Healthy Lighting (UVB) for Blue Tongue Skinks – Ep. 81

Light the World Hey guys, how much UVB is enough? How much
is too much? What skinks need what? What brands are best? What types are best? Are there dangers
and risks to UVB? How do you know you’re providing the correct amount? Find out today
in this video. Welcome to ReptileMountain.TV a channel dedicated
to evidence based reptile keeping where opinion is not fact. I’m TC Houston a former professional
AZA zookeeper and current skink and reptile breeder dedicated to providing quality information
to the global reptile community. If you are new please go ahead and hit that subscribe
button and the bell to ensure you don’t miss an upload. If you’ve been here before
and haven’t subscribed … get with it y’all? I want to start by saying there are products
on the market for UVB that are fantastic and products that can seriously harm your animals.
I’m not talking about those off the wall knock off brands either… I’m talking about mainstream
brands. So be sure to watch this whole video because your animal’s health could literally
depend in it. Alright what is UVB what is it not? UV stands
for ultraviolet and it refers the the wavelengths of light that are shorter than and just below
violet on the spectrum which humans can see. There are three types of Ultraviolet light
A B and C. For our purposes today were talking about
type B which is the specific type that plays a critical role in natural production of vitamin
d3 in reptiles. In really simplified terms our skinks blue
tongues, pink tongues, social and crevice skinks and many other reptiles depend on UVB
light from the sun to produce vitamin d3 which is a vector/cataylist/mechanism for calcium
absorption. Thus, no d3 no calcium absorption meaning
weak bones which leads to loads of problems including but not limited to metabolic bone
disease and even death. Therefore the use of UVB in D3 synthesis is
the most natural and primary method by which most omnivorous and herbivorous reptiles obtain
most of their vitamin d3 and maintain strong bones and overall health. What UVB is not. It is not a magical bulb
whereby you animal will be transformed into a
healthy, active, interactive,
breeding, thriving, Olympic gold medal winning creature simply because you turned on a special
bulb. UVB will not make up for any lack in other husbandry deficiencies. A crappy diet
is still a crappy diet, improper humidity is still improper humidity no matter what
light you shed on the problem…you get it…what light…uvb is light ahh okay…. I am not going to discuss whether UVB is “required”
for skinks. I will say it is the primary and most natural method of ensuring your animal
has d3. However, There is a multitude of evidence to support that blue tongues can live and
yes thrive without ever being given UVB. I have a whole video on that here so please
check that out and come right back. Let’s get to addressing those questions
we all have. How much is enough? How much is too much? What type do I use? What brand
is best? And so on… There are three commonly available types of
UVB bulbs in the industry, yes there are a few others but I’m talking about the main
three. The linear bulb the compact fluorescent bulb and the vapor bulbs sometimes call mercury
vapor bulbs. So each of these bulbs has specialized components allowing for the mercury in the
bulb itself to be charged to a point of producing Ultraviolet B waves. Each bulb type has a
specific designed purpose. The linear bulbs are designed to produce a steady even amount
of UVB across a broad lighted range. The compact fluorescents can provide localized areas of
UVB in stronger but in a more narrow area that often simulates a sun patch coming through
the trees. A mercury vapor bulb produces both strong UVB radiation in a more broad area
than the compact fluorescents but not as broad as the linear bulbs. Mercury vapors also provide
heat so they can serve as a basking heat source and UVB source. Many of the bulbs on the market
come self ballasted and work with either a specified fixture or a standard ceramic light
fixture. Within the linear bulbs there are two main
types T8 and T5 High output. The T8 bulbs are wider in diameter and produce a less consistent
and weaker UVB output than the more narrow T5 bulbs. T8 bulbs are the first kind that
was marketed to private keepes and seems to be getting phased out by the newer more powerful
T5 bulbs. As I shared in my Art of Reptile Keeping video
(point) the answer to what bulb to use certainly depends on the variables within the species
natural behaviors, enclosure type, the environment, and the keepers goals. An example of natural
behavior variables would be, my gidgee skinks (Egernia stokesii). Their wild counterparts
are often viewed out on rocks, logs, and tree branches in the daytime under the hot Australian
sun disappearing at midday but appearing again in the early afternoon. They do well with
basking areas that can be as hot as 120F surface temps and do well with UV amounts similar
to the bearded dragon. Whereas, an Eastern blue tongue may bask in the open early or
in a partially sunlit area for thermoregulation purposes taking in lower levels of UVB than
a Gidgee Skink or Bearded Dragon. An example of enclosure variables would be
my son’s Horsfield’s (or russian) Tortoise (testudo horsfieldii) has an open air tortoise
tub with a mercury vapor bulb. There is no barrier between the bulb and the tortoise
other than air whereas my Berber Skink have a ¼ hardware cloth aka screeen between the
bulb and their skin. Anything between the bulb’s surface and the animals skin can
affect the amount of UVB absorbed. Many newer bulbs are manufactured to mitigate screen
mesh as a barrier but none the less the enclosure and environment affects the type of bulb.
The further away from the bulb the animal is the less UV the bulb provides. So a really
tall enclosure and a really short enclosure will have different UV reading for the animals
even with the same bulb. Also cage furniture can affect the UV waves as well. Even this
tape measure affects the waves hitting this Solarmeter. So plant cover and cage decor
can impact the UV. Keeper’s goals also play a role in deciding
what bulb to use. An animal that requires high amounts of UV and heat may do best with
