For turtle owners, providing the best bulbs for their pets is paramount. Just like with a bearded dragon, natural sunlight is crucial for the well-being of turtles. However, not every turtle habitat has access to direct sunlight, so finding the best UVB bulbs for turtles becomes essential.
When it comes to keeping your turtle healthy and creating a cozy and stable environment, nothing helps more than a good UVB light. It can be a hassle getting to grips with the different shapes, types, and sockets for UVB lights.
So to help you out, we’ll break down the top available options to help you choose the best UVB light for turtles. We’ll also provide a buying guide to help you pick the best UVB light for your turtle tank.
Keep in mind that different turtles have different UVB needs and that various tank sizes could dictate the kind of UVB light for your turtle. Therefore, it’s important to bear your turtle’s needs in mind before going into this guide. With that said, let’s get started!
- UVB bulbs should be replaced about every 6 months. Over time they wear out and don’t produce the same amount as they did initially.
If you are in a hurry, here is a comparison table of the different types of UVB/UVA of bulbs. If you have time, you should read on below to get the explanation of why turtles need UVB, the different types of bulbs available, and then individual reviews of each bulb on our list.
Best UVB Light For Turtles Comparison Table
|Top UVB Pick||Why|
|Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle UVB & Heat Lighting Kit||Best overall|
|Zilla Slimline Tropical 25 UVB||Best for large setup|
|Zoo Med PowerSun Mercury Vapor UVB Lamp||Best for small setup|
Table of Contents
Why do turtles need UVB light?
While some might think that a regular light bulb or a heat bulb might suffice, it’s essential to understand the unique needs of pet turtles. Even red-eared sliders benefit immensely from appropriate UV lighting. In the absence of natural sunlight, a fluorescent bulb emitting UVB rays becomes an excellent choice.
Like most reptiles, turtles are cold-blooded creatures. This means that they need to use external heat sources to help regulate their body temperatures. In the wild, basking in the sunlight allows a turtle to absorb heat into its body. When it needs to cool down, the turtle will head to a shady area.
In captivity, UVA and UVB bulbs can help replicate this process. Both types of light are the two most common parts of the ultraviolet spectrum. Most animals on Earth need some exposure to ultraviolet rays in some fashion.
For turtles and other reptiles, UVA light helps them recognize what time of day it is. This regulates everyday needs such as food, breeding, and their metabolisms. UVB light is also extremely important for turtles. In fact, turtles depend heavily on UVB rays to regulate their circadian rhythm. UVB rays are different from infrared light, which serves as a heat source but doesn’t offer the same health benefits. This is because it is one of their main sources of calcium and vitamin D.
Turtles need these nutrients to maintain healthy bone development and to avoid health problems such as Metabolic Bone Disease. Getting sufficient UVB light is also necessary to help turtles grow throughout their lives.
When providing UV light for your turtle, aim to have the lights set to a 12-hour day/night cycle to help maintain a natural rhythm for your turtle. You should position the UVB light bulbs in your turtle’s basking area.
Types of UVB lights for Turtles
There are various kinds of lights suitable for a turtle’s tank. Whether you’re using an incandescent bulb, halogen bulb, or a mega-ray mercury vapor bulb, it’s essential to ensure it meets the turtle’s UVB requirements.
Compact UVB bulbs
Compact UVB bulbs normally come in the form of standard-looking bulbs that screw into light fixtures. Compact UVB bulbs take up less space and are usually the cheaper option. A good example of a compact bulb is the ReptiSun 10.0 Compact.
However, due to their condensed format compact bulbs can sometimes create a very bright, hot spot in the tank. This may have the adverse effect of damaging your turtle’s eyesight. This is fairly uncommon though.
For those who have had experience using incandescent light bulbs, compact UVB bulbs offer a significant upgrade in terms of health benefits for turtles. If placed at a safe distance with a screen cover, they can deliver best results.
When choosing a shade or fitting for a compact bulb, try not to get one with a reflective inner surface as this can exacerbate the risk of eye problems.
Compact bulbs should be set up on the basking side of the tank, to simulate the natural position of the sun. This helps maintain more of a temperature gradient throughout the turtle tank.
Tube UVB lights
UVB tube lights often come in the form of a fluorescent tube that stretches across the top of your turtle’s enclosure. They can be fitted into a hanging fixture, like a T5 or T8 bracket, above the tank. They can also be inserted into the terrarium hood if your enclosure has the appropriate fixture for that. An example of a tube UVB light is the Zoo Med T8 ReptiSun HO.
Unlike compact bulbs, UVB tube lights carry little to no risk of causing damage to your turtle’s eyes. They also provide more of a balanced source of UVB light, especially for larger turtles. Tube UVB bulbs also have a longer usage span than compact bulbs.
But tube UVB lights are also usually more expensive than their compact counterparts and can be a little more fiddly to install. They can also cause problems if your turtle tank features a basking lamp mounted above the tank.
Mercury Vapor bulbs
Mercury vapor bulbs are different from regular incandescent bulbs and fluorescent uvb bulb. A notable product in this category is the mega-ray mercury vapor bulb. It’s a good option for many, but like all types of bulbs, it’s essential to ensure they provide enough heat but not too much light. The ambient temperature they produce should be conducive to the turtle’s natural environment.
Mercury vapor bulbs like the Zoo Med PowerSun look similar to compact bulbs. However, mercury vapor bulbs have a specialist feature. They combine UVA and UVB lighting but also function as a UVB heat lamp for turtles, providing an all-in-one lamp for your reptile’s needs.
This can make mercury vapor bulbs a convenient option, especially if space or electrical outputs are an issue. Mercury vapor bulbs deploy their UVA and UVB light differently from other bulbs. With mercury vapor bulbs, the UVB light is only focused on a small area right underneath the lamp.
While this is fine if your turtle basks a lot, if your species isn’t a frequent basker and stays away from the basking spot, they may not receive the level of UVB that they need from a mercury vapor bulb.
However, where mercury vapor bulbs truly shine is in their deployment of UVA light, which covers a much wider area. This means that your turtle will receive the right amount of UVA wherever they are in the tank. They will also last longer than most other types of lamps.
But mercury vapor bulbs aren’t the best choice for small turtle tanks. This is because they give off a lot of heat and in smaller spaces this could cause overheating, which is bad for your turtle. This amount of heat also means that mercury vapor bulbs should only be house in ceramic fixtures.
Best UVB Bulbs for Turtles
Zoo Med pops up again with the Aquatic Turtle UVB and heat kit. This all-in-one box contains a Zoo Med ReptiSun bulb along with a 50-watt halogen heat lamp. A double-socket fixture is also provided which allows you to plug them both in at the same time. You can also control them separately.
The ceramic socket fixture can support two bulbs of up to 100 watts, and the deep sockets help to control the light so that it doesn’t overwhelm your turtle. This Zoo Med kit is one of the best picks if you need a specialist aquatic turtle UVB light.
The first UVB bulb on our list is the Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0. Not many brands are as recognized and respected as Zoo Med when it comes to UVB lights, so putting this at the top of the list of best UVB lights for turtles is a no-brainer.
Zoo Med are famous for their quality, with perfectly calibrated UVB bulbs. This particular UVB bulb is one of their best. The ReptiSun 10.0 boasts a 26-watt capacity and provides 10% UVB and 30% UVA to help keep your turtle healthy and happy. You basically can’t go wrong with this one.
Like its larger sibling above, the ReptiSun 10.0 Compact UVB bulb comes from Zoo Med, one of the industry’s most respected and reliable brands.
While this particular ReptiSun bulb is small and compact at just 13 watts, it’s ideal for turtles who live in smaller tanks. This little bulb packs 30% UVA and 10% UVB light production, which is more than enough for most turtles.
The ReptiSun 10.0 Compact is also suitable for desert-dwelling species, which shows off the versatility of this mighty little bulb. You can also buy them in packs to make your money go a little bit further!
Tekizoo makes an entry on our list with this versatile bulb. The Tekizoo Sun Lamp combines UVA and UVB light with a heat lamp in one single bulb to meet all of your turtle’s needs. The bulb is available in different strengths from 80 watts to 125 watts and up to 160 watts.
The power of this bulb necessitates the use of a vertically-mounted deep-dish fixture, but with the E26 fitting, this shouldn’t be a problem for most setups. This bulb helps to provide plenty of Vitamin D3 to help keep your turtle healthy. The Tekizoo Sun Lamp is an easy, neat solution to your turtle’s lighting and heating needs.
There’s a reason why Zoo Med products pop up so much on this list; because they’re some of the best in the business. Not to be left out of the mercury vapor lamp crowd, the Zoo Med PowerSun lamp provides both UVA and UVB light in different capacities, such as this 80-watt example.
This self-ballasted bulb can be installed in most regular ceramic fixtures. This versatile bulb is one of the best UVB heat lamps for turtles from a brand that has a stellar reputation. As an example of Zoo Med’s high quality, the PowerSun lamp utilizes nickel plating to help avoid corrosion.
This powerful lamp from Exo Terra, one of the most respected brands in the business, is a great choice if you have a turtle that hails from a tropical habitat. This lamp simulates the lower levels of UV radiation that tropical and sub-tropical turtles receive in the wild, whilst still catering to their specific needs.
Available in 13-watt and 26-watt strengths, the Repti-Glo Tropical UVB100 5.0 works well in small and medium-sized enclosures with a 12-inch range. It can be installed via a regular screw fixture and features the versatility of being mounted either vertically or horizontally. There’s a reason why Exo Terra is one of the top names in reptile care!
Another entry from Lucky Herp, the 10.0 UVB bulb is a good pick if you have a desert species of turtle. Available in 5, 9, 15 and 23-watt strengths, this provides plenty of UVB light at a range of up to 20 inches.
If you need to filter down the strength of the light, this bulb also works through screened enclosure setups to help protect your turtle. The Lucky Herp 10.0 Lamp can be used with most standard screw fixtures and can be positioned both horizontally and vertically.
If your turtle’s enclosure suits a tube light better than a bulb, then Zoo Med has you covered with the T8 ReptiSun HO. This powerful high-quality light soaks your turtle with 30% UVA and 10% UVB. With a 30 watt capacity, the T8 ReptiSun HO is perfect for larger turtle tanks or terrariums.
Zoo Med’s patented versatility is on full display with this tube light, which fits T8 light fittings that are usually positioned above the turtle tank. This top-notch lamp can also be installed in the hood of your terrarium with the correct size fitting.
It’s also one of the best UVB bulbs for tortoises as they usually require larger enclosures.
When it comes to UVB tube lights for your turtle, the Zilla Slimline is a great pick, especially if you own a tropical species. The disadvantage of using round bulbs is that sometimes they can cause intense bright, hot spots, which could damage your turtle’s eyesight.
But the Zilla Slimline Tropical is great because it creates the correct temperature all across your tank. The Zilla Slimline comes equipped with the correct light fixture so that you can use it right the bulb out the box. It has a 25-watt output and provides full-spectrum lighting for your turtle.
For younger turtles, especially, the choice of bulb is critical. A separate bulb might be necessary to ensure they receive the right amount of UVB radiation. In some cases, a compact lamp or even ceramic heat emitters might be beneficial. The easiest way to ascertain the right choice is to monitor the UV index of the bulb and match it to the turtle’s requirements. Ensuring the bulb produces the right visible light ranges is also crucial to avoid issues like skin cancer.
UVB Bulb for Turtles Buyers Guide
When it comes to selecting the right UVB lights for your turtle, there are a few factors to be aware of. In this concise buyers guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get the best UVB bulbs for your turtle.
Type of UVB bulb
As discussed above, there are three main types of UVB bulbs; compact bulbs, tube lights, and mercury vapor bulbs. Bear the specific needs of your turtle species in mind when choosing a type of bulb as this can impact the type of light produced.
For larger enclosures, long tube lights will provide the most benefit. They also last longer than compact bulbs and can’t potentially damage the eyesight of your turtle like compact bulbs can. However, they aren’t as useful in smaller enclosures or ones with an external overhead basking light. This is where compact bulbs shine.
In some setups, especially when dealing with the tank setup, a night light might be beneficial. But always remember to place them in the perfect lamp fixture for best results.
You can also use mercury vapor bulbs in larger enclosures to reduce the need for a separate turtle heat lamp, but these will overheat smaller tanks and cause damage to your turtle.
The type of UVB bulb you choose will also dictate the type of fixture you need to use to house it. Compact and mercury vapor lamps will usually require a dome fixture, while tube lights need a horizontal fixture like a T5 or T8.
Amount of UVB
You’ll also want to consider how powerful you need your turtle’s UVB light to be. There are two common strengths of UVB bulbs; 5.0, like the Repti-Glo Tropical 5.0 from Exo Terra, and 10.0 bulbs such as the Zoo Med Reptisun 10.0.
For the vast majority of turtles, 10.0 UVB bulbs are the best option. This is the best strength that will fulfill all of your turtle’s needs. 5.0 UVB bulbs can be used if your turtle tank is tight on space, but it’s best to use 10.0 UVB bulbs if you can.
Whether you are using a 100w bulb or any other specification, it’s always a good thing to regularly check the ambient temperature.
All UVB lights will produce some level of heat. This is determined by their wattage. The collective amount of heat generated by all the lights in your turtle’s basking platform must be kept in mind to avoid overheating. Most turtles usually require a temperature around 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the basking spot.
The wattage level that usually corresponds to this temperature ranges between 50 watts and 100 watts. If your UVB bulb produces a lot less than this, such as the Lucky Herp 10.0 Fluorescent Lamp, then you will need a heat lamp as well to achieve the correct basking temperature.
Mercury vapor bulbs come into their own here, as they are designed to meet both the heat and UVB needs of your turtle. The Tekizoo Sun Lamp and the Zoo Med PowerSun are good choices for mercury vapor bulbs.
It’s also a good idea to check how long the UVB bulb is recommended to last. The strength of the UVB filament gradually lessens as time progresses, which means that you should change your UVB bulbs approximately once a year to ensure that your turtle gets enough UVB light.
Some cheaper bulbs will last for less time than this, and compact bulbs normally don’t last as long as tube lights or mercury vapor bulbs.
The best UVB bulbs are ones that produce UVA light as well. This allows you to meet all of your turtle’s lighting needs with a single bulb. If your UVB bulb does not give out UVA light as well, then you will likely need a separate light source to meet this need.
To ensure the safety of your turtle, your UVB light should be able to reach them from a certain distance. The general rule of thumb is that the light should be positioned somewhere between 8 and 15 inches away from the basking spot.
If your bulb is too close, your turtle could burn itself. Check the recommended setup distance for the bulb to make sure you have adequate space in your turtle tank.
Frequently Asked Questions About UVB Bulbs for Turtles
Does my turtle need a UVB light?
All turtles require a UVB light to help regulate their body temperature as they are cold-blooded. This helps to keep them healthy by providing them with calcium and Vitamin D to help avoid debilitating health issues such as Metabolic Bone Disease.
Do turtles need UVA or UVB light?
Turtles require both UVA and UVB light for different reasons. UVA light helps simulate the passage of a day and helps the turtle know when to feed and helps keep its metabolism up. UVB light is essential for the general health of a turtle, as it is their main source of calcium and Vitamin D. UVB light helps protect against illnesses such as Metabolic Bone Disease.
How much UVB does a turtle need?
The amount of UVB your turtle needs will depend on its natural habitat. Most turtles will require 10.0 (or 10%) UVB, especially turtles who live in desert conditions. However, aquatic turtles or turtle species that come from swampy areas need less UVB, around 5% or a 5.0 bulb.
Can turtles get too much UVB?
It can be possible for turtles to get too much UVB. Usually, the turtle will know when to move away from their UVB light to get somewhere cooler to regulate their body temperature. However, if your UVB light is positioned too close to where your turtle basks, it may cause damage to your turtle’s eyes. Always position your UVB lamp at least 8 inches away from your turtle’s basking spot.
A video about heating and lighting for turtle tanks
In this extensive guide to UVB lights for turtles, we’ve covered why turtles need UVB and the different types of bulbs you can buy. We also went through a buying guide to help you choose the right UVB light for your turtle.
Our top ten list covers all the different types of UVB bulbs. The majority of turtles will be just fine with something like the ReptiSun 10.0 Fluorescent lamp. However, if you want a mercury vapor bulb to combine heat and UV light, then the Zoo Med PowerSun or Tekizoo Sun Lamp are safe bets. For the best of the best, go for the Zoo Med Kit.
If your turtle comes from a specialist tropical habitat that would usually require less UVB, the Exo Terra Repti-Glo Tropical 5.0 is the safest option.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the best UVB bulbs for turtles. If you found this post useful, don’t hesitate to comment below!