The heat source is a crucial part of a snake’s vivarium setup. Without it, your snake wouldn’t be able to regulate its body temperature. Heat lamps are an option for snakes that would bask in the sun.
This in-depth guide explains what heat lamps are, and why snakes need them. We’ll discuss the different types of heat lamps and bulbs, and which is the best choice for your snake. We’ll then compare and contrast the best heat lamps for snakes, and make recommendations.
- 1 Why Do Snakes Need Heat Lamps?
- 1.1 What Are the Best Heating Lamps for Snake’s Vivarium?
- 1.2 Are Heat Lamps Safe for Snakes?
- 1.3 Can You Use a Regular Light Bulb as a Heat Lamp?
- 1.4 How to Keep Heat in a Snake Tank
What Are Heat Lamps?
Heat lamps are also known as heat bulbs, heat lights, and ceramic heat emitters. They’re lights that affix to the top of your snake’s vivarium, and radiate heat downwards. They come in two parts:
- The bulb. This is the part which actually gets hot, and warms up your snake’s enclosure. The bulb may or may not also emit light. It screws into the lamp so that it can be affixed to the tank, or suspended above.
- The lamp. This is the part which holds the bulb. Different lamps have different designs and features. They come in many different sizes. Some hold the bulb in place and don’t do much else. Others are designed to reflect light, and make your enclosure warmer and brighter.
In most cases, you’ll have to purchase the lamp separately from the bulb. Not all bulbs will fit into all lamps, so you’ll have to make sure the two are compatible.
For snakes that would naturally bask under the sun in the wild, heat lamps are a good choice. They’re designed to mimic the heat that the sun would give off on a warm day. Generally, diurnal snakes (snakes that are active during the daytime) will benefit from a basking light. These include:
- Corn snakes and rat snakes
- Garter snakes
- King snakes
- Milk snakes
- Hognose snakes
Snakes such as ball pythons and boa constrictors would not usually bask, as they are nocturnal. These snakes benefit more from belly heat, generated by a heat mat. Here is our complete guide to the best heat pads for snakes.
Why Do Snakes Need Heat Lamps?
Reptiles are ectothermic (cold-blooded), and rely on their environment to regulate their temperature. When they need to warm up, they move to a warm area, and vice versa.
In the wild, snakes are adapted to the climate of their natural environment. When we keep them in captivity, it’s our responsibility to make sure their tank temperature is correct.
If your home temperature is colder than your snake’s natural habitat, you’ll need to decide how to heat your snake’s tank. Most snake owners choose heat lamps, heat mats or both.
Snakes from tropical countries, like ball pythons, require higher temperatures than snakes from temperate climes. Make sure you research what temperature your snake needs.
What are the Best Heat Bulbs for Snakes?
Whichever heat lamp you choose, you’ll need to select a heat bulb to go with it. There are a few different types to choose from:
- Incandescent Bulbs emit bright white light. They’re available in different wattages and can be used in most heat lamps. They’re an all-in-one way of providing snake lighting and heating.
- Ceramic Heat Emitters only emit heat, and not light. They’re suitable for use 24 hours per day, and do not disrupt your snake’s day-night cycle.
- Mercury Vapor Bulbs emit both UVA and UVB light. They can be used in snake enclosures, but they’re not necessary. Snakes do not need UVB light like other reptiles (such as turtles) do.
- Infrared Reptile Lights are designed to be used at night. However, some snakes can detect infrared, according to the Journal of Experimental Biologists. Most snake owners prefer to use ceramic heat emitters at night, to be on the safe side.
What Are the Best Heating Lamps for Snake’s Vivarium?
There are lots of different styles of heat lamp available, from various brands. It can be quite overwhelming to know which one to choose.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the top heat lamps for snakes:
1) Zilla Premium Reflector Dome
Zilla is a well-known and trusted supplier of reptile products. They produce all sorts of items for reptile enclosures, from heat lamps to snake hides, and even tanks.
Reputable brands produce higher quality products, and the Zilla Premium Reflector Dome showcases this well.
The Zilla dome is a popular choice among snake owners. It is well-made, affordable, looks good and fits a wide range of bulbs. Its main selling point is that it reflects light, creating a brighter vivarium.
- There are two different sizes available: 5.5 inches and 8.5 inches.
- The socket is made of heat-resistant ceramic, designed to withstand high temperatures.
- The cord is 6 feet long, which is handy if your vivarium isn’t close to a power socket.
- The product comes with a spring clip which securely attaches the lamp to the screen-top of your vivarium.
