The 3 Best Methods to Heat your Terrarium

Reptiles are ectotherm, or coldblooded, which means that they need the energy from the sun and its warmth to get their metabolism and bodily functions going. Unlike mammals, who produce their own body temperature, reptile body heat depends on external sources like the sun, warm rocks, or artificial heating in captivity. Without the heat from its surrounding, a reptile cannot carry out its bodily functions like digestion and other cellular activities. This is why it is crucial for us as reptile keepers to ensure than our animal has the appropriate temperature to live a healthy life!

The body temperature of a snake depends on external heat sources which is why they are often seen sunbathing, like this Green Mamba!

Before you get a pet reptile, you must be absolutely sure where the animal comes from and what temperatures it is confronted with in the wild. Then you should choose and appropriately strong heat source to heat your terrarium and provide the animal with the body temperature it needs.

In this article, I will show you the best devices you can use to heat your terrarium and how to use them.

Temperature Gradient

In the wild, a reptile or snake is not always confronted with the exact same temperatures. Everywhere around the world, there are some days during the year than are just cooler than others. This means than your animal can deal with a range of temperature variation. After you have found out how large these variations are, you can structure your cage accordingly.

Snake Sunbathing

The best way to give the animal the freedom to choose its own body temperature is by creating a heat or temperature gradient. In the wild a snake can choose between sitting on a warm rock or hiding in a cool shelter and it should have the same opportunities in captivity. You can achieve such a temperature gradient by placing the heat source on one end of the terrarium, which creates a hot spot on one side and a cool region on the other. This way, your pet can choose its own body temperature at need.

Remember than at night, everything cools down, which means than you have to either switch off the heating completely or regulate it with a thermostat, depending on the needs of your pet snake.

Thermostat – the best tool for temperature control

Many heat sources tend to heat up to incredible degrees, which can cause damage to the cage and the animals. Probably the best way to control the optimum temperature values and gradients is using a thermostat!

Thermostats are very useful to control temperature levels!

This simple device can be placed outside your cage with an attached thermometer cable which you can place inside the cage. You can then connect your heat source to the thermostat and place it above the thermometer. On the thermostat, you can enter your desired temperature at the point of the attached thermometer and the device will then switch your heat source on and off at times to ensure that there is always the perfect temperature right on your spot. This way you can create a heat spot that is not too hot and set up a nice temperature gradient in your cage!



I think thermostats are one of the most essential tools when it comes to heating your cage and you can get yourself one at a cheap price from or at your local pet store. SEE My Favorite Model

Heat Lamps

Heat lamps or any kind of infrared light source are probably the most common method to heat a terrarium. And that comes as no big surprise since heat lamps are very effective, convenient and easy to install for anyone. They also come in many levels so you can really choose one for your animals needs!

Heat lamps are very effective and easy-to-install heat sources for your terrarium!

However, I personally do not like heat lamps in every situation. First of all, they dry out the air around them really quickly, which can be a huge problem if you are keeping snakes that are sensible to dehydration and shedding issues. They also get incredibly hot really quickly, which can be dangerous for small arboreal snakes like Green Tree Pythons or Corn Snakes. Anyone who has touched a lamp that has been on for a while knows how dangerous they can be for the skin of the animal. A simple solution to this would be a protective cage or net around the lamp which prevents the animal from reaching it, but that is often spacious and annoying to install.


You can also easily switch the light source to get different temperature levels.

Still, heat lamps are a great solution if you are keeping animals who are not extremely sensitive to humidity changes and are not in any danger to climb the lamp, like ground dwelling Ball Pythons. They are especially important for large species who do not even get enough heat from any other heat source out there. After all, heat lamps are very common for a reason – because they do a great job for most animals and in many situations. For small ground species however, there are better solutions out there….

If you are interested in getting a heat lamp or infrared light, click HERE to visit, or go to your local pet store!

Heat Panels

One of my favourite tools, especially to heat cages of ground dwelling animals, are heat panels. Heat panels are waterproof mats, usually with a rubber cover, that you can place right beneath your substrate to heat the ground.

Usually, they do not exceed 40° Celsius, which is perfect to create a heat spot on one side of the terrarium and temperatures around 28° Celsius on the other side of the cage. This is the optimum temperature situations for many common snake speices like Ball Pythons, Rat Snakes and others, mostly ground dwelling species. It provides a nice and large area for the snake to heat up in the morning, but it does not dry out the air as much as heat lamps, and there is no risk of it getting too hot at times.

Heat Panels are the perfect solution for ground dwelling reptiles to create a hot spot!

However, for arboreal species like corn snakes, Green Treen Pythons or others, this may not be the right choice, since these animals do not spend much time heating up on the ground and need a heat source from above. There are some panels out there that can be attached to the ceiling, but the far superior solution for this situation is in my opinion the heat cable!

If you do have say a Ball Pythons or some other mostly ground dwelling reptile, this is probably the best solution for you. If you are interested, you can check out my favourite products HERE!, or get one at your local pet store!

Heat Cables

Heat panels are among my favourite solutions for heating cages of small arboreal snakes. Species like Corn Snakes and Green Tree Pythons do not require as much heat as others, but they are mostly arboreal which makes heating a bit complicated. As mentioned above, small snake like this love to climb their heat lamps which can get very hot on the outside just as any lamp after some time does!

Heat Cables are perfect for you if you are keeping small arboreal species!

This is why heat cables are so convenient for this case since they do not heat up so quickly and can be easily attached to the ceiling of your cage to provide a nice heat source from above. Heat cables can be easily fixed in any positions on the top or at the back of your terrarium which makes creating a temperature gradied to easy. They can be conveniently placed along one region in one corner and create a falling gradient towards the diagonal corner with a nice heat spot at the top.

So if your keep small arboreal species, you should definitely consider choosing one of these as your temperature control device! However, if you keep large species than require a lot of heat and over a great space, a heat cable probably won’t be quite right for you.

If you are interested in getting one, HERE is my favourite model and you can check out more on, or most likely at your local pet store.


I hope than you found this article helpful and than you can now choose your perfect heat source for you pet reptile.

If you have any further questions, let my know by email or leave a comment below!

If you want to know where I get all my knowledge from, visit “My Sources”


4 Replies to “The 3 Best Methods to Heat your Terrarium”

  1. Awesome advice on keeping a reptile alive, It can definitely be difficult to keep a reptile in Virginia where I live, because the winters can get really cold! With this info I can purchase something to keep the reptiles alive and warm in a environment that can get cold!
    Thank you for the article!

  2. My friend recently lost one of his reptiles due to it being too warm in the cage for the little guy! Ever since then he has been googling and learning more about reptiles before getting another one. I am going to have to send this site to him as I am sure he will find this information helpful in getting his next reptile! Thank you from my friend and myself!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *