Seedling heat mats

jsheffield

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I've been using seedling heat mats, designed for hydroponic systems and greenhouses to provide baseline heating for my tortoises for a couple of years, and find them to work wonderfully with my tortoises.

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I'm well aware of (and agree with) the dogmatic aversion to old-school reptile heat rocks and/or repurposed heating pads that can burn reptiles, but these seedling heating mats are designed to only heat to about 90F and all of mine are run through a thermostat, as in most cases I want to hold the enclosures to lower temperatures.

My house is often quite cold in the winter in New Hampshire, and these work remarkably well at holding the minimum temperatures I want for my tortoises' enclosures, allowing me to use CHEs or basking bulbs to bring the temps up in the "daytime".

I have some that have been in service for more than three years. I have various enclosures set at baseline temperatures of 85F, 82F, 75F, 70F, and 65F using the seedling heat mats, and have been impressed with how well they hold the temps, summer and winter. I test how they're working a few times a week with a laser thermometer.

I'm not arguing that people should use them instead of any other heating method, only that it's not dangerous for your tortoises, as has been the case in the past with heat-rocks or the heating pads designed for easing grandma's sciatica, not keeping your tortoise warm.

Jamie
 
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wellington

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Are they not as dangerous as the pig blankets if a basking bulb of some sort isnt hanging above it?
The pig blankets are really only dangerous that I know of, because tortoise bask from heat above. A heat mat will only heat from the bottom, therefore keeping the tort on the mat to long, trying to get their top warm?
I use pig blankets. Either on the side wall or if in the floor, then with a heating element above it.
 

ZenHerper

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I like the new-fangled reptile heat mats for the sides of enclosures to bump up air temps and keep bulb blasting strength down...but I'm always worried about covering mats with the weight and depth of substrate as under-warmers.

Every so often a review shows a seedling mat that has burned an element through the casing. Do the instructions indicate how much weight or depth of soil they can function under? Actual seedling pots are very shallow.

(All my current gang are burrowers. I wouldn't trust them to not sit directly over a heating element.)
 

Tom

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They should not be used because they go against a tortoises instincts, and yes, they are dangerous as evidenced by the number of annual burn cases and deaths resulting from their use under tortoises.

When a tortoise feels too warm their instinct is to dig down away from the heat source (the sun) and into the cooler earth. With a heat mat, their intstincts have them digging further down to where it is hotter, which makes them want to dig down even more to escape the heat. They are not smart enough to figure this out and many perish or get burned. The insulation effect of the substrate makes this worse and there are sometimes hot spots.

This is a totally different concept than a large Kane mat, with no substrate on it, under a large tortoise, in an outdoor night house in a temperate climate.

I'm glad this hasn't caused you a problem yet, but eventually is probably will. Not a good thing to recommend to other tortoise keepers.
 

Tim Carlisle

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They should not be used because they go against a tortoises instincts, and yes, they are dangerous as evidenced by the number of annual burn cases and deaths resulting from their use under tortoises.

When a tortoise feels too warm their instinct is to dig down away from the heat source (the sun) and into the cooler earth. With a heat mat, their intstincts have them digging further down to where it is hotter, which makes them want to dig down even more to escape the heat. They are not smart enough to figure this out and many perish or get burned. The insulation effect of the substrate makes this worse and there are sometimes hot spots.

This is a totally different concept than a large Kane mat, with no substrate on it, under a large tortoise, in an outdoor night house in a temperate climate.

I'm glad this hasn't caused you a problem yet, but eventually is probably will. Not a good thing to recommend to other tortoise keepers.
Thanks Tom. On your previous advice I've always recommended against heat mats. I knew of the possible burn/fire hazards, but the digging down part was something I hadn't even considered before. You are wise beyond your years, sir.
 

maggie3fan

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Thank you for the compliment, but that concept and that way of describing it is something I learned from @Markw84 here on the forum.
I have been using heat mats here in the PNW for 15 years... large Kane mats on thermostats... with bigger tortoises and never had a problem...but in a 5 month period I lost 3 adult box turtles and little Grumpyface...all cooked under CHE's without a thermostat. I learned over the years that heat mats under hatchlings and small young turtles and tortoises was bad due to the small guys don't seem to be smart enuf to move off the mat and plastrons were wrinkled and dried out.
 

Canadian Mojo

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They should not be used because they go against a tortoises instincts, and yes, they are dangerous as evidenced by the number of annual burn cases and deaths resulting from their use under tortoises.

When a tortoise feels too warm their instinct is to dig down away from the heat source (the sun) and into the cooler earth. With a heat mat, their intstincts have them digging further down to where it is hotter, which makes them want to dig down even more to escape the heat. They are not smart enough to figure this out and many perish or get burned. The insulation effect of the substrate makes this worse and there are sometimes hot spots.

