This review is for the T8 ReptiSun® 5.0 fluorescent bulb from Zoo Med. If you’re looking for the T5-HO version, you’ll find that review here. We also have information on the difference between T8 and T5 lamps here.
Almost all reptiles, including box turtles, need UV rays to stay healthy and especially to make Vitamin D. If your pet doesn’t get much time outdoors, you need a bulb that emits both UVA and UVB rays. This bulb fits the bill. It puts out 5% UVB at up to 12 inches away.
The ReptiSun 5.0 and 10.0 line of UV lamps is one of the best products available. Reptile keepers regularly recommend these lamps for consistent quality and reliability. Many will use only the ReptiSun brand.
You can feel confident that these lamps will give your boxie the UV light she needs. All you need to do is decide which lamp you need.
Keep reading for more about ReptiSun 5.0 Fluorescent Bulb (T8):
Light and Heat Output of this Lamp
This lamp does not give off much heat and cannot be used as a heat lamp. It is only for giving your boxie needed UV rays.
It supplies both UVB (5%) and UVA (up to 30%) rays. Both are important to your pet’s overall health.
It also emits the full spectrum of visible light, for the most natural lighting. This means they’ll see the world in a more natural light. And they’ll look better to you, too.
It comes in 5 different sizes:
- 15” (14 Watts)
- 18” (15 Watts)
- 24” (17 Watts)
- 36” (25 Watts)
- 48” (32 Watts)
The wattage doesn’t really matter much. As the length increases, so does the amount of power used. This does not affect UV output. But we noticed some sites described the bulbs by wattage, so we’ve included that here, too.
Basically you’ll choose your bulb length based on your habitat length.
ReptiSun 5.0 T8 Bulb Life Expectancy
Actual life expectancy will depend partly on how long you keep it on each day. Zoo Med recommends 10 – 12 hours per day to mimic the natural day/night cycle. But turtles don’t actually need a full 12 hours of UV light each day. When they burrow in their substrate or otherwise hide, they’re getting little or no UV. And that’s just fine for them. For the most part, they seem to “know” what they need.
If you have other light sources in the habitat, it’s fine to use the UV lamp for just a few hours each day.
That said, UV output goes down over time, so eventually the amount of UV isn’t enough to do your pet any good. You’ll want to replace them on a regular schedule. Zoo Med recommends yearly. So even if you’re using them for fewer hours than Zoo Med suggests, don’t expect to keep yours for years. Unless you have a UV meter, you won’t know how much UV is still coming out, so it’s best to stick to the recommended yearly schedule.
Coincidentally (or not) Zoo Med’s warranty on these bulbs is 12 months.
These are high quality bulbs made in Germany.
Benefits to Your Box Turtle of Using This UV Lamp
Basically, using UV lamps helps keep your box turtle healthy. UVB rays help turtles make Vitamin D, which helps them use calcium. So getting enough UVB rays:
- Keeps the shell strong
- Prevents deformed growth of the shell (especially in young turtles, whose shell is growing quickly)
- Helps prevent and stop metabolic bone disease
- Lets your turtle regulate his/her own vitamin D production, which is safer than supplements (which are easy to overdose).
UVA rays also appear to be important, but for reptiles’ psychological health:
- Helps stimulate appetite
- Increases physical activity
- May promote normal mating activity
With a tube-style, rather than a compact, UV lamp you can also be sure that wherever your pet goes in her cage, she’ll be getting needed UV.
A Few Safety Precautions and Usage Tips
These lamps contain mercury, so if you break one, you’ll need to be careful with the cleanup. And you don’t want to just throw mercury in the trash. Many stores have a recycling program where you can drop off used bulbs (even if you don’t buy new ones from the store). Check out LampRecycle for more information.
You can’t use these bulbs with a rheostat or thermostat. They need to be plugged directly into the wall.
According to Zoo Med’s Lamp to Animal Distance Chart (PDF), the bulb can be used from 7 inches to 12 inches from your pet. Zoo Med recommends using it at 12 inches.
These are T8 bulbs. They do not work in T5 fixtures (ballasts). Always make sure you’re buying the right bulb for the ballast you have.
Pros and Cons Summary of The Reptisun 5.0 T8 UV Lamp
These bulbs provide consistent, high levels of UVB rays. In fact, several independent tests have confirmed this, and in at least one test, these bulbs outperformed all others. These tests were done several years ago, but we’ve seen no reason to think anything has changed in terms of quality of these bulbs. If anything, they’ve been upgraded since some of the earlier tests.
This post on That Reptile Blog discusses tests done at the Staten Island Zoo. Although the Zoo finds the ReptiSun 10 lamps most useful for its purposes, it also found value in the 5.0 UVB lamps.
Many of the pros include the points made in the Benefits section above:
- A more natural way for your pet to get the Vitamin D she needs
- Safer than giving Vitamin D3 supplements
- Prevents metabolic bone disease
- Stimulates appetite
- Can increase activity levels
- Improves both physical and mental health of your pet
- High quality product you can rely on
There really aren’t any as far as how the product works. The only real negative is one common to all UV bulbs. As mentioned above, they contain mercury, so you shouldn’t just throw them in the garbage. You need to bring them to a recycling center for proper disposal.
Many hardware stores include Home Depot, Ace Hardware and TrueValue accept fluorescent lamps for recycling. Some stores may only accept compact fluorescents, so it’s a good idea to check with your local store before bringing lamps in. Or check out LampRecycle for a list of companies that may recycle your lamps.
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Review Prices and Availability
Ready to give your boxie the gift of good health? The following e-stores carry the 5.0 T8 lamps. But be careful if you do a search for a different length than the one we’ve linked to. Some results may be for a T5-HO lamp (or even a T12 in some cases). If you have a T8 fixture (ballast), you need a T8 lamp. The T5s won’t fit.
- Entirely Pets seems to sell only the most commonly used length, the 18 inch lamp.
- PetSmart sells all five sizes of this lamp. Choose the size you need in the drop-down list on this page.
- The 18-inch lamp has 4.9 stars on Amazon as of this writing.