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What is a Reptile Thermostat?

By B. Koch
Updated May 21, 2024
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A reptile thermostat is used in conjunction with a heating source to regulate temperatures in a reptile enclosure. Since reptiles are cold blooded and cannot regulate their own body heat, a thermostat is needed to regulate the ambient temperature of their environment. Thermostats include a probe that measures temperature and a mechanism that will turn a heating source on or off if it becomes too hot or too cold.

All reptiles that are kept as pets need some sort of heat source in their tank or terrarium in order to survive. This is because reptiles are cold blooded and depend on ambient temperatures to regulate their body’s temperature. In the wild, a reptile will stay in a warm areas, such as in direct sunlight, when it is cold and will move into shaded, cooler areas when it becomes warm. When in captivity, reptiles need a similar selection of hot and cold areas to move to and from in order for them to effectively regulate their body temperature. If temperatures are kept too cool, reptiles may become sluggish or develop problems digesting food.

Used in conjunction with a heating source, a reptile thermostat controls the amount of heat being generated by the heat source. The probe is placed inside a reptile tank and measures the temperature in the space. The thermostat is then set to a specific temperature. When the probe indicates that the temperature is too cool, the thermostat will turn the heating source on, and when the temperature gets too hot, it will turn the heating source off.

The environment in reptile enclosures should remain stable, which is why a reptile thermostat is important, and while it is important for reptiles to have a warm environment, having too warm of an environment can be just as damaging as a too cold environment. A thermostat prevents heating sources from creating an environment that is too warm. Reptile thermostats also create a stable environment that heat sources alone cannot. Daily or even hourly ambient temperature changes are common, as when a sunny day turns to a cloudy day or when the sun sets. Heat sources alone cannot adjust for these changes in temperature, but a reptile thermostat can.

Perhaps the most important factor in using a reptile thermostat correctly is in the placement of the thermostat’s probe. The probe will measure the temperature of the air around it, so the probe should be placed where the animal is most frequently located. If a reptile likes to stay in branches above the ground, then the probe should be in the branches. The probe should be kept at ground level if that is where the animal prefers to be. In the incorrect spot, the probe will not allow the thermostat to produce an optimal environment.

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