Under Tank Heaters (UTH)
Under tank heaters can be used as a primary or secondary heat source for many tanks or habitats of reptiles that need temperate or tropical heating, ranging from Hermit crabs and spiders, to large snakes and monitors. Under tank heaters, or UTH, as they will be referred to here, are a flat heating element, inside a durable rubber casing. They are great for continuous use of twenty four hour, round the clock heating of reptile habitats. For this purpose, UTH can be found in several physical sizes and wattages. Sizes range from mini at about four watts, up to large at about twenty four watts. Length and width, often vary by brand name and company. The size and wattage of the UTH needed, is usually gauged in tank or habitat size. Mini, being for about a five gallon enclosure and large being for a fifty so sixty gallon enclosure. The size and wattage actually needed will also depend on the ambient air temperature required for optimal condition specifications for each reptile.
The actual purpose of a under tank heater is to heat the ambient air temperature of a habitat or enclosure, not to heat the actual animal like a basking light or a ceramic heat emitter does. Ideally, an animal should never come into direct contact with an UTH. There should be several inches of substrate or bedding, in between where the animal actually lays or walks, and the UTH, if the UTH is actually used UNDER the enclosure. A UTH can be used either under or on the side of an enclosure or habitat. If an animal is prone to burrowing, and has the potential for getting down under it’s bedding, and laying on or sleeping on the area above where the heater is adhered to for extended periods of time, it could be burned. Wattages on under tank heaters are fairly low, but as with any type of heating source, they can still cause harm to an animal. . Regardless of if using a UTH for belly heat ( under tank mounting) or back heat ( side mounted pad) , always make sure than the enclosure or habitat your animal is in, provides adequate area for the animal to move to a cooler location, within the habitat For this reason, a lot of keepers prefer to mount their UTH on the sides of enclosures. Used in this way, it is unlikely that an animal will come into prolonged full contact with the pad, and suffer any injury, BUT always make sure that you monitor your animal closely, to make sure contact is not being made. Most reptiles love to snuggle up in a warm spot, but if properly located on the outside of an enclosure, in an area that the animal cannot lay up next to, the UTH will do it’s job properly, heating the air inside the habitat, and not the animal itself.
Under tank heaters can be directly plugged into an outlet or plugged into a thermostat , when using only one UTH or several, to maintain a proper degree of temperature inside a single enclosure or when heating several enclosures, or if needing to use multiple heaters in various safe locations, on a really large habitat. NEVER use a home- made light dimmer type switch, of any other type of do-it-yourself type thermostat, to regulate any type of heating for your animals. Doing so, could cause serious injury to the animal and even a fire. When using a UTH, always check it frequently for any signs of wear and tear. If there is any evidence of cracking, splitting or melting, dispose of it IMMEDIATELY and purchase a new one.
Also check the surface of the area where the enclosure is being kept, shelf, table or stand, for any type of browning or scorch marks, from prolonged exposure to heat from the heat pad. When any of these signs are evident and disposal of the UTH is called for, it is always a great idea to have spare heaters on hand. Especially in regions where it gets cold, or if an enclosure is kept in an area of the house that keeps much cooler temperatures than other rooms.
After a UTH has been applied to a habitat, bin, enclosure or tank, using the adhesive side of the pad for attaching, it becomes extremely hard to remove. When upgrading or changing a habitat and removal of the UTH is necessary, the bending and pulling of the pad, while taking it off of anything, the nichrome element inside the pad, becomes frayed or bent, broken and damaged. Because of this, do not ever attempt to reuse or reapply a UTH that has been pulled off or removed from a set up. With proper use, a under tank heater will sometimes last for years. Always make sure that when buying and applying a UTH, that the manufacturers use guide, is read and followed closely. When used and applied correctly and supervision of the animal and the condition of the pad is used, they are one of the very best heating units on the market today.