Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
  Issue 1 Vol 8 February 2012
How to make your own Heat Mats for Reptile Cages In this Issue

It is a satisfying excercise to make your own heats mats for your reptile cages. One of the best and most commonly used mating is Flexwat. This comes in a range of sizes. Most commonly used would be the 11" matting. You should aim to heat roughly 2/3rd of the length your reptiles cage with the heat mat.

Wiring a Flexwatt mat is quite a straightforward process. There are a number of choices as to how you do this. The heat mats can be inserted directly into the cage under newspaper or substrates, or under the cage.

You can purchase pre-made wiring and special connectors (more expensive) or you can make you own using power cords and soldering your connections.

The first thing you need to do is prepare the wire to be connected to the Flexwatt mat.

Cut the female end of the wire off and strip back the outer casing so that the two inner wires are revealed to a length of about 10'' - 12'' (for 11'' Flexwatt) or nearly of the width of the Flexwatt mat.

Now strip about 1'' of the wire coating from the end to reveal the bare wires.

These wires should be twisted and then bent over double if you are using metal connectors.

If you are soldering the wire to the mat you should have 1/2''-3/4'' stripped for soldering the wire to the heat mat.

Cut your Flexwatt mat to size using a sharp knife and a ruler or a pair of scissors.

Try to cut along the clear section of the Flexwatt heat tape. Now tape both sides of one end of the Flexwatt mat to insulate the exposed metal conducting strips.

You can wire your heat mat up once the wire is inserted into the cage or you can do it after you have attached the heat mat. If you choose to do it after, cut the male plug from the wire and attach a new male plug that can be rewired and attached and detached as required. That way you can remove the heat mat by removing the male plug and pulling the wire through. Similarly, putting the mat back is a matter of threading the wires through the small hole and re-attaching the male plug.

The wiring should be attached at either side of one end of the Flexwatt tape so that both metal strips have a connector attached or soldered wire at one end and some tape covering the other end.

The commercial metal heat mat connectors are simply folded over the top of the metal strip and closed tightly with either pliers or a light tap with a hammer to make contact

I prefer to use solder as it gives a better connection that will continue to conduct and not move and lose connection and hence power to the mat over time. You will need to remove the plastic coating on the heat mat over the top of the metal strips and solder the wire from the power cord to each side of the heat mat.

Once finished, cover your connections with tape.

Below is a picture of the completed mat, ready to be plugged in to a thermostat.

Flexwatt Heat mat for reptile enclosure

The final step is connecting your heat mat to the thermostat or dimmer switch. If you have a probe thermostat you will need to insert the temperature probe into the cage or next to the heat mat.

NOTE: These heat mats MUST be used in conjunction with a THERMOSTAT or dimmer switch.

For further step by step instructions with full color photgraphs and loads of tips and tricks go to and purchase How to Build Reptile Cages and get all of the bonuses including "How to make Heat Mats for Reptile Cages"

  1. How to make your own Heat Mats for Reptile Cages
  2. Your Snake's Substrate
  3. Get Paid to write an article
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ReptiTemp 500R

Your Snake's Substrate

by Ed Ferrer

Reprinted from The Monitor, the newsletter of the Hoosier Herpetological Society, Vol.16, No.2, February 2005.

Beginning herp hobbyists often ask me what type of substrate or ground medium should be used for their snake terrarium. Today there are many options from which a "herper" can choose. It is a matter of what type of set up is preferred. Some people would like to design a naturalistic show cage while others are looking for a simple cage. It also depends somewhat on the type of snake that is being housed. For example, sand boas need to have a sand type of substrate so they can burrow.

When I first started my hobby over twenty years ago I wanted to have naturalistic caging because I kept them in my science class and I wanted them to look as natural as possible. One of my prize specimens, a scarlet king snake, Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides, was set up in a naturalistic cage. However, it would always burrow down deep under the brown, cocoa shell medium and I would never be able to see it or check on it. I'm sure it was very secure but it was hard to feed it and it was a shame to have such a beautiful, multi-colored snake practically invisible to my students. I eventually traded it for a less secretive snake.

Snakes are often housed on pine shavings. This is a serviceable, naturalistic substrate. Snakes like to burrow into it, but they are usually still visible, and it is easy to clean up by just scooping the snake's feces and the surrounding shavings. However, I would not feed my snake in that container because the snake might ingest some shaving along with the rodent. I learned this a long time ago when my Sinaloan milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum sinaloae, stopped feeding. When I took it to the vet after about three weeks of not feeding and we found that it had a small piece of shaving wedged in the side of its mouth that prevented it from opening and swallowing. It was quickly dislodged and I just had to remember to take it out of the cage and put it in another container for feeding.

There are many sand substrate products that are advertised as a good source of calcium if ingested. However, my veterinarian cautioned me that even these sand products could become impacted in the digestive tract if swallowed by the snake. So I stopped using this product. I also used an indoor-outdoor carpet, but I stopped using it after I found it was difficult to clean. Shredded bark can be used. It looks natural, smells good, and is easily replaced. It should be thoroughly rinsed to remove any dust. Alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) is also an option. It also smells good, is inexpensive and is easy to clean.

After experimenting with several different substrata, I have decided to use newspaper in all my cages except one. Although it doesn't look very eye appealing, it is easy to clean and is readily available around my house, and many of my snakes like to hide under it. Since I have a large collection this seems to work best for me. The one exception is my green tree python. I use cypress mulch in the floor of its enclosure because it helps to hold humidity. Choosing a substrate is largely a matter of taste for the hobbyist, depending on intent of the "herper". With a little research the hobbyist should be able to make a good choice for his pet.


There are other products on the market now, such as specific products like Coco Fibre, Reptabed, Aspen bedding and Crushed Walnut Shell. There are also less expensive alternatives, such as cat litter made from recylced paper. Many of these are functional and work well, but there's little that can beat newspaper for convenience and cost.

Healthy Habitat - 1 gallonHealthy Habitat - 1 gallon

Natural Chemistry's Healthy Habitat is specifically formulated to effectively eliminate odors and soiling caused by organic animal and food waste.

For use in any pet habitat, glass and other surfaces within habitat ie: heat rocks, gravel, artificial plants etc.  Safe for use on all strong animal/reptile odor sources and stains, can even be used when pet is in it's habitat!

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Enzyme Technology
Natural Chemistry’s products are inspired by processes that occur in the natural world. Our patented technology uses trillions of natural enzymes and co-enzymes to break down undesirable organic materials safely and effectively...resulting in a healthier pet environment.

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Keeping Reptiles will pay you to write and article. Ideally it will be 500-1500 words. These can be care sheets, funny stories, herp hunting trips, hints and tips or anything herp related.

Payment will be based on the number of words and published at editors discretion.

Apologies & Tell Us What You Think!!

Reptile-cage-plans apologises for the dealy in the newsletter this year. The mail server went down with all of the subscribers and purchaser email addresses and it took some time to recover this data. The backup subscriber files were also sadly missing in action.

We would love to hear what you think of this (or any other) issue of Keeping Reptiles.

And of course, if you have any suggestions, photos, links, care sheets or whatever for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those, too!

These could also include:

  • Great herp web-sites
  • Why you pet reptile is fantastic
  • Funny things that happened
  • Dumb**s things that happened
  • Images you'd like to share.

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans

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