a Mercury Vapor Bulb if the cage set up allows for the bulb to not over heat the enclosue.
For example my Gidgee skinks fall into this category however I keep them in an exoterra
large low which is short. The lowest watt mercury vapor bulbs still are too hot for
my set up because I need the space above the cage for storange and don’t wish to hang
the bulb higher to reduce temps. So I use ceramic heat emitter for heat and a ZooMed
T5 High Output linear bulb for UV. The lite area of the cage have a UV gradient range
from 2.0-7.0 depending on location within the cage. What wouldn’t work would be a
compact florecscent “coil” bulb. They don’t put off a broad enough area for the
animals to get a truly quality gradient over a wide enough space like they would in the
wild unless I used several bulbs across the top and at that point my cost would be higher
to do that than for one linear bulb. How does one know what to get then? Fantastic
question! To answer that let me show you This This is a Solarmeter 6.5 and this is a Solarmeter
6.2r These are UVB meters that can measure the output of UVB coming from bulbs and even
the sun. Using these meters. The 6.5 specifically, a team of herpetologists from Texas Christian
University led by Dr. Gary Ferguson looked that the UV index uses and behaviors of several
species of reptiles to develop what is called the Ferguson Index or Ferguson zones. These
are general guidelines for what UV indexes are used by what species or types of animals.
So for blue tongue skinks, my bread and butter as you know… thier research says they fall
in between zone 2 and zone 3 requiring approximately a 1.1-3.0 UV index for UVB. So taking this
Soloarmeter and first measuring where my animal basks and how far from the bulb I can then
take a reading that allows me to know if I’m on track for a blue tongue skinks. How do you know what to get? First Consult
the Furgeson Zones, there will be links in the description to this and more research.
Once you know where your animal falls on the scale then consider your enclosure set up
or desired set up and make an assessment from there. If your animal is zone 3 or 4 consider
either a T5 HO bulb at 10.0 or 12% depending on the brand or a Mercury Vapor Bulb. If they
fall lower on the Furgeson Index look for a 5.0 or a 6% T5 or even a quality compact
fluorescent. There isn’t a wrong answer as long as what you buy puts out a UV index
that is within their zone and all other aspects of husbandry are met. So What brand to I get? Quality bulbs will
produce UV as stated on the packaging. As far as I am concerned after multiple bulbs
and multiple tests I have confidence in only two brands. ZooMed and Aradia. I have tested
zilla, exoterra, zoomed, and acradia. In the past I have used Exoterra. I will say that
I made a horrible mistake trusting Exo Terra. In fact if you are using any ExoTerra compact
florecent aka coil bulbs and haven’t tested them individually with the solarmeter go turn
them off right now. Seriously pause this video and do that immediately. Not too long ago
I got a new solarmeter and was playing around with experimenting. I hadn’t tested all
my bulbs only a couple and they were fine. I was more interested in testing my T5 HO
stuff for the animals that requried those higher ferguson zone levels. But then I tested
one that wasn’t on an animal because I was trying to see how much UVI it put off after
a year of use. At 10 months I got bored a tested it.. It read a 15 UV Index! What the
???? I was blown away. I had been under the impression
the the mercury in the bulbs was supposed to degrate over time and that as it did the
bulb would put out less and less UV hence why they need replaced at 6 months and some
can go 12 months. But I NEVER imagined they’d be going up in UV output. So I went to the
experts and they are confirmed that poor quality bulbs can actually increase to dangerous levels
rather than decrease to nothing. After learning that I tested all my bulbs. They ALL increased
despite being less than 6 months old. Thankfully all but one were still in “safe” levels.
One however was too high. Thankfully I believe I caught it before any irreversible damage
was done. I no longer recommend ExoTerra bulbs for any use on living creatures unless you
are testing them monthly maybe even weekly with the Solarmeter. If you are not you could
literally be harming your animal without your ever knowing it. Here is what they say is
what this bulb produces on the packaging. Here is the reading. 4 times higher than what
is stated. Here is another. And another. And another. And yes this is a consistent result
from many new bulbs after running for over 100 hours!!! Like I said if you haven’t
personally tested it with a solarmeter turn them off NOW!!! What do I use? I use Acradia and ZooMed T5
High output linear bulbs on my Gigdee Skinks and Berber Skinks and my tortoise. The Arcadia
for the Berber is a 6% and the ZooMed is a 10.0 and the Arcadia for the tortoise is a
12%. They are reading perfect for these animals and have remained consistently. For my son’s
tortoise I use a zoomed Mercury vapor bulb which is also reading perfect. For my blue
tongues I use ZooMed reptisun mini 13w 5.0 compact bulbs which provides a square foot
region in the cage of about 1.5-2.5 UVI through the mesh. I also measure this on a weekly
basis now. I’m no longer taking chances with this crazyiness. To recap everything. There are three main
types of bulbs. Consult the Ferguson Zones and purchase accordingly. I only recommend
two brands ZooMed and Arcadia. And if you are using UV and don’t have a solarmeter
(I’m not paid to say this) you should. It is the only way to know what you are buying
isn’t radiating your animals. One last thing…I know several folks are
going to ask what about if I have this this and that what light should I buy. I’m not
going to tell you becasue this video has been all about how to figure that out on your own.
So you may need to consult other sources is this one isn’t enough but I’m not going
to tell you…Sorry. Thank you guys for watching. Look another
one of my videos it right down there. Go watch it! Thank you to my views, subscribers and
most of all my Patrons. You are awesome. Remember, opinion is not fact.

10 thoughts on “Healthy Lighting (UVB) for Blue Tongue Skinks – Ep. 81

  1. This is such an important video that every reptile keeper needs to watch. Thank you so much for making this!

  2. Hi, I know you want us to find out which uvb to use ourselves however I just want confirmation on whether the uvb I'm using is too strong for my blue tongued skink as I've been told a few times it's too much, I have an enclosure which is 4'x2'x18"(WxHxD) however the substrate takes up about 5 inches, and I'm using a reptisun t5 10.0 uvb 39W strip light, is this okay or too much?

  3. Went to the Reptile and Amphibian Expo in Melbourne on the 2th of march to look around and buy things for a blue tongue lizard because i am getting one soon got a water dish and zoomed T5 Ho High output 39W REPTIsun 5.0 UVB and was told that it was the only lightning i needed for a blue tongue lizard is that true because i am not sure never owned a blue tongue lizard befor and don't want something bad to happen to it

  4. Beginner keeper friend's bearded dragon got metabolic bone disease from incorrect bulbs. They trusted a "starter kit" from Petsmart to include the correct lighting, not knowing this kit had no UVB bulbs, only heat. They were calcium dusting the food.

  5. Oh wow I never thought some UVB's would increase the amount of UV when time passes, I'm getting a solar meter soon, one question TC, when it comes to you and your UVB lighting with northern blue tongue skinks, does the UVB cover the whole enclosure?, like is there a spot in the tank where it's shade? (excluding the hides), this might be irrelevant to this topic but some folks said that the UVB can't cover the whole tank, what's your opinion?

  6. Love your videos. At the beginning I thought your shirt said kinkaholic lol but it said skinkaholic. Sorry lol

  7. I LOVE your videos man! I’m going to get a Blue Tongue Skink when I save up the money. Do you sell them? If so, how much?

  8. UVB, etc. is a myth:


    Summary: Using a UV spectrometer, he shows a reading of 2.2 on a sunny winter day in Wisconsin. In the summer, the reading would be much higher, and in certain other parts of the world, it would be dramatically much higher.

    For a popular bulb that claims to be full spectrum with UVA and UVB (by the way, I can tell from the packaging that it's the Zoo Med AvianSun 5.0 UVB bulb), the reading is 0.6 a few inches away from the bulb, tapering off to 0.0 at eight inches. The manufacturer recommends a distance of 16-18 inches! At that distance, there's no UVB, and to get a miniscule amount, your dove would have to be blinded.

    *Regarding full spectrum lights (that don't claim to also produce UVA and/or UVB):

    * Full spectrum fluorescent lights are practically same as a typical fluorescent light that doesn't claim to be full spectrum.

    * Full spectrum incandescent lights–along with full spectrum fluorescent lights–also don't come close to daylight

  9. hey tc! great video as always. i have a northern bluey in an exoterra large and low tank, heat lamp on one side, and uvb on the other (i have the zoomed reptisun bulb). do you recommend getting uvb bulbs on both sides of the enclosure, or is one enough for his enclosure size?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *