Heatmat and thermostat questions

Hello! It’s been a while since I posted in here but I need some answers. I am loosely considering the option of a hatchling rack, but would prefer one with heat mats vs heat tape/cord. What got me thinking about this is I recently obtained a hognose and purchased a starter kit with it that came with a seedling heat mat. I asked the seller if the mat required a thermostat, as I have learned that all the mats marketed for reptiles do, and they said no. So long story short, I have come up with the idea of making a hatchling “rack” out of an old bookcase that can fit 4 little tubs(smaller than 6qt) per shelf using a seed mat under the tubs. FYI, the tubs would be used for baby colubrids, currently baby corns. Now for my questions:

  1. How hot do seedling heatmats get? Could they actually be used without a thermostat? If no one knows how hot they get, what is a max temp they should get before requiring a thermostat?

  2. If I do need a thermostat for the seedling mats, would it be safer/better to have 1 thermostat per mat? Or is there a good/safe/recommended thermostat that can have multiple items plugged into it?

  3. Can thermostats be plugged into power strips/extension cords?

  4. What material would you recommend for the shelves? I know melamine and PVC are common practice, but I don’t know where to get them or how much? Could I just use the shelves that come with the shelving unit? It’s one of the cheap wood shelves from Walmart. The wood is covered with something, usually in the colors black, brown, or white.

I know these may seem like “duh” questions, but I am entirely new to the concept of even considering using something like this. So I am asking anything and everything I have even the slightest doubt on. Thanks in advance for any answers! :slightly_smiling_face:


Hello @snakeryna There are so “duh!” questions here so no one will ridicule you for asking earnest honest questions!

But tbh I have never heard of seedling heat mats so I’m going to research them! As far as the bookcase goes I have seen what look to be plain bookcase type shelving units on various YouTube breeding videos but they all had heat tape in the back.

Is there any particular reason why you’re opposed to heat tape? With what you have in mind that might be the easiest safest route.

You have raised some interesting questions and I am sorry I can’t answer any of them but I am sure there will be others who will be able to help you!

Best wishes on your project @snakeryna! :blush:

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Reptile mats are just seed mats with an insane price increase. Definitely use a thermostat with any heat mat no matter the type.

I would also like to welcome you back! I hope we see you around a more as this is a really great place! We also love pictures so…


Hmmmmm. Then Zoo Med sells “seed mat” to fit a 10 to 20 gal tank for 39.99. Yes I do believe that’s INSANITY. :confounded:

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Unregulated (by a thermostat or rheostat) seedling heat mats generally don’t get as hot as reptile heat mats. You’d have to read the specs and do some testing to see how hot they get. The good news is most of the ones I saw on Amazon (search “seedling heat mat”) come with a thermostat, including a probe.

It is always better to have one thermostat probe per heating element and one heating element per enclosure as it gives you more precise control. For these seedling heat mats the thermostat they come with have a single probe, so one thermostat per seedling heat mat. That being said, most people, including the pros, will use a single thermostat to drive an entire rack of multiple tubs with perfect success. It’s cheaper and it gives them adequate control. There are multiple, quality brand thermostats that have 2, 4 or even 6 individual probes. The thing I’m not sure of is if you’ll be able to find a size of a seedling heat mat that will work for your setup. They don’t seem to have a 3-6 inch wide, 3 foot long strip to lay under multiple tubs on a single bookcase shelf.

I will say this, ALWAYS use a thermostat or rheostat when you have a heating element. Thermal burns are no joke.

I’m no electrician. Yes, they can be plugged into power strips and extension cords. Almost anything can be plugged into extension cords provided they are an adequate gauge wire for the amount of current going through them or for the number of watts the device pulls.

I would think you could just use the shelves that come with the bookcase. Different materials will insulate slightly differently. If it’s a bookcase then you would think the shelves would be strong enough that they will not bow under load over time.

I think your intent is to set this up while spending as little money as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that IF it all works out (snakes requirements are being met, snakes appear “happy”, no escapes, no fire hazard, etc.). There are MANY ways to skin a cat.

