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FAQs about Electricity and Aquarium Systems 2

Related Articles: Marine Electrical Surviving extended power outages: how to keep your aquarium alive! By Mike Maddox and Merritt Adkins Grounding Probes, Marine Aquarium Light Fixtures and CanopiesGFCIs and Marine AquariumsPump Problems

Related FAQs:  Electricity 1, Electricity 3, Energy Consumption/Conservation, Electrical Consumption Measure, Electricity Back-up/Generation, Lighting Costs, Pump Energy Use, Heating/Chilling Costs, Shorts/Shocks, Dangers! Power Outages, GFCIs and Marine Aquariums Surge Devices, Grounding Probes,

"Our electricity bill is what?"

Hi Bob,
I have kept marine fish for a number of years, and my question relates to lighting in my large reef tank. It is a 7ft aquarium and I currently have 3x150watt halides with some fluorescent tubes to support them. My electricity bills have doubled recently and I am really getting to the point where money and the cost of running the system is becoming a financial nightmare as electricity prices keep going up in this country.
The room that the aquarium resides in has a flat roof, and I was pondering whether it would be possible to incorporate natural daylight into the lighting of the setup. Maybe introducing a large skylight?!
I may be completely wrong but are their any products available in the marine trade that could help utilise sunlight in the best possible way?
Many Thanks

<Energy concerns are valid'¦ and to me, a bit of a mystery that they don't get discussed more, particularly on the initial, design side of folks putting up aquatic systems. Metal halide lights are gorgeous and functional, but do consume goodly amounts of electrical power, producing much in the way of useful photonic energy, unfortunately with a concomitant degree of waste heat'¦ There is not much one can do to save on electrical consumption in lighting reef tanks'¦ re cutting back time period or number of watts in most scenarios. The leaving less lighting on, or lowering the amount of time of daily use, results in drab organisms of lessened beauty and growth.             Skylights, the use of natural sunlight can be a boon in many less-equatorial regions, and there are specialty 'tubes' that can/do concentrate and direct ambient light into a living space. The one downside of using 'olde Sol' is unreliability. Can we rely on our sun daily, or even weekly to provide sufficient light energy for any given application? There are often data available for given regions for how much incident insolation you're likely to experience, be able to use. This, coupled with the initial cost of installing whatever type of skylight you have in mind, need to be considered in your overall design/performance model for lighting your system. Of course, I would leave your present lighting as back-up and for extended day/night viewing.

            Energy in all forms is almost assuredly going to cost more and more in future. Determining (and agreeing with) the initial and ongoing costs for operating our aquarium systems, particularly lighting and pumping is very important.

Large System Re-evaluation -- 10/19/2009
Hi Guys
<Hey Ian! JustinN here!>
For the last 5 yrs I (and my visitors) have been enjoying my tank.
I have a total 2500l setup (main tank: 2500mmx1200mmx800mm) and trying to house a full reef system. I say trying because I have had various successes with corals, soft and hard. The costs to run this size setup are quite high with food, water, replacing lights, fish and corals etc.
<Absolutely understood -- that's quite the volume of water!>
The government in South Africa however are proving to be my biggest challenge! In many different ways but now I have a serious problem. The cost of electricity has already increased over the last year by 35% and is set to increase a further +-40% per year for the next three years!!!!! This is needed to pay for a couple of power stations which no one seems to know when will be on line. It's the usual story about mismanagement of a national resource but of course it's nobody's fault.
<Ahh yes.>
The electricity cost to run this setup I have is about 60% of my total monthly electricity bill so it is becoming quite an issue. It is already more than the acceptable minimum wage!
Rather than shut down the whole system I am looking to restructure the tank in such a way that these costs can be dramatically reduced and somehow still keep the visual appeal.
<Understood -- lets see what we can do.>
* Do I just go much smaller? Problem is I have this huge purpose built void in the wall to fill so will look a little silly. However I imagine a 700l tank would be manageable in terms of costs.
<I wouldn't -- if power is your main concern, see the next commentary.>
* To maintain the size I imagine I have to remove all the live rock, all the corals so that I can cut right back on the amount of light. At present I have 8x T5 39watt tubes as well as 4x 25watt MHalides which I have just changed down from 400watt MHalides. I imagine and hope fish only do not require anything special? The moment the light is for the Aquarium trade it seems to be 3x the price!!
<Just in Metal Halides, we're already looking at 1600 watts of power draw -- this doesn't include the 312 Watts of T5 lighting. If you are no longer planning on keeping the corals, just remove the Halides from the system...
Even if you kept all the T5's active, you'd still be looking at 1600 watts less draw per hour running. Fish only tanks do not require any kind of special lighting -- the light is purely for aesthetics in these configurations. The same goes for live rock -- you might not get some of the stellar growths off your live rock like you can with full reef lighting, but this does not affect the efficiency/function of the live rock, only the colorful aesthetics.>
* The main electricity thieves are the pumps. How much do I need? At the moment I have 1x .75KW running 24hrs as a main pump for circulation, 1x .75KW running 16hrs a day as the extra wave/turbulence as well as a .45KW running 24hrs on the skimming. Various smaller pumps running all the other bits and pieces.
<This is largely subjective -- you won't need as vigorous of a flow in a fish only tank, but this is all your personal tastes... I wouldn't personally drop the skimmer, but perhaps the wave generation can be dropped?>
* Or do I look at keeping fresh water and try doing something completely different?
<You could -- if you chose to go with a planted tank in this situation, you'd be still looking at a lot of the same costs at the end of the day though.>
Please advise on how best to cut out all these crazy costs and yet still allow me to participate in this wonderful hobby.
<Well Ian, based on your commentary, my thought is for you to move to a fish only tank -- you can easily reduce the overall flow, and definitely reduce the lighting -- the lighting here only needs to be enough to complete your aesthetics, so you can see your livestock and enjoy it. Good luck! -JustinN>

Re: Large System Re-evaluation -- 10/19/2009
Hi Justin
<Hey again!>
Thanks for the advice.
<Glad to provide it>
I have been thinking along those lines, fish only, but wanted to get another opinion. The lighting I understand. What do you recommend regarding the water flow? As you said I could drop the wave generator pump, what could I do about the other pump which at present is pushing out about 20 000 LPH. However the actual volume returned to the tank is less, perhaps half that?
<Hmm... Now I'm a bit confused -- are you performing a balancing act, per se, between the tanks? Pushing water from the display to the sump with one pump, and returning it with a separate pump? I apologize if I'm densely misreading this, but if this is the situation -- this is a configuration destined for problems... There should be an overflow of some sort to accommodate the drainage from the tank, simply by using the reliable powers of gravity, and this outflow is then returned via the sump pump. If you're doing the balancing act here, removing and replacing both mechanically, that alone could be a great savings in power. Unfortunately, as big of a volume as you've got here, I'm not sure there's many solutions for circulation outside of using larger pumps -- traditional powerheads are clearly going to be fruitless, and even the newer propeller-drive style powerheads, like Hydor Koralia's, would likely be relatively weak with this size. There's always the option of slowing down the output from the tank to the sump, and likewise the return to the tank, but I'd say you're in about the optimal range if you're moving 20,000GPH.>
What return volume would you say I need to keep
the tank healthy? Would I have to get rid of my anemones, the clowns will be heartbroken!!!
<They'll find something else to 'host' -- they always do. My black and white Ocellaris has been having a long-term affair with my in-tank Tunze nano skimmer -- just don't tell his day-girl, the frilly mushroom! ;)>
My system also has a 200L refugium, another 100L tank filled with fine sand and of course the sump at 300L.
<Excellent -- hopefully my previous fear here is unfounded...>
How important is the control of Temperature in a fish only? Would they panic if the fluctuation was say between 24-29 deg C? Because then I can cut out my chiller.
<That's a pretty hefty shift in temperature daily -- if you can maintain this to a 1-2 degree max shift, you should be ok... stable is always better though.>
Thanks for your time, much appreciated.
<Glad to provide it! -JustinN>

Electrical shock from Tank - Not something to trifle with. 10/1/2009
Hey guys
<and girls, we are a co-ed Crew.>
I don't know who to turn to
Thanks to your website, I am now busy cycling my tank and everything seems to be doing fine.
However, when I put my finger in the tank, I get a slight shock.
<That would be a slightly more than minor problem.>
I have noticed that its only with fingers that have cuts on them.
<Because your skin is a better insulator than most people think. A cut bypassed all of that natural insulation, so you feel it.>
What can I do?
<Determine what is "leaking" electricity and replace it.>
I know its my return pump from my sump, but I can not afford to replace it.
<Assuming it is your return pump, it needs to be replaced ASAP. Grounding probes are band-aid measures at best..>
Thank you!

Information on Energy Savings? 6/1/09
No question here, just a suggestion.
I've been keeping a reef tank for ten years and referring to your site for much of the last several years. A topic of increasing importance to many of us lovers of marine life is energy conservation,
<I'm included!>
and a tank greater than 100 gallons can easily be the largest consumer of electricity in one's home.
Unfortunately, however, I haven't been able to find very much information related to reducing aquarium energy consumption on your site (or anywhere else for that matter).
<There is little, aquarists tend to overlook the power cost of their tanks until the power bill comes.>
There are a dozen or more tricks and modifications that I've slowly come across that together have reduced my 140-gallon tank's consumption fairly dramatically - from >200 kWh/month down to about 100 kWh/month - and with no reduction in light, flow, or temperature control. Even if someone's not concerned with the environment, that's a $200/year savings (at least here in San Diego).
<Easily, yes.>
So, obviously I guess, my suggestion is that an article about aquarium-related energy savings might be useful to your readers. (Are you really asked so few questions asked about it, or am I just missing them?)
<Well, many few actually ask about this, consider it when selecting components.
I myself have penned an article on the subject, it is set to come out in FAMA early 2010 and will hopefully be posted here on WWM afterwards.>
Thanks a lot,
<Thank you, Scott V.>

Unplugged tank and when restarted no water circulation 5/18/09
Help! I am very new to this, and just unplugged tank to do weekly partial water change. When I plugged it back in the lights came on but no water circulation.
<Do need a little more information than this! Like, what make/model of aquarium is this? Is it an all-in-one unit with a single plug? Or are there separate plus for the heater, the lights, and the filter? In them meantime: switch everything off and remove the filter. Open the filter and look at the pump part: is the impeller (the rotating propeller) correctly seated in its little well? Put the thing back together again, put it in the tank, and give it a good wiggle to make sure there's no air trapped inside. Now switch it back on. If it still doesn't work, and assuming it's not a blow fuse (if it has its own plug, obviously) then it's time to contact your retailer. A word of warning: if the filter media bacteria die, you have to cycle the tank again. So keep the media healthy by removing the sponges and ceramic noodles, and placing them in a wide/shallow bowl or tub just covered with aquarium water. This should allow oxygen to diffuse into the water, and the media will fine for a couple of days like this, giving you time to replace the broken filter. It's very rare for filters to break down when brand new, but it does happen. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: unplugged tank and when restarted no water circulation 05/19/09
So, I still have no idea what happened, but in desperation I took my dog for a walk, and when I returned the air was circulating again and I was able to add the rest of the water. Still worried, but no longer seems so emergent.
<Wouldn't accept a product that works only some of the time. If you're absolutely sure you followed the instructions (re-read them!) then take the thing back and have the pet store replace it; you absolutely do not want the filter to die again at some inconvenient time.>
I will let the system settle and test the water, and wait for my local pet guy to call me back. Thanks for responding.
<Good luck, Neale.>

Experience With AquaC.. Beginning To End... electrical issue... converter for amps/voltage  2/24/09 Hey James <Ranjith> You say the 1kva adapter is good for 4.x amps. I only run the pump in question here on this on a 12 hour cycle. Would you know why it still heats up? <When you say "heats up", is it warm to the touch, or hot to the touch? Transformers work by induction, and they will generate some heat, but if properly sized, should only be warm to the touch. What kind of information is labeled on your converter/transformer?> The spec on the pump says 2.8amps. <OK, being that the secondary voltage on your transformer is 115V, and the pump is drawing 2.8 amps, the pump will need 322 watts of power. I say this thinking your adaptor might be labeled by wattage rating rather than current. Also keep in mind that the pump is likely designed for 60hz operation and that is what the rpm is based on. When run on a 50hz line, the pump can only attain 83% of it's rated rpm, which in turn will lower the pump output in gph.> It is a quiet one 4000 (high head version) Should be able to take a 24x7 cycle right? <Yes, if the converter is rated for 100% duty cycle.> Cheers Ranjith

Re: Experience With AquaC.. Beginning To End 2/24/09 Hi Ranjith, Disregard the "pump will need 322 watts of power". I used the wrong formula here. That pump will need 120 watts. Sorry for any inconvenience. James (Salty Dog)>

Re:  Experience With AquaC.. Beginning To End 2/24/09 Hi James <Hello Ranjith. Can we please stick to one subject per query. It makes Mr. Fenner's job much more difficult in sorting these types of queries for placement.><<Ah, yes. RMF>> Initially the adapter is warm but an hour or two later, it is hot. <Hot as in you cannot keep your hand on it?> I did not wait to see if it will become scalding and setup the exhaust fan. <Properly sized, these units do not need cooling fans. Something is amiss here.> Does this mean the adapter is faulty? <Could be, but I'm guessing it is not rated for the load you are putting on it.> How can I tell if it is rated for 100% cycle? <If it doesn't state on the label then the manual should state something in this regard. You should be able to find some info on your converter by Googling the manufacturer's name and model number.> At present I only run it for 12 hours (7pm to 7am) Can I get away with it? <Do you have fire insurance?> I don't plan on SPS and is a sandy slope lagoon biotope which I guess should have around 5-7ppm nitrates. <What does this have to do with the converter?> I plan to keep xenia, leather, Zoanthids, Shrooms and some LPS. Will this be fine or what? <Do send this as a separate query stating tank size, water parameters, inhabitants, lighting, etc. Do Google first re coral compatibility.> Cheers <Ditto, James (Salty Dog)> Ranjith

Re: NovAqua dechlorinator question, and electrical concern, Paracanthurus sel. and roasted Nori...   12/1/08 Thank you so much for your help. I now feel confident in using the NovAqua product. I have 2 more questions to which I couldn't find an answer after browsing your website. <Sure> 1) I recently had a small accident. I accidentally left a hot heater in an empty bucket. The bucket also contained one of my pumps (I use it to mix salt). The heater touched the wiring of the pump and burned a small piece of the wiring. The actual electrical wiring is not exposed, but the rubber got burned. I am wondering if the pump is still safe to use (the burned wire is close to the actual pump and would go into the water) or would the burned rubber release chemicals that would kill my fish. <The burnt material should be fine chemically... the chance of an "electrical leak" can be easily checked with a small electrical meter... placing the probes in a container of water with the pump in place, plugged in> 2) I recently bought ROASTED Nori from a local Asian store. The store didn't have regular dried Nori, but they did have roasted Nori. There are no other additives, it's just roasted seaweed. Is roasted seaweed safe for fish? <Mmm, a qualified yes... the processing of roasting itself may have involved the use of oil/aromatic/s... You can likely see if this is the case by placing a bit of the Nori into water... to see if a "slick" issues forth from it> The reason I ask is because I just had a small (2") hippo tang die a day or so after feeding him this product. <Mmm, small Paracanthurus do often "die mysteriously"... A/the reason I am not a fan of folks dealing with such diminutive specimens of this species. See WWM...> I only had the tang for about 10 days, and he was always hiding, but he did eat. My water parameters are perfect, so I assume he died because he was just too young, unless of course it was the seaweed??? <I doubt it> Thanks again for your help. Eugene <Welcome my friend. BobF>

Wattage measurement 11/20/08 Hello <Ed> I was always under the assumption that the wattage measurement on an aquarium was an accumulative value of all the bulbs above the tank. <Tis.> I was recently informed that is not correct. Two 96 watt CF bulbs are only putting out 96 watts, not 192. Is there any truth to this? <If you mean one bulb that has twin tubes, yes. Many of the CF bulbs have multiple tubes connected at the plug-in.> Ed Raasch

Re: Wattage measurement 11/20/08 Thank you <Welcome.> Glad to know I'm not completely stupid. edr <Heee, we all have those moments! Scott V.>

Electrical Requirements 11/08/08 Greetings! <Hello Joe.> Thanks to all at WWM crew! This is my second question this week so please let me know if I'm hogging too much of the crew's valuable time. <You are...just kidding!> I've been planning and researching as much as possible for my soon to be 75 gallon reef system. I believe that I have the cabinet and weight issues taken care of and am currently researching my electrical needs. My system will have the following electrical requirements: 2x 150 watt halides, 4x 54 watt t5's, 1x 20 watt Vortech Pump, 2x 100 watt heaters, 1x 80 watt Eheim pump, 1x 20 watt pump for skimmer, 1x 32 watt pc on fuge, 100 misc. watts I'm estimating a total of about 1000 watts. I have consulted with my electrician and he has informed me that my house (soon to move in) has a 200 amp breaker box that is equipped with arc faults. The circuit that the aquarium will run off has 20 amps. In your opinion, will these be enough power to safely support the electrical needs of the system? <It will surely support your system as listed. watts/volts=amps. So you have a load of about 9 amps, assuming you are in the US ( it will be even fewer amps at higher voltages). > Thanks for your help! Joe <Welcome, Scott V.>

