If you’ve decided to set up UV lighting for your boxie, good for you!
Although we’ve seen these turtles do quite well with just brief outdoor exposure or supplements, the best way to be sure they get the Vitamin D they need to stay healthy is to make sure they get all the UVB rays they need. Because UVB helps them make their own Vitamin D.
And the best way to do that indoors is with a UVB bulb.
But these bulbs can be a little tricky to use. You will find you have several choices in the kind of bulb and also how much UVB the bulb puts out.
And you also need to be careful about where you put it to make sure your boxie gets maximum benefits from it.
Tips to Set up Box Turtle UV Lighting
So here goes. Keep these things in mind when planning the UV light set-up for your box turtle’s habitat:
- UVB rays won’t go through glass or plastic. Do not use a glass cover over the tank. If you feel you need a cover, then leave only the area under the bulb uncovered or use a wide mesh cover.
- Fine mesh can also block much of the UVB from a bulb (thus the above recommendation for a wide mesh cover if you really need one).
- The bulb covers on aquarium hoods are generally glass or plastic and will also block most or all UV rays. If you’re using one of these, use it without the cover.
- Pay attention to the distance between your pet and the bulb. UVB can’t travel too far from the bulb, so if you put it too far away your pet won’t benefit (but too close can be dangerous). Most bulbs recommend a distance between 12 – 18 inches. Read the package to make sure you know the best distance for the bulb you’re using.
- Pay attention to the amount of UVB emitted. Many manufacturers make two different strength of bulb. One emits about 5% UVB and the other 10% UVB. In general, the 5% bulbs are recommended for box turtles. Zoo Med does suggest its ReptiSun 10.0 High Output bulb is a good option over screen covers. Since these covers block about half the rays the higher output of these bulbs means your pet should still get enough UV rays.
- Plan to replace the bulbs annually. Even if the bulb is still emitting light, the amount of UVB will decrease over time. By the end of a year (sooner for some brands), there’s not enough UVB coming out to be of any use to your pet.
- Regular UV lamps do not give off much heat and cannot be used to heat the habitat. You will need a separate heat bulb.
- Standard incandescent, halogen and fluorescent bulbs do not emit UVB rays (some do emit some UVA). They are strictly for visible light and/or heat.
- Tube lamps emit UV over a wider area, so your pet can get exposure wherever he goes. Just make sure he also has a hiding area he can go to to escape the light if he wants to.
- Compacts only cover a small area, so you may need to pair them with a basking lamp to encourage your boxie to spend enough time under it.
- Mercury vapor lamps emit both heat and UV, making them a convenient all-in-one choice. These bulbs do produce a lot of heat, so you’ll want to be careful using them.
Now, some of you might be wondering about the first point: If glass blocks UVB rays, how can the bulb be made of glass and still provide any benefit? The answer: It’s special glass that does allow UVB through.
Regular glass, like that in your windows, aquarium, habitat cover, etc. are different and block most UV from getting through.
By keeping these things in mind as you plan your pet’s light setup, you can help ensure he gets all the important UV light he needs.