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Old 10-19-18, 10:53 AM   #1 (permalink)
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How to fix this temperature issue?

Sorry for the long post! I just got my first ball python on Sunday. He came from a rescue and they gave me the tank he was already in and used to (a glass enclosure with a screen lid.) I purchased a UTH (Zilla brand), a thermostat (Century T7 Heat Mat Thermostat Controller), and an infrared thermometer gun (Etekcity Lasergrip 774 Digital). I also have a traditional thermometer with a dial in there. I set the thermostat for 94 degrees Fahrenheit to accommodate the bedding (cypress mulch) and put the thermostat probe in the tank under the bedding, but when I use my temperature gun, it is only reading around 85 degrees on the hot side and 72 degrees on the colder side. How can I raise the temperature? I am afraid to turn the heat mat temp up any more because I don't want him to get burned and I read you should never turn it up beyond 95 degrees. Thanks in advance for the advice!
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Old 10-19-18, 03:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: How to fix this temperature issue?

First off, welcome to the forum and the wonderful world of snake keeping!!

First, the thermostat probe goes OUTSIDE the tank, sandwiches between the glass and the UTH. Leaving it inside can be dangerous, as it can and will be moved, peed on, etc... causing inaccurate readings and potentially dangerous heat spikes.

Second, you should be reading the actual glass surface and not the substrate because your snake will burrow and push the substrate around, which would allow the snake to rest on the actual surface.

Third, a UTH is there solely to provide a hot spot to aid in digestion and not for ambient temps. So unless the room your snake is in remains at a constant temp in the mid 80s you'll need an additional heat source. You could use a heat lamp with a bulb or a CHE (ceramic heat emitter) or a RHP (radiant heat panel). They all have pros and cons, so research them all and decide which is best for you.

Lastly, those dial style analogs thermometers are unfortunately junk. They are wildly inaccurate and can be off by as much as 15 degrees.
I suggest a digital hygrometer/thermometer combo to read temps and humidity. I use Accurite brand (as many keepers do) which can be found online or at Wal-Mart for about $10. I have 2 in each of my enclosures, one on each end.

Good luck and feel free to ask any questions you may have. We're happy to help.
Also, read, read, read and read some more. The more we know about or pets the better we can care for them.
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Old 10-19-18, 06:31 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: How to fix this temperature issue?

Thank you for your answer! I moved the probe outside of the tank and I am going to buy two of those digital thermometers that you mentioned! I did purchase an Exo Terra Night Heat Lamp 75 watt (I got the night one since the room he is in has natural light and I only needed the lamp to help the ambient temp.) Should I get another thermostat for the heat lamp to make sure it turns off once it gets to a certain point so he doesn’t get too hot? I read that a rheostat may be better for that. Will the lamp get too hot if left on without a thermostat/rheostat?
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Old 10-19-18, 08:47 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: How to fix this temperature issue?

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Originally Posted by Tbs1417 View Post
Thank you for your answer! I moved the probe outside of the tank and I am going to buy two of those digital thermometers that you mentioned! I did purchase an Exo Terra Night Heat Lamp 75 watt (I got the night one since the room he is in has natural light and I only needed the lamp to help the ambient temp.) Should I get another thermostat for the heat lamp to make sure it turns off once it gets to a certain point so he doesn’t get too hot? I read that a rheostat may be better for that. Will the lamp get too hot if left on without a thermostat/rheostat?
You're very welcome, happy to help.

I personally have never used a rheostat, but know plenty of people who do or have in the past with success.
The lamp can get too hot of unregulated, but I doubt a 75 watt will. But it is still strongly advised to regulate all heat sources.
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Old 10-20-18, 04:32 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: How to fix this temperature issue?

I'm not entirely sure if you need to heat the cool side for a ball python or if a CHE and other bulbs are a good option but I do use CHE, sometimes infrared incandescents (dark night bulbs), and for daytime heat increases halogen bulbs so I have put them on a variety of sizes of enclosures. Including starting with all screen top aquariums and their problems. As I upgrade my growing snakes nothing is staying a screen top except the low humidity rosy boas that are ideal closer to 30% humidity so I haven't setup bigger than various 40gallon shapes.

Whether the heat lamp gets too hot depends how hot it's making the enclosure and how much the room temp could fluctuate. I wouldn't think you'd need 75w of supplemental heat on the cool side when starting in the 70s. A thermostat is never a bad idea anyway and necessary in most situations for safety. My oversized enclosures with species that are fine with a cool side at room temp and a very stable 68F room temp I can often just adjust wattage with not really any more risk of it truly overheating than a thermostat failing. When aiming for a more even temp across the enclosure, a species that doesn't handle as much of a gradient or is sensitive to small fluctuations, not enough space for a good gradient, or an unstable room temp you'd have much more risk of running into a problem.

I find brand of CHE makes a huge difference if you ever use them instead. I have some 25w bulbs that run hotter than 75w of another brand. The various incandescents don't seem to vary as much but I can generally use 50-75w by itself for a hot side of ~80F in up to 40gallon aquarium sizes. If for no other reason than the annoyance of trying to find the right bulb for the right temp I am pricing thermostats for any of my heat sources that don't already have them.

A screen top tank is likely to have humidity issues for a ball python and adding a top heat source will make it worse. I have been redoing all of mine with corrugated plastic (coroplast) or enamel waterproofed plywood lids. The coro can be easily cut to fit an existing aquarium lid frame with a gap for an external top heat reflector, light source, or just vents if you install everything inside the enclosure. My 2 sealed plywood lids so far have the CHE in complete wire guards in the enclosure screwed under a vent that also allows the cord out and also have vents on the cool side covered in screen door mesh. In larger enclosures an RHP is preferable and would reduce humidity loss some but I find few narrow enough for most aquarium sizes and considerably higher costly. Easier and cheaper to stick an agptek fog maker in a plastic container somewhere in the enclosure to humidify against a bulb heat source, which I've done with one tank, or DIY a stronger ultrasonic fogger. There are youtube vids of using agptek's fountain mister/fog makers that range around $7-$10 on somewhere like amazon.
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