Catastrophe, what next, electrical f'... env. dis...  8/13/08 Hi guys, <And gals of course, hello.> It is a sad, sad day that I have to write this to you. And a terrible thing for me because, in an admittedly short perusal of your site, I didn't come across anything quite as terrible, and catastrophic as what has happened to me. Which makes me feel like even more of a failure. I won't belabor the lead up to why this all happened, as I already feel terrible about the things I should have done, or could have done to prevent this, but focus instead what I need to do moving forward. I recently returned from a one week vacation to find that my circuit breaker had popped and my tank electricity had gone out. It was a soup. Everything, but everything had died. It was terrible. Corals, Fish, snails, shrimp, stars everything Even the worms that had come in either with the rock or sand). A terrible terrible loss. The kids were devastated, I was devastated. All our little critters, whom we had named and loved were gone. The time, the dedication, all gone. <I'm sorry to hear this, that's horrible.> I really want this to work again before I give up for good, it was such an wonderful addition to our family. I called my local LFS and he said that he thought my rock and sand would come back with some seeding. <I would reuse it too.> So I cleaned up the mess, sucked out all the water and did a clean of rocks and glass (not in fresh water though) I cleaned all pumps filters etc and filled it back up with fresh salt mix water. Knowing I was going to have to cycle it again, and not wanting to damage the rocks and sand any further by leaving them dry I just used tap water (Pretty good but a little high in phosphates- but much quicker than my little RO system can deliver) <It's fine for these purposes.> Since then I have done a 25% water change every day, assuming that the natural filters are dead too, so just to get the bad water that might be left out. I ran some tests this morning and found my Ammonia to be 4.0 or better (can't tell the colors are so similar on the card) no Nitrites no Nitrates, no surprise if the filter is indeed dead. Salinity is 1.026. So my question is this. In order to seed the sand, can I put new live sand right in there now? <I would just continue water changes and give it time. Your biofiltration will come back, perhaps adding some new live rock when your water quality has improved for diversity.> Or is the Ammonia too high and will just kill the bacteria in the sand? <The ammonia is too high, this level will continue to kill whatever may not be dead yet on your rock, adding to the problem. Water changes and likely quite a few of them. It is going to be just like curing it all over again, perhaps a bit worse with the sand. > Should I also get a little new live rock and put that in there too? <I would wait to add anymore rock until the ammonia is down, any life on that rock will be susceptible, adding to the problem.> Should I keep up with the 25% water changes daily until the ammonia comes down first? <Yes> (Though I assume stuff will keep seeping from the sand and falling off the rocks for a while) I started with Carib Sea Agra Live, can I just put more of that in? (I was thinking another 20 LB bag) <If you have not already you will want to scoop out what sand you can and rinse.> Also should I bother running the skimmer and powerheads during the renewed cycling phase? <Definitely, this will only help your water quality.> And lastly, do you have any suggestions on how to bring this all back? I know better now how to circumvent the electricity and other issues I believe led to this crash, but am unsure if I can start with this rock and sand, and not have to start from total scratch. It is really depressing to walk into that room now. What was once a robust and growing, colorful glowing reef system, is now barren rock and sand. <Just give it cleaning, water changes and time. Once your levels are okay, you will want to consider a bit more live rock to reseed some of the fauna that did not survive.> Thanks for your help. <Welcome. Scott V.> (Tank is a 40 gallon reef, 40 lbs of rock, 40 lbs of sand, a Millennium 3000 HOB filter, an AquaC remora (not running currently) and 2 powerheads (not running currently) and a Jager heater. I use Instant Ocean salt mix, and am leaving the lights off during the renewed cycle phase.)

Response to "Catastrophe, what next" 8/14/08 Thank you so much to Scott V. as well as the writer (name not given) of "Catastrophe, what next". I wanted to let the WWM crew as well as readers know how valuable these are. It is important to share our failures so that others may learn from our mistakes. <It is, some of my experience (and all of us if we admit it) is based on failures. Others can learn much from another's mishaps.> I was curious to see what IYO, would be the cause of a "popped breaker". I have only had this occur when using multiple large appliances, never when the house was empty. The writer did not state that this was due to a power outage. <Any number of things could have happened. Water dripping on a plug or powerstrip could and should trip the powerstrip, GFCI and/or breaker is very common. Also, it is common in my area (and many others) where the summer lows are in the mid 90's through the night to see catastrophic power outages while away from home. A person leaves for vacation and sets their air conditioner at a higher temperature. This causes the chiller to run through the night. Sooner or later the chiller is either running when the halides start up or they all start simultaneously. If your system is not adequately wired the breaker will (and again should) trip, the startup load cannot be handled in many cases. The answer for this is to run your system on more than one leg off your breaker box, with the high load items on separate legs. Depending on the size of the system this can be many legs with heavy gauge wiring and higher amp breakers than normally seen in most houses. Long winded, but these are the two most common example I personally see.> Some precautions that I would take given this situation would be to have my power supply inspected by a licensed electrician, and perhaps to have someone check in on the home a few times during the vacation. Do you have any other suggestions? <Having an electrician check it all out is a good idea if a person is not familiar with electrical systems (or even if a person is!). Goes without saying someone should check the system while you are gone. Other than that, power backup supplies can help out during a short power outage. There are also a few products out there that will call or page you if your tank's power goes out, the tank gets too hot, or any number of factors you can set. I have even seen people set up one or more webcams on their tank, broadcasting over the net to check up on it while on vacation. Even with these devices you will still need someone with a basic knowledge that you can trust to come over and fix any mishaps. Could you imagine being thousands of miles from your tank, having the equipment set up to know your power went out for many hours or more, and not having any means of troubleshooting/repairing the thing?> Again, thank you for sharing and responding to this. Hopefully, other people will learn from this tragic situation. Joe <Thank you for writing, I too hope people can and will learn from such situations. Scott V.>

A Quick Question About Power Consumption For A 170g FOWLR - 07/02/08 Hello All, <<Greetings Kevin>> I'm sure this is answered somewhere on the site, but I'm in a bit of a time crunch and I haven't been able to locate it. <<Okay>> Some quick background - I'm in the process of finishing our basement and have framed out a spot for a 170 gallon fowler tank in one of the walls. <<Neat!>> The electricians are doing all the electric today <<Uh-oh, then this is getting to you late…sorry about that. Most queries are answered the following day (sometimes all the Crew/Bob can do to keep up in the limited time available), unless a question is somehow flagged in the title as requiring immediate attention and catches someone's eye>> and they tossed me a curve ball by asking me how much electricity the various components would use. I was not prepared to answer this and I'm not sure where to start. <<Could be calculated from the labels re…assuming all gear is present and you have a basic understanding of electricity>> I'm planning to have a good size sump/fuge under the tank so I'll have two pumps, a light, heater, possibly a cooler and the lights for the display tank. <<I see>> How much electricity do I need to have to run those items and everything else that I'll need to plug in? <<Even without the high energy lights of a reef tank, I would recommend a "minimum" of two "dedicated 20-amp circuits"…each terminated in a double-duplex GFCI setup>> Everything I've read talks about the GFI outlets and drip loops, but nothing I saw talked about how much juice you need - or would want - if you were starting from scratch. <<Not easily "specified" due to the varieties of size and system type…but a pair of 20-amp circuits should give you enough power even if you decide to go later with a reef tank. Unless you think you will also be "upsizing," in which case I would add an extra circuit while it's easiest to do so>> If someone could shoot me back a guess at the anticipated wattage and amperage needs I would be extremely grateful. I'll keep looking in the interim. Best, Kevin <<Apologies again for the delay…and good luck with your new install. EricR>>

Re: A Quick Question About Power Consumption For A 170g FOWLR - 07/02/08 EricR, <<Hey Kevin>> Thanks for the response. <<Quite welcome>> I called around to some local fish stores and ended up with the 20 amp circuit answer. I think we mathed-out about 1,500 watts of power in the likely components used. So even though the ship for changing it has sailed, I'm glad to know I got the right thing. <<Ah good>> Thanks again - I'm sure I'll have some more questions for you when I start buying equipment in the coming months. <<Cool, I look forward to conspiring with you>> Right now I'm wrestling with glass vs. acrylic <<Mmm, yes…advantages/disadvantages to both. Having had both (my current setup is composed of a 375g acrylic display…)…if money is not a factor, I would go with a "low-iron" glass display…else, for this size tank…I would likely stick with glass, period>> and what type of sump set-up to run under the tank. <<Do read up and come back with some more specific questions re>> Best, Kevin <<Be chatting. Eric Russell>>

Grounding Probe Info 4/23/08 Dear Crew, I was doing a little research on grounding probes and came across this article written by a Georgia Tech professor, and thought I'd share: http://avdil.gtri.gatech.edu/RCM/RCM/Aquarium/GroundingProbes.html Basically, he educates the reader on the difference between voltage in the tank (not a problem) and current in the tank (a problem) and concludes that the addition of a grounding probe more often than not causes a current problem where none previously existed (the website also contains a good discussion about GFI outlets). Although I don't know the author and can't vouch for his wisdom, it seemed to make sense to me. This article was a real eye opener for me--not because I was moments away from wasting $22 on a grounding probe, but because every single catalog and every single e-tailer I see sells and touts grounding probes. <I do not... and have not... all these decades...> I assume that there are cases in which they have some benefit, but I came away thinking, gee, this is like "reef safe ich killer" and many of the other products I see you guys poo-poo as worthless snake oil--it's amazing to me that people can legally make tons of money off of hobbyist by selling stuff that doesn't actually work or even causes harm. Cheers, Andy <Agreed... and this is indeed a very fine piece... and the link to this gentleman's tank project period: http://avdil.gtri.gatech.edu/RCM/RCM/MICHELSONAquarium.html Thank you for sending this along. Will post/share. Bob Fenner>

Re: Grounding Probe Info... and the meaning/liability for the term/label "reef safe" Bob, <Andy> That guy's site is really interesting/insightful. Because I've never used anything that claims to be "reef safe", I've never had the opportunity to read the label or warranty (if there is one) on "reef safe" medications as to who bears responsibility when a hobbyist uses such a product and his/her reef dies (or maybe nothing dies because it's just colored water?). Something tells the manufacturer disclaims liability. <I have said on occasion that I do wish I had the time and/or money to hire someone in the legal biz to challenge (i.e. sue) the many folks who make such disingenuous products... "If only...". BobF>

Re: Grounding Probe Info Was that a subtle nudge?? ;-) <... always> Ah, we could spend many a keystroke discussing this topic. In some ways I am surprised it has not happened. Lawyers tend to have more money than the average Joe = bigger/more expensive tanks = bigger/more expensive crashes from use of dubious products = higher $ damages. The problem with your dream is that you need one of the following (i) a lawyer who's been personally screwed and is willing to shoulder the legal battle, (ii) a rich hobbyist willing to pay a lawyer by the hour (not likely) or (iii) a pot at the end of the rainbow for a contingency fee lawyer (i.e., a big enough class of plaintiffs who have been harmed that a lawyer's 35-40% fee is big enough to take the case). My guess is that the warning labels on these products make it clear that "we cannot guarantee that nothing will die from this. Of course it is best to treat in a separate hospital tank, and the hobbyist assumes the risk of adverse effects if used in the display." <Well put> Every consumer product comes with a warranty of merchantability (i.e., a warranty that the product does what it says it will do). Generally, a manufacturer cannot disclaim such a warranty in a consumer transaction. To pursue such a claim takes a lot of time and, if you hire a lawyer, money. The court system is so expensive and time consuming these days that it makes pursuing these claims difficult. There is always the state's attorney general/consumer protection division, but my experience is that regulators are loathe to take on such matters unless there has been a significant financial harm. <Mmm, our system of jurisprudence/litigation is the element of being a U.S. citizen that I "like" best/worse about America. Cheers, BobF>

Current USA Orbit - Shock, JamesG referral   12/30/07 Gentlemen, <And some ladies...> I have a problem with the lighting system on my 110g saltwater aquarium. I have a 60" Current USA Orbit lighting unit that is a little over a year old. Recently, when I try to remove the clogged plastic mesh in my skimmer box by reaching under the Orbit light, I have received a shock similar to touching a low voltage electrical fence wire. I am very concerned here. <Me too> I have a GFI/GFCI that all my equipment is plugged into. Why did the GFI/GFCI NOT trip? <A/the "secondary" circuit here... fluorescents have such...> The GFI/GFCI will trip when tested and it will reset also. I do not know what is going on here. Could this just be static electricity? <Mmm, doubtful> I have never had a problem with shock reaching under the light in the past. And when I touch the top of the lighting unit which is metal, I do not receive a shock. <I am referring you to our resident electrical engineer liaison, James/Salty... I would test (with a voltage meter) to determine the source of stray electric here... make sure you're not grounded, or what you're standing on isn't, when working in this tank> Obviously, a remedy for this is to not stick my hand under the light fixture (dah..) My main concern at this time is for my future safety. Any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, BobbyG <James? Bob Fenner>

Re: Current USA Orbit - Shock, JamesG referral 12/30/07 <Hi Bobby, Bob has asked me to offer my input on this problem, and a life threatening one at that. Bobby, the way a GFCI works is by constantly monitoring current from the hot line to the neutral. Any imbalance that occurs, even as low as a couple of milliamps, will trip the GFCI as quickly as 1/30 of a second. An imbalance will occur if some of the current is directed through your body instead of the neutral line, which is what you experienced. If the GFCI was wired correctly, it will protect you. It is a good idea to manually trip the GFCI on a weekly basis, especially in a wet environment. If it trips, it is working, if you cannot reset it, it is defective and must be replaced. You must be certain that ALL aquarium accessories are plugged into the GFCI, if this is not the case, then please do so for your safety. If the above test works and shocking still occurs, I advise you to have a qualified electrician inspect the unit to insure it is wired correctly. James (Salty Dog)>

Overflow prevention, electrical kill switches    9/28/07 Crew- <Craig> Do any of you clever people know of an electrical approach to keep the power off to my return pump in case of a power outage? <Mmm, there are a few... you can build or buy... I'd call on a licensed electrician here... as "the code" varies by State, country...> I have a return pump that I do not want to restart in case of an outage. <You are wise here... too much chance of more trouble... overheating, fire...> I have done some searching re this subject but have only found generators, battery backups to take over for a loss of power. I am looking for a solution that would keep the power from coming back on to the pump in the event that power is lost. <There are such switches...> Having staged several "drills" to test my overflow, there is no way I can be assured the overflow will restart and keep up with the return pump if power is lost. Adding additional draining capacity is not an option at this stage. Thanks for your input, contributions. Craig <Mmm, am wont to state much for fear of liability... Again, there are simple devices to do what you want. Perhaps even available "off the shelf" at large-box hardware stores... Bob Fenner>

A Flicker Of Light...Is This The End of The Tunnel? - 09/23/07 I had a hard time finding the information I am looking for. <<Okay>> I apologize if this question is similar in content to others you have answered. <<No worries>> I have a 55-gallon reef tank that has been up and running successfully for two years. <<Excellent>> All parameters are normal; fish and corals thriving. I have a Current Satellite fixture that has been an excellent choice. However within the past six months the lamps (bulbs) on one of the ballast began to flicker. <<Do swap bulbs around to determine this is not the problem>> At first the flickering was temporary, then it became constant. I bought new lamps and this did not solve the problem. Then my boyfriend (an electrician) disassembled and reassembled the unit. It did not flicker again for about two weeks. Now it flickers randomly once or twice a week, maybe more, and I am not there to notice. Several opinions have me confused. <<Oh?>> One source told me that it was probably a loose wire, not to worry. <<Mmm, possibly…but "is" a worry and should be found/fixed if so>> Another told me that a new ballast was needed. <<Another possibility, yes>> Before I spend the money on a new ballast, is the now, temporary flickering, harmful and or indicative of a larger issue? <<If this is a loose wire, the flickering may well prematurely wear the bulb or ballast…might even constitute a fire hazard>> If it is, or was, a loose wire would a new ballast be of any benefit? <<Only if replacing the ballast addresses the loose wire…otherwise you are no better off. You state your boyfriend is an electrician…I would think it a simple matter for him to determine the problem here>> I tend to be a hypochondriac but it seems that my anemone may be "reaching" for light more than is usual. <<The lamps are likely in need of replacement>> Could the lamps be producing less light, without giving any visual indication? <<Oh yes!>> Is there any way to measure the light that the tank is receiving? <<Indeed there is… To get a true reading of the Photosynthectically Available Radiation (PAR), or effectiveness, of your chosen bulbs you would need to invest in a PAR meter…and then one that has a waterproof sensor that can be submersed (not cheap/easily found…though an enterprising DIYer might rig one themselves). There is a waterproof LUX meter available in the trade for about a C-note. This meter will measure foot-candles (brightness/luminance) at a specific distance and if readings are taken on new bulbs, they can be used as a "benchmark" to measure diminished luminance with age… Any input would be most appreciated. Thank-you. <<Quite welcome. EricR>>

PVC Electrical Conduit For Plumbing Applications? - 06/29/07 Dear Crew, <<Hello Rafiq>> Is it possible to use electrical conduit PVC piping for plumbing a marine tank. <<Mmm, maybe…but I wouldn't recommend it. It's not intended for liquid/pressure applications. And though I am only guessing here, the formulation "may" contain elements that might leach/prove harmful in a "liquid" environment>> We currently have a shortage of ?" and this is what is available. << It would help had you stated the exact application of the ?" pipe. Aside from the obvious cost increase, why not just step-up to 1" or 1.5" diameter pipe; assuming this is more readily available?>> Would PVC generally be UV resistant? <<Not unless it is identified as such…in my experience, PVC will "yellow" and become brittle when left to long-term direct Sun exposure. For UV resistance of PVC pipe and fittings, paint with a white water-based latex paint>> It will be in direct sunlight (does not appear to be an issue in electrical applications?). <<Perhaps the electrical conduit "does" have some UV protection>> It is thinner walled than the normal pressure rated (5psi) piping I use, would this be an issue with a pressure rated pump (about 2000lph)? <<For my own peace of mind (and especially if I were doing this install for someone else), I would stick to PVC material intended for "plumbing" applications…even if it meant going up a size>> Do I have to worry about salt corrosion here too? <<Of the PVC?…no>> And yes, you're still the best resource available to anyone in the H2O hobby, respect and thanks to you! <<Thank you for this…we're happy to share>> Regards, Rafiq van Greuning <<Eric Russell>>

Re: PVC Electrical Conduit For Plumbing Applications? - 06/29/07 Dear Crew, <<Rafiq>> Please note I have found a useful reply after some extra searching through the site, thanks. Made a mistake on the PSI rating I quoted anyway :-) Regards, Rafiq <<Good luck with your project. EricR>>

Selective stray current?  - 3/12/07 Hello! <Hello Kimberly!  Brandon here tonight.> I am a regular lurker here! <Me too!> I have a strange question for you today… <Impress me.> I work weekends at a popular on line retailer, we have recently moved and set up all new systems.  Over the weekend, I had a customer who needed snails, I placed my hand in  the tub of snails and ZAPPP! <Been there more times than I care to count.  Perhaps I should pay closer attention to the wires.> I looked at my hand and there was a cut on my finger, but this was more than just the sting from a cut touching saltwater. I  was not getting zapped in  the main displays , so I tried the other hand.. same thing! Two tubs down, another employee was bagging up some crabs from a tub that is plumbed into the same system mine is, he was unaffected. I ask him to try the tub I was having issues with and he felt nothing. I had him get my snails, I didn't want to get ZAPPED again! I touched the water of another tank about 10 minutes later, nothing. Unfortunately, about a half  an hour later I was ZAPPED again while getting some crabs. This tub was plumbed into the same system as the other  tub that zapped me. By then I was a little freaked. I grabbed another employee and had him try the tub. HE HE! Hard to believe people will stink there fingers in water to see if it shocks them! <People are funny like that.> He felt nothing. Then a few other employees came by to test it and comment that it must be my 'electrical personality. HA HA! I told the manager, he said he too had been shocked once about a week ago. He placed a grounding probe on the system and will be investigating the equipment. So, any ideas why I was getting ZAPPED and nobody else? <I had the same problem Saturday as a matter of fact.  I happened to be drip acclimating a few Acroporids, and I noticed after being shocked, that the finger that was shocked, had a small cut on it.  Out of curiosity, I tried the other hand.  To my surprise there was no shock.  Now I am no electrician, and this is not professional advice, but my guess would be that the current was so minute, that it only shocked the super-sensitive, sub dermal layers of skin that were exposed due to the cut.  I would further imagine that the same thing happened in your case.><<Mmm, much more likely a matter of what shoes... grounding or not was in place... At any length, very dangerous to the livestock and people involved... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/elecmar.htm and the linked files above, particularly re GFCI use... VERY important. RMF>>   Another quick question, if you don't mind. A customer brought in a Seastar he had caught himself. I am about 95% sure it is a Pentaceraster cumingi, <You could check here to confirm, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars2.htm.  Scroll down to Family Oreastridae.  There are three pictures shown.  Does it look like one of these?> the Panamic Cushion Star.  He stated it was eating his corals so we placed it in one of  the 100 gallon refugiums. I have two tanks, one is a 125 gallon  reef the other a 240 gallon FOWLR. The manager told me I could take him for my 240. He doesn't think it will survive long in the refugium. I am afraid, however, that it won't last long in my FOWLR ! Your website states it's not the hardiest of Seastars.   <I think that it is not so much a matter of hard, as much as starving to death.  These stars get rather large, and their feeding habits are very specialized.  Micro-fauna in the substrate, benthic algae, seagrass, other echinoderms,  and possibly corals.  In a large, very established tank with a large refugium as well, with no other competitors or predators, if you could get it to eat prepared foods you might have a chance.  But again, these are a lot of ifs.  To me it would be worth the shot if the above conditions could be met, but do realize that it will most likely starve to death, much like Astropecten spp.> What do you think? <Please see above.  Re: very established system.> It is really pretty, my kids would love it. I am just really finicky about what I place in my tanks! Thank you for your time and your opinions! <You are very welcome.  Brandon.> Kim

Electrical Safety-Need Advice    1/21/07 Hi,     <Anthony, Graham T. here tonight.>     I am in the process of setting up a nano reef (an Oceanic Bio Cube 14), and as I am sure you are aware, there are a lot of electrical cords! <Indeed..> I have four wires that need to be place<d> on timers (1 10k, 24 watt PC lamp, 1 actinic 24 watt PC lamp, 1- 50/50 24 watt PC lamp, 2 fans (that go on with the day lamps), and 2 LEDs. The 10k, Actinic, and 50/50 are on two cords, and the fans are separate, as are the LEDs. (This modification was done by Nanotuners.com) A 50 watt heater, a power head, a stock pump, and occasionally another small pump and another 50 watt heater for water changes/ top off. I want to incorporate a GFCI, which would be fine with a regular power strip, but the timers do not all physically fit on the strip. So my plan is this: Plug the GFCI which has three outlets, and to two of the outlets, plug in a "power squid". How safe will this be? Note: This will be the only thing plugged into the outlet. <I see no problem with your plan at all, and was actually considering going that route myself when I saw the "squid" for the first time last weekend at RadioShack. A GFI is certainly an excellent addition for some piece of mind, and an improvement over the typically used "overload" breaker in power strips. When you are considering safety with extension cords, just remember Ohm's law: VOLTS X AMPS = WATTS. Watts are what trip circuits and burn through insufficient wiring. Actually, if you saw some of the daisy-chain power-bars I have worked on under tanks with much more power than you are consuming... but I digress. A typical "up to code" outlet/circuit is good for 15-20Amps @ 120VAC. ( 1800watts ) Whenever setting up a system on a new circuit, I like to go to the breaker panel and flip the controlling breaker to find out how many other outlets are on the same circuit. This will not affect the safety of your setup, rather it will ensure that it doesn't trip said breaker when you are mixing/heating water. HTH - Graham T.>

Electrical Safety-Need Advice again 1/21/07 Hi, <Hello.> Thanks for the response, but what's the answer? I don't see one... (Maybe you forgot to type it?) <Did I? I thought you were asking about the safety of using the GFCI and two "squid" power strips. I said it's quite safe, and that I was considering doing the same. Did I miss a question?> Thanks, Anthony <Let me know if I/you/we missed something here -Graham T.>

Re: Electrical Safety-Need Advice again 1/21/07 Hi, Thanks Again, I received the following: Hi,     <Anthony, Graham T. here tonight.>      I am in the process of setting up a nano reef (an Oceanic Bio Cube 14), and   as I am sure you are aware, there are a lot of electrical cords!   <Indeed..> I have four wires that need to be place<d> on  timers (1 10k, 24 watt PC lamp, 1 actinic 24 watt PC lamp, 1- 50/50 24 watt PC  lamp, 2 fans (that go on with the day lamps), and 2 LEDs. The 10k, Actinic, and  50/50 are on two cords, and the fans are separate, as are the LEDs. (This  modification was done by Nanotuners.com) A 50 watt heater, a power head, a stock  pump, and occasionally another small pump and another 50 watt heater for water  changes/ top off. I want to incorporate a GFCI, which would be fine with a  regular power strip, but the timers do not all physically fit on the strip. So  my plan is this: Plug the GFCI which has three outlets, and to two of the  outlets, plug in a "power squid". How safe will this be? Note: This will be the  only thing plugged into the outlet. HTH - Graham  T.> Thanks, Anthony So no real answer there. Thanks for the quick response though, and an  answer to the original one. Now, I have another, clearer question-    Will the single outlet  safely support this amount of electricity? Are you also setting up a nano  reef? (A great resource is Nano-reef.com !  if you haven't already been there.) Thanks!   Anthony <Weird, here's what I have on file as sent: Hi,      <Anthony, Graham T. here tonight.>      I am in the process of setting up a nano reef (an Oceanic Bio Cube 14), and as I am sure you are aware, there are a lot of electrical cords! <Indeed..> I have four wires that need to be place<d> on timers (1 10k, 24 watt PC lamp, 1 actinic 24 watt PC lamp, 1- 50/50 24 watt PC lamp, 2 fans (that go on with the day lamps), and 2 LEDs. The 10k, Actinic, and 50/50 are on two cords, and the fans are separate, as are the LEDs. (This modification was done by Nanotuners.com) A 50 watt heater, a power head, a stock pump, and occasionally another small pump and another 50 watt heater for water changes/ top off. I want to incorporate a GFCI, which would be fine with a regular power strip, but the timers do not all physically fit on the strip. So my plan is this: Plug the GFCI which has three outlets, and to two of the outlets, plug in a "power squid". How safe will this be? Note: This will be the only thing plugged into the outlet. <I see no problem with your plan at all, and was actually considering going that route myself when I saw the "squid" for the first time last weekend at RadioShack. A GFI is certainly an excellent addition for some piece of mind, and an improvement over the typically used "overload" breaker in power strips. When you are considering safety with extension cords, just remember Ohm's law: VOLTS X AMPS = WATTS. Watts are what trip circuits and burn through insufficient wiring. Actually, if you saw some of the daisy-chain power-bars I have worked on under tanks with much more power than you are consuming... but I digress. A typical "up to code" outlet/circuit is good for 15-20Amps @ 120VAC. ( 1800watts ) Whenever setting up a system on a new circuit, I like to go to the breaker panel and flip the controlling breaker to find out how many other outlets are on the same circuit. This will not affect the safety of your setup, rather it will ensure that it doesn't trip said breaker when you are mixing/heating water. HTH - Graham T.> Thanks, Anthony ...So, now I understand your position, and you mine. Odd, though. -Graham T.> Re: Electrical Safety-Need Advice again 1/21/07  Spam/Blocker software troubles likely  - 1/22/07 Ok, now this is getting very scary... not that it matters, but I am still not getting what you typed- the two are identical (what I sent to you and  what you sent to me) probably my email acting oddly.... certainly an  enigma... Sorry about all the trouble, Thanks, Anthony <Hmm... how about you try reading my reply as posted on the Dailies here on WWM? http://wetwebmedia.com/daily_faqs3.htm -Graham T.> Much better! Excellent help from WWM as usual! Thanks! <I wonder what all the errors are about with our server... x(   Glad I could be of service! -Graham T.> Graham T's Reply... V X A += W   1/23/07 Bob,   Believe Graham made a huge error in his reply to the electrical safety query.  He states, "just remember Ohm's law: VOLTS X WATTS = AMPS. Amps are what trip circuits and burn through insufficient wiring."  If this were true, a one hundred watt light bulb would draw 11,500 amps (115Vx100w)...WOW! I'm sure, a typo here.  James <I must not have read this... will find, fix, add your note, share w/ Graham. BobF>

Graham T's Reply re e   1/23/07 Bob,   Believe Graham made a huge error in his reply to the electrical safety query.  He states, "just remember Ohm's law: VOLTS X WATTS = AMPS. Amps are what trip circuits and burn through insufficient wiring."  If this were true, a one hundred watt light bulb would draw 11,500 amps (115Vx100w)...WOW! I'm sure, a typo here.  James <I must not have read this... will find, fix, add your note, share w/ Graham. BobF> <Bob, please post this on the dailies... I can't believe I missed that! Volts X *AMPS* = Watts, or what I should've said was: Watts / Volts = Amps. I hope This is seen by the person who posted the question. DOH! -GT>

Fish tank shocking me   12/1/06 <Hi Kevin, Mich here tonight.>  I'm sorry to bother you two times in one month, but I have a problem. I'm getting shocked when I touch the tank lamps.  <Ahh Houston, yes, you do have a problem, and a dangerous one at that!>  It's hard to explain, but I have a 48" current Satellite power compact lighting fixture.  If I touch the black casing or even the legs on my fixture, I get shocked.  Or if I touch the fixture with one hand and  hit the glass canopy  or even the top of the tank where the top border goes around I get zapped.  <Uhh, stop touching it.>  I totally took my light apart tonight to see if I found any loose wires, but nothing.  I believe the one ballast is bad, and that was the reason for my prior email, but that's been blown for months, and I just got this shocking problem today.  Its definitely the light cause when I unplug it I don't get shocked.  As of right now its going to stay unplugged until I hear back from you.  <Good, remove it from your system before you are seriously injured.>   First of all are my fish in danger or are they getting shocked?  <You and your fish are in danger.>  Everyone seems pretty much normal, with the exception of my maroon clown hiding out behind the rocks lately, but he's still feeding.  Second what could be wrong with the lighting fixture?  <I honestly do not know, but it is not worth risking you life!>  Honestly I'm ready to throw the whole thing in the garbage, so hopefully you can help.  <Please do not use this fixture.>  Thank you so much for your time. It's greatly appreciated.  <You are welcome, also, in the future please use proper capitalization.>   Kevin

Mitch.. Re: Fish tank shocking me 12/1/06 Mitch, <or Mich ...there are a few of us girls in the hobby too!> <Hi Mark, Michelle here.> I thought I'd send in my 2 cents worth here as I thought I had the same thing happen to me. <Donations welcome.>  As it turned out I actually had a short in one of my pumps. I wish I new <or knew?> more on how to test for the short but I had to do the same thing. After taking apart my light and not finding anything wrong I just started unplugging everything I had one at a time until I didn't get shocked anymore. I'd just hate to see someone through <or throw?> an expensive light away just to find out that's not the problem.  <Oh, I absolutely agree.  But our friend Kevin stated:  "Its definitely the light cause when I unplug it I don't get shocked."  The light is replaceable, the life is not.>    Re: Electrical shock incident   12/6/06 Hi Michelle.   <Hi Kevin, glad to hear from you!> Last week I sent an email about a lighting fixture that I was receiving shocks from.  Well anyway,  I believe I found the source of all my problems.   It turns out the sleeve that protects the bulb in my UV light was cracked and filled up with water.   <Yipe! Yipe! Yipe!  That would cause a problem!> Creating the shocking.  I just wanted to let you know and thanks for the speedy response.   <I am very happy you are ok.  That was my biggest concern.  I have a good friend who was electrocuted, lost his arm and nearly his life.  Electricity is nothing to fool around with.  Thank you for sharing the source of the problem.  I am always happy to learn.  It is often difficult to trouble shoot with only written descriptions.  I appreciate your kind words and your feedback.>     Thank you so much WWM crew.    <You are quite welcome and thank you again for the follow-up! -Michelle>

Overheated Lighting Fixture...Dangerous Situation - 11/20/06 Hello Cam here again. <<Hi there Cam!>> I would like to thank you guys and girls for replying to all my previous messages (except when I add a picture as an attachment, but I can understand, bandwidth and all). <<Am sure all would say you're quite welcome>> This might seem a bit weird, but I think my lights are fuming, because there is a burning smell coming from my canopy's (Jebo R119) light switch. <<Mmm, not good...you may want to consider discontinuing use of this unit until it can be checked out>> I am a bit worried that the 2 new T5's (about 30W to 100W, can't remember the actual amount of Watts) are too close together, about 5mm from each other, and there is a risk that the T5's will explode or fracture, because of the heat. <<I wouldn't expect the bulbs being close together to be a problem.  But...are you using bulbs of differing wattages?  The unit should specify which wattage bulbs to use...if you are mixing/exceeding wattages this may be the problem>> I also think that the wiring could be the culprit here. <<...?>> I have used normal security wiring. <<Hmm, I'm a bit of a DIYer myself, but "security" wiring is not familiar to me.  I hope you aren't referring to the "very light gauge wire" used to for some security/alarm system connections, sometimes also referred to as "bell" wire, as this is not appropriate for wiring an AC light fixture such as you have>> The smell is coming from my light switches (on the left side of my canopy). <<I think you should disconnect/replace this fixture>> I also can't remember who the manufacturer of the T5's is, so please give me the safest estimates (I have a small canopy (1200mm x 60mm x 60mm). <<Estimates of what?  The safest thing to do at this point is not use this fixture>> My real questions are: 1) What is the minimum recommended distance between T5 lights? <<Shouldn't be an issue>> 2) What sort of wiring should be used for T5's? <<As a minimum, 14-guage copper...in my opinion (I am not a licensed electrician) 3) Should I change the light switches to some that can take the heat or current or is there no such thing as to much current when using digital/electronic ballast? <<If these switches came with the fixture they should not be heating up.  You need to have someone who is qualified to do so, assess the problem with this fixture>> I know that these questions seem a bit silly, but I am in quite a pickle here. <<Not silly...and you have a potentially hazardous situation.  I would stop using this fixture and get it fixed or replaced immediately>> Thank you so much for your time. <<Happy to assist, EricR>>

