Metal halides for “full spectrum” supplemental light+heat?

This is more of a question of curiosity than something I’m planning to put into action as of now. Firstly I want to apologize for creating another thread over full spectrum lighting. I couldn’t find an unlocked or more recent one.

So I remember a user saying that one option for providing a fuller spectrum light could be done with a metal halide bulb. As this was a while ago, I did some looking around to see if any reptile-specific ones had come out, as the only one I’d seen mentioned was the Iwasaki Eye ColourArc. (Awesome color spectrum by the way.. I wish I had this in my tank!) There is a couple out there that look promising.

Apparently general metal halides (used for large buildings, automobile headlights.. that sort of thing) produce dangerous wavelengths of uvb and occasionally uvc, and are prone to overheating. But in quality bulbs used for reptiles, this is usually not the case. (Uv guide has done testing on a couple specific ones and found them all to be safe)
However, being a powerful, potent bulb, I think that these lights need to be thoroughly researched before being put in any set up, even if they are reptile specific.

I also found that metal halides tend to have significant uvb decay compared to a good mvb or linear tube.
In fact, I haven’t really found any MH that I can say would be an adequate uvb source.
BUT what I have found is they have an incredible light output.
According to Wikipedia, (obviously not the most reliable source, but it makes a good comparison to other bulbs. I’m trying to point out just how they compare to standard lights)
“Metal-halide lamps have high luminous efficacy of around 75–100 lumens per watt, which is about twice that of mercury vapor lights and 3 to 5 times that of incandescent lights and produce an intense white light.”

At a safe distance to ensure you aren’t going to damage your reptiles eyes, I think this would really brighten up even a large enclosure. A lot of the time, basking lights and such don't provide anywhere near the quality or amount of light that would be found in the desert and semi arid areas of Australia, which is what many reptile keepers want to get closer to. In terms of Wild re-creation I think we overlook the importance of luminosity and providing a clean, full color spectrum.
Of course, no light that exists replicates anything close to natural light.

Annnyyywaaayyy, I’ve heard that metal halide bulbs produce a color spectrum pretty close to natural light. You can find out about that in the other threads, there’s some great spectrum diagrams comparing different sources of light to sunlight.
Reptile specific ones tend to be in the 5500k-6500k range and look light white daylight. However, unlike “daylight” bulbs (which can appear to be light sunlight to our eyes) metal halides have much less spikes in the color spectrum. Reptile vision can likely pick up on this color spikes, and I wonder if that distorts what they see.

Similar to MVBs, MHs put out a good source of UVA.
According to most reviews I’ve read, they generally don’t tend to achieve the sort of temps required for a bearded dragon, so an additional basking bulb or CHE would be necessary.

I was just wonder what everyone’s opinion is on metal halides. Would they be a good source of supplemental full spectrum lighting?

CooperDragon Sicko
Staff member
The metal halide bulbs look good on paper at least. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to test one out yet. ZooMed makes a PowerSun HID that is the only one that is widely available that I'm aware of. It is relatively expensive so I haven't yet purchased one to test out (I plan to eventually). I remember hearing that MegaRay was working on one, but I haven't heard anything further on that in several years now. I'm not sure if the plans were scrapped.

I've also wanted to try out the Iwasaki bulbs, but I haven't been able to find one so far. I even stopped in at some lighting stores in the UK on my last visit, but no dice there either. I recall discussion about these a while back on the form (probably the same threads you're mentioning) and they sound like a fantastic option if they can be found.

There really hasn't been a lot of chatter regarding lighting advancements recently. I think a lot of the people who were involved with that have been visiting the forum less frequently. From what I've been testing (mostly MVBs), the best option I've found so far for an all-in-one is the European version of the Arcadia MVB. They need a power converter (comes with the kit) to run properly on a US outlet. I've had one in the mix for about a year or so now and my dragon loves it. It produces MUCH brighter visible light and is a cooler tone than the other MVBs I've tried. I'm not sure what the color temperature is, but based on what I see, it looks much closer to 6500k than other bulbs. UVB and heat output is also excellent. If my memory serves correctly, I have mine set at about 12'' up and it produces around 4UVI and 103f surface temps (roughly).


Original Poster
I took a look at the Powersun too. Like you said, veryyy expensive lol. Not something I’d buy unless someone can prove to me that it’s worth it. And with that price tag, I’d need it to last a while. I might be completely wrong but I also have a sneaky suspicion that the bulbs might not be compatible with any other MH fixture or ballast but the Zoo Med compact one.

A lot of the reviews were mentioning how the light is a window bright, clean white which is exactly what I was hoping to hear. Sounds good. And it probably gives off an insane amount of UVA. I’d like to hear more about that actually. I’m wondering if these bulbs could reach unsafe levels..
Also (according to reviews, not external testing) the UVB doesn’t degrade too badly.
I mean, one of the reviews said they’ve been measuring with a Uv meter frequently and 18 months later it’s still putting off good uvb which is actually pretty crazy considering most MHs degrade so quickly.

However… I also found about 4-5 reviews mentioning it either stopping within a week (not the quality you want when spending that kind of money lol) or even smoking and catching fire. [/i] Yikes.
As with a lot of the MVBs and MHs, its beam is really narrow.
It’s uv spread looks near identical to the rest of the MH reptile bulbs I’ve seen.

