Since reptiles are exothermic and need outside heat sources one of the biggest challenges in providing optimal thermal conditions is heating. Like many other things in life when it comes to reptile heating there is a pro and con to the many forms available on the market today. Here is a brief review of what has been tried and true over the last twenty five years by me and a few of my associates. Due to the many different brands of each individual heating fixture I will be using non brand specific names to describe them.
Ceramic heat lamps and incandescent heat lamps
The most common and affordable heat source for most reptiles are the ceramic or incandescent heat lamps. This is the common basking light screwed in the thin metal dome fixture option. Although the dome technology has come a long way in the last twenty years, the concept remains a simple one. You have a choice of a multitude of bulb manufacturers and bulb sizes that also include the thicker turtle tough bulbs and longer lasting and more expensive infrared ceramic heat lamps. This option will provide your animal with a basking area and can be used on most animals from common lizards to turtles and tortoises. The drawback to this form of heating is the occasional burns from grabbing a hot metal dome, the frequent need to replace burned out bulbs and the cost of expensive ceramic heat emitters. It is also impossible to use a heat dome on a vertical snake rack system as well as some of the plastic reptile enclosures.
Using radiant heat panels to create a thermal gradient
Radiant heat panels are a less common and more expensive alternative to heat bulbs and domes. They are attached to the walls or ceilings of advanced caging systems to provide a heated area directly below or in front of the panel without emitting light or needing replacement parts. This system for reptile heating is highly recommended for tortoises and boas especially during gestation. Although not designed for rack systems it is a perfect solution for stackable snake habitats where domes and lamps would be a nuisance visually and physically.
Heat chord and heat tape for mass reptile heating
For advanced keepers and breeders of geckos and snakes it is nearly impossible to house animals in tanks and terrariums. The solution is to move animals into Tupperware rack systems, which are a miniature reptile high-rise condo. The heating systems available for these plastic or melamine racks are called heat chords and heat tape. It is always advised to use a trusted brand rheostat with a temperature probe to monitor and control the heat being produced by these devices. Although this is the most precise heating method it is also proven to be one of the most dangerous. In the past a few prominent breeders have lost partial or entire collections due to fire resulting from malfunctioning heat sources.
The ambient heat option
The last method of artificial heat source is the ambient heat setup. This is what has generally proven to be the least problematic and most economical solution for myself and a few other snake breeders. This method involves the use of central heating devices or portable heating devices that can control the temperature in areas up to 1500 square feet. It is important to mention that this method will only work for snakes, specifically pythons and colubrids. We use ambient heating at xyzReptiles as well as heat domes and heat chord. The proper setup for each animal varies with the size of the enclosure, the ambient temperature in the room where they are kept and the type of setup being used. It is important to research the needs of your pet and we are always available to help you find the right tool for the perfect setup.