Advances in Reptile Lighting

A resource for all reptile keepers

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the meters we are using in our tests
all about sunlight
the UV requirements of different species
UV transmission tests
UV lighting for reptiles
Introduction to the 2005 Lighting Survey
fluorescent tubes on test
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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

What is photo-kerato-conjunctivitis?

"Help! I think my reptile has this problem, what shall I do?"
Please don't panic. Click here for more info

"How should I respond to this report?"
Please click here for more info



Please note: This report was written in the second half of 2007, with updates made regularly until April 2008. We continue to hear of very small numbers of cases but fortunately, owing to the positive efforts of most of the companies whose products were involved, lamps causing these problems are being steadily replaced by re-formulated products which don't emit abnormally short-wavelength UVB radiation. (See later for an explanation of this.) However there are still small numbers of "old stock" of certain products on sale in some areas, and there is always the possibility that a new untested product may be introduced and found to cause problems. This section of the website will shortly be revised to bring it fully up to date; but this report is still valid today - September 2009.

A small but increasing number of pet reptiles are developing symptoms of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis as a result of abnormal exposure to ultraviolet radiation. We have now heard reports of more than 80 reptiles which have been affected in the last year. We have documented 40 cases associated with the use of compact lamps from the ZooMed Reptisun range; five more incidents involving at least another 40 animals have now been reported to us, associated with the use of fluorescent tubes in the new R-Zilla Desert 50 Series. When the problem was recognised in time and the lamp removed, all affected animals recovered; however three deaths have been reported under ZooMed compact lamps and two associated with an R-Zilla lamp.

We tested samples of fluorescent lamps from each brand which has been alleged to have caused photo-kerato-conjunctivitis in reptiles, and compared the test results with those from other brands.

Broadband UVB meters did not prove very helpful in determining the cause of the problem; they indicated that at the distances at which problems occurred, the total UVB (in microwatts per square centimetre) from these lamps was no higher than that found in natural sunlight. However, total UVB measurements give little indication of the photobiological activity of the lamp.

Measurements of the UV Index (which does provide a measure of this) revealed that whereas 100 µW/cm² total UVB from sunlight was recorded as yielding a UV Index of 1.6 – 2.0, these lamps were producing emissions in which 100µW/cm² total UVB yielded a UV Index of between 8.9 and 14.2. Light from these lamps would therefore appear to be between four and eight times as photobiologically active as light from the sun. At close range these lamps were all producing hazardous levels of UVB.

Spectrograms indicated that all these lamps utilise a distinctive phosphor of a type used in lamps for testing the deterioration under UVB of resistant materials such as roofing and car bodywork, and in older-style human clinical phototherapy lamps (so-called "FS" lamps). The lamps we tested from three different brands generate low wavelength UVB, some from as low as 275 - 280nm, whereas the lower limit of UVB in natural sunlight is 290-295nm. (The phosphor used in many other brands of reptile UVB lamps is of a type used in some human tanning lamps, which mimics the UV in sunlight and produces no UVB at wavelengths below 290nm.)
As well as a much higher proportion of more damaging non-solar UV energy at wavelengths below 295 nm, the lamps with the problem phosphor proved to have a higher total UVB output than most other brands of fluorescent reptile UVB lamps. Because much of this is in the more photobiologically active wavelengths, the risk of reaching a threshold dose for photo-kerato-conjunctivitis, and possibly other forms of UV radiation damage, is much greater than with other lamps.

A combination of other factors apparently increased the risk of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis with these lamps even further:

  • In some cases, product literature did not give adequate information. It is essential that lamps are not sold without clear recommendations regarding suitable basking distances and the hazards of over-exposure. Many reptile keepers are unaware that there are any risks associated with close contact with a fluorescent UVB source. The history of fluorescent UVB lamps is such that they are often perceived as "weak" sources of UVB and keepers are often advised to position them close to the reptile.
  • When placed in aluminium reflectors, in some cases UVB beneath compact lamps was increased by more than 700%. The extreme increase in UVB underneath aluminium reflector domes has not been widely known, or the hazard recognised, either by manufacturers or hobbyists.
  • Most of the lamps have a low visible light output. They are therefore less likely to induce an aversive reaction, or pupillary constriction, when in the reptiles' line of sight. They do not "look like" very intense, direct tropical sunlight.
  • Most of the UVA output of these lamps is not in the visible UVA range for reptiles, since the threshold for vision is about 350nm. This reduces even further the visual impact of the lamp to the reptile.
  • Fluorescent lamps produce a small amount of heat. This is insufficient to deter a reptile from a close approach, and in fact the gentle warmth may even prove an attraction.
  • Broadband UVB meters such as the Solarmeter 6.2 provide only readings of the total UVB in microwatts per square centimetre. This gives little indication of the photobiological activity of the UVB radiation from this type of lamp. Misleading comparisons of lamp and solar readings taken with these meters may be made, possibly leading to incorrect placement of the lamp, if this is not understood.

We believe the use of a “phototherapy” phosphor in these lamps is a cause for concern. The effects of long-term exposure to non-solar wavelengths on reptiles is unknown, but these wavelengths are far more damaging to living cells than solar wavelengths. FS lamps have been used widely in research upon cell damage and immunosuppression, and to induce skin tumours in laboratory animals. FS lamps have been used in at least two studies with reptiles which suffered unexpected detrimental effects apparently related to their UV exposure, including photo-kerato-conjunctivitis, depression and death, and skin tumours. Although the compact lamps we tested from ZooMed, and the T5 and T8 tube we tested from R-Zilla are not FS lamps, they do appear to contain the same phosphor. The Big Apple Herpetological Mystic tube and compact lamp we tested, however, have spectra very similar indeed to FS lamps.




The production of non-solar UVB and high levels of low-wavelength solar UVB by the "phototherapy" phosphor used in these lamps may be a cause for particular concern.
Further studies are needed to ascertain whether long-term exposure to these wavelengths, at any intensity, is in any way detrimental to reptile health.
Until such studies have been carried out, and the risks to reptile health properly assessed, we recommend that alternative phosphors be used in these lamps.

If these lamps are to be used in reptile vivaria, pending the results of such investigation, the risk of development of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis, at least, would be considerably reduced, in the authors' opinion, by:

  1. Ensuring that the risks of high UVB radiation in close proximity to the lamp are made clear to all would-be users of the lamp.
  2. Ensuring that the manufacturer's recommendations regarding minimum basking distances are suitable, advertised clearly, and are followed closely by the users of the lamp.
  3. Bearing in mind that the use of aluminium reflectors may have a greater effect upon UVB output than is generally realised, and using these with caution.
  4. Positioning the lamp in close proximity to a bright light source with a balanced spectrum, such as a basking light, to provide a visible indication of the radiation source and also to discourage the animal from staring directly into the lamp.
  5. Positioning the lamp directly above the reptile so that the lamp is not in the animal's direct line of sight, and its eyes are shaded from the direct beam by the eyelids and/or the shape of the head.


Company Responses

Latest update: 23rd September 2009- Click here to go straight to this update

We are very pleased to be in contact with the companies selling the lamps featured in this report. As they keep us informed of their progress in addressing these issues, we will keep you informed by publishing their responses in this section.

The reports were sent to Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc. in California, USA, and Big Apple Herpetological, Inc. in New York, USA on 21st September 2007 and to Central Garden and Pet Company - Aquatics (R-Zilla products) in Wisconsin, USA on 23rd September 2007.

We have now received positive responses from all three companies. These are published below in the order in which we received them.

A detailed and encouraging response was received from Shane Bagnall, Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc. Research & Development Division, on 25th September. His email, written to FB, is published here in its entirety:

24th September 2007

Dear Dr. Baines*,

As we try to keep abreast of any and all UVB research relating to reptiles, I am familiar with your website and I have read the series of articles published by yourself and your colleagues in the magazine; “Reptile Care” magazine. I am impressed by your work and am grateful for the help and information that you offer to the herpetocultural community. It is unfortunate that our first communication is under these circumstances. Let me assure you that our first concern is for the health of the animals for which our products are being used. I have read the report that was attached in your email and would like to address the related issues.

As you know, we recently started including instructions in the packages with all of our ReptiSun CFL’s. This was initiated when we received a report from a chameleon keeper in the US of swollen eyes caused by a Reptisun 10.0 CFL. After investigation it was found that the lamp was situated horizontally above the cage directly above the screen mesh. Plants placed in the cage allowed the chameleons to get within just a couple of inches from the surface of the lamp. This prompted me to develop instruction sheets that would prevent this from happening again if followed correctly. Lamps were measured in a variety of fixtures and domes. The distances published in the instruction sheet were intended to provide 15-30 µW/cm2 at the basking site. As you mentioned below, the values seemed to be conservative. Unfortunately, it was later found that the Zoo Med (Solartech) meter used for measuring lamps was giving false high UVB readings. Apparently there was a batch having problematic sensors leading to false high readings. Following this discovery, we requested that Steve Macken notify the UVB group of this so that the meters could be recalibrated. We intend on rewriting the instructions and welcome your input on this process.

Your analysis of the various phosphors used in reptile UVB lamps was very intriguing. We were unaware of the potential for harm due to the FS phosphor associated with the ReptiSun 10.0 Compact Fluorescent lamp, as these phosphors were used in older models of our lamps without reports of eye damage. In your report, you described the differences between the “new” and “old” style ReptiSun CFL’s. When we made this change, it was based on the current body of information available at that time on the UVB requirements of reptiles. This information came from published scientific literature, our own experience with reptile lighting, and even information published by yourself and your colleagues. The old style ReptiSun 5.0 CFL depreciated (decayed) to a level below 15 µW/cm2 at a distance of 12 inches, which we felt was too low for adequate photobiosynthesis in reptiles. The old 10.0 CFL was stronger than the 5.0 CFL, but not as strong as our ReptiSun 10.0 linear fluorescent. We produced a series of prototypes with higher levels of UVB that we felt were safe and effective based on the information available at that time. We also tested the lamps in house and with the animals at Zoo Med. We did not observe any cases of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis in any of the animals.

Please note that we will be taking the following actions to prevent further cases of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis from occurring:

  • Rewriting the instructions to address the recommendations made in your report.
  • Pre-burning the lamps during production for 100-150 hours for the following reasons:
            Reduce the initial UVB output of the lamp when first used by the consumer.
            Prevent the consumer from having to make allowances for rapid initial depreciation.
  • Modify the packaging to address issues relating to proper use of the lamps and the issues relating to percentages.
  • Immediately begin working on new prototypes using phosphors similar to those found in our linear fluorescent lamps.

If you are interested in working with us, we would like to send proofs of instructions and packaging artwork to you for review prior to publication/printing. In addition, we will send samples of prototype lamps to you for review when they become available.

Best regards,

Shane Bagnall

Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc.
Research & Development Division
3650 Sacramento Drive, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

(* Ed's note- FB is a qualified veterinary surgeon and although in the UK this does not give the title Dr., in most countries, it does)

Dr. Thomas Lutz, Director of Research and Development for Central-Aquatics (R-Zilla products) had already contacted FB once he learned of our research, and had previously expressed the company's commitment to address the problem. In an email sent on 19th September he had written (extract):

I am very happy to be working with you to not only remedy the apparent issues which you’ve recently uncovered, but also in moving forward in our target of producing the best product for animal health. I can tell you that this is my number one priority and one which I am working feverishly to provide the right answers to.

Our course of action is to review the information that you’ve provided, coupled with discussions with our suppliers, and other vendors and over the next 24-72 hours continue to work to develop what we feel is the best course of action. We will duly develop a “formal” statement, and as soon as we reach this point, I will share what I can with you.

Thomas Lutz, Ph.D.
Central Garden & Pet -- Aquatics
5401 West Oakwood Park Drive, Franklin, WI 53132

On 25th September FB received another email from Dr. Lutz in which he acknowledges receipt of the report and writes (quote)

Thank you so much for your very insightful report and information. We are currently reviewing all of the information and hope to make an informed decision very soon.

On 26th September FB received the following email from Dr. Lutz, posted here in its entirety, making the formal statement that R-Zilla are withdrawing all the Desert 50 Series lamps from sale immediately.

Dr. Baines,

Thank you kindly for your in depth and extremely informative report(s). Your recent findings and revelations around some of the phosphors used to produce the UVB light required for proper animal wellness and health have raised the industries awareness and understanding to a whole new level.

Our Customer Service department had just recently received a limited number of reports of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis thought to be linked to use of our Desert 50 lights, but we were baffled by these claims as the total UVB output was in line with what the hobby and industry thought to be necessary for proper animal health. As is well documented in yours as well as others reports, we know that UVB is a necessary evil in that it is required for animal health (Vitamin D production), but bad if overexposure occurs (photo-kerato-conjunctivitis). We pride ourselves in producing the best products for the Animal and Consumer, and believed that because our new Desert 50 bulbs were finally giving the output necessary for proper animal health compared to what has traditionally been on the market, that this was an issue of the market adjusting to the correct levels of UVB output.

While the 50 ìm/cm2 UVB output of our lamps is correct, the very low wavelength UVB is causing an accelerated impact on the animals which increases the likelihood of UVB overdose and consequently photo-kerato-conjunctivitis. We understand that this wavelength is truly UVB (and not UVC), and that if caught early enough the hallmark side effects of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis are completely reversible. As we hold Animal health in the utmost regard, and consider the ability to overdose to be too high, we have therefore elected to stop all sales of the Desert 50 bulbs that contain high levels of the “bad” phosphor(s) and are actively reformulating the phosphor blend to yield the best UVA/UVB/visible output.

We are issuing an “Advisory Notice” to our customers and general end users advising of the concerns surrounding these lamps. We know that if left on the market, most of the units would be used without issue for a number of reasons;

  1. Bulb intensity significantly decreases after an initial burn in period (120 hours+),
  2. Actual UVB experienced by the animal varies with habitat set-up (screen usage, distance of light from animal, etc.)
  3. Extreme variability in exposure time (as low as 1 hour up to as high as 16 hours)

However, the variability in set-up and use is too high to feel comfortable continuing to sell these bulbs and risk animal safety without reformulation of the phosphor. As noted, we have stopped all sales and distribution of the concerned Desert 50 lamps, and advising that if consumers are using the lamps without effects characteristic of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis to continue to use them at their own discretion OR return for a complete refund. We leave this to the discretion of the consumer, but if signs of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis present, the animal should be removed from the UV exposure and allowed to recover. If the lamp is continued to be used after recovery, a reduced photo period and/or larger distance between the light and animal should be implemented.

Our corrective course of action is as follows: We are issuing an “Advisory Notice” and have stopped distribution of all Desert 50 lamps of concern, in addition to allowing full customer returns at the customers’ discretion. In doing so, we will be out of stock on a number of the affected Desert 50 bulbs until a lamp with the correct phosphor ratio and make-up is produced. In addition, we are reformulating our phosphor blend to give the correct spectral distribution (as just recently uncovered by your efforts). We will continue to strive for the perfect UVB lamp for the reptile hobby and hope all Zilla™ users will be supportive and understanding as we strive for this goal.


Thomas Lutz, Ph.D. R&D Director
Central Garden & Pet -- Aquatics
5401 West Oakwood Park Drive, Franklin, WI 53132

Although there is no indication of any problem with the R-Zilla Desert 50 lamps in the main display sections or on the news page on their website yet, Central-Aquatics (R-Zilla products) have now uploaded the following Advisory Notice, which may be accessed by a link alongside the description of the Desert 50 lamps in their Products section, at the following URL:


Central Aquatics™, in the interest of delivering the best possible products to the reptile hobby completes on-going “Quality Control” tests of our products.

A recent QC check by our R&D Labs on the Zilla™ Desert 50 bulb has indicated a potential issue with the “phosphor” coating of the Zilla™ Desert 50 Bulb. The phosphor coating is a complex chemical matrix which is utilized to yield the unique characteristic of any fluorescent bulb. In the case of the Zilla™ Desert 50 Series, one of the chemical elements present produces a low-wavelength UVB fluorescent emission. While still in the UVB emission range (280-320 nm), the effective influence of the low wavelength light is more significant than that of higher UVB constituents (those near 320 nm). As is well known, over exposure of UVB light can cause photo-kerato-conjunctivitis in certain species of reptiles-primarily turtles and lizards. The Zilla™ Desert 50 bulb contains UVB light which is required for animal health; however, if not properly used, harmful overexposure may occur. The very low-wavelength UVB light is most pronounced during the first 120 hours of use.

Based on these findings we are reformulating the “phosphor” coating of the Zilla™ Desert 50 bulbs to reduce overexposure risk. Until these reformulated bulbs are available we will be out of stock on the items listed below.