Electrical Shock 10/14/06 Hi, <Greetings> I purchased a used tank set up including a Jebo UV sterilizer. It worked fine for a while but then it started to shock me when I touched the tank. <Yikes!> Then it started to shock the water in the tank. It has a ground so I am confused and don't know what to do about it. I went to the Jebo website and submitted a letter, but it wouldn't go through. Can you help me with this? Thank you for your time. Joy <I would continue to try to contact the manufacturer for their advice and please…take out the sterilizer and don't use it in the meantime.  Cheers! - Dr. J>

Metal Halide Voltage Question   10/11/06 Hey Everyone, <Hello Matt> Although I browse your site quite frequently, I've usually found what I was looking for.  I think I may have missed it in this case, but I'm curious. I've been an employee and a manager of my LFS for quite some time, only recently ending my employment to finish college.  I have learned a great deal about this hobby, and usually find myself giving advice to other people.  I need the expert help in this case.  Over the years, I have installed many metal halide systems and never gave it a passing thought. Until recently, when a friend of min had an aquarium metal halide catch fire. Luckily, there was only superficial damage, and nothing appears to be hurt in the aquarium, but it definitely could have been a nightmare.  So the question I have, as I investigate this, is.. what is the output voltage and starting voltage for a metal halide  (400W, 14000K, Mogul w/ electronic ballast)?  I know the input voltage is 115V, standard household, but what I can't seem to find anywhere, is what the operating voltage is.  I don't need an exact, but it has to be more than 115V, otherwise a ballast wouldn't be necessary. <On a Venture, pulse start, 175 watt ballast, the typical open circuit voltage reading would be between 240 and 290 volts, with nominal at 265 volts.  It is highly recommended to use a GFCI with these systems.  For that matter, with any aquarium lighting application.> Thanks, in advance, for your help. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Matt

Electrical generator figuring   9/26/06 Hi Crew. Due to all of your help and fine articles, all of my 4 FW aquariums are now under control and nitrates are at 10 or less for 3 mos. now! Wow! I thank you for your help. Now to a strange question that one of you might be able to answer? Our rural electricity goes out from time to time during bad storms and am about to buy a gasoline generator for the winter months. I have no idea how many watts I need for the following and hope you can give me some idea? <Mmm, can "add up" the watts/wattage (volts, likely 120 maximum times rated amps/amperage equals watts...) for each item as if all might be "on" at a time... and get something with a capacity higher than this...> A 29 gal. bow with emperor 280 and heater...A 75 gal. with two emperor 400's with 2 -100 watt heaters...A 100 gal. with two emperor 400's with two 170 watt heaters....All tanks kept at 78-80 deg. The 4th is a QT tank of 10gal. The lighting is...29 gal. 20 watt fluorescent...75 gal. has two 40 watt fluorescents and the 100 gal. has two 24in. 20 watt fluorescents. Do any of you have an opinion on this? Thanks again...DR <Likely the smallest of consumer units... something about 3,800 watts, will do for you for your tanks here... You'll need more should you want to run large electrical appliances (washer, stove)... Bob Fenner>

UPS and GFCI?  - 09/14/06 Hi folks- <Jake> My fishy endeavours have led me to the realization during the hurricane season here in the Carolina's I'd greatly prefer not to have a wipeout of my 29G due to an electrical power loss. We generally have a very stable power grid here except during the season and the week or two of ice storms. Last weekend I dug out my old APC Back-UPS 300 and purchased a new battery for it. I promptly discovered while attaching the electrical lifeblood of my tank that one of my magnetic drive Hagen powerheads chattered something fierce while running on battery. <Can> I have two questions: 1) Do you think it would be OK to put my GFCI between the UPS and the power strip feeding the tank? <Mmm, I do think this will be okay> I know it will have zero efficacy before the UPS, but am now concerned about harmonics and the 'squarish' wave output affecting it's efficacy. <Should not be a factor... am given to understand that the basic principle of these devices is electron "counting", not a measure of wave differential> 2) My plan is to run only the Emperor 280 and one Hagen 30 175 GPH powerhead on the UPS and split everything else off to a separate strip. <Good idea...> I figure there is no need to run lighting, skimmer, etc. in emergency situations. <Mmm, not as much... but may need to add insulation, some source of heat/ing> I may run the skimmer for short periods for increased aeration only. Does this make sense or should I simply run the filter? <I'd measure the total amp-life capacity here and run as much as you can for the supposed duration it may have to> Another concern is during the winter months the heater will need to run more often than usual as the tank is in my lab/home office which normally is 27C due to all the computing equipment with the tank holding steady at 78F. Ultimately power will be less of an issue when I get out of this apartment and back into a house with a planned 5KVA UPS for the room and a whole house generator. <Wow!> Time permitting, my plans are to dry-run the UPS tomorrow to check the runtime under load. Charts be damned, <Our sentiments agree here> the only way to really know is to run under load. Somehow this all smells of an upgrade to the UPS.... <Why oh why didn't I invest in the stocks of these companies when I knew of their impending utility, likely sales volume? Booo hooooo!> Thanks very much for the investment of your personal time, and the invaluable information which the site provides us all. Regards- Jake <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: UPS and GFCI?   9/15/06 Thank you, Bob. <Welcome Jake> I agree that considering heating is critical and am still trying to figure out how to calculate the requirements as the heater is 150W but not on all the time. <Mmm, best to set some sort of recording wattage meter on... average per ambient temp., time...> Unfortunately the UPS got a trial run before I had planned. I woke up to it squawking yesterday and am not sure how long the power was out. It was running everything, chattering powerheads, lighting, heater, and all, so it was not a valid test. I plan to test it over the weekend now that the correct items are plugged in and it has had time to recharge. Yes I too wish I had purchased certain stocks in retrospect, especially a little company by the name of Microsoft my IBM rep told me about in the '80s for a mere $18.... hindsight.... <Or the Andy Grove beginnings of Intel... If memory serves 0.25 dollar a share in '73... or the 5k I could've given to Saul Price (had I had it...) in 78 to be part of the original 100 investors in CostCo.... or, or... BobF> Thanks again. Regards- Jake

Re: UPS Query   9/15/06 Good morning Bob,   Was reading the query on the 5KVA Unregulated Power Supply this gent is planning on using. Wowsie is right.  This translates, at 120 volts, to a current rating of 41.6 amps.  <Yes... a whole lot of love, make that electrical power, for sure> Wondering how this guy is going to protect this, since 20 amp breakers are the largest you can put into one leg of the service. <Likely more than one breaker, eh?> He didn't mention, but I'm guessing this UPS he is considering must have a primary voltage of 220. Just thought I'd pass this along. <Mmm, possibly...> How was your trip, fun I'm sure.  Wife and daughter are going to Nassau this October.  Dad is going to work to foot the bill, but my daughter is paying the air fare.  She must be suffering from some sort of mental disorder:)  James <Heeee! Are you finding work easier? I do hope so. BobF>

Re: UPS Query  9/18/06 Bob,   Just injecting into my recent email to you.  See below. James  <Hotay. B> Re: UPS Query   9/15/06 Good morning Bob,   Was reading the query on the 5KVA Unregulated Power Supply this gent is planning on using. Wowsie is right.  This translates, at 120 volts, to a current rating of 41.6 amps.  <Yes... a whole lot of love, make that electrical power, for sure> Wondering how this guy is going to protect this, since 20 amp breakers are the largest you can put into one leg of the service. <Likely more than one breaker, eh?>   <<If this is indeed a 120 volt system, two breakers can be used, but is definitely a no no with the NEC.  And,  if the installer mounts a breaker on separate legs, the resulting voltage will be 220 volts...anyone for smoked ribs?     I'm pretty sure this subject unit has to be a 220 volt primary input or this unit would not get a UL approval.  And, I strongly suggest the breaker be a GFIC type.>>

Fried shrimp... electrical leak in a marine system. Critically dangerous   7/26/06 Hey. <Hay?> I seem to have a problem with too much current in my water, and I don't mean water current either!! <Yikes> Three days ago I noticed that my 2 normally very happy and active cleaner shrimp and 1 peppermint shrimp were staying very still.  I watched them for a little while and saw them twitch and spasm from time to time and act as if they were having trouble controlling their movement.  They responded to food, but instead of swimming directly to it they would twitch and swim in circles.  All my snails, hermits, starfish, and numerous soft and LPS corals looked fine.  I stuck my hand in the tank and noticed a very very slight tingle only for a brief second as my hand first entered the water. <Very dangerous! You could be shocked... electrocuted...>   I believe that this is what caused the shrimp to act funny, because all other testable water parameters seemed fine.  Unfortunately I was on the way out the door and going out of town for 3 days when all this happened.  I tried unplugging the filters, lights, heaters, etc. one by one testing for the tingle, but after a short time I stopped noticing it all together.  I unplugged the two pumps I decided were most likely the problem and left.  I just came back in to town to find that one of the cleaners and peppermint shrimp are missing, I believe the green starfish ate them <Could have> when they couldn't move, and the other cleaner shrimp is laying on his side and still twitching.  I moved him to another tank while I try to solve this problem.  I guess what I'm asking, and maybe I should be talking to an electrician instead, is how can I measure such a slight current in the water in order to pinpoint which appliance is faulty, multimeter?? <Mmm, likely a polarity or small ground problem here... but if you can't detect it yourself, and cure... I would call an electrician. At any length I would wire all these outlets to/through a G.F.I.: http://wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm and the linked files above> What is the allowable amount, if any of watts, amps, of whatever in a reef tank?? <Very small indeed... any detectable amount is deleterious> How would this effect my fish? <Shorten their lifespans, kill them...> Luckily they were in a QT.   Is this a common occurrence??  Any words of advice??  Thanks in advance Jon <GFCIs... Water and electricity do not mix. Bob Fenner>

Lighting Question... extending wiring on/for MHs (Salty!)  7/14/06 Good day fine people!   <And to you> Once again I turn to you for a little expertise that I seem to be lacking. I am in the setup phase of my 200 GAL tank with 300 GAL fuge/sump/return in the basement and have a quick question. <Hotay!> I want to remote my magnetic ballast for the 3x 175 W MH lights to the basement. I am thinking that if I cut the existing cable between the ballast and the lights and splice some 3 wire Romex cable in, there shouldn't be any problems, but just wanted to run it by you fine folks to make sure I am not missing something. If it matters, it will be about 30' from the ballast to the lights. <Mmm... am going to send this response to our resident "electrician", Salty/JamesG... If it were me, mine, I would NOT do this, but instead contact the actual manufacturer, ask for their input, and if they're amenable, buy new cable from them... follow their directions re re-terminating the connections...> Thanks for your time and all you do for our hobby (sickness ;-)  ) <Mmmm... Well... do perhaps wait on Salty's go here as well... I'm just too concerned re the gauge of wire over the run here, the implications of overheating, possible fire and electrical shock hazard. Bob Fenner>

Re: Lighting Question... extending wiring on/for MHs (Salty!)  7/15/06 Good day fine people!   <And to you> Once again I turn to you for a little expertise that I seem to be lacking. I am in the setup phase of my 200 GAL tank with 300 GAL fuge/sump/return in the basement and have a quick question. <Hotay!> I want to remote my magnetic ballast for the 3x 175 W MH lights to the basement. I am thinking that if I cut the existing cable between the ballast and the lights and splice some 3 wire Romex cable in, there shouldn't be any problems, but just wanted to run it by you fine folks to make sure I am not missing something. If it matters, it will be about 30' from the ballast to the lights. <Mmm... am going to send this response to our resident "electrician", Salty/JamesG... If it were me, mine, I would NOT do this, but instead contact the actual manufacturer, ask for their input, and if they're amenable, buy new cable from them... follow their directions re re-terminating the connections...> Thanks for your time and all you do for our hobby (sickness ;-)  ) <Mmmm... Well... do perhaps wait on Salty's go here as well... I'm just too concerned re the gauge of wire over the run here, the implications of overheating, possible fire and electrical shock hazard. Bob Fenner> <<Extending the wire length is not recommended, but not for overheating, as this can be overcome by using a larger gauge wire.  The problem we have here is the extremely high starting voltage of the lamps, some as much as 4000 volts (low current).  Extending the length of wire 30 feet (with standard #14 Romex) will more than likely cause a voltage drop in start-up which will lead to shortened bulb life due to longer start times, if the lamp even starts at all. This will all depend on the VA capacity of the start circuit transformer being used in the ballast.  Romex is definitely a no-no as the insulation on this wire is not rated for that kind of starting voltage, and leakage can/will occur and could lead to electrical shock.  I ditto Bob's suggestion of contacting the manufacturer re this before doing, and get information on proper wire size and type, warranty considerations, feasibility of doing such, etc.  James (Salty Dog)>> <Thanks for this Big J! BobF>

Digital Timers - 05/10/06 Hi, <<Hello>> The cheap mechanical timer I'm currently using hasn't been very reliable.  So I'm looking for a good quality digital one. <<Good move>> I've found the Newtek 8-outlet Power strip and 24 Hour Digital Timer.  My question is, do you know if this is a quality product? <<Don't know...have seen it, but am not familiar with it>> If not, what do you recommend? <<I use 'Intermatic' digital timers from Lowe's or Home Depot.  They've proven very reliable for me...and using one per, are/seem more versatile than the power strip timer you describe (limited availability/differential of "timed" outlets).  But if the power strip timer suits your needs it is probably the less expensive alternative>> Thanks, Greg  

Re: Coral Catsharks... electrical, ray comp.    5/4/06 Hi again. This is the last time i will bother you I swear. <Heee! Be careful what you promise...> I was just wondering if a grounding probe would be a good idea for a shark tank. <Mmm, no... as stated, this is more likely to induce electrical potential than solve such issues in an otherwise properly equipped, set-up system> As I stated before I have 3 pumps and a heater along with the lights and the 2 Emperor filters. <These are hopefully grounded, wired through GFI's> I have read that these things can cause some electric current in the water and this will of course disturb the sharks senses. <Would if not...> I'm not sure if there is any current in the tank, and not sure how to test for it. <... then study> From my understanding the grounding probe will take away all the electric current in the tank they may be harmful to the sharks. I just want to make my aquarium as pleasing as possible for my sharks so they have a long life and hopefully breed. In your opinion what is the best food to feed them? <Isn't this how we started? This is posted (to the extent of my knowledge at least) on WWM> How often should I feed these particular sharks and how much? Thank you so much for the replies. You have helped me out tremendously with your responses. I do believe this will be the last help I need. <No...> Oh one last thing, if my goal is to breed these sharks, should I have them in the tank be themselves. Would it be possible to put a yellow stingray in the tank with them, and still have the sharks breed. Thank you. <This system is not large enough for a jamaicensis... Bob Fenner>

Electrical Shock/Dancing Aquarist   4/21/06 Hello, <Howdy>  I was wondering if you guys could give me some advice on what could be the cause of every time I put my hand in my refugium I get a jolt of electricity. <You are acting as part of the return path of the circuit, hopefully you will not be the complete path.>  I have a 180-gallon with a 40-gallon refugium below using a dolphin 800 to return water back to the tank and a mag7 to drive my ev180 skimmer. Last week i had somewhat of a flood and after everything was pretty dry i plugged everything back in but ever since the flood the refugium has been shocking me. If you guys could offer any advice it would be greatly appreciated do you think it has something to do with the outlet being moist <Do remove the receptacle cover and point a fan toward it and allow to air dry.> and it is not acting as a ground? <My friend, if you enjoy life on this earth, do put a GFIC receptacle in place of the receptacle you are now using.  If not, you have already been on this earth longer than you are probably going to stay.  Please do a spelling/grammar check in future queries. All "i"s should be in caps.  James (Salty Dog)>

