Home General Analog and digital thermostats for terrariums: which one to use?

Analog and digital thermostats for terrariums: which one to use?


Whether you have to house a snake, a turtle, an iguana or any other reptile that requires a source of heat in its terrarium, it is very likely that the use of a thermostat is essential to be sure of obtaining controlled, constant temperatures and a correct set-up. But how do thermostats work, and which is the most suitable for the use we are going to make of them?

What is a thermostat and what is it used for?

A thermostat is the control tool that allows you to keep the temperature of a system constant: we will connect our heater to it, such as a mat or a heating cable, a lamp, a radiant panel, and the thermostat will be connected to the electric current. The thermostats used in terroristic are equipped with a probe that will be positioned in the area we are interested in keeping at a constant temperature. Thanks to it, the thermostat will constantly sample the temperature and, in general, will connect the heater only when it is needed, avoiding an unnecessary waste of current. But not all thermostats are suitable for use with any heater, and we’ll find out why later.

There are several brands, more or less famous, that have designed and launched on the market. Thermostats dedicated to the housing of animals in terrariums. Until recently, there was only talk of analog reptile thermostat: they are the classics, still current and widely used, equipped with a knob that you just need to turn until the indicator points to the degrees we want to keep constant.

Digital thermostats for terrariums and racks

For some time now, digital thermostats have also arrived on the terrarium market, generally equipped with a backlit screen. With the advent of digital, manufacturers have been able to insert various additional functions inside the thermostats, some of which are very useful: the possibility, for example, of setting different clocks and temperatures for day and night (without having to use a timer or a separate sensor – the only “trick” that is used with the analogue thermostats predisposed) in order to reproduce the daily thermal changes that normally occur in nature. This innovation is fundamental both for those species that need, during the mating phase, to follow a period of “cycling” which provides for the lowering of general temperatures accompanied by a further lowering of night temperatures, both for the incubation of some eggs that it is good to follow the nighttime lowering of temperatures.

Among the other innovations included in some digital thermostats on the market we find the alarm, which will warn of any problems with the heaters, the temperature always shown on the screen (with the analogues, having no display, it is necessary to use a separate thermometer to an eye on temperatures), or even, in the most complete and advanced thermostats, the possibility of using the thermostat in an “inverted” way for cooling (for example by connecting a refrigerator or fans). Some digital reptile thermostat also act as hygrostats: they detect and control the ambient humidity with the aid of a separate and dedicated socket to which vaporizer, a fan or a dehumidifier depending on the use we want to make of it.  

Each type of heater has its own thermostat! 

But not all thermostats can be used for every kind of heater. What does it mean and why? We will try to explain it in simple words (do not want the experts of the sector!).

Thermostats can have different “mechanisms” or modes of operation.


The majority and generally the cheapest thermostats on the market belong to the category of on / off thermostats. Their operating mode provides very simply that the connected heat source is switched on when necessary, expressed at its maximum power and then switched off completely once the probe has detected that it has reached the desired degrees. This kind of thermostat manages to maintain an accuracy range of about a couple of degrees. For example, if we are interested in obtaining 28 C at the point where we place the probe, our temperatures will most likely vary between 27 C and 29 C.

They can be connected to this kind of thermostat: heating mats, heating cables, radiant panels, ceramic lamps, infrared lamps – in general all NON-luminous heat sources (imagine a luminous lamp connected to such a thermostat: it would be switched off and switched on continuously, flashing in record time and totally busting the perception of the light of your animals!)