Lizards are cold-blooded creatures and require a heat source to regulate body temperature and aid food digestion. In the wild, reptiles bask on rocks in the sun to soak up warmth and seek shelter to cool down. If you keep a lizard native to the desert or hot climate, you must provide appropriate heating in its vivarium. Heat lamps or ceramic heaters are suitable for desert species such as bearded dragons that require airborne warmth. Heat mats diffuse infrared heat into a rock or through substrate without heating the ambient temperature, and they are suitable for leopard geckos or other lizards requiring a ground-based heat source.
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Things you need
- Heat lamp or ceramic heater and guard
- Heat mat
Select a heat lamp or ceramic heater with an output appropriate to the size of your tank and your lizard's needs. Position the lamp outside your glass vivarium, on top of the mesh screen roof. Some vivarium models include an integral canopy for their own brand of ceramic heater or lamp enabling you to clip in additional heating equipment. If you are installing a custom-made heat source using an external lamp and thermostat, remove the detachable canopy.
Place a thermometer on the back wall of the vivarium to monitor the internal temperature. Push the thermostat's sensor probe through one of the vivarium's cable holes and position it near the heat source. A thermometer reads ambient temperature, but you must also monitor the hottest part of the vivarium with a thermostat and sensor.
Plug the heat lamp into the thermostatic controller and set your chosen temperature on the dial. A generic reptile thermostat switches a heat source on and off to maintain the required temperature inside your vivarium and prevent overheating. Attach a timer to your thermostat and heater if you require the heating to be off overnight.
Heat Lamp in a Glass Vivarium
Install a heat lamp in one corner of your wooden vivarium, following the manufacturer's instructions. There are a wide range of heat lamp brands and types, all requiring slightly different installation methods. Fit a safety cage or guard to your heater. Never install an uncovered heat source inside a vivarium, because your lizard may burn itself on the exposed lamp.
Attach a thermometer to one wall of your vivarium to monitor the general ambient temperature. Feed the thermostat's sensor probe through a vent so it lies near the heat source.
Plug the heater into the thermostat unit and turn the dial to the temperature required by your lizard. A thermostat switches the heater on and off, regulating your vivarium's internal temperature. You must use a thermostat with all reptile heat sources to prevent overheating. Add a timer to your heating set-up if you require the heat source to switch off at night.
Heat Lamp in a Wooden Vivarium
Choose a heat mat in a suitable size for your lizard's tank. The smallest size is approximately four inches by five inches with a 4- or 5-watt heat output. As a general guideline, do not cover more than a third of the floor area with a heat mat, because your lizard needs a temperature gradation to thermoregulate.
Attach the heat mat to your vivarium using the adhesive strips in the pack. Heat mats are suitable for glass or wooden enclosures. Stick the heat mat on the outside of a glass vivarium, under the base, or on the floor inside a wooden vivarium. Follow your chosen manufacturer's instructions for further guidance if necessary.
Plug the heat mat into the thermostat and set the temperature on the controller to suit your lizard's requirements. If you have a species that requires a cool night temperature, attach a timer so the heat mat switches off overnight.
Tips and warnings
- Always run a new vivarium set-up for a day or two before introducing your lizard to make sure the environment is suitable. You must ensure the ambient temperature and hot spots are within acceptable ranges for your pet.
- Different species of lizard have different temperature requirements. Research the specific needs of your pet before purchasing vivarium heating equipment.
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