Until the new Zilla™ Desert 50 products are in your store, we would recommend that you stop selling the sku’s listed below and return the product to your distributor or your Central Aquatics™ Sales Representative for credit. Central Aquatics™ will also replace products that have already been sold that contain the effected bulbs.

- there follows a contact telephone number for enquiries, and a list of all the Desert 50 series lamps with their product and catalogue reference numbers, for stockists to check out.

If you are a reptile keeper who has purchased one of these lamps, we suggest that you return it to the store where you bought it, and obtain a refund. This Advisory Note implies that the store will be able to obtain credit from Central Aquatics for lamps which they return to the company.

On October 10th FB received the following very positive response from Steven Spitz, Big Apple Herpetological, Inc., stating that they are withdrawing all the "Mystic" series of lamps from sale.

Dear Dr. Baines,

I apologize for the delay in our response to your email. The documentation and research information that you provided was both extensive and impressive. It did take us some time to digest the report as well as your final analysis on the Mystic Fluorescent Bulbs. However, before I continue on this subject I would like to commend you for your dedication to lighting research - perhaps one of the most important aspects of reptile care.

Before launching Mystic Bulbs we ran extensive long term testing on various reptiles which included consistent analysis of UV at varying distances. The reptiles used during our testing procedures were carefully monitored and the results of all of our testing were incredibly positive. Mystic Bulbs have been on the market for several years and we consistently received positive feedback. However, there was a case reported to us where a customer used the Mystic Bulb in a small white cage at close distance to their baby Bearded Dragon causing what they referred to as swollen eyes.

This customer's report prompted us to develop bright colored stickers which were adhered to the base of the bulbs indicating minimum distances that the bulb should be placed from the reptile. Since this time we have found the Mystic Bulb to perform well for our customers but we were completely unaware of the potential harm that FS phosphors could cause. In fact, prior to your report we were unaware that FS phosphors were in the Mystic Bulbs.

The sole reason for the existence of Big Apple Pet Supply is to offer safe and superior care products to the pet industry. If there is even a remote chance that the Mystic Bulbs can cause harm to any reptile or animal we cannot and will not continue to sell them. We feel that your research has substantial merit and have responded by pulling the bulbs from our website and destroying our remaining inventory.

We are now in the process of completely redesigning our reptile lighting. As soon as new samples are available we will provide them to you for review.

Once again, thank you for helping all of us in the pet industry continue to strive towards bringing safer and increasingly higher quality products to both our customers and their pets.

All the best,

Steven Spitz CEO

Big Apple Pet Supply - http://www.BigApplePetSupply.com
Big Apple is a registered trademark of Big Apple Herpetological, Inc., all rights reserved.
Big Apple Pet Supply - a division of Big Apple Herpetological, Inc.

Update: 6th November 2007

ZooMed do not appear to have publicised any information, yet, about the perceived hazard from their compact lamps. However, on 31st October FB received an update on ZooMed's progress. Shane Bagnall, Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc. Research & Development Division wrote:

I do have good news to report. As stated earlier, our compact fluorescent lamps are being pre-burned to reduce the initial UVB output. They are being pre-burned for 168 hours to carry them through the “burn-in” period and reduce the initial UVB output as experienced by the consumer. This also reduces the difficulty associated with using the lamps as there will no longer be a need for separate instructions for the burn-in period and the remainder of the life of the lamp. With this in mind, we will be working on new instructions soon.

I also received our first reformulated phosphor blend on Tuesday, October 30th. We will be producing new sample CFL’s using this phosphor and will forward some to you for testing as soon as they are finished. These samples will not be pre-burned so that we can analyze UVB decay as well as the lamp spectrum ............... (there followed some details of the spectral analysis; also details of a new dome reflector, samples of which we will also be sent.)

Our primary concern is for the health of the animals.
Customers that have experienced problems should contact Zoo Med directly for a replacement or a refund.
Please visit www.zoomed.com (USA) or www.zoomed.eu (Europe) for contact information.

