Unless you’re very lucky, your heat lamp or other heat source will probably not keep your box turtle’s habitat at the right temperature without a little help. The Zoo Med ReptiTemp Rheostat is a simple, economical solution. Just a quick turn of the dial increases or decreases the amount of heat coming out of the heater. And that increases or decreases the temperature in the habitat.
It can control a lot of different heaters, including heated rocks. In fact, if you want to use a heated rock, you need a rheostat to make sure it doesn’t get too hot and burn your pet. (Although we personally don’t trust the safety of heated rocks, even when attached to rheostats … but that’s a different issue/review!).
Zoo Med guarantees the product for one year (as long as you don’t get it wet).
Keep reading for more about the ReptiTemp Rheostat:
How it Works
A rheostat works just like a dimmer switch on a light. Just like turning down a dimmer causes less light to come out of a bulb, turning down a rheostat causes less heat to come out of your heating device. If your heating device is a light-emitting bulb, it will also give off less light.
It doesn’t adjust itself according to the temperature. So if the temperature in your room drops, so will the temperature in your habitat. This can actually be very useful to allow for a natural temperature drop at night without you having to do or set up anything extra. Assuming, of course, the temperature in your home also drops at night.
A rheostat can’t make your heater hotter than it would be when used without the rheostat either. It can only make it less hot. When we say you can increase the amount of power going to your heater, we only mean in comparison to the reduced level you set earlier. Once you have it at 100% power, you can’t turn it any higher (and you might as well have it plugged right into the wall).
What Kinds of Heaters Can It Control
You can use a rheostat with any heat source that does not require a dedicated line voltage. Zoo Med says it is ideal for use with several of their products, including:
You can plug in two of the same kind of heaters at once (so two bulbs or two heat mats, but not one bulb and one heat mat). The combined power of the two devices has to be 150 watts or less.
Setting it Up
Set-up is simple but can take a bit of time. Make sure you have a thermometer in the habitat to measure the temperature (or use a digital handheld temperature gun, like the ReptiTemp Digital IR Thermometer). Set the rheostat dial to the lowest setting and plug it into the wall. Then plug one or two heaters (remember they have to be the same kind) into the rheostat. Wait for the devices to heat up (expect about a half hour for a bulb) and check the temperature in the habitat. If it’s too cold, increase to medium setting. Wait and check. Adjust the dial up or down as needed. Repeat until the temperature is right.
Although the dial looks like it only has the three settings (low, med, high), it is a variable control device that will change smoothly from low to high. The low/med/high designations are just to give you an idea of how high or low you’ve set it. If it’s too high at med but too low at low, then set it somewhere in between.
Things to Remember About the ReptiTemp Rheostat
Although this rheostat can make your life easier, and your boxie’s life more comfortable (and even safer), it doesn’t work miracles. You do need to make sure you’re using it the right way and with the right heaters.
You can’t use it to control mercury vapor or most fluorescent bulbs, like ReptiSun or Power Sun UV bulbs. Those kinds of bulbs have to be plugged directly into the wall.
Even with a rheostat, you do need to pay attention to the wattage of the heater you buy. Remember:
- It won’t increase heat production from a heater that’s too weak to heat your habitat. If a 25 watt bulb won’t raise the temperature in your habitat when plugged directly into the wall, it won’t do any better plugged into a rheostat
- If your heater is too strong (i.e. puts out way to much heat for your habitat), the rheostat may not be able to lower the heat output enough to avoid overheating your habitat.
Because it’s always putting out the same amount of heat, it’s best to use this device in a room where the temperatures stay relatively stable. That way the habitat temperature also stays relatively stable. A small temperature drop at night is ok, and even desirable.
Pros and Cons
Many reptile keepers much prefer a thermostat over a rheostat, because a rheostat is “dumb” and only cares about the amount of power going to the device, not the temperature in the habitat. But if your room temperature is consistent and you’re careful not to accidentally change the setting, this should not be a problem.
- Always on, so it can provide a consistent amount of heat without you doing anything after setting it
- Easy to set up
- Easy to use
- Reliable and durable. Can last for years with just a little care.
- It doesn’t respond to temperature changes, so if your room temperature is variable, the habitat temperature will be too.
- Easy to bump and change the setting (or for pets to play with it and change the setting)
- You need a separate thermometer to monitor the temperature in the habitat
You’ll need to decide for yourself if the pros outweigh the cons, based on your own setup and needs.
Check Prices and Availability of the Zoo Med ReptiTemp Rheostat
Ready to set up a (mostly) hands-off heating system for your box turtle? Here are a few places to start shopping.
As of this writing all three of these shops had this rheostat in stock:
- EntirelyPetsoffers low flat-rate shipping no matter your total order size
- Amazon only had a few left, but more were on the way
- The sale price at That Pet Place was the lowest of the three
You may also want to browse these options: