Proper Lighting For A Russian Tortoise?


Jillian Fricke

Can someone explain the difference between a basking bulb, a UVA bulb, and a UVB bulb? As far as I am aware, a basking bulb creates heat, and a UVB bulb provides lighting and calcium.

I recently adopted a Russian tortoise, and I want to create the best possible environment for him.

I was given a habitat for him, which includes an All Living Things dome that says "250 V, 660 W" on it. What exactly does that mean? Inside it is an Exo Terra Heat Glo bulb. It is an infrared and 100 watts (120 V, 60 Hz).

It also came with another All Living Things dome (250 V, 660 W) with an Exo Terra Repti Glo 2.0 bulb inside. It is a white coil bulb and 26 watts (120 V, 60 Hz). I believe I need to upgrade to a 10.0, at the very least?

Are these the correct bulbs for those domes? Are those the correct wattages for my tortoise? I have him in a large plastic container in my warm basement. Also where should the lamps be pointed in the habitat? How far away from the substrate should they be?

There is so much conflicting information on the internet, ugh. Any and all explanations would be much appreciated!


Active Member
Mar 2, 2016
Location (City and/or State)
Syracuse, New York
Okay so your fixtures should be fine as long as they have a ceramic base they are rated for up to 660 watt.
It sounds to me like you have a red bulb and a white spiral uvb bulb.

Unfortunately neither of those is a good bulb to use for tortoises. The 10.0 uvb fixtures that people use are often 18" long uvb bars. They are placed in a long black holders.

I would recommend using a mercury vapor bulb. They provide both uva and uvb lighting so you only need one bulb. I use this one

Zoo med also sells their brand which is the power sun . Basically the same thing. Russians do not need night heat as long as the temp stays above 60 ish at night.


Well-Known Member
10 Year Member!
Oct 26, 2011
Location (City and/or State)
Kent, South East England
Here's a lighting summary:

Ignore any references to UVA - it's misleading marketing speak.

Your tort needs:

1. A basking lamp. This must hang vertically, not at an angle. Basking is essential to raise your tortoise's core temperature so it can digest food.

2. UVB light. About 12 inches above the substrate. UVB is essential so your tort can process dietary calcium and have healthy bones and shell.

Both 1 and 2 are available from the sun for those able to live outside.

3. A minimum overnight temperature of (see the care sheet)

A Mercury Vapor Bulb (MVB) provides combined UVB and Basking

Alternatively you can use 2 bulbs: a tube UVB and a reflector bulb for basking (a household reflector - not low energy or halogen - from B&Q will do the job; it's the wattage that counts)

Compact coil UVB harms tortoise eyes.

Basking and UVB should be on a timer so the light(s) are on for 12 hours a day. Temperature under the basking is regulated by its height above the substrate.

Overnight, depending on your home, you may need additional heat. You get this from a CHE (Ceramic Heat Emitter) which must be on a thermostat.

You will need digital thermometers for accuracy.

A temperature gun thermometer (inexpensive from Amazon) measures temperature accurately in specific places like directly under the basking lamp.

A min/max thermometer so you know the min/max temperatures in your home by day and night.

You should also get a good digital hygrometer to measure humidity.

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