How to Properly Heat Your Reptiles Terrarium

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How to Properly Heat Your Reptile's Terrarium

Heating a reptile’s terrarium is a very important factor to make sure that a pet reptile has a long and healthy life. An important and critical element in reptile health care, proper heating can be the difference between life and death. The good news is there are a number of options when it comes to heating a reptile’s terrarium. eBay has provided this guide to discuss every aspect of it, and outline how to purchase the necessary supplies easily and conveniently online.

Why Heat a Reptile’s Terrarium

A reptile keeper's aim in providing a home for their pet should be to replicate their natural living environment in the terrarium, since most of them come from warm climates which will probably be different to the natural environment in which they live as pets. Reptiles are ectothermic creatures meaning they cannot control their own body temperature, and which is why properly heating any reptile’s terrarium is absolutely essential for their well-being. In addition, a warm temperature in the terrarium is also vital to the reptile’s proper digestion process.

Heating the Right Way

To properly heat your reptile’s terrarium, there are 2 main types of heating:

  1. Basking Heat
  2. Ground Heat

Basking Heat

This kind of heating is provided to the reptiles that spend most of the time on branches or high in the terrarium. The heat comes from an overhead source. Generally, the sources provide heat throughout the terrarium. Below is a list of items that can be used to properly heat a reptile terrarium:

  • Ceramic Heaters: A radiant heat source, ceramic heaters create sun-like heat throughout the reptile vivarium. Reptiles are warmed very efficiently by the long wave infra-red heat these heaters produce. Ceramic heaters also enhance the ambient air temperature inside the terrarium. They are also very good at promoting health and healing as the infra-red heat penetrates the scales and skin tissue, and increases blood circulation and widens blood vessels.
  • Basking Lamps: They provide an intense vertical beam of heat energy throughout the terrarium. As these lamps concentrate heat into a narrow ray, reptiles could sit under the beam and absorb heat. Be warned that basking lamps cannot be left on for more than 14 hours during summer and 8 hours during winter to keep the seasonal cycle intact. You can buy from a range of basking lamps from eBay.
  • Basking Lights: They provide the correct amount of Ultra Violet light throughout the terrarium. However, these lights are used mainly when trying to re-establish a desert-type and hot environment. Reptiles, including some monitor lizards, iguanas, tortoises, bearded dragons and certain snakes gain from basking lights. When in the wild, reptiles take heat from rocks or branches of trees that the sun warms up. All types of heaters are available at affordable prices on eBay.

Ground Heat

This kind of heating is best for reptiles that spend a substantial amount of time on the ground, and requires a different type of heating materials. There are a few different options available and eBay allows the buyer to compare prices and options and select the one best suited to the reptile and the local environment. This type of heating is most appropriate for shallow vivariums and in cooler locations. The range of items available to use are as follows:

  • Heat Mats/Pads: In order to maintain a constant heat for a reptile in a terrarium, heat mats underneath can be used. They don’t heat the environment inside the terrarium; instead, they heat the surface and items within the cage. Reptiles absorb heat from heat mats in a much similar way to basking in nature. This is a great way to provide gentle warmth to reptiles.
  • Hot Rocks: These rocks simulate stones that are heated in nature by the sun. A number of nocturnal reptiles use the heat from the stones after sunsets, which is very important for their digestion and metabolism. However, hot rocks are sometimes prone to malfunction, so choose the best one.
  • Heat Cable/ Rope: This is another popular heating device for reptiles. Heat cables are flexible and they warm up easily. Suitable for use both inside and outside of the terrarium, they can also be wrapped around rocks or wood to create a warm and relaxing space for reptiles. Heat cables/ropes can be found in different sizes and are useful to warm up one or several enclosures at the same time. Be warned that heat cables cannot be used alone because they might get too hot. Their temperatures must be regulated with a rheostat. Test it out and get the temperature right prior to installing a heat cable in the reptile’s terrarium. Moreover, if using a heat cable within an enclosure, ensure not to wrap the heat cable around on itself as this may cause it to melt.

Other Heating Essentials

Temperature Control (Thermostat)

As temperatures vary from one home to another, a pet keeper must strive to control the temperatures inside the enclosure to ensure maximum safety of their reptiles. People have developed a misconception that the hotter the environment inside the terrarium the better. As a matter of fact, overheating could be more dangerous than under heating. The thermostat installed in the terrarium is able to self-regulate the temperature so that it remains constant and to the set temperature.

