As you will probably be aware UVA and UVB rays are essential to lizards, tortoises and frogs. The aim of this care sheet is to not only go in to more detail than that of our own individual species care sheets, but to cover many other areas often missed.
UV is extremely important for all species of lizards, tortoises and frogs. Some species need for UV can be reduced by a carefully balanced diet and a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement. But this is by no means a perfect substitution and all lizards, tortoises and frogs will benefit from a source of UV if it is provided. Giving your animal a source of UV is giving your animal an opportunity to manage its body as nature intended.
One of the common myths is, ‘Nocturnal reptiles require no UV’.
This is NOT TRUE. Studies have shown that a Leopard gecko’s skin can absorb 14 times more UV than a Bearded dragon, and UV is present in their burrows in the wild. So while it is true they do not require a full 12% tube, they will benefit from a small compact UV.
‘When reptiles reach adult size they don’t require UV’.
NOT TRUE. All Lizards, Tortoises and frogs require UV for their entire life.
‘Many UV sources stop working but still produce light’.
TRUE. As far as we are currently aware with the exception of the Arcadia T5 range, Arcadia 6% and 12% D3+ and Arcadia Mercury Vapor (MV’s), which last a full twelve months, all other UV sources last 6 months and all will produce light leaving you none the wiser whether to replace them or not. Make sure you make note of when to replace your tube just to be safe.
‘UV light from artificial sources travels only short distances’
This is TRUE and very important to remember when positioning your UV source. It will be covered in more detail in the next section.
‘Compact UV bulbs produce suitable UV all around the bulb’.
NOT TRUE. The effective part comes off like a spike of UV from the end of the bulb. The UV produced from the sides is barely effective and certainly doesn’t travel far.
‘Mesh and Glass filter UV’.
TRUE .Glass completely removes UV. Mesh/gauze however reduces UV output by half.
It is important to remember that you give your animals a gradient of UV much the same as you would when you provide your animal heat. Always start one end of your tube at the hot end of your enclosure. Your tube should be around 2/3 the length of your enclosure giving your animal a chance to get away. It is equally important you give your animal additional hiding/shade.
Using the Veiled Chameleon as an example. It is commonly thought to give them a low percentage UV source (5-6%). This approach has draw backs as it doesn’t give the animal a full set of choices at its disposal. Many of these animals sit in direct sunlight or beams of light between foliage in the wild. So giving them the choice could be very important. It is what nature intended after all. We would suggest you use the best rating UV suitable for reptiles (pref 12%) and provide the animal with plenty of foliage with which to use as shade or as a platform on which to bask if it should want to.
As we mentioned earlier all artificial UV sources have a maximum distance for which they are effective. Most tube source UV’s effective distance is around 6-8”. However the Arcadia D3+ range travel around 12” and the T5 range travel around 24”.
There are health implications to also bear in mind when choosing a height for your tube. A reptile has evolved to cope with UV rays and heat coming from above. If you position your UV source alongside your animals head you risk causing photokeratoconjunctivitis or cataracts, both of which could lead to blindness.