MH lighting fire...!!! - 03/25/2006 Hello WWM Crew, <Hi Rori - Tim answering your question today!> Tonight disaster struck!!! I love my fish tank and have been a reef tank hobbyist now for about 5 years, but tonight my fish tank SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME!!!! I do not know what to do??? My wife and I were sitting watching T.V. when all of a sudden we both smelt a plastic burning smell that got pretty strong. We started looking around the house because it smelled like something plastic was on fire!!! Then I walked into the fish room and the room was filled with smoke!!! It turned out one of my ballast to my Coral Life HQI's was smoking pretty badly. Now I'm not talking about a little smoke I'm talking there was a fire going on inside the case of the thing and smoke was pouring out of it, and it filled the room with black smoke. Now I am so scared thinking about what would of happened if I wouldn't have been home, my house could of burned down! Another thing I don't understand is I am very cautious when it comes to building something. I have these ballast bolted to my stand with a dedicated fan blowing right on them. Also I have a circuit protector that will shut everything off if anything goes wrong. Looks like none of this stuff helped out, I honestly think that if I was not home it would of started a fire, and it would of eventually turned into a electrical fire. I am debating now if this is worth the risk. I am so disappointed that I spent so much money on these Coral Life 150 Watt HQI's and they fail like this. I will be contacting them about this situation I have run into. In the mean time I have all the lights turned off in the tank due to I am scared the other two ballast are going to catch fire like this one did. So now my corals are in the dark for now??? Any advice what would you do in this situation??? Anxiously awaiting your helpful response on what I can do??? Thank You!!! P.S. I took the ballast apart and in the case where the actual round ballast is inside is all swollen looking and melted inside!!! <That is very concerning indeed! Do contact the company and include in your correspondence very detailed information on your current set up so that they may identify any problems with your arrangement. Also do a search through online forums - to my knowledge, this is not a common occurrence but there is of course the possibility of a bad batch of ballasts - in which case you may be saving many other aquarists from potential disaster! Try to find out exactly what caused this - and please do keep us informed so that we may warn others of this situation! In the meantime, you will need to take care of your livestock. Make sure that you do a number of considerable water changes - I am concerned that some of the smoke may have become dissolved in the aquarium water and can potentially cause significant harm. Your corals will need light or they will not survive for long - I would suggest, if you are presently unable to comfortably provide them with adequate lighting (your situation being completely understandable) then I would suggest contacting a fellow reef keeper or your LFS to see if either will hold your corals until you can rectify your lighting situation. The same applies to your fish, although clearly these are less dependant on light for their survival. Keep a close eye on your fish as the stress of this incident may cause disease outbreak. As I said, please keep us informed as to your findings! Thank you and wishing you the very best of luck!>

UV and stray voltage... Trouble Hi, I just recently installed a 80w Current USA Gamma UV on my 220g marine tank.  After installing it I noticed that my Pinpoint PH probe would no longer get a steady reading. <... you have an electrical "leak"... bridged contacts, perhaps a cracked sleeve...>   It would vary drastically and caused my to believe that it was possibly stray voltage from the UV. <Yes, likely so> I know they read positively charged hydrogen ions and thought that maybe electricity was altering it. Well, I unplugged the UV (it was on a separate outlet) and the PH probe began to read normally. I haven't plugged the UV up since and was trying to find some information on what the problem could be, and if it is harmful? <Potentially... very. To your livestock, you> Do UV's normally alter PH probe readings? <Mmm, will elevate them slightly over time...> What can I do to ensure its not harming my livestock? The fish in my tank acted normally for the few hours it was on. Also, I've tried emailing Current USA but have yet to receive a response. Do you know of a tech support number they might have? Thanks, Brandon <I would remove this unit, carefully take it apart, dry all, re-lube the compression fittings for the lamp/sleeve, use silicon lube on the contact pins... put it back on, plug-in and see if this corrects the stray voltage... AND I would definitely plug this (and all other electrics) through a GFI/GFCI device. Bob Fenner> Re: UV and stray voltage... USE the GFI! Thanks for the reply. Well after sending the email, I found a contact number for the manufacturer and they said this was very normal. I explained that the PH probe was not just varying slightly, but was erratically moving back and forth to abnormal readings (ex.8.8-7.3). <... pH is the negative log (base 10) of hydrogen ion concentration... this is a huge variance...> The tech support guy said that this is common and that the UV light attracts ions toward the unit altering the probes ability to get a steady reading. He advised me to plug this unit back up and install a grounding probe if I wanted my PH probe to work properly. <? A grounding probe? For what purpose?> He sounded like a trust worthy source. I spoke with two other people before I finally spoke to someone competent about my situation. But it still makes me wonder. I don't feel any type of shock when I stick my hands in the water. I'm going to try your advice and make sure its installed properly. But what if it still reads erratically? I also plan to use grounding probe. I have a GFCI that contains three prongs, that I can also hook the UV to. I know this device protects against shock and electrocution, but how will it prevent stray voltage from flowing into the tank? <... These devices "count" the flow of current/numbers of electrons if you will, coming and going... as in sixty times a second (Hertz) from and to the two wires in the circuit... if this number varies just a little, the circuit will be interrupted (shut off) by the GFI... if the electricity is flowing elsewhere... as in through you to ground, the GFI will shut off the power> Will it just reset, if there is some type of leakage? <...? No... has to be manually re-set... Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Brandon <I would contact a real electrician or ask an electrical engineer for "real" advice here.> Re: UV and stray voltage 1/16/06 Thanks again for the response. But now I'm really confused. I guess I just really want to know, what I'm supposed to do to insure that the UV is hooked up properly. <Uhh...> I know that it causes my PH monitor to read erratically. Not slowly over time, but it makes irregular readings skipping multiple tenths at a time (ex.8.3 then to 8.56 then to 7.93, all in a matter of seconds). <Mmm, yes...> The company tech said this is normal, and that the UV attracts or disperses ions, causing the Pinpoint PH probe to not get a clear reading. <... no...> He said that he fixes this by placing a titanium grounding probe in the tank. And that he had just recently done this on an octopus tank he had set up. <Think... such probes... are grounds, electrical... but not designed to make large voltage potential run-offs... your wet feet might be a better route...> I hooked the UV up to a GFCI plug and experienced the same problem with the PH monitor. I thought that maybe if the UV was causing stray voltage that the GFCI would reset or automatically turn off. <Danger Will Robbins!> But it functioned properly. <It did not shut off?> I've checked to make sure the unit and bulbs are installed right, and they are. I guess my question to you is, short of never running the UV, how do I insure that UV is not slowly leaking voltage into my tank? I never feel anything when I stick my hand in the tank, and I know that the signs to my livestock are not immediate, and their health will just slowly dwindle with time. So is there anything I can do to insure myself that my livestock are not being slowly tortured? I'm sorry for nagging you so much, but this is nagging me a lot worse knowing the potential consequences. Thanks, Brandon <Please re-read my last email to you... Seek/get professional electrical help. Bob Fenner>

MH v Fluorescents, power consumption   1/10/06 Hi WWM Crew, <Hello Steve> I was reading one of the FAQ's when I came across a minor mistake and thought I would correct it. The WWM crew was asked if 150 watts of MH consumed the same amount of power as 150 watts of fluorescents and the answer was yes a watt equals a watt which is true but watts = amps x volts and a 150 watt MH light will consume more power or energy whilst supplying the same amount of watts, i.e.. more amps. The extra power is dissipated as heat from the ballast. <This particular answer may be dated.  The efficiency (power factor) of a system depends on the ballast.  Electronically regulated ballasts will be more efficient than a tar ballast and so on. This will also relate to light intensity somewhat.  On a 48" tank, two 150 watt HQI's are going to be more effective than 400 watts of fluorescents and generate less heat into the tank.  So now we are looking at light intensity versus wattage being used.  More than just watt for watt has to be considered here.> I hope this helps, regards, Steve. <I hope this helps also. James (Salty Dog)>

Stray Electricity - 12/15/2005 Hello, <Hi Brian.> I recently installed a light (Dual Satellite Compact Fluorescent Fixtures) and realized today that when I touch the water, it gives me a small shock (not worse than licking a 9 volt battery). <Whoa...that's not cool. Are your fish exhibiting any stress? Watch for changes in their behavior.> I also have a protein skimmer, submersible heater, and carbon filter. Do you think it's possible that the new light is causing it, or do you know how to figure it out if it's the light or something else. After all, the light is standing on plastic legs a good 4 inches above the rim of the tank so I wouldn't think it would be causing it. Is there much of a chance of shorting the light or causing fire? <If something is letting out enough electricity for you to feel it when you touch the water, then it's likely that this could get worse. Something is probably not grounded correctly or there's a slight tear/gouge in a cord (just enough to clear the insulation). You'll have to check all. If it's as noticeable as it sounds it should be as easy as unplugging each piece (one at a time) and checking the water with a voltage meter. As for repair of the piece when located I would contact the manufacturer.> Brian <Josh>

Re: Stray Electricity  12/17/05 Hello again, <Hi Brian.> I checked everything and couldn't find anything. It stopped shocking me though. <Was this after you messed with the plugs? Any salt creep on or around them?> Could I simply have too many things plugged into the wall? <Would most likely trip the breaker in that case.> I have my protein skimmer, filter, three lights and their fan, and the heater plugged into one outlet (as in only one of the two sets prong holes are used because of the surge protector). <I don't think that's it. Is your surge protector the right rating? I wouldn't just let this go. It's happened once and you don't know why. What's to stop it happening again? Did you check each unit as well, not just the cords? Look for any cracks or loose casings. Is your surge protector mounted up off the floor? Any salt creep around the outlet itself? How old is the wiring of your house?> Also, the only thing I've noticed weird is that my Clownfish, who seems perfectly fine, has taken a strange liking to my Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp, letting him frequently clean him (which I doubt is a result, but shouldn't it only clean bigger fish)? <Well that would just be discrimination!.> Brian <Josh>

Counter for electrical use 10/19/05 Hi, <Steven> I have a sump pump that plugs into a 110V outlet. I want to be able to tell how many times it turns on in a month, year, etc. Is there a box of sorts that plugs into the wall and receives the pump cord and then turns a counter every time there is current draw?
<Not to my knowledge.  You'd have to DIY with a 110V counter.  There is one available that monitors kilowatt usage to help you forecast electrical costs for this pump.  Also monitors voltage, line frequency and power factor.  This unit is called "Kill A Watt".  I believe www.drsfostersmith.com sells them at around $35.00 bucks.  James (Salty Dog)> Thank you, Steven

Grounding probe.  Good or bad? <Mostly just unnecessary>  08/08/2005 Greetings Bob & Crew! <Yawn!> An online forum (yes, I read others besides yours.....but WWM starts out my day!) had the following thread posted on grounding probes.  Just wanted your opinion on it.  Thanks.  -Ray "Adding a ground to solve the problem of electricity leaking into the water is not the right to go. It may save the owner from being shocked, but it will make things worse for the tank inhabitants. The problem is not the voltage level of the tank, but current flowing through its occupants. Just as birds perched on a high voltage hydro wire don't notice their bodies are 27,000 volts above ground potential, the same is true in an aquarium. If one appliance is leaking electricity, but there are no paths to ground (a glass or acrylic tank is a very good electrical insulator), then no current will flow, and the fish would not know that they were not at ground potential. <Mmm, other (grounded) gear... the hobbyists themselves... can act as grounds...> Thus everything will be fine until a grounded electrode is placed in the tank. Now AC current will flow between the bad appliance and the ground. This is how people are electrocuted in a bathtub when a radio or hair drier plugged into the wall falls in. <Yes> Current flows between the appliance and the drain pipe (which is a good ground). If the victim's heart is in the path of enough current flow, it will stop beating. <Possibly> Since the conductivity of salt water is much higher than tap water, it would probably be harder to electrocute marine fish. The fish will not enjoy the current passing through its body though. Long term exposure to even minute currents is probably not good. <Correct> On the flip side of this, the electrode grounding the tank will protect the owner better, because most leaking current will flow through the electrode (the least resistive path) and not the owner. <Yes> The solution to the electrified tank problem is to find out which components are the culprits and repair or replace them. <Definitely so> I think it would be a good idea for owners to periodically check their tanks for electrical leakage. The easiest way to do this is to put a voltmeter (AC) between the water and ground (a good electrical ground - e.g. wall socket ground). If you get a reading of more than a few volts, I would worry. <Agreed here too> I don't think it is necessary to set up an elaborate system to protect you and your fish from electrical malfunctions. Hopefully it is rare that a component leaks electricity into the tank. <Is indeed exceedingly rare nowadays. Much of what folks measure is induced current... pushing a charged object (seawater) in space creates current... and vice versa> A shock from a fish tank would not likely be fatal, but if it is strong enough, it will cause an uncontrollable desire to remove one's arm from the tank as rapidly as possible. This is where serious injury and damage to the tank / hood etc. could occur. <Good point> If you want to make a shock-proof tank, hook all accessories that could possibly cause a problem to GFI sockets (Ground Fault Interrupters). Then hook an electrode from the water to one of the GFI ground terminals. If anything begins to leak, the corresponding GFI will cut off power." <This is generally so... an exception are fluorescent lighting systems with secondary circuits. Bob Fenner>

Chilly Betta and stray voltage 07/01/05         Does anyone no of any heater that can be used in a .75-1 gallon, (a little under a gallon) desktop tank. <Yes. Hydor Products.> I bought this one which was rated for 2-5 gallon tanks. The box stated the heater would only raise the temp. 2-5 degrees but it raised by beta's bowl/vase to about 90 degrees. <You need a small wattage unit that is thermostatic, likely external...> I ordered a small desktop aquarium with a filter which measures 6x6x8". I want to be able to keep him a little warm since the building operator knows how to crank the air conditioning. Thank goodness for us but not for Delta, (my work beta buddy). Know of any products? <Look for Hydor, dealers on the Net> Like I said the only one I've found is the flat one which made the water way too hot.. Any other suggestions would be appreciated as well. P.S. A bigger aquarium is also out of the question. My boss is being nice as it is with what I have.         While I'm here, one more question, if it's all right..... Is there any way to check for stray voltage. I think one of the devices in my 54 gallon saltwater might be giving off juice. Thank You as always. Enjoy the fourth and have a safe holiday.                                 -Heather <There are a few methods... there are stray potential meters... Might be better here to have an actual electrician out to check rather than buy the gear yourself... and to seek out, install a grounding device. Bob Fenner>

Re: Chilly Betta <with two "t's"> Bob,         The Hydor product is the one which I used last time which made the bowl way too hot... (90+degrees), it was the flat one which is rated for small bowls. The heater is only rated for 2 gallons and up. Anything i can do for a bowl 1 gallon or less? Maybe position the heater somewhere else, (you said something about externally) <Yes... the outside... should provide sufficient thermal insulation to make this unit useful here> or use a 6" heater rated for 10 Ga. and above? <No... too many watts> I'm sure there are many others out there like me with cold bettas in smaller tanks, so is there anything we can do? Also about the stray voltage.. I can't really afford to hire an electrician so are there any ways to find stray voltage in the water otherwise? <Yes... but am hesitant to suggest your not hiring a professional... depending on 1) whether there is actually an electrical leak, or 2) the source thereof, there may be a real potential hazard here. At the very least I suggest you wire in or between a GFI circuit. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm> Or, should I just turn one piece of equipment off at a time for a month or so,  to see if my fish get better? Once again Thanks for you time. Hope you all had a nice holiday.                                         -Heather <... do you have a low voltage meter? A neighbor who has one, an understanding of electricity? Bob Fenner>

GFCI problem <James go> Thanks for your reply.  I tried another GFCI strip, still no good.  I tried plugging the light fixture into kitchen hard-wired GFCI and it tripped it off too.  I think it is the fixture itself and am working to replace it.  Do you have any critique of Coralife Aqualight Power Compact, or perhaps just random bad luck?
<I'd say you have a defective fixture.>
 I understand if you would rather not promote or criticize a specific brand, though.  Just trying to get EVERYTHING straight before I fill the tank for the first time, even though I'm sure I'll find more surprises along the way. Have you heard of a product called "grunge" and if you like it where can you get it?
<Have heard of it and from what I read, it sounds OK.  Here's the GARF page you can read.   http://search.hp.netscape.com/hp/boomframe.jsp?query=Garf&page=1&offset=0 &result_url=redir%3Fsrc%3Dwebsearch%26requestId%3D426c4dc29d120acf%26clickedI temRank%3D1%26userQuery%3DGarf%26clickedItemURN%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.garf.org%252F%26invocationType%3D-%26fromPage%3DHPResults%26amp%3BampTest%3D1&remove_ url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.garf.org%2F Thanks again.  Rich. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Electrical woes <Bobs go> Thanks for your reply.  I tried another GFCI strip, still no good.  I tried plugging the light fixture into kitchen hard-wired GFCI and it tripped it off too. <Yikes... you have a bad connection somewhere... dangerous> I think it is the fixture itself and am working to replace it.  Do you have any critique of Coralife Aqualight Power Compact, or perhaps just random bad luck? <Is this a new fixture? I would send it back to the manufacturer> I understand if you would rather not promote or criticize a specific brand, though. <I will/do gladly recommend, damn what I please. There are some good lines, some shams in the trade... this is a good product from a fine company>   Just trying to get EVERYTHING straight before I fill the tank for the first time, even though I'm sure I'll find more surprises along the way. Have you heard of a product called "grunge" and if you like it where can you get it? <This product is of the "sham" category... made by (with a hammer and old live rock) by the excitable folks at GARF... Bob Fenner> Thanks again.  Rich.

