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Does A Heat Pad Work On The Side Of A Tank?

As more and more people start keeping pet reptiles and amphibians that require their vivarium and tanks to be maintained at a steady temperature, the popularity of using heat mats is also on the rise.

Heat pads and heat mats are not suitable for all types of reptiles and amphibians but they can be a budget friendly for others.

One question that we have noticed people asking is if they are able to use a heat pad on the side of their tank and if it affects the performance of their heat pad.

You can use a heat pad on the side of a vivarium tank with minimal heat loss in many situations with it actually being beneficial to have the heat pad on the side of the tank rather than the base of the tank in some situations.

This is usually due to having plant roots or a burrowing animal in the tank that may become hurt if they heat pad it at the base of the tank forcing you to use the side.

There is also various disadvantages of using a heating pad on the side of a vivarium tank due to heat propagation being affected and it is difficult to calculate exactly how much of the heat propagation is lost.

Depending on the calculation used, you can come up with numbers of 50-90% head dissipated so it is far from accurate and may present a risk to your pet.

Can You Put A Heating Pad On The Side Of A Tank?

You can put a heating pad on the side of your vivarium tank and although it will affect how much heat is provided to the tank, it can also be beneficial in some situations.

Cheaper heating pads tend to be the problematic ones when used on the side of a tank due to having spotty heat output anyway but the higher price point heating pads can work fine.

If you are planning on using this method to heat your vivarium tank then you should monitor the heat levels in your tank more closely than if you were using a heating lamp.

Not only do heating pads have a controversial reputation anyway, there are a number of additional variables that you have to factor in to try and work out how much heat will actually be provided when your pad is on the side of the tank.

For example, the heat transference of glass and plastic are totally different so the material that your vivarium is made from will come into play.

The efficiency of your heat pad also comes into play and it can cause a number of problems if you go with a cheaper option as they tend to be not worth the risk.

The final variable is if you are able to keep your heat pad surface to surface with the surface of your tank and this is more difficult than more people think as the less surface to surface contact the least heat is transferred.

Are There Advantages Of Having The Heat Pad On The Side Of A Tank?

Having your heating pad on the side of your vivarium offers a number of advantages ranging from it being more cost-effective to heat multiple vivariums in certain situations to being able to offer a hot and cooler area of the tank easily.

There are also health advantages for some pets as a heating pad on the side of the tank reduces the chance of burrowing species from burning themselves if they burrow into your tank’s substrate with a heating pad on the base of the tank.

Planted vivarium are very popular options right now and a large number of people who keep reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids are also keeping a various types of live plants in their tanks too.

The roots of these plants can end up burnt and damaged if your heating pad is on the base of the tank so having it to the side can help to reduce these problems and ensure that all of your plants are healthy.

Although many people new to keeping vivarium do choose to try and heat multiple vivariums with the same heat mat and it can work, we usually don’t recommend that you even try this if you are new.

It is very difficult to correctly heat multiple vivariums with a single mat and you really do have to strictly monitor your vivarium temperature to check for dips that may present a risk to your pet.

How Do You Attach A Heat Mat To The Side Of A Tank?

There are a number of ways that you are able to stick your heat pad to the side of your vivarium with mounting squares being one of the more common methods for standard heating mats.

Some of the more expensive heating mats on the market come with adhesive points on the mat that allow you to stick it onto the side of your tank as required.

If you do choose to use the mounting squares method then be sure to put some double sides mounting squares on the center of the mat rather than just on the four corners.

This will ensure that there is plenty of contact for the mat and the vivarium to transfer a good chunk of heat into the tank for your pet but again, heat levels should still be monitored.

We have seen some people use super glue too and this can work well but you should usually stick to focusing on having as much surface to surface contact between the heat mat and your vivarium as possible.

Some people just use regular sticky tape but this is too unreliable and the heat can cause the sticky tape to let the mat fall off the tank so we would recommend that you just go with a different method if possible as there are plenty of alternatives.


That brings us to the end of our article going over how to use a heat pad on the side of a tank and we hope that we have been able to help you. There are risks to putting a heat pad on the side your vivarium but as we have covered throughout the article, there are also a number of advantages so it definitely is a trade off but you do still have to be careful when using this method to heat your tank.