Something that is quite confusing if you have never owned reptiles before is how to provide them with adequate heat.
It is important that the geckos’ enclosure provides ample heating, as they cannot generate their own heat, unlike mammals.
In the wild, geckos get their warmth from lying on sun-heated rocks and in warm enclosed spaces; never in direct sunlight, and so a heat lamp is not needed. In fact, it is possible to distress your gecko with too much heat, so unless you really cannot achieve the correct temperature with a heat mat alone, you should avoid buying a heat lamp for your gecko.
The important things you’ll need to buy:
- Heat mat (essential)
- Thermostat (essential)
- Thermometer/ hygrometer (recommended)
- Substrate (essential)
ProRep Cloth Element Heat Mat 17×11″ 20w
The heat mat should cover about one third of the total ground space, giving the enclosure a warm side and a cooler side.
This gives the gecko the ability to regulate their own temperature and choose which area they would like to stay in.
Make sure you measure your own vivarium and get the most suitable sized heat mat.
I use: Pro Rep Heat Mat
Habistat Thermostat 600W White
To make sure the temperature of your heat mat doesn’t get too much for your gecko, it should be connected to a thermostat, which will regulate the temperature of the mat you connect it to. Set the temperature to around 28C (or 85F) to begin with – you can adjust this based on your geckos’ preferences. If they never lie there, it’s probably too hot and if they are inactive, don’t eat much, or never leave that spot, it’s probably too cool. The sensor should be placed on top of the substrate, near the area where your geckos stomach would be resting (see diagram below).
I use: HabiStat Mat Stat Reptile Thermostat
diymore LCD Digital Mini Embedded Thermometer Hygrometer Temperature Humidity Gauge Meter Probe for Reptile Incubator Aquarium Poultry (Black with Cable)
Many leopard gecko owners also choose to have a thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the enclosure, and a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels (it should be 20%-40%). If the tank isn’t humid enough, a spritz of water or adjustment to the airflow usually rectifies this.
I use: A basic thermometer/ hygrometer from Amazon
The substrate is placed on top of the heat mat, but underneath the sensors.
Please see my posts on substrate:
Which is the best substrate for leopard geckos?
Does sand/ loose substrate cause impaction in leopard geckos?
Vinyl substrate for leopard geckos: Review
I use: lino/ linoleum/ vinyl
I am now selling vinyl substrate: click here to purchase some
Basic Diagram & instructions for leopard gecko heating setup
- Place the heat mat on the bottom of your vivarium on either the left or right side. This will be the warm side.
- Connect the heat mat power cable to the “heater” socket on the thermostat
- Plug your thermostat into the mains electricity source
- Place your substrate on top of the heat mat
- Place the thermostat sensor on top of the substrate, close to where your leopard gecko will lie on the hot side of their vivarium
- Place your digital thermostat sensor on top of the substrate, near the thermostat sensor
- Finally, arrange your hides, food/water dishes and decorations (at the very least, have one hide on the hot side, and a moist, cooler hide on the cold side).
This is how my setup looks without the warm hides on top.
I am now selling vinyl substrate: click here to purchase some
Do I place the heat mat underneath the tank or inside the tank?
Inside the tank
You should NEVER put the heating mat inside the tank! If there is any malfunction whatsoever with the mat or the thermostat, it could hurt your animal.
This makes no sense at all. How do the wires get into the tank? Do you cut holes in the screens? Drill holes in the glass? I really don’t get it.
Also, why do you have two thermostats but only one heat may?
Hi Adam, vivariums are designed with the knowledge that wires will need to go in, therefore there are already holes.
There are not two thermostats;
There’s a thermoSTAT which regulates the temperature, and a thermoMETER which tells you what the temperature is.
Two completely different things.
If I’m buying a terrarium 60x30x45 what size heat mat should I buy
Hi Debbie, the heat mat should cover around 1/3 of the bottom of your vivarium.
I I’m looking at your measurements and I think your vivarium is 60cm wide across the front, so you’d want to find a heat mat that covers approximately 20cm of that.
Hope this makes sense!
yes thats what I thought but the ones you’ve put on your blog are either 17×11 inches or 17×6 inches would the smaller one be OK or too small?
I would like to know, if putting the heat mat under the vinyl if it can cause the heat to get trapped and if anything can happen. For my snakes they have heat from the top which are also hooked up to thermostats, so i am unfamiliar on mats. If i have it under the vinyl and hooked up to a thermostat, there is nothing that can go wrong? Obviously not since you are doing it yourself but i was just always told that if heat cant escape that something might catch fire. Would love to hear from you on the subject to calm my fears haha.
Hi Joanna, I understand why this worries you!
As the thermostat sensor lies on top of whatever substrate you choose (in my case vinyl) it measures the surface temperature of your substrate and thus regulates the the output of the heat mat, meaning the temperature will never go too high (or too low).
Vinyl conducts heat really well so the heat doesn’t get trapped, and also as it’s something frequently used in homes and kitchens it is designed not to be flammable.
Also the temperature you set the thermostat to for a leopard gecko really isn’t that warm – it’s not too much warmer than our own body heat (if this helps puts it into perspective).
I’d say the most important thing is to buy a decent heat mat – there are lots of reputable brands who safety test their products, so I would go for those over a non-branded one (for example I’ve seen loads of cheap ones on Ali Express but I’d personally keep away from those).
Does that answer your question? Hope I didn’t ramble too much!
Hello this is Deb I have a question… If I buy a terrarium bedding for a leopard gecko home will the bedding be able to obtain the heat from the heating pad