- It is suitable for bulbs up to 150 watts.
- The lamp does not come with a clamp or hanger, only a spring clip to attach to the screen. This makes it difficult to affix if your enclosure doesn’t have a screen top.
- Some reviewers claim that they received a faulty lamp, which tends to short-circuit and stop working at random.
- The inside of the dome is painted white. While this does reflect light, it doesn’t work as well as a mirrored or metallic coating would.
- The dome itself is not very deep, so it will not work with very long lightbulbs.
Overall, the Zilla Premium Reflector Dome is a solid choice. It’s made of good quality materials which will withstand high heat, and it’s compatible with a wide range of light bulbs.
The reflector dome is designed for bulbs that emit light as well as heat. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t use a ceramic heat emitter with this lamp. Many reptile keepers use them with no problem.
It would be great if the dome were a bit longer, so that longer lightbulbs would work. However, we feel that the pros outweigh the cons. Clamps are available to purchase separately if you need a different way to affix the lamp, and Zilla is generally very good at replacing faulty products.
2) Fluker’s Sun Dome
Fluker’s is another trusted maker of reptile products, from vivarium accessories to lizard food. They specialize mainly in bearded dragons and other lizards, though many of their products work well for snakes.
The Fluker’s Sun Dome is another large lamp similar to the Zilla dome. It’s very deep and is designed to reflect light, and target it to a certain spot in the vivarium. This is great for setting up a “basking spot.”
- Fluker’s sun dome has a mirrored aluminum surface inside. This helps to reflect light, increasing UVA and UVB output better than domes with white surfaces.
- The dome is 8.5 inches wide and over 6 inches deep. It will fit almost any bulb you could buy, and is compatible with almost any type, including ceramic heat emitters.
- It’s suitable for bulbs up to 160 watts. If you need high heat lamp wattage, it’s a perfect choice.
- The cord features a handy on-off switch, so you don’t need to plug and unplug it each time.
- Fluker’s sun dome does not come with a clamp or any way of attaching it to the vivarium. You’ll have to purchase this separately.
- Because the dome is quite large, it might not be suitable for smaller vivariums.
- A small number of reviewers have reported receiving faulty products which stop working within a few months.
- The product is more expensive than other similar lamps.
Overall, we’re very happy with the Fluker’s Sun Dome Reptile Lamp. Its main benefit is that it’s extremely large, and can hold longer bulbs without the bulb sticking out past the lip. This helps to focus the heat and light on one spot, rather than flooding the entire vivarium.
Though it’s slightly more expensive than the Zilla dome, we feel it’s worth the extra cost for this alone. It would be useful if it came with some way of affixing it to the vivarium, though.
3) Zoo Med Deluxe Dimmable Clamp Lamp
The next lamp we’re featuring is the
Zoo Med Deluxe Dimmable Clamp Lamp. Zoo Med is another well-known brand, supplying reptile and bird owners with terrariums, substrate and all manner of related products.
The Zoo Med clamp lamp is slightly different from the first two lamps that we discussed. It’s got a built-in clamp to affix to the side or top of the vivarium. It’s also dimmable.
- The Zoo Med clamp lamp comes with a built-in clamp. This allows you to easily affix the lamp to the side or roof of the vivarium.
- It comes with an inbuilt dimmer switch. This will help you to regulate the bulb’s temperature without having to purchase a dimmer separately.
- The lamp has a metallic coating on the inside, helping to reflect light.
- The dome is 8.5 inches in diameter and will fit most lights up to 150 watts.
- The product description advertises that this lamp is suitable for ceramic heat emitters. However, the instruction manual states that it is not. This conflicting information is a little confusing, so proceed with caution if you have a CHE.
- Though the dome is quite wide, it’s not very deep. It might not be suitable for longer bulbs.
- A small number of reviewers have reported receiving faulty lamps.
The reason we haven’t given the Zoo Med dimmable clamp lamp higher up on our list is that it’s around the same price as the Fluker sun dome, yet not as versatile. It can’t fit long bulbs and may or may not be compatible with ceramic heat emitters.
With that being said, the built-in clamp and dimmer switch are very attractive features. If they appeal to you, it’s well worth going for.
4) Hoke Flexible Clamp Lamp
Hoke is not what you’d call a well-known brand. We couldn’t find much about the company. However, this does not necessarily mean their products aren’t good.
The Hoke Flexible Clamp Lamp offers a unique feature: the head of the lamp is attached to an 11 inch long flexible arm, with a clamp at the bottom.
