Your pet turtle desperately needs two things from light; a healthy dose of daily UV light and warmth. This is where having a UV light bulb will come in.
After reading this article, you should know exactly what direction you want to go in when it comes to your turtle heat lamps.
Here's something I have noticed with most light reptile lamps.
Most of them have a problem.
The problem is that most lights don't do quite everything that your turtle needs. Turtles are complex creatures that are supposed to live naturally in a complex environment. Simply removing them from their natural habitat and placing them in a bare tank ensures them of a life potentially riddled with disease and chronic illness.
Ideally, any turtle heat lamp that you purchase should do a few things bare minimum:
What happens though is that most turtle light bulbs (particularly the cheaper ones) come up short on at least 1, and sometimes more, of these points.
Luckily, there is a brand of mercury vapor bulbs that meet all of the above criteria.
I personally have used them over the last few years and can attest to their reliability, as well as their power.
They are Mega Ray Mercury Vapor bulbs.
The Mega-Ray Mercury Bulb has been my personal favorite for a long time. My turtles love them, they provide plenty of UV-A and UV-B and also, come with a 6-month warranty.
These turtle light bulbs...
If you have ever bought a UV or heat light for your turtles, you will know frustrating it is to...
Here is how the Mega Ray bulbs stack up against all 3 of these challenges.
Mega Ray Durability
I know how annoying it is to constantly need to buy a new light bulb for your turtles because the one you had just broke, simply because you moved the light. Or maybe the turtle knocked something on it and the filament inside snapped. Or perhaps it broke because it's just cheap and low quality.
Whatever the reason for it breaking, it gets old after the 3rd of 4th time in as many months...
These Mega Ray bulbs on the other hand are probably the most durable UV lights out there. They won't break easily. The bulb is very highly rated, (4.1 out of 5 stars) and countless other reviewers noted how durable and fool-proof the light is. Furthermore the bulb comes with a warranty, so that if anything breaks during shipping, or is broken when it arrives, you'll be sent a replacement at no extra charge.
Mega Ray Rate of Decay
Regardless of how durable or splash-proof any light is, if it only lasts a month or two it simply won't be worth it.
Typically, UV lights for turtles last anywhere from 3-6 months. Rate of decay is a real thing and you will notice this as your bulb becomes less and less powerful, and as your turtle becomes less and less willing to bask under the light. It is common for many bulbs to decay anywhere from 50-80% in 1 year of use. That means that after 9-12 months, your turtle is only receiving half to two-thirds less UV rays. Not good.
This is especially true for halogen lights, which often don't emit UV-B light, and burn out much faster.
Mercury vapor lights on the other hand do everything, emit light, provide warmth as well as emit UV-A and UV-B light. The only downside to them is that they use a lot more electricity than halogen lights. How much more?
Around twice as much on average.
A little steep, but it's the price to pay for the convenience of having an all-in-1 package.
This light should easily last you at least 8 months. In fact, it is more common for the bulb to last a little over a year, provided you take care of it well and use it properly (don't leave it on 24 hours a day).
Mega Ray's Basking Ability
The real test of whether or not a UV light is worth it or not is to simply see if your turtles even bask under it.
A proper UV and warmth light should provide the following for your turtles:
If your turtles will not bask under a light that you have, it will most likely be because your light lacks one of these 3 things (or the light is simply way too close to them and they will burn).
The Mega Ray Mercury Vapor bulb provides all 3.
This is in direct contrast to most other lights, which might provide UVA but not UVB, or might provide both in two separate lights (which makes things more complicated for setting everything up) or is simply not strong enough (wattage is too low).
Let's take a closer look at how this light bulb stacks up against the rest.
Mega Ray vs The Competition
On the surface, the Zoo Med Repti Tuff should be an excellent choice. It's (quite a bit) cheaper than the Mega Ray and has extremely high reviews (4.4 out of 5 stars).
However, there is one very significant problem: it only emits UV-A light.
Without a source for UV-B light, pet turtles can potentially develop bone and shell deficiencies, as UV-B light is needed for healthy production of the vitamin D3. UVB is absolutely necessary for a healthy turtle's development and health.
So while at face value you may think that you are getting a good deal, you'll still need to get a 2nd light just for the extra UVB rays anyways.
To solve this problem, try checking out something like the Zoo Med Combo Pack Turtle Lamp, which is a few a few extra bucks and contains both bulbs.
Included in the kit are two lamps; one for heat and one for UVA and UVB rays.
It's also a popular product, and well reviewed with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Personally, I simply like the convenience of having everything in 1 bulb. It makes lighting a lot easier, as well as reduces things like cords, figuring out how to clip everything on the basking dock, etc.
There are 2 big flaws with this kit however; it's a 2 bulb kit which means you will need 2 lamp fixtures and they are only available up from 50 to 75 watts.
At 50 watts, the UV and heat bulb from this kit is probably going to be suited towards a smaller aquarium (around 55 or so gallons) and/or for one or two smaller turtles. The only downside to this, is again, the fact that you will need 2 light fixtures, which may crowd your aquarium a bit.
That being said, I've bought the kit before for use on a 40 gallon tank with 2 younger turtles and it worked great, but I knew what I was getting into before I bought it.
As noted elsewhere, you'll need to position a 50 watt bulb pretty close to the basking area (5-7 inches usually) to make sure that it gets properly heated. With a higher watt bulb, you can position it further away, and get it just as hot.
Moreover, the higher the bulb's wattage, the more powerful it is, and the easier it is to provide warmth, UV-A and UV-B light for multiple, fully-grown turtles. A 100 watt or 150 watt bulb is going to be a lot more powerful and a lot easier for turtles to bask under.
Overall however, I think it's a very good choice, for quite a bit less money, provided you have 1 turtle and a set-up where you can position it close to the basking area.
There are a bunch of other lights out there that you could take a chance with, but usually the problem is either going to be; it is very poorly reviewed or ; it will lack both UV-A and UV-B light, or it won't be reliable or durable enough.
Thus, my vote for the best turtle light bulb easily goes to the Mega Ray. For those on a tighter budget, the Zoo Med Combo Pack Turtle Lamp is a good runner-up, provided you have the space and the extra lamp fixtures to accommodate both bulbs.