Please visit our Sponsors

FAQs on Heating Freshwater Aquariums

Related Articles: Heating Freshwater Aquariums, GFI use, Electricity and Aquariums

Related FAQs: GFI Use,

It's so cold in here, I'm jumping out!

Freshwater temperature dilemma     6/22/15
Hello, again, and much appreciation for your timely and relevant responses.
I currently have a 60 gallon freshwater aquarium with all accepted testing ranges. It is fully cycled with no ammonia or nitrites, ph around 7.0 and nitrates about 20ppm. I run two hang on back filters and one submersible one. I use Chemi pure and Purigen as well as regular water changes to control nitrates.
<All sounds good.>
The inhabitants are an electric blue jack Dempsey, two adolescent angelfish and an African clawed frog. Everyone appears healthy and happy.
<For now; JDs aren't good community residents (for sure there are odd specimens that are, but most males are highly territorial) and Xenopus frogs actually prefer/need cooler water than the tropical fish you're keeping them with. Do also bear in mind JDs are hard water fish, unlike your South American Angels. You've got a lovely big tank there, and seem to
be doing all the right things with regard to water quality. Why create problems by keeping a mishmash of incompatible species?>
However the tank temperature seems to run high. I have two heaters set to 79 degrees F, to stabilize if the room temperature drops. I have two digital thermometers set at opposite ends of the tank and both indicate the temperature is almost 83 degrees F. I tend to obsess and the water doesn't feel unusually warm but I want to be proactive. The light is just a standard fluorescent, on a timer, with six hours of light. Ok question, is the submersible heater possibly creating the few extra degrees of temperature?
<25 C/77 F is the starting point for most aquaria, so you'd be wise dialing the heaters back a little. Insofar as water being warmer than the heater setting, bear in mind the heater dial is very approximate hence better to rely on a thermometer and a bit of common sense. Lighting can also raise the temperature during the day. Don't worry too much about a few degrees' variation across a 24-hour cycle: this is quite normal in the wild, and fish don't mind at all.>
Might I lower the temperature by disabling this filter?
<In theory, the cooler the water, the slower filter bacteria operate. But cooler water contains more oxygen, which helps filter bacteria work better.
Hence the sweet spot in tropical fishkeeping is between 22-25 C/72-77 F, and unless you have a damn good reason to go outside this range (e.g., you're keeping Discus) then this temperature range is the ideal balance between metabolic rate and oxygen concentration.>
Alternatively could the fluorescent fixture raise the temperature by several degrees?
Finally I have to keep the tank covered because Frogger will jump out if able, could the glass tops be contributing to the heat problem?
<Yes. Evaporation is a significant source of cooling for most tanks.>
Or should I just leave them alone?
<No. The Xenopus at least needs different quarters. The Angelfish will likely be hammered by (male) JDs eventually.>
Again thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
<Welcome. Neale.>

Heating tank on unheated porch and fish stocking questions      5/10/14
I was wondering is it okay/safe to keep a second larger tropical fish tank then the 55 I have now on an unheated porch in MN year round with the right heater? We don't have room in the house for a second tank ( Any heater brands/ types you recommend), its maybe 10 degrees warmer then outside/protected from the rain/etc. but that's it. Keep in mind winters here can be 30- below at times. I was wondering if its possible. Are there any risks with heating a tank/keeping it in such a cold environment in winter.
<This will be virtually impossible to do in the Minnesota climate. Aquarium heaters simply don't have the power to maintain the temperature of a tropical aquarium in ice-cold surroundings. In fact aquarium heaters are
generally designed to do no more than heat the water above ambient room temperature, which isn't going to be less than, say, 18 degrees C/64 F in most cases. You could of course add enough heaters to overcome such limits, like using ten 150-watt heaters in a 55-gallon tank or whatever, but the electricity bill would be insane, even if you worked really hard to insulate the aquarium to minimise heat loss. I have seen people keep
tropical fish outdoors in summertime in the American Midwest, often with excellent results. But invariably such aquarists bring their livestock indoors.>
I was drawn to Jaguar catfish on planet catfish and would like to set up a tank for a group of them plus another fish type i would see more of during the day, possibly sliver dollars/ red hooks the like.,
<A good combination.>
what size tank do you recommend for a group of jaguar catfish. I saw a 150 gallon, do not know the dimensions but it was taller so shorter than then my 6 foot tank 125,
<For the size, number of fish you are talking about, yes, 150 US gallons sounds an excellent starting point.>
Thanks, Alex
<Do get in touch with your local aquarium club; Minnesota has an excellent club based in the Minneapolis-St Paul area (http://aquarium.mn) with really friendly members. It may well be that you'd find it easier to experience all the fish you want if you can share with others. So even if you can only own 1 tank, you can visit other peoples' aquaria, house your fish in their tanks, participate in group projects, and carry out all sorts of other things to develop your hobby without needing any extra tanks yourself.
Cheers, Neale.>

Filters, heaters/ and some things you should know.   7/1/13
First off Thank you for your help. I really enjoy your site and learning about fish. However some of your pages/articles on catfish and cichlids on the wet web media site (under freshwater livestock) are all crumbled together and its hard to look through them- do revisit and correct/fix it if possible. Its probably not so bad in the cichlids but in the catfish its awful.
<I will pass this on to Bob; FWIW though, if you learn to separate the articles from the FAQs, the site makes a lot more sense. Articles tend to be pretty much what you'd see in magazines -- indeed, many of them were -- while FAQs tend to be aggregations of short responses to specific questions. So the FAQs don't have a beginning, middle and end because they're add to all the time. Using the search engine of your choice can help a lot here, because you're quite likely to find comments or replies relevant to your situation.>
<<Where specifically do you find "all run together"? URLs please. RMF>>
Filtration /heating questions for 55 and 90 gallon. If I use sponge filters only will I be okay I rather like the sponges. Easy to clean, and don't hurt baby fish should i ever have fry in my community of the future.
<A fine approach; indeed, standard practise among cichlid breeders. You do need big-ass sponges, but so long as you get the big sponge filters, this can/does work extremely well.>
Should I go power filters too or just sponge, canisters are hard for me to fix and maintain. (I have vision impairment and my staff know next to nothing about filter maintenance ).
<Sponges can work just fine on their own.>
Also Would 2 heaters be okay in a 55 or 90 gallon . What strength should they be/ brand you recommend .
<Will depend on the brand, but something like a 200 W heater is typical for a 55-gallon tank, and you'd probably need two for a 90-gallon one. Look on the back of the packaging -- there's usually a chart that lists heater size, aquarium size, and the temperature of the room where the aquarium is located. Cheers, Neale.>

Accurate Thermometers 1/31/13
<Hi Judy, Rick this time. I have a physics background so I thought I'd field this for Bob.>
The fish are eating again and are acting normal. The temp was down lower than normal, in the mid seventies. I put two 100 watt heaters in instead of the 150 watt alone, now the temp is 81. I notice that the cheap floating thermometer with the suction cup always reads lower than the digital one with the wire hanging in the water. I noticed that they sell floating digital thermometers. I wonder which has the best accuracy? Thank you
<Regarding thermometers, you have two factors in play here, precision and accuracy. Precision has to do with repeatability. For any given temperature, the thermometer should produce the same (not necessarily correct) result.  Accuracy has to do with the distribution of repeated measurements averaging to the correct answer (but possibly with a wide variation).
Most of the thermometers for aquarium use are dirt cheap and mention nothing about how reliable the measurements are.  So, regardless of what kind of instrument used, there is always some question about how reliable the reading is.
Consider that I have used a thermometer where I could physically move the alcohol tube up and down the scale by as much as five degrees, and that doesn't lend much comfort to the accuracy of that particular thermometer.
In this case, it was an outdoor patio type thermometer, but it does demonstrate how careful we must be in never questioning the results from any given instrument.
That said, Take a look at the package or manual for the digital thermometer and see if it lists a specification.  Digital thermometers should be both more precise and accurate (see above) in general, and if the specifications are good enough to give you a comfort level, you can use it to calibrate the other thermometers--in other words, determine how far off the mark the alcohol thermometers are from the digital results. Once you know that, you can add or subtract the few degrees to what you read to get the correct value. And, you can use several of the cheap thermometers and use them with a lot more confidence.
Complicating all of this is the fact that your tank will have slightly different temperatures in different regions. In general, near the heater(s) will obviously be warmest, and farthest from the heater will be coolest. 
It's best to find the coolest spot and monitor that location as well as somewhere close to the heater so you understand exactly what is happening inside the tank thermally.
I know that's a long answer to a fairly brief question, but there is a lot in the question.  Hope that helps. - Rick>

Heater warning -- 10/07/11
I don't know if you guys want to post this or not, I leave it to you to decide. But, three Strikes and they are OUT.
I have purchased three consecutive Top Fin 100 Watt heaters. Each went into a 10-gallon tank.
Tank 1) Back in May or June I put one of these heaters into a tank that held about 200 Ender's Livebearers fry and two adult females (with the intention of moving the fry out when I could sex them). Clamped fins, listless behavior, and many dead on the substrate in the morning almost all died eventually. This was the tank I assumed had Home Depot silicone repair, but now evidence points directly to the heater.
Tank 2) Yesterday, I used a second of this same model heater in a tank holding my Pachypanchax playfairi killifish. Very active and healthy fish.
This morning, both dead. Clamped fins.
Tank 3) Yesterday, I used a third of this same heater in a tank holding my Australian Desert Gobies Just an hour ago, I checked these fish. Clamped fins. Listless, juveniles dead on the substrate. (90% water change done)
The first tank was a new setup. The second and third had been set up for months with healthy and extremely active fish until I installed the heaters yesterday. Today, dead.
There seems to be no way to contact the manufacturer as Top Fin has no website. I believe they are a PetSmart subsidiary. Needless to say, I am absolutely livid now that I have connected the dots. These heaters have killed my three most valuable species, wiping out two colonies and a young breeding pair.
<Thanks Rick for sharing this with us. Can't say if this is bad luck or bad design in your experience, but I will make a few observations. The first is that a cracked heater shouldn't leak out anything poisonous. I've had to deal with cracked heaters a few times, and while the rust inside them is scary, and exposing your tank to live mains voltage is dangerous, there doesn't seem to be anything actually poisonous inside them (in my experience at least). Do check for moisture inside the glass tube of a heater: this is a good sign the tube is leaky or cracked. Secondly, because heaters sometimes jam in the "on" position, it's a good idea to use two small heaters per tank rather than one big heater. This is most practical in medium to large aquaria. In small aquaria, the best you can do is avoid using an unusually large heater, so if it does jam "on", it will not be able to boil the fish quickly. For a 10 gallon tank, a 50 W heater is about right. In theory a big heater shouldn't cause any problems if it's working properly, but I do wonder if in a small tank, there's a risk of overheating close by the heater. In any case, when it comes to heaters, it's a good idea to invest in a decent brand. Cheap heaters don't seem to last as long as good quality ones, and failed heater can cause all sorts of serious problems. Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Heater warning -- 10/07/11

