Associate-Heating

INTRO TO HEATING

One of the most important parts of keeping a healthy reptile is maintaining the proper temperature.  Reptiles are ecto-thermic, meaning that their body temperature is influenced by the temperature of their environment. They do not have the ability to maintain a warm body the way that mammals do. In order to digest food and perform other metabolic functions, reptiles and amphibians need to get their bodies to their ideal temperature.

However, this does not mean that all reptiles need to be kept HOT at all times. It means that reptile keepers must know the temperature requirements of their species and provide an environment that fits those needs. Some reptiles can thrive in cooler environments, while others require intense heat in order to stay healthy.

The first step to creating the correct habitat for a pet reptile is researching the needs of the species and understanding how to provide it. Next, there are many different product options for providing heat in a reptile habitat. There may be many different items or combinations of items that can work, so understanding what each product provides is important in making the right decision.

A Reptile Habitat should include a Thermal Gradient – an environment with different temperature zones that allows the animal to thermoregulate as they would in nature. In a long, horizontal habitat, the “warm side” and “cool side” are generally established.

In a vertically oriented habitat, the “warm side” may be near the top of the habitat while the “cool side” is near the bottom.

In Reptile Habitat heating, there are many different types of temperatures that may be monitored and controlled.

Ambienttemperature simply refers to the current air temperature.

Surface temperature refers to the temperature of the surface of an item in a terrarium. Rocks, branches, substrate, basking docks, and other items may gather heat and become hotter than the ambient (air) temperature. Reptiles will often use these items with higher surface temperatures to thermoregulate.

Baskingtemperatures refer to the hottest air temperature in the tank and usually occur directly under a heat lamp or basking lamp.  Many reptiles like to climb to bask, taking full advantage of cage furniture and basking lamps.

Belly Heat refers to heat that a reptile may rest its “belly” on to directly affect body temperature and is thought to aid in digestion of large meals  (ie. for snakes and large lizards).

A Nighttime Temperature Drop is a natural occurrence in nature where temperatures drop lower at night than they are during the day.  Many reptile keepers try to simulate this natural fluctuation by allowing terrarium temperatures to drop a few degrees at night.

There are many different heating elements available to help create, maintain, and monitor the proper thermal gradients, such as:

  • Heat Lamps
  • Ceramic Heat Emitters
  • Under Tank Heaters
  • Heat Cables
  • Thermometers
  • Thermostats
  • And more

When setting up heat on a reptile habitat, here are some things to remember:

  • Ambient room temperature can affect the temperature in a terrarium. In a warm room, few or small heating elements will be needed to maintain terrarium temperatures. The opposite applies to cool rooms where more heat may be required to achieve a proper thermal gradient.
  • Natural temperature fluctuations may occur throughout the day or over the seasons and can also affect enclosures. Regularly checking temperatures is important so that adjustments to heating elements can be made when necessary.
  • The type of enclosure used will likely affect how efficient heating elements are. A solid enclosure, such as a glass tank, will retain more heat than an open air screen cage like a Reptibreeze. Maintaining higher temperatures may be easier in a solid enclosure than in an open air type habitat.

TEMPERATURE MONITORING AND CONTROL

Setting up a thermal gradient requires a few tools. One of the most important (and most overlooked) pieces of equipment in a reptile habitat is a thermometer. Thermometers come in many different styles which measure temperature differently. Being able to read and monitor actual terrarium temperatures will help keepers decide how to adjust the habitat and heating elements to create an ideal environment for their pets.

Every habitat should have at least one thermometer, but using multiple thermometers can allow even more accurate temperature monitoring and control.

Several different types of thermometers are available, including:

  • Analog
  • Liquid Crystal
  • Digital Probe
  • Digital Infrared

Different items are available to help automatically adjust, monitor, and maintain proper terrarium temperatures.

A Thermostat is an item that can be programmed to turn heaters on and off based on actual habitat temperatures.

A Rheostat is essentially a dimmer and can be used to turn down the amount of power available to heating elements.

Timers can be used on some heating elements to provide daily temperature fluctuations or supply extra heat during certain times of the day.

The following unit will go over each of these items in more detail.

TEMPERATURE MONITORING PRODUCTS

A thermometer is one of the most important pieces of equipment in a reptile habitat.  Monitoring terrarium temperatures accurately allows keepers to make adjustments and ensure that a proper thermal gradient is being maintained.  When possible, multiple thermometers should be used to monitor a habitat.  Several different types of thermometers are available and each serves a different purpose.

Analog Thermometers

  • Measures ambient terrarium temperature.
  • Should be secured to the inside of the enclosure.
  • The needle on dial points to the actual temperature.
  • Place in a temperature neutral area so that you aren’t measuring the hottest or the coldest part of the enclosure.  Generally, about half way up towards the middle of a glass tank is appropriate.

Liquid Crystal

  • Measures the temperature of the glass, which is the general temperature of the air or water inside the tank.
  • The High Range Reptile Thermometer uses liquid crystal technology to show the temperature in an easy to read format.
  • Ranges from 70°F to 105°F.
  • Can secure to the inside or outside of a glass tank.
  • Secure to the outside of an aquatic turtle tank to measure water temperature.

Digital Thermometers

  • Measures ambient temperature in a precise location. Great for keeping an eye on basking areas.
  • Can be easily moved to check temps in different spaces in the enclosure.
  • Perfect as a secondary thermometer in incubation containers.
  • The probe can be placed in wet or dry conditions.
  • Measures -10°F to 140°F.
  • 39” long cord with the probe can be placed in any area of an enclosure.

ReptiTemp® Digital Infrared Thermometer 

  • Measures Surface Temperature.
  • Digital Infrared Thermometer is simple to use – just point and click!
  • Min/Max Function.
  • Temperature Range -28⁰F to 230⁰F.
  • Use to measure:
    • Terrarium Temperatures
    • Basking Areas
    • Incubation Temperatures
    • Hibernation Temperatures

TEMPERATURE CONTROL PRODUCTS

HygrothermTM Humidity & Temperature Controller 

  • Controls one heating element and one humidity element to maintain temperature and humidity.
  • Night time temperature drop feature.
  • Alarm features to alert when temps or humidity are outside the set points.
  • Built in memory in case of power failure.
  • Great for use with Reptifogger to maintain humidity. There is a 20 second built in delay that prevents humidity element from constantly turning on and off and subsequently burning out. This means that the humidity element will not turn on until 20 seconds after the humidity has fallen below the set point. Can also be set to “cool” mode to control a fan or cooling element. Photo cell senses light to determine when “night time” is for programmable night time temperature drop. Display shows “Actual” and “Programmed” temperature and humidity.

ReptiTemp® 500R

  • Remote Sensor Thermostat automatically adjusts terrarium temperatures.
  • Built in dual plug receptacles controls up to two heating devices at once.
  • Rated for up to 500 watts.
  • Use with at least one thermometer in the tank. This item does not provide a temperature reading so it is recommended to place a thermometer next to the probe of the RT-500R while programming it.

ReptiTemp® Rheostat 

  • A Rheostat is basically a dimmer and limits the amount of power available to a heating element.
  • Allows up to two heating elements to be manually adjusted with the turn of a knob.
  • Great for non-thermostatically controlled devices such as: rock heaters, heat caves, heat cable, and incandescent heat bulbs up to 150 watts. Do not use with Powersun UV, Compact Fluorescent, or Fluorescent bulbs. Does not automatically adjust temperature – must be manually adjusted.
 NIGHTTIME HEATING

In many places in the world, the temperature at night may not be as high as daytime temperatures but are still warmer than regular household temperatures. When researching the needs of pet reptiles and amphibians, it is important to understand the daytime AND nighttime temperature requirements.

In order to provide natural lighting cycles, it is important to have night time periods that are free from bright or white light. Nighttime heating lamps are designed to provide very little visible light. These lamps are usually red or dark blue/purple in color in order to reduce the amount of visible light so as not to disturb pets’ sleep patterns. In addition to heat lamps, there are many other products that can provide heat without emitting any light at all. Any of these items can be used to provide heat at any time of the day or night (24 hour heat.)