Aquarium Surge Protection Dear Bob, <Joe> I wanted to thank you for posting some of my e-mail's on your web-site forum: <Thank you> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/elecmarfaqs2.htm  I just received a phone call regarding our units, and he indicated that he was referred to Zero Surge via your web-site. Also, I understand that you will be speaking at the upcoming MACNA conference in Sept. location is in northern VA. Zero Surge will be an exhibitor (Booth # 37) at the conference and would welcome the opportunity to meet you.  <Ahh, look forward to it. Bob Fenner> Once again, thank you. Regards, Joe Nocella Director of Sales jnocella@ZeroSurge.com | 800-996-6696 Voice | 908-996-7773 Fax 

Who's Reply to a Heated Question? Who's Replying Now? Thank you for your reply, <Wasn't me! (hehe seen rocket man?)> One question more, can I do more than guess of how much power an aquarium heater uses? <Sure can, because you can bet your electricity provider isn't> I can calculate the filter and light fairly easily. But the heater it doesn't stay all the time soooo...whether it's just one fish tank or a whole fish room with 40 tanks I've heard of pennies a month to 25 cents a day. I know it's a fuzzy question, my house could be colder than this house and varying from a Nevada summer to a Boston winter that could be quite a bit. Maybe some numbers I could crunch, like the average room temp of 70 degrees and a 10 gallon aquarium with a 50 watt heater would be about 2 dollars a month or 50 cents or whatever kilowatt hour that I could then convert to cash? Sorry to ramble on, can you give me a hand? And funny thing - for a fish room with many tanks, some people hype controlling the room's thermostat, some multiple heaters are the cheapest way to go, besides initial cost of buying all those heaters, central filtration aside. Any thoughts? <Determining the cost if it was run constantly is easy - contact your electrical provider and ask them how much they charge per kilowatt hour. Since kilo = 1000, 50 watts would be 1\20th of this quote, every hour. The best way to measure the actual kilowatt hours used (because as you stated, it isn't running constantly) would be to obtain a watt-hour meter, available from a hardware store, or at www.liveaquaria.com (and it's so cutely name the "Kill-a-watt meter). As for determining whether individually heating a tank or using an external air conditioner instead, it all depends on the amount of tanks, the building size, insulation, outside air temperatures, etc. As you can see, the problem with determining the costs will be the variables. I would use the meter on your house provided by your electrical company to determine this. On a small scale operation, individual heaters will be MUCH more economical. By the way, please use proper caps\punctuation when emailing us in the future, as this email will be archived for others to read>  Thanks again as I continue to research, Jonathan <Very interesting question, was fun to answer. For an absolutely great\hilarious book on electricity, I highly recommend 'There are no electrons' by Ken Amdahl> 

Killer Via Aqua Heater! Last night, I went to feed the pods in our refugium and got a shock - literally! You could feel the electricity (pain through your fingers). The culprit - a less than one year old Via Aqua Stainless Steel heater. Rust had leached out of the end cap (a gob about an inch wide) and it was shooting electricity through the sump!!! $100 worth of Copepods we added last week that were flourishing one day earlier were all dead, along with the Amphipods! Luckily the refugium was running off a powerhead and not yet connected to the new tank!!! <Yeeikes!> A few questions: 1) We removed the heater (of course) complete with it's attached "rust ball" and changed the water out. The pods are definitely dead (most floating). The Caulerpa and Chaeto look fine. Do we need to change out the mud substrate before we attach it to the main tank because of the rust and whatever else may have leached out of that <expletive deleted whaa!> piece of junk - Via Aqua heater? <I would leave these as is. More likely than not ferrous metal has "settled out"... I would however add a pad of "PolyFilter" in your filter flow path> 2) Do you know the Via Aqua manufacturer or website (we couldn't find it). Not that it will do any good, but we would like to inform them of this mess. <I do know the company... Commodity Axis: http://www.commodityaxis.com/Home.aspx> 3) We are going to trash our other Via Aqua Stainless heater too and would like to warn your other saltwater readers about this potential disaster waiting to happen!  Thanks in advance! <Please do contact the company, mail them your heaters.... you could very well save other people's lives. Bob Fenner> 

More than a shocking situation I work at a fish shop and there are surge protectors that hold a lot of our pumps for the protein skimmers and such they have quite a bit of salt on them and are usually damp I cant work under the tanks with the plugs without getting shocked any tips or ideas? <Yes... do NOT go anywhere near these outlets... turn all off, have a licensed electrician and/or electrical engineer come and trouble shoot your store... have them make a working plan for duplex or quad outlets mounted on the wall... above the tanks... and have all circuits wired through GFCI's... Not just the livestock's lives depend on this... Bob Fenner>

Titanium grounding rod DANGER!  Bob, <James> Just something I'd like to pass on to you should a question arise on the www. Do encourage people NOT to use these things.  <I don't, and never have> They are a potentially very dangerous item to have in the aquarium. A friend of mine decided to pull his grounding rod out of the tank to clean the algae off it. Unknowingly, he had a powerhead that was electrically defective as far as insulation goes. Well, he grabbed the rod in one hand and had the other hand in the water, and presto, since he was connected directly to earth ground he got quite a jolt which caused his arm to go numb for some time and also created nervous twitches for about a week.  Regards, James (Salty Dog) <Yeeikes! Bob F>

- Ice Storm Power Loss - We had a huge ice storm here which cut power to over 150,000 people... basically our entire town. <No fun... have been through a couple of these.> I had no power, nor a generator for 5 days.  We had to leave the house due to the extreme cold. Coming home today, as expected, everything in the saltwater tank is dead.   All I can try to do now is salvage the live rock, if possible.  After running my tank for 5 years, with little hitches, I'm faced with a problem.  Should I look at the live rock NOW as basically uncured and try to salvage it by attempting to cure it with a heater etc outside the tank? <I'd cure it in the tank, might as well let all settle back in together.> The stench is tremendous... mostly from the die off of the live rock, I think. <Quite likely.> I'd like to try and save what I can, any thoughts? <Well... what's to save? I mean the rock itself will be starting from scratch. I'd run some activated carbon in your filtration system to get rid of the smell, and then get a couple of new pieces of live rock to re-seed the rock in the tank. Would let all cure in the tank... I'm assuming you have a protein skimmer. Things will make a comeback. Sorry to hear of your losses, but much better that you and your family are safe. Cheers, J -- >

Ultimate low power consumption saltwater aquarium Greetings WetWeb crew, I have accepted the challenge of designing my new home to run entirely on solar power at the urging of my wife. <Great! Have seen a marine enthusiast's home here in San Diego that made this investment... some days their electrical meter runs backward! The f/utility pays them back to the extent of their charges!!!> In researching the possibilities I was faced with either giving up my reef-keeping hobby, or finding a way to make it work with a 12 volt DC electric system. I am sharing some of my plans with the hope of getting constructive criticism. <Mmm, there are inverter technologies... to change to 120 V AC>      I currently have a 20 in. deep 37.5 gallon soft coral reef set up. I am planning on running 2 pumps with a sumpless set up. One pump will power a custom H.O.T. protein skimmer of my own design, while the other will provide water movement within the aquarium. I am contemplating using small 12 volt boat bilge pumps to accomplish the above tasks. <These pull/use a BUNCH of amps... do more research here>      Lighting is a bit more tricky however. I was originally considering using power compact lighting, but it is going to use way too much electricity. Instead I have decided to look into using light emitting diodes (LEDs) to light the aquarium. <A "wave of the future"> I have acquired some extremely bright white LEDs for testing. In some initial tests the LEDs seem to be the perfect solution. They produces a very blue color light somewhat similar to 50/50 lighting. They emit almost no noticeable heat, and when aimed through a rippling surface they produce much desirable reflections similar to metal halide. The "bulb" life is estimated around 100,000 hours. I am beginning to wonder why one would light an aquarium with anything else. <Mainly the current challenges of "quality"... Take a look here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/lighting/index.htm> With that said, I am planning on building a lighting hood with an array of 100 super bright white LEDs. If anyone has attempted this before please advise on results. <There are a few folks, companies working on LED's for aquarium use... their data is not public domain> Based on my initial calculations this array should use around 680ma at 12 volts, perfect for use on a 12 volt DC system. I am estimating the light production of this array to be similar to two 55w power compacts, which is what has been lighting my soft coral tank happily for several years. After I build the lighting system I will test it, and write an article based on my findings. <Maybe get a PAR meter... study up re CRI, incandescence... need intensity AND temperature similar to the wild>      With filtration, water movement, and lighting taken care of, I need to focus my attention to temperature control. With recent power outages caused by hurricanes I have been fortunate (or not) to have the opportunity to monitor my aquarium's temperature with no air conditioning or heating running. In the heat of summer for an eight day stretch with no additional heat from lighting, my aquarium maintained a temperature range of 74-78 degrees, coldest at around 4:30 am and hottest around 1:30 pm. <Yes... water is the standard for "heat"...> Normally, I would run a heater to keep it around 78 constant and my central air offsets the heat from my power compacts. My problem is I have not come up with a good method of heating on a 12 volt system. Most aquarium heaters are designed for large amperage high wattage alternating current. I need some suggestions on heating water on 12 volts, safe enough for my aquarium's population. If anyone knows of a good DC submersible water heater please advise. I might just have to have something custom made. <Look into "heat exchangers"... there are means (esp. for large volumes) to "take" heat from/to the air...>      That about wraps up my ideas on solar powered aquariums at the moment. If anyone is interested, I will send updates on my progress. If I have overlooked anything important please advise, also know I am only in the early stages of planning this project. Thanks -Randy <Bob Fenner, who has been involved in such challenges in putting up collecting facilities in out of way places... Start looking into deep cycle (marine) batteries... You're soon to be an investor.>

Re: Ultimate low power consumption saltwater aquarium -suggestion, LEDs Bob, I was reading about this man trying to light his soft coral tank with LED's. There are a few tanks which use them on the nano-reef.com forums! www.nano-reef.com/forums is the address, a simple search is all that is needed here. So far I think the tanks have been running good. Also, I believe there is a step by step in one of the threads, so.... If he needs help wiring them up, It's all there for him. Hope that helps Daniel Babcock. <LEDs are indeed going to "hit the aquarium market" soon... as you had stated, due to low operating costs (electricity, replacement of fixture). They have the intensity (have seen a million candle power unit in operation), and issues of other aspects of light quality are being worked out. Bob Fenner>

120 volt waterproof electrical outlet Do you know where I can purchase 120 volt waterproof electrical outlet? <Mmm, there are degrees of waterproofedness... from some duplex outlets that have plastic covers of sorts to cover over, ward against splash, spray from sprinklers, rain... to junction boxes that are filled with "bedding material" and sealed with a plate... Might I ask what the application is here? Bob Fenner> Thanks, Michael A. Miller Con Edison of New York

Aquarium Surge Protector Dear Mr. Fenner, <Joe> I read your article on "Electricity & The Aquarium Garden" and did not see anything mentioned regarding the use of a quality surge protector.   <Yes... am a fan of the use of GFCIs instead in these applications> Surge suppression is very important within the saltwater aquarist community for both safety and equipment protection.  Pumps, filters, lighting, UPSs, and aquatic life itself, all add up to a substantial investment and can be at risk when inadequate surge protection is used. <... not a problem with a GFI>   We recently exhibited at the MACNA conference last month in Boston, MA and the product was very well received.    We are also getting mentioned within the Reef Central Forum under the IceCap Aquarium Surge Protector thread. Following is a link to our new aquarium web page:      http://www.zerosurge.com/HTML/marine.html If you are interested in learning more about Zero Surge's patented surge protector technology, please contact me at 1-800-996-6696 or access our web-site at www.ZeroSurge.com. Regards, Joe Nocella Director of Sales <Thank you for your notice. Will post on WWM for alls edification. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Surge Protector Dear Mr. Fenner, <Joe> Thank you for your response and for posting my information on your web-site. Some important points of clarification in your responses are in caps bold below.   You are stating that a GFCI or GFI is the same or performs the same function as a surge protector and that is 100% incorrect. Regards, Joe Nocella <Agreed re function, but still am a fan of only GFI/GFCI use in pet-fish settings... am unaware of any gear that will suffer from voltage/potential spikes. Do you have proof of the utility of your devices? Bob F> ><... not a problem with a GFI>   MAJOR PROBLEM!  A GFCI IS USED TO PROTECT PEOPLE AGAINST ELECTRICAL SHOCK FROM A GROUND FAULT.  IT DOES NOT PERFORM THE FUNCTION OF A SURGE PROTECTOR.  WE HAVE TESTED MANY GFCIS WITH POWERLINE SURGES AND THEY ALL HAVE BLOWN UP.  THEY ARE ALSO TESTED UNDER UL'S 2003 CODE, NOT UL 1449 WHICH IS THE CODE FOR ALL TRANSIENT VOLTAGE SURGE SUPPRESSORS.

Re: Aquarium Surge Protector Bob, <Joe> I would say 5 months ago, we received two phone calls from aquarists, who suffered powerline surges.  One aquarists experienced damage to his ballast and his UPS, <Wow!> the other lost a pump and his heater started to mal-function raising the temperature in his tank which resulted in the loss of two fish. This started my research into this area, and what I found was surge protection was either not considered due to ignorance, or the cheaper version was used which eventually failed.   GFI/GFCI and UPS's are talked about and are needed within this hobby. <Agreed>   So are surge protectors, and in speaking with attendees at the MACNA conference, many aquarists have experienced damage to their equipment due to surges.  Also, within the IceCap's Aquarium Protector Series - in the IceCap forum of Reef Central Online Community, surge protection has received much interest and aquarists have experienced surge damage.    Even if you do a google search on aquarium surge fires, you will find articles such as: www.strangecosmos.com/content/item/101487.html where a surge occurred, and the power-strip or surge protector blew. Equipment like a heater, ballast, pump, UPS can all be affected by voltage/spikes.  Depending upon where you live, you might never suffer a major surge (6,000V, 3,000A), due to a power outage or transient lightning strike, but you never know and a quality surge protector provides you with "peace of mind".  A good analogy is life insurance.   <I do know directly the risks of cheap "multiple outlet "surge protectors"... especially ones that have experienced catastrophic failures from water intrusion... important to mount vertically, OUTSIDE of the range of splash and spray> As we continue to enter this market, I will send you information that illustrates the need for such a product and I thank you for posting the information on your web-site.  Please contact me if you have any questions, or would like me to send you information. Regards, Joe <Thank you for your careful follow-up and efforts period. Will share. Bob Fenner>

Re: Aquarium Surge Protector Bob, I mailed you some information to your address in San Diego, CA which will provide you with some background on Zero Surge and the issues with cheap surge protector strips & MOV technology.  In my research, I know that you are very involved and well-known within the saltwater hobbyist community so I do appreciate your feedback. Have a nice weekend. Regards, Joe Nocella <Thank you for this Joe. Bob Fenner>

Marine system amperage draw estimate About how many amps would it take to run a 90 gallon saltwater fish aquarium? <Likely between 6 and 20... depending on lighting use (low to high... T-5 fluorescents to Metal Halides), heating (acrylic in a well-heated room vs. glass in not), and most importantly pumping mechanisms employed (look for and select better pumps). Bob Fenner>

UV electrical issue Hello Bob, <Rick> Your website has been a great help over the years.  However, I was unable to find anything regarding my current problem.  I am sure that you can help... so here it goes. Got a Coralife 9W U.V sterilizer that the bulb burned out after only four months of use.  No problem I thought.  So I replaced the bulb and now this new bulb only lasted two weeks.  I checked the UV casing to make sure that no water was somehow or another getting inside.  It checked out okay.  So I am faced with either electrical problems or possibly a bad ballast? <Yes. Next most likely cause... then a short, break in the wiring somewhere...> Have you heard of this issue before? <Yes, happens... particularly certain brands... Rainbow-Lifegard (now Pentair) had some real doozies back when... and most of the small UV's have much more trouble than larger wattages> I wanted to check with your advice before I dive into pulling apart the ballast and electrical assembly. <Mmm, I would NOT do this. Send the whole unit back to... likely ESU... check with your dealer/source first to see if they'll handle the return... most States have a pretty much carte-blanche warranty of one year... I would NOT fool with the unit myself. If you have troubles locating Energy Savers, or receiving authorization for return/repair/replacement, please make this known to me. Bob Fenner> Not much of a handy man but it appears to not be so difficult!   Any advice would be more than helpful. Thanks, Rick

- Weathering Ivan - You've given us so much valuable advice and once again we have some questions.  We live in the Gulf Breeze/Pensacola area and had to evacuate on Tuesday.
<I can sympathize - I live in Boca Raton, and had to deal with Frances but didn't have to evacuate... that certainly complicates things.>
We have 4 tanks: 1 reef tank with fish, 100 gal; 1 FO salt water 100 gal tank with dogface puffer, Naso tang, maroon clown and Chromis; 1 fresh water tank, 100 gal with plants and fish; and 1 salt water FO 180 gal tank.  We fed all our fish on Tuesday before we left.  We have battery operated bubblers in all our tanks.
<I hope those batteries last. Have you ever tested these units to get a sense of how long they'll run on a fresh set of batteries?>
 We also have a 5,000 gal Koi Pond.
<Well... that will certainly get a water change.>
 We are not sure when we can return to our home, or what condition it will be in, but we are hoping we can get back by Saturday.
<I'm hoping with you.>
 When we get home, we have a generator to get the pumps running.  Our main concern is how long can our fish survive without food?
<They'll probably be fine, but certainly will be very hungry by then... would be prepared for some amount of loss, let's hope it's not your home.>
 We are so worried about all that is going on, and would welcome any info you can give us.
<Well... these things are so variable, depending on exactly when you lose power, how soon you can get back, what kind of health the fish were in to begin with, etc. I'm glad you have a generator, is very wise given the number of tanks you have, and with some luck you've got a good stock of fuel available and won't have to wait too long for renewed supplies. It sounds to me like you've done all you can do short of bringing all the fish with you in buckets which really isn't practical so... I'm crossing my fingers for you and hoping for the best.> thanks so much, carol <Cheers, J -- > Riding Out The Storm (Preparation For Possible Power Failure) Hi Scott, <Hi there!> I have been doing pretty good and I hope you have too.  I am sure you are still on the tea. <In fact, just made a fresh batch of Thai Iced tea today!> I am not going to keep you even through I would like to catch up since it's been a while since I have wrote. <No problem...It's always a pleasure> But to the question.... if this hurricane causes  the weather to get bad enough to lose electricity what can I do for my two tanks. One is a 73 gallon salt water and the other is a 125 salt water. What can I do or long long will they be ok?  Please reply ASAP.  My computer is broke and I am having to use one at work and I can not get on here a lot. Teri <Well, Teri- first and foremost, I hope that you and everyone else in Florida can ride out this storm with no damage. Our thoughts are with you! As far as protecting the fish during a long power outage, about the best thing that you can do (short of finding a backup generator to supply power) would be to mix up as much fresh salt water as you can, and perform frequent water changes (like every other day, if you can). Battery powered air pumps are good, but I'm sure that they are not going to be easily available to you right now. Best you can do is to try to change water to minimize metabolite accumulation and provide some additional aeration periodically. You could also simply scoop up water from the display and pour it back into the tank...A primitive aeration technique that can help. Hope it does not come to that, but it's best to be prepared. Do let us know how everything works out! Regards, Scott F.>

- Hurricane-induced Power Outages - hi We live in Florida and have a 100 gal marine tank, and a 30-gal freshwater tank, with all the hurricane activity we wondered how long can fish typically live without electricity for the air- filters  and pumps. <Well... provided you do something about it, perhaps as long as you have the energy. For a system of this size though, you'd be best off with a generator and a supply of fuel to make it through a week. Your other option is to keep the water aerated by removing pitchers of water and then pouring them back in to circulate the water and keep the oxygen levels up. Depending on the density of livestock in the tank, the tank could probably make it 12 hours or so with no intervention, but by the end of that time serious problems would be developing. Personally I wouldn't wait more than an hour to intervene.> thanks <Cheers, J -- >

- Dealing With Frances - Hello everybody I live in spring Hill Fla right where hurricane Frances is heading for! I have two well established salt tank with a bunch of animals in my reef as well as my fish only tank. Our power is sure to go out when it hits Sunday/Monday. I cant find a generator or battery powered air pumps even. What is the best thing I can do to save my animals and their bacteria bed during the power outage? <Your best bet is to try and remove pitchers of water and pour them back in from a height, so that you both move water around and aerate it.> I was thinking of dipping water in and out of the tank for the tank and pouring water through the skimmer box for the bio bed and then returning water to the tank.
<Yes, in this case, you want to make sure the filtration system gets some water too.>
 How often do I have to do that to everything going.
<Depends on the size of the tank - the smaller, the more frequent - I would think between 15 to 30 minutes.>
 I think I have some sleepless nights ahead of me!
<Yup... I live in Boca Raton and had several, even with my generator.>
 You advise would be great Thanks Kirt <Cheers, J -- >

Re: Potential Disaster Thanks <Hi, MikeD here> We were spared. Lots of our neighbors to the south were not.
<Ditto. Clearwater here>
 I bought some battery pumps just in case but never lost power.
<Again, ditto. congratulations on Mother Nature being fickle!>

Power outage questions? Hello Folks, << Blundell this afternoon. >> I Need to ask some questions, There is a hurricane forecast to come ashore close to were I Live. Can you tell me If my power goes out for along period of time how I can help my fish Make it. << I live no where near hurricane areas, but we do have lots of power outages here. >> I have a 140, and 210 reef tank a 30 gal with Proven Mated pair of Maroon Gold stripe clowns, and a 55 cal Fresh water with 2 Orandas in it. I also have a 5000 gal pond with 12 KOI in it. I am worried if the power goes out about oxygen. I don't care about lighting, << You got it, oxygen is key... also temperature. >> It just the aeration and filtration. How long will everything last without this and what can I do manually to help. << I won't tackle the pond issue, but for the reef tanks I can help.  The best thing we do here is to take a pot from the kitchen, and dip it in the tank, scoop out a pot full of water, and pour it back in.  This really helps with oxygen and aeration.  More help than you would think.  As for temperature, well that is tough.  I have a gas stove, so I can always heat up water, put some water in a two litre bottle, and float it in my tank. >>  Any advice would be a great help. Thank you so much in advance and I hope I get a answer to help before it comes. << Keep turning over the water, that is my best advise. >> <<  Blundell  >>

Hurricane Help Hello. <Hi MacL here with you today> I know I sent question early and normally I can wait For replies, However time is getting critical. <I definitely understand that.> The county I live in may be shutting off power and water. <Before the power goes out mix up some water that you can use as replacement water and store it in as many containers as you can find.  If nothing else you might need to use it as drinking water for yourself.  What the tank is going to need is oxygen exchange, you might want to get one or some of those battery powered air pumps.  You can stir the top of the tank periodically for air exchange if the power goes. Remember that dilution is the help for pollution so you could be prepared to do water changes pretty frequently. You might also invest in something like Prime to make an effort to chemically remove ammonia.  I also know one enterprising person who bought some carbon and used a picture to run amounts of his water through the carbon and then put the cleaned water back into the tank. You could consider a generator to keep the power going but that's high cost I do know.> Power company is saying it could be up to 2 weeks with no power. What can I do to try to save my fish. <I love my fish as much as anyone but don't take chances with yourself most of all. Please let us know what happens and our best wishes are for you to make this through as safely as possible. MacL>

Hurricane Advice follow-up Dear Crew, <Hi Scott, MacL here again.> I want to thank you for quick response, And Help. Just to let you know I got Extremely Lucky and God Was on my side. 1 Hour before it was to come ashore as a Cat 4 140mph - 155 mph , it took a turn and made landfall a bit south. <I am so glad to hear that you were spared Scott.> No power outage or damage. I think we are out of the woods here. While I do not wish this powerful of Hurricane on anyone, And as a retired Sheriff Deputy I feel for the persons devastated by this storm, I just thankful it was not me and now maybe I Can help others. <It might be a good idea to see what and who needs some help with their fish down there Scott, its not a pet that most people think about when doing evacuations.> Again thank you for your help. I will keep all this info at hand as I found out there are 2 more out in the Atlantic unknown where to go. <Prayers and good thoughts are with you. MacL> Thank you all. Scott..

Electricity and a second-hand aquarium Hi Bob.  I saw your article on electricity and aquariums on the net.  I have this small 5-gall globe-shaped second-hand aquarium without an instruction manual.  The pump is located below the globe-shaped tank within the base.   The pump pushes air through a tube connected to an opening in the bottom of the tank. <Hopefully with at least one (I'd use two) check valves...> Generally, I'm somewhat paranoid about electric shock so I'm careful. <You're smart here>   My question is: can I fill a tank of this nature with the power off?  I'm worried gravity will make the water run straight down the tube and into the pump with the power off thus damaging any electric components. <Me too. Do you know what I mean by a check valve? I'd take the whole set-up to a good livestock fish store and ask them to look all over... including the sturdiness of the tubing and the check valves>   Or do I have to fill this tank with the pump on?  Basically, I'm assuming pumps have some sort of mechanism that prevents water from breaching their mechanism in the event of a power outage or in the event the plug is pulled.   Filling the tank with the pump on seems like a hassle so I figured there must be another way.....any insight would be appreciated...thanks. <We're not going to be able to effectively communicate what needs to over the Net... do take the rig to a LFS nearby. They will be able to help you. Bob Fenner> Power failure for 15 hours 8/1/04 Hi all, I blew it big time last night.  I turned off the power to our 90g reef tank w/o knowing it.  The power was out for 15 hours.  The cleaner shrimp, kole tang, sailfin tang, a fang blenny and emerald crabs died. <Yikes!!  Sorry for your losses.> 5 green Chromis, snails, conch, brittle star and Clarkii clown are still alive. All the corals appear to be doing pretty well. The tank has a 4-5" sandbed, Berlin skimmer, 3 powerheads, sump w. sandbed. Our lights are 4 x 96 pc.s. We have roughly 100 - 125 lbs of LR.  We immediately took out everything alive (rock, fish, inverts) and performed a 50% water change.  Then we put the rock back in and it's running now.  There are also some snails which were hiding in the sand.  The water temperature is fine. The current nitrite level is roughly .5, the ammonia .2 and nitrates 25mg/l. We use ro/di water and it gets changed weekly - 10 - 15%When we turned on the tank there were lots of copepods (dead) floating around and small slug-like animals sucking on the glass.  We have 2 smaller tanks which we put the corals in.  I plan to add a PolyFilter to the sump. <You are fortunate to have other tanks to house your survivors!  Please keep them where they are until you have confirmed that the tank has re-cycled and ammonia and nitrite are undetectable.  Also, you may wish to employ some mechanical filtration to get rid of any pod corpses or other yuck that may be floating around.> My question is how is the sand bed affected by the loss of oxygen?  Do we need to replace part or all of it? <You may want to consider replacing it.  It is hard for a sand bed to recover from a major die off (which may or may not have occurred).  A good compromise may be to replace about half of the sand (removing side to side, not top to bottom) now and the other half in a few weeks.  This will allow bacteria and surviving critters to populate the new sand.> Should I put the inverts back in the tank? The tank was healthy before and would like to know the best steps.  I didn't see anything similar so I'm writing.  Thanks, Nancy  
<You certainly can move the animals back after the cycle is completed, but do add animals back slowly if possible and pay close attention to water quality as you do. Best regards.  AdamC.>

Lighting and electricity cost Hi there Crew!! <Joe> Just want to make a statement about the pitfalls of halide lighting. I talked my wife into letting me get an AquaSpacelight dual 250 10000k and 150 20000 k system. a really nice light. well, we got our first electric bill since hanging this bad boy and holy cr-p!!!. Almost twice as month as this time last year!! I assume it is the light that is costing the extra $60.00 per month in juice. How do you calculate the energy used with these fixtures?? <Multiply the volts (likely 110 if you're in the U.S.) times the amps consumed (either can be read off of spec.s, or from the ballast/s, or measured with a meter...) and the number of hours used per day... times thirty or so days in a month... divide by one thousand (to give you kilowatt hours)... and multiply this times the charge your utility company is billing you per kilowatt-hour. Voila! Yes, energy use outdistances all other costs combined in the reef hobby eventually. Bob Fenner>

- Stray Current or Red Herring? -  Hi Bob (if this is your personal address :) ), and or WWM Crew!
<You got the crew today.>  Quick question for you all; hopefully you guys have some ideas. I've been working with a couple of fish tanks, both of which have had many MANY fish losses.... One tank has had major problems with stray voltage, and one is very close to an array of microwaves in a cafeteria. Both tanks, otherwise, have great water parameters and very stable temperatures. <Before we go on much further, I have to tell you that I'm not a consumer of the stray current theories that abound in the pet fish world. If you had a container of saltwater and a digital volt meter, you'd find that even a bucket of saltwater can produce a small amount of current all by itself... which then begs the question... how stray does this stray current need to be. If your tank's electrical equipment is plugged into a GFCI outlet, any truly stray current will pop the breaker... I've yet to see this happen all on its own without dropping an open electrical fixture into the tank. In my opinion, stray current gets bandied about when all other explanations seem to not apply, when in fact they probably still do. Likewise... we all, humans and fish alike are bombarded by microwaves on a continual basis... this is also a non-issue in my opinion. You need to look a little deeper.>  Well, in both tanks, all the fish have come down with incurable Ich, and all the fish have died. Both tanks have very healthy inverts living in them. One tank (the first) has a Cleaner Wrasse, and the other has a very healthy Mystery Wrasse. In both tanks, both species of fish have lived through all the other deaths, completely unscathed with no signs of disease at all.  I'm wondering if these fish have some type of immunity to voltage related stress, be it voltage in the tank or electromagnetic interference (from the microwaves, as pregnant women and people with pacemakers shouldn't use them).
<Have never heard the pregnant women/microwave thing, and do think the pacemaker issue has more to do with electronic interference [RFI] than the actual microwaves themselves. Do not believe that stray current or microwaves are the problem in this case. Would encourage you to seek out a more standard cause/effect relationship.>
 Do these fish have some ability to not be affected by this, almost like they can turn their Lateral Line off?
<I seriously doubt it.>
 Any info or links you could provide would be greatly appreciated. I've researched this through many books and articles, but haven't found anything yet.
<Again... don't waste your time barking up the wrong tree... put a GFCI outlet on those tanks - any true electrical problems will make themselves immediately obvious. Once you've managed to personally disprove the stray current theory, you'll be back to more of the standard explanations... like genuine parasitic issues, stress, and husbandry.>  Thanks! Greg  <Cheers, J -- >

Shocking reflector 1/12/04 hi,  I am hoping you can help with a question I have regarding halide voltages. I have just retrofitted my 46 gallon bow with 175w Ushios powered by a blue wave 2(ps) and 2 17000k 96 w pc's. I have noticed that if I contact the reflector and the water with a bare arm I get a small zap. I am an auto tech by trade so know something of electrical theory, be it 12volts dc. So I measured the ac volts between the reflector an the water and found around 22 volts ,obviously this prompted removal of the fixture and full investigation. It is definitely being generated by the halide (proven by switching everything else off) but I found no sign of a short. I ran a ground wire between an outlet and the reflector which had no effect. <Did you test the voltage between the water and ground?  It could be that the water is "hot" and you were getting shocked by the competent ground of the reflector.  Metal halide and florescent lamps are known to create and inductive current in adjacent conductors (salt water).> I have all this wired through a GFI but it is still concerning me where this voltage is coming from. The reflector is a PFO and came with the mogul installed, I just wired the sunlight cable to it, the ground for the cable connects to the reflector which seems normal. I do not know what amount of voltage is being produced by the ballast and am wondering if it is a significantly high figure is it normal for there to be some excess voltage produced just from the way these bulbs/ballasts work. I would use ohms law to calculate the voltage but I don't have enough parameters on the outputs of the ballast. Could it be possible there is a problem with the ceramic socket? <I would test several things.  First, measure the voltage between the reflector and ground with the lights running "on the bench" away from the tank.  If you do not measure a voltage, the fixture is fine.  I would also measure the voltage from your tank water and ground with and without the lights on.  A voltage here with the lights off indicates another appliance is leaking current (powerhead, heater, etc.).  With the lights, your lights are inducing a current in the water.  If induction is occurring, you can try raising the lamps or  wrapping the first couple of inches of the fluorescents in foil.> I have found your site invaluable over the two years I have been reefkeeping and am hoping you can help me shed some light sorry that just came out) on this problem, thanks in advance, Liam. <Glad that you have found the site beneficial.  Be glad we don't punish bad puns<g>.  Best Regards.  Adam>

Urchins chewing through power heads - 1/28/03 I have a sea urchin emergency and hope that you might be able to offer advice... <I will do my best. Sorry for the delay>   I bought a new, large protein skimmer for my tank.  
<Always a good thing>  Today, I looked in the tank and the urchins were motionless and the skimmer was off.
<Uh oh>  It turns out that they have chewed through the electrical wire. <Does happen> It seems obvious now, but it never occurred to me that they might do this! <Easy thing to forget. No worries, does happen sometimes>   The urchins have obviously been traumatized but are alive.  <OK. Here is what I suggest: Pull the powerhead (probably already did and be sure to unplug it before putting hands in the tank) remove the urchins (if you can to a rock or more observable area of the tank), do a water change of about 30% would be fine. (there will not be enough copper released from the wire, in my experience, to warrant a full 100% water change. As soon as you see the spines sort of droop (the stage right before falling off) then remove the animal as there is no coming back at that point. Once you see the spines begin to "lay down" for lack of a better word, there is rarely recovery. This is very different from the occasional drop or break of a spine. This will be all or most of the spines doing this all at one time.> Is it more urgent to: 1) leave them in peace to see whether they can make it; <More or less> or 2) change all of the water immediately in case they were exposed to copper from the wires? <about 30% would suffice, in my opinion>  I immediately changed all of the filter media, then it occurred to me that the copper might actually be more of a problem than the initial shock (since everything automatically turned off right away).
<Likely, with the exception the copper is not as soluble as one might think. In liquid form it is deadly, but there is very little residual coming off a solid wire with exposure if only for a day or two.>
 Do you have any suggestions to help save my urchins?
<Hopefully those above will help>
 I accept that I am an idiot and perhaps should be banned from purchasing salt water inverts ever again...
<No way. Never talk like that. It happens and some things cannot always be foreseen. Don't be so hard on yourself. Many more mistakes to come your way. That is why this hobby (heck, most hobbies) have such a science to them. More I learn, the less I seem to know for sure. Good luck. ~Paul>