I kind of wonder though, if it provides “intense heat” as well as all that uvb in such a narrow area, would a bearded dragon want to sit under it for extended amounts of time?
I have the same question with MVBs.
Do you ever encounter that problem with combining the heat and uvb together? If the reptile gets too hot, they leave the spotlight and then aren’t getting the uvb needed? Or vise versa, when they want to get away from the uvb, but still need to bask?

As for the original MH mega ray, there was a law suit that went down with Econolux, the brand they had partnered with to produce these “Mega ray Solar Raptor” bulbs with.
They might have never been released? All I remember is mega ray didn’t like the standards the bulbs were being produced by. Maybe that’s the one you were thinking of?

Anyway, both companies eventually made their own product.That’s the mega ray UV flood and the Solar raptor HID. I’m actually pretty interesting in the Solar raptors because I know numerous European reptile keepers swear by them.

The only other reptile MHs I remember seeing are Exo Terras Sun-ray, which I know close to nothing about, other than that Dr. Fran Baines apparently said they were shockingly good for an exo terra product or something lmao

CooperDragon Sicko
Staff member
The narrow beam was another concern I had with them. I noticed a similar narrow, intense beam (of UVB) with the last MegaRay MVB I bought. My dragon avoided it. It was really out of whack like 13 UVI at 12'' right in the center and normal (3ish) next to that. It never really resolved even after a long burn-in period. Given that, I think they would just sense the intense beam and sit to the side. Normally, I'd make up for a narrow beam with a cluster of lights to make the basking zone wider, but that's not reasonable with a costly metal halide rig. Still best to rely on the tried and true T5 for a wide, even beam of UVB in an enclosure I think. I'm not familiar with Solar Raptor. I'll have to look into those. I'd really like to see more test results with the metal halide bulbs before diving in and investing to test them further. Chicken and egg thing I guess.


Original Poster
13 Uvi at 12” is INSANE, I don’t blame your dragon lol. I’m just thinking about the kind of damage those levels could do to human skin 0_0

I agree with you on the tube UVBs. I really like the control of having separate units, and a nice spread throughout the tanks to ensure my dragon is getting what he needs. I also like that it’s still possible to create a decent gradient for the animal to self regulate. The T5s don’t put out too terrible of a light color, although being a fluorescent the light is probably still full of spikes in the spectrum.
I’m in the middle of making a custom viv at the moment and I’m trying to get my hands on the Arcadia proT for it. I’ve never used Arcadia before but I’ve decided their reputation speaks for itself.

Having said that, I’m very interested in these other options of lamps. Although I’d probably want to use it alongside a tube uvb (maybe a shorter one and less strong if both were producing adequate levels), I really like the idea of having just one light source that’s similar to the sun in that it provides most of the needed elements.

Seeing as there’s just not enough testing on the mercury halides yet, as you said, I’m guessing a MVB is next in line.

If you don’t mind me asking, in your experience working with these, what are they like in terms of UVA, IR heat and light spectrum in overall? I’ve only been put off of them because I heard it’s hit and miss in quality and longevity, and that some people’s beardies wouldn’t bask under them.
That Arcadia one sounds fantastic though. Just hard to get my hands on because of where I live, but I might have a look around.

CooperDragon Sicko
Staff member
The Arcadia tubes are great. I've been running the one in my enclosure for at least 4 years and it's still spitting out 3-4 UVI over the basking area (!). I leave that as it is and really just mess with different bulbs for the portable basking spots so then I can observe how Darwin responds to them and uses them.

I haven't measured anything except UVI and surface temps from the Arcadia MVB (I have a Solarmeter 6.5). I can grab some specific measurements when I get home if you'd like, but as I mentioned earlier it's a really nice bright light and much closer to sunlight in appearance than the other MVBs I've used (MegaRay, PowerSun, and LuckyHerp). The one I have (not sure how consistent it is across the whole brand) produces just the right amount of heat (98-102ish) when the bulb is mounted for about 4 UVI at around 12'' up or so.


Original Poster
Thanks for that info! I’m adding the Arcadia MVB to my list of possible future bulbs lol By the looks of it, it would be fine to use alongside a tube. Thinking of something like this:
(I know this is messy. I scrawled over a suggested design for some other enclosure.. it’s a prototype lol) This combination of bulbs would provide a pretty nice “natural” spectrum of light I think.

Also, if you’re interested, I found the UV-Guide’s analysis page on one of the metal halides that caught my eye previously. And man, better than I was expecting for sure!
I really like the spectrum, having compared it to diagrams of commonly used MVBs and fluorescents.

As you can see in the bulletpointed notes, there isn’t any significant negatives. Other than of course, a very narrow beam, as expected. :/

And this bulb is also mentioned frequently in the comparisons of Francis Baines’ “How much UVB does my reptile need? The UV-Tool, a guide to the selection of UV lighting for reptiles and amphibians in captivity.” study.
There’s comparisons of 24 bulbs here. Nice stuff!
Check this out:

I would love to see these tested out. They look surprisingly promising, but the lack of anecdotal evidence and that the brand name isn’t well renowned does bring doubts as to if they’re as good as they are on paper. It looks like it would be worth finding out though.

(I’m still going to wait until there’s tried, tested, and experience-verified MHs before I’ll consider actually using one.. I’m just humoring myself because I like researching these kinds of topics)

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