Leopard geckos are a popular pet reptile species among reptile enthusiasts. They are known for their docile nature and unique appearance, making them interesting and engaging pets to own.
However, one question that many leopard gecko owners ask is: do leopard geckos need UVB lights to thrive.
In this article we will cover everything you need to know about UVB lights for leopard geckos.
What Is UVB Light?
UVB (Ultraviolet B) lights are a type of light that provides the UVB spectrum, which is essential for reptiles to synthesize vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3 is crucial for the absorption of calcium in the body, which is essential for maintaining strong bones and a healthy immune system.
In the wild, reptiles typically receive their UVB requirements from the sun, but in captivity, they rely on artificial lighting to provide them with their necessary UVB exposure.
Do Leopard Geckos Need UVB Lights?
Leopard geckos do not require UVB lighting to survive. Unlike other reptiles, leopard geckos are primarily nocturnal and spend most of their time hiding during the day.
It means they receive very little direct sunlight in their natural habitat, making them less reliant on UVB radiation.
However, while leopard geckos may not need UVB lighting to survive, providing them with a UVB light source is still highly recommended.
Even though they are primarily nocturnal, leopard geckos still require vitamin D3 to maintain strong bones and a healthy immune system.
Providing a UVB light source for your leopard gecko is especially important if they are kept in an enclosure with limited access to natural sunlight. It can include enclosures in basements, areas with low natural light, or during winter when natural sunlight is scarce.
What May Happen to Leopard Geckos If UVB Light Is Not Provided?
Leopard geckos that are not exposed to UVB can develop health problems, such as metabolic bone disease (MBD).
MBD is a serious condition that occurs when the body is unable to metabolize calcium properly, leading to weakened bones and other related health problems. Leopard geckos with MBD may develop skeletal deformities, paralysis, and difficulty moving.
MBD is caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D3 in the diet, which are essential for calcium absorption in the body.
Vitamin D3 is produced when a reptile is exposed to UVB radiation from the sun or an artificial UVB light source. Without enough vitamin D3, calcium cannot be absorbed properly, leading to MBD.
In addition to MBD, leopard geckos that are not exposed to UVB lighting may also experience a weakened immune system, which can lead to increased susceptibility to illnesses and infections.
It can be especially concerning for young, growing leopard geckos, who require a healthy immune system to develop properly.
Furthermore, without sufficient UVB exposure, leopard geckos may also experience behavioral issues, such as lethargy and a lack of appetite. They may become less active and less interested in eating, leading to weight loss and other health problems.
How Can You Provide Your Leopard Gecko With UVB?
There are several ways to provide your leopard gecko with UVB lighting:
UVB Light Bulbs
The most common and convenient way to provide your leopard gecko with UVB lighting is by using a UVB bulb.
You can purchase a UVB bulb from most pet stores or online retailers. Be sure to choose a bulb with a low UVB output, as leopard geckos are sensitive to high UVB exposure. A 5% to 7% UVB output bulb is typically sufficient for leopard geckos.
Position the bulb within 6-12 inches of your gecko’s basking spot and provide 10-12 hours of light daily.
Another way to provide your leopard gecko with UVB is by giving them access to natural sunlight. If you live in an area with warm weather and plenty of natural light, you can take your gecko outside for a few hours a day to bask in the sun.
Be sure to provide shade and ensure that the temperature does not get too hot.
Keep in mind that this method may not be practical for everyone, especially during the winter months or in areas with little natural light.
Mercury Vapor Bulbs
Mercury vapor bulbs are another type of UVB bulb that can be used to provide your leopard gecko with UVB.
These bulbs emit both UVB and heat, making them a convenient all-in-one option for your gecko’s basking spot. However, be sure to choose a bulb with a low UVB output and avoid using them in smaller enclosures, as they can get too hot.
Whichever method you choose, it is important to monitor your leopard gecko’s behavior and health to ensure that they are receiving the proper amount of UVB.
If you notice any signs of illness or abnormal behavior, consult a veterinarian specializing in reptile health.
Additionally, be sure to provide your gecko with a calcium supplement to ensure that they are receiving enough calcium to support its bone health.
Can I choose UVA or UVB for leopard geckos?
While UVA is important for the overall well-being of leopard geckos, it cannot replace the need for UVB.
Leopard geckos require UVB to metabolize calcium properly and maintain healthy bone development. Without sufficient UVB exposure, leopard geckos can develop the metabolic bone disease, which can cause skeletal deformities, paralysis, and difficulty moving.
Difference Between UVA and UVB?
UVA (ultraviolet-A) and UVB (ultraviolet-B) are both types of ultraviolet light that are found in sunlight. They are both important for reptile health, but they have different properties and effects.
UVA is a longer wavelength than UVB and is less intense. It is not necessary for vitamin D3 production, but it is important for the overall well-being of reptiles. UVA regulates the circadian rhythm, the internal biological clock that controls when an animal is awake and asleep.
UVA exposure has also been linked to improved appetite and activity levels in reptiles and increased breeding behavior.
On the other hand, UVB is a shorter wavelength than UVA and is more intense. It is responsible for the production of vitamin D3 in reptiles, which is necessary for proper calcium metabolism and bone health.
Without sufficient UVB exposure, reptiles can develop metabolic bone disease, a condition in which the bones become weak and brittle.
UVB also has a direct effect on reptile behavior. In the wild, reptiles use UVB to regulate their body temperature and basking behavior.
Reptiles will bask in the sun to absorb UVB, warm their bodies, and then move to a shaded area to cool off. In captivity, providing a UVB light source can help to mimic these natural behaviors and help keep your reptile healthy.
While leopard geckos may not need UVB lighting to survive, providing them with a UVB light source is still highly recommended to prevent the development of MBD.
When selecting a UVB light for your leopard gecko, choose a bulb with a low UVB output and ensure they can also access a calcium supplement. By taking these precautions, you can ensure that your leopard gecko remains healthy and happy for years to come.