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Best UVB Bulb for Chinese Water Dragons? (What they really need)

If you have considered getting a Chinese Water Dragon as a pet, then you should know by now that UVB lighting is an absolute must. The question is, which one? Let me explain.

What is the best UVB Bulb for Chinese Water Dragon? The Zoo Med ReptiSun T5 Bulb (Click to see the price on Amazon) is the best UVB bulb in my opinion. There are other competing bulbs on the market like the mercury vapor bulbs but there are concerns about their UV intensity.

Now you know which UVB light I recommend, what other options are there? Why do the Water Dragons even need these lights? What happens if they don’t get these UV rays? Let me give you an answer to these questions now and more.

What type of UVB lighting does a water dragon need?

The Chinese water dragon is from a very hot climate therefore, naturally, it is used to receiving large amounts of UVB rays.

To make sure that you emulate its natural environment you need to make sure that you provide a large number of UVB rays.

Fluorescent lighting is a good source of UVB for your water dragon. The best way is to use a reflector so that none of the important UVB rays are wasted.

When purchasing these fluorescent bulbs, it is a good idea to make sure that they are specifically for desert species like the Chinese Water Dragon.

There are two different types of fluorescent bulbs that you can get:

  • T8
  • T5

The T5 is the newer improved model and as you can expect, it has better specs. In particular, it has double the range of the T8 model and can also last twice as long.

Meaning you will need to replace the T8 bulbs at least every six months whereas the T5 will only need to be changed every 12 months. So, although the T5 is more expensive, they last twice as long, so they are worth the investment.

What is the best temperature for your water dragon?

As discussed earlier, water dragons are from very hot climates, therefore realistically you need to maintain this expectation in captivity.

Day Time

During the day you will need to be providing at least 10 to 12 hours of intense heat, in particular up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The best way to achieve this is by using some strong 60w basking light bulbs (Click here to see the price on Amazon) towards one end of the tank.

If you are using a particularly narrow enclosure, then you may only require one of these.

Night Time

During the Night-Time you will need to drop the temperature down. In particular, down to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you also need to reduce the lighting at this as well. This is so that it’s a nice dark atmosphere so that they can get the rest they need.

To achieve this you can use a ceramic bulb (night bulb). The great thing about this, it will still keep the heat but will reduce the light. To complement this, it is a good idea to have a thermostat. The thermostat is good because it can turn on the ceramic bulb automatically when the temperature drops.

What Exactly is UVB & Why Does your Water Dragon Need This?

UVB is an invisible wavelength that is emitted from the sun. In captivity, these UVB rays are emulated using artificial lighting.

The UV rays are important because it allows your lizard to metabolize the calcium that you feed it. Unfortunately, without these necessary UV rays, there is a good chance that your lizard will become very sick. An example of this is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD).

Other issues that will occur will be the lack of ability to synthesize vitamin D3, which is required by a water dragon. This is something that is required by all almost lizards.

What types of UVB lighting is there for Your Dragon?

In captivity, the only way to provide UV light without using an artificial UVB bulb is to provide direct sunlight from your window. However, the issue with this is, if you have anything blocking this light, such as your terrarium glass, it will not provide the required UV light needed by your Dragon.

Therefore, in reality, it comes down to a choice of two main types of UVB bulbs:

  • Fluorescent
  • Mercury Vapour

Fluorescent Type Lights

These fluorescent bulbs usually are mounted within a fixture such as a reflector or Hood (click to see the price on Amazon) to reflect the light into the enclosure.

The UV light that these bulbs emit has a tendency to run out before the actual bulb blows. Therefore it is recommended that you change these bulbs on a regular basis. As discussed earlier, if you’re using a T8 bulb this will need to be every six months. Or if you’re using a T5 bulb then this will be every 12 months.

To make sure that your lizard gets the full benefit of these bulbs it’s important that you keep the correct distance between the lizard and the actual bulb. It is recommended that you maintain a distance of 6 to 8 inches for best results.

In addition to the distance, you have to be careful about the materials that you place around it the bulbs. Because if you get it wrong, it will not be able to penetrate it. An example is plastic or glass.

So it is important that you mount it in the enclosure so that the UV  light can be passed on to your water dragon effectively.

Mercury vapor bulbs

These bulbs are ideal for large enclosures and they have the ability of emitting UVA and UVB rays. They can also provide heat as well as this lighting so they are like a two in one solution.

The advantages of the mercury vapor bulbs is it can last a lot longer than the fluorescent bulbs, however, there are some debates that the level of UV rays is too intense for reptiles and shouldn’t be used.

Others have argued and there are many lizard keepers who use Mercury vapor lighting without any issues and swear by it. So it depends on your views on this matter.

If you do decide to go with the Mercury vapor bulbs it is a good idea to keep a good distance of at least 12 to 24 inches away from your lizard. Also, provide some good cool spots for them to move away from the intensity.

The compact fluorescent bulb

This bulb does everything similar to the fluorescent bulbs discussed earlier. However, it has some advantages and disadvantages, as you could imagine.

Its advantages are it uses less energy than fluorescent lighting. However, they do not provide the same radius of heating because it is a very concentrated UV light.

There are some concerns that the strength of the UV lighting is too intense for some lizards. Other concerns are it is likely that the bulbs will not last as long.

They are also only really viable for small enclosures because they concentrate the heating into a very small area.

Related Questions:

Can Chinese water dragons be housed together? Yes, they can. However, you need to make sure that you get the group mix correct. They can share in small groups but is very important not to have more than one male in the enclosure. If you have more than one male, they will fight over territory.

What fruits can Chinese water dragons eat? They can eat a wide variety of fruits. Such as Melon (such as cantaloupe), blueberries, raspberries and more.

How can you tell if a Chinese water dragon is male or female? There is a difference in their head size. Females have smaller heads than the male. Also, you can look at their jowls. Males tend to have bigger puffier sized jowls than females.

Do Chinese water dragons shed? Yes, they do shed. As they begin shedding you will notice a difference in their skin color. You should see it get a bit darker until they shed. They also tend to use water as a way to help the shedding process.


Hi, this is me with my daughter and my Lizard friend. I hope you enjoy my research. Please feel free to check out my "About Me" page to find out more about me.