Reptiles and other cold-blooded animals can be unique and interesting pets to keep, but they also require some special considerations that a dog or guinea pig wouldn’t. The most important consideration is probably temperature. Unlike warm-blooded animals, reptiles and amphibians need outside heat sources.
One of the safest and least obstructive types of heaters you can get for your enclosure is an under tank heater, a pad that emanates heat from beneath a portion of the tank. In this guide, we’ll go over the factors you should consider when choosing which under tank heater is best for your pet. At the end, we’ve also got a list of our eight favorites to help you get started.
How to Choose an Under Tank Heater – Buying Guide
Every animal has different needs, so before you consider getting an under tank heater, make sure that this kind of heating source would work for your pet. Under tank heaters are great for animals that don’t require UV light and don’t have basking tendencies. Alternatively, they can make for great secondary heat sources.
Choose a Size Based on Wattage and Tank Size
While reptiles do need a heat source, your under tank heater shouldn’t cover the entire bottom of the tank. Instead, it should only be on one side, creating a temperature gradient within the tank and allowing your animal to regulate its own temperature by deciding how close or far from the heat to be.
It’s also more than just surface area as the heater has to also be strong enough to heat the air within the tank.
An easy way to figure out which sized mat to buy is by looking at the wattage. For every 20 gallons a tank can hold, you need about 8 watts of power. So for a tank between 30-40 gallons, look for about 16 watts. For 50-60, look for around 24 watts.
Getting the Right Temperature is Crucial
It isn’t as easy as saying that all cold-blooded animals need external heat. You also need to be able to regulate that heat, so it’s important that your heater matches the temperature needs of your pet.
Look for a Built-in Thermostat for Easy Temperature Control
Having a thermostat will allow you to control the temperature of your heater as well as the temperature inside the tank, which is extremely important for reptiles. However, most under tank heaters do not come with a thermostat, which means that you might have to buy one separately. For convenience though, it makes sense to look for one that comes built-in.
A 100º Heater Will Work for Almost Any Animal
If your heater doesn’t come with temperature control, look for one that puts out 100-degree heat. While different animals have different heat requirements, it’s very likely that you won’t need more than 100 degrees. However, make sure you always double check with a specialist to ensure that your heat pad will provide ideal temperature levels for your pet.
Of course, it’s important to also have a thermostat so that you don’t overheat your tank, but 100 degrees is a good temperature when you need to bring your tank back up to heat quickly without damaging your enclosure.
Sticky or Not Depends on Placement and Animal Type
Some under tank heaters are adhesive while others are not. The type that you want will depend on whether you plan on moving it around as well as what kind of animal you have.
Adhesive heaters are great if you know where you want it to be and have no intention of changing layouts. They’re also good for burrowing animals. Since having a heater under the tank may be too hot for animals that burrow, an adhesive heater allows you to stick it to the side of the tank instead, which gives animals more control over their temperature.
Non-adhesive heaters, on the other hand, are more easily moved and can offer cooler temperatures and more airflow than sticky heaters. These are better for animals that require lower temperatures like frogs and geckos. Of course, you can always use an adhesive pad without the adhesive, too.
Top 8 Best Under Tank Heaters to Buy Online
Now that you know what to look for, here are our eight favorites to help you get started on your search.
8. Blue Spotted Under Tank Heater
Low Heat, Secondary Heat Source for Medium Tanks
This under tank heater is great at providing low heat to medium-sized enclosures. On its own, it can raise a tank’s air temperature by about 5º and is best used as a secondary heat source.
However, reviewers note some inconsistencies with the adhesive. Also, for those who want to use an under tank heater as their primary heat source, this one will likely not be enough unless your home is already quite warm to begin with.
|Size||8″ x 12″|
7. Zoo Med Repti Therm Under Tank Heater
Popular Heater Gets Above 100º
This is one of the most popular under tank heaters available. It adheres to the tank for effective heat transfer, can generate heat of over 100º, and raise tank temperatures as much as 8º. Unlike many heaters, this one also comes in an extra small, 4-watt size.
However, some reviewers note that because this heater does get quite warm, it may cause damage to your tank if it’s mounted directly on it–particularly plastic and thinner glass tanks.
|Size||8″ x 6″|
6. Zilla Reptile Terrarium Heat Mats
Efficient Heating with Attachments for Airflow
This under tank heater can raise a tank’s overall air temperature by up to 5º. It generates adequate point heat and is well-insulated. It also comes with attachable feet to allow for under-tank airflow.
However, some reviewers have pointed out issues with the adhesive, noting that even when on the bottom side of the tank, it can start to pull away fairly quickly.
|Size||6″ x 8″|
5. Aiicioo Under Tank Heater Reptile Heating Pad (2 Pack)
Two Low, Consistent Heaters
This pack of two under tank heaters is especially popular amongst hermit crab owners as they give off a steady, not-too-hot heat and stick well to the side of tanks.
Each heater can heat up to a 20-gallon tank alone, or you can use both on one 40-gallon tank. They come with rubber feet for your tank to allow airflow around the heater.
|Size||6″ x 8″|
4. Fluker’s Heat Mat for Reptiles and Small Animals
Low-Wattage Heater for Amphibians and Plastic
This low-wattage heating pad is larger than you’d expect and concentrates its heat in the center, with the outer edges hovering around 80º. So despite its larger footprint, even on smaller tanks, you don’t have to worry about there being too much heat.
It’s great for animals that require lower temperatures like amphibians and can work even with plastic enclosures without damaging them.
|Size||6″ x 11″|
3. Sequoia Reptile Under Tank Heating Pad
Lower Temperature Heater with Thermostat
This is one of the few under tank heaters that comes with temperature control–although it only gets up to 95º, which may be too cool for some animals. It is reliable and cuts down on the extra expense of a thermostat.
However, the temperature control dial isn’t very precise, and it might take a bit of testing to figure out which temperature lies where on the knob.
|Size||11″ x 11″|
|Temperature||Up to 95º|
2. Sudotack Reptile Heating Pad
Reliable Hot but Not Scalding Heater
This heater is effective without being too hot. It works just as well stuck to the tank as it does with a little bit of space between the surfaces.
This heater is very reliable, but if you do have any issues with the heater, customer service is very helpful and will reply quickly to any concerns.
|Size||6″ x 8″|
1. iPower Reptile Under Tank Terrarium Heater
Hot, Effective, and Extra Sticky
This large heater features a lengthy 6-foot cord and powerful 3M adhesive, which provides an extremely reliable stick. It gets very warm and can increase the ambient tank temperature up to 18º.
It is heavy and well-made, but if it does have any issues, this mat also comes with a one-year warranty. It comes in four different sizes and wattages for tanks of all capacities.
|Size||8″ x 18″|
Are Under Tank Heaters Safe?
Heat-generating appliances are always a little concerning, even if they only operate at low temperatures. But you should know that under tank heaters are actually one of the safest types of heaters for animal enclosures.
First of all, they only reach relatively low temperatures, which means that you don’t have to worry about them doing much damage. They’re also waterproof, and when you have a heater around areas that could potentially get wet (like animal enclosures!) that’s incredibly important.
Plus, because they don’t give off any light, you can have them running 24/7 and use them as your only heating source. This means that instead of requiring multiple heating sources, you may be able to have just this one. But again, always remember to have a thermostat connected to keep conditions ideal for your animal and always read the directions!
So there you have it–a quick guide to picking out the best under tank heater for your pet. With a good heating pad, you’ll find that your pet will be happy and healthy and enjoy efficient digestion.
By Jacqueline Oshiro
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