One of the most common questions asked here at Internet Reptile is “which UV light should I buy for my bearded dragon?”. At first glance, the choices look overwhelming, but in this post, we aim to simplify the process with our guide covering all your questions including:
- Why does your bearded dragon need UV light?
- Why is Vitamin D3 important?
- How much UVB does your bearded dragon need?
- What is the best UV light for your bearded dragon?
- Where in my vivarium should I put my UV light?
- Do I need a bigger light for a bigger vivarium?
- Does basking distance matter?
Why does my bearded dragon need UV light?
The first step is to understand the reasons why we provide UVB lighting within a vivarium; simply put this is to replicate the natural sunlight that a bearded dragon would experience and use in the wild.
By doing this we allow your pet bearded dragon the ability to absorb Ultraviolet rays, which will in turn allow him or her to create and self-regulate their own healthy levels of vitamin D3.
Why is Vitamin D3 important for my bearded dragon?
Vitamin D3 is crucial for your reptile’s health in that it allows them to absorb essential minerals such as calcium into their bones. Calcium deficiencies in your reptile’s diet can lead to many serious health conditions for your pet such as ‘metabolic bone disease’. This is why getting the right UV light and/or supplements such as calcium powder essential for any bearded dragon owner.
How much UVB does my bearded dragon need?
When looking for the right UV light for your bearded dragon, we need to choose a bulb that most closely replicates natural sunlight, especially within the UV spectrum.
Unfortunately, not all UV lamps are created equally so the idea that a tube can be chosen purely on the advertised output (10%, 12% etc) is not the correct approach as this does not give us the information we need to make the right choice
Fortunately, however, we can easily compare light output per lamp using a UV meter which measures “UV Index” (Solarmeter 6.5 UV Index Meter): research (obtained from the wild) shows us that a UV Index of 4-6 is an effective level for bearded dragons in captivity.
What is the best UV light for my bearded dragon?
One of the best lighting products on the market today is the Arcadia T5 lighting range. These high output linear tubes will provide a bright, natural and safe level of ultraviolet and visible light for your bearded Dragon. Not only do these lamps replicate the natural sunlight spectrum ensuring your dragon is able to thrive, they are also available as an affordable, easy to install, plug and play kit called the Arcadia ProT5; this incorporates a tube, reflector and controller. ProT5 also arrives with a free link cable, this reduces the need for extra power sockets, allows the use of multiple ProT5 kits and allows linking with JungleDawn-Led Bar (Note: If using separate bulbs and controllers don’t forget a reflector to ensure the distances referred to are correct).
Where should I put my UV light?
We also know that brighter, slightly more powerful lamps positioned further away from any animal will allow for safer, more natural UV provision; just like sunlight. Whilst fitting duller lights closer to your bearded dragon may well provide the correct levels of UVB, this approach should be avoided as it can cause eye damage from the glare.
Bearded dragons are well adapted to living under bright full overhead sun as they have developed a protruding protective orbital bone structure designed to perfectly protect the eyes from overhead light and UV exposure, this development, however, offers little protection against artificial light sources fitted incorrectly, i.e. horizontally to the eye in a vivarium You can find out more about this in our article here.
Linear UV tubes such as the Arcadia ProT5 should be installed on the ceiling of your vivarium and then a basking area built up from the floor using rocks, stones or other decoration, this will allow your bearded dragon to access the lamp at the ‘optimum distance’. Creating a fixed basking zone will help to ensure that the dragon is able to self-regulate its exposure within the correct levels of UV exposure when basking.
Does the size of my vivarium impact what UV Light I need?
Yes, it does. Generally, the correct length to choose will be around 60-80% of the length of the vivarium with the lamp positioned towards the warm end (i.e. where basking lamps is installed) but must be at least the length and width of an animal from nose to vent.
With this in mind, our best-selling UVB lighting system for bearded dragons is the Arcadia 39w 12% ProT5 which is the perfect fit for the current recommended minimum vivarium size of 120x60x60cm (4x2x2ft). This lamp provides a UV Index of 4-6 at a distance of 30-45cm between the reflected lamp and the animals head whilst sitting at the top of the built-up basking zone.
Does basking distance matter?
Yes, it does. If you have a taller vivarium select a higher output lamp such as the 14% Arcadia Dragon Lamp where you will achieve the same UVB levels at a basking distance of around 45-60cm.
If the vivarium is lower you could consider a lower output system, such as Arcadia T8 12% or T5 6% at a distance of 25-30cm. Smaller or lower vivarium setups prove difficult to provide your bearded dragons with the temperature ranges they need as well as inhibit natural climbing, so our recommendation is to first upgrade the vivarium that’s is 60cm or taller and meets or exceeds the 120x60x60cm minimum.
Vivarium size and basking distance are the two biggest factors for when choosing your UV light.
Use our handy chart to checkout our top pick of UV lights for common vivarium sizes:
|Vivarium Size (cm)
|UV Light (Our Top Pick)
|Arcadia ProT5 12% 39w
|Arcadia ProT5 12% 54w
|Arcadia ProT5 14% 39w
|Arcadia ProT5 14% 54w
We have not included smaller vivarium sizes as they do not meet current minimum guidelines, see our bearded dragon caresheet for further information.
If you’re still unsure, why not pop into the shop and one of our bearded dragon experts will answer your questions.
All in all, we must remember that ‘light is energy’, pure useable energy. As forward-thinking keepers, we must be sure that our systems are able to provide well for our pets and in the best way that suits each one, per species. A lack of essential energy within the natural spectrum of light will always equate to a level of imbalance in the body, this can then lead to avoidable and serious disease. Ultimately, getting the correct UV light set up involves:
- Needs to have a UV Index of 4-6
- Installed on the ceiling of your vivarium
- Fixed basking zone built up from the floor
- The lamp should be 60-80% of the length of the vivarium
- Basking distance impacts the light needed (See table)