Crested geckos are cold-blooded animals, which means that can’t create their own body heat – instead they need to absorb it from their environment.
If your crested gecko is to live a long and healthy life, therefore, you may well need to provide artificial heating so their cage reaches the optimal temperature.
But what are the best crested gecko heaters to achieve this?
That’s exactly what we’ll be covering in this guide. By the end you’ll know everything you need to know about heating your crested gecko vivarium. Let’s get started…
What Temperature is Best for Crested Geckos?
There is a lot of differing information when it comes to the ideal temperature for your crested gecko, so it is perhaps worth pausing for a moment just to discuss the situation. Some keepers claim that crested geckos can be largely kept at room temperatures. While there is a degree of truth in this, it really only applies to keepers living in the warmer areas of the USA.
Outside of these areas a crested gecko is only likely to be happy at room temperature for the hottest months of the year. Outside this, unless you have your central heating turned up high 24/7, then in reality some form of artificial heating will be necessary.
It is considered good practise when keeping any reptile as a pet to provide a temperature gradient, so that one area of the tank is warmer than elsewhere. In this way your crested gecko can move about as they would in nature, finding the most suitable area for their needs. They may bask in the warm area for a while, and then once they reach their optimal temperature will scurry off to explore other areas of their cage.
The ideal temperature for crested geckos is roughly 26-28’C / 78-82’F in the hottest part of the tank. Away from this hotspot the temperature ideally shouldn’t drop below 20’C / 70‘F.
Some keepers opt to turn their hotspot off at night, allowing the entire cage to drop to this cooler ambient temperature and there is no evidence that this does any harm at all to cresties.
The reality, therefore, is that unless the room in which you keep your crested gecko never falls below 20’C, and ideally remains quite a bit higher, then some kind of heater will be required.
While discussing the best temperatures for crested geckos it is also worth mentioning that cresties don’t tend to thrive in overly hot conditions. When temperatures start reaching 30’C/86’F or higher they can struggle, and there are cases where crested geckos have died from getting too hot.
This means that great care should be taken to avoid your gecko overheating, such as by ensuring their cage is not placed in direct sunlight, and by ensuring that a thermostat is in use at all times. We’ll talk more about thermostats a little later on, but for now let’s discuss some of the best heaters for crested geckos…
Types of Crested Gecko Heaters
There are a number of different types of heaters that keepers use for crested geckos. In order to help you make an informed decisions about the best solution for your needs let’s discuss the pros and cons of each in turn…
Heat Mats / Under Tank Heaters (UTH)
Heat mats are, as the name suggests, flat heaters that are either placed underneath your crested gecko vivarium (hence “under tank heater”) or, more commonly in the case of crested geckos, is attached to the outer wall of their cage.
- UPGRADED DESIGN: Temperature can be adjusted manually. POWERFUL FUNCTION: Helps reptile for daily activity, appetite and metabolism. It can keep reptile tank warm without any harm to your pets and also won't disturb animals sleep pattern.
- Durable material: made of high quality PVC material, its soft surface can be flexible and folded. The heat mat is easy to clean, convenient to use and low energy.
- ENERGY-SAVING: This heater uses a solid state nichrome heating element Which only use 8 watts of electricity and costs only pennies a day to operate. HIGH EFFICIENCY: High-quality heating wire heating, stable performance and long service life.
Pros of Heat Mats for Crested Geckos
Heat mats are typically cheap to buy. They are also quite a low-powered type of heater, which means that they can be cheap to run, and are less likely to overheat than other heaters. Some better heat mats even come with a built-in thermostat which makes controlling temperatures a breeze. Lastly, heat mats are easy to fit in most crested gecko cages.
Cons of Heat Mats for Crested Geckos
The low power output of these heaters means that they will normally only raise the temperature in your tank by a small amount. For keepers in cooler climes therefore a heat mat may struggle to achieve the cage temperatures needed.
If you opt to use a heat mat as the main source of warmth in your crested gecko tank then remember that a temperature gradient is important. Attaching the heater to one wall of the cage can work well, as this side of the tank will then be warmer.
The other side of the tank should consequently be cooler. Try to offer multiple hides for your gecko so that they can adopt the one that sits at the ideal temperature for them.
Ceramic heaters are the more popular option for those reptile keepers who live in colder climates, or who are out at school or work all day with their central heating turned off. In appearance they look rather like a lightbulb, but are typically black or white in color and produce little or no visible light.
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Pros of Ceramic Heaters for Crested Geckos
Ceramic heaters are capable of getting much hotter than reptile heat mats. This gives you a far greater level of control over the temperature in your crested gecko cage. While a heat mat may only raise the internal temperature by a few degrees, a decent ceramic heater will quickly achieve the desired 78-82’F almost irrespective of your room temperature.
In many ways, therefore, ceramic heaters are a better option for many situations, as you can confident that no matter what happens your crestie will remain nice and toasty in their vivarium.
Cons of Ceramic Heater for Crested Geckos
If ceramic heaters are such a great way to heat a crested gecko cage then why does anyone use the other options? In truth there are a number of downsides of ceramic heaters that you should be aware of.
Firstly, as these are very powerful heaters they can use more electricity when compared with a heat mat. Secondly, ceramic bulbs can get very hot when they are in operation, which have a knock-on impact in how they are used.
For one thing you need to be sure to use ceramic bulbs with an appropriate ceramic bulb holder – the more common plastic holders can melt. You’ll also need to make sure that neither you nor your gecko come into direct contact with the bulb when on to prevent burns. This means that you should protect your bulb with a bulb guard.
Despite these potential weaknesses I believe that ceramic heaters probably represent the most suitable form of heating in most cases. The huge amount of control you have allows you to achieve the optimal temperature no matter what your climate.
Additionally, while you’ll need to purchase a little extra kit in the form of a bulb holder and guard these needn’t be too expensive. Some models actually include both a holder and a guard in one, making your life a lot easier.
Once upon a time it was considered quite normal to heat vivariums with a heat bulb – rather akin to traditional incandescent bulbs. As the name suggests, these bulbs produce not just heat but also light. These combined benefits can help to make your tank look great as well as keeping your lizard warm.
Pros of Heat Bulbs for Crested Geckos
Like ceramics, these bulbs can get very hot, so represent another easy way to heat crested geckos even in cold climates. Some people also like the visible light that they provide, making their tank look more attractive to human eyes.
Cons of Heat Bulbs for Crested Geckos
While heat lamps were once a common form of reptile heating they have since fallen out of favor in many cases.
For one, the light they produce means that the heating-aspect of such a bulb is rather less efficient – which can mean higher electricity bills.
This high level of light production can also be frustrating at night. After all, your crested gecko is nocturnal, so will need a decent length of darkness each night. This isn’t possible with a heat lamp, so they have to be turned off, at which point the temperature in your crestie cage can begin to fall.
Heat bulbs also tend to burn out reasonably quickly, and so need to be regularly replaced. This is in contrast to ceramic bulbs which can continue working relentlessly for years on end.
In reality, however, I think very few people use heat lamps these days. The truth is that they have too many downsides for crested gecko vivariums, especially when you consider that both ceramic heaters and heat mats offer far greater benefits.
If you do want to add lighting to your crested gecko tank – either to provide UV light or to encourage the growth of live plants – it is generally best to use a separate bulb. In this way, the UV light can be turned on during the day, and off at night, without it affecting the temperature of your crested gecko’s cage.
I have written about crested gecko lights here if you want to know more.
What Is the Best Crested Gecko Heater?
As we have seen, there are three main types of heaters used for crested geckos. While there are other less common heaters – such as heating cables – these are normally only really suitable in very specific situations (such as for breeders maintaining a huge reptile collection).
Generally speaking, as we have seen, the best crested gecko heater is likely to be a ceramic heater, through a heat mat may also be suitable in cases where your home is normally quite warm and your gecko just needs a little additional warmth.
The Importance of Thermostats
Before we finish discussing heating your crested gecko vivarium it should be mentioned that no reptile heater should be used without a suitable thermostat. Thermostats allow you to carefully regulate the temperature in your crested gecko.
Just as importantly, however, they will prevent your crested gecko tank from overheating. This can be surprisingly common. For example, ceramics can overheat, or on hot days the temperature in reptile cages can rise massively.
For example, here in the UK the weather can be quite unpredictable. In the springtime it is not unusual for nighttime temperatures to get close to freezing, while suddenly and without warning the next day the temperature will rise to 20’C+.
If I had powerful heaters in my reptile cages that weren’t controlled by a thermostat there would be a very real possibility that my pets could die of heat exhaustion.
Fortunately, I am religious about my use of thermostats, so as the ambient air temperature rises in my home, the thermostat gently turns down the tank heaters to maintain the correct temperature at all times.
If you want to learn more about choosing and using reptile thermostats then please read my full guide here.
Photo by tsbl2000
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