- The fully adjustable, bendy arm allows you to position your light wherever you’d like, inside or outside of your snake’s enclosure.
- The built-in clamp securely affixes the lamp to the tank’s wall or ceiling.
- The inside of the lamp is painted white, to help reflect and direct light to the basking spot.
- The lamp is approved for use with all types of heat bulb, including heat emitters and incandescent lights.
- The lamp head is extremely small compared to the previous lamps– only 3.6 inches in diameter. It’s also quite short, so most bulbs will stick out.
- Some reviewers have mentioned that the lamp is not very robust in quality. The inner socket can break if you screw the light bulb in too hard.
- The cord that it comes with is quite short. You may need to use an extension cable.
The build quality on the Hoke flexible clamp lamp isn’t as good as the others we’ve reviewed. However, there’s no denying that it’s got some great features. The flexible arm is very handy, and the clamp is robust and secure.
It’s compatible with many different bulbs, though you’ll need to select a small one. It’s better suited to a smaller vivarium because of this.
5) Pecute Reptile Heat Lamp with Guard
Pecute is a brand that creates products for all kinds of pets, from reptile vivarium accessories to cat and dog toys.
They’re not a very popular brand, but the Pecute Reptile Heat Lamp with Guard has some interesting features. It is designed specifically for ceramic heat emitters, and comes with a bulb included. The lamp has a guard which screws over the bulb to prevent reptiles from touching it.
- The socket of the Pecute reptile heat lamp is insulated with porcelain, to prevent heat damage.
- It comes with a ceramic heat emitter bulb included.
- The built-in heavy gauge metal guard prevents reptiles from touching the bulb.
- It comes in two different wattages: 50W and 100W.
- There’s a handy hook on top, allowing you to hang the lamp inside your vivarium. The cable is coated in iron to prevent biting.
- Although the guard doesn’t get as hot as aluminum dome lamps, it still gets very hot, especially with a 100W bulb. You should still keep it away from your pet, outside the vivarium if possible.
- The metal guard does not help to reflect or direct light, so it’s only really suitable for ceramic heat emitters.
- The guard is quite narrow and short. Longer or wider bulbs may not fit.
Having a guard over the ceramic heat emitter sounds like a good idea, in principle. And it doesn’t get as hot as an aluminum lamp would. The fact that the cables are coated in iron to prevent biting is also a nice touch.
However, most reviewers have mentioned that the guard still gets too hot to allow reptiles to come into contact with it.
Fixing the lamp outside of the vivarium does solve the problem – but render the guard useless.
Are Heat Lamps Safe for Snakes?
Heat lamps can get extremely hot. If the temperature in your snake’s vivarium gets too high, your snake could overheat and even die.
There are two ways to prevent this.
- Thermostats. These automatically regulate the temperature inside the vivarium by switching the heat lamp on and off when necessary. Be aware that some bulbs will burn out faster if they are regularly switched on and off.
- Dimmers. These reduce the brightness (and heat) coming from the bulb. You can buy these separately for lamps that aren’t dimmable. You’ll have to manually monitor the temperature inside the vivarium if you don’t have a thermostat.
Burns can also occur if your snake touches the bulb. To avoid this, place the light out of reach of your snake, preferably outside the vivarium.
Can You Use a Regular Light Bulb as a Heat Lamp?
You can use a regular incandescent light bulb inside a heat lamp, providing that it’s compatible.
However, bear in mind that snakes need heat 24 hours per day. Using a regular light bulb at night will confuse your snake, as it will disrupt your snake’s day-night cycle. This could lead to health problems.
If you’ve ever wondered “do snakes need heat at night?” the answer is yes, most snakes do. It’s acceptable for the temperature to drop by one or two degrees, but that’s it. It’s important that there’s still a source of heat, especially for tropical snakes.
This is why most snake owners prefer to use ceramic heat emitters. You can still use a regular light-emitting bulb during the day, if you wish. Snakes do need a source of light during the day, so light bulbs are vital if the vivarium doesn’t get any sun.
How to Keep Heat in a Snake Tank
Whichever bulb and lamp you choose, it’ll only work well if you set it up and control it properly.
Getting a thermostat or dimmer is the best way to ensure that the temperature inside the enclosure stays within the optimum range. However, some reptile owners do struggle to keep the heat in, especially if the tank is made of glass.
If you’re having this problem, try covering the top and sides of the enclosure with a towel or aluminum foil. This will also help to retain humidity.
If the vivarium is still not warm enough, try using a heat mat in conjunction with a heat lamp.