Buyer’s Guide: Heating Pads for Snakes

Snakes are cold-blooded animals and need heat sources to survive as pets. One of the best options is to get a special heating pad. I have found the best-rated option for this heating source and also a cheaper alternative for those of you who think like me with the theory of “why spend more money when you don’t have to?”

So what is the considered the best heating pad for a snake enclosure? The best heating pad for snake enclosures is the Zoo Med ReptiTherm Under Tank Heater. This works best when paired with the Century T7 Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller.

I added the links above to these items which will bring you straight to the Amazon page. If you continue reading, you can learn exactly why this specific temperature control set up is ideal, other cheaper alternative options, and more about why it is important for your snake to have a heat source set up.

The Best Option

The best heating pad set up to have for your snake’s enclosure is to get the Zoo Med ReptiTherm Under Tank Heater and the Century T7(H) FBA_BNQ-T7H Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller.

This combination is the best tried and true mat and temperature control system there is! They are Amazon-approved and have HUNDREDS of great reviews!

The Zoo Med ReptiTherm Under Tank Heater has nearly 600 reviews and is the #1 best seller for reptile Under Tank Heaters. This heating mat is made specifically for reptile terrariums and is great quality. It has one adhesive side “sticks” so that you can stick the mat EXACTLY where you want it under your tank which prevents the mat from ever getting nudged out of place. The heaters run at a very low wattage which is very economical to operate.

The Century T7(H) FBA_BNQ-T7H DIgital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller ranks second on the best seller list on Amazon only because it is an addition to a heating mat and is the best temperature gauge you can find for this purpose. A temperature gauge is necessary to help maintain the exact temperature needed in your terrarium.

It is exhausting to have to check the temperature all the time to ensure your tank isn’t too hot or cold and this device does most of the work for you! You simply have to set the desired temperatures using the simple 3-button control system. This temperature gauge is also super sturdy and has an LED display screen for ease of reading and checking even in the dark.

These gadgets are also not too bad price-wise. The Zoo Med ReptiTherm Under Tank Heater is priced at $20.34 on Amazon Prime. You can get other tank heating mats for cheaper, but they won’t be nearly as good of quality as this one is and this one is a much more reliable and safe brand. The Century T7(H) FBA_BNQ-T7H Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller is priced on Amazon Prime at $20.99. Again, like with the heating mat, this is a little pricier, but the quality and reliability of this product can’t be beaten. 

These two products paired together will give your snake the ideal temperature set up and keep it happy as can be in it’s home. Below are the links to each item on Amazon for you:

Zoo Med ReptiTherm Under Tank Heater

Century T7(H) FBA_BNQ-T7H Digital Heat Mat Thermostat Controller

Again, these two options are wonderful, but if you want to look around some more and make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, I have added some other options for your review.

A Cost-Efficient Alternative

Now, spending over forty dollars on a heating system for your snake’s habitat may not be financially ideal for you, which is totally okay! I happen to have an alternative option for your heating system that is much cheaper and still good quality.

On the list of best-selling terrarium heat mats on Amazon, a little further down in the #7 spot, is the Reptile Heating Pad – 7W Terrarium Heating Pad Warmer with Temperature Control Aiicioo Electric Heating Pad for Reptile. Yes, that is a mouth full of a name for a simple heating pad, but it is a well-reviewed item with tons of users as well.

This heating pad alternative, like the Zoo Med mat, is water and moisture proof, has a simple temperature gauge system (this is just the simple one with the mat, not a high end one), and isn’t harmful to your pets in any way. This product doesn’t have the 5-star reviews like the other products do but it has a good 3-star and is a much cheaper alternative and it is still durable and reliable. This mat has a much cheaper price of $10.99 on Amazon Prime as well.

Below, I will leave a link to the exact Amazon Prime page that I found for this product:

Reptile Heating Pad – 7W Terrarium Heating Pad Warmer with Temperature Control Aiicioo Electric Heating Pad for Reptile

Why Do Snakes Need a Heat Source?

Snakes, as I have mentioned before, are cold-blooded creatures. This is often why they hide under or by rocks, underground, and by or in other objects that retain heat. They need an alternative heat source to keep their body temperatures up which I feel like is totally relatable because who wants to be cold all the time, right? It’s not like these poor creatures can throw on a jacket or curl up under a blanket!

However, what is the BIOLOGICAL reason that these reptiles need an alternative heat source in order to live? Well, snakes need heat for quite a few reasons actually.

Basically, they need heat to survive!

Some of the reasons snakes need alternative heat sources to increase their body temperature are for functions such as digesting food, excreting waste, and maintaining circulation and respiration. More reasons why it’s important for snakes to keep warm is it helps them obtain food by keeping them active and alert.

It is super important for snakes to keep warm so that they are able to stay active and alert. As they warm up their blood flow quickens. On the contrary, as they get cold, their blood flow slows down, which slows down their pace in movement. A slow snake is bound to be a dead snake because it won’t be able to be alert and active enough to get away from predators or other potentially harmful surroundings. Hence the heat.

What Temperature Does a Snakes Enclosure Need to Be At?

The temperature of a snake’s enclosure will vary slightly depending on the type of snake you have and it’s natural environment and habitat that it originates from. And no, I don’t mean the “natural habitat of origin” of the pet store, though they would have the proper specifications necessary for the specific animal type set up. The natural habitat of origin is where they are from globally. What region? What ecosystem? What natural environment and surroundings in the wild?

As I mentioned, each different species will need their own specifications for temperature. But, a general temperature range for your reptiles is a constant temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Your snake will need one side of the tank to be warmer for “basking” heat (kind of like sunbathing) and a cooler side of the tank which is supposed to be roughly 8 degrees colder than the warm side.