Shane Bagnall
Zoo Med Laboratories, Inc. Research & Development Division
3650 Sacramento Drive, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

ZooMed are indeed providing a very helpful response to those whose reptiles have suffered following exposure to the lamps. We have been informed by several customers that they have been immediately offered a refund or exchange, after they contacted ZooMed personally. We have also heard from one customer for whom ZooMed paid for the veterinary treatment which was given to her turtle.
JV (full name and address supplied) was so impressed with ZooMed's response, she sent us full details. The story began when on October 3rd, she sent the following letter to ZooMed:

Sent: Wednesday, October 03, 2007 5:19 PM
To: 'zoomed@zoomed.com'
Subject: CFL UV bulbs

Good afternoon,
A few months ago, I purchased several of your bulbs for my bearded dragon and turtles. I bought 3 of the ReptiSun 10.0 strip bulbs and a ReptiSun 10.0 CFL. As a member of the Chicago Herp. Society, I had read the reports of how great your bulbs are and have used them in the past with good results.

The CFL bulb was installed in the tank of a baby map turtle. Two days later, we noticed one eye was very puffy. Suspecting an infection, we took him to the vet. The vet proceeded to give him Baytril shots over the course of the next week. However, in the meantime, I removed the CFL, thinking perhaps it was irritating the eye further.
Within days of removing the light, his eye cleared up.

I then replaced the light. Again, within days the eye became swollen and the turtle was listless.
We went back to the vet for another round of Baytril. Again, I removed the light, waiting a few more days. Again, the eye cleared up within 2 days after removing the bulb, regardless of when he had started the round of shots.

After the second round of shots, I replaced the bulb again. When, after a day, his eye appeared to be getting worse, I removed the bulb for good. We have had no further problems since then, and I chalked it up to having too strong a UV bulb for the little guy.

Then I see this publication: http://www.uvguide.co.uk/phototherapyphosphor.htm

These are exactly the symptoms displayed by my turtle while using your CFL bulb. Each time, he did not improve until after I removed the bulb from his tank.
I can't believe that a company as well respected in the reptile world as ZooMed would put out a product this dangerous to our pets. Had I not listened to my suspicions and left that bulb in place, there's no telling what would have happened to my little guy.

Moving forward, I expect a full refund of the price I paid for this bulb ($20) and we can also discuss compensation for my vet bills, which totaled almost $200. I would appreciate a response either by email or phone.

JV then gave ZooMed her contact details.
She was surprised to receive a telephone call within 48 hours; in the email she wrote to us, she said:

I got a call from ZooMed ...... They will be sending me a replacement strip Reptisun 10.0 and as soon as I can mail them copies of my vet bills, they will be cutting me a check for those, as well.
Absolutely unbelievable. I expected to have to fight them on this, but it was like they couldn't do enough for me.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but what a fantastic company-- totally stepping up to the plate, admitting their errors, and compensating people. In this world, this is a rare thing.

She received a Reptisun 10.0 linear tube on 15th October. On 2nd November she wrote to us again to say:

Just to give you an update, today I received a check from ZooMed IN FULL for my vet bills. It was a total of $169.40 (US). What a wonderful company. You can bet that I will be dealing with their products in the future......... Hopefully, they'll be pulling this product from their offerings soon.

Her baby map turtle is now fully recovered, too, and doing well.

We are very grateful that the responses to our reports are so positive, and that these companies are verifying our results and working very hard to remedy the situation so swiftly.

We earnestly thank them for their concern and wish them every success in their research. We will of course report on any new developments as they occur.

Update: 20 April 2008

In early April we received reports from two different parts of the USA, describing new cases of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis in reptiles under R-Zilla Desert 50 series lamps. Since their production and distribution stopped at the end of September 2007, we believe these cases were the result of the purchase of old stock found in stores who chose not to return the lamps to R-Zilla for a refund. We sincerely hope that all these lamps will be removed from circulation as soon as possible, as they still represent a hazard.

Knowing that a new phosphor formulation was under development, FB contacted Dr. Lutz, Director of Research and Development for Central Garden and Pet -Aquatics (R-Zilla products) to advise him of the new cases and ask after the progress of the new product development. He telephoned FB on 9th April. He gave a detailed update on the situation with regard to R-Zilla and ESU Reptile products, all now under the management of the Central Garden and Pet Company.

Dr. Lutz told her that R-Zilla Desert 50 Series lamps of all types are now going into production again, with a new phosphor blend and new specifications. Lamps should begin to arrive from the factory towards the middle to end of May, and appear throughout the USA during May and June (2008).