Nighttime Temperature Drop

In order to simulate natural daily temperature fluctuations, a night time temperature drop may be incorporated.  Different species have different temperature requirements, but in most natural habitats, nighttime temperatures are at least slightly, if not significantly, lower than daytime temperatures. Simply turning off daytime heaters is a good way to start creating a nighttime temperature drop. If ambient household temperatures are within the pet’s acceptable range, no additional heating elements may be necessary for nighttime heat. If nighttime household temperatures are too low for the species, a low wattage night time or 24 hour heat source may be used. Under Tank Heaters, Ceramic Heat Emitters and night time heat lamps are good choices to keep nocturnal temperatures from dropping too low.

Timers can be used to regularly provide day and night cycles and to turn night time heaters on and off as necessary.

Many different nighttime heating elements are available to help maintain proper thermal gradients at night. The following unit will cover different products that provide night time or 24 hour heat.

NIGHTTIME AND 24 HOUR HEATING PRODUCTS

Night Time Heat Lamps

  • Provide very little visible light and do not disturb the natural photoperiod.
  • Can be used at night or 24 hours a day if necessary.
  • The surfaces of these bulbs get very hot and should be protected from splashes. Use submersible aquarium heaters for heating aquatic environments at night. (Most aquatic turtles sleep underwater).

Nocturnal Infrared Heat Lamp

  • True red glass, not painted or coated (Except the 250 w, which is lacquered)!
  • Spot reflector focuses more heat into your enclosure and minimizes nighttime glare.
  • An ideal 24-hour heat source for all types of reptiles, amphibians, birds, or small animals.
  • Very little visible light provided so as not to disturb your animal’s sleep patterns.
  • Excellent for nocturnal viewing of all types of captive animals.

Nano Infrared Heat Lamp

 Zoo Med’s Infrared Heat Lamps are now available in Nano size! Ideal nighttime or 24-hour heat source for all types of reptiles, amphibians, birds, or small animals. Little visible light provided so as not to disturb your animal’s sleep patterns. Excellent for nocturnal viewing of all types of captive animals.
  • Small, 24-hour heat lamp for nano-size terrariums.
  • Ideal for small geckos, hatchling reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates (arachnids or tarantulas).
  • Available in 25 watt and 40 watt.

Nightlight Red Reptile Bulb

  • True red glass – not painted or coated.
  • Provides very little visible light.

Moonlight

  • True deep blue glass – not painted or coated.
  • Great for nocturnal viewing.

Repticare® Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter 

  • Does not emit any visible light.
  • Good for use at night or 24 hours a day.
  • Great in high humidity set-ups and very large enclosures.
  • Emits long wavelengths for deeper tissue penetration – this means that animal’s body temperature may get higher than ambient tank temperature.
  • Use with LF-10 Wire Cage Clamp lamp. Not for use in Deep Dome Lamp Fixtures.

Nano Ceramic Heat Emitter

Zoo Med’s Ceramic Heat Emitter is now available in NANO size! Ceramic Heat Emitters are the perfect 24-hour heat source for all reptiles. These porcelain heating devices screw into a standard porcelain incandescent socket, giving off intense “muscle-penetrating” infrared heat.

  • Emits No Light! A 24-hour heat source for nano-sized terrariums.
  • Long life! Lasts up to 5 years.
  • Ideal for small geckos, hatchling reptiles, amphibians, or invertebrates (arachnids or tarantulas).
  • Available in 25 watt and 40 watt.

Reptitherm® Under Tank Heater (U.T.H.)

One of the most popular heating products for reptiles is the Under Tank Heater.  These versatile heaters can be used in a couple of different ways and are an excellent constant heat source for many pet reptiles.

  • 24 hour heat source.
  • Can be attached to side or bottom of a glass enclosure.
  • Great for providing belly heat for snakes.
  • Be sure to follow all manufacturer’s directions! Must attach heater to glass – remove paper backing and adhere heater to side or bottom of tank. If using the heater on the bottom of a tank, the tank must be elevated to provide ventilation to the heater. Do not use on a tank that will be holding water – not appropriate for aquatic species.
  • Choose a UTH based on the size tank it is designed for.
    Item # Tank Size Dimensions Wattage
    RH-4 (Small) 10-20 gallon 6” x 8” 8 watts
    RH-5 (Medium) 30-40 gallon 8” x 12” 16 watts
    RH-6 (Large) 50-60 gallon 8” x 18” 24 watts
    *RH-7 (Mini) 1-5 gallon 4” x 5” 4 watts
  • ***Note: Only the Mini Under Tank Heater can be used on plastic enclosures.
  • If using a mini UTH on plastic, it must be used on the side and cannot be mounted to the bottom of the tank!
  • Using a heater that is too large for a tank can cause overheating of the tank and cracking of the glass. Using the heater on the bottom will create a greater temperature increase, however, in order to safely use the heater on the bottom of a tank, the following stipulations must be met: 1. Must elevate the tank to provide ventilation, 2. Must not use more than 1.5 inches of a heavy substrate, 3. Must not place water dish, hide, or other heating source directly above UTH.Recommended that Repti Cage Carpet or Eco Carpet be used under any lightweight substrate, such as Aspen Snake Shavings, to prevent animals from burrowing down.

