How to Choose Heaters and Thermometers for Your Aquarium

How to Choose Heaters and Thermometers for Your Aquarium

Aquariums are more than just the tank and the fish. Why you need heaters and thermometers? Your pet’s health may depend on it.

If you have tropical fish in your aquarium, then you need to make sure the water has just the right amount of heat. To achieve the water temperature that mimics the heat of tropical waters, the water conditions should ideally be between 20 to 30˚C.

The most suitable, experts would tell you, is 24˚C.

Unfortunately, you can’t really achieve that by relying on your house’s heating system at all. What does that mean? You need a separate heater for the aquarium. You need to keep the water warm and keep it at that level as much as possible. That’s it, plain and simple.

What happens if you can’t keep a stable tropical temperature in the tank? Well, for the particularly delicate marine and discus, it could result to stress. And you really don’t want stressed aquaria. So to avoid that and any of the other problems that come with an unstable heated aquarium, here are a few tips to help you in choosing the right heater for the tank.

1. Let’s talk about size

Here’s the first thing you need to know: aquarium heaters are rated using watts. If you’re not sure what heater works for your tank, then check the packaging. Manufacturers already made things easy for you by indicating what size tank the particular heater is good for.

Rule of thumb, though? You need 5 watts per gallon to heat a gallon of water. Note also that the larger the tank, the slower it loses the heat. So it’s perfectly fine to get 2 heaters for one large tank and split the wattage.

2. The different types of heaters

Many aquarium owners use a standard heater/thermostat unit. It looks like long and thin glass tubes with the heater at the bottom and the thermostat at the top. It’s made to be submerged in the water. It’s also less costly, mostly accurate and rather convenient.

But there are a lot of other different heaters to choose from, too.

  • Separate thermostat: if you’re already using an undertank heater, then you just need to get a separate thermostat for the tank. This makes things a little bit easier to adjust, but it’s a more expensive set up.
  • Undertank heater mat: quite popular back in the 1990’s, the aquarium is placed on the heater mat which warms the tank through the glass. A separate thermostat controls the temperature. It must be stated that glass isn’t the best conductor of heat, though. And the gravel at the tank’s bottom won’t help in its circulation, either. So if you want to ensure consistency of heat, this may not be the best option.
  • Heating cable: usually added to help aquarium plants grow.
  • In-line heater: these types of heaters are plumbed into the tubing that is located between the external filter and the tank. The water will run through the heater and will be warmed up. The nice thing about in-line heaters is they’re made from heat-proof plastic, making them safe to handle. You can also be sure they won’t be causing any fires. Perhaps because of that, and the fact that they’re fairly new, these heaters are more expensive than other units.
  • External Heater/filter: also called a thermofilter. It’s basically just the heater combined with the filter kit. Water will pass through the filter and will be warmed up at the same time. You won’t have to worry about extra plumbing or leaks.

What else do you need?

  • Thermostat: this will help you keep the aquarium heat constant.
  • Thermometer: to help you monitor the temperature of the aquarium water. It should also give you a clue if the tank heater has failed or malfunctioned.
  • Spare heater: this is your backup. IN case your original heater fails, you want to make sure that you have another one to put in right away, or risk stressing the fish.
  • Heater Guard: these fit over the heating element of a conventional heater. They’re usually made of plastic. It won’t affect how the heater performs and has the added benefit of ensuring the fish don’t burn themselves on the unit when it gets hot. They’re worth some amount of money. But they’re worth the price.

Now, choosing heaters and other tank temperature maintenance equipment shouldn’t be so hard.

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