Hi Neale,
Just some clarification. In all three instance these were brand new heaters directly out of the package. No cracked glass, no moisture inside.
Operating properly.
<I see.>
There is a plastic or hard rubber piece around the top and bottom of the heater, I suppose this is to keep the glass from coming into contact with the substrate because they are fully submersible.
<My assumption too.>
My sense is that something toxic is on or in that material because the fish show symptoms of poisoning. Also, a store manager told me about a quiet recall where this model was removed from tank kits and replaced with heaters marked "inspected," so this heater does appear to have a history of problems. Wish I had known that in advance.
I will be contacting their corporate headquarters on Monday and let you know if I learn anything.
<Please do.>
<For what it's worth, I've started using the Hydor ETH heaters. These plug into the outflow pipe from your external canister filter. Because they're completely sealed in plastic and not in contact with the water, they should be a lot safer. It's also great being able to stick the heater outside the tank. Eheim have some canister filters with built-in heaters, and I dare say they're just as good as everything else Eheim make. I know they're expensive in the US, but Eheim products are generally well worth the extra cost if valued over their entire operating lifespan. Cheers, Neale.>

Top Fin Heater follow-up  11/4/11

This is a follow-up to the Top Fin 100-Watt submersible heater incident I wrote about a few weeks ago. There was a 3 week delay due to some emails being captured by my spam filter. Once that was straightened out, PetSmart responded very quickly.
PetSmart has agreed as a gesture of good will (their words) to compensate me for the replacement of my livestock in the amount I requested. They have not admitted anything was wrong with the heaters, but I know they did not inspected the actual heaters I returned, at least not yet. I believe they plan to follow up internally, so if I learn anything else I will pass it along.
Without complete closure on this incident, I think it would be wise to thoroughly wash this model heater with water and probably also clean with isopropyl alcohol before using with livestock.
<All very interesting, Rick. Glad you were able to sort things out so amicably. Good luck, Neale.>

Heater issue, final update    11/22/11

Hi Neale,
The reimbursement check from PetSmart arrived. I deposited it and bought a big shipment from a breeder in Florida. Since I managed to recover the desert gobies and replace the Pachypanchax for trade, I did a little shopping. In addition to replacing my black bar Endler's, and my peacock Endler's, I also bought 5 f0 Flagfish, 6 f0 H. formosa, and 6 f1 Sailfin mollies. Very excited with the new livestock, all doing well, though the mollies are still very shy. All tanks are humming along now and it's just a matter of time until my colonies recover.
<Real good.>
The store did not save the two heaters I returned; apparently the manager has never worked in manufacturing. They did buy back for store credit the older heater that killed off the Endler's. This was the incident I originally thought was the silicone of the tank itself. Based on my experience, I suspect the toxin to be too soluble for much of it to be left on that heater, but maybe they'll find something. Overall, PetSmart was very accommodating and did not fight the reimbursement after I spelled out in detail what was lost and made it clear that these were not animals I could replace at their closest location.
<I agree, it sounds like PetSmart handled things quite well. Shame about the loss of your fish though. Cheers, Neale.>

Cold Tank... heaters, FW    10/6.5/11
First off a huge thank you in advance for your help. You guys are godsends to aquarists! I heart WWM!!! Apologies for not taking the time to memorize my wet friends Latin names, I only know their common names. I have kept a freshwater tanks for 6 years and recently moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Portland, OR. My fish came with me, this was their second successful move :) . I normally have kept a 135 g tank inside but had to part with the large tank due to moving. I now have a 75 gallon with a 12" Ruby Oscar, a 7" Jack Dempsey, a 12" common Pleco, a 8" orange spotted Pleco, and a 5" albino Pleco. I have two filters on it, a generic TopFin style "60 gallon" filter and an Aquaclear 110 gallon filter. We have been here for 4 months now and everybody seems to be doing fine, the water quality is great, etc. I also have a 40 gallon with a 4" royal Pleco, a 4" vampire Pleco, a 5 " albino Longfin Bushynose Pleco, and a 3" "snowball" Pleco. I am aware that my Plecos all will get quite large (sans the snowball) and a different array of tanks will be needed. I also have a blue crayfish in his own 20 gallon. My new home can not have fish tanks in the house but I have converted our two car garage into my "man cave." The garage is finished nicely with drywall and the garage door is sealed well.
I put some spare carpet in there and it's like an extra room in the house.
During the summer my temperatures started to get to 82, but rarely any higher than that. I'm now concerned about the cold winters here. Currently nights are reaching lows of 45 degrees F. My tanks are dropping to about 75 with just one heater per tank. I'm trying to think of the best way to get my fish through the winter here as I've heard it can get down into the twenties. I've done some research but haven't found any definitive or helpful answers. Additional heaters and or/covers is what I'm thinking. Any advice would be helpful. Thank you again!
<Hello Craig. I agree, the obvious solution is to use two heaters. Ideally, two that are rated for slightly more than half the size of your tank, e.g., two heaters each rated for 50 gallon tanks. This way, they'd provide ample heating for the tank, but wouldn't get hot too quickly, and if one got stuck "on", it wouldn't be strong enough to boil your fish. Do note that heaters rated for a tank of a given size usually assume the room is only around 5-10 degrees C cooler than the aquarium needs to be; the colder the room, the higher the wattage of the heater. If your room is really cold, then you'll very likely need a pair of heaters that together would be adequate for 150, even 200 gallons. Using oversized heaters doesn't cause any problems as such, the only risk is that if they fail in the "on" position, they can easily boil your fish because they heat the water very quickly. In any event, with all this said, there's nothing to stop you bundling up your aquarium during the winter. Polystyrene for example is an excellent insulator and can be attached to the sides of the tank except for the front. Perhaps the tank can be installed in an snug recess within some type of cabinet or other paneling that minimises air flow past the tank and helps to keep the bottom of the tank away from the draughts. You can even use an old blanket to partially cover the tank, but do leave enough space for air to get in and out, and lights will need ventilation or they'll overheat. Cheers, Neale.>

Temperature... also heating/heaters    10/6.5/11
I have heard that two species I am keeping are tolerant of low temperatures, Australian Desert Goby (Chlamydogobius eremius) and the killifish Pachypanchax playfairii. I don't heat the house in the winter so
without a heater the water temperature in their tanks could drop quite low if we get a couple of nights in a row below freezing. I wanted to get a second opinion on both species--should I bother installing a heater for either or both?
<Hi Rick. While the Desert Goby can withstand almost chilly conditions, that's a short-term thing in the Australian desert. Weeks or months of cold isn't what you want here. Likewise with the Pachypanchax (a great fish by the way!). I'd grab a heater, and set it to a low setting, perhaps 20-22 C/68-72 F. It'd be off most of the time, but if things get too cold, you'll be safe. In summer, it won't come on at all.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Temperature   10/6.5/11

Thanks, that reinforces what I had been thinking.
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re...? Fernando... Neale...   9/30/11
Thank you for your time. That was just what I need to know, very helpful. I have some questions about the temperature of the water and about feeding. I live in Puerto Rico and is very hot this days. I just cant do anything about it. Do I need a chiller?
<Depends a lot on the species you're keeping. Most South American and Southeast Asian fish can adapt to unusually warm days, provided the nights are cooler, and equally importantly, that part of the year is a bit cooler as well. For most tropical fish, 25 C/77 F is ideal, with a few species, such as Discus and some of the Gouramis, doing better kept warmer, 28-30 C/82-86 F.>
How the temperature of the water can affect my fish? Is it better cold than hot?
<Depends on the species. Corydoras are certainly better kept a bit cooler, 22-25 C/72-77 F being the preferred range for most species.>
I have a question about my Hillstream loach. I am feeding all my fishes with tropical granules because I think that flakes make the tank a little dirty. They seem to like it. But I haven't seem the Hillstream loach eating the granules. I think he is only feeding from natural algae of the tank and ornamental rocks.
<Yes, very likely. Algae wafers, such as those from Hikari, are an excellent alternative.>
Some one told me that I should put some algae wafers in the tank once in a while to maintain him healthy but he is already healthy.
Should I feed him with algae wafers or just let him be? I was thinking to buy a spotted Hillstream loach cause they seem pretty much the same fish but may be it will help with the natural algae growing inside the tank.
what can I do about that? Illumination in the tank is a led marine land lamp and some other from natural light but not directly from the sun.
<Hillstream Loaches are sensitive to low oxygen levels, and above 25 C/77 F, you are likely to have problems keeping them healthy. Floating blocks of ice can help, as can increasing evaporation through air bubbles and even by putting a fan nearby. Under stock the tank and provide plenty of surface area and good circulation. The idea is that even if the water is warm, at least it has lots of oxygen in it, especially at the bottom, where the Loaches live. If all else fails, a chiller may be a wise investment.
Cheers, Neale.>

