Reptile Health: UV Lighting
Along with a source of bright light and heat, such as incandescent lights, most reptiles require broad-spectrum UVA / UVB lighting. Providing the proper amount of UV to your reptiles is vital for their health. In their natural environment lizards spend a lot of time sunbathing, which provides these essential light-rays, but in captivity it is essential that we provide this for them.
The difference between UVA and UVB Light
UVA is a long range ultra violet light. UVA light stimulates your reptile into normal daytime activities and is important in establishing a daytime / nighttime routines. Reptiles that receive sufficient UVA are more active, eat more, breed more readily, and display a general sense of well-being.
UVB is a short range ultra violet light that is essential for the reptile's digestive process. Exposure to UVB produces vitamin D3 in the reptile's skin.
The Importance of UV Lighting
Reptiles need a cycle of day and night to have optimum health and temperament. Without a consistent day / night cycle your reptile will become stressed and may exhibit symptoms such as loss of appetite or poor temperament. This is where the UVA comes into play. UVA rays tell the reptile that it is daytime, and stimulate the animal to go about normal daytime activities such as feeding, bathing, and exploring.
Vitamin D3 is required for your reptiles to absorb and utilize calcium. The D3 is produced inside of the reptile's skin while sunbathing and soaking up UVB rays. In captivity, exposure to natural sunlight is limited and materials such as glass, fiberglass, Plexiglas, and screens filter out the UVB, so we must provide an alternative source of UVB rays.
Many health problems can occur if your reptile is not getting enough UVB due to the lack of vitamin D3. Symptoms can range from reduced digestion, loss of appetite and mouth or stomach rot, to more serious problems such as blindness, paralysis and even death. UVB deficiency also causes Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) in reptiles.
With MBD bones do not grow properly, or even in a grown lizard will become warped, brittle, and easily broken.
Reptiles That Do not Need UVA / UVB
If providing artificial UV for your reptile is not a feasible option you may want to consider a reptile that does not require UV. There are some varieties of lizard that are nocturnal (awake at night) and therefor have adapted to live without the UV rays the sun provides. Geckos are a great example of this. Some of the most popular geckos are Leopard Geckos and Crested Geckos. Frogs are also another great choice if you are able to provide UV. Frogs are amphibians and do not need UV to digest food, absorb calcium and be healthy.
Thoroughly research the UVA / UVB requirements of any reptile or amphibian species you want to keep as a pet. UV bulbs are expensive and must be replaced every six months, even if they are still lighting up.