Understanding Reptile Heaters

Being cold blooded, most reptiles need additional heating in all but the warmest climates if they are to stay fit and healthy. A reptile that is cold will normally stop feeding, become sluggish and pass away soon afterwards so it is essential to provide heating for most of these exotic pets.

While there are a huge range of different reptile heaters available, they can be broadly categorized into four main types.

Heat Mats

Also known as heat pads, the heat mat is the cheapest form of reptile heating available. These wafer-thin pieces of plastic give out a gentle background heat suitable for taking the chill off a cold night or warming small snakes though they may not get hot enough for reptiles such as bearded dragons which like a really warm environment. For those cases where they work well though these are easy to use and install and cost a matter of a few cents a day in electricity so are well worth considering.

Hot Rocks

These artificial rocks heat up and allow reptiles such as lizards to bask as though they are on a rock on a desert environment. This works well for ground-dwelling lizards like collared lizards but less so for more arboreal species like iguanas. Burns have been known from hot rocks so it is important to ensure you use a suitable thermostat to prevent such problems which are notably rare in the use of heat mats.


A range of bulbs from special reptile heat bulbs to good old-fashioned bulbs for the home can be used to heat a reptile vivarium, providing light as well as heat. Red bulbs are also available for nocturnal species so that heat is provided but their nighttime activities are not interrupted.

Bulbs must be covered by a mesh box to prevent your pet from coming into contact with them and again a thermostat is essential to prevent the risks of over heating.

Ceramic Heaters

Coming in a bulb or trough style, these ceramic heaters are probably capable of the greatest heat so are ideal for heat-loving lizards, snakes and turtles. Once again a cover and thermostat must be used, and if you are keeping lizards, which require light, be aware that ceramic heaters only give off heat rather than light so supplementary heating will also be required.



By Richard Adams