Whether you’re planning to breed leopard geckos, bearded dragons, ball pythons or other reptiles, the one crucial piece of kit that you’re going to need is a reptile incubator.
At the same time you’ll want to make sure that you’re choosing the best possible incubator. After all, reptile forums are rife with stories of reptile keepers who chose a poor quality incubator, only to find their hard-earned eggs dying as a result of improper heating or humidity.
Fortunately in this article we’re going to look at some of the most popular incubators among reptile breeders, in order to help you select the very best reptile egg incubator for your needs…
Features of the Best Reptile Incubators
Before we start to look at some individual incubator models, and discussing the pros and cons of each one, let’s start off by setting the scene. After all, what makes one reptile incubator a winner and another not worth your hard-earned cash? What follows are some of the most crucial features you should look for when shopping for a reptile incubator…
Possibly the most important important feature of all is an incubator’s ability to maintain a steady temperature, and to do so with pinpoint accuracy. If the temperature is constantly fluctuating then you’re likely to be far less successful at hatching your eggs.
Now, you might think that this goes without saying, but some reptile incubators are shockingly bad at maintaining a constant temperature. Therefore when shopping for an incubator don’t just assume it will do the job – read reviews and speak to other reptile keepers to find the ideal piece of kit.
If you’re planning to get the occasional clutch of leopard geckos then it’s unlikely that your eggs will take up too much room. On the other hand if you’re planning to regularly breed larger reptiles like Burmese pythons then you’ll likely want to check the size of each incubator.
While bigger incubators will house more eggs – or larger eggs – also appreciate that they will require more power to heat. I would therefore suggest that you don’t opt for a larger incubator than you think you’ll need in the next few years.
Heat & Cooling Systems
Most traditional egg incubators simply incorporate a heating element to bring the internal temperature up to your target figure. This is all well and good but there are a couple of potential weaknesses here…
Firstly, if the temperature gets a few degrees above this optimal figure then your eggs will be too warm while the heater stops and the temperature drops naturally and slowly. The other problem is for those individuals who live in hotter areas – such as Arizona – where temperatures can actually get too high in the summer months.
The solution is a reptile incubator with both a heating and a cooling system. While these are few and far between they can make for more accurate incubation temperatures and quicker recoveries from excessive warmth. Sometimes, the little extra investment can be very worthwhile to save an important clutch of eggs.
Upright or Chest Design
Like freezers, most reptile incubators can be classed as either “upright” or “chest” designs. An upright design looks rather like a tiny fridge with a glass door, while the other design looks more like a tupperware box with the viewing section on the top.
There is no right or wrong answer as to which is necessarily better; the choice is really up to you as to which option you prefer.
Reptile eggs, with their leathery skins, can change considerably in appearance over time. Many eggs will absorb water and grow, or lose water and shrink. Many will do both at different points in their development. Of course, eggs may also suffer from fungal growth, or the young reptile inside may just die.
This means that keeping an eye on your reptile eggs is important – and can tell you a lot about how they are developing. Whatever reptile egg incubator you choose, therefore, ensure that you have good visibility of your eggs without needing to open the lid – which can chill the eggs unnecessarily.
Reptile Incubator Reviews
Now that you know what features to look out for let’s move on to look at the benefits of the top selling reptile incubators on the market at present…
Happybuy ReptiPro 6000 23L Reptile Incubator
The ReptiPro 6000 is an upright incubator that looks rather like a beer fridge. It has two movable shelves and an area at the bottom where water can be added in order to raise the humidity inside.
Dimension-wise this incubator measures in at just under 24cm deep, 27cm wide and 37 cm tall. Note that these are the internal dimensions, meaning this particular incubator has quite a generous amount of space – suitable for incubating most commonly-kept reptile eggs.
However, the biggest reason for all the love surrounding this reptile incubator is that the temperature controls are very precise and accurate. It maintains a temperature between 0’c and 40’C (that’s 32’f to 104’f) which is controlled via a digital readout.
That means it is suitable for any reptile eggs – from bearded dragons to corn snakes, tortoises to ball pythons.
This is also one of the very few incubators that actually has a cooling as well as a heating setting which, as we have already discussed, means superior control of the internal temperature. Lastly, because this device will also cool down it can also be used for herps that require a winter cooling period – such as some amphibians.
The ReptiPro 6000 is probably the best “all rounder” on the market, offering all the features that you might need in one handy package, and for a price that you shouldn’t sniff at.
