The Zoo Med PowerSun(R) UV is a self-ballasted mercury vapor lamp. These are all-in-one lamps that give off light, heat and UV rays (both UVA and UVB) at the same time. This makes them great for creating a healthy basking area for any reptile, including your box turtle.
The UV light penetrates farther than standard UV bulbs, so if you have a tall habitat to keep your boxie from escaping, enough UV can still get to him.
In smaller enclosures this bulb might be overkill and could heat the whole thing too much (you may have to experiment with where to put it to avoid this).
You do need to use the PowerSun bulbs in a ceramic socket (no plastic or other materials), but you don’t need an external ballast (a ballast controls the electrical current to the light). So they’re almost as easy to use as a regular bulb, but they give your pet all the light and heat he needs.
It is important to note that these bulbs do contain mercury. But so do the compact fluorescents we’re all being forced to switch to, so that shouldn’t make much difference at this point. It’s just something to keep in mind.
Keep reading for more about the PowerSun lamp:
PowerSun UV Light and Heat Output
These bulbs come in two strengths:
- 100 watts
- 160 watts
You’ll need to decide which one is right for you based on your own set-up. For a box turtle, the 100 watt will probably be plenty for average set-ups. They don’t need as high heat as some other reptiles.
According to Zoo Med, these bulbs give off full-spectrum visible light plus UVA and UVB.
Depending on the size of your habitat, you might be able to get away with just this one bulb. But don’t assume—always measure the temperature gradient to see if you might need another heat bulb somewhere.
PowerSun UV Bulb Life Expectancy
These bulbs should last about a year. Technically the heat and visible light output should last longer than that. But the UVB output decreases over time. According to Zoo Med the UVB output becomes too low to do your pet any good after about 12 months. So you’ll want to replace it yearly.
The company also warrants the bulb for 1 year.
The threads resist corrosion because they’re nickel-plated. This is important for keeping the bulb working in humid conditions (like reptile habitats!).
How to Use the PowerSun UV Bulb
Zoo Med recommends keeping this bulb turned on for 10-12 hours per day. This is mostly to keep your pet on a regular day/night cycle. Box turtles don’t need as much UVB or basking time as some reptiles, so if you have other visible light sources for them, you can keep it on for shorter times.
But that doesn’t mean you can keep the bulb longer than a year. Unless you have a UV meter, you won’t be able to tell when the UVB output drops too low. So you’ll still want to replace it after a year.
For safety, you should only use this bulb in a lamp fixture with a ceramic socket. Zoo Med recommends its Deep Dome Lamp Fixture as a good one to use with this bulb. Make sure it’s the full-size deep dome, not the mini-deep dome. The bulb will stick out of the mini dome slightly.
The bulb also has a safety feature that will turn the bulb off if it gets too hot, reducing the fire risk.
Mercury vapor lamps are a little delicate, and reviewers regularly complain about their short life span. Here are a few tips for maximizing their life:
- Handle them as little as possible, and never while hot
- Don’t bump them or get them wet while turned on
- Don’t touch the bulb with bare hands. Oil from your skin can cause hot spots that can actually shorten the life of your bulb (wear gloves or use a tissue/soft rag when handling).
- Make sure the bulb has good contact with the metal tab inside the lamp fixture. If necessary, pull this tab up a little (always do this with the fixture unplugged for safety!).
Reptile keepers who are very careful with these bulbs usually are very happy with their performance.
Zoo Med does warranty this bulb for 12 months, so you really have nothing to lose. If it burns out early, Zoo Med will replace it. And when the warranty expires, well, it’s time to replace it anyway. People who have had bulbs burn out early say Zoo Med’s procedures are hassle-free.
One final note: You can’t use these bulbs with a rheostat or dimmer. These kinds of bulbs need a consistent, specific voltage to work right. Rheostats change the amount of power going to the bulb to control the temperature.
Technically you could use them with a thermostat (since those turn the bulb completely off and then back on to regulate temperature). But you probably don’t want to, because the constant on/off of the light is likely to drive you crazy (and shorten the bulb life).
Does Your Box Turtle Need This Bulb?
Well, yes and no. He does need UV light and heat. But he doesn’t strictly need this bulb. If he gets to go outside regularly, he should get enough UV from the sun, and you don’t necessarily need additional UV. But letting him decide how much UV he wants is still a good idea, so you may still want this bulb.
Or you can buy just a basking bulb without UV. Zoo Med sells a basking spot lamp that works well.
If your pet doesn’t go outside, then you’ll need to supply both UV and heat. You can buy separate bulbs, of course. But this bulb is a convenient way to do it with just one easy-to-use bulb.
Pros and Cons Summary for Zoo Med PowerSun UV Bulb
Reviewers seem to have overwhelmingly positive thoughts on these bulbs. Many say they’ve been using the PowerSun UV bulbs for years and it’s the only one they’ll use.
- Give your pet the UV light and heat he needs for his health with one bulb
- Light, UV and heat in one bulb saves space
- UV penetrates farther than regular UV bulbs, so it’s great in a bigger habitat
- Lasts a full year (and if not, it’ll be under warranty and Zoo Med will replace it)
- Fragile and can burn out prematurely if bumped or not handled carefully
Check Prices and Availability
Think the Zoo Med PowerSun UV bulb would be a good addition to your boxie’s habitat? Here are a few quality retailers that carry it:
- Entirely Pets: They had the bulb on sale the day we visited
- PetSmart: Choose the wattage you need from the drop-down list
- PetCo: Schedule repeat deliveries for a lower price (and guarantee you’ll never forget when it’s time to replace your bulb!)
- Amazon: Has one of the lowest regular prices we saw