Do Leopard Geckos Need UVA or UVB Light?

By Frank Miller •  Updated: 10/04/23 • 

Setting up a vivarium to match a leopard gecko’s lighting needs can be confusing. It doesn’t help that there’s so much misinformation and half-baked truths online that make it fairly easy to get it wrong, especially when deciding whether or not to provide UVA and UVB lighting. One question that has been making rounds on forums is: Do leopard geckos need UVA or UVB light?

Leopard geckos need UVA light to help regulate specific behaviors, including feeding, diurnal movement, and mating. However, they don’t need UVB lighting for survival, provided they receive sufficient vitamin D3 and calcium supplementation. Still, Leos thrive best when UVB is provided because it helps them metabolize calcium and synthesize vitamin D3 naturally.

Keep reading to determine whether leopard geckos truly need UVA or UVB lighting. We will outline the difference between these two wavelengths of light and how their presence or absence can affect your scaly friend.

Let’s begin!

What Is the Difference Between UVA and UVB?

UVA and UVB are different forms of energy in the sun’s natural light spectrum. They form the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation and offer some health benefits to reptiles, mainly if exposure is moderated. While UVA rays help leopard geckos regulate behaviors like feeding, diurnal movement, and mating, UVB aids in synthesizing Vitamin D3 and absorbing calcium.

Calcium and Vitamin D3 are essential for muscle and bone health. These components ensure proper bone development and help maintain healthy bone density.

If you fail to provide UVA/UVB light and also don’t provide adequate amounts of calcium and Vitamin D3 supplementation, your leopard gecko risks contracting Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). Some signs of the disease include lethargy, jaw malformations, limping, and bowed legs. Your leopard gecko is unlikely to die for lack of UVB lighting. Still, you must embrace that even reptiles love natural light and can benefit from moderated amounts of UVB light in their enclosure.

>Recommended Reading: Caring for a Leopard Gecko Guide

Do Leopard Geckos Need UVB Lighting?

Leopard geckos don’t need UVB lighting for survival. It is sufficient to provide Vitamin D3 and calcium supplements to ensure your pet has strong and healthy bones. Still, UVB light is beneficial to them, and those exposed to the light appear to have higher levels of Vitamin D3.

Contrary to popular belief, leopard geckos are not nocturnal. They are crepuscular, meaning they are most active from dusk to dawn. However, this is not when their activities begin. Leopard geckos still walk around to change their sleeping spot or drink water during daylight hours.

In the wild, leopard geckos still access UVB rays by hiding and sleeping through the day with parts of their bodies exposed to sunlight. Their bodies have evolved to make the most of the rays from just a few hours of exposure.

How Can I Expose My Leopard Gecko to UVA/UVB Light?

The easiest way to expose a leopard gecko in captivity to UVA/UVB light is by using reptile bulbs, best known as UVB bulbs. UVB lights don’t emit heat but provide a spectrum of various lights, including UVB and UVA lights. Installing the bulb can boost your scaly friend’s efficiency in absorbing vitamin D3 and calcium in dusted or gut-loaded feeder insects.

>Recommended Reading: How to Gut Load Mealworms for a leopard gecko

You must strategically place your bulb at least 18 inches from the basking spot. Because UVB rays have a short wavelength, ensure nothing is blocking the rays from reaching your scaly friend, not even transparent glass.

The ideal exposure time is between 2 and 12 hours daily. Only leave the bulb on for shorter periods if you have a light-colored or albino leopard gecko. Although UVB bulbs emit invisible rays, overexposure can cause eye or skin problems.

One of the key benefits of installing a UVB bulb is that it can also serve as a light source. Your scaly friend may not need UVB for survival but requires a light source during the day. UVB bulbs simulate the sun’s rays, making providing the most naturalistic day-night cycles easier. Be sure to replace your bulb every 12 months or after 3,500 hours of use because the UV output tends to diminish over time.

Types Of UVB Bulbs For Leopard Geckos

UVB bulbs for leopard geckos look similar to regular compact bulbs and fluorescent tubes. However, they are uniquely designed to emit various intensities of UVB and UVA rays, ranging between 2% and 12%. For leopard geckos, bulbs with an output below 7% should suffice.

Here are the three main types of UVB bulbs for leopard geckos.

1. Compact UVB Bulbs

Compact UVB bulbs are the most cost-effective option, and they are also the easiest to install. If your vivarium already has the standard E27 screw fitting, you merely need to fix the bulb into the existing lamp fitting. There is no need to install a starter unit or controllers. Unfortunately, compact UVB bulbs don’t cover wide areas and can be unsuitable for large leopard gecko tanks.

2. T8 UVB Fluorescent Tubes

For bigger enclosures, fluorescent bulbs are more appropriate. The T8 UVB bulbs, originally called 1-inch diameter tubes, are available in various sizes to suit different tanks. They come in three unique grades or intensities: full spectrum, rainforest power, and desert power. To install, you must first fix a double controller or two controllers and fittings.

Although leopard geckos are not forest lizard species, the T8 UVB rainforest power tubes are most suitable. They have a 5 to 6% UVB output, which is neither low nor too intense. The main tradeoff is that these tubes have a blue tinge and only provide limited color output, especially when compared to full-spectrum tubes.

3. T5 UVB Fluorescent Tubes

T5 UVB tubes are the revamped version of T8 UVB tubes. They use refined technology to deliver low-intensity UVB with the full-color spectrum of natural sunlight. Compared to the original UVB tubes, T5 tubes are smaller and measure roughly half an inch in diameter.
Also, T5 UVB tubes are easier to install because they require only one controller. You can choose from various output intensities to suit your reptile’s needs.

Final Thoughts

So, do leopard geckos need UVA or UVB light for survival? No.

But, before you choose not to provide UV light in your pet’s vivarium, you must first answer these questions. Do you have the time to oversee efficient gut-loading and dusting operations? Are you skilled, or do you rely on trial and error when enhancing the nutritional value of feeder insects?

Although depriving your scaly friend of the sun’s goodness is possible, you must offer adequate calcium and vitamin D3 supplements. Advanced keepers can dodge the trouble of providing UV exposure thanks to their years of experience in supplementation regimes ideal for Leos. If you lack this caliber of skill, we recommend installing a UVB bulb in your pet’s enclosure.

Frank Miller

Frank Miller is the Founder of Lizard Advisor and owns several pet lizards, from leopard geckos, bearded dragons, crested geckos, chameleons, and others. The mission of this website is to make owning a pet lizard very easy for everyone, but mostly beginners. And each year, he continues to help more people learn more about lizard care and much more.