Repti Heat Cable 

  • Can wrap around branches in an enclosure or attach to side or bottom of a glass tank.
  • First 6 feet after plug is a “cold lead”.

Reptitherm® Habitat Heater 

The Habitat Heater is an industrial strength heater for heavy tortoises and other large reptile cage applications.  

  • 40 watt heater with LED indicator shows when the heater is “on.”
  • Automatic safety shut off at 119°F to prevent over heating.
  • Moisture proof and Easy-to-clean.
  • Do not cover with anything! Substrate, blankets, etc. can cause heat encapsulation and allow heater to reach 119° shut off point. It is appropriate for animal to sit directly on top of the heater. Can be mounted to the side or bottom inside of the enclosure. Good for large tortoise houses. Must be protected from weather. Can be used with a thermostat for temperature control.

Rock Heaters: Not a good source for manipulating habitat temperatures. Use for supplemental Belly Heat – Covered in Belly Heat Section.

Repticare® Day/ Night Timer 

Timers can be used to regularly provide day and night cycles and to turn night time heaters on and off as necessary. Zoo Med’s Day and Night Timer is a simple solution for turning daytime and nighttime heating elements on and off.

  • Use top plug for daytime element, and bottom plug for nighttime element.
  • Use arrow at top of “Zoo Med” on dial to set current time.
  • Use black tabs to set desired time for daytime and nighttime elements.

DAYTIME AND BASKING HEAT

There are two different types of daytime heat – Disbursed Heat and Basking Heat.

Disbursed heat helps create optimal ambient temperature while basking heat is a focused beam of heat that creates a hot “basking site”.

  • Daytime heat may or may not be accompanied by light.
  • Basking Heat is usually accompanied by light.

Providing proper daytime heat is essential – especially for diurnal species that are active during the day. These animals spend much of their day regulating their body temperature by moving in and out of the different temperature zones. Basking is a behavior where an animal positions itself in the hottest zone. Many basking animals will spread their limbs out for maximum exposure and heat absorption.

Basking Heat is necessary for many reptiles to thermoregulate.

Desert Baskers, such as Bearded Dragons and Uromastyx, usually require very hot basking temperatures of 100°F or more.

Tropical Baskers, such as Water Dragons and Iguanas, need basking temperatures of 90°F or higher.

Basking is also very important for many Aquatic turtle species and serves many different functions. In order to effectively bask, an aquatic turtle must be able to come completely out of the water and dry itself off while on the basking site. Basking temperatures for aquatic turtles range from 85° – 100°F, with 90° – 95°F usually being sufficient. Benefits of regular basking include:

  • Helps prevent bacterial and fungal infections on the skin and shell.
  • Helps prevent respiratory infections.
  • Is important for natural thermoregulation

Providing Daytime and Basking Heat

Almost any heating element may be used for daytime heat. Daytime heat lamps emit daytime light and should be used only during daylight hours. Nighttime heat lamps emit very little visible light and may be used during the day as well. Non-light emitting heating elements such as Under Tank Heaters, Ceramic Heat Emitters, and Heat Cables can also be used to provide daytime heat.

Basking Heat should be provided by using a reflector type lamp that produces a tight beam of heat and light. These lamps should be positioned over a rock, branch, or Turtle Dock to create a Basking Site.

Daytime Heat Lamps emit heat as well as daytime light. They should only be used during daylight hours, as reptiles require a day and night cycle.

