Owning an exotic reptile like a leopard gecko undoubtedly comes with its questions. It can be challenging for beginners and new owners to know the difference between what they need to get and what is nice to have. UVB Lighting is one such topic. Are these lizards require this in their enclosure? Here is what you need to know.
So, do Leopard Geckos Need UVB? Leopard geckos do best with regular, routine exposure to UVB light. This will ensure they obtain sufficient Vitamin D, utilize calcium, and do not develop metabolic bone disease. UVB light should only be provided for 12 hours, during the day, and shone at a gradient. This way, a leopard gecko can naturally regulate their intake.
Lighting is certainly an interesting aspect of care for leopard geckos.
Besides, they do originate from the rocky grassland and desert regions of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal.
When keeping them in captivity, trying to replicate these conditions does seem like a bit of a stretch.
And then we have to take into account their nature and instinctual way of life.
Light levels play a big part in their daily routine.
Leopard Geckos are crepuscular, meaning that they become most active between sunset and sunrise when light conditions are at their lowest.
And this has a significant impact on their behaviors and what it means for their care.
When kept as a pet, they can become more animated during the day but are generally less active than other reptiles.
And like many other cold-blooded reptiles, leopard geckos have very specific environmental requirements that they need in order to thrive.
Heat, light, and humidity all need to be carefully controlled to ensure your leopard gecko is at its healthiest.
If it is your first time owning a leopard gecko, then providing the ideal conditions can seem daunting at first.
This article will take out any guesswork and explain exactly what lighting requirements a leopard gecko requires.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Need UVB Light?
There has been much debate in the past as to whether leopard geckos require UVB light in their environment.
Their crepuscular nature may lead many to think that they don’t require sunlight at all since they are only active in the evening when the sun has already set.
However, there are many cases of leopard geckos suffering severe health consequences because of a lack of UVB.
Most animals require access to UV light in order to produce enough vitamin D, which is crucial to proper bone metabolism.
Sunlight hitting the skin provides the energy required in a chemical reaction to synthesize vitamin D, an essential micronutrient that allows calcium to be utilized and keep bones strong.
Leopard geckos are no exception, and if they are not supplemented with vitamin D in their diet, they will require access to UVB light.
The good news is that leopard geckos’ skin is extremely absorbent of UVB radiation, far more than many other animals.
In the wild, they can meet their daily UVB requirements in the low-light conditions at dawn just before they go to sleep during the daytime.
Therefore, it is best to provide some form of UVB light to captive leopard geckos as this ensures that they can produce the vitamin D they need to remain strong.
A lack of UVB light leads to vitamin D deficiency; calcium cannot be utilized, and they can develop metabolic bone disease.
This results in weakened bones, weakness and eventually death.
How Much UVB Light Does A Leopard Gecko Need?
Leopard geckos don’t need much UVB light, but they should have daily access to this form of light.
Leopard geckos don’t need an intense UVB source as they won’t be basking in the light like other reptiles might.
Fluorescent tube lamps are usually the most suitable and come in two different sizes – T5 and T8: T5 being the newer model with a higher effective lighting range than the T8.
Either is suitable, however.
These UVB tubes come in a range of different intensities, expressed as a percentage value.
The recommended specification for a leopard gecko is between 2-7%.
Leopard geckos with low levels of pigment in their skin such as albinos would need a concentration on the lower end of that range while most other common leopard geckos will do well somewhere between the 5-7% area.
This is the UVB light to get from Amazon. This meets all the criteria specified above and has fantastic reviews.
The UVB tube lighting should be mounted at one end of the enclosure, as to provide a lighting gradient across the whole space.
This allows your leopard gecko to easily regulate their UVB intake by simply moving from one end of the enclosure to the other.
You should also provide ‘hides’ in the environment.
These are sheltered areas that your gecko can not only hide within to feel safe but will provide areas of shade.
I love this hide from Amazon, it just looks fantastic in the enclosure.
Do Leopard Geckos Need UVB At Night?
Leopard geckos do not need UVB at night, and it should be turned off to allow them the period of darkness that they are biologically primed for.
Its important to simulate a normal day and night cycle for your leopard gecko. This not only provides variation but ensures that their internal body clock and circadian rhythm are functioning properly.
As leopard geckos are most active at night, when the light levels are at their lowest, they do not need the UVB light on during this time.
As such, you should turn off the UV lamp for 12 hours of the day to provide a ‘night-time.’
It is very important to stick to the same routine every day; turn the lights on and off at the same time every morning and evening.
Turning the lights on whenever you please will disrupt your leopard gecko’s natural rhythm.
A time switch can help ensure a regular lighting routine is stuck to, resulting in a happy gecko.
Other Lighting Requirements For Leopard Geckos
While UVB is extremely important for ensuring leopard geckos meet their vitamin D requirements, they also require heat lamps to regulate their body temperature.
Leopard geckos, like other reptiles, are ectothermic animals; they must maintain an optimal body temperature by sourcing heat from their external environment.
In the wild, they will move between warm sunny spots to cooler spots throughout the day in order to keep their body temperature within a narrow range optimal for a healthy metabolism to occur.
Therefore, you should try to replicate similar conditions in your leopard gecko’s enclosure to what they would have in their natural environment.
A (ceramic) heat lamp is essential in providing the warmth your leopard gecko needs. Here is what they look like on Amazon.
By placing a heat lamp at one end of the enclosure, you can create a heat gradient – providing warmer and cooler areas that your gecko can move between at will, regulating their body temperature in the process.
Ceramic heat bulbs give off infrared radiation.
A thermostat should be used to monitor and regulate the temperature.
Provide a basking area close to the heat lamp that should be between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius during the day, and you should aim for 24-26 degrees Celsius at the cooler end of the enclosure.
At night turn the heat lamp off but ensure that the temperature doesn’t drop below 18 degrees Celsius; heat mats can be helpful in maintaining this temperature optimally.
Another ‘optional’ type of lighting that you may consider for your leopard geckos enclosure is night lighting.
This allows you to watch your leopard geckos while they are at their most active without disturbing them or interfering with their circadian rhythms.
Night lighting typically comes in three forms: Red, Blue, and Black lights.
These all give off very low levels of light as well as providing some heat to the enclosure.
However, there is some debate as to whether reptiles can actually see these kinds of light – it is thought that they can’t see the specific color of the light but can still detect when the light is on.
As a precaution you should only have these lights on while you are watching your leopard gecko and turn them off when you are not.
No matter what type of lighting you choose to use in your leopard gecko’s enclosure, the lighting source should always be place directly above the tank rather than on the side.
This will mimic sunlight and allow the hides within the enclosure to cast shadows, thus providing the areas of shade your gecko needs.
Always match the power of the bulb that you use to the enclosure size – this is true of heat lamps and UVB lights; it is essential to provide both a heat gradient and light gradient across the whole enclosure.
As a general rule, no light should be less than 6 inches distance from your pet.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the correct lighting for your leopard gecko’s enclosure.
While there is some debate as to whether leopard geckos really require UVB light and the amount required is likely to vary between individuals, there have been cases of these reptiles developing metabolic bone disease due to a lack of vitamin D.
Therefore, many owners will provide low levels of light to prevent this.
If you don’t want to introduce UVB lighting into your leopard gecko’s tank, consider providing some level of vitamin D supplementation through their diet.
Heat lamps are non-negotiable as they tend to be the only way to guarantee the right temperature is met inside the enclosure.
The correct lighting setup can mean the difference between an unhealthy gecko and an energetic, happy one, so it is something of prime importance.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.