Rocks and trees―even the ground itself―reradiates the thermal energy captured/stored from sunlight to provide life-giving heat to all living organisms around them. The humble and plain ceramic heat emitter can provide great environmental heating without any light, mimicking how most objects in a leopard gecko’s natural environment transmit far-infrared radiation, which is present and felt even at night.
As such, our team here at Reptile Hero has reached out to and worked in collaboration with numerous keepers and experts to give you a list of ceramic heat emitters that deliver on their promises. Our recommendations are based on years worth of combined usage experience with the following products.
From our in-depth review, the best ceramic heat emitter for leopard geckos is Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter.
However, two other products we have tested come close in terms of overall quality and price range. One is a good high-powered ceramic bulb that’s perfect for keeping ambient temperatures warm enough in large enclosures. Meanwhile, the other dark lamp is a low-powered one that will emit enough thermal radiation to keep your leopard gecko feeling cozy even on cold winter nights when there’s a blackout.
Well then, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this ceramic heater review and buying guide!
Our Top 3 Best Ceramic Heat Emitters for Leopard Geckos
Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter – Best Overall
Compared to all other ceramic heat emitters produced and sold by big reptile supplies companies, the ones from Fluker’s are one of the few that actually offer great quality and a long life span that you can readily buy without having to break the bank.
|Power Rating||60 watts|
Details of Product Quality
- With a price tag of only a little over 10 dollars, you will get a sturdy ceramic heat emitter that is perfect for all-day and nighttime heating. Compared to other well-known competitor products, this is a much more reasonable price.
- This bulb has a power rating of 60 watts so a single unit can be used in small and medium tanks, while a cluster of two or more could also be used in huge tanks.
- A life span of 25000 is equivalent to approximately 6 years of half-day use and 3 of whole-day full-power operation. So when used with the appropriate thermostat and timer, this can last you 7 up to 10 years in total.
- Because of its high operating temperature, it must never be too close to glass and plastic―these will crack and melt. Keep that in mind when installing the unit in glass and PVC enclosures.
Zacro Reptile Heat Lamp (Ceramic) – Best Package Deal
If you quickly search for ceramic heat emitter package deals on the internet, you will most likely be met with numerous options but they almost always have bad reviews. That is not the case with this ceramic heater package deal from Zacro!
|Power Rating||100 watts|
|Life Span||20000 hours|
Details of Product Quality
- Coming up to over a dozen dollars (check here for the current price on Amazon) you get two bulbs and one digital thermometer with a probe plus a battery―the best value for your money. The thermometer is of great quality and gives accurate temperature readings to help you better monitor your enclosure temperatures.
- Having a power rating of 100W, this is considered a mid-range ceramic heat emitter which is excellent for boosting ambient temperatures and maintaining a good thermal gradient in enclosures that are over 30 gallons. However, this cannot be used for 20-gallon hospital tanks.
- In comparison to the first CHE, this heat lamp has a shorter life span of 20000 hours but it still falls within the above-average range so you can use these for years.
- Although there are a few reports of defective or broken products received upon delivery, the customer’s service was quite proactive, immediately offering replacements and/or refunds.
Wuhostam Infrared Ceramic Heat Lamp – Best for Backup Heating
As much as long life is preferred when choosing infrared ceramic heat lamps, a unit that has a life span that falls on the lower end of the average range will still do wonders for backup heating―just like this 50W ceramic heater from Wuhostam.
|Power Rating||50 watts|
|Life Span||12,000 hours|
Details of Product Quality
- Going just a bit above 10 bucks for two dark lamps, this ceramic heater is cheap but durable and is the perfect ceramic heat lamp for you to store as a backup heating option―especially when the primary heat lamp you have usually dies within a couple of months only.
- With a power rating of only 50 watts, this ceramic dark emitter is perfect for temporary hospital and emergency tank set-ups. But for much larger permanent set-ups, this will not be enough to efficiently raise enclosure temperatures.
- The lifespan of this ceramic heater is only 12000 hours, however, this is still considerably long-lasting compared to most heat-and-light lamps. More specifically, this will give you over 1 year of 24/7 heating and almost 3 years of nighttime only heating at full power―which means it can service your leopard gecko for years if only used temporarily while on a thermostat.
How to Choose the Right Ceramic Heater for a Leopard Gecko
Most leopard gecko keepers who have had problems with raising the ambient temperature in their pet’s tank greatly benefited from using one or two ceramic heat emitters. However, one can only reap such benefits if they can choose the correct bulb for their set-up. So what makes a ceramic infrared bulb perfect for your leo’s setup?
As a general rule, a leopard gecko owner must consider 3 main factors when choosing the right ceramic heat emitter for their pet. These factors are as follows:
- Overall Design
- Power Rating
- Life Span
Having poor quality materials is only one of the common causes of quick ceramic heater burning out. So what should a keeper do and avoid doing to prolong a bulb’s life span? Continue reading to find out!
Ceramic Heater for Leopard Geckos: 3 Features To Check
Pet parents to leopard geckos tend to disregard the usefulness of ceramic infrared radiators―more commonly known as ceramic heat emitters (CHEs)―when they discover newer and better heating sources. This is not a problem per se, however, the humble ceramic heater can prove to be an indispensable heating source during freezing winter nights and emergencies. You just need to find one that fits your circumstances and needs!
#1 – Overall Design
Ceramic heat emitters have two main designs: panels and bulbs. However, bulb-type ceramic radiators are more commonly recommended for use in animal keeping and breeding.
If you are part of any animal husbandry social media groups and forums like all of our members at Reptile Hero, you would probably picture a weird-looking shiny light bulb that does not emit any light when you think of the term ceramic heat emitter. These usually only come in two colors, black or white.
However, if you dig in a little deeper, you will discover that there is another type of ceramic heat emitter. These lesser-known ceramic infrared radiating panels are typically rectangular or square and sold in sets which are then assembled into one big housing for better and more even heat transmission. Some units are flat, others are curved.
The ceramic radiant panels may sound great for our lovely soft-scaled leos, but it is quite the opposite. Ceramic infrared panels are conventionally built for large-scale commercial applications (e.g., factories) and are typically overpowered for reptile-keeping. A single panel could have a wattage rating of anything between 100 to 1800, operating at extremely high temperatures of up to 1292°F (700°C). Imagine placing that in your baby’s vivarium―it will get cooked alive!
Besides all that, ceramic infrared panels have spade terminals whereas ceramic heat-emitting bulbs predominantly have a standard Edison screw base which is compatible with most lighting and heating fixtures and fittings (e.g., reflector dome, lamp holder). To be more specific, that’s E26 in North America and E27 in Europe but these are interchangeable since their difference is negligible.
So you don’t have to be an expert in electrical engineering to figure out how to properly install a ceramic infrared bulb in your leopard gecko’s tank. Mounting a ceramic bulb would be no different with
Are Flat-Faced Ceramic Heater Bulbs Better Than Cone or Dome Types?
Despite some claims that flat-faced bulb-type ceramic heaters are better and more durable than cone or dome-shaped bulb-type units, there is no significant evidence that supports this assertion.
Remember, nichrome is highly resistant to corrosion. The nichrome heating element in a ceramic infrared bulb produces its own protective coating of chromium-oxide after being connected to a power source.
So even though there is more hollow space for air within the ceramic casing of dome-shaped bulbs compared to flat-faced bulbs, it does not affect the life span nor heating efficiency of the ceramic infrared emitter.
Furthermore, since both bulb types have a relatively flat surface profile, flat-faced and dome-shaped radiators produce an equally even spread of infrared-C radiation.
#2 – Power Rating (+ 3 Factors to Keep in Mind)
Bulb-type ceramic dark radiators for reptiles like leopard geckos have an average power rating ranging from 25 to 250 watts. To select the ceramic infrared bulb appropriate for the owner’s pet leopard gecko, the following variables must be taken into account:
- Enclosure size
- Overall tank design
- Ambient temperature
As a whole, the size and capacity of a leopard gecko’s tank are directly proportional to the necessary power rating of a ceramic heat emitter that will be used.
More often than not, pet parents of leopard geckos make the mistake of buying a ceramic heat emitter that is either too weak or too strong for their pet’s enclosure―buying a 40W CHE for a 120-gallon tank or a 100W bulb for a 20-gallon. Such negative first experiences greatly affect their overall impression of ceramic heat emitters as a result.
However, if they seriously think about the actual size of their leopard gecko’s tank, they will realize that smaller tanks would need ceramic bulbs with lower power ratings while bigger tanks would require emitters with higher power ratings.
Please refer to the table below for a more detailed look at our recommendations for CHE power ratings in relation to your leopard gecko’s tank:
|Internal Tank Capacity (gallons)||Ceramic Heat Emitter Power Rating (watts)|
Just a few pieces of advice though: Start on the lower end of the suggested power rating range as a safety precaution. In addition, having two or more ceramic dark emitter bulbs with low and/or moderate wattage is far better than having a single overpowered unit.
Overall Tank Design
Lower wattage ceramic radiators are suitable for leopard gecko tanks made with good insulating materials (e.g., wood and polyvinyl chloride or PVC). Conversely, higher wattage emitters are needed in tanks with poor insulating materials (e.g., glass). Moreover, tanks with screened ceilings require higher-powered CHEs compared to tanks with fully paneled ceilings.
The insulating ability of the primary material used for an enclosure is inversely proportional to the power rating of the ceramic infrared radiator needed.
Wood is regarded as the best in terms of thermal insulation. PVC comes in at a close second. However, glass lags far behind with the worst thermal insulating capability among the three most common materials used for vivarium building.
How to choose a ceramic heater based on the tank material? Practical example:
To help you understand this better, let’s consider three 40-gallon breeder tanks with the same dimensions and design but made with the three aforementioned primary materials. A 60W ceramic heat emitter will be more than enough in a wooden enclosure, a 75W would do well in a PVC vivarium, and a 100W may be necessary for a glass tank.
Besides the primary material of your leopard gecko’s enclosure, whether or not it has a panel or screen ceiling matters as well. As you may remember from your elementary science class, warm air ordinarily moves up while cool air moves down.
In a fully enclosed tank―with some ventilation holes, of course―the air warmed by a CHE will remain fairly contained within the space. But in another enclosure designed with a steel screen lid, warm air will escape through the gaps more easily and internal temperatures are more likely to fluctuate.
To solve the latter issue, you will need to get a more powerful unit or get a few more bulbs of the same power.
In order to determine the appropriate wattage of a ceramic infrared emitter one must use in their pet leopard gecko’s tank, one must consider the average ambient temperatures in the area. Leopard geckos kept in places where it is cold all year round will need considerably high-powered CHEs unlike those kept in warmer regions.
Many may think that this factor is pretty much common sense, however, I have met quite a few newbie leopard gecko keepers throughout the years who have failed to take this into account as they already feel overwhelmed with everything needed for proper husbandry.
Because although leos are considered one of the easiest reptiles to look after, some of the things they need in captivity are hard to fully grasp and practice. Case in point, many hobbyists are still not familiar with proper heating standards and equipment such as ceramic radiators. As a result, CHEs are misused and never used again―even though there is nothing wrong with the unit, the wattage simply wasn’t suitable for their specific situations.
People also seem to forget that ambient temperatures should have more influence on their choices than tank size and design alone.
For example, an old acquaintance of mine from Canada once told me that ceramic emitters were just a waste of money, and shady manufacturers simply continuously ripped off their customers by selling the units.
When I asked him why he thought this way, he said that the 50W CHE he had wasn’t doing anything for his leo’s 40-gallon tank―which was made almost entirely of glass, except for the screen top. When I asked why he picked up a 50W instead of a 75W or 100W, he replied that his friend in Florida said a 60W was enough for his own leopard gecko’s 60-gallon PVC tank.
After talking with him for a few more minutes, he finally realized how drastically different the climate was between the two. So he went and bought a pair of 75W ceramic dark emitters and was able to raise and maintain an ideal thermal gradient within his baby’s enclosure.
#3 – Life Span
On average, the life span of a ceramic infrared emitter bulb is 10000 to 25000 hours of continuous operation at full power.
The number one thing I love about ceramic heat emitters is that they have a very long life span compared to most other light-emitting heat bulbs available in the market.
Even a 40W ceramic bulb with only a 10000-hour can easily last you years of use since you could use it during a power outage. When the temperature inside your leopard gecko’s original enclosure starts to drop below 70°F (21°C), you can temporarily transfer your leo to a small 20-gallon hospital tank and keep her warm by plugging the CHE into a power bank.
Sadly, some bulbs don’t last as long as declared by the manufacturers. A ceramic dark emitter may have a life span that is much shorter than expected because of three things:
- Bad quality of the product itself
- Poor packaging and handling during delivery
- User error during installation and/or utilization
However, I would say that the aforementioned factors that shorten a CHE’s life are generally easy to avoid by simply buying from a legitimate and trustworthy store and proper installation.
4 Practical Tips to Prolong the Life Span of a Ceramic Heater
Follow the following recommendations to ensure that your ceramic heat-emitting bulb lasts as long, if not longer than the average rated life span declared by the manufacturer.
#1 – Provide Proper Heat Regulation
Never use an on/off thermostat as the sole heat regulator because the constant and abrupt switching of a ceramic heater from on and off―and vice versa―will lead to premature burnout. Pulse-proportional and dimming thermostats are better options.
#2 ‒ Keep Away From Liquids
Do not directly mist the dark heater bulb with water while it is still in operation or directly after turning it off, especially if it is cold. The abrupt change of temperature will lead to thermal shock and cause your heater to crack and break.
#3 ‒ Dust it off Regularly
Make sure to regularly clean your ceramic dark emitter to prevent material build-up on the surface. Always remember to unplug it first and let it cool down for at least one full hour before handling it directly to prevent burns.
#4 ‒ Ensure Proper Base Connection
Some ceramic infrared bulbs only last a fraction of their promised life span because they were not properly and securely screwed into the holder. Before fitting the bulb into the fixture, make sure that the silver or brass tongue in the socket is raised by at least a 30° angle so that it touches the emitter’s base flatly and completely.
What happens when a ceramic heat emitter finally burns or dies out?
Once a ceramic heat-emitting bulb finally dies out, it will simply no longer put out thermal radiation. It will not noticeably deteriorate unless there is another defective component (e.g., chipped enamel coating). As such, it is important to monitor and check your leopard gecko’s tank ambient and surface temperatures frequently.
3 Easy Steps for Ceramic Heat Emitter Installation
Although ceramic infrared bulbs have a considerably quick and effortless installation, that doesn’t mean that you can just jam a bulb straight into a socket and call it quits. There are steps to follow and safety precautions to be mindful of when setting up such heating elements.
#1 – Check
Before purchasing the necessary fixtures and fittings for your ceramic dark emitter, you must ensure that they are compatible with the emitter you have―or are still planning to buy. They should be made of materials that can handle high operating temperatures without melting or cracking. In short, no glass and plastic fixtures and accessories should be anywhere near the unit.
Take into account the maximum voltage input as well as maximum wattage load of these elements. Also, keep in mind that some units are only compatible with wire cages and not reflective hoods.
Inspect all parts of the bulb and other attachments for damages and defects, such as holes or cracks on the bulb and exposed wiring. Doing may save you, your leopard gecko, as well as your house from fire.
#2 – Assemble
Place the dark emitter by the warm side of your leo’s tank to better maintain a good thermal gradient―70-80°F (21-27°C) for cool ambient temperature and 85-90°F (29-32°C) for warm ambient temperature during the day. A nighttime drop in temperatures within the 65-75°F (18-24°C) range is ideal.
The CHE should be positioned at least one inch away from the primary heating source and must have a dark basking rock or tile within its range for proper infrared transmission.
For a screen-topped enclosure, internal and external heater installation is possible. While full-paneled tanks call for internal installation only. Carry out the following procedures in order:
- Screw the bulb tight into the ceramic socket of the fixture (cage or dome).
- Hang or mount the emitter from the ceiling for internal installation. Place the dome right on top of the steel screen lid or have it suspended from a stand.
- Plug your ceramic infrared heater into a thermostat.
- Connect the thermostat to the nearest outlet―with a timer function like this one from Amazon if your thermostat doesn’t have this built-in function.
It is advisable to have the bulb at least 12 inches (30 centimeters) from the substrate for optimal heating. Any closer would generally be considered dangerous as some leopard geckos can jump a foot from the ground.
By contrast, you will have trouble effectively warming up the enclosure by having it suspended high up outside the tank using a stand or within a much taller vivarium. The higher the ceramic bulb is mounted, the less heat will be felt by your mostly terrestrial leopard gecko.
#3 – Test
After turning on your ceramic heat emitter set-up, continue monitoring it regularly for at least one whole day―24 hours―before reintroducing your cold-bellied baby to the tank.
In general, the ceramic infrared bulb itself will get hot within the first few seconds or minutes of operation. However, it may take at least 30 minutes to 1 hour for the unit to effectively raise ambient temperatures in the vivarium by 10 to 20°F.
If you’re using a plug-in dimmer and on/off thermostat combo, you will need to spend more time and effort calibrating and adjusting the settings to achieve ideal tank temperatures.
Take note of the bulb’s operating temperatures and the difference in ambient temperatures before and after the use of a CHE, among many other things. Use a digital thermometer with a probe for accurate ambient temperature readings and an infrared thermometer gun (here on Amazon) for surface temperature readings.
Better yet, use an infrared camera attachment for your phone like this one from Amazon to get a more precise picture of how effective your leopard gecko’s heating set-up actually is.
Why is there a bad smell coming from my leopard gecko’s ceramic heat emitter?
It is quite normal for brand new ceramic heat emitters to give off a bad smell within the first hour it is turned on. This is typically due to the coating or paint and will eventually go away.
If the smell does not disappear and other abnormalities are observed (e.g., sparks, smoke), it is advisable to immediately turn off and disconnect the CHE then have it refunded and/or returned if possible.
Reach out to us!
We kept this recommendation list short and sweet to give you a more detailed review of the actual best ceramic heat emitters you can use for your leopard gecko because we strongly stand by quality over quantity.
However, if you have a suggestion of your own which you think could serve as a great contender against the three we have already shared, please message us here!
To repeat, Reptile Hero’s top 3 best ceramic heat emitters for leopard geckos are:
Find the ideal ceramic heat emitter by assessing 3 crucial factors―overall design, power rating, and life span―alongside your leopard gecko’s specific needs and tank set-up.
The Reptile Hero team together with expert members from the reptile-keeping community have found that the ceramic heat emitter from Fluker’s is the best option available for most leopard gecko owners.