Most reptile thermostats are fairly simple pieces of kit. They're designed to maintain a preferred optimum temperature range inside a reptile's habitat, although, there is a broad product range when it comes to reptile thermostats, and the different types can be bewildering to beginners.

What do I need to consider before buying a reptile thermostat?

The first thing to consider is what reptile you are going to keep, and its required temperature ranges throughout different times of the day. Most reptiles can be kept at what we call mid-range temperatures (18-32°C/64-92°F), which is where most thermostats sit. However, some desert species such as Bearded dragons have higher temperature requirements and may need a high-range thermostat.

Once you know the temperature range your thermostat needs to cover, you need to decide on the type of heating equipment to use. If you need to provide a subtle ambient temperature to a small enclosure, a heat mat may be enough, whereas if you need to provide higher temperatures in a larger enclosure, you'll need to use an overhead heating system.

Overhead heating devices come in two main forms, basking lamps, and ceramic heaters. Basking lamps are similar to a conventional light bulb and emit light as well as heat, whereas ceramic heaters are more like mini radiators and do not emit light. This makes ceramic heaters a good choice where nighttime heating is required, although they tend to be a little more costly than basking lamps.

As soon as you know the temperature ranges that you need to achieve, decide whether you want to use a basking lamp or ceramic heater, and know whether you need to provide heat at night, you can figure out what type of thermostat you need.

What does a reptile thermostat consist of?

Reptile thermostats usually consist of the main body, and three cables coming away from the body.

The first cable will be a power cord with a plug on the end, to be plugged into the mains socket.

The second cable will have a plug socket on the end (on some thermostats this can be two or three sockets), which you will plug your heating equipment into.

The final cable will end with a waterproof probe, which monitors the current temperature and speaks to your thermostat to tell it whether more or less heat is required.

What is an/off thermostat?

On/off thermostats do exactly what they say on the tin. They switch thermostats on and off depending on the current actual temperature. If the temperature exceeds the desired temperature, the thermostat will switch the heating element off, then when the temperature drops below the desired temperature, it will switch it back on.

Due to the nature of these thermostats, they cannot be used with light emitting heat sources, as they are likely to dramatically reduce the lifespan of such elements through the constant switching on and off. So they are best used with heat mats, heat cable and ceramic heaters.

What is a dimming thermostat?

Dimming thermostats are again quite self-explanatory, they will adjust the amount of power allowed through to the heat source depending on the current temperature. Pushing more power through to the heat source when the temperature is below the preferred temperature and vice versa.

A dimming thermostat is best used with a light-emitting heat source such as a basking bulb and should be avoided for heat mats, heat cables and ceramic heaters.

What is a pulse proportional thermostat?

Pulse proportional thermostats work similarly to an on/off thermostat, although they are more sophisticated. A pulse thermostat will provide power to your heat source in pulses, increasing in frequency to increase the temperature, and decreasing in frequency to decrease the temperature, making them much more precise than a standard on/off thermostat.

Pulse thermostats should also be avoided with light emitting heat sources, for the same reasons an on/off thermostat should be avoided. However, they are the best thermostats for use with heat mats, heat cable and ceramic heaters in terms of precision.

What is a digital thermostat?

Digital thermostats can usually be any of the above thermostat types, or often offer both a dimming and a pulse proportional function. Some also offer separate day/night temperatures and timers.

Most digital thermostats have two plug sockets, the first to control your heat source and the second to time the switching on and off of additional equipment such as UV lighting or humidity equipment, although some have two temperature circuits and a third timer plug for additional equipment.

When choosing a digital thermostat, you should consider the type of heating element you wish to use and make sure the thermostat supports it. Another important consideration is what exactly you want from the thermostat. Do you need to provide heat at night with a lower temperature at night? Do you want to automate your lighting as well? Do you want to run two separate heat sources?

Do I need to use anything else with my reptile thermostat?

Reptile thermostats tend to be very reliable pieces of equipment. However, as with any electrical device, a fault can occur. It is therefore important that you use any reptile thermostat in conjunction with a separate thermometer.

You should place your thermometer or thermometer probe in the same area as your thermostat probe, this way you can keep an eye on the current temperature, ensuring it remains within the preferred temperature range. Remember that all thermostats have a discrepancy of around 3°C on either side of the set temperature.


Thermostats are used to regulate the temperature inside a reptile habitat. When purchasing a reptile thermostat, it is important to consider the type of heating element you are going to use, the animal you are going to keep, and their required temperature range. There are many top brands in our reptile range, including Exo Terra, Zoo Med and Arcadia, so you will find plenty of options to choose from.

Once you have considered all of the above, there will usually be several suitable options for you to choose from, all boasting different features.

Now is the time to decide what you want to get from your thermostat, whether you simply wish to regulate a set temperature, have timed temperature changes, or control other electrical devices too.

If you ever find yourself struggling to choose a thermostat, don't hesitate to contact our experts who will be on hand to guide you every step of the way.

You can learn more about exotic animal care in our blog, try our Royal python care sheet to get started.