Heat tape versus heat cable?

Hubs and I are exploring options for our first rack system. We are bouncing between building and buying (trying to save $ but be safe and efficient).

I found one on LetGo a few hours away from us for what seems like a great deal. It has heat cable installed. I see everyone using heat tape. What are the differences and would you use heat cable in this instance?

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Heat tape is ultimately cheaper and has a larger surface area. Most people shy away from heat cable for a variety of reasons (some reasonable/true, some not) but generally it’s more expensive and there’s a risk of small hot spots depending on the installation.

Either solution needs a thermostat especially with ball pythons. Ask them to cycle it for you and/or explain the heat cable choice. They shouldn’t have a problem with it and you can bring a little IR temp gun to verify.


Worst case scenario if you buy the rack is to just uninstall the heat cord and replace it with heat tape. If it’s a good deal then take it. But I would strongly caution letting it stay plugged in without any animals inside for a few days just to see how it holds up if you are going to leave the heat cord. I myself have no experience with heat cord so I cant give you my firsthand experience but hopefully it works out for you!


@nathan_e and @asura Thank you for your input! We decided to pass on it after the person selling it was kinda wishy washy and it would require us to drive 4 hours. Still good to know about heat cable as I have seen a couple breeders selling older used racks with the cable in them.


I know this is a somewhat old thread but I had to share my experience so people know the truth. I just had a small strip of heat tape malfunction and cook a $1500 mature female hognose. I was checking water dishes as I do every other day and when I opened her tub she was just lying there, mouth agape, lifeless. I immediately ran for my temp gun and her tub seemed a we bit hot on the surface of her hotspot, but when I pulled her tub out to test the actual tape, there was a tennis ball sized hole burned in her tub, bedding falling everywhere and the temp in that one spot was reading over 225 degrees. Ofcourse I had it on a thermostat so I was just in shock, so I tested every other tub and snake, all was fine, even the tub on the same rack next to the burned tub was perfectly normal. It’s simply malfunctioned. The probe to the thermostat was taped maybe 6 inches from the burn site. Absolutely devastating.
So yea, after talking to a couple of my high end breeder friends about it, they’d all heard of similar cases happening, some even still used the heat tape but some swear by the heat cable to prevent this exact scenario from happening. I was lucky itll was only one snake, my friend knows of someone who 90% of their collection was cooked not bc of bad thermostats, but malfunctioning heat tape.
So I’m doing as much research on heat cable as I can bc I’m more than likely making the switch.


I would recommend personally the use of heat tape. It’s cheap and it works well and reliably. I feel that reptile basics offers a good source of heat tape.

Unaffiliated link to reptile basics heat tape section


I also recommend heat tape because the right quality heat tape won’t heat unevenly, the best and possibly only high quality heat tape is THG heat tape which can be found on reptile basics, the link on the post above this one. Some older brands of heat tape like flexwatt can heat unevenly so where the temperature might be normal (unfortunately in your case over the thermostat) a couple inches over the temperature might be hundreds of degrees. THG heat tape rarely malfunctions and I think you would be better off using the highly used heat tape rather than cables which a small percentage of breeders use and isn’t guaranteed to work very well or not malfunction.


I use both. I have 1 rack with heat cable and 2 with heat tape. I see no difference in heating capability, safety, or reliability. Both the tape and the cable are from the same source (Reptile Basics).


I would like to add that now I have setup a second PVC enclosure from AP with heat tape.

I use heat mats (i think its different to tape see pic below.) and I use heat cable.

The mats are expensive because as heat rises you need one for each tub and a thermostat for each level of rack to get the same temperatures from top to bottom.
My pros and cons:
Heat mats over tape. with a long strip temperatures rise the higher you go. So each level is a different temperature., but its cheaper.

Heat cable-
Pros: cheaper than mats or strips. It also gives a better heat gradient if put at the back wall and balanced right so the animal has more choice. for example, with a mat or strip, the first third is exactly the same temperature, no gradient. Jigging the amount of cable on different levels avoids hotter tubs the higher you go. Adding aluminum tape to it also even out the output. Probably my preference.