Whatever you end up with a setup, be sure to test, test, test as much as possible to make sure it’s going to work for you BEFORE you put anything living in there. From your thoroughly thought out questions you seem competent enough to do that without me saying it. :+1:

Hope this helped you. And as always, ask more questions. Folks here love to give advice.


Any shelving unit will work. Even the metal mesh ones. Thermostat of some sort should be used. You can use the built in one’s, but make sure you have a way to check temps as these do not regulated the heat, they just restrict the electricity to it. I have used both mats and tape and found that tape is cheaper and better. One or two probe thermostat will work with tape. If using a mesh shelf, get a thin sheet wood to lay on it to help keep the heat gong up.


So the thermostats that come with multiple probes, do any of them come with multiple sockets/outlets for the heating elements to plug into for said thermostat to regulate? If so, which one or ones are recommended? Would also love some recommendations for single thermostats if I need/choose to go that route. It seems most of the thermostats(especially good quality ones, like VE200/300) I’ve seen are rated for significantly higher wattage, whereas these mats only use like 6.5 watts. I don’t mind a bit of a buffer, but there is such thing as overkill.:sweat_smile:

As far as the size of heat mat, the one I got with the hognose starter kit is a vivosun 3" x 20". I measured it against the tubs I use and it can run underneath 3-4 of them, which is perfect as 4 is the max number of tubs I can fit per shelf. As for using power strips, I just want to clarify what the setup would be(make sure I know what goes where).

Setup 1, using one thermostat per heat mat. The heatmats would run under the tubs, each plug would be plugged into a thermostat, and the thermostats would all be plugged into a power strip, and the power strip into the wall. Yes?

Setup 2, if it’s an option, using one thermostat for multiple heat mats. The heat mats would run under the tubs, X# heat mats would be plugged into a thermostat, and the thermostat would be plugged into either a power strip or the wall.

I wasn’t really worried about the weight on the shelves, these are little baby tubs after all. Not even 6qt size, they’re the size below that. I was just wondering if their material(whatever it is) would be safe with the heat. Yes, my intention is to spend as little as possible, as I don’t have $600 or $700+ to spend on a premade brand new hatchling rack. But I do want it to be safe. Plus I feel like it’d be easier to monitor some heat mats vs heat tape/cord for things going wrong like warping, melting, etc.


Yes, the thermostats that have 2, 4 and 6 probes have matching 2, 4 and 6 outlets for the heating devices. It’s exactly what you think it is. It’s one physical device that can independently regulate the temps for multiple heating elements. The high end ones that the pros use are brands like Herpstat, Vivarium Electronics and Freedom Breeder. But those are going to be outside of your price range and probably overkill for your wattage.

I see the exact Vivosun 3” x 20” on Amazon for $26 and it comes with a thermostat. One of those per shelf is what I think you need. I would buy just one and fully test it out with bookcase, tubs, substrate, water bowls, everything but the snake to make sure it’ll work before buying more for the remaining shelves. And if the shelf is not solid, I like the idea of a thin wood sheet between the shelf and the heat mat to deflect the heat up into the tubs as much as possible. “Snake Discovery” on YouTube used to use “Jump Start” cheap thermostats when they were starting out and they had good results. I believe I’ve seen other YouTubers use that brand too.

Both of your setups would work. The thermostats that control more than two heating elements are the expensive ones listed above. The cheaper brand ones usually control a maximum of two heating elements.

I think a wood shelf would be safer than a plastic one WRT the heat. But then again the tubs are plastic, and thin plastic at that. The tubs that Vision and Freedom Breeder make are specifically made to withstand the heating element. I don’t know if run of the mill tubs are. They may melt, warp, burn or off gas toxic fumes. Now I’M worried. Well, it’s probably safe as you’re using a thermostat.

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I use your option #1 and use BN-LINK ones from Amazon, about $20 and use heat cable on some and heat mats on others and heat tape on a rack that already had it pre-installed. No issues with melting or anything. Then plugged into power strips.

I use a seedling mat with one of my snakes. It definitely needs a thermostat. Mine will easily get up to 120F without it. So yeah, definitely use a thermostat. Honestly, I’d suggest using a thermostat even if it doesn’t get that hot. Just seems safer.

