Heating – A Hot Topic!

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

A frequently discussed topic and one that splits opinion often! Why do we need to provide heat for our reptiles? Well unlike mammals (us) Reptiles are ectothermic, which means they gain their body temperature from their environment.

In the wild this is achieved easily when a reptile needs warmth, they move to a sunny area. When a reptile needs to cool down, you’ve guessed it, they find shade or in some cases burrow!

There are plenty of options out there for heating your reptiles housing, but which ones are right?


  • Ceramic Heat Emitters (CHE) produce infrared heat and so can be the 24hr light source without disrupting your reptile’s day/night cycle. CHE are also popular in high humidity environments as they are less drying than standard bulbs. These bulbs also generate a lot more heat than a normal light bulb, so you must use a CHE holder and guard.



  • Daylight Bulbs provide heat along with the UV wavelengths that are needed for your reptile to produce vitamin D3 which is vital for them to metabolise calcium. Just remember that when choosing a bulb the higher wattage, the more heat. So get advice on what bulb is best for your set up. Best used with a dimming thermostat to regulate the temperature and it will the brighten or dim the bulb as needed.


  • Night-time Incandescent are similar to CHE as they do not create a light but still produce enough heat to maintain an ambient temperature.


  • Red Heat Lamps use infrared heat waves as well as emitting a soft red glow that allows you to observe your reptile without disturbing its night-time activities.

  • Spotlight Basking Bulbs direct heat and UV downward onto a more specific area in your vivarium. Which then becomes the gathering area for any basking reptiles. Again use bulb guards in case an animal should climb or jump on to the bulb!

  • Reptile Radiators best used in larger enclosures or where a specific basking heat or light is not required.

There are also heat mats which can be used in conjunction with a thermostat allowing the heat to be regulated in a vivarium. These are best used at one end of the vivarium creating a gradual decline in temperature across space to the cool end. Again these are available in many sizes and wattages, ensure that the correct mat is used as to not cause either over or under heating of your reptiles’ environment.


Remember heat mats are used as a contact heat (the animal sits on it for heat). So in larger enclosures, they may struggle to maintain an ambient temperature.

Please remember that heating is one of the most important parts of reptile husbandry to get correct! If you provide the correct consistently you will see your loved reptile flourish! Just ensure all equipment is controlled by a thermostat where possible and also monitored by an analogue or digital thermometer in the enclosure too.

Well, we dodged a bullet there and hopefully helped answered a few of your heating questions! Feel free to get in touch with any questions we have not covered.

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