Warning: Fake UVB Bulbs on Sale in the UK!

The following was posted by renowned reptile UVB expert and retired vet Dr. Frances Baines on Reptile Forums UK. When Frances has something to say about UVB, people (who understand reptiles and the scientific method) listen.

Fake UVB compact fluorescent lamps on sale on eBay in the UK

I am writing to warn reptile keepers of the risk of buying fake UVB compact lamps over the internet. Over the last six months, I have been asked to test compact fluorescent lamps bought by three different tortoise owners, who had purchased them from three different English eBay traders advertising them as 5% UVB bulbs for reptiles. Two of them were purchased as part of a tortoise table “kit”.

Suspicions were first aroused because they all have bayonet fittings. All current reptile UVB lamp manufacturers put E27 screw fittings on their lamps.

I have made the “poster” below from my photographs of these lamps, helping you to identify these fake UVB lamps. You are welcome to share this image freely. Below are more details and a summary of my test results. I have written a more detailed report which has been sent to Trading Standards and to REPTA but there seems to be little they can do to stop people doing this kind of thing. There may be other fakes out there, and it is really easy to buy very cheap household bulbs and re-sell them as “UVB lamps” so…caveat emptor!

SO PLEASE BUY ONLY WELL-KNOWN, HIGH QUALITY BRANDS for your animals. UV lamps are health products not décor. (And compact lamps, by the way, are rarely suitable for basking species except in tiny terrariums- but that’s a different story altogether..)


Type 1:
A 20W coiled compact fluorescent bulb with a bayonet fitting. There appeared to have been some sort of scrape over the manufacturer’s imprint erasing what would have been the brand name, and a clumsy overprint stating ‘UVB’ An internet search of the still legible lamp code ‘YPZ-US-20W’ revealed that this lamp appears to be the following product, widely sold as a human ‘SAD’ lamp: ‘Green Lamp 6400k Cool White’ energy-saving bulb. These are certainly not UVB lamps!
Green Lamp YPZ-US-20W B22 20 Watt 6400k Compact Fluorescent Light Energy Saving Bulb also for Treating SAD, Cool White: Amazon.co.uk: Lighting

However, this lamp was sold as an unbranded product with an information sheet stating, among other things:

‘UVB output. Effective up to 30cm (12”). Provides necessary UVB rays for optimal calcium metabolism’, ‘has a moderate to high UVB output’ and ‘Ideal for desert and other UVB requirement reptiles’. I tested one of these (Lamp 1 in the table below).

Type 2:
These are 9V miniature coiled compact lamps with a bayonet fitting. An area under the imprint stating the lamp specifications had been scraped, erasing what would have been the brand name and making the origin untraceable. On the reverse side, a faint amateur hand-stamped overprint reads: ‘UVB Specialist UV’. No information leaflet was supplied. I tested two of these, bought by two different people at different times (Lamps 2 and 3 in the table below).

Test Results
Recordings consisted of:

  • Total UVB 280-320nm (Solarmeter 6.2 broadband UVB meter)
  • UV Index (UVB in the biologically active range of wavelengths) (Solarmeter 6.5 UV Index meter)
  • Spectrograms (Ocean Optics Inc. USB2000+ spectral radiometer with a UV-B compatible fibre-optic sensor with cosine adaptor)

Meter readings
The results, after 30 min warm-up time, are shown in Tables 1 and 2. For comparison, test results from a new, miniature 13watt UVB compact lamp of a well-known brand, a ZooMed ReptiSun 5.0 UVB mini compact fluorescent, designed to enable vitamin D synthesis in reptile skin, are also shown. This lamp has a good spectrum for vitamin D synthesis but it is not a powerful UVB emitter, in fact I would say that this miniature bulb is probably suitable only for very small vivaria.


These readings show that lamp 1 is not emitting any UVB at all. Lamps 2 and 3 are emitting very small amounts of UVB at extremely close range. This is not an unusual finding for cheap brands of household compact lamps sold for human lighting, but these amounts are of no practical use.

For vitamin D3 synthesis to be possible, the UVB provided must include shorter wavelength UVB. The UV Index provides an indication of the intensity of the UVB in these shorter wavelengths. The meter gave zero readings at all distances greater than 10cm for all three lamps.

Spectral Analysis
The full UV spectra of the three lamps, and for comparison, the ZooMed Reptisun 5.0 lamp, are shown below:


This confirms the meter readings.

The Zoo Med lamp is emitting UVB and UVA from 295nm to about 380nm, owing to a UV-emitting phosphor. This spectrum is fairly typical of UVB-emitting fluorescent lamps designed for reptiles.

The other lamps show no evidence of a UV-emitting phosphor at all. The characteristic ‘spikes’ are low-level UV generated by the mercury vapour; these are produced by all fluorescent lamps. Coatings to block them are sometimes applied to the glass; lamp 1 appears to have some coatings since there is only one tiny UVA ‘spike’, at 365nm.

All genuine UVB fluorescent lamps must contain a UVB-emitting phosphor, such as the one in the ZooMed lamp shown here.

It is obvious that these are not UVB lamps.

They appear to be household fluorescent lamps being fraudulently marketed as UVB lamps.

In my opinion, these are totally unsuitable for use as reptile UVB lamps. When used in a vivarium or over a tortoise table, they will not enable adequate vitamin D3 synthesis. If unsuspecting customers use these as the sole source of UVB for tortoises and lizards, I believe their pets are at risk of developing life-threatening vitamin D3 deficiencies including metabolic bone disease (the human equivalent being rickets).

Author’s note
I believe this equipment and these methods are producing reliable and repeatable results which have scientific validity, but I would encourage professional laboratory testing of these lamps to confirm my findings.

Comments in this report reflect my personal opinions only.

13th September 2015
Dr. Frances M. Baines, M.A., Vet.M.B., M.R.C.V.S.
UV Guide UK

Source: Reptile Forums UK

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