This is a totally different concept than a large Kane mat, with no substrate on it, under a large tortoise, in an outdoor night house in a temperate climate.

I'm glad this hasn't caused you a problem yet, but eventually is probably will. Not a good thing to recommend to other tortoise keepers.
You're not wrong, but... but heating from below can potentially be useful under certain circumstances if used properly.

I have a RF; he likes nice constant temps, doesn't bask, and doesn't burrow. I also live in Ontario, so we freeze solid for several months of the year. The enclosure sits on the floor, and the floor gets cold. Some heat coming from below means less baking under the CHE's because they work less and a more even temperature through out.

I'm not using a mat though, I'm using residential radiant flooring cast into a 1" slab floor sitting on a layer of foam. The thermometer is cast in as well, so it is reading the actual slab temp and keeping that at 83F. It's a nice big thermal mass that doesn't change rapidly after it's heated so it's a very stable heat source.

The actual air temperature inside the enclosure is less than the slab because the substrate acts as insulation and that's where the CHE's come in. They're on a thermostat which is sitting in the open at tort height and bring the temperature the rest of the way up as needed.

Basically , I'm using it very similar to how you would use a Kane mat but it's a more convenient setup in my kind of environment because it keeps the whole floor warm.
 

Tim Carlisle

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You're not wrong, but... but heating from below can potentially be useful under certain circumstances if used properly.

I have a RF; he likes nice constant temps, doesn't bask, and doesn't burrow. I also live in Ontario, so we freeze solid for several months of the year. The enclosure sits on the floor, and the floor gets cold. Some heat coming from below means less baking under the CHE's because they work less and a more even temperature through out.

I'm not using a mat though, I'm using residential radiant flooring cast into a 1" slab floor sitting on a layer of foam. The thermometer is cast in as well, so it is reading the actual slab temp and keeping that at 83F. It's a nice big thermal mass that doesn't change rapidly after it's heated so it's a very stable heat source.

The actual air temperature inside the enclosure is less than the slab because the substrate acts as insulation and that's where the CHE's come in. They're on a thermostat which is sitting in the open at tort height and bring the temperature the rest of the way up as needed.

Basically , I'm using it very similar to how you would use a Kane mat but it's a more convenient setup in my kind of environment because it keeps the whole floor warm.
Convection floor heating is quite different than a heating pad. They are nice in the bathroom on cold mornings though. lol
 

Canadian Mojo

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Convection floor heating is quite different than a heating pad. They are nice in the bathroom on cold mornings though. lol
Yeah, middle of January rolls around and I'm kind of jealous of the tord when have to get up to pee at 4:00 a.m.

On a more serious note, I never really thought that an under tank mat would be worthwhile. It would be easy enough to set it up to heat safely, all you would need to do is have a thermometer on the bottom of the tank and a thermostat to keep the temp of the tank at a safe level. The real issue is that they are pretty small which would only be good for short term use raising babies and juveniles in smaller spaces.

Used that way I don't see an issue other than equipment malfunctions and an external control unit might eliminate that concern depending on the malfunction.
 

turtlesteve

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I have used both seedling mats and reptile heat mats, but mounted inside the LID of smallish closed chambers (such as a 40 breeder, or a 2’x3’ bin. They provide enough heat to increase the ambient temperature in situations where heat emitters are too much.

I don’t use them in under tank situations (same situation Tom discusses) and I found that they can create VERY hot spots if put under a tank with deep mulch substrate. But when mounted above I have not found any great fault with them, other than being awkward.

Subsequently I have decided the “nano” CHEs (I think they are 40 watt?) are an easier way to provide ambient heat and I prefer them over the seedling mats.
 

Tom

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Yeah, middle of January rolls around and I'm kind of jealous of the tord when have to get up to pee at 4:00 a.m.

On a more serious note, I never really thought that an under tank mat would be worthwhile. It would be easy enough to set it up to heat safely, all you would need to do is have a thermometer on the bottom of the tank and a thermostat to keep the temp of the tank at a safe level. The real issue is that they are pretty small which would only be good for short term use raising babies and juveniles in smaller spaces.

Used that way I don't see an issue other than equipment malfunctions and an external control unit might eliminate that concern depending on the malfunction.
When used that way, hot spots can still develop away from the probe. Its just not safe and not a good way to go.
 

Tom

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So is it the mats just don't heat up very uniformly?
Not when covered up with substrate and decor. Some substrates insulate and allow heat to build up and others wick heat away. Moisture level is a factor sometimes too.
 

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