Keeping reptiles is an absolute blast, but it’s also a lot of work. The husbandry requirements for reptiles are completely different from just about any other pet you can keep and as a result their care requires you to be an expert in all kinds of biological needs from selecting the right substrate, balancing the diet, and of course providing the appropriate wavelengths of light.
Things can get pretty confusing, pretty quickly. To make things easier, it’s a good idea for beginners to pick reptiles with less complicated needs and one of the best ways to do that is by opting for reptiles that don’t need UVB to stay healthy.
So what are the best pet reptiles that don’t require UVB lighting?
Several nocturnal geckos can thrive without UVB (like leopard geckos, African fat tails, crested geckos, and Chinese cave geckos) as well as snakes that commonly live under the sand (like sand boas and blind snakes). Corn snakes and several other types of snakes have been shown to thrive without UVB as well.
We’ve tried to focus on reptiles that wouldn’t get much (or any) UVB in their natural habitat to play it safe.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these reptiles so you can figure out which critter is best for you. But first, let’s clear up one important consideration.
We Still Don’t Know Everything About Reptiles and UVB
UVB rays are critical to the health of some reptiles and without it many will suffer from an imbalance of vitamin D and calcium which will usually lead to metabolic bone disease. Reptiles typically get their UVB rays from basking in the sun and while in our care, they’ll get the UVB rays from special (and often expensive) lighting setups that are very different from the sort of bulbs you’d find at most stores.
That much we know.
But even though herpetoculture has been a booming business and hobby for decades now, there’s still a lot we don’t know about caring for reptiles and even though every one of these species doesn’t need UVB, some herpers may insist that they can benefit from it.
This list will include reptiles that can live their entire life without UVB, which will make care significantly easier, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add UVB to their enclosure as you get more comfortable with your care or find it in your budget.
Just About Every Reptile Could Benefit From UVB
Many of the reptiles on this list live in the sand or have a nocturnal lifestyle that means they’ll be exposed to very little UVB in the wild.
But studies have found that vitamin D3 concentrations (which is one of the big benefits of UVB rays) are higher in animals that are exposed to UVB compared to pure supplementation. Still, that doesn’t immediately mean that a sand boa that spends all day under a layer of sand will benefit from UVB rays.
There’s still plenty of debate around UVB in the reptile world, and while these reptiles can thrive without it, that still doesn’t mean you can’t work in small amounts as your skill as a keeper grows.
8 Best Pet Reptiles That Can Be Healthy Without UVB Rays
With the background information out of the way, let’s get into the list.
1. Leopard Gecko
No list of easy-to-care-for reptiles would be complete without including the leopard gecko. For better or for worse, the leopard gecko consistently makes just about any list of easy lizards and their simple care regimen doesn’t require exposure to UVB light.
Leopard geckos are naturally crepuscular which means they’re active and hunting during the early morning and evening hours. Because those hours of the day also produce limited to almost no UVB rays, these little lizards have adapted to life without UVB.
Leos, as they’re affectionately called, are easy to handle and while they’re certainly not the brightest bulb in the bunch they’re still plenty cute which is more than enough for most keepers.
The only downside for some folks is that leopard geckos are insectivores so they’ll need live insects in order to stay healthy. That may feel like a lot for the new herper but once you get the hang of this, it’s actually quite easy to manage, and feeding crickets, mealworms, and roaches isn’t too much trouble. But if you’d like to avoid live food, check out the crested geckos further down this list.
2. African Fat Tailed Gecko
To the untrained eye, the fat tailed geck could just look like a leopard gecko morph, but these two lizards are indeed different. The African fat tailed gecko makes a great choice for someone who wants a lizard that’s roughly the size of a leopard gecko but also wants to take a little bit of a different path.
African fat tailed geckos are nocturnal which means they would get little to no UVB exposure in their natural habitat. However, these leopard gecko lookalikes need more humidity than leos but that can typically be managed with some regular misting. Still, it does add some extra complications to care.
Like leopard geckos, the African fat tailed gecko is an insectivore so you’ll need to feed live crickets, roaches, and other insects to keep them happy and healthy.
3. Sand Boas
It should be no surprise that sand boas, a creature that spends the majority of its life partially buried under the sand, doesn’t need UVB light from the sun.
Even better, these are some of the easiest snakes that you can possibly take care of in terms of enclosure setup and feeding. These snakes are also quite handlable as well.
