How to Choose an Aquarium Heater

Aquarium Heater Selection Tips

Aquarium heaters regulate the heat in your tank and maintain a steady heat level for your fish. If the temperature fluctuates too much or is steadily either too high or too cold, your fish will be in poor health. It will be unresponsive. Extreme temperatures can kill the fish.

When I say extreme, that isn’t extreme to human beings. Even a temperature change of 10 degrees can have a large effect on a fish submerged in a body of water. So you need to take the heating of your aquarium seriously. Otherwise, you will be making many trips to the fish merchant.

1. Have Redundant Thermometers

You need to know what the temperature in your thermometer is. Unfortunately, aquarium thermometers are notoriously unreliable.

Some thermometers float in the water or hang on the inside of the glass. Others hang on the outside. The outside type obviously is iffy about giving the right temperature of the water. Inside the tank, the water is no always the same temperature throughout. So it is best to get a second opinion.

Buy a thermometer to hang on the side of your aquarium. Then place a second one on the outside. Between the two, you should have a decent idea of what the temperature of your aquarium is.

2. Have Redundant Heaters

If your heater messes up, you can lose a fish before you notice. Therefore, it is advisable to buy a second heater. Simply place it by the side of the original warmer. If the one goes down, you’ll have a backup. This way, you can replace the broken heater without your fishie suffering.

3. Select the Right Size Heater

You’ll need to select your aquarium heater according to the heating situation of the room it is in. If the heating is steady, you will need a smaller powered heater. If the heating fluctuates a great deal, you’ll need a bigger heater.

For example, if you keep the aquarium in the living room or a standard bedroom, a smaller heater will suffice. Find one that puts out 2.5 watts per gallon. If you keep the aquarium in a room near one of the outside doors or on the back end of the house from your gas stove, then you will need a heater that generates 5 watts per gallon.

The larger heater compensates for the fluctuations in temperatures outside the heater. It keeps the aquarium from getting cool in winter.

4. Place Your Heater Where It Makes the Most Difference

Heaters that are placed high in the tank do not heat the water evenly. Heat rises, so you’ll heating only the top part of the aquarium, unless your heater is powerful enough to overcome this problem.

If you buy a submersible heater and place it on the bottom of the tank, you will heat it from bottom to top. This creates a more general heat. You will notice your fish spends as much time on the bottom of the tank as on the top.

5. Don’t Overdo It

If you buy a heater that is too strong for the aquarium, this can cause just as many problems for your fish. The water will be too hot, which is just as dangerous for the fish as cold water. If you buy the heater at a pet store, ask the manager to help you select the right size heater.

6. General Size

If you don’t trust a sales manager to sell you the right heater, then here is a good rule of thumb. Remember that there are more factors at work than simple size of the aquarium, so these are not hard and fast numbers.

Use a 25 watt machine for smaller or mini aquariums. Use 50 watt heaters for eighteen inch tanks. Aquarium around 24 inches should have a 100 watt heater.

For every extra 6 inches, you should consider upping the heater size another 50 watts. This means 150 watts for a 30 inch tank and 200 watts for a 36 inch tank, and so on.

Once again, I would recommend using more than one heater for the largest aquariums. If you are going all out, this shouldn’t be that much more of a relative cost.

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