Daylight Blue

Zoo Med’s Daylight Blue™ Reptile Bulb is made of a true blue glass (not painted or coated) for better heat transfer. This lamp produces disbursed heat in order to increase the overall ambient temperature in a habitat instead of a tight basking beam.  Economical daytime heat source provides beneficial UVA rays for the psychological health of reptile and amphibian species. Bright, attractive light output accentuates your animal’s natural colors for maximum viewing pleasure. European quality for long burn life.

*This lamp may be used in a vertical or horizontally oriented fixture.

Available Sizes: 25w, 40w, 60w, 100w, 150w


Repti Basking Spot® lamp

The Repti Basking Spot® Lamps have a unique patented double reflector that focuses 35% more heat and light into a tight beam. Ideal for use with diurnal reptiles that thermoregulate by basking, including many tropical and desert species.

Available Sizes: 25w, 50w, 75w, 100w, 150w, 250w


Repti Halogen

Another first from Zoo Med! High-quality halogen spot lamps specifically made for use with reptile terrariums! (This is not the same bulb you would find at a hardware store.) Halogen technology increases burn life and the crisp bright white light will make animals colors appear richer.

Available Sizes: 50w, 75w, 100w, 150w


Repti Tuff

The Repti Tuff is a heavy duty, “splash-proof” halogen lamp. For use with all types of aquatic turtles and other aquatic terrarium pets. They are long-lasting and available in a variety of sizes: 50 watt, 75 watt, 90 watt


Powersun® UV

The PowerSun® UV is a self-ballasted mercury vapor lamp which emits UVA, UVB, and heat all in one lamp! Fits into a standard ceramic socket (no ballast needed). The 160 Watt projects UVB up to several feet from the lamp’s surface and is ideal for large terrariums or bird aviaries. Features include quality nickel-plated threads to prevent corrosion and a full one year warranty!

Available sizes: 100w, 160w


PowerSun® H.I.D. Metal Halide UVB Lamp 

The PowerSun® High-Intensity Discharge (H.I.D.) is a Metal Halide lamp which emits UVA, UVB, and heat all in one lamp! This High Output UVB lamp is perfect for large habitats. The proprietary Zoo Med lamp construction creates a true flood-lamp effect, eliminating dangerous UV “hot-spots” common to other metal halide reptile lamps. Covered by a full, one year warranty.

Available size: 70 Watts


Nano Basking Spot Lamp

Zoo Med’s Basking Spot Lamps are now available in Nano size! Ideal for use with diurnal reptiles that thermoregulate by basking, including many tropical and desert species.

Available Sizes: 25w, 40w


Nano Halogen Heat Lamp 

Zoo Med’s Halogen Heat Lamps are now available in Nano size! Halogen technology increases burn life. The crisp bright white light will make animals colors appear richer!

Available Size: 35 watts

BELLY HEAT

Belly Heat is a commonly discussed aspect of Reptile Heating, but what does it really mean?  Belly Heat is the heat that originates under the animal. It can come from many different sources and is meant to help replicate the way that some reptiles find heat and thermoregulate in the wild.

In nature, many reptiles do not rely on basking heat to maintain their body temperatures, but instead are able to absorb heat from the ground, rocks, branches and other items in their environment. Animals that are nocturnal, crepuscular, or simply vulnerable will find these warm areas and items that have absorbed heat from the sun throughout the day and rest their bellies on them.

Thermoregulation is also important for digestion, as increased body temperature helps reptiles to digest their food. Providing belly heat, along with overhead heating, can provide your reptile with multiple opportunities to warm themselves after eating. Always use a thermometer to check the terrarium temperature before adding additional heat sources.

In pet reptile habitats, these warm items may be created in a number of different ways. Under Tank Heaters, Rock Heaters, and Heat Cables are a few items that can help create belly heat for pet reptiles. Additionally, cage substrates and furniture such as sand, rocks, and hides, may absorb heat from heat lamps and provide natural sources of belly heat. The following unit will go over in detail the products used to create Belly Heat.

There are a few important things to consider when applying a source of Belly Heat to a reptile habitat:

  • Belly heat should be a supplemental source and may not be appropriate as a primary heat source. An Under Tank Heater, for example, will provide belly heat, but may or may not be sufficient for heating the tank to the required overall temperatures.
  • When supplying any heat source that an animal may rest on top of, it is essential that the habitat temperatures (thermal gradient) be correct.  If habitat temperatures are TOO LOW, a reptile may need to spend much of its time resting on the heat source to keep their body temperature up. This can lead to heat building up in the animals tissues, resulting in thermal burns. Always monitor the terrarium temperatures to ensure the proper thermal gradient is being maintained!