Hova-Bator 1602N Still Air Egg Incubator
Unlike the ReptiPro 6000 this particular reptile incubator is a “chest-style” design, with two glass windows in the lid through which you can observe your incubating eggs.
The 1602N is quite neatly designed, and uses a system of ventilation that heats the air inside, allowing it to gently rise up through vents, while fresh air is drawn in through vents at the bottom and warmed. This helps to prevent a build-up of “stale air” that can encourage mould to grow on reptile eggs.
This pack – which is designed specifically for reptile breeders – also includes a number of handy accessories. For one there’s the stand-alone thermometer and hygrometer for measuring conditions within your incubator. Then there’s the provision of substrate and pots into which you can place your eggs, ensuring they get the best possible care.
If there is a downside to the Hova-Bator incubator it is that it doesn’t offer a cooling system – just one for warming – but this doesn’t seem to have affected the results seen by people using it.
In all, this might not be quite as flash as the ReptiPro 6000 but comes a close second for those looking to successfully incubate reptile eggs on a budget.
Zoo Med Reptibator Egg Incubator
The Reptibator claims to control temperatures between 59°F to 104°F (15°C to 40°C) though some reptile breeders complain that this incubator isn’t always completely accurate.
On the other hand, it is nice to note that Zoo Med’s offering does have a built-in temperature alarm in case of major problems – such as a power cut – and is designed so that when the power is restored the Reptibator remembers your pre-selected temperature and re-establishes this as quickly as possible.
At roughly 15 inches wide, by 15 inches deep and 6” tall it is also a quite generously-proportioned reptile incubator, capable of housing multiple clutches of eggs at the same time.
At the same time, some keepers complain about it’s “flimsy” and “cheap” build quality, which has led some people to claim that they think it is quite overpriced for what it is. Note also, that this incubator only heats – it doesn’t cool in the case of overheating.
One final point worthy of mention is the reservoir built into the base of the incubator. This allows you to pour in some water, before placing the foam matting down before carefully placing your incubation containers into the device. This is an easy and efficient way to increase the relative humidity within your incubator.
All told, while the ReptiBator isn’t all bad, there are probably better incubators that maintain a more accurate temperature and don’t feel quite as cheap. You need to consider how long such an egg incubator may last with regular use, and whether one of the other rather more study incubators would do a better job.
Exo Terra PT2445 Reptile Egg Incubator
While superficially the PT2445 looks quite similar to the Happybuy ReptiPro 6000 discussed earlier (except for the buttons being on the other side) it seems that the reliability of this model has much to be desired.
Repeated reptile keepers have reported to me the issues they have had maintaining a suitable temperature, and that their incubator just suddenly died without warning. This, of course, has led to numerous failed clutches because very few small reptile breeders maintain “spare” incubators in case of emergency.
While this particular device does offer the cooling as well as heating systems, the lack of reliability and frequent short lifespan, mean that I personally wouldn’t want to risk my precious eggs in such an incubator.
Reptile Incubators vs Chicken Incubators
Poultry keepers have been artificially incubating eggs for decades, but reptile incubators are a rather more recent development. One common question is therefore how chicken incubators differ, and whether they can be used to incubate reptile eggs. Generally speaking the answer is “no” – and for two reasons…
Firstly, birds eggs need to be regularly “turned” – just as a parent bird would normally do – if they are to develop properly. Reptile eggs, in contrast, shouldn’t be turned. Most incubators designed for birds eggs automatically rotate the eggs on a regular basis, and this can lead to death for reptile eggs.
Secondly, reptile eggs tend to be far more sensitive to humidity than birds eggs when developing. Most reptile incubators factor this into their design and have features that help you to maintain a high relative humidity for proper egg development.
In other words, while there are a lot of similarities between poultry incubators and reptile incubators I would suggest that the reptile keeper focuses on designs built specifically for the exotic pet owner.
Conclusion – What is the Best Reptile Incubator?
While there are quite a few different reptile egg incubators on the market they differ quite widely in terms of price, features and reliability.
Personally, despite my affinity with well-known (and loved) reptile brands like Exo Terra my own research suggests that the Happybuy ReptiPro 6000 is probably the ultimate reptile incubator currently on the market, with the Hova-Bator 1602N coming a close second for those on a rather tighter budget.
What reptile incubators have you tried before? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below so other readers can benefit from your knowledge!
Photo by holisticmonkey
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