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I’ve used this thermostat that can operate two heating elements at a time (two orobes and two outlets, each can be set separately). Inexpensive and gets the job done. Just be aware that it’s on/off and doesn’t have the safety features of some higher-end units, so be sure you set the temp ranges correctly. But it’s probably the best deal per heating element that I’ve found. Amazon.com


Can I ask what type of seedling mat you use? I’ve been searching all day and every time I think I have a winner I find the one review that makes me say no to it…“it caught fire/almost caught fire”, especially since those reviews are all within the last year. I also appreciate the suggestion of thermostat you use, but I don’t know if it will work for me. I’m glad your’s works for you and I hope it continues, but it sounds like a recent batch had a lot with issues. And even though it sounds like customer service does well to resolve the problems I don’t think it’s a risk I want to take.:slightly_smiling_face:


Not to make things more complicated for you, but there are basically three types of thermostats. I think all the high end brands (Herpstat, Vivarium Electronics, Freedom Breeder, etc.) are all pulse proportional. So there’s another valid reason they cost more than the simple on/off type.


You will see all kind of reviews for everything out there. When it comes to the mats catching fire, you need to remember that you will be using a thermostat. Some if not all of the reviews was probably not using one and possibly using it turned up all hlthe way. For the little amount of heat it will be putting out (and regulated) fire should not be an issue.

I have used tubs with different heat source without any issues. I mostly used Ezy Storage from target. No chemical burn off, no melting, no problems. You need to remember that you are only using heat at around 90°. Not hot enough to melt anything but chocolate.

You can do a 5 shelf setup for under $300
Amazon/lowes/home depo Shelve $77 - $200
Target Ezy storage Bins under $10 each
The bean farm Heat tape under $3 a foot
Amazon Small cheap thermostat for under $20 each

I have used this same setup (before going the professional rout) for snakes and rats without any issues.


I think the one I used was the Vivosun brand. I attached it with heat-resistant foil tape, since seedling mats don’t have the adhesive side that reptile mats do. It’s also worth noting that I only used it for about six months. When one of my snakes was a baby, I used cheap equipment (seedling mats, cheap thermostat, Rubbermaid latching bins) for her baby/juvie setups, and then splurged on nice stuff for her adult enclosure, so now I’m using a deep heat projector, heat tape and a Herpstat thermostat. (And I’m using a reptile UTH with my other snake).

As @d_y_python said, you’re going to find horror stories in most reviews, and most people are probably not using the seedling mats with thermostats. So long as the temperature is kept within a snake-safe range, it’s not going to catch fire or melt anything.

All I can say about the thermostat is that I used two of them for over a year with no issues (besides one minor mishap due to user-error; make sure you set the temp ranges correctly, just sayin’ :joy:). Though I agree that if a lot of people have reported problems with them recently, it’s probably better to go with something else.


Ok, so while I think I know kind of what I’m going to aim for right now, here’s another question for me to consider the answer(s) to for the long run. What is the number one cause of failure for heat tape? It’s one of those items where I know it wouldn’t be used as much as it is if it wasn’t as good as people say. Like when it works, it works very, very well and for a very long time(I feel like probably around 10yrs before even needing to think about replacing but I haven’t actually checked). The problem I have is that it seems when it fails, it fails HARD. Everything from killing animals to full house burning(which is a huge fear of mine). Is failure usually a matter of malfunction(i.e. poor connections/soldering), or not enough air flow, or what? If it’s something that I have the control over, I might feel a little more comfortable trying it out at some point. If it’s usually due to a malfunction that I can’t control, well…I don’t know.

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I feel that 95% of the time there is issues with heat tape, it’s due to a thermostat failing in the on position.

Or, heat tape being installed so that tubs are consistently rubbing the top of it and causing friction which eventually leads to exposing the elements of the heat tape, this can lead to many problems, like melting tubs or the rack it’s on.

But the vast majority of the time, thermostat failures are why heat tape fails, it’s usually not even the tape itself failing.