Five Types of Basking Bulbs for Bearded Dragons

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Our article covering the best basking fixture and bulb identified the best possible lighting setup for your bearded dragon’s basking spot. But we still get a lot of questions on specific bulb types.

There is a lot of confusing information about basking bulbs for bearded dragons, so we created this resource to help you pick the best one for your needs.

So, whether it’s a purpose-built basking light, an incandescent lightbulb, or one of three other options, let’s dig in!

What’s the Best Type of Basking Bulb For Your Bearded Dragon’s Basking Spot?

The best bulb type for a bearded dragon’s basking spot is a purpose-built reptile basking lamp rated at 75-100 watts. This type of bulb not only produces a consistent level of heat over time but also creates the correct color temperature light that simulates natural sunlight the closest.

There is no reason to get any fancier than this. These bulbs are inexpensive and the healthiest solution. We buy ours in four packs here on Amazon.

Basking spot for a bearded dragon under a basking bulb

That said, people sometimes use or recommend one of four other bulbs to create heat in their bearded dragon’s enclosure. Each has its pros and cons. Those alternate bulb types are:

  • Incandescent
  • Halogen
  • CFL (compact fluorescent lamp)
  • MVB (mercury vapor bulb)

Technically speaking, a purpose-built basking lamp is an incandescent bulb. But these specialty bulbs are built from the ground up to heat your reptile’s basking spot, not light up your living room.

That makes them distinctly different from standard incandescent light bulbs in your home’s lamps and light fixtures.

Bulb Comparison

Fits standard domes?Adequate heat?Consistent heat?Color tempUVB?Avg. cost?Recommended?
Basking BulbYYY4500KN$7 eaY
MVBNYY5600KY$50 eaY*
*see MVB section below for recommendation

Household Incandescent Bulbs

These, along with halogen bulbs, have been made illegal to sell in the US. Many other countries have already done this, and these bulbs will be tough to find brand new.

That doesn’t mean that you (like many others) don’t have a stockpile of them in a closet somewhere. I think my Mom has several hundred stashed away, as she absolutely hates LED and CFL lights.

While these bulbs might be your favorite for lighting your home, they are a poor choice for your bearded dragon. And that’s too bad because a ton of people use and recommend them for cost reasons.

The first drawback of these is they lack consistent heat. Heat is the primary function of a basking bulb, and your beardie’s basking spot needs to be kept within a specific temperature range. Not doing so can cause serious health issues for your dragon.

We’ve seen incandescent bulbs range in temp as much as 20 degrees across a single day!

The second drawback is the color temperature of the light. One of the goals of a basking light is to simulate natural sunlight. Natural sunlight has a color temperature of 5,000 Kelvin (source).

While some incandescent bulbs are at this temperature, many are not.

The third issue with these is their lifespan. Some last a few weeks, others can last years. You need a bulb that lasts at least six months (the recommended changing time for basking and UV lights in your enclosure).

So why do so many people use them? 

They are cheap, easy to find (used to be, anyway), and they get hot. 

Because a lot of folks don’t know their drawbacks, and many people on forums recommend them (oh, internet forums, how many lives have you ruined???), many people end up using them.

They will work in a short-term pinch, but they are not ideal.

Halogen Bulbs

Halogen bulbs are the least energy-efficient bulbs you can buy. That’s a big part of why they have been outlawed in several countries.

halogen bulb

People think that because halogens create such a massive amount of heat, they make good basking bulbs.

They do not!

First, halogen bulbs create way too much heat. It’s hard, if not impossible, to get your basking spot to the correct temperature and keep it there with a halogen bulb.

Second, they can shatter and drop glass in your beardie’s enclosure. 

Even a small amount of oil from your hands on a halogen bulb can cause it to shatter. That’s why gloves are recommended when changing them.

Please don’t use halogen bulbs for your bearded dragon’s basking spot!

CFL – Compact Fluorescent Lamps

We’ve been seeing more and more of this type of bulb used. We even see it in the advertisements for basking lamp hoods.

CFL bulbs

Since CFL bulbs don’t create nearly enough heat, they are not advised. They also don’t shine at the preferred color temperature range.

Broken CFL bulbs can also create toxic dust in the air. Just in case you needed another reason not to use them.

All bulbs are not created equal, so please don’t assume one of these will work for your beardie’s enclosure!

MVB – Mercury Vapor Bulbs

You may not know it, but you have seen mercury vapor bulbs before. They are often used as street and parking lot lights. They are also commonly used as grow lights for indoor gardening.

MVB bulb users make a strong case that these are the best possible basking bulb for your bearded dragon.

Mega-Ray mvb basking bulb

While they aren’t wrong, we only recommend them with a strong warning…

MVB bulbs can be dangerous to your bearded dragon if installed incorrectly. They are extraordinarily strong, requiring precise placement and regular checks with a temperature gun and a costly UV meter.

The neat thing about MVB bulbs is that they emit heat, UVB, and the ideal color temperature light all in one bulb. They are the closest thing to the sun you can use to light and heat your beardie’s enclosure.

And that’s the goal, right?! To recreate a bearded dragon’s natural environment as closely as possible.

We did a lot of research into MVB bulbs. They have many benefits:

  • You only need one bulb and fixture.
  • They can use the same light hood as other basking lamps.
  • They produce more UVB than dedicated UV lights
  • They improve the skin quality and color of your beardie

If you are willing to put in the work to install and monitor them correctly, they are an ideal solution.

The reason we don’t use them is best summed up with this statement:

“Reptile lighting is a process, not a bulb.” 

That’s the lead line on the MegaRay website. Mega-Ray makes the absolute best MVB bulbs and has the best resources available. If you decide to go this route, go through them and no one else!

However, make sure to consume all of their educational content before buying one. There’s a lot to know, and they are very good at educating you.

We decided to pass when we dug in and saw the precise positioning, bulb size, and cost of a suitable UV meter (like this one).

One of the best things about having a bearded dragon for a pet is that they are easy. We felt like we had enrolled in a college class when we looked at MVB lighting options. 

Things became complicated very quickly!

If you like that kind of thing, then certainly look into and possibly use an MVB bulb. If you don’t, just stick with the dedicated basking bulbs recommended above.

The Verdict

As I just mentioned, caring for your bearded can and should be easy. 

When it comes to making basking lights easy, stick to the time-tested basking bulbs you can find here on Amazon.

Get your beardie’s home set up correctly and get on with enjoying them as your pet!

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Tim Steward is a life long pet owner who is currently raising a beautiful little beardie named Bacardi along with two Australian cattle dogs named Anny & Beans. Bacardi is one in a long line of bearded dragons that Tim has rescued, rehabilitated, and rehomed. Through Beardie Bungalow, Tim has helped thousands of beardie parents give the best possible life to their pets.

9 thoughts on “Five Types of Basking Bulbs for Bearded Dragons”

  1. Hi,
    I really enjoy reading your articles, however I constantly have to keep flicking over to the convertion app to translate temp numbers. Would it be possible to put degrees C alongside degrees F?

    • Thanks for the feedback. I usually do that (I think every other article has degrees C in it), but got lazy this time. I appreciate the reminer and will update the article.

  2. Hi again,
    I’ve just realised I forgot to say I’m in Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿. We generally use degrees C over here and as an oldie I’m not very clued up on degrees F.
    All the best 🙂

    • They shouldn’t!!! It’ the same with substrate. There are multiple substrates on the market that are actually dangerous to use. This is a big part of the reason we started this site! Someone has to tell the truth, right?!

  3. We tried using a mercury vapour bulb, and it was a total disaster. Getting the heat AND UV right from the same bulb was impossible. If it was far enough away not to have way too much UV, there wasn’t enough heat. If there was enough heat, the UV readings were off the charts. We bought special hangers and fixtures and everything. After wasting hundreds of dollars, we went back to our old basking and UV setup and all is right in our bearded dragon world again!

    • We had the same experience. it was so much tinkering and then it changed over time. It was constant measuring like you say. Totall not worth the time or money, in our opinion. Thanks for sharing your experience. The MVB fans are pretty hardcore and they can easily sway people to try to force an MVB to work when traditional lighting is the better option.

  4. We started off with an MVB based on what our vet said to do. It was a lot of money and we never could get it set up right. Even our vet eventually told us that “looks like, for some reason, it’s just not working for you”.

    Um, it’s a light bulb? How can this be so complex? We went with a standard bulb and fixture and in 5 minutes had our basking spot set correctly and a new UV fixture in place.

    • Thanks for posting this, you are 100% correct. It’s a lot of effort for something that often doesn’t end up working out. Much better to stick with the lighting that’s been proven for decades.


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