Do Pet Frogs Need UVB Lights?

I’ve worked in pet stores finding frogs new homes with the proper care and setups, including UVB lights. I now work as a zookeeper and in my jobs I have often got asked about the need for UVB lights for pet frogs.

Ultraviolet-B light is recommended for captive reptile and amphibian species including pet frogs. This can be achieved through artificial light sources to supplement the lack of sunlight for captive species.

Different species require different spectrums and intensities of ultraviolet light to maintain a healthy life.

In this article we will talk about what UV light is and what it provides to frogs. We will show why it is important to provide them UVB lighting, and the health benefits it provides. We will compare the different types of UV light and what they provide individually. Lastly, we will discuss the dangers of prolonged UV exposure and the hazards of using lamps incorrectly. 

We will also recommend which lamps to use and the ideal exposure time for popular pet frog species.

What Is UV Light and What Does it Do? 

UV or ultraviolet light is a natural aspect of sunlight that comes in different wavelengths. It provides natural health benefits to animals and plants. UV lighting can be used artificially in the form of light bulbs and lamps for pet amphibians.

UV light regulates life for captive and pet reptiles and amphibians. Ultraviolet light is naturally emitted from the sun as sunlight that has many benefits to pet frogs:

  • UV helps strengthen the immune system of animals.
  • It strengthens skin barriers to keep pathogens from getting through the first barrier of defense.
  • UV light can also destroy bacteria that may be on the skin itself. 

After the light is uptaken by the animals it can be converted to vitamin-D and used to regulate hormone levels in the animal’s internal organs. It is especially useful for immune function and growth for the animal. 

Though the use of UV light is not always required in amphibians and some reptile species, it is recommended to be provided in some capacity, just like the use of calcium powder is also recommended for captive reptiles and amphibians to supplement what they are losing from not being in their natural environment. 

What is UVB Versus UVA?  

Pet stores and pet supply companies provide both UVB and UVA light bulbs to use for your pet. UVB and UVA have different wavelengths that are emitted that provide different health benefits. UVB helps with calcium uptake to reduce the risk of metabolic bone disease. UVA helps with the daylight cycle. 

UVB is a short wavelength of ultraviolet light. It helps control calcium metabolism and absorption by the body. Calcium is extremely important for pet reptiles and amphibians as they are deficient and rely on food and calcium powder to get calcium into their body. 

Lack of calcium for reptile and amphibian species can result in metabolic bone disease (MBD). MBD affects the bones and growth of the animal and is a result of poor husbandry and improper diet. Think of UVB as a supplement to help your frog friend grow strong and avoid MBD. 

I worked with an alligator, Wally, that had MBD. He was kept in improper conditions for his first six years of life, not given proper diet or lighting, and developed the disease. His jaw was crooked and his digits fused together. This disease shortened his lifespan as well, but served as an important lesson in husbandry. 

UVA is a longer wavelength of ultraviolet light. It helps control diurnal activities, which just means it regulates daytime and nighttime activities. Movement, feeding, and mating are behaviors that are based on time of day for most species. 

Can I Just Put My Pet Frog Next to a Window?

Putting an indoor tank containing your pet frog next to a window does not provide the proper UV light.

Although sunlight will come into a room through a window, the UV will be stopped by the window pane and will not reach your pet inside.

The use of natural light can help regulate day and nighttime cycles for your pet, but will not provide health benefits. 

How Can I Provide UV Light to my Pet Frog? 

UV light is recommended to be provided daily for reptile and amphibian species in a controlled environment. You can use UVB light bulbs and lamps to supply UV to your reptile or amphibian. 

Owning a reptile or amphibian as a pet means providing them with the appropriate conditions for a healthy life.

Artificial light sources and lamps are recommended to provide UVB to your pet or captive reptile or amphibian. There are different bulbs for tropical and desert animals that mimic what they would receive in the wild. It’s recommended to provide a gradient by adjusting the height of the lamp above the animal’s house. 

Here are some common pet frog species and their common needs in terms of lighting:

Pet Frog SpeciesLighting TypeDaily ExposureLamp Recommendation
Pacman FrogUVB10-14 hoursZoo Med T8 Reptisun 5.0
African Clawed FrogUVB12 hours Zoo Med T5 HO 5.0
Poison Dart FrogUVB12 hours Zoo Med T5 HO 5.0
Red Eyed Tree FrogUVB12 hours 13 watt Exo Terra 100

You can find each of these lamps on Amazon:

Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 5.0
Zoo Med T5 HO 5.0
13 watt Exo Terra 100
DBDPet 's Bundle with Zoomed Reptisun 14" T5HO Terrarium Hood Light Fixture & Free 5.0...
Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 T5-Ho Uvb Fluorescent Lamp - 39 w - 34"
Exo Terra Repti-Glo 2.0 Compact Fluorescent Full Spectrum Terrarium Lamp, 13-Watt (Natural...
Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 5.0
DBDPet 's Bundle with Zoomed Reptisun 14" T5HO Terrarium Hood Light Fixture & Free 5.0...
Zoo Med T5 HO 5.0
Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 T5-Ho Uvb Fluorescent Lamp - 39 w - 34"
13 watt Exo Terra 100
Exo Terra Repti-Glo 2.0 Compact Fluorescent Full Spectrum Terrarium Lamp, 13-Watt (Natural...

UV bulbs should be used adjacent to heat lamps. Not all heat lights provide UV, so research and read the packaging before purchasing lights for your pet. UV bulbs will lose effectiveness overtime and should be tested for UB output and replaced often. 

Each brand of light bulb has an exposure range map on their packaging. This range map should be followed to provide proper effective UV exposure without overwhelming the animal and causing harm. Always remember to provide cover and hides for your pet and limit the time the lamp is on by switching the UV off at night. 

Can Frogs Receive Too Much UVB? 

Frogs can receive too much UVB that can be detrimental to their health. This usually happens from prolonged exposure or incorrectly using UVB light bulbs and lamps. Too much or too little UVB can cause health problems, so it is recommended to always research before providing UVB. 

Prolonged exposure to artificial UV light can damage organs or be fatal to pet frogs. Inappropriate exposure can cause damage to the amphibian’s skin and eyes and disrupt natural body system function High exposure can cause light avoidance and decreased behavior from the animal. 

In the case of breeding frogs, high exposure of UV light can cause egg mortality. Think of it like sunburn for humans. Too much light exposure without cover or protection can cause a lot of harm to the animal. 

This article was written by Melissa M. who holds a Bachelors of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, and a Master Herpetologist certificate. The article was edited and published by Daniella, Master Herpetologist in the author profile below.

Sources

Baines, F. M., et al. How much UVB does my reptile need? the UV-tool, a guide to the selection of UV lighting for reptiles and amphibians in captivity. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research. Retrieved from https://www.jzar.org/jzar/article/view/150 

Han, B. et al. (2007). Behavioral Avoidance of Ultraviolet-B Radiation by Two Species of neotropical Poison-Dart Frogs. Wiley Online Library . Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1744-7429.2007.00268.x 

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.