Are you looking for the best light bulbs for your Beardie?

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What is the best type of lighting for Bearded Dragons?
  • Why do they need a light source?
  • What wattage bulb do you need?
  • How do you use lighting properly?
Bearded Dragon basking in terrarium with proper lighting

If you’re shopping for UVA/UVB bulbs for your Beardie, check out our buyer’s guide below. Not only do we review our top five picks, but we will help you better understand why it’s so important that you use proper lighting in your Beardie’s enclosure.

ImageProduct
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Zoo Med ReptiSun Mini Compact Fluorescent Lamp
  • 13 Watts
  • 10% UVB Output
  • 30% UVA Output
  • 13 Watts
  • 10% UVB Output
  • 30% UVA Output
Check Price
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Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb
  • 100 Watts
  • 5% UVB Output
  • 95% UVA Output
  • 100 Watts
  • 5% UVB Output
  • 95% UVA Output
Check Price
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MyComfyPets Mercury Vapor Bulb
  • 125 Watts
  • 5% UVB Output
  • 95% UVA Output
  • 125 Watts
  • 5% UVB Output
  • 95% UVA Output
Check Price
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Zoo Med ReptiSun High Output T8 Fluorescent Bulb
  • 36 Watts
  • 10% UVB Output
  • 30% UVA Output
  • 36 Watts
  • 10% UVB Output
  • 30% UVA Output
Check Price
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TEKIZOO Super Sun
  • 80-160 Watts
  • 10% UVB Output
  • 30% UVA Output
  • 80-160 Watts
  • 10% UVB Output
  • 30% UVA Output
Check Price

🏆Our Overall #1 Top Pick

Easily one of the most popular and recommended lighting for reptile enclosures for its quality and flexibility of use. Made by a reputable manufacturer, the Zoo Med ReptiSun Mini Compact has a 10% UVB and a 30% UVA output to meet your reptile’s lighting needs and is constructed with quartz glass for maximum UVB output.

You have more options for your habitat setup with this light because of its compact size and flexible orientation. However, you may need more than one or the larger version for bigger enclosures.


Top 5 Best Lights For Bearded Dragons

  1. Zoo Med ReptiSun Mini Compact Fluorescent Lamp
  2. Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb
  3. MyComfyPets Mercury Vapor Bulb
  4. Zoo Med ReptiSun High Output T8 Fluorescent Bulb
  5. TEKIZOO Super Sun

Lighting Overview

Bearded dragons come from the warm, arid, deserts and savannas of Australia so they get a lot of sun exposure in the wild. Natural sunlight is a source of both heat and UV radiation for bearded dragons. 

UVA and UVB rays are needed by dragons to regulate their behavior, diurnal (night/day) movement, reproduction, and vitamin D3 synthesis. Heat is needed to help them thermoregulate since they are ectotherms (cold-blooded). 

Bearded dragons are known as “mid-day” or almost full sun baskers in the wild so they need a lot of exposure to light in their enclosures. 

Important

UVB bulbs must be replaced every 6 months. UVB output drops off after the 6-month mark. Set a reminder on your phone or keep an extra bulb handy.

Why Do Bearded Dragons Need A Light Source?

Bearded dragons are diurnal creatures that respond to the natural day/night cycle in the wild. They need these elements in their enclosure as pets to ensure their good health. Natural light has UVB rays that bearded dragons need so that their bodies can synthesize vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 then aids in calcium absorption from their diets ensuring good bone development. 

📚 Read More >> Calcium For Bearded Dragons

Sunlight is a source of heat for bearded dragons helping them thermoregulate in the wild. Since they are ectotherms (cold-blooded), their bodies need an external heat source to maintain a comfortable temperature. UVB rays and natural sunlight or heat is recreated in a bearded dragon’s enclosure through special lighting and heat lamps. 

What Is The Best Type Of Lighting For Bearded Dragons?

You want the lighting for your bearded dragon to provide it the UV rays it needs for vitamin D synthesis as well as to mimic natural sunlight in terms of the 12hr day/night cycle. Lights differ by the kind of bulb structure and the rated output in terms of wattage and UV radiation. There’s also different recommendations on their placement in the enclosure (how far it should be from the basking spot or your bearded dragon) to get maximum benefits from the UV output.

What Wattage Bulb Do I Need?

For lamps, the higher the wattage, the more heat and light the bulb gives off. A 75-100 Watt bulb will usually do the trick for most enclosures but if you have a particularly large tank (>150 gallons), you can opt to get 2 bulbs. An alternative is to place the basking spot a bit closer to the bulb so your beardie can get more heat (with precautions against burning, of course).

Caution

A bulb higher than 150 watts can often get too hot for your beardie and may also become a fire hazard if left on for too long.

Fluorescent

Full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs/tubes are required for reptile enclosures to supply their needed UV radiation. Most would opt for the linear fluorescent bulbs to cover a bigger area of their tanks. It’s best to get the bulbs made for reptiles since these have been optimized for their UVA and UVB lighting needs. 

These bulbs usually come in 15-48 inches lengths and ideally you want at least 2/3rds (or 80%) of your enclosure exposed to UV light so choose according to how big your enclosure is. 

These fluorescent tube lights need to be fixed in a hood or ballast which can either be bought from the same manufacturer as the bulb or in hardware stores. Be sure to check compatibility. Always remember that full spectrum bulbs need to be replaced every 6 months for optimum UV output. 

Compact Fluorescent

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL bulbs) are just as their name suggests – smaller fluorescent bulbs. Typically, CFL bulbs are the spiral type of bulbs that can be screwed onto dome light fixtures. These are rated to consume less power with the same output. 

You may have read about CFL bulbs being dangerous to a reptile’s visions. These were from the early designs released onto the market that emitted a spectrum that could damage a reptile’s vision. Fortunately, the design was corrected already and CFL bulbs are not hazardous to reptiles – the glass and phosphors (light emitting element) are safe and they do not emit “bad” short wavelength UV rays.

Some owners are still on the fence about this topic but here are a few points. They produce a lot of “glare” due to their compact design – as they will usually stick out into your enclosure when it hangs from the top. This setup then places the bulb at your and the reptile’s eye level producing the intense glare. Some do tend to be dim or do not produce a good color render. Placing these bulbs on a dome or over the screen top addresses this particular issue. 

Important

Remember, with any light, it should be at least 7-8 inches from your bearded dragon (or the highest point in their enclosure) for safety and to prevent unwanted effects. 

The main concern, however, would be the minimal light coverage CFL bulbs can produce because of their compact structure. The UV rays will only cover a small area of your enclosure which is not very beneficial to bearded dragons who tend to move around. They may not get as much UVB light with CFL bulbs compared to the long fluorescent tubes that can encompass almost 80% of your enclosure. 

These CFL bulbs are instead good for reaching those darker or specific areas of your enclosure. Some reptile owners use them to light up specific areas of their tank or for extra lighting.

Mercury Vapor

Mercury Vapor (MV) bulbs are special all-in-one lighting that provides UVA and UVB rays, light, and heat that eliminates a lot of clutter in your habitat setup. These tend to be more costly but do last longer especially in terms of UV output so you will replace them less frequently. They do, however, have the same problem of coverage as CFL bulbs. If your reptile moves away from where the MV bulb is (e.g. the basking spot), then it will not get as much UV rays. Fluorescent tubes have better coverage but provide little heat. MV bulbs will also need to be placed a bit further from your basking spot due to its higher overall output.

Our Reviews Of The Best Bearded Dragon Lights

1: Zoo Med ReptiSun Mini Compact Fluorescent Lamp

Easily one of the most popular and recommended lighting for reptile enclosures for its quality and flexibility of use. Made by a reputable manufacturer, the Zoo Med ReptiSun Mini Compact has a 10% UVB and a 30% UVA output to meet your reptile’s lighting needs and is constructed with quartz glass for maximum UVB output.

You have more options for your habitat setup with this light because of its compact size and flexible orientation. However, you may need more than one or the larger version for bigger enclosures.

Specifications

Wattage13 Watts
Dimensions6 x 2 x 2 inches
UV output10% UVB and 30% UVA
Application StyleFits into standard threaded sockets/light fixtures and can be oriented vertically or horizontally

Pros

👍 Well built and durable with consistent output for 4-6 months

👍 Compact and flexible giving you more options for your habitat setup

👍 Fits standard fixtures

👍 Quartz glass construction for maximum UV penetration and good UVB output

Cons

👎 Its small size has limited coverage, so may need to buy 2  

👎 Larger tanks will need more than one or you can buy the larger version of this bulb

2: Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb

The Mega-Ray Mercury Vapor Bulb is a great all-in-one light bulb that will give your dragon its needed UV radiation, light, and heat. It has a strong output that is almost equal to what beardies would receive from the sun in the wild. With MV bulbs, it’s always important to follow the mounting instructions (safe distance and proper fixtures) for safety because of their high output.

This Mega-Ray MV bulb has good quality and build, making it a favorite choice for reptile owners looking to reduce clutter in their enclosures. Several owners have also reported health improvements in their beardies such as enhanced activity, coloration, and appetite. Mercury Vapor bulbs also tend to last longer so you can change them less frequently (every 8-12 months).

Specifications

Wattage100 Watts
Dimensions7.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches
UV output5% UVB and 95% UVA
Application StyleSelf-ballasted, all-in-one light with UVA, UVB, and heat.

Pros

👍 All in one lamp that serves as your UV light and heat source – no need for extra bulbs in your enclosure

👍 100 W version is perfect for smaller enclosures or for setups with a closer basking spot to the mount

👍 Comes in a 160W version for larger enclosures

👍 Self-ballasted for safety and to eliminate UVC production

👍 Will last almost a year (with good output) before you need to replace them

Cons

👎 Expensive initial investment

👎 Not recommended for first-time owners as this should be mounted and setup properly (correct distance and appropriate fixtures) for safety since it has a very strong output

3: MyComfyPets UVB/UVA 2-In-1 Reptile Bulb

This UV lamp from MyComfyPets is a good, budget-friendly option that has quality UV output and heat. It is medium-sized that fits standard light fixtures and will go well with most enclosure setups as well as different tanks and cages.

This powerful lamp features a 10,000 hour lifespan.

Specifications

Wattage125 Watts
Dimensions7.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches
UV output5% UVB and 95% UVA
Application StyleSelf-ballasted for safety and fits standard bulb fixtures

Pros

👍 Provides the necessary UVA and UVB light for your reptile

👍 Self-ballasted for safety

👍 Very affordable and fits in standard fixtures

Cons

👎 Does not work on a dimmer switch

👎 Can overheat at times

4: Zoo Med ReptiSun High Output T8 Fluorescent Bulb

Another trusted and highly recommended fluorescent light from Zoo Med with a good build and consistent UV output. Rated to last for up to a year (though we still recommend changing out every 6 months or so to be sure), this light source will work well with most enclosures providing good UV coverage. All you need is an appropriate hood or ballast to house this and you’re set.

Specifications

Wattage30 Watts
Dimensions24 inches length
UV output10% UVB and 30% UVA
Application StyleRequires a strip light style fixture

Pros

👍 Quality build, long-lasting bulb with high UV output

👍 Good for large enclosures

👍 Comes in different sizes to fit your enclosure

Cons

👎 Requires a hood or fixture (make sure you get the correct specifications)

5: TEKIZOO Super Sun UVA/UVB Bulb

This relatively compact Mercury Vapor Bulb from TEKIZOO is great for its versatility for use in many types of enclosure setups. It’s also an all-in-one lamp that gives your bearded dragon all the benefits of natural sunlight – UVA, UVB, and heat. This is a cheaper alternative to most MV bulbs with more or less the same quality. Use a wider or deeper dome fixture for this bulb.

Specifications

Wattage80 Watts
Dimensions3.75 diameter x 4.8 height (inches)
UV output10% UVB and 30% UVA
Application StyleFits into standard threaded sockets/light fixtures and perpendicular mounted only

Pros

👍 All-in-one UVA, UVB, and heat source

👍 Good build

👍 Works with standard light fixtures (ceramic socket recommended)

Cons

👎 Has to be mounted perpendicular to your enclosure (pointing straight down and not on an angle) for good coverage due to the design structure of the light

👎 May need to supplement with a heat lamp depending on your enclosure design and the climate in your area

Why Is UVB Light For Bearded Dragons Important?

UVB light helps bearded dragons synthesize vitamin D3 in their bodies which is needed to help them absorb dietary calcium. UVB is part of the ultraviolet or UV light spectrum which is the high energy part of the electromagnetic spectrum above visible light (in terms of energy). UVB is in the medium wavelength group at 290-320 nm and comes from natural sunlight in the wild.

UVB light reacts with the precursor of vitamin D (kind of like the “base” structure or molecule) which is called 7-dehydrocholesterol present in the skin to produce provitamin D3. Provitamin D3 is then converted to vitamin D3 with the aid of heat and certain mechanisms in the skin. The liver and kidney then transform vitamin D3 into a hormone (its “active” form) that regulates the metabolism (or absorption) of calcium from food/diet. 

A lack of UVB light can affect the ability of beardies to synthesize vitamin D3 and hence affect their calcium levels. Lack of calcium can lead to metabolic bone disease (MBD) wherein the reptile’s metabolism and bone density are affected. Symptoms of MBD include lethargy, swelling, tremors, deformation (in growing beardies) and softening of the shell (in turtles). 

UVB light is especially important when bearded dragons are babies and juveniles where their growth rate is fastest and they need a lot of calcium for good bone development. Pregnant females also need this due to the increased demand for calcium used in egg production. 

How To Use Lighting Properly

Bearded dragons are open to mid-day sun baskers which mean that they tolerate higher amounts of light and heat (UV index of 2.9-7.4) and will need a bit more UV exposure than other reptiles. They belong to the upper end of Ferguson Zone 3, bordering Zone 4. Ferguson Zones are a useful guide to how much heat and light your reptile needs and can easily translate into the type of lighting requirements you should get for your enclosure and how to set it up properly.

Ferguson Zones are named after Dr. Gary Ferguson who studied different reptiles and their basking behavior. The results of his and other scientists’ work were then translated into Ferguson Zones which puts different reptile species into four groups according to their preferred sun exposure. 

Each Ferguson Zone has a corresponding UV index range which is useful in setting up your enclosure lighting. This is in terms of your bulb’s output and the corresponding UV index it can provide to your enclosure depending on how far a particular spot is from the light source. This helps you determine how to arrange basking spots, hiding areas, and other light sources in your enclosure with the aim of giving your reptile the exposure it needs. 

A proper lighting setup in an enclosure will have a light and temperature gradient with different zones that provide different levels of UVB light and heat. For example, “shaded” areas behind rocks of furniture in your enclosure will have the least UVB and the area near the UVB lamp will have the most UVB. The same goes for your basking spot underneath your heat lamp. This gradient will allow your dragon to photo and thermo-regulate or control their exposure to UVB light and heat as it pleases.

The general rule is to place light fixtures about 7-10 inches away from the basking area of your dragon but always check with your bulb’s manufacturer. For mercury vapor bulbs, you will have to place these outside of the enclosure, about 3 inches from the cover (due to its high output). The UV light source should ideally cover ⅔ of your enclosure or if you prefer to use a CFL bulb, have a couple in different areas of your enclosure for better coverage. 

Pro-Tip

Observe your dragon if it basks while closing its eyes, this means that you may have placed your light too close to its basking spot.

You will also need a timer or remember to give your dragon 10-12 hours of daytime light with UV exposure then turn it off for the night. Often, a timer will work better in case you forget (and most do!). Also, check if you have any plastic coverings for your fixtures – these should be removed as they can block UVB rays.

Conclusion

There are many lighting sources for bearded dragons and reptiles in the market and the task of choosing one can be quite daunting. However, all you really need is to keep a few basic things in mind: the correct UVA and UVB output for your beardie (high), the proper placement of the lamp in your enclosure (distance from your dragon’s basking spot), and replacing your UV lighting diligently to ensure proper lighting for your beardie at all times. 

