Advances in Reptile Lighting

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Special Report :
A problem with some of the new high UVB output
fluorescent compact lamps and tubes

The Report: Introduction - Case histories - Lamp test results
Discussion - Summary, Recommendations and Company Responses- References



This is one case from a series of reports compiled as part of an investigation into photo-kerato-conjunctivitis, possibly occurring as a result of excessive low-wavelength UVB radiation under certain brands of fluorescent UVB lamp.

Please do not view this one case without reference to the whole report of which it is a part.


Case History : SC (New York, USA) - Red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans)


One male and one female red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) aged 3 years were housed in a large purpose-built aquarium enclosure, size approximately 125 gallons (60 in. by 24 in. by 18 in.) in which they had lived for the past 2 years.

Fig. 1. The basking area (shown in Fig. 1.) was warmed by a ceramic heater, (now replaced by a halogen flood bulb in a grey lamp-holder, as seen in the picture) and by an UVB lamp in a standard black household lamp-holder with a matte white finish inside. The UVB lamp was previously an old-style ZooMed Reptisun 10.0 Compact Lamp, replaced with a brand new ZooMed Reptisun 10.0 Compact Lamp (new style)(Lamp BW3).

The UVB lamp's distance to the basking turtles was approximately 9 inches from the tip of the bulb to the top of the shell of the largest turtle, the female. The closest she could approach would have been 6 inches if she extended her neck towards it; however, SC reports that both turtles usually basked looking away from the bulb, with their backs facing it.

Both turtles were in good health and no eye problems had occurred with the previous lamp. The new lamp was installed on 4th July 2006. The light was initially in use for 12 hours a day.

On 5th July, the female began to show symptoms of eye irritation, and the male was affected by 8th July. By 10th July both turtles had ceased basking and had swollen eyelids.

The turtles were examined by a veterinary surgeon on 14th July, and bacitracin-neomycin-polymyxin veterinary ophthalmic ointment (Vetropolycin, Pharmaderm Animal Health) was prescribed. No link between the new lamp and the eye damage was suspected.

The antibiotic eye ointment had no effect, nor did occasional treatments with ZooMed Repti Turtle Eye Drops or ZooMed Repti Turtle Sulfa Dip.

The owner began to "dry dock" the turtles for 2 to 3 hours a day, removing them from the aquarium and allowing them time to bask out of the water, initially outdoors in natural sunlight then after 4th September, in an indoor enclosure under a T-Rex Active UV Heat mercury vapour lamp at a distance of 4 feet.

The eye problem continued for over six months. During this time the UVB lamp was on for 8 hours a day.

Because bright sunlight had seemed to cause some improvement, on January 20th 2007 the ceramic heater was replaced with a halogen light bulb and incidentally, the UVB lamp was switched off. Within 2 days the turtles' eyes had returned to normal and it was realised that this was the source of the problem.

The lamp was replaced with one of the old-style ZooMed Reptisun 10.0 lamps, and no further problems were seen.

However, in March 2007 this replacement lamp failed. The new-style ZooMed Reptisun 10.0 lamp was re-installed but put on a timer for only 2 hours a day. No adverse effects were observed until one day in April when the timer did not turn off the lamp, which was on for 8 hours.

Both turtles developed swollen eyelids again. The lamp was removed altogether and the problem resolved quickly.

The turtles currently bask under an ExoTerra ReptiGlo 5.0 compact UVB lamp and no further problems have been seen.

The ZooMed Reptisun 10.0 lamp was submitted to FB for testing (Lamp ref. BW3, estimated use 1500 hours).


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