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Reptiles/Reeves Turtle Lighting Question


Hi, I'm planning to get a Reeves turtle hatchling soon. As far as lighting goes, I'm a bit confused. I know that you need UVB and a regular lamp for heat. So I ended up buying a Repti Glo compact UVB light (the 5.0 26-watt). Then I read on various forums that these compact lights might cause irritation to turtles' eyes. Should I ditch the lighting setup and go for a tube fluorescent instead (plus heat lamp of course)? Or is what I have okay? Nothing I've read seems to have a concrete answer on this.

I do not have the turtle yet, I'm just trying to prepare my setup as well as I possibly can.

Hi, Amy,
If you can return them, I have a third solution for you which will work even better.  ^_^  Get a mercury-vapor UVB reptile light.  Fluorescent UVB lights last for only 6 months before the UVB coating becomes too deteriorated to produce enough UVB any longer, and they must be replaced.  Mercury Vapor reptile lights produce adequate UVB for 3 years.

They are more expensive, but they provide both heat and UVB light, so for a turtle, they're an ideal solution.

You're correct that the compact fluorescent UVB lights have been linked to eye irritation; what's more, they put out so little UVB that they're not worth using!  The PowerSun mercury vapor lamp has a very high UVB output (various brands, when tested, didn't all do as well).  Use a ceramic fixture for these hot lights, and a lamp stand to suspend it safely over the turtle's basking area, at the right height to produce a 90F basking spot.

A few other tips: You'll want an indoor/outdoor style digital thermometer with a remote probe, to check the basking spot temperatures.  (Stick-on types are worthless).  You can pick that up for $12 at WalMart, don't bother with the overpriced pet store variety. :)

You may be planning on using a glass aquarium, but consider using a plastic storage bin, instead: It will be tremendously easier to change the water, and clean and disinfect it, and when the turtle grows, it's simple and cheap to move to a larger bin size.
This one's set up for box turtles, but you get the point:

You'll need some sort of submersible cannister filter, like a Fluval, if you want to reduce water changes to once a week or so.  (Always use an oversized filter for turtles, and keep in mind that no filter will replace frequent water changes.  Turtles are super messy, and are high-maintenance).

Great water quality will help keep your baby healthy.  For adult turtles, a Waterland tub can be set up on a table (some even put castors on it), a hole drilled through, and a drain plug installed, to make maintenance even easier.  (Though you may want an outdoor enclosure for summer use, too).  Reeve's turtles don't get as large as painted turtles or sliders, but a 5-inch turtle will still need at least a 50-gallon-tank-sized enclosure, indoors (at minimum).  :)

Waterland tub on a stand with castors:

Waterland tubs in an outdoor greenhouse setup:

Hope this helps! :)


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Donna Fernstrom


My particular focus is on snakes and lizards, but I have a decent smattering of knowledge of turtles and crocodilians as well, plus the experience to get relevant information quickly if I don't have it on hand in my brain. I can answer questions on captive care, diet, breeding, incubation of eggs, starting hatchlings, and more. I am particularly experienced with ball pythons, Lygodactylus geckos and other small lizards with similar care requirements, leopard geckos, and garter snakes.


I am a professional breeder of ball python morphs, Lygodactylus (dwarf) geckos, and mourning geckos. I have begun working with Irian Jaya carpet pythons, and plan to expand to include more gecko species in the future. I also have a background breeding leopard geckos, and have kept several other species of small lizards, snakes, and a water turtle.

Nebraska Herpetological Society (

I have many care sheets published on my own website.

High School Graduate. Extensively self-taught due to high interest in wildlife and reptile care.

Awards and Honors
Fauna Classifieds board of inquiry Good Guy Certification

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