Shocking urchin emergency I just sent an e-mail about my urchin emergency (they tried to eat through the electrical cord on the protein skimmer).  May I humbly suggest that you might want to list this potential hazard in the next edition of Reef Invertebrates?  Yes, it should be obvious - but perhaps someone else might be spared the same accident. Thanks for any suggestions you may have - I understand if you have none. <Yeeikes! And they (Urchins) have the ability to chew through most anything... I would either lift the chewed part of the wiring entirely out of the water, inspect it and seal it (see an electrical shop re) AND arrange the wiring such that the urchin/s can't get to it, either out of the water with the heads up near the surface or protected by solid rock work. Bob Fenner>

- Shocking - I have 2 Pro-Heat II heaters. They are each only 1 month old and have not been handled roughly. The problem I am having is that they seem to be leaking current. I've tested the water with them on separately and not plugged in at all. There always seems to be a little tingling when either one of them is in, and nothing when they're not plugged in. It's not quite a shock, but it is enough to feel it. Is this normal? <For many devices, yes.> Especially seeing as these are new and supposedly good heaters. If this is not typical, what steps can I take to remedy the situation? <Step number one is to keep your hands out of the tank - you are the final link in the circuit, becoming the ground required to 'complete' the circuit. Next, make sure everything electrical is plugged into a GFCI outlet - any true leaks in current will trigger this device and save you from real problems.> Thanks. Brian. <Cheers, J -- >

Old equipment, the shocking truth Dear whoever's on staff,                         I hope you had a happy new year. I wrote a few days ago while I was mourning a mass coral crash.  Sorry for the novella.  Corals have progressively gotten worse, and even the colt is beginning to close.  My royal Gramma basset has what looks like a strange fungal infection at the base of its fin.  Today I removed a five-inch bristle worm, possible the coral crash culprit? <Possibly a contributor... but I strongly suspect something more profound/basal as a root cause here... something in the way of a toxic situation... either biological or not in origin. Have you tried using a PolyFilter in your water flow path? The change in coloration in this product is often telling as to what sort of poisoning is going on in a system... Massive water changes? Activated carbon in a Dacron bag?> I'm also questioning some type of Cyanobacteria infection because of the brown algae growing on the front of my glass and the top of the toadstool. <Me too... another indication of "something" first priority wrong with the system/water> By the way, the corals had all been growing well for about four or five months with well opened polyps.  I have never seen a crash like this before.   <What have you added last, done recently that is different in your upkeep?> On a whim I tested my aquarium with a voltmeter and was shocked to find that the potential between the aquarium and ground registered 67 volts AC.  I systematically plugged in each piece of equipment to find the source of the leak and was surprised to find that everything leaked electrons to some degree. Each of three small powerheads registered less than a volt each, but the large Rio that powers the protein skimmer came in at a whopping 24 volts.   <What? This is WAY too much> Other significant contributors were the heater (13.5 when heating and 19.4 when plugged in but not heating a bit of a mystery but could make sense; think of electrons like water in plumbing with a small leak; when they can go through the pipes not as much leaks out but when the valve is closed the pressure builds up) , <Mmm, am not in agreement here... with the circuit open there should be NO electron flow, no loose potential whatsoever> one 65 watt CP bulb gave me less than a volt, while the two on a separate circuit gave me 10 volts.  The bulbs could be inducing current in the water and the two bulbs together may amplify the effect, but my sense is that something is terribly wrong with the wiring.  Also, the whisper power filter offered another 11.8 volts.  Much of the equipment is 5+ years old.   I am in the process of installing GFIs, will install a grounding probe as soon as it arrives, and will wipe all the wires in the fish tank to try to reduce the leaking voltage. <A very good idea. Also, will you please check the units you are measuring? Is this really "volts" and not "millivolts"?> Is it normal for powerheads to leak electronically and produces small voltages?  What is small in fish tank terms? <Not atypical, but orders of magnitude less than you relate... thousandths of volts, i.e. millivolts> Should I replace all my equipment that's creating significant voltages if a good wipe down doesn't do the trick?  Will grounded equipment (i.e.. power cord has a third prong) create less voltage? <Should produce none detectable at the volt level> I read someone's account that all of their large Rio pumps leaked about twenty volts.  Is this normal?  Should I test a higher quality brand pump? <I would>   Any insight that you might have on any of the above questions would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks very much.                  <And I would "test the tester" here as well. Get those/that GFCI installed pronto. Bob Fenner>

STRAY VOLTAGE 1/5/03 Hi, this is a very unusual question. <Hi James.  Adam here.  If you think this is unusual, you need to read some more of the daily FAQ's!> The pump I use to keep the water mixed in my saltwater refill container seems to be losing some voltage into the water.  I noticed this when I put my had in the water to adjust the pump.  It was a very mild jolt.  As far as you know, will this hurt the composition of the saltwater in any way?  thanks, James <Please do replace this pump ASAP.  Most importantly because you are you risking injuring yourself (or other household member).  Also, if current is leaking, that means that metal (most likely copper) parts of the pump are exposed to the water, probably through a crack or other defect in the pump housing or potting.  This will allow the metal to dissolve into your salt water.  It is likely in minute quantities, but why risk your life or many costly animals over a relatively cheap pump?  Best Regards.  Adam>

Titanium & Electricity (12/17/2003) Hello Good friends! <Hello to you" Can you all tell me if one needs to use a grounding probe.. (titanium) if one already uses a titanium heater? Does the titanium heater double as a grounding probe? Boy could I use just one more outlet!
<It will not work as a ground because the titanium case does not have any direct connection to ground and the heater is plugged into a live wire. If you need the outlet, get a 3-prong multi-outlet extension cord or power bar. It's the third prong that is the ground on a probe; the other two are non-conductive (plastic)> Also, my titanium heater seems to have my fine aragonite sand baked onto it???
<I have a hard time seeing how this would be a problem or danger, but you might try wiping in off. You could also contact the manufacturer and ask them what to do.>
 Any help would be appreciated? <hope this helps, Steve Allen>

Getting Zapped! (12/11/2003) Ahhhh, yes, stray voltage is something I have had experience with.  I bought a probe, but don't remember the brand.  I though it was working until I took it out to clean one day, and it zapped me! <Ouch> Is this crazy or what? <What part of it zapped you? The current should not come from the wall. Did you have your other hand in the tank. The zap suggests the probe was working.> I threw it away needless to say and haven't replaced it. The main problem is to find out where the stray voltage is coming from. I sometimes think it's from my lights because they do get a bit crusted with salt now and then, and I need to be careful because I found myself being zapped a few weeks ago when I put one hand on the light hood and another in the water. A small zap, but enough to make me jump. I can definitely hear you now. I feel a bit irresponsible, but really don't know what to do about this. My stray voltage meter zapped me, and my tank zaps me, what now??? <There are volt meters available that can measure this. Unplug everything. Plug things back in one at a time to see the effect of each. Are you using GFCI outlets or a GFCI-equipped power strip? You should not be getting zapped if you are. These zaps could be dangerous. The protection of GFCI is well worth the cost/effort. Search WWM under "stray voltage" and looked here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm  Do be careful with electricity.> Thanks, Pam <You're welcome. Steve Allen> 

Getting Zapped II (12/21/03) <Hello Pam> What do you mean by, "The current should not come from the wall" ? The part of the probe that zapped me was the metal part that sticks into the water. You mean to tell me that was normal? Ahhhh, I threw away a good probe then. Hmmm, that figures. <The grounding probes I am familiar with have 2 plastic (non-conductive) prongs that go into the live sockets of wall outlet. The metal third prong goes into the ground socket and is connected by an insulated wire to the probe that you place in the water. The idea then is that any stray current in the tank passes through the probe and wire and out thru the wall socket ground. For you to be shocked by the probe, some other part of your body had to be connected to a source of current. Either that or whatever you plugged it into has a serious defect.> I have 2 power strips. One old, (Perma Power Socket Plus) and a newer one with a shut off button on it. GFCIs, I don't know. Hmmm, can you tell I haven't been doing this reef thing very long? My tank looks very nice though and all my numbers are right on target, Now, if I could just keep myself alive to enjoy it a bit................hmmm.  <GFCI may save your life or your house. Here's what you need: http://www.lowes.com/lkn?action=productList&function=search&categoryId=PORTABLE_ GFCI_EXTENSION_CORDS.CATEGORY&topic=goShopping> I want to attach a picture of my beautiful mushrooms I took with my new digital camera, what fun! <Would love to see them. Do consider joining WetWebFotos and posting them there.> I will look at the link you sent me and keep you updated on  my "zap data" Thanks a lot for your input. <You're welcome.> Pam

Zapped No More -- Getting GFCI (12/14/03) Tomorrow is my day off and I shall get myself down to Home Depot that just opened here on the Cape and buy my GFCI connections, thank you! <great!> PS. I went to Webfotos and tried to upload my pic, but continued to get a 500 Servlet Exception, why is this? Was the site not working? <I have the same problem. I will forward this to Bob> Thanks again, <You're welcome. Steve Allen> Pam

Static electricity Hello staff, Thank you so much for having such a wonderful, informative site.  I have a strange problem occurring in my sump area.  I seem to accumulating static electricity.  At first I thought it was a short in my heater or return pump but it doesn't seem strong enough and it isn't always there.  It also seems confined to the sump.  I have been filtering my water as it flows into the sump with some poly fill sheeting (basically sheet stuffing for pillows etc...)  Could the water movement over this be causing static to build up?  Have you ever heard of anything crazy like this?  Or is it just me that is crazy and it is a short in my pumps or heater? <Hi I don't know you, but I don't think you are "crazy" (your word not mine) But it is more than likely a pump or heater if it happens every time you put your hand in the sump it is that. try unplugging heater look to see if there is moisture in it and see if the shocking is still there, if not it was the heater. If it is still there try the pumps hope this helps MikeH> Thanks Ray in Ohio

Shocking Tank (a tale of leaking potential from an appliance) Hi All, No question, just want to relate an experience that may help someone. <Please go ahead> I have a canister that trickles water into my main tank.  I have the habit of feeding my fish with a toothpick or fingers and I wash the feed residue in the canister flow or the main tank.  About a couple of months ago I noted that if I had a small cut on my finger tips or cuticles it burned like crazy when I washed my fingers in it.  Attributing this to salt water burning the cuts I ignored it.  Yesterday the skin over my cuticle peeled off.  When I fed the fish I washed only the print side of my finger tips but the cuticle burned like crazy.   I got suspicious and thought there may be an electrical leak in the water. So I took a tester and ran the tip into the water, and guess what it lit up!!  The tank was, well...alive.   The first thing I did switch off a powerhead one at a time to try and eliminate the faulty one this did give me any result as the tester lit up anyway.  Then checked the chiller, still no result. The last thing that I suspected was the lighting but sure enough that was it,  the plug point which connects the lights was faulty.  I am surrounded by wood except where the canister is so when ever I put my hand into the water I was not grounded. I am no expert on electricity, but I would just like people to know that if they experience anything like what it did please check for leaks.  Run a test it may save your life. Faulty Power heads are not exactly rare in the hobby. Kind Regards, Jorell <Thank you for relating your experience. Bob Fenner>

Power failure questions II 10/8/03 I need as much info as possible.  The sump/power outage/water on the floor issue is the last question I have...but it's a big one my apartment is full of books. Please help, Y- <Yuell... this is very difficult to explain via e-mail. And yet could be answered or realized in seconds with a visit to a local fish store or member of a local aquarium society. Regardless of your overflow box/hole source... the prevention of a sump overflow is a remarkably easy thing to calculate properly. What big city do you live in or near? I can perhaps suggest someone for you to consult locally to make this all very clear. Else, you can make sure the return tube does not extend below the water surface in the display. Then fill the display until it just begins to overflow, then stop.... then fill the sump until it is near the top, then stop. And at that point with all power off... and the display and sump filled... you are at max system volume. When you next turn the power on, then water level in the sump will fall as the plumbing gets filled and after that level stabilizes... you simply mark a line on the sump as the max running level. You now know at that point for the future that as long as you never fill the running sump beyond that point, your sump cannot overflow. Hoping this helps. Anthony>

-Loss of power- Hello!
<Hopefully the power still remains, I apologize for the delay!> I just got back to my home in DC to prepare for the coming hurricane, but have not been able to get any battery-powered powerheads for my fish tank (a generator would be out of the question as I am inside an apartment).  Here's my question:  I have a 90 gallon fish tank with 80lbs of live rock, 3" of sand, a sump, 2 tang, 2 ocellaris, 1 neon goby, 2 shrimp, no coral.  I know I should have planned more for this contingency, but what should I do if the power is off for a substantial time period (2 days)?  Are there any household tools that I can use to get oxygen in the tank?  Should I stir the tank, even blow bubbles into it with a straw--and how often?
<I'd stir it up vigorously a few times per hour to get some kind of gas exchange going. Bubbling through a straw, although fun to watch and do, will do little to keep the oxygen level up.>
 How long with no water movement will they be ok?
<It's tough to say, just keep stirrin'> 
 Any info you can give me is greatly appreciated--hopefully I will get your answer before we lose power!
<Good luck on this potentially bad situation... -Kevin> So many thanks, Laura

Oxygen Saturation Question - Emergency Plans >Hi Crew: >>Hi Gregory.  Marina today. >Really quick question for you...not sure about the answer though.  All the power problems and storms on the East Coast recently have made me think of emergency planning.  (Just because I'm paranoid does not mean that there is not an international conspiracy to kill my fish!!)  Do you know (or can you point me to a book/article discussing) the approximate time that it would take a given amount of fish to lower the oxygen saturation in a tank to fatal levels?  I know this is impossibly complicated but I'm just looking for some sort of ballpark range (hours/days??).  If it helps to be specific, I have a 110g with three 4/5-inch tangs, two 4-inch butterflies and a Centropyge angel.  I assume that they could last quite a while in this tank, but I may be wrong. >>Indeed, just saw a query from someone who lost his fish by the end of the day (8-12 hours, if I recollect correctly) due to pump failure.  Different catastrophe, same result.  Good idea to plan. >I read through the fax about oxygen, but didn't find anything discussing this sort of timeframe.  As always, thanks for your time and experience.  BTW, I'm really enjoying the little messages about NMA V2.  Must be alternately exciting and wearying to be working on such a project.  Take care, Gregory Fickling   >>Absolutely, I'm hoping my contributions to the previous tome were well received and might be taken advantage of again.  ;)  I suggest you go to a bait shop and buy several battery operated air pumps.  These tend to be both cheaper and more powerful than those you might find at your LFS.  Unless, of course, you can afford to and have a place for a generator.  Marina

Ground Probe Does not Seem to Help - 8/23/03 In the past 2 months I have had lost many corals all my tests come out fine. <I wish I could agree with you/know them> Then I found there was electric in my tank by getting shocked in it. got a  grounding probe hook it up made sure it was grounded properly and I still get a charge. Check all pumps power heads and heater all fine. I'm stumped. <simply use a voltmeter on the tank while systematically unplugging each electrical instrument to find the faulty one> all my pumps give off a charge, I also had a electrician look at it and he said all wires are properly ground. hope u can help me thanks <did your electrician also suggest that you install a GFI outlet for your safety? If not... get another electrician to install one (a ground fault interrupter can save your life. Best regards, Anthony>

Ground probe does not seem to help III 8/25/03 <simply use a voltmeter on the tank while systematically unplugging each electrical instrument to find the faulty one> I tried that all of them give off volts and most are only 3 months old <<at this point, I need to direct you to a professional electrician... your voltmeter is inaccurate or not perhaps not being used properly. Play it safe, bub. Anthony>>

Power outage Hello. I posted a message on the chat room and got some good advice from Steven. However, since then I have done a few things and heard more news. My situation. Power outage occurred last night at about 3:30 a.m., it is now 3:30 p.m. (12 hrs). Taking Steven's advice I placed 2 battery operated Hagen air pumps in my aquarium. <good> 75 gallon reef tank, shrimp, hermits, some softies, coral beauty and true percula clownfish. I last checked on my tank around 2:00. Everything seems to be okay. the corals, of course, are not really out due to the lack of light and circulation. <yes sounds about right> The power co. said the power will HOPEFULLY be back on by Thursday. <good to hear> 150,000 homes are without power in Toledo due to storms. <bummer> I have also been adding freshwater to the tank. I unplugged my filter (emperor carbon system). I read that when the power comes back on it my kick extra unwanted junk into the tank. <yes, this has happened to me before> Is there anything else I should do. <Not really...if you feed your clownfish make sure you feed them very very sparingly> I read also not to do a water change until the power comes back on. <I wouldn't bother doing one until the power came back on> I had some water mixing last night, but now the power is out. I have not did a water change since last Thursday. the 4th of July and traveling set me behind. Please advise. <Your aquarium should be fine until the power comes back on> Your advice is always good. I also have a p. firefish into qt. I placed an air stone in their also. <Yes, he should be alright...just make sure you have a tight fitting cover. they are jumpers you know> I have had my set up for about 8 months, and have done really well. Damn Mother Nature. <Everything should be ok, just be patient my friend> Thanks mike in Toledo<You're welcome, IanB in Orlando>

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