FAQs

Do Dragons Need UVA or UVB?

Bearded dragons need both UVA and UVB light. UVA light is at the end of the visible light range and is responsible for skin aging and DNA damage in human skin. For reptiles, this type of UV light helps regulate behaviors such as feeding, diurnal movement, reproduction, and even signalling/communication. UVB light, on the other hand, causes “burning” or tanning in humans and allows for the synthesis of vitamin D3 in reptiles (and humans!) which helps absorb calcium.

In the wild, UV light comes from natural sunlight. Take note that enclosures that get natural sunlight through a window will still need proper full spectrum lighting since UV light can be filtered through glass or plastic especially if it is treated.  

Fun fact: Reptiles can see beyond the visible spectrum into the UVA range (320-400nm) so UVA light affects the way they “see” things. A lack of UVA light in their enclosures can affect the way they perceive food or colors, for example.

How Many Hours of UVB do Bearded Dragons Need?

Bearded dragons need a 10-12 hour dark/light cycle that will mimic their natural circadian rhythm in the wild which is a diurnal (night/day) cycle. UVB rays are not visible, however reptiles get these rays naturally from the sun, so the UVB lamp in their enclosure should be turned off with the 12-hour cycle as well. A useful trick is to have these lights plugged on a power source with a timer which is quite useful because many still forget to turn off their enclosure lighting from time to time. 

How often should I replace my UVB bulbs for bearded dragons?

UVB bulbs degrade over time (they emit less UVB rays) so you should replace them every 6 months. You can also check its efficiency using a UV tester or by shining the bulb onto white paper with all the lights off. It should give the white paper a blue/purple coloration if it’s still working. This test will not detect the UVA light though.

Do Bearded Dragons need UVB light at night?

No, even if UVB is not “visible” it should also be turned off at night to mimic the natural 12-hr day/night cycle. In their natural habitat, UVB light is provided by the sun so by nighttime, there is virtually no UVB radiation reaching the earth.

For How Long Can A Bearded Dragon Go Without a Heat Lamp?

At most, 24 hours (1 day) before it starts to get sick, lose its appetite, and have poor digestion. It can also start to go into brumation (hibernation) which can be problematic for growing beardies. Reptiles are ectotherms (cold-blooded) and will need an external source of heat to regulate their body temperature. You should always have a spare heat lamp as an emergency source in case the one in your enclosure breaks. This is essential especially in places where the temperature drops to 65°F at night. Heat packs wrapped in towels can be used as an alternative to provide emergency heat to your bearded dragon if your lamp breaks. 

Further Reading

Clinical study on the effect of UVB compact lamps on Vitamin D synthesis in growing bearded dragons:
A comparison of UVB compact lamps in enabling cutaneous vitamin D synthesis in growing bearded dragons

Good discussion on CFLs:
Regular compact fluorescent bulbs

A detailed article on UV light and its proper use:
An In-Depth Look At UV Light And Its Proper Use With Reptiles

Good charts with Ferguson Zones, UVI, and a lighting placement guide:
Reptile UVB Lighting Guide

Lighting guide specific for ExoTerra lights (with very good intro on why UV light and heat is important for bearded dragons), PDF:
Reptile lighting guide

Great Q&A on Mercury Lamps (Mega-Ray Specific):
Product & Reptile Habitat Questions – ReptileUV

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto is a marine biologist, freelance animal writer, and reptile lover. She is passionate about empowering reptile owners with the information they need to give the best care possible for their reptiles. She is currently taking up her Ph.D. in Marine Science and providing her knowledge to the ReptileKnowHow community.

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Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto

Lara Sotto is a marine biologist, freelance animal writer, and reptile lover. She is passionate about empowering reptile owners with the information they need to give the best care possible for their reptiles. She is currently taking up her Ph.D. in Marine Science and providing her knowledge to the ReptileKnowHow community.

About ReptileKnowHow

We’re a team of reptile owners and experts who are on a mission to share practical, science-based tips and recommendations to other reptile owners.

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