According to Dr. Lutz, the new Desert 50 series lamps will have no significant UVB output below 300nm, to reduce the risk of any problems associated with non-terrestrial UVB, yet the specifications are for high levels of UVB from 300nm to 320nm, providing a useful, but not excessive, maximum UV Index of 6.0 at the minimum recommended basking distances. He will be sending a set of these new lamps to UV Guide UK so we will hopefully have test results for these, this summer.

However, he said that minimal lamps of the new type will be available before the dates mentioned, so if any Desert 50 lamps are found in stores at the moment, these are likely to be old stock and may be returned to R-Zilla for a full refund if requested. Although most stocks are now gone from circulation, a few lamps may still be found.

The new lamps will not be in new packaging, although longer-term plans do allow for this.

R-Zilla are still selling their Tropical 25 Series lamps which have never been subject to recall. Although we have not heard of any reports of problems caused by these lamps, they do contain lower quantities of the same phosphor as the old Desert 50 lamps, hence they too are being replaced in due course with a version of the new phosphor blend. Dr. Lutz said that once the Desert 50 Series were established, there would be a transitional period over the summer of 2008 during which new stocks of the Tropical 25 lamps with the new phosphor blend would arrive, to replace the older version.

FB then asked about the status of the ESU Reptile Lamps, many variations of which are still on sale at outlets throughout the USA. The ESU Desert 7% Lamp and the Super UV Daylight 3% UVB Lamp are still widely available, as are ESU Slimline Reptile Fixtures and ESU Birdlife Avian Lamps.

Apparently these are still being produced for Central Garden and Pet, and will remain on sale at the present time under the ESU brand name, although for how long, Dr. Lutz did not specify. Here at UV Guide UK we have recently tested one sample of an ESU Desert 7% Lamp (linear tube) and one ESU Super UV Coil Lamp, plus four ESU Birdlife Avian Lamps (linear tubes).

We found one of the Avian Lamps had an extremely high UVB output and closely resembled a Desert 50 Series tube, whereas the other three and the ESU Desert 7% had only very low UVB output. The ESU Super UV Coil Lamp had an even lower output still.

Dr. Lutz said that when, back in September, they were alerted to the problem with the Desert 50 lamps, they had performed Quality Control tests on ESU stock as well, and found all the batches they tested had a low UVB output.

The plastic transparent "protective lens" cover on the ESU Slimline Reptile Fixture has long been known to block UVB, and must be removed if the lamp is to provide any UVB to the reptile. We recently obtained a new sample and our tests confirmed this; it blocked 100% of the UVB from even the most powerful UVB tube we placed in the Fixture.

However, Dr. Lutz assured FB that this too was something they were working on and in fact, a new acrylic cover for this fixture is already in production and some new stocks already have this UV-transmitting plastic; the old type is being phased out. He has promised to send us a sample of this new cover, as well.

FB reminded Dr. Lutz that we are still hearing occasional reports of problems experienced by users of Desert 50 Series Lamps which are still on sale in a few areas. Dr. Lutz would remind customers that if they contact R-Zilla directly or through their stockist, any concern over a particular lamp will be dealt with promptly and sympathetically.

Latest Update: 23 September 2009

It's been a long time coming, but we are at last able to announce that we have received and completed all tests on a wide range of new, re-formulated Zilla products and we have received, and are in the process of testing, the new, re-formulated ZooMed Reptisun compact lamps.

Zilla launched some of their new range towards the end of last year, and they are still in the process of re-developing and improving some of the products we tested back then. They were sent a copy of our full report for their comments, in August this year. As soon as we hear from them, we will prepare our final report for publication here on UV Guide UK.

ZooMed have already launched their re-formulated compact lamps in the USA and stocks of the European version are just beginning to arrive in the UK. We have published the preliminary results of our tests on these lamps in the Files section of the UVB_Meter_Owners Yahoo Group, and as soon as the tests are completed we will write the final report for UV Guide UK.

We advise prospective purchasers to ensure that they are buying the latest version of the product. How to tell?...

  • New ZooMed Reptisun Compact Lamps have an information leaflet which includes pictures and advertising for the Deep Dome Lamp Fixture. This product is not specifically mentioned on leaflets in the boxes containing old stock.
  • New Zilla Desert 50 Series and Tropical 25 Series lamps have pictures of the lamp spectrum and a "UV Index" chart printed on their boxes.

We hope to publish test results for all the reformulated lamps very soon.

23rd September 2009


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