The Thermal Gradient

In the wild, reptiles can easily move into the sun or into shaded areas (to gravitate) with the right temperature they would feel comfortable with. In a terrarium, reptiles should have a choice of ground and air heating as they need to vary their temperatures from time to time. When a terrarium is set up with a thermal gradient, there is a difference in temperatures, from hot to mildly hot, between two ends of the enclosure. Temperature differences could range from 5 to 8 degrees Centigrade depending on the species. This allows the reptiles kept in a terrarium to move to places that they feel comfortable. Typically, the house temperature in a reptile terrarium should be between 20 and 32 degree Celsius.

A word of caution: You are suggested to get a qualified electrician to do the setting of all kinds of heating elements in the terrarium. Note that not all electricians are expert in reptile heating, so make sure the electrician you hire has experience in that kind of task. If something goes awry, it could present a hazard to both pet and owner.

Take a look at the chart below that describes what products can be used for heating a reptile’s terrarium:




Heat Bulbs

Zoo Med Halogen

Good at bringing out vibrant and natural colours. Also emits 15% more light, heat and UVA than standard basking lamps.

Heat Bulbs

 Basking Spot Lamps

This is a clear type of basking spot bulb. With this, reptiles can control their own temperature by accessing the heat and light. These are great for desert and tropical species as they provide vital UVA.


Heat Mat

They are available in different sizes and are the most used heaters for pet reptiles. Reptiles and amphibians get uniform and evenly distributed warmth from these mats.


Temp Rheostat

Controls the temperature in the terrarium. They can be used with more than one device.

Heating for Diurnal Reptiles and Nocturnal Reptiles

As a pet reptile keeper, you should make sure the environment inside your reptile’s terrarium mimics the natural habitat.




Nocturnal Reptiles

As the name suggests, these reptiles are active during night. They warm themselves up from the radiating heat of the ground. A type of heat should be used that radiates up through the surface of the terrarium to make it look and feel more natural.

Leopard Gecko, Ball Python, Jungle Carpet Python, Crested Geckos, Sandstone Night Lizard

Diurnal Reptiles

These reptiles are active in the daytime and like to bask in the sun. Basking heat sources should be used.

King Snakes, Anoles, Agamid Lizards, Long-Tailed Lizards, Emerald Swifts, Day Geckos, Green/Red/Rock Iguana

Whatever reptile heat source is selected, make sure that the reptile has access to a cooler place to retreat. Like all the reptiles in the wild, pet reptiles can be good at controlling their own body temperatures as long as there are proper conditions are available. Some animals favour a fully shaded, dark enclosure where some snakes (ball pythons for one) prefer submerging themselves in water.

Why is Ultraviolet Light Important?

UV is important in that it helps produce vitamin D3, a necessary element for calcium metabolism. Even though Vitamin D3 is possible to be supplemented in the diet, some reptiles, for example iguanas, benefit more from Vitamin D3 that is produced in their skin than what is provided in supplements. Although sunlight is the best source of UV, it can be produced by some light bulbs.

A full-spectrum light (Zoo Med's Reptisun for instance) is capable of producing more than 1.1% UVB. The production of UVB weakens eventually and so these bulbs should be replaced every 8-12 months, or at least once in a year.

Essentially, it must be remembered that temperatures in the reptile’s terrarium cannot be too high or too low. Excessive temperatures can burn reptiles, and temperatures below the conditions they are adapted to could induce chronic lethargy and cause issues with digestion.

How to Buy Terrarium Heating Materials on eBay

The equipment required to heat your reptile's terrarium can all be found on eBay. To filter the search and find the right materials, go to the Pet Supplies listing in the category menu and select Reptiles from the options. This will direct to the full complement of reptile supplies. Use the left bar menu to drill down to specific products, starting with Lighting and Heating and filtering results to the type of heating desired.


eBay presents a simple and convenient option to sourcing the supplies necessary to keeping your reptile warm and healthy in an optimal environment. Correct heating is an essential part of good pet care for all reptiles, so take the time to make sure to choose the best heat source for the reptile species and its home. Luckily, this is easy to do from the convenience of your own home when purchasing through eBay.

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