There has been a lot of debate over the last couple of years on the importance of UV lighting in leopard geckos environments. Some are kept without a UV source and survive without any obvious issues, however there are cases of leopard geckos suffering with clear health issues as a direct result of a lack of UVB.
We have been following these cases and have had many internal discussions over the pros and cons of introducing UVB lighting to a leopard gecko vivarium.
After reading a many blogs and articles on the subject it is clear that one of the key points in this subject is whether leopard geckos are truly nocturnal or whether they are crepuscular (active at twilight and dusk). John Courtney-Smith’s recent article on the subject suggests that they are crepuscular, they are indeed active around dusk and dawn in low (relatively) light. This observation is very important as it tells us that these geckos would be exposed to levels of UV in their natural environment (central Asia).
It has also been noted that a leopard geckos skin absorbs significantly more UVB in low light than other reptiles. So when they are scurrying around and basking in those few hours before sunrise they are in fact absorbing all of the UV that they will need. In nature this UV exposure is necessary even though they may only need temporary exposure to low levels.
The Potential Consequence of No UVB?
In captivity leopard geckos are especially vulnerable when their diet is lacking in vitamin D or they are not being exposed to UVB. They may struggle to produce enough D3 to synthesis and utilize the calcium in their diet. The consequence of calcium deficiency in reptiles is often metabolic bone disease.
This video was posted on Facebook by renowned exotic animal vet Sean McCormack Mvb
As a reptile shop our aim is to always try to do the best by the animals in our care and our customer’s care. We want to ensure that the animal has everything it needs to live a long, happy and healthy life. We believe that UVB is necessary when providing optimal care to leopard geckos.
All Northampton Reptile Centre leopard gecko setups will now include a good quality UVB source.
We are recommending that a 5-6% T8 or T5 tube will provide sufficient UVB for leopard geckos. We are also recommending the tube be fixed as high as possible (though still in range) and towards one end of the vivarium to create a UV gradient. The use of multiple hides at both the warm and cool side of the vivarium is also recommended.
With albino leopard geckos and other hypersensitive morphs we will be recommending the tube be scaled down to a 2% bulb.
The lights should only be on as long as the heat bulb to promote a healthy day night cycle and ensure that the gecko is not disturbed when it would usually be active. Though the majority of the time the gecko will be hidden in caves or under bark we have witnessed basking behaviour ourselves and are sure that the animal will benefit from this extra light source.