The basking side of the tank is so the snake can warm up if it’s feeling a little cold. The cooler side of the tank (this side doesn’t have a cool name… sorry) is so that the snake can cool off a bit without freezing if it is feeling kinda warm.

So, because it isn’t very safe for you to just guess what temperature you need to keep your snake’s tank at, I have included a list below of some common pet snakes and the temperatures their tanks will need to be set at.

Common Pet Snakes and Their Temperatures:

  • King Snakes – around 78*F on the cool side, about 86*F on the basking side
  • Corn Snakes – low 70s*F on the cool side, about 85*F on the basking side
  • Milk Snakes – 75*F to 82*F on the cool side, 88*F to 92*F on the basking side
  • Boa Constrictor – 83*F to 84*F on the cool side, 95*F to 100*F on the basking side
  • Ball Python – 78*F to 80*F on the cool side, 88*F to 96*F on the basking side

It will be slightly different for every snake species, but in general you want your little reptilian friend to be nice and comfortable in their home, which means you don’t want to freeze them out or make them sweat.

Can I Use the Heating Pad I Have at Home?

It is not safe for someone to just use a normal heating pad, such as one used for the human body, to heat your snake’s enclosure, for multiple reasons.

One of these reasons is because you don’t have as much control over the exact temperature that the mat can be set at. A lot of times, these heat pads only have “high, medium, low” type settings for temperature and that is nowhere near safe to rely on for your snake’s cage.

Another reason is that it can burn out much sooner. These mats were not made to run 24/7 like terrarium heating mats were. The basic heating pads for humans often automatically turn off after a certain amount of time to prevent burning of skin or other surfaces.

If you were using a mat under your snake tank, it has a good possibility of turning off or burning out when you don’t know it and your snake’s heat source would be gone with nothing to fix it with. This would result in your snake possibly getting super sick or even dying from getting too cold. Cold-blooded animals can’t just “warm up” on their own.

Another reason that you might not have thought about is that the weight of the tank may break or bend the wiring in the pad, resulting in a possible fire hazard or the mat not distributing heat properly. The human heat pads were made simply for warming up tense muscles or any other doctor-recommended use. Those heat pads were NOT made for warming your snake’s tank. They are not sturdy enough.

When humans use pads like those, they delicately drape them across wherever the heat is needed. In a snake’s terrarium, the wiring and encasing of the electrical work would be a lot less protected than it should be. This can result in many problems and potentially life-threatening hazards that you’d probably prefer to avoid.

If those reasons aren’t enough, the heat pads used for human medical treatment are NOT WATERPROOF. You will have water running over or by your mat for your snake’s tank all the time. If water gets spilled on that mat, it could short out the electrical and cause way more damage than anyone wants to even think about. 

So, please, with just those few (big) reasons, and many more I haven’t mentioned but have in mind, PLEASE do not use a human heating pad as your heating mat for your snake’s enclosure. If you have to, buy the cheapest terrarium heating mat to maintain the safety of both you and your reptilian friend.

Are There Alternative Heating Options for a Snake Enclosure?

There are a lot of other heating options to heat your snake’s habitat, but I highly recommend the under tank heating mats. With the heating mat, you maintain a constant temperature even when you have your snake on its night cycle. You also won’t have to worry about moving your heat lamp every time you want to get into your snake’s habitat. But, for personal reasons of any sort, you may prefer having an alternative heat source and I’ll tell you about a few.

One heat source you could use is a heat lamp. There are multiple types of bulbs you could use for this method, all with different perks and downfalls, but basically you would set this light on top of your cage to emit the heat down into your cage. The types of bulb you could use are a UV bulb, a red bulb, or even a ceramic heat emitter.

However, with this method, you would need an alternative heat source for the night because you have to turn off bright lights to maintain your reptile’s healthy day-night cycle. Also, not all snakes do well with a big bright bulb overhead, so you might want to research your snake’s preference before hopping on that bandwagon.

Here is an example of a heat lamp used in reptile cages. If you want to look at even more options than this with the readable temperature gauge, Amazon’s list of reptile-cage heat lamps (I don’t recommend grabbing one meant for chickens from the nearest Ace) can be found here.

Another method for heating a snake terrarium is a heater cable. This is basically a cable you wrap around the bottom of your tank, which will emit heat into your tank as well. These aren’t as common that I have heard of, but similar to the idea of a heating mat.

If you’re looking at this option, you might want to research whether your snake is particularly fond of basking, because your snake will end up all wedges against the edge of their tank if you go with this option of heating. Nonetheless, here is an option for you if you want to look at a heater cable for your terrarium.

There are a lot of different ways you can heat your snake’s enclosure, but as I have stated, I stand by a heating mat as the best option. It is tried and true, you can easily set up the dual-temperature ecosystem necessary for your snake, and it runs 24/7 so it doesn’t interrupt your reptile’s day-night cycle.

For more information about why you snakes and other reptiles need heat and what a lot of people recommend for those in captivity, feel free to read this enlightening article here.

Do snakes need a light source if I am using an under tank heating pad for their terrarium? You will need a source of light for your reptile during the day when you use a heating mat, depending on the species of snake you own, but this can even be natural light if there is enough in the area where you have your snake’s cage. Again,  not all snakes respond well to lamps or lights above them, so make sure you are aware of what makes yours comfy.

Which snake is the most sensitive to light? Albino morphs of any species of snake are the most sensitive to light, including natural light. The lack of melanin in this kind of snake has an affect on their retina and they tend to become a little quirky and uncomfortable in bright light.

What is the best hiding house for scarlet kingsnakes? A great hiding house for a scarlet king snake is something that resembles the bark of a tree. I found a log hideout on Amazon that I highly recommend. Here is a link.

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