fading light during dawn and dusk. They also tend to rest or hide with some parts of their body exposed to light, which is how leopard geckos ‘manufacture’ their own vitamin D3 in the wild.
And it’s not just scientists that have noticed this need for UVB light; many leopard gecko owners have observed positive effects when their pets are given access to UVB rays.
What Makes UVB Light Different From UV Light?
While several aspects of reptile husbandry are pretty straightforward, lighting is usually a subject that causes reptile owners considerable confusion. This is particularly true for people who have to provide ultraviolet light to their leopard geckos, leaving many keepers unsure of the best way to care for their lizards.
The sun emits 3 different kinds of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. These are called UVA, UVB, and UVC. Amphibians and reptiles, like leopard geckos, need both UVA and UVB light to live healthily and happily.
So, what is ultraviolet light?
Ultraviolet light is one component of the electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun. It is transmitted in particles or waves at differing frequencies and wavelengths. This extensive range of wavelengths is called the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum.
We can divide this spectrum into seven different regions in order of increasing energy and frequency and decreasing wavelength. The ultraviolet spectrum is usually divided into these categories:
- Vacuum UV (40 to 190 nanometers (nm))
- Far UV (190 to 220 nm)
- UVC (220 to 290 nm)
- UVB (290 to 320 nm)
- UVA (320 to 400 nm)
Like UVB light, UVA light is essential for the production of Vitamin D in most reptiles, including leopard geckos. However, keep in mind that UVB helps with the production of Vitamin D more than UVA, making it important that your lights emit UVB rays over UVA rays.
Best UVB Lights for Leopard Geckos
Leopard geckos need light and heat in order to stay healthy. Many reptiles are able to see more color compared to humans. This is why “natural lighting” for a terrarium might look different than what you would expect. For instance, leopard geckos can tell blue and brown apart in very dim light.
Setting up the most suitable lighting in your leopard gecko tank can be quite a confusing predicament, particularly for new owners! When it comes to providing a nice, stable, and comfy environment for leopard geckos, there is no denying that a UVB light can be a great help.
Because of the slew of different options on the market, choosing the best UVB light is not an easy task. To help you find the best light for your beloved pet, I’ve compiled this list of the best UVB lights for leopard geckos.
Zoo Med ReptiSun UVB
The Zoo Med ReptiSun UVB light (available on Amazon) is one of the most popular reptile lamps in the world. It comes in a variety of sizes to suit various habitats, and comes with a UVB/UVA combo light that emits the UV radiation necessary for a leopard gecko to thrive.
Note: You will have to place the light at a max of twelve inches of the surface of your terrarium in order for the leopard gecko to truly benefit from it. If you have a hanging fixture that rests higher than 12 inches, you will need to either raise the terrarium, lower the fixture, or get a new fixture altogether.
Exo Terra Repti-Glo 5.0
The great thing about Exo Terra compact fluorescent lamp (available on Amazon) is that it emits both UVB and UVA light up to twelve inches. It is an incredibly powerful source for UVB light with visible light and heat.
The Exo Terra light is also self-ballasted, meaning it does not have a harmful UVC light output. This is important, as UVC light can damage your gecko’s DNA and cause irreversible harm.
Setup is also easy ‒ all you need is a regular fixture to place the bulb in.
Zilla Slimline Tropical UVB Fluorescent Fixture
The Zilla Slimline Tropical UVB Fluorescent Fixture (available on Amazon) is another great UVB light for leopard geckos.
This high-quality cylindrical-shaped UVB bulb will spread an even, comfortable temperature all over your gecko leopard’s tank. The tropical lamp also helps simulate natural daylight, while generating 25 microwatts of UVB to increase bone growth and calcium absorption.
It is also easy to install, with a bolt-on mechanism that allows for easy attachment to a cage, wall, or counter. The compact size also makes it a great choice for habitats where space is limited.
Leopard geckos are crepuscular and need UVB light to produce Vitamin D and utilize the calcium in their diet. Lack of exposure to UVB light can cause many complications in leopard geckos ‒ one of the most common being metabolic bone disease.
Fortunately, UVB lighting is cheap and widely available. If you want to keep your leopard gecko happy and healthy, you can buy a high-quality, affordable UVB light from the list of top choices provided.