For most frogs, heating their enclosure is as important as a proper diet and clean water. Heating a terrarium for frogs and toads is not as simple as sticking a heating mat under the enclosure and walking away.
Likewise, ceramic heat emitters and heat lamps need the proper placement and size. You want your pets to stay within their recommended temperature range.
Suffice to say, you need to plan accordingly! While these devices work great for nearly all reptile and amphibian habitats, you need to exercise proper safety precautions to keep the heating element from harming both you and your inhabitants.
How To Heat A Frog or Toad Enclosure
One of the most popular methods of warming a frog’s enclosure is by using a “UTH” or Under Tank Heater. It’s a heating mat which is designed to stick to the bottom of a terrarium.
Another option is a ceramic heat emitter or heat lamp. They’re designed to sit above the enclosure and heat from the top to the bottom. In this section, I’ll go over the pros and cons of both.
Once you’ve decided which rout to go (keep reading, I’ll help you decide), the next step is to get a thermostat. A thermostat regulates the heater so the enclosure doesn’t get too hot or too cold.
Thermostats are important for two reasons:
- Temperature Control: It turns the heating element on/off to keep the temperature within the correct range.
- Safety: In the event a heating element malfunctions, the thermostat will serve as a first-line of defense by turning the heater off.
A thermometer will display the temperature! Nowadays, most thermometers designed for terrariums have a digital output. Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at the different heaters.
UTH (Under Tank Heater)
The UTH, as the name implies, is designed to go under a tank; heating from the ground up. This is great for certain species which, in the wild, gain their heat by laying on a warm substrate.
For species like a Pacman Frog or Tomato Frog, they’re great too, but not when placed under the enclosure. The heating mat gets too hot for burrowing frogs and toads. Instead, it’s recommended that you place the UTH on the side of the enclosure.
Doing this accomplished two things; you don’t have the risk of burning burrowing frogs and it helps create a temperature range from one side of the enclosure to the other. It makes a warm side and a cool side, allowing the inhabitants to choose from warmer or cooler temperatures.
As for which brand and size you need, well, it’s really up to you! Zoo Med makes a great under tank heater. Aside from Zoo Med, there is Zilla and Fluker’s that are well-known in the reptile and amphibian industry.
- For more help on choosing a UTH, see our guide on the best heating mats for reptiles & amphibians.
When determining the appropriately sized heating mat, look for an indication on the packaging. Notice the picture above, which is labeled “10-20 Gallon Terrarium Size” in the top right corner.
As for the Zoo Med’s Repti Therm under tank heaters, they come in several sizes. The bigger the heater, the more it costs. For the 10 – 20 gallon heater, you can get these online for less than $20.
Ceramic Heat Emitter / Heat Lamp
Heat lamps are another great option for herpetologists and hobbyists alike. Ceramic heat lamps are placed inside a dome using an E27 screw socket.
Cermic heat emitters dry out a terrarium, causing the humidity level to drop. Also, the only option for placement is at the top of the enclosure.
DO NOT place a heat lamp directly on the screen lid of a terrarium if you’re keeping an arboreal reptile or amphibian. The last thing you want is for your pet tree frog to get burned! Some dome/light combos come with mounting clips!
As far as the actual bulb is concerned, there are many options aside from ceramic bulbs. Most of which contain a mixture of UVA and UVB. Not all frogs require UVB. For this reason, it’s important to know the requirements of the frogs you’re keeping before getting a bulb.
Control The Heater with a Thermostat
The thermostat is just as important as the heating element. Whether you decide to use a heating mat or lamp, plugging your device into a thermostat will ensure the enclosure doesn’t overheat.
Different brands have different designs but they typically work the same way; you place a sensor in the terrarium and it reads the temperature. From there, it shuts the heating element off when the enclosure becomes too warm or it turns on the heater to warm things up.
I don’t recommend using a heating device without a thermostat.
As for which thermostat is the best? Well, the general consensus of the herpetologist community is that JumpStart makes one of the best devices. I believe its original purpose is for seed germination.
However, after a simple comparison, it seems the temperature reader on the Jump Start Thermostat is more accurate than most other brands. Anyway, I suggest the Jump Start Thermostat if possible. If all else fails, Zilla makes a nice thermostat as well. You can find them online or at your local pet store.
Monitor The Temperature with a Thermometer
In addition to the thermostat, you should always use a quality thermometer & hygrometer for reading the humidity and temperature. This device can serve as yet another backup for monitoring the temperature.
Place the temperature reading probe where you want to read the temperature. You may want to know the temperature at the top of the terrarium when using a ceramic heat emitted because they’re placed above the tank.
For under tank heaters, consider placing the temp probe near the substrate for a more accurate reading.
As with virtually any hot surface, proper safety precautions should be taken to ensure your personal well-being. Heating mats can get quite hot. Keep from laying them on wood, paper, or other materials that might catch fire. Always follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.
As for the lamps, they definitely get hot too. Ensure they’re securely attached to whatever surface you’re mounting them on. It should go without saying but do not attach the lamp to something which can easily be knocked over.
Sitting the basking lamp directly on top of the terrarium is safe for some inhabitant, like toads or other terrestrial frogs that won’t jump high enough to touch the heater.
However, tree frogs and other arboreal species keen on jumping can easily come into contact with a basking lamp sitting directly on their enclosure. For this purpose, special light stands or clamps may help you keep the heater off the top of the terrarium. Speaking of tree frogs, you might be interested in reading this post about tree frogs and heat lamps.
Either way, follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines and do your best to avoid accidents.