In addition to watching thermometers, animals behavior can be an indication of improper temperatures. If an animal is spending most of its time near or on top of the heater, terrarium temperatures may be TOO LOW.

If an animal is spending time avoiding the heating elements (staying on the cool side of the habitat), the terrarium may be TOO HOT!

BELLY HEAT PRODUCTS

Repticare® Rock Heater

Zoo Med’s ReptiCare® Rock Heaters are made of a hydrated rock material that is twice as strong as cement or pumice, resulting in excellent conductivity and increased product longevity. Hot spots are not a problem with a completely encapsulated full coverage nichrome heating element that distributes heat evenly.

  • Use to provide extra belly heat (good for digestion).
  • Available in three sizes: Mini (5 watt) Standard (10 watt) and Giant (15 watt).
  • ***A rock Heater should never be the sole source of heat at any time, in any enclosure.
    • Never cover or bury the rock heater with anything.
    • If an animal spends all of its time on the rock heater, re-evaluate enclosure temperatures and heating elements

Reptitherm® Under Tank Heater (U.T.H.)

One of the most popular heating products for reptiles is the Under Tank Heater.  These versitile heaters can be used in a couple of different ways and are an excellent constant heat source for many pet reptiles.

  • 24 hour heat source.
  • Can be attached to side or bottom of a glass enclosure.
  • Great for providing belly heat for snakes.
  • Be sure to follow all manufacturer’s directions! Must stick heater to glass – remove paper backing and adhere heater to side or bottom of tank. If using the heater on the bottom of a tank, the tank must be elevated to provide ventilation to the heater. Do not use on a tank that will be holding water – not appropriate for Aquatic Turtles etc…
  •  Picking a U.T.H.

  • Pick a UTH based on the size tank it is designed for.
  • Item # Tank Size Dimensions Wattage
    RH-4 (Small) 10-20 gallon 6” x 8” 8 watts
    RH-5 (Medium) 30-40 gallon 8” x 12” 16 watts
    RH-6 (Large) 50-60 gallon 8” x 18” 24 watts
    *RH-7 (Mini) 1-5 gallon 4” x 5” 4 watts
  • *Note: Only the Mini Under Tank Heater can be used on plastic enclosures.
  • If using a mini UTH on plastic, it must be used on the side and cannot be mounted to the bottom of the tank!
  • Using a heater that is too large for a tank can cause overheating of the tank and cracking of the glass. Using the heater on the bottom will create a greater temperature increase, however, in order to safely use the heater on the bottom of a tank, the following stipulations must be met: Must elevate the tank to provide ventilation. Must not use more than 1.5 inches of a heavy substrate. Must not place water dish, hide, or other heating source directly above UTH. It is recommended that Repti Cage Carpet or Eco Carpet be used under any lightweight substrate such as Aspen Snake Shavings to prevent animals from burrowing down

Repti Heat Cable 

  • Can wrap around branches in an enclosure or attach to side or bottom of a glass tank.
  • First 6 feet after plug is a “cold lead”
Item # Wattage Length Heated Length
RHC-15 15 watts 11 ½ feet 5 ½ feet
RHC-25 25 watts 14 ¾ feet 8 ¾ feet
RHC-50 50 watts 23 feet 17 feet
RHC-100 100 watts 39 feet 33 feet
RHC-150 150 watts 52 feet 46 feet

Habitat Heater

Industrial Strength Heater for Heavy Tortoises and other Large Reptile Cage Applications.

  • 120 Volt, 40 watt heater with LED light to tell you when the heater is “on”.
  • Automatic thermostat protection shuts off heater at 119°F (48°C) to prevent overheating.
  • Water-resistant construction. Made from easy-to-clean, moisture-proof high density polyethylene plastic.
  • Metal protection on power cord to help prevent damage from tortoises and other animals.
  • Mounting rails molded into heater allow for secure placement on the floor or side of the enclosure.
  • 75-80% electrical savings over other heating devices.

Substrate (Sand) and Furniture that absorbs heat from overhead heat sources