High tank temperatures    9/2/11
Hi crew, this is Jenny. I've sent a couple of emails before and they helped my fish a lot. :)
<Ah good>
Well, even though the summer's ending, it's still very hot. And now that it's not hot enough for our air conditioning to run, my fish tank is heating up. It's supposed to be at around 74 degrees. I have a 2" angelfish (top to bottom) a 1 1/2" platy, and a 1 1/2" fantail in a 10 gal.
<Mmm, well... it would be better temperament, water quality and feeding wise if the last two were in a different system than the Angel... and the Goldfish and Angel will need more room than a 10 gal.>
I know what you're going to say, it's overstocked. But I've been making sure that the gravel stays clean, the ammonia levels are low,
<Has to be zero>
and nitrates and nitrites stay at/close to zero.
<... Oh, maybe you mean Nitrates are low... NH3 and NO2 zero>
It's been a lot harder though since the platy now has two broods of babies in a nursery net with them, but I'm selling them all as soon as they get big enough.
<... ok>
Well, now my tank is 80 degrees and I can't do much about it: I tried taking the lid off, putting bags of ice floating in the top, shutting the shades, and using a fan to blow over the top of the water. It's only gone down one or two degrees.
<Leave the lights off during most of the day as well...>
I don't have any money, so I can't buy a cooling system, my electric bill says no to the air conditioning, and I've run out of ideas.
Do you know of anything that would help cool it down, and won't cut into my wallet?
<80 F. is not too high for these species... and more risk/trouble in having the temp. vacillate. I'd leave your system be other than what you're currently doing>
Thanks, Jenny.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Temperature question      4/12/11
I have a question about temperature control of my platy tank during the summer months. When I originally purchased my platies a few months ago I kept them at 80 degrees. I was told this was too warm for platies and lowered the temperature to 78.
<Indeed; the optimal, i.e., the healthiest, range for Platies is 22-25 C/72-77 F. Above that, they start to get stressed. This is perhaps marginally less true for farmed Platies compared to wild ones, but it's still basically true.>
After a few weeks at 78 degrees a few of the fish became sick (one had PopEye, one had fin rot). I was able to nurse them all back to health in a separate quarantine tank. I should note from the outset that my 15 gallon tank has 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 0 nitrate.
<The 15 gallon tank is marginal for Platies; I'd recommend 20 gallons, minimum, for them.>
The pH is 7.6.
<What's the hardness? Platies do need hard water. They hate soft water, including water from a domestic water softener.>
I decided to raise the temperature back to 80 because at this temperature none of the fish seemed to contract any illness. Because my water quality had always been excellent I didn't feel that I could improve it in any way such that I could otherwise prevent any sickness so that's why I went with the temperature increase.
<Understandable, but I don't feel these things are related.>
Yesterday in New York it was a hot day (reached 80 degrees outside). I noticed that the temperature in my tank was rising and seemed to go as high as 81.9.
<These short term temperature hikes shouldn't harm Platies or Swordtails.
They do come from Mexico after all, so have evolved to tolerate hot summers. Platies in particular are extremely adaptable fish.>
First I checked that the thermometers were accurate (they were), that the heater was working properly (it was) and that the hood lights had not overheated (they didn't...I use fluorescent).
<These will still crank out more heat than you expect.>
I did a small water change to try and bring the temperature closer to 80.
Yet the temperature continued to increase. The temperature in the apartment could not have been higher than 74 degrees at a maximum.
<In theory then, without a heat source, your tank should be at 74 F. Try switching off the heater for a day and see what happens. Won't harm your fish if your tank temperature drops down to 74 F. Likewise, try switching off the lights (though not for more than a day or two if you have live plants). Again, without these sources of heat, your tank should reach equilibrium with room temperature, assuming there's no extra heat input, e.g., direct sunlight.>
I understand that in the winter months, the powerhead that I use, the lights and the heater could have combined for a steady 80 degrees without a problem, but is it possible that all these devices together are causing too much heat now that the temperature outside is warming up?
If for some reason the apartment had been 90 degrees or hotter than the tank water then I could understand the increase in temperature. But I don't know why it would increase when the ambient air was still cooler than the water.
<Indeed. Water temperature can only rise above air temperature if there's a heat source, the three relevant ones in fishkeeping being the heater, the lights, and direct sunlight.>
The heater was not turning itself on at all yesterday since the water was obviously already over 80 degrees.
<Don't trust the temperature settings on your heater. The numbers on the dial are VERY approximate. In summer, even here in England, I often switch heaters off. Daily rises and falls in water temperature as your home warms up and cools down is absolutely fine for (most) tropical fish, the exceptions (perhaps) being things like Discus.>
So it seemed to me like a combination of the lights and the powerhead could have resulted in the increase. This concerns me for the summer months ahead. I know I was pushing the limit keeping the platies at 80 degrees (and they were thriving, by the way...very active, swimming, eating, playing, etc), but I don't want the temperature to increase anymore.
<Believe me, a daily rise to 80 F won't harm your Platies. What isn't good for them is year-around maintenance at above 77 F. They're lowland fish that live in quite cool ponds and streams (by tropical fish standards, anyway) and appreciate slightly cool conditions, much like Corydoras, Swordtails, Black Phantom Tetras, Neons, and quite a few other tropical fish.>
I looked into aquarium chillers but they are very expensive. it seems like a cooling fan might be an option, but I do question whether they are effective.
<Opening the top of the tank and placing a fan nearby can work, but with the usual caveat about placing mains electrical appliances near water.
Personally, this isn't something I'd do because there's the risk of fish jumping out. If it's really hot, you can float a big ice block in the water -- a litre block frozen inside a Tupperware works great. But honestly, I
think the problem here is the heater, lights, and/or sunlight.>
Keeping the air conditioning on all day is unfortunately, not an option.
Yes, I can keep the lights out for longer periods of time, but even when I experimented with this yesterday, it did not bring down the temperature in the tank. If I continue to use the powerhead to infuse oxygen directly into the water, will this offset the negative consequences of the higher temperature (decreased oxygen saturation) such that the fish will be ok?
<Yes, extra oxygen will offset problems with high temperatures, but the main thing in freshwater aquaria is really improving circulation around the tank rather than actually adding bubbles.>
I know that at higher temp levels the water cannot hold as much oxygen, so if I am blowing oxygen directly into the tank will this offset this possible problem? Or is the simple fact that the water is at 81.9 degrees the problem itself?
<Continually warm water will have less oxygen, and that causes problems for both the fish *and* the filter bacteria. That in turn can cause problems with water quality, and of course if a fish needs more oxygen than it can get, it's likely to be stressed, and that can lead to random health issues such as Pop-eye. But with all this said, I think you'd see your Platies gasping at the surface if they were acutely heat stressed. Cooler conditions for Platies is more about improving their long-term health than about fixing short-term health problems and/or injuries. Pop-eye and Finrot both suggest environmental issues -- water quality, water chemistry in particular -- though physical injury from fighting cannot be ruled out.>
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Temperature question   4/12/11
Hi Neale,
Thanks for the quick response.
<No problem.>
In response to your comment about tank size, I should mention that I am in the process of cycling a 30 gallon tank and hope to move the platies there within the next few weeks.
<Real good.>
I don't know what the hardness level of the water is. But the pH rarely varies at all, which leads me to believe it is hard. How should I test what the level is?
<A general hardness test kit will do the trick nicely. But assuming you don't draw water from a domestic water softener, if you have things like kettles and shower heads that "fur" up over a few months, you likely have hard water.>
You mentioned that short term temperature hikes shouldn't affect the platies, but what do you mean by short term? Do you mean only a day or two here and there or do you mean for 3 months of the entire summer in NYC?
<The latter. Three months of around 80 F shouldn't cause tropical fish undue harm.>
It can get quite hot in the city for 3 months every year. If their being in water just under 82 degrees for 3 months doesn't concern you then I'd be relieved to hear that. I know consistent temperature and small changes over long periods of time are most important.
<Actually, the reverse is usually healthier. Tropical fish experience cooler nights and warmer days, and fish from coastal and subtropical habitats may even experience cooler winters compared to summers. Oftentimes, people who breed fish find temperature changes are essential to get fish to spawn. So yes, while exposing fish to rapid water temperature changes is bad, and tropical fish certainly shouldn't be kept in unheated coldwater tanks, small daily variations of a couple of degrees, and slightly larger seasonal variations between summer and winter, shouldn't cause any harm at all.>
I did actually have the heater off yesterday just to be sure that it wasn't heating without my knowing it. Despite having the heater off, the temperature was still significantly higher than the room temperature. I can try keeping the lights off for a day to see if that makes much of a difference.
<Yes, do try this; lights can produce much more heat than you expect, especially in hoods with poor/no ventilation, as is often the case with hoods and tanks aimed at the low end of the market. I've got a couple of such tanks, and as I say, in summer I often turn the heaters off, or at least right down to 18 C/64 F, so that the tank warms up in the day from the lights and then cools down at night when the lights are off.>
I have a small quarantine tank also and the only difference in setup between that tank and my 15 gallon tank is the powerhead in the 15 gallon tank. The quarantine tank remained at a steady 80 degrees all day during the warm weather while the 15 gallon tank increased temperature. This lead me to believe that it was the powerhead that might have been heating up the water. I could stop using it, but I like the idea of infusing extra oxygen into the tank. Even when the powerhead isn't blowing 'bubbles' into the tank (I have it on a low setting) it is still moving the water round with a steady stream of movement.
In response to your comment about the factors that could affect water temperature, I should note that the tank is not anywhere near direct sunlight so I can rule that out as a factor.
I will bring the temperature back down into the 77 range (the weather is cool again now). So even if when the weather warms up and the temperature fluctuates from 77 to 80 or from 78 to 81 over the course of a day, you don't think this will be stressful for them?
<No; daily fluctuations of 2-3 degrees are not harmful at all, at least not for most freshwater fish (marine fish are somewhat different because sea temperature tends to change more slowly).>
Is it better for me to maintain the water at 80 degrees now until the summer is over so that the daily fluctuations will be less? And then once the weather cools down again, keep them at 77?
<An 27 C/81 F maximum in summer should cause Platies no undue harm, though slightly cooler would be optimal. But otherwise, the ideal temperature for Platies is no higher than 24 C/75 F. Choose companion species accordingly, things like Peppered Corydoras and Danios being obvious and ideal tankmates that also need/prefer low-end tropical conditions. Don't keep Platies with things that need very warm water, e.g., Angels. Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater heating query (FAO Neale if possible - thanks!)  2/19/11
Dear WWM Crew Member,
I have a quick question on heaters, which I'm hoping you can help me with.
<Will try!>
I'm presently looking for a new heater for my freshwater goldfish tank (120l), because the one that came with the tank only goes down to 20 degree Celsius and I'd prefer something that has the capacity to heat to 18. Over the years I've noticed a few remarks (mostly by Neale) recommending or warning against particular brands, but these have proven very hard to find with the search function because I regrettably didn't keep a note of the names.
<I see.>
The freshwater heater FAQs didn't have what I was looking for either, and the search function did provide me with a very helpful article on recommended tropical tank heaters but not with a counterpart for cooler tanks.
<Unless your room temperature gets below 18 C, you probably won't need a heater to keep subtropical or coldwater fish happy. Indeed, such tanks may work best if the heater is only switched on in wintertime, and the rest of the time the tank is allowed to heat up and cool down with the room.>
I was therefore wondering if you might kindly provide me with a recommendation for a brand(s) and perhaps also a note of which should be avoided, based on your experience.
<Generally, you get what you pay for. While I'll buy cheap heaters if funds are tight, I do accept that these may only last 5 years or so. For whatever reason, cheap heaters do seem prone to problems after a certain length of time. In any case, probably the best heaters come from companies like Eheim, who produce the Eheim Jager aquarium heater line. If you want a laugh, take a look at this video:
Does give you an indication of the difference in build quality between the Eheim and the generic heater, though you should NEVER, EVER place a hot heater in an aquarium. Besides the Eheim units, heaters from other well-known names such as Fluval, Tetra, etc. should be fine too. I've used Juwel heaters and like them, and the Hydor ETH external heater is a nice unit if you have an external canister filter.>
Thank you very much for your time, and thank you as ever for the fantastic site. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your help (direct and indirect) over the years.
Kind regards,
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Freshwater heating query (FAO Neale if possible - thanks!)   2/19/11

Hi Neale,
Many thanks for your help, that was ideal (and one scary video!). Unfortunately my living room is often below 18C - downside of being a student in a northern latitude - so I think I'll check out the Eheim range. Hope you enjoy your weekend!
All the best,
<Hmm'¦ Sarah, how cold is your home? I'm in England, and coldwater fish are routinely kept in unheated tanks here, including things like weather loaches, dwarf Mosquitofish, bitterling, and so on, not just goldfish. Subtropical fish do need a heater, even if it only comes on when the weather gets cold, but most homes should be no colder than 18 C during the day (a degree or two colder at night will do no harm). In any event, a good, reliable heater is a wise investment. Cheers, Neale.>

