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Heating Methods: Keeping your Gecko warm.

Heat Mats

Generally the best way to provide heat for your Leo is going to be a heat mat. They are special mats manufactured to provide - well, heat basically! They work much like the rear window heater in a car in essence. They generally come in two flavours - square or oblong of various sizes.

Square is going to be what you're after for a Leo Vivarium as your Leo needs a warm environment being cold blooded - but it specifically requires a gradient. It needs it to be the right temperature at one end of the Vivarium and for that temperature to gradually fall off towards the other end of the Vivarium.

As a general rule of thumb 88ºF to 95ºF (max) at the warm end tapering down to approx. 75ºF (min) at the cool end. Of course temperatures will fluctuate daily anyway especially if sunlight is able to see your Vivarium (direct sunlight is definitely not advisable as it will rapidly heat up the Vivarium and could possibly kill the Leo's). At night it can in fact be beneficial to have a small drop in temp and it can go down to 65ºF with no ill effects.

The best way to accomplish this is to put the heat mat at one end of the Vivarium under the substrate. The best use I have found for the longer narrower heat mats is as a heat source for my multiple breeder tanks for my hatching's as it can go under 5-6 of them at a time and cheaply and economically provide heat for all of the tanks above it..

If you opted for a wooden Vivarium you will need to place your heating solution inside the Vivarium under as suitable substrate. Wood does get warm but it is also a pretty good insulator and the heating generally works off infra red heat and just won't work through the wood properly.

If you chose a glass Vivarium or indeed a good plastic one - you have to put your heat mat underneath the Vivarium. Either loose or stuck to the glass (some heat pads come with an adhesive on one side for this purpose) The heat will easily go through the glass to the substrate. However bear in mind you will need to have some sort of insulator under your glass tank to ensure against burning the surface it's sitting on and to economically reflect all the heat from the mat upwards where needed. Most places like B&Q or Homebase have polystyrene tiles or even rolls of thin polystyrene sheet that you can use for this purpose. If your glass Vivarium has feet however there may be enough of an air gap if you stick the heat pad to the base for overheating to not pose a problem.

Heat Rocks

If you buy a kit from any popular website or reptile retailer it was almost invariably come with a heat rock. This is a plastic rock with a heating element built in to it. Like many things, this seems like a great idea on the face of it - BUT these rocks tend to develop excessive heat spots rather than distribute their heat evenly. If the heat rock is prone to this you will end up getting a lizard with heat burns on its belly. I personally have seen Leo's with blisters on their underside from these things in some pet shops!

Generally the herp community frowns on these in the majority and it seems the only way the manufacturer can get rid of their obviously non-selling excessive stock levels is to package them into kits! My advice is to just throw them away. - Sure your rock might be OK - but honestly do you want to take the risk - especially when they are BETTER,  PROVEN methods of heating out their for your reptiles?

At the end of the day - the choice is ultimately yours BUT it will be your reptile that will suffer - NOT you if anything goes wrong- bear that in mind ;)

Measuring Temperatures

 There are a multitude of heat sensors out there for monitoring the temperature of your Vivarium. I have a few of them myself. The one I use in my breeder Vivarium is shown opposite. I acquired it off Ebay. It allows me to monitor both ends of the tank and to have an alarm go off whenever temps go above or below a set range you can program in yourself.

I also have a small infra red sensor that you can just point at a surface and get a reading - very handy!

 Dual Temp Monitor
 I recently got hold of a digital meat probe which can take a reading in 10 sec's at it's tip - I have found it very handy for substrate readings in the incubator as well as for my Vivariums.   Heat Probe

Controlling the temperature.

Well you have 2 options here - either a thermostat or a dimmer.

Plug in Dimmer

 First the dimmer. If you look about on Ebay you can find a plug in dimmer.

I personally use these with all my Vivariums. I have a temp sensor which I manually note the temp and adjust the rotary control of the dimmer to suit to maintain the correct temperature in the Vivarium.

I have found that even with the smallest power mats - in the region of say just 12 watts - that I usually only have the dimmer on ½ to ¾ of it's full setting to maintain proper temps.

The drawback of this technique is of course it does not automatically compensate for temperatures rises and drops - so you have to be observant and conscientious - - but the major dividend is that these are really cheap to buy (£5) compared to the cost of a dedicated thermostat at £20+.

 Dimme rplug type 1


There are a variety of different types of thermostats available and they each do different things - I personally recommend Habistat and here's a run down of their models:

 Mat stat

this is a bog standard thermostat for use with mats up to 100W. It is basic in operation using a heat sensor to turn the mat off completely. When the temp drops approx. 2ºC (max) it turns the mat back on - simple as that.

Drawback? A constantly fluctuating temperature.

 mat stat

 Temp stat

For use with mats and other heaters up to 300W. It is basic in operation using a heat sensor to turn the mat off completely. This model has a better temp controller in the form of a rotary dial with calibrated markings. When the temp drops approx. 2ºC it turns the mat back on - simple as that.

Drawback? A constantly fluctuating temperature.

There is also a twin channel version of this Stat for controlling two Vivariums or heat sources independently.


 temp stat
 Pulse Proportional 

This stat is great for ceramic heaters and the like but is also useful for mats too - can control heat sources up to 600W. More sophisticated in that it monitors the temperature and pulses electricity to the heat source constantly - the frequency of the pulses is determined by the heat sensor. The pulses will plateau at 50% off and 50% on time wise. Unlike the former heaters, the mat never gets totally cold and thus it prolongs the mat's life. Due to its nature cannot be used with element bulbs.

There is an additional model called Day / Night. It works the same way but you can manually control the amount of temp drop during the night.

 pulse proportional
 Dimming stat 

Where the pulse proportional cannot be used with normal element light bulbs - this one can. It's basically a temp controlled dimmer. It works exactly the same way as the pulse proportional model only differing in that instead of pulses of power intervals it sends a continuous power flow but Restricts it when necessary to maintain proper temps.. It can also be used with mats. Again a Day/Night version is also available.

 dimmer stat

 Heat Lamps

Leo's do not require heat lamps for basking like many other lizards. However they can appreciate some lighting and there are considerations to be made with regards to lighting - see the lighting section for more information.




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