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Do Snakes Need A Heat Lamp? Heat Lamps Vs Heat Mats

Do snakes need heat lamps?

There are several things to consider if you’re keeping a snake as a pet. Sometimes, knowing all of these requirements might not be possible. Now, if you’re specifically concerned about keeping them warm and providing them with heat, here is what you need to know. 

Snakes do require heat lamps or any other heating equipment like heat mats or heating pads. It is because snakes are ectothermic, and are incapable of producing heat from their body. Therefore, they rely on their surroundings to absorb heat and ensure proper body functioning.

If you want to know why heat lamps might be better than heat lamps and which heat lamps you should buy, keep on reading!

Why Snakes Need Heat Lamps

Although not all, most snakes do require heat lamps. The reason lies in the fact that snakes are ectothermic

Therefore, snakes cannot regulate their body temperature and heat by themselves. In turn, they depend significantly on external factors like the environment, to obtain heat and regulate their body temperature. 

For instance, if you keep your snake in a cold environment, their body temperature will cool down. Similarly, if you keep them in a hot environment, their body temperature will rise. 

So, if you don’t provide your snake with adequate warmth from a heat source, like heat lamps, they may get cold. Now, a cold snake’s body won’t function properly, and they may suffer from a range of medical problems such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion  
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Death (worst-case scenario)

Hence, it is best to keep a heat lamp, or any other heat source (like heating pads or heat mats) to balance and maintain your snake’s body temperature. 

Which Snakes Require Heat Lamps? 

The table below indicates which snakes require heat lamps and the suggested temperature.

Snake SpeciesHeat Lamp Required?Temperature Required (Basking Area)
Corn SnakeYes90°F
Ball PythonsNot necessary as they’re nocturnal.88°F
California King SnakeYes85°F – 88°F
Boa Constrictors Not necessary as they’re nocturnal.95°F – 100°F
Milk SnakeYes85°F –  90°F
Gopher SnakeYes85°F 
Garter SnakeYes90°F – 95°F
Western Hognose SnakeNot necessary.90°F – 95°F
Rough Green SnakeYes85°F – 88°F
Rat SnakeYes85°F –  90°F
African Egg-Eating SnakeYes90°F
Dekay’s Brown SnakeNot necessary.85°F –  90°F
Cape House SnakeYes90°F
Carpet PythonYes88°F
Rainbow BoaNot necessary as they’re nocturnal.84°F – 86°F

Benefits of Heat Lamps for Snakes

Keeping heat lamps for snakes has several benefits. Let’s take a quick look at them. 

Provide Additional Lighting

Heat lamps are beneficial for providing proper heat to your snakes. But, they can also act as an additional lighting source. This way, you can easily keep an eye on your snake. Moreover, the heat lamps will also add an aesthetic appeal to your snake’s tank. 

Encourages Day/Night Cycle

Along with offering balanced temperatures, heat lamps also create a day/night cycle in your snake’s tank

This makes it easy for your snake to know when it is time to hide and sleep and when it’s time to come out and get some sun to get the body on temperature.

Most experienced recommend having heat lamps for this reason and because most reptiles associate light with heat and therefore, lamps are the most natural heat source.

Better Safety

There are various options that you can use as heat sources for your snake’s tank. Yet, heat lamps are one of the safest options out there. 

For the most part, there won’t be any direct contact between your snake and the heat lamp. On the other hand, other heating options like heat rocks and heat mats may potentially cause thermal burns on your snake’s body. 

Are heat mats or heat lamps better for snakes?
Snake enclosures with heat lamps (or other lights) look very natural and make it easier for your to watch your snake.

Are Heat Mats or Heat Lamps Better for Snakes? 

As mentioned earlier, snakes are ectothermic. So, they need a heat source around them to regulate their body heat and temperature. 

Today, you’ll find several options that you can use as heat sources. Two of the most popular ones are heat lamps and heat mats. But, which one is better and why? Let’s take a look at the various parameters to find the right one for your snake. 

1. Function

Heat maps and heat lamps both do one main function – provide sufficient heat to your snake. However, heat lamps are more useful when it comes to their functionality. 

Unlike heat mats that only help in heating the tank, heat lamps aid in providing adequate lighting in the tank too. This way, heat lamps can also encourage a proper day-night cycle in your snake whereas heat mats won’t help with that. 

Moreover, if you choose the right kind of heat lamp, it can also improve the overall aesthetics of your snake’s tank.

2. Efficiency and Heat Penetration

Efficiency and heat penetration are the two main parameters you should consider while choosing between heat lamps and heat mats. 

First of all, you need to know that there are three types of infrared radiation as listed in the table below. 

Type of Infrared RadiationPenetration Level
IR-A (near-infrared)Deep
IR-B  (mid-infrared)Moderate
IR-C (far-infrared)Superficial

Now, both heat lamps and heat mats emit infrared radiation. However, heat lamps are more efficient as they emit all three types of radiation whereas heat mats mainly emit IR-C or superficial radiation. 

Heat lamps ensure proper absorption of the heat in snakes due to better penetration, whereas the same cannot be said for heat mats.

3. Power Requirements 

As heat lamps are involved in both heating and lighting, they require more power than heat mats. 

To give you an idea, the power rating of most heat lamps ranges between 30 and 100 watts whereas the same for heat mats is between 10 watts and 50 watts. 

You can also check out the power ratings depending on your tank size in the table given below.

Tank Size  (in gallons)Heat Lamps (in watts)Heat Mats (in watts)
2030-5010
25-5050-7510-25
55 or more75-10025-50

Hence, as you can infer from the table above, the power consumption for heat lamps might be twice or even thrice than that of heat mats. So, if excessive power consumption is a problem, heat mats might be a sustainable option. 

4. Safety 

Safety is again an important parameter to consider while choosing between heat mats and heat lamps. 

Typically, heat lamps are much safer as they’re far away from your snake’s body. This distance reduces the chances of any burns. 

Note: Keep in mind that if the heat lamps are overheated, they may still cause dorsal burns in snakes. Additionally, you shouldn’t let the heat lamps get in any contact with water. This may cause them to explode and harm your snake. 

On the other hand, according to reports, heat mats are quite unsafe as they’ve caused thermal burns in several reptiles, including snakes till now. It is because these mats can easily malfunction, and overheat the surface above which the snake is residing.

Most reptiles associate light with heat. So heat lamps are the most natural option when it comes to heat sources.

5. Price 

According to the price point, heat lamps are generally on the cheaper end. You can get the most basic ones for below $10, whereas heat mats can cost as much as $30 too.

However, there is a slight catch here. Although heat lamps are less expensive, they are short-lived. You will have to replace them every six months

Alternatively, heat mats can sometimes last for years if you use them properly. 

The table gives a brief summary to find the better option between heat lamps and heat mats.

CategoryHeat MatHeat Lamp
FunctionalityCan function as heat source onlyCan function as both heat and light source
Efficiency Less heat penetrationBetter heat penetration
Power ConsumptionConsumes less powerConsumes twice or thrice power as compared to heat lamps
SafetyLess safe due to risk of thermal burnsGenerally safe
PriceMore expensive, better durabilityLess expensive, poor durability
InstallationEasySlightly Complex

You can also check out the video below to gain a better understanding.

In short, heat lamps are a better option when it comes to functionality, efficiency, and safety. On the other hand, heat mats are more sustainable and economical.

Best Heat Lamps for Snakes

If you’re planning to purchase a heat lamp for your snake’s tank, there are several things to keep in mind. Let’s take a quick look at some of the factors:

  • Wattage

The wattage requirements depend on the tank’s size. Using high-wattage lamps in smaller tanks may lead to overheating. Typically, 40-wattage lamps are ideal for 10-gallon tanks whereas 60-wattage lamps are ideal for 20-gallon tanks. 

  • Type of Heat Bulbs

Heat lamps consist of a specific type of heat bulbs. These include incandescent bulbs that are responsible for emitting a bright white light and also, for heating the tank. Hence, they’re the most common bulb. 

If you require only heat and no light, you can try out Ceramic Heat Emitters. However, if you do need a different type of lighting for nighttime because you want to observe your snake, you can turn on a blue light for 1 – 2 hours after the normal heat lamps are turned off.

Although, note that snakes don’t require light at night, even if it is “moonlight”, it can disrupt their circadian rhythm. So definitely switch those lights off after 1 to 2 hours.

  • Type of Socket

With most heat lamps, you might get plastic sockets. However, these are risky as they might melt due to the heat radiating from the lamp. 

Instead, opt for heat lamps with ceramic/porcelain sockets or purchase ceramic/porcelain sockets separately. These sockets don’t melt and won’t pose a danger to your pet snake. 

Keeping the above requirements in mind, we have gathered a list of the best heat lamps for snakes. 

1. TEKIZOO Reptile Heat Lamp

The TEKIZOO reptile heat lamp (check it out here) is a convenient option for most snake owners. Firstly, it is available in three different types – 50W, 75W, and 100W. Therefore, you can opt for any depending on the enclosure size. 

Additionally, these heat lamp bulbs can easily mimic natural light. Thus, they will help in maintaining your snake’s day/night cycle.

According to the manufacturers, they also emit UV-A heat, which is beneficial for improving the immunity and digestion in snakes.

Another benefit of buying TEKIZOO heat bulbs is that they’re cost-effective. A set of three bulbs costs below $20 currently. 

Strong Points:

  • Mimics natural lighting
  • Available in different wattages
  • Inexpensive 
  • Emits UV-A

Drawbacks: 

  • Not as long-lasting as other bulbs

2. LUCKY HERP Heat Lamp

If you’re looking for a long-lasting option, consider going for Lucky Herp Heat Lamp (check it out here). Unlike other bulbs, these bulbs can work continuously for 12 hours a day, for 3 to 6 months if you ensure proper care. 

Moreover, just like TEKIZOO, it is also available in three different wattages – 50W, 75W, and 100W. So, pick any depending on your requirements. 

Another benefit of opting for this heat lamp is that the customer service is prompt. Therefore, you can contact them if you receive any broken bulbs. The bulb’s safety instructions are also pretty straightforward.

The only catch here is that you’ll be paying around $20 for two bulbs, instead of three. But, the quality, customer service, and long-lastingness speak for the price. 

Strong Points:

  • Durable 
  • Available in different wattages
  • Great customer service
  • Emits UV-A 
  • Quick delivery and careful packaging 

Drawbacks: 

  • Cannot work with dimmers
  • Slightly more expensive 

Best Heat Lamp Fixtures

Along with heat lamp bulbs, you might also need fixtures. Ensure that you opt for a fixture that can bear the heat lamp bulb’s wattage. 

1. Fluker’s Sun Dome Reptile Lamp

We recommend opting for Fluker’s Sun Dome Reptile Lamp for its ease of assembly and cost-effectiveness. This lamp fixture comes with an instruction manual that will allow you to set it up quickly, even if you’re a newbie. 

Moreover, we also found that this fixture has a ceramic socket instead of a cheap plastic one. Hence, it’s safe to use with daylight bulbs without worrying about the socket melting! 

When it comes to accommodating bulbs, this fixture can fit almost any type and size of bulbs as long as they’re under 100 watts. You will also find a handy switch that will allow you to switch the lamp on/off easily.

Strong Points:

  • Easy to assemble 
  • Cost-effective 
  • Consist of ceramic sockets 
  • Size is ideal for smaller tanks

Drawbacks: 

  • May or may not be used with ceramic heat emitters

2. Zoo Med Deluxe Dimmable Clamp Lamp

If you’re looking for a heat lamp fixture that can handle high wattages, then we recommend Zoo Med Deluxe Dimmable Clamp Lamp. This lamp can handle up to 200 wattages! Thus, making it an ideal option for larger tanks and enclosures. 

This fixture also offers other additional features like a dimmer. Therefore, you can adjust the heat and light as per your snake’s requirements.

We also found that it has a special clamp that will allow you to affix it directly to the tank. Thus, making the assembly quick and effortless. 

Lastly, the ceramic coating also makes this heat lamp fixture safe and long-lasting to use. 

Strong Points:

  • Can handle up to 200 watts. 
  • Comes with an in-built dimmer. 
  • Durable and high-quality ceramic material 
  • Easy and quick assembly

Drawbacks: 

  • Not the best for long bulbs
  • May or may not work with ceramic heat emitters
  • Slightly expensive

How to Know If Your Snake is Overheated? 

If you’re using a heat lamp in your snake’s enclosure, be extremely careful about the temperature. High temperatures (usually above 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit) may lead to overheating in snakes, which can further pose several health risks. 

Typically, you might notice the below-mentioned signs if your snake is overheated. 

  • The snake will spend more time on the cooler side of the enclosure, or wrap itself around its water bowl.
  • Sudden, rapid movements
  • Aggression 
  • Poor balance 

You should always use a thermostat (if possible) to prevent your snake from overheating. This way, the temperature would be regulated instead of overheating the tank. 

Also, if the temperature in the tank is getting too high, you can just get a heat bulb with lower wattage (if using a thermostat isn’t possible).

Getting the right temperature for your tank size can require some trial and error at first. That’s why it is so important to set up the snake enclosure before getting the snake.

Final Thoughts

As snakes are ectothermic, they cannot regulate their body temperature by themselves. Now, a heat lamp would definitely assist them in regulating their body temperature, and help them in living a healthier lifestyle!

Moreover, heat lamps are also safer and more efficient than other heating options like heat mats or heat rocks. 

Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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