Tropical Temps and Goldfish Magic? (RMF, is your Mandarin better than mine?)<<Marginally>>  2/19/11
Hello WWM crew!
It has been a great while since I have contacted you guys, but I have been a daily reader of your FAQs. Such great info to be learned everyday here.
Great job and a special thanks to Neale for spending his valuable time to share his invaluable knowledge regarding freshwater fish.
<Glad to help.>
Now reading on the current FAQs, a question comes to my mind as to the appropriate temp to keep my tanks at. Through previous research, I have kept my Scleropages jardinii, Polypterus senegalus, and Panaque nigrolineatus tanks at 79 degrees F.
<This is fine.>
Now, through reading Neale's replies, it seems as though I can keep these tanks at around 74-76 degrees F without any adverse affects?
<Well, the happy medium for most tropical fish is about 25 C/77 F, and that is coincidentally the temperature most heaters are set at when dispatched from the factory. An aquarium book like Baensch's Aquarium Atlas will provide optimal temperature ranges for each fish species.>
Lowering the temp, if possible, seems to have so many advantages anywhere from electrical cost to higher oxygen content to lower metabolism rates, which equals better water quality overall? Am I right to assume this is true?
<Pretty much. When kept towards the lower end of their optimal range, fish do indeed require less food and less oxygen. That's because their basal metabolic rate is determined by body temperature, and that in turn depends on water temperature. Needless to say, the lower their metabolic rate, the longer they'll live. Furthermore, most fish gear up for breeding when it gets warmer, and at the warmer end of their temperature range they're more likely to be territorial, aggressive, and anxious to breed. It's fairly standard practise with cichlids for example to keep them cooler rather than warmer when you don't want to deal with breeding behaviour all the time.
There is a flip side to this though. Some fish show their best colours at breeding time, so if kept "quiescent" they may not be as pretty as you'd hope. More seriously, if kept below their optimal range, they become steadily more prone to digestive disorders, infections, poor growth, and if kept too cold, death. Do I keep my tanks towards the cool end of the temperature range? Yes I do. But I'm also careful not to keep the tanks too cold. If a fish is happy in the range 24-28 C/75-82 F, then 25/77 F would be my aim.>
Secondly, a little something I would like to share. Check out this goldfish video that I have found on YouTube when you have time. It gets interesting at around 1:45.
I have no idea what they are saying.
<Nor I!>
Seems cruel but very amazing. I mean, I have seen little goldfish tricks swimming through hoops, but this is ridiculous. Do you think this is some type of visual illusions/magic tricks or vigorous training?
<Magnets. For a start, the fish aren't actually beating their tail fins or sculling with the pectoral fins. Even if fish like these were trained to do tricks -- and Goldfish have been trained to do some tricks -- they simply can't swim that smoothly or in such tight turning circles.>
Thought you might be interested. Thanks and have a great year! Andy
<All the best to you, too, Neale.>  
Tropical Temps and Goldfish Magic? /RMF  2/19/11
Hello WWM crew!
<Howsit Bruce?>
It has been a great while since I have contacted you guys, but I have been a daily reader of your FAQs. Such great info to be learned everyday here.
Great job and a special thanks to Neale for spending his valuable time to share his invaluable knowledge regarding freshwater fish.
<He is a treasure>
Now reading on the current FAQs, a question comes to my mind as to the appropriate temp to keep my tanks at. Through previous research, I have kept my Scleropages jardinii, Polypterus senegalus, and Panaque nigrolineatus tanks at 79 degrees F. Now, through reading Neale's replies, it seems as though I can keep these tanks at around 74-76 degrees F without any adverse affects?
Lowering the temp, if possible, seems to have so many advantages anywhere from electrical cost to higher oxygen content to lower metabolism rates, which equals better water quality overall? Am I right to assume this is true?
<It is so>
Secondly, a little something I would like to share. Check out this goldfish video that I have found on YouTube when you have time. It gets interesting at around 1:45.
_ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0cAMAy-WL4&feature=player_embedded_ 
I have no idea what they are saying. Seems cruel but very amazing. I mean, I have seen little goldfish tricks swimming through hoops, but this is ridiculous. Do you think this is some type of visual illusions/magic tricks or vigorous training?
<Neat illusions... the jerkiness of the first episode's fishes leads me to wonder if they're not being led about by implanted magnets matched and moved below. The second, sleight of hand>
Thought you might be interested. Thanks and have a great year!
<Thank you Andy. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium heater light disturb fish?  1/28/11
Good evening!
You guys are such a wonderful resource for us! Thank you!
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I have two things I've been trying to find answers for and am having little or no luck. I'm hoping you can help. The first is regarding my new Stealth heater. I have a 55g planted tank primarily stocked with Cardinals and Threadfins. There's a couple of Otos and Kuhlis in there as well. The new model heater has a green LED which stays on most of the time to let me know the heater is working. This light is actually bright enough to cause quite a bit of illumination in the tank and I'm concerned it's disturbing the fish at night. Is this possible?
<No, wouldn't worry about this at all. If it's really annoying, use a permanent black marker or even some black tape to cover the light, though leave at least a little bit visible so you can tell it's off or on.>
It has enough of a glow to even illuminate the room at night a bit.
<The fish won't care. Compare it to moonlight.>
My second question is about vibration. I have 2 Eheim filters on the tank: a 2215 and a 2028. I have placed my ear up against the tank and can hear and feel the hum of the filters. If I'm feeling and hearing them then certainly the fish are, too.
<For sure.>
The filters are already on the floor below the tank sitting on foam material isolated from direct contact with the tank so the only conduit for this is the tubing. I thought perhaps I could create a type of 'silencer' for the filters by taking a piece of PVC pipe, placing several discs in it with holes in them at varying levels and placing this pipe in line with the tubing. Like a silencer for a gun. It's a bit of work and I'm wondering if there is a better way. Any suggestions?
<Again, this bothers you more than them. In the wild the water they live in is extremely noisy, partly from splashing and partly from the activity of other animals. We think underwater is quiet because our ears work poorly in water; actually, the underwater world is extremely noisy, arguably more so than land because water conducts sound so much better. In short, the fish are used to this, and because the sound is continual, they soon "tune" it out. Sudden noises like slamming doors are far more stressful to them. If you want, use towels or cork tiles to make soft pads to deaden sound a bit, but it really doesn't matter.>
Thanks again for all of your information over the years. I truly appreciate having you guys out there.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Death by heater?   11/21/10
Hello, crew. I have a 10 gallon freshwater quarantine tank with 3 Neons in it. These 3 Neons have been in there for 3 weeks, and have been doing just fine. They swam around quite happily. Numbers are ammonia: 0, nitrite: 0, nitrate: 0. I had a 50 watt heater in the tank. Once the weather here got cold, the temperature in the tank dropped from 72 down to between 65 and 68. I bought a lid for the aquarium and it helped by keeping it more steadily around 68 degrees, but I wanted it warmer. So last night I went and bought a 100 watt heater with an adjustable thermostat. I set it for 72 degrees and placed it in the tank, plugged it in, and then unplugged the 50 watt heater.
This morning, my tank is at 71 degrees. My fish, though, are all dead. All three. I felt the water, as I have read before about extra electricity in the water, but no discernible shock. Any ideas as to what happened? Should I just assume it was the heater and return it?
Thanks for your time in advance,
<Hello Celeste. It's very uncommon for heaters to kill fish. However, it's quite easy to misuse a heater. Let's start off by pointing out that the temperature dial on the heater is very approximate. Always assume it'll be off a few degrees. That's why you need a thermometer. So, when you add a new heater, turn the dial to the LOWEST temperature suitable for the fish being kept. Since Neons are happy between 22-25 C/72-77 F, you'd set a new heater to 22 C/72 F. Wait a day or so for the water temperature to become
steady. If, after a couple of days the temperature is too cool or too warm, you can adjust the thermostat up or down very slightly, perhaps one "notch" on the dial. Wait another couple of days, and see what happens. Repeat until you get to the right temperature for the fish being kept. For a 10-gallon tank a 75-watt heater should be adequate. The problems with a 100-watt heater are two-fold. Firstly, it'll warm up the water very quickly, and potentially pockets of very warm water around the heater could stress the fish if there isn't enough water circulation in the tank.
Secondly, the heater on/off mechanism inside the heater will be switching off and on more often, and that means it'll be wearing out faster. Heaters have a limited lifespan even in the best circumstances, and the cheaper brands especially tend to last maybe 5 years or so before they start malfunctioning. In any case, as I said before, it's unlikely the heater killed the fish outright. Nine times out of ten water quality is the issue.
If this is a new tank, assume water quality is suspect, even if you detected no ammonia and nitrite after the fish were dead. Cycle the filter for a couple more weeks before adding more fish. Do that by adding tiny
pinches of flake food, and doing the usual 25% water changes at the weekend. When you do add more Neons, choose obviously healthy stock -- farmed Neons are plagued with Neon Tetra Disease -- and add six at once to avoid the stress caused by being kept in too-small a group. Frankly, Neons aren't among my favourite fishes because of their poor survival rate in recent years, so I would encourage you to review your options in terms of other species, especially if your water is hard and alkaline. White Cloud
Mountain Minnows for example are generally much more adaptable and easier to keep. Incidentally, they don't need a heater unless your home is very cold. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Death by heater?   11/22/10

Thanks for your reply, Neal. Just for clarification purposes, the tank is not 3 weeks old. It is my quarantine tank for new arrivals. The Neons had been in for 3 weeks. I started the tank a few months back using media from already established tanks, with the 50 watt heater being the only new addition. The filter was from my well established beta/African dwarf frog tank, and I let the tank cycle a few weeks with food before I put in any fish, and the Neons are not my first set of fish to be in quarantine there.
The only heaters the local pet stores have are 50 watt or 100 watt, both recommended by the packaging and the pet stores for 10 gallon aquariums. I drove an hour today to my favorite specialized pet store, thinking that even if they didn't have a 75 watt heater, it would be fun to visit, but alas, they were closed for a power outage. (I can't imagine the type of havoc a power outage in a fish store would do, and certainly hope they had generator power for at least the tanks.) Anyway, I have returned the 100 watt heater and ordered the 75 watt Marineland Visi-Therm heater. I hope to have it here by the end of the week. With the 100 watt heater, I did set it to 72, as I know the thermostats on the heaters themselves are not always accurate. I also have a separate thermostat in the tank, which I rely on for the temperature of the tank.
As per your other suggestion, back when I started in this hobby, Neons were always talked about as being so hardy, it was what was recommended for use to cycle tanks (in the days before I found wet web media, of course). But I looked some more tonight, and will probably go with the black Neons instead. They'll be going into a bigger tank with Danios and Rasboras.
Thanks again!
<Glad to help. I'm just not a big fan of the farmed Neon tetra, and while losing three all at once is unusual, I'd record an "open verdict" on their deaths for now and go with something else. Do check your water chemistry is appropriate -- pH is largely irrelevant provided it's within about 6 and 7.5 for most tetras -- but water hardness is crucial, and few species truly do well above 15 degrees dH, and most should be kept below 10 degrees dH.
Black Neons are fairly robust in soft to medium hardness water, but can be difficult to keep in hard water. Cheers, Neale.>

