UV lighting -
by Bonnie J. Keller
Twice within a couple of weeks I heard prospective lizard owners ask the question, " Do we really need that UV light for this little lizard? It's SOOO expensive. Can't we do without it?" My heart sinks every time I hear this, because the inevitable answer from the typical pet store employee (who doesn't want to lose the sale) will be, "Well, I have heard that they can live for years without it, I guess you don't really need it." Fortunately, in both cases, I was able to get correct information to the people to let them know how vital UVB light is to reptiles.
UVB light is what makes us suntan (yes, and sunburn). It is an invisible part of the sun's light that is essential to health. How many times do mothers tell their children, "Go out and play, you need some sun!!"?? Mothers seem to instinctively know that their children need sunlight for some reason, but they just don't know why. Here's why…
Without getting too technical, the UVB contained in sunlight interacts with pigments found in our skin, as well as that of reptiles and other animals. The chemical reaction that takes place forms vitamin D3. Now, if you look at any carton of milk, they all advertise "vitamin D fortified". Why? Because vitamin D3 is what takes the calcium that is so important in milk and turns it into usable chemicals that eventually make up bone. So, without vitamin D3, little of the calcium we take in would actually end up in our bones at all. Fortunately, we humans are able to take in vitamin D3 in our diet in place of getting sufficient sunlight to produce it (thus the milk jug bragging.)
Most reptiles, however, aren't so lucky. Dietary vitamin D3 is usually ingested when
we eat meat, milk, or other animal products. (This is likely one reason why snakes
don't appear to need supplemental UVB lighting.) Many reptiles don't eat other animals.
Iguanas, for instance, are complete vegetarians, as are many of the popular tortoises.
Anoles, while they do eat bugs, don't get enough D3 from the crickets that we humans
may feed them. Some other lizards that are half-
1) let them roam around outside at least 3-
2) give them artificial "sunlight" that will produce vitamin D3
Since option 1 is not feasible year-
Since we have domesticated these animals and/or taken them from the wild to serve
as our personal entertainment/educational slaves, it is our responsibility to provide
them with the best habitat we can. Sure, an anole is $5 or so. Yeah, it might only
live a couple of years. But how miserable do you think it is for that animal when
its bones are slowly softening in its body? Ever seen an older lady with osteoporosis???
Though the symptoms may or may not show before the animal dies, that is pretty much
exactly what happens to a reptile that does not get sufficient UVB light. Yes, a
One new option that has come onto the market in the last decade has been a new screw-
So, the answer to the question, "Does the lizard/turtle really have to have this
UV light?" is , "Absolutely!" And get the best one you can. Your reptile's life and