With all that going for them, sand boas are frequently recommended as one of the best beginner snakes- not only because of the ease of lighting but because just about everything is easy with these snakes, including feeding.
The only downside is that, as you’d probably guess, these snakes aren’t going to be out and about much and they’ll spend the majority of their time in the sand. You’ll certainly enjoy the feeding process as they pop their heads out but beyond that, you may spend a lot of time just looking at sand.
4. Corn Snake
Corn snakes are extremely easy to care for and a great first snake for anyone that’s just starting out in the world of herping. As with almost every other snake, corn snakes have been shown to do great without any UVB light.
But that’s not the only thing that makes these snakes easy to care for and as long as you keep their water full, provide an appropriate enclosure, and feed them roughly once a week you should expect to have a happy and healthy snake. There are no especially difficult requirements in terms of humidity, heat or anything else.
These snakes are small, but not so small to handle, and most will measure around 3 feet long. That’s big enough to comfortably hold and handle but not so large that care starts to get more complicated.
5. Chinese Cave Gecko
Chinese Cave Geckos have become increasingly popular over the years and for good reason. These easy-to-handle geckos are not only very cool looking but also easy to care for.
As nocturnal geckos, they do great without UVB and unlike most other reptiles Chinese cave geckos actually prefer cooler temperatures. That can make them much easier to keep in smaller spaces that you’re worried about heating up from lights. However, it can also cause problems if you’re trying to add these guys into an existing (and likely quite warm) reptile room.
Just like the leopard gecko and African fat fail, the Chinese cave gecko is an insectivore which means they’ll need live insects to stay healthy. Like the African fat tail, they’ll need some humidity and while that’s simple enough to provide, it is something to consider before tracking down one of these unique looking geckos.
6. Crested Gecko
Crested geckos are one of my absolute favorite lizards to keep and they’re a great way to go for a less common lizard without taking on a critter that’s particularly complicated to care for.
As another nocturnal lizard, crested geckos have evolved to live without exposure to UVB. But beyond that, they’re also one of my favorite reptiles to handle and made the list of our most handleable reptiles thanks to their fun tails and active temperament.
When it comes to caring for crested geckos, the hardest part is regular misting and these little guys will usually need to be misted twice a day to stay healthy. But beyond that, care is quite simple and their primary meals are available in a powder form.
That means no live insects which is will be a major appeal for some folks.
Their enclosure will need a bit more attention than a few other reptiles and these arboreal lizards will enjoy hiding in their trees but even that is a simple process.
7. Gargoyle Geckos
Gargoyle geckos are certainly appropriately named and these interesting-looking lizards have a very prehistoric look. Caring for them is very similar to caring for crested geckos including providing powdered food, arboreal-friendly enclosures, and regular misting.
That also means no live insects, which again will be very appealing for some people.
As nocturnal lizards, the gargoyle gecko can thrive without UVB but still need a day and night cycle.
8. Blind Snake
While a blind snake might not be the first to top everyone’s list, these are one of the easiest snakes you can possibly care for. Similar to sand boas, these snakes don’t need UVB light and spend most of their time under the sand.
They don’t eat small mammals which can be a big plus for folks who don’t enjoy that side of keeping reptiles and instead these little snakes will eat small insects like ants, termites, or things like worms and slugs. That makes caring for these little snakes much easier and given their very small size, they won’t need much space either.
However, that small size can also be a downside and they aren’t the easiest snakes to handle due to their fragile size. It’s certainly possible but it’s not a good idea for children.
These are very simple creatures so if you’re looking for a smart snake, this isn’t a good fit for you. But if you want a snake that can thrive without UVB and is quite easy to care for, then this little snake is worth investigating.
Other Reptiles That Don’t Need UVB
While we listed our favorites, that’s not all the reptiles that can thrive without UVB.
The below isn’t a full list but it doesn’t include some additional reptiles that you can consider. Just be aware that not all of them are beginner-friendly.
- Leafy Tailed Geckos
- Tokay Geckos
- Leopard Gecko
- Chinese Cave Gecko
- Gargoyle Gecko
- African Fat Tailed Gecko
- Ball Python
- Milk Snake
- Rat Snake
- Boa Constrictor
- Green Tree Python
What do you think?
Did we miss one of your favorite reptiles that can live without UVB or did you find your new favorite lizard?