Heaters too tall for a 20 gallon long   6/16/10
I was wondering about heaters for a 20 gallon long. There are these heaters called Ebo-Jager, I believe. They have a 100 watt heater and it has the best reviews of other heaters out there in the US lots of adjustment options. The problem is it is 12 inches long. My 20 gallon long is 12 inches high, so that doesn't seem like the right choice. Most of the heaters you can buy on the net, do not even tell you if they have lots of adjustment options either.
I was wondering if it is ok to put a 75 watt in a 20 gallon long, that one is 9 inches long. I live in Georgia in the US and we do not turn the heat on during the "winter" here. It can get chilly in the house and the tank temp can drop to the low 60's, I know because once we forgot to plug in the heater for 3 days last winter and the temp read in the low 60's. Anyway if I got the 75 watt, would it be on too much over the winter wearing it out sooner. All the 100 Watts I am looking at are too long. Any ideas? Thank you
<You can place a heater diagonally or even flat, if you put it an inch or two above the gravel. In any case, if your average room temperature doesn't drop far below 15 C/59 F, then a relatively low wattage heater should be
ample, and the 75 W should do the trick nicely. All standard aquarium heaters come with built-in thermostats, hence being called "heater-stats".
These are preset to 25 C/77 F, which is about right for most fish, if a bit high for things like Neons, Danios and Corydoras, and a bit low for a very few fish, notably Discus and Ram Cichlids. So by all means leave your heater at the default setting initially, but use a thermometer to check water temperature and adjust the heater up or down as required. Even here in England I can leave the heater off during summer, and daily variations between 18-25 C/68-77 F are fine for most fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Heater malfunction 10/27/09
I've been using your site for years and love it! I am writing to you because a few days ago, my heater malfunctioned (Freshwater tropical setup, 29 gallon), making the tank water very hot (the stick on thermometer must be faulty though since it still showed 78). So I'm not sure how high the temp was but it felt like hot shower water and ice melted immediately when we put it in the tank. Other than that, the water parameters are fine. The temp is now back to 78 (new thermometer). This was three days ago.
Yesterday one fish died and two more died today. The remaining fish look bad, like almost black in color and laying at the bottom of the tank. Is there any chance of survival for these fish?
<Yes, a good chance if they're still alive now.>
If not, I'd like to euthanize them but really don't want to if there's hope for them still. Hope to hear from you soon,
<It goes without saying you need to replace the heater. Also, buy one just big enough for the tank, i.e., if you have a 29 gallon tank, buy one suitable for tanks up to that size but not substantially larger. Assuming
the room is centrally heated, a 100-150 W unit should be ample. Avoid getting heaters that are far too big, since if these "stick" in the on position, they'll harm the fish much more quickly than a smaller heater.
Conversely, don't get a heater that's too small for the tank. If the heater has to stay on all the time, it's more likely to fail. To some extent, you get what you pay for with heaters. Having got through any number of glass
heaters in my time, I can tell you that buying the cheapest one in the shop is rarely wise! Look for a brand you know and trust. The best glass heaters are probably the Eheim Jager Aquarium heaters. Cheers, Neale.>

Temperature Problem, waste heat in an African Cichlid sys.    2/13/09 Hi, <Hello,> I have a 178 Gallon African Cichlid tank. I'm using the Fluval FX5 for filtration. It has been set up for about 2 weeks now. I only have 6 very small cichlids. Last night I noticed the temperature was around 81f which was strange because my heater was set to 78f. Just to make sure the heater wasn't malfunctioning I unplugged it. When I woke up the temp was 87f!! What is going on here? <If you've unplugged the heater (double check you have, and not unplugged something else by accident) the heat is coming from three possible sources: Firstly, the lights. These can run hot if you have a lot of them. Two fluorescent tubes normally have little impact, but 4 or more will do. So check this, and if necessary, increase ventilation inside the hood. Secondly, direct sunlight. This is surprisingly good at warming up tanks, even on "cold" days. It's the infrared that makes the difference, not the warmth of the air. Close the curtains on windows that are allowing sunlight to shine into the tank. Finally, central heating of your home. If the tank is near a heating vent or a radiator, it will warm up substantially.> It is very cold outside (about 37f) and my house temp is set to 68f. I have no idea what is happening. Could my filter be malfunctioning and heating the water (filter seems to be running normal)? <Unlikely. There are thermo-filters that deliberately warm the water, but you would presumably know that you'd bought one of these. Otherwise, no, the heater motor itself isn't hot enough to heat a tank.> Please help if you can. Do I need to buy a chiller unit? <Probably not. Do also consider the thermometer might be broken. The sticky liquid crystal ones in particular seem to go bad sometimes.> It just seems strange when it isn't even hot in here. <Strange indeed.> Thanks!! <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Temperature Problem   2/13/09 Thanks for your response! 1: The tank is not in direct sunlight, plus the problem happened overnight when it was dark. <OK.> 2: The tank is not near a heating vent either. the room temp is 68f. <OK.> 3: The thermometer is not broken, I can feel the water is warm to the touch, plus I tested it outside the tank and its working ok. <OK> I was wrong I didn't unplug the heater I just set the temp to very low. I think maybe the heater is busted and just was pumping heat into the tank all night. <A-ha! Heaters do "jam". Especially common if the heater is being used in a proportionally big tank, so that the heater is on most of the time. It's best to use two smaller heaters in big tanks. That way, if one jams, the other is too small to boil the fish. Conversely, if one fails, the other will at least stop the heat loss being so rapid your fish will die. It's good advice to get a mid-priced heater; the cheapest ones do seem to have an unacceptably high failure rate.> Now the heater is completely out of the tank. I have a fan blowing on the surface of the water and the temp is still high (84f). I'll give it some time and hopefully it will cool off. If not I have no idea what to do. <It will cool down. Take care not to chill your fish though!> Thanks! <Cheers, Neale.>

Beginner Chiller Questions, FW, and GF sys.    4/28/08 Hello Crew, How are you today? <I'm fine, thanks> I think I've come to the conclusion that I may need a chiller. <Okay> I currently own a 75 gallon FW tank. It houses two comet goldfish and a Pleco. I know the comets can accept a wide range of temps, but much higher than 80 will probably be bad for all involved. <Mmm, not if permanently too high, or too vacillating... Let's see> I like to keep the temperature around 73 degrees Fahrenheit/23 degrees Celsius. This is because this is on the upper scale for the comets and the lower end for the Pleco. All seem happy with this temp. <Yes> Since I just recently upgraded to the 75 gallon (last October), I wanted to make sure I purchased the max I could afford. I bought the glass lids instead of the plastic hood, and I bought a triple-tube fluorescent light since I wanted to make some algae for my Pleco (and he does a good job of keeping things clean). I also purchased a Rena XP 4 filter. I'm looking into getting a new one, but if I do need a chiller, I'll have to wait on that. The lights are 32W per tube, so that's roughly 96W of heat assuming no losses (I know, very simple assumption). I have a hang-in refugium that has a small 7W powerhead for the Anacharis I purchased to try to help with Nitrates. <Good> They are doing well and this was only purchased to stop the fish from eating the plants to death. It hangs just below the water line so the plants receive a great deal of light. Also, the filter runs at 31W, so assuming 100% heat dump from both (another simple assumption) I now have about 140W of heat dump into the system. <Mmm, as you say, minus losses> Here's the problem. When I run the lights during the day and the apartment heats up (we're talking up to 75-76 degrees F, if you call that heating up), the aquarium can easily reach upwards of 78-79 degrees F. I tried to remedy the situation over the past few days by raising up the lights on about a 1" shim, putting a 12" fan running against the side and front of the aquarium, removing a tube from the fixture to reduce heat, and then finally by raising both glass access flaps to help aid in evaporation cooling (see, I am reading the FAQs!!! ;) ). <Heeeee! You're ready to start writing them!> Nothing seemed to work. Even with ambient air temperatures around 72 degrees and all the "fixes" in place, the temp in the tank still rises to around 76-77 degrees F. <No big deal> So I went on to my next idea which I haven't finished yet. I plan on putting three 120mm fans connected up to a converter that I purchased at Radio Shack, and then implementing those into the left side of my aquarium to blow down on the water, and on the other side put just a screen mesh so that air can get out, but fish can't. <Good> But, here's the catch. I'm a meteorologist, so I know a little bit about thermodynamics and air temperatures. I live in Philadelphia. The summers here are pretty humid most times. Strike one on evaporation cooling. Second, I know that even with the fans going and the humidity low, the water can only be cooled down to ambient air temperature. The air exiting the tank theoretically could get lower (wet bulb temp), but even then, the humidity inside the apartment will quickly rise leaving an equilibrium of eventually air temperature when ambient reaches wet bulb, or 100% humid. Strike two against air cooling. Finally, when I leave my apartment, I turn the A/C up to 82F to save energy and money. I don't like $250 electric bills, and that's what it costs around here if I keep the A/C at a friendly 75F during the morning and night when I'm here. I could only imagine the price if it was that temp 24/7. I also plan to go on vacation during the summer for around 10 days, and this combined with the thermostat at 82F will definitely not keep the tank cool, regardless if I turn off the lights or not. Strike three, no? <Again... I think you'll be fine...> So I started to take another look at the chillers. Man, are they pricey. On top of that, there is no unique guide to sizing the things. Some sites say 1/10 HP goes up to 130 gallons, where some say only 50 gallons. <There are differences in efficiency... and insulation...> I have looked at the JBJ Arctica and the Current USA Prime coolers. I was looking at the 1/10 HP models since that's what the JBJ site sized out for me. but I wanted to ask you guys to make sure this sounds ok. I could go up to the 1/5 HP from JBJ (I want quiet, and you guys said in one of the chiller FAQs that was high on the list) if you think that's what I need, but I'd hate to buy a V12 when a V6 can do the job more efficiently and still have room to grow if needed. I also don't want to short-cycle the compressor or cause rapid spikes in temperatures for the fish. <Mmm, yes... these devices consume electricity as well...> I wanted to do inline instead of drop-in since I read here that drop-ins are very inefficient. <Agreed. They're inappropriate tech. for most all applications> I wanted to connect the chiller up right after my XP4 since then I wouldn't have to purchase a new pump or anything. The XP4 says it has a 450GPH flow, and I bet that's probably without any media inside. My only reservation with that was that I didn't see any kind of flow curve or documentation on how restrictive the chillers are. I've water-cooled computers before so reading those charts does give an idea of flow rates and pump needs. The last thing I want to do is kill my filter pump. <Yes... and this may well do it. The small head magnetic drive pumps for these filters are not meant to encounter any/much induced drag> The JBJ says that it can handle up to 960 GPH through it - great considering I may end up getting a second filter anyway in the long run and pairing both filters into a Y tube that goes into the chiller, then splitting back out of a Y tube to two outputs. That would give roughly a max 900 GPH flow through the chiller. <A bit less in actual practice... like half> Anyway, sorry to make a short story long. But I hope you have some insight for me. I'm really confused on what to do since not a whole lot of people seem to be in my position. Most have metal halide lighting, sumps, etc. I don't. My setup is pretty simple, and I keep it that way since I know the more complicated I make it, the more I'm going to mess something up and potentially kill my fish (i.e. the reason I don't have a sump is because I don't know how to keep it from siphoning my tank out, and what happens in a power failure?!?). Maybe one day I will start to use a sump since I do have a spare 20 gallon that I moved up from. I'd like a de-nitrate tank and I know I could get one with either a planted sump or a deep sand bed. just gotta figure out the whole water-draining scenarios first. <Neat! Sounds like a worthy project> It scares me to get a call from apartment management telling me my 75 gallons all drained into the apartment below and that my fish are now gone. I know they were only 70 cent feeder fish. but I still can't fathom such an inhumane death. Weird, I know. Anyway, let me know if you can help, and if you can I greatly appreciate it. And so does my wallet. John Lindsay <John, I would maybe shift your lighting schedule, with one or more on-off cycles per day... have the lights come on (and maybe go off) till later in the day, eve, when it's cooler... Is what I do for my fancy goldfish here in S. Cal. (where it was 90 F. ayer)... Not a problem, really... In the volume you have, the species you care for, all this will work out... Keep doing those 20-25% water changes every week and no worries. Bob Fenner>

Re: Beginner Chiller Questions  4/29/08 Bob, <John> Thank you for the reply. <Welcome> I tend to agree with you about the fact that as long as it isn't a continuous situation, I'd be ok. However, my idea with the fans didn't work as well as I thought. They don't fit, and I don't have the tools necessary (I am just out of college in my first job with an apartment - no time to have purchased the right equipment, plus the right equipment to do so, like just a rip saw or table saw, is about at much as a chiller) to implement the right design. <Understood> So, if my air temperature still stays at 82F for the week and a half I'm gone, with the fact that no cool-down will occur at night since I won't be home to monitor the temps, and the same for during the day when I keep the A/C on at 82F... are you recommending the chiller or not? I don't know if I got a true answer, but perhaps you were leaving it up for me to decide since it is my purchase!!! :) <Am advising against such purchase, use. I don't use one...> I know that 77 isn't a worry for temps... but the fact that when the apartment is at 72 the temp is at 77, and when I have the apartment at 75 I know the tank will heat up to around 79, I can only imagine when the air in the apartment is at 82... the tank will rise to around 85+ which I know is too hot for any fish... <Not really... if one thinks/considers that the back-up, redundancy processes/mechanisms on a space shuttle or submarine are impressive, they should take a look at the capability of shifting biochemical pathways in biotic systems... MUCH more impressive> I'm just trying to make sure I don't come home to dinner one day. <Not to worry, I assure you> Thank you so much for your help. I know it has been time consuming with my last e-mail! John Lindsay <A pleasure to share. BobF>

Re: Emergency with clown loach    01/13/2008 Hi Neale, Thanks so much for your response. Unfortunately, Mr. Whiskers was gone this morning. He was cocooned in a thick coat of slime from barbels to tail. I also discovered the problem...when I reached in to get him, the water was so hot a human would be uncomfortable in a bath of that temp. Apparently the heater malfunctioned and super heated the water overnight. It must have started glitching the day before when Mr. Whiskers had just a little slime reaction; just a few degrees hot enough to affect a delicate clown loach but not enough to tell anything was amiss. Then over last night it went wild and...my favorite, most personable fish gone. What is so frustrating is I always went the extra mile doing everything right for such a special specimen...weekly changes, constant testing...but everything can be wiped away with just a malfunctioning heater. I assume the little loach died too; I'm going to search the tank for his body. All the cichlids and Plecos seem okay, so far...I had unplugged the heater and threw in some ice packs. It took hours for the temperature reader to register upper nineties, so my guess is the temp went up past 100. A horrible way to go. Again, thanks for your quick response, I just wish I had caught the problem before it was too late. Take care, Katey <Hello Katey. A horrible story, and you have my commiserations. Let me share a useful tip though: with valuable collections of fish (and which collection of fish isn't valuable?) use two too-small heaters instead of one adequate one. So suppose your tank needs 100 W of heating. Don't use a single 100 W heater but instead two 75 W heaters. Why? Because if one heater jams, it won't have enough power to boil your fish (at least, not quickly, giving you time to notice the problem). Conversely, if one heater fails, the other one will still be powerful enough to slow down the heat loss enough for you to notice the problem in time, and the tank certainly won't get so cold the fish freeze. You still need to check the heaters from time to time, but at least you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that either way, your fish will be safe. Hope everyone else in the tank settles back down, Neale.>

Heating Substrate 11/29/07 I was about to stick a reptile heating pad on the bottom of our 75 gallon tank thinking that the water\substrate would prevent hot spots that would cause stress cracks. Boy I'm I glad I researched your forum first. Our tank rests on an open metal stand made of angle iron and the bottom glass is completely exposed. That said; I'm considering the use of the heating pad on a metal plate of some fashion under the tank. The plate would be installed in a way that prevents contact with the tank glass but allows the heated air to circulate around the heater\plate and warm the tank bottom. Efficiency sounds poor at best so I would likely enclose this heating solution with foil faced Styrofoam to improve efficiency. <Yes, this insulation will help efficiency.> In the end, I think all I've accomplished is placing the tank over a low temperature oven. I would appreciate your advice and insight towards substrate heating solutions. I have to say that the warm water tubing may be my best choice. <A quick internet search of substrate heaters will give you several options here. There are several companies that make cable type heaters for just this purpose. Best regards, Scott V.> <<Well-stated Scott. RMF>>

Heater & Antibiotic... effect on bacteria 11/29/07 Hi Crew, <Hello> I thought of putting a heater and setting it to 32 deg. C as weather is getting cooler. In your opinion, will this temp. setting kills off my beneficial bacteria (in mature tank)? <That will be too warm for about any system. What temperature does your tank run the rest of the year? What kind of system is it ? What livestock? It is likely you will need a heater this time of year, just not that warm.> I'm also thinking of dosing antibiotic into my tank for the purpose of boosting my fishes health, is this advisable or harmful? Pls. advise. <This will kill the beneficial bacteria you were referring to. If your fish are otherwise healthy there will be no reason to treat them. If they have something wrong with them it needs to be diagnosed and treated with the appropriate medication.> Thank you. Regards. Alan <Welcome, Scott V.>

Hi Crew, <Hello.> Thanks. for the prompt reply. <Welcome> Further to my questions, since 32 deg. C is considered too warm, what's the more appropriate temperature then? <Again depends on the type of system/fish. General tropical fish require 25-27 degrees C. Fish such as goldfish require less, fish such as Discus more.> My main purpose is too prevent any outbreak of disease (will be away from home for 4 days) and also one of my fish seems to have some white dots/stuff (definitely not white spots) on its body. I'm thinking of raising the temp. so as to kill off whatever causing this white stuff. Dosing of medication into the tank is out of the question. Am I doing enough? <In that case you will need to set up a quarantine tank. Raising the temperature can help, maybe to 29 deg C. The treatment again depends on the type of fish involved. Reading through the saltwater/freshwater ich articles/FAQs will shed some light on what you need to do next.> Thanks in advance. Regards. Alan <Welcome, good luck, Scott V.>

Re: Fungus ? Now: Heater Requirements -- 08/11/07 Hi Chuck, thanks for your swift reply, I think ill bin the furry bit! Just a quick one , at what temp do you think I should run my tank? its normally around 77/78 degrees is this ok? am having prob.s keeping consistent temperatures, I run a VisiTherm 300 watt heater. Do you think I should add one more? Thanks < The size of the heater depends on the ambient room temperature and where you want the temperature to be. For instance. If your room was 80 F during the summer then you don't need a heater at all. If you have an air conditioner that keeps the room at 68 F then your heater has to raise the water temp by 10 degrees F top bring it up to 78 F. Your heater may be placed in a "dead spot". I mean an area in the tank that doesn't get much water circulation. Place the heater in an area where the filter forces the water over it. You should get better hear circulation. BTW, 78 F is just fine for the fish that you have.-Chuck>

Too much heater for the tank?   7/16/07 Hi, First of all, great site! You guys are awesome! <well, one tries...> I'm setting up my first tank, a 55-gallon with Malawi cichlids - currently cycling using 10% ammonia. I'd like to use two heaters, one at either end of the tank, rather than one in the middle -- I have two Stealth heaters, one 200W and one 150W. I know this is technically more heating power than I need for a 55-gal, but I'm wondering if it will do any harm to put the extra heating capacity in there. <Using two heaters is a very good idea. I do exactly this myself. The traditional approach here is to use two *slightly underpowered* heaters, so that if one "sticks" in the on position, it won't be powerful enough to boil the fish. On the other hand, if one fails, the other will be just strong enough to keep the temperature from plummeting too rapidly, giving you the 24 hours needed to go buy a replacement. One factor to consider is the ambient temperature of the room. If your home is kept constantly warm, then the heaters will probably have very little work to do, but if you don't keep the room so hot, then the heaters will need to work harder (i.e., need a higher wattage). Here in England where the climate is quite mild all year round, it's actually quite easy for tanks to be *overheated* even with the heater on its lowest setting, especially coupled with high output lights. Thermal stratification of the water is yet another factor. Hot lights above and inefficient size/placement of the water pumps can let cooler water settle at the bottom. What I'm saying is that it's all a bit trial and error. Put the heaters in the tank, turn both down to the lowest setting, and see what you get. Move the thermometer about to check the water is being warmed uniformly. Turn each heater up a notch and give it a day to see what happens to the temperature in the tank. Rinse and repeat...> Thanks, Phil <Cheers, Neale>

Bringing down the temperature...   5/14/07 Hi, <Greetings.> My tank temperature is at 80 degrees and I want to know how can I bring the temperature down safely? <Evaporation will help, so putting an electric fan nearby is one trick. Making sure the tank isn't in direct sunlight makes a big difference, and best of all put the tank somewhere shady and cool. Basements are ideal.> Can I just add ice cubes or add cool water when doing partial water changes? <You can add ice cubes, but here's a better approach: take an old plastic 1-litre ice-cream carton or similar. Fill with water. Put the lid on. Freeze solid. When it's done, float the carton in the tank (ice being lighter than water floats). This should last for several hours. When it's melted, put back in the freezer to re-freeze. If you have two cartons, you can cycle them.> I have a Calico Fantail goldfish and don't understand why the water temp is so high. It's cool in the house and I don't have a heater in there. <Sounds as if direct sunlight is to blame. Water should be close to air temperature. Slight differences will occur because water loses/gains heat incredibly slowly (which is actually a good thing -- I accidentally switched the heater off one tank last night, but it was only a few degrees cooler the next morning despite the low air temperature). So if there isn't a heater in the tank, the water should be somewhere between minimum and maximum air temperature at any given time. If it's warmer than the air temperature, chances are direct sunlight is warming the tank. A good clue is the presence of algae on the glass; algae really thrives on glass getting direct sunlight.>   Thanks, Najla <No problems. Cheers, Neale>

Temperature fluctuations Hi Crew,  Just a quick question for you on temperature. I have a 66 Gallon Tank with African Cichlids. We just moved to a new house and now the fish are situated in the basement. By the way we live in Canada so the nights get cool. In our other house I had a Tronic 200 watt heater in the tank which seemed to nicely maintain 80 degrees. However in our new house I notice the daytime temperature of 80 degrees and when I get up in the morning I notice the temperature is around 76 or 77 degrees.  < The temperature range for Malawian cichlids is between 75 to 80 degrees so you are still well within their range.>  I have even added another 100 watt heater. On the back of heater box it says a 200 w heater is good for 65 gallons so I figured 300 watts should do the trick. I have the tank about 4 feet from the concrete wall. Should I add yet another heater or is a 4 degree variance ok? Any other suggestions?  < This all depends on how "Cool" it gets. Unfortunately glass is a pretty poor insulator. If your tank was in your home and you kept the house at 65 degrees F. Then a 200 watt heater might work. If you mean down to the 50's or lower then you heater could turn into a little night light trying to keep up with the heat loss. Overall the temp. is fine right now. If it gets below 75 for any length of time and there may be problems. The higher the temp . the more breeding you will get and the better your fish will look. Two things to consider to maintain the water temperature. Add more heat with another heater and watch your electric bill get even higher or reduce the heat loss from the tank. Start by placing sheets of Styrofoam insulation underneath the tank and on the back. This will help insulate the tank without hindering viewing the fish. Keep the top tightly sealed too. Lots of heat is lost through openings in the top.>  Also when I moved the tank I saved about 1/4 of the water and the gravel  and also the filter contents. will this be enough to get the new system  running or should I be performing more frequent water changes then normal?  < As long as the gravel remained wet there should be no problem and the bacteria should have remained intact.-Chuck>  thx  Ron

Temperature controller  - 03/06/07 Good morning crew member: <<Hello, Sue. Crew Member Tom at your service.>> Just a question about temperature controllers used with heaters containing bi-metallic strips. I understand that the heater is set to a higher temperature that keeps the unit on all the time; therefore, do the bi-metallic strips stay in the closed, or on position continuously? In other words, does the addition of a temperature controller  prevent premature wear and tear on the bi-metallic strips. <<I think what you might be referring to, Sue, are temperature controllers designed to protect the tank in the event of a failure in the bi-metallic switch integrated into the heater. The temperature setting of the protective controller is set above the temperature setting of the heater and, in the event that the temperature of the heater reaches the 'setpoint' of the protective device, electrical power is shut off to the heater. The 'presumption', if you will, is that the contacts on the bi-metal strips have welded themselves together resulting in a 'runaway' heating coil. What you've described would be a 'sensible', current-limiting device that, basically, supersedes the bi-metal switch as the temperature controller for the heater. Possible? Certainly, but probably prohibitively expensive against the newer, digitally controlled heaters available (though those aren't exactly being 'given away', by any stretch). I'd be very interested if you have an example of what you've described so I can review it.>> Thank you very much for your time. This website is the only aquarium source I trust for advice and information. <<I thank you for all of us, Sue.>> Sue :) <<Tom>>

Cheap heater mistake  - 1/22/07 Dear crew, <<Tom here with you, Celeste.>> The LFS was closed when we needed it, and so we went ahead and bought a cheap heater at Wal-Mart for our hospital tank.   <<Do I want to guess?>> Honestly, we didn't know that there was such a danger with cheap heaters until today with more research.   <<I'm getting a bad feeling'¦>> However, last night the heater exploded in the tank.   <<Yep. That's what the 'feeling' was about.>> It was the middle of the night, but thankfully, I heard the explosion and saw the flashes.  The smell was horrible and the water had an oily and black residue floating on the top, along with black powder in the water and broken glass on the bottom.  We grabbed a Tupperware container, matched the water and scooped the five guppies out.  They were probably in the water for all of five minutes, and they seem fine this morning, but I haven't been able to find out much about what the black powder could be and whether we should be worried about poisoning of the fish.   <<First, congratulations on the fast action. Well done! The black powder is likely soot (carbon) and shouldn't pose any problem. The heater element (wire) drew an excessive amount of electrical current creating a large amount of heat inside of the body of the heater surrounded by, relatively speaking, cold water. The heater 'tube' was, obviously, not heat-tempered and blew apart under the thermal stress. (Why my Mom couldn't move a glass cooking dish directly from the refrigerator to the oven 'in the old days, that is.) :) >> I'm afraid I don't know the brand.   <<Wish you did, Celeste. I'd love to advertise it on our site as a brand 'not to buy'.>> We have since returned the other cheap heater, plus the exploding one, and bought a better quality, though still glass, heater. <<Glass, in and of itself, isn't the problem, Celeste. Even with a complete failure of the heater element, the housing should never have shattered. The manufacturer cut costs or, was forced to cut costs (are you listening, Sam Walton? 'Nah, laughin' all the way to bank, TJ!'), by using inferior materials. Thank God, we're talking about five Guppies and not five human beings!>>    Thanks, Celeste <<Sorry for 'soap-boxing', Celeste. Hey, you started it! I'm happy that you reacted quickly and all seems to be okay, though. Again, good job and, I'm sorry for your experience. Best regards. Tom>>

Re: Cheap heater mistake   1/23/07 Thanks for your quick reply, Tom.  I appreciate what you guys do. <<You're welcome, Celeste. And we all appreciate your gratitude.>> When I came home from work, they were all fine, but about an hour or two later, one was floating.  The explosion took place in a hospital tank and I wonder if it stressed the fish out further and she succumbed.   <<Hard to know for sure on this one, Celeste. A pretty violent accident by Guppy standards and one that would have stressed me more than a bit as well.>> We're keeping a close eye on the rest.  (They're back in a cleaned out tank with a new heater [not from Wal-Mart], a filter and cycled water.)   <<Sounds good.>> The brand that exploded was a Tetra Whisper for 2-15 gallons.  I thought Tetra was a good brand.  I've heard of other good brands making products for Wal-Mart that are of cheaper quality then the ones they sell with their names at other stores.  Would that have happened here, or am I mistaken in that they're a good name?   <<Tetra does have a reputable name in the hobby/industry, Celeste. In all fairness, this may have been a "fluke". A flaw in the housing may have led to a material weakness that allowed the glass to shatter as it did. Coupled, however, with the failure of the heating control and/or heating element, I'm feeling a bit restrained in my effort to be "fair" here. You're quite correct in suggesting that Wal-Mart markets cheaper quality products from brand-name distributors. Not unknown elsewhere but Wal-Mart is notorious for ruthlessly pressing their suppliers for cheaper pricing. Results, all too frequently, in inferior products being marketed to the consumers who mistakenly believe they're getting a quality product based on a company's good name/reputation.>> We don't much care for supporting Wal-Mart, and we would never, ever by live fish there, but they are cheaper and open 24 hours....it's a shame that they're like they are.  But I digress...my soap box....the evils of Wal-Mart are something I could go on and on about, but I'm still guilty of shopping there.   <<Nothing to feel "guilty" about here, Celeste. If everyone were dissatisfied with their shopping experiences, Wal-Mart would close. I don't see that happening so they're doing something right, from their perspective, anyway. Oh, well...>> Thanks again, and yes, thankfully it was just guppies this time. <<Amen to that!>> Celeste <<Hope all continues to go well with the rest of your Guppies, Celeste. My best to you. Tom>>

Re: Cheap heater mistake... Note re edit    1/23/07 Oh, and I found the caution about buying cheap heaters in the electrical article rather than the heater.  It might be helpful to add a caution to the heater article, too.  Just a thought. <<And a good one! Thanks.>> Celeste <<Tom>>

Need help heating my tank   12/31/06 Hi, <<Hi, Mike, and a Happy New Year to you. Tom with you.>>   I inherited a 200gal tank this summer and decided to put my two Flowerhorns in it. <<I should be so lucky! :) >> Everything was fine until winter came.   <<Living in Michigan, you're singing my song, Mike.>> The tank is located outside the house because it was too big and it is susceptible to temp changes outside.   <<Oh, yeah'¦>> Ever since the beginning of winter and the outside temperature got cold my fishes began to eat less, and now they are not eating at all.   It's been a little over a week now and I'm afraid that they will starve to death. Are my fishes sick and if so how do I cure them. <<Well, first, I'd bet they're freezing their little fishy buns off. That's going to lead to stress and, consequently, a loss of appetite. As to whether, or not, they're sick, I have no way of telling from what you've described so far.>>   I had thought they are not eating because I do not have adequate heating in the tank and they are just cold but I read somewhere that the temperature should not make them stop eating but just eat less.   <<Kind of subjective, Mike. Could be other things at work here.>> Also I observed some small tiny worms swimming in the water.  Some are black and some are clear.  They are about a quarter inch in length and just wiggle around in the water.  Is this some kind of parasite that is making my fishes sick. <<Parasites infest a host to survive and propagate. If these critters are swimming around, they're some form of micro-worm, or the like, and are an indication of poor water conditions. I'd guess they're feeding on the excess food that your Flowerhorns aren't consuming.>>   Also, can you give me some advice in regards to heating the tank.  Currently my tank only has two small heaters suitable for maybe a 20 gal tank?  I've been trying to find something to show me how to heat the 200 gal tanks but nothing too definitive.   <<Since I enjoy helping other folks spend their money, I'd recommend at least two Eheim (formerly Ebo-Jaeger) 250W heaters, placed at opposite ends of the tank. Depending on how cold it gets in your neck of the woods, a third heater may even be necessary but I don't want to get too crazy with your paycheck. You should be able to pick these up online for about $30 each. The main thing is that you need to get the temperature of the tank stabilized. Swings up and down aren't doing your fish any good whatsoever.>> Please help. I really want to try to do this the right way. <<The other thing you need to do right away, Mike, is to clean your tank concentrating heavily on the substrate to get rid of excess food/detritus. Once your conditions are back in order, your little worm buddies will be a thing of the past.>> Thanks   Mike <<Hope this gets things back on track, Mike. As an aside, one important aspect of the heaters I mentioned is that, apart from the high quality of the product, the temperature dial can be calibrated to the exact temperature of the water. No compensation necessary. Best of luck to you. Tom>>

Using Reptile Heaters  To Heat An Aquarium  - 09/13/06 Hi WWM crew. First of all, thanks to Chuck for his input and cautions. The advice was much appreciated, and I'm now revising my stocking list accordingly. I was reading a number of FAQs on WWM (and other sites) regarding the issue of substrate heating in FW plant tanks. And was debating whether or not it was worth it. However, the one thing that kept popping up was people discussing how annoying they are to deal with. At first this seemed strange to me until I realized that most of the heat cable devices are designed to go IN the substrate. Yikes! This was not my intention when I first read/heard about the idea. I have a number of heating devices (heat pads, terrestrial heat cables, etc.) left over from keeping various reptiles, and my intention was to attach whichever one fit best on the outside of the tank (underneath the substrate) using silicone or electrical tape. I then planned on hooking it up to a rheostat (also left over from reptile keeping) and tinkering with that until the substrate surface at 1.5" read 78 degrees. These numbers are based on a water temp. of 76 degrees and a total substrate depth of 3". Do you see anything horribly wrong with this plan? All the devices in question are safe for use in high humidity and the tank's stand has an open top for use with overflows and such. So the safety issues should be covered. I'm still deciding whether or not it's worth another outlet, but wanted to check to see if this method would be acceptable for reaping the "benefits" of a heated substrate or if you have to have the cables IN the substrate. If that's the case... I might leave that idea by the roadside. Thank you all again for your time and dedication. -Tyler < Check with the manufacturers of the products to see if they can be used for this purpose. If one of these products caused a hot spot under the aquarium it could break or crack the glass if there is too big a temperature differential. Who is then responsible for the damage? If it was heating the water then warmer water would rise in the tank and be replaced with cooler water. Under the gravel you have restricted water flow and the circulation may not be enough to cool the glass. It would not be worth it for me and I would purchase a high quality heater.-Chuck>

Stick On Thermometer Stuck On The Inside  - 05/20/2006 Dear WWM, I just set-up a 55g tank. I put the stick-on thermometer on the inside of the tank. I had a tank set-up this way when I was a child, which caused me to not think anything about doing it again. After I set it up, I noticed that I had made a mistake. Should I remove it? Will it do any harm? Thanks! Matt < It won't do any harm but will probably come off after few weeks.-Chuck>

No Heat For Tropical Fish   1/20/06 Please, any advice would be greatly appreciated.  We had a power outage yesterday or late the day before and my aquarium heater is plugged into a GFI outlet. Bottom line:  when the power went back on the outlet did not, until I discovered the problem and reset it.  By this time, the water temperature had dropped to fifty eight degrees.  I turned my heater up all the way and grabbed a spare heater, put it in the tank and did the same.  the temperature is gradually rising and is now about 62. I have a fifty five gallon tank with three giant Danios, 2 white tetras (I think that's the name.  they are pinkish in color and fan like fins and tails), a pictus cat, a Pangasius cat, and two large silver dollars.   The giant Danios and tetras were still active but were not interested in eating.  The catfish are hiding and the silver dollars appear to be in a catatonic state.  What else can I do and are my fish doomed????? < Put your heater back to its original setting. It will not heat the water up any faster. When it does reach the temp you want it will continue to climb and cook your fish so set it back.. Do a 20% water change with water around 80 F and SLOWLY add it to your tank. Do create hot and cold spots so that you fish are radically changing temps as they swim around. Do this every couple of hours. When you get back up to temp then you may want to increase the aeration and increase the water temp to 82 to prevent an ich outbreak. Don't try to feed you fish until the water gets up to the low 70's.-Chuck> Battle between 2 heated elements  9/25/05 Hi, I Googled this site to see if you all had already answered my question, without result, and yet I apologize if you have already answered this.  I have a Betta in a 5 gallon tank.  I know I need a 25 watt heater; I've also read I need one with an automatic shut-off.  My concerns are: my apartment temperature fluctuates from freezing at night to boiling when the radiator kicks in; so I was hoping to find a heater that would be able to adjust itself based on the ambient temperature of the room, in addition to having an automatic shut-off. <All do... they're thermostatic> The only 25 watt heater I've been able to find has neither an automatic shut-off, (unless it's outside of the water... which won't happen), nor does it indicate that it will vary it's temperature to keep the water at a relatively consistent temperature. <Won't chill the water, but will turn itself off beyond the upper limit setting> (It does allow me to adjust the temperature to one I want).  I've found 50 watt heaters that have those qualities; but no 25 watt heaters.  So, I'm wondering if I should get the 25 watt one anyway, since my tank is only 5 gallons; or if I should get the 50 watt heater that has the automatic shut-off and ability to alter the amount of heat it generates to keep the water at a consistent temperature. Do you have any suggestions, or further insights or suggestions.   BubbleMeister and I thank you in advance! <Mmm, you could use the 50 watt unit... just needs (more) careful initial setting... Do look into Hydor Products line as well. Bob Fenner>

Filtration for FW upgraded size system 7/24/05 As always I come to your site after I do a lot of reading and still can't come up with a feel for what to do. I have been in the hobby for a couple of years now, and have gone larger from 10 to 20, to 45, and now I have gotten a hold of a 150 gallon tank. Still have the smaller tanks set up. My question is on filtration. So far all I have needed was hang on filters. My theory has been to buy the next size up from whatever tank I had. I have never had any problems this way. With a 150 gallon, It seems I will need multiple filters, so I am in new territory here. My first thought was (2) emperor 400's, since they are cheap, and a total of 4 BioWheels  should do the trick I feel. I just don't know if the turnover will be sufficient for SA/CA cichlids that I keep (GT, JD, Firemouth, Severum, more to be added) I have also thought of using (1) large canister like the RENA xp3 along with an emperor 400. This looks like enough filtration, but as with the last case, is this sufficient turnover? <Along with weekly water changes...> Should I combine the 2 ideas and use 2 Emperors and the canister together? <Even better> I'd really appreciate any insight on heaters as well. I know that as the cichlids get bigger they like to smash things, so If there is a way to protect them I am all ears. <Hide these behind rocks, submersibles stuck down along the gravel line, or in drilled lengths of PVC pipe...> Thanks in advance, you guys. I will be checking my e-mail like a maniac, awaiting your answer. <Be chatting, reading. Bob Fenner>

Re: Betta Territoriality (and now temp control) Bob, <David> Thanks for the advice... got a trio of small platies yesterday, already seems to have helped slightly reduce frequency/duration of the Betta's "hunts". This seems to work much better than having rasboras in there, who are a lot more jittery than the platies and seemed to only make things worse. <Good> I also have a question on temperature fluctuations. It's been getting quite warm here now, getting up to 80+ degrees in the house in the afternoon. I don't have A/C. With 2 small tanks (3g and 12g) this is becoming a problem. I have my heaters set to 78. The 3g tank will get to about 82-84 before the house begins to cool, the 12g will get to about 81-82. I've started turning off the lights for a few hours in the afternoon, which obviously isn't ideal for the plants either.  <Agreed... if the vacillation is no more than 3-5 F. in a day, the low eighties F. are not a problem> I could set the heater higher to minimize the temp change, but would then end up with higher peak temp. Looking for the right balance there. <Well-stated> So, what's the maximum safe daily delta? <About five degrees Fahrenheit> And what's the hottest a tank can safely get for, say, 4-5 hours peak? <Mid eighties F.> The problem will worsen in the summer, when it often gets to 90 in the house by mid-afternoon. I assume I will have to do some type of DIY cooling (float ice in bag, etc; uncovering the tank and fan cooling isn't really an option due to jumping fish and diving cats)... <Bingo> Regards, Dave <BobF> 

Tank not heating Hello, I have a 29 gallon tank that I purchased as a kit from Petco about three years ago. We set it up and was working great. We recently moved but took our water and gravel with us so we wouldn't have to wait for the tank to re-cycle. <Good idea> We moved from north Texas to central Arkansas. The filter is the Tetra PF150 with the built in heater (HC100). It worked fine in Texas. I set the heater at 78 degrees and the temperature was constant. After moving the heater was still set at 78 degrees but it would only keep the temp at 72. I bought a second thermometer (since I had broken the original during the move) but it too said 72. I have tried turning up the heater but it stays at 72. We had 6 male sailfin mollies, a female molly, and 2 julii Cory catfish. In the beginning of January the tank was doing good, with the female molly having babies. About two weeks later the water temp dropped to 68 degrees. Three of the male mollies died. I bought a new heater but it was still not getting above 72 degrees. <Strange...> There is a red light that comes on when the heater is on, but it only comes on for about ten seconds after plugging it in. Room temperature varies from 70-72 degrees. I have called the manufacturer and they said I could send the heater in to verify it is working. (Personally, I believe that two heaters can not be doing the same exact thing when one is brand new and the other is three years old.) <IS odd> The house we now live in is about eighty years old and I thought it might be wiring but I have tried three different outlets and not luck. Do you have any recommendations? <I would send both these units into Tetra... a very good company... I have been to their Blacksburg, VA plant... seen their extensive testing facilities, HUGE warehouse... some manufacture there. They will get to the bottom of this I am sure... You have done about what I would have thus far... and the most likely possibility IS that both heaters have the same flaw... Likely one of those new-fangled printed circuit board problems... I wonder on how many units!? Yikes! Bob Fenner>

Temperature Fluctuations Hello again! I just sent you an e-mail and I forgot to ask my most pressing question! The temperature in 44 gallon pentagon tank tends to fluctuate about 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit from day to night. Is this acceptable? <Mmm, three degrees is about it... five is too much> It was getting up to 78-79 by nightfall and down to about 73-74 by morning when the lights have been off and the heat in my house turned down for about 10 hours. I then turned the dial down a bit and the water currently gets up to about 76 and down to about 71-72. Which temp. range is preferable? <Of the two... the lower> I have a 200 watt Whisper submersible heater that does not a "specific" temperature setting (meaning it just has an up or down knob not a numerical setting). <I understand> Does this mean it is less accurate? <Not necessarily, but there are heaters that do not have this much fluctuation... look to Eheim's Ebo Jagers...> I have the heater at an angle (not directly horizontal or vertical) because I read this provides more even heating. Could this effect its accuracy? <Good question, but no, the same either orientation> Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Walt <If this heater is new (less than a year old) I would take it back to your dealer... and have them exchange it... The temperature should not vacillate this much. Bob Fenner>

Heaters rules of thumbs Hi again... here's another question for you about heaters, is it a rule of thumb that a heater should be 5 watts for ever gallon of H2O in your tank...i.e.: 55 gallon tank= a 275 watt heater???  this seems a little extreme to me but I'm new to this world so I really don't have a clue. < I have two 100 gallon aquariums in my house and each one has only a 150 watt heater in each. The water is maintained at 78 to 80 degrees year round with the lows at night reaching maybe 55 degrees. If you want to set up a tank in your unheated garage in winter then a couple 150 watt heaters may be needed to keep the fish warm and toasty. Everything is dependent on what is the coldest air temperature your tank will ever be expose too? Do you live in a cold climate and then leave your house unattended with the heater off and let the house get into the 40's or lower? On the other hand if you lived in a warm weather climate you may never or hardly ever need a heater.-Chuck> thanks...Mathew

Severe Temperature Drop <Hi, MikeD here> I've just brought a new tank and after setting it up and introducing my fish I thought all was well. The next day It seems the heater had been knocked off and they temperature had been reduced from 26 to 18 degrees<I don't have a Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion chart handy, but that looks pretty drastic>. All my fish were looking rather dopey and sick with the guppies all hanging out at the surface. After turning the heater back on and removing buckets of cold water and adding warm water the temperature rose back up. But I was too slow the guppies were pretty much dead.<Actually, just adjusting the heater and letting it warm gradually would have been just a little better> The next day the temp is still 26 but angel fish is upside down, did the temp fluctuation do this?<Yes. Fish are poikilothermic or cold blooded, meaning that their body temperature is the same as the as the surrounding water.> Also I'm missing a long finned leopard Danio cant find him anywhere? Should I be prepared to lose more or will they be ok now?<You may well lose more, plus I'd be prepared for an outbreak of "ick" from the sudden temperature drop. Just enter the word Ick in the google search and you'll receive a wealth of information as it's probably the most common problem in the hobby> I've checked the ph its 6.8 why did the angel die?<The angelfish had an extra difficulty to deal with besides just the rapid temperature drop which is already tough enough , that being that it's a tropical fish that originated in one of the equatorial zones of the S. American rain forest.  Many "jungle" type animals have systems that can't tolerate cooler temperatures, particularly cold blooded ones like fish, reptiles and amphibians, with mere exposure to temperate climes all that's necessary to prove fatal.>

Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: