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FAQs about Marine Aquariums, GFCIs/RCDs

Related Articles: GFCIs and Marine AquariumsGrounding Probes, Marine ElectricalMarine Aquarium Light Fixtures and CanopiesGFCIs and Marine Aquariums

Related FAQs:  Marine Set-ups and Electricity FAQ1, FAQ2,

Yes, even invertebrates can be shocked, adversely affected by stray current... Atiolum crateriferum, Ascidian, Here in N. Sulawesi.

Gfci and safety     2/17/16
This is not a question. This is a warning to all aquarium owners. Use gfci outlets!!!
<Ah yes; have oft spoken, written the same.>
We bought an older home that did not have them. I never thought about my outlets safety. Last night while watching TV I heard a loud ZZZZZZZ. My hubs came running into the living room to see what had happened. Something had shorted. I would be dead had my hand been in the water. All of my equipment was recently upgraded, so it was not due to old equipment. Things can happen. Do NOT think this won't happen to you! Hubs took off of work and is making sure ALL of my equipment is plugged into gfci outlets. I am telling you that was one scary sound! Be safe y'all,Stace
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Electricity in water and heaters     2/23/12
Hi Bob,
Good news, my fish are doing fine. One of the tangs still has spots from time to time but that is the least of my worries at this point. Since installing the UV sterilizer I am now receiving quite a shock when I put my hands in the sump and also in the main tank.
<?! And so is your livestock! Unplug this device! Read here re GFI use:

and the linked Related FAQs files>
The sterilizer is mounted in line above the sump which is under the cabinet (stand). I wasn't sure that it was the sterilizer but I leaning towards it.
I had an electrician install gfi outlets so at least I will not fry (i hope)!
<IF installed, there should be no detection of stray current>

 I noticed my 300 w heater was fully submersed and passed the recommended water line, so I removed that heater to eliminate that from the possible shocking. But I am still feeling a bite when I stick my hand in the tank, the weird thing is that it is intermittent and gets stronger at times. I am scared to put my hands in the tank!!!!
<You should be>

 I am looking to get a volt meter for the water to use before doing maintenance. Any recommendation?
<Either have a real electrician over to check all, or systematically test all gear through a plug in GFI>
 I also would like to know if this is common as a result of a uv sterilizer.
<Some brands, makes, yes... a crack in the tube surrounding the lamp, poor insulation at the connections....>
 I have read much on this topic on your site and others and people go back and forth about the ground probes. What are your thoughts?
<Posted. Most all are worthless>
 Like I said, I never noticed this before adding the UV.
 Now that I have a damaged heater I am looking to replace it. The one I am looking at is the JBJ True Temp Titanium Heating System 500w or the 800w.
Do you have an opinion on this model and is it better to have more watts than I need?
<I don't have any first-hand experience w/ these, but do like this company's chillers. I'd seek input from the larger bb's, hobbyists who actually have used them. AND wire through an external (extra) thermostat/regulator>
I am mainly concerned with my safety at this point, and this heater appears to be the safest one I have found yet, although very expensive.....please offer your personal thoughts. One day I believe this hobby will be a source of relaxation for me......I just hope that day comes soon :)
<Me too. Bob Fenner>
Re: Electricity in water and heaters    2/23/12
Hi Bob,
I did have a "real" electrician install the gfi outlets before I sent the email to you, since that message was loud and clear on your site :) I did purchase the volt meter as peace of mind I guess since even after the outlets were installed I was still very nervous. The sterilizer is a Coralife twist 36 watts, and I returned it to the store and they are ordering me a new one since they feel it may have been defective. I think I am all set for now, and hope I do not need to keep picking your brain....although it has been fun! Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to help me out, very much appreciated.
Have a good weekend!
<Am referring this to James Gasta, WWM Crewmember and an electrician. You should not get shocked if the GFCI is operative. B>
Re Electricity in water and heaters 2/24/12

Hello Jess,
Bob asked me to comment on your query.  You should not get a shock with a correctly installed GFI receptacle.
There is a test button on the GFI and when you press it, a correctly installed GFI outlet will be shut down. To turn it on  again you use the reset button.  Since 2002, GFI receptacles have had a feature that won't let them reset if they are wired incorrectly or if power is not on.  I suggest you trip the GFI with the test button and see if you can reset it.
James (Salty Dog)

GFCI/RCD Query 9/8/10
<Hi Oliver>
I have a question about GFCI use, which I hope you'll kindly help me with.
<I will.>
I've searched extensively on WWM and read your excellent articles and FAQ archives, but haven't found the answer I was looking for. Apologies if I missed it, and hopefully you'll point me in the right direction if so. Thank you in advance for your time.
I have only just become aware of the necessity of using GFCIs - the point in your articles was well-taken, however, so I started searching for somewhere to buy them, for use on my two freshwater tanks. (I use strips of 6 sockets, so would attach one GFCI to the outlet for each.) However, I am finding it very difficult to locate any GFCIs. Presumably this is because I am based in the UK, since there are many American suppliers online. I was wondering if one of the WWM Crew might kindly advise me whether GFCIs go by another name in the UK, or alternatively whether there is a reason for their not being easily available here.
I am aware of the existence of RCDs (and have one that covers the whole house), but have read that these are far less sensitive (typically 30mA at best, while GFCIs are <5mA) and far slower to respond than GFCIs. So, I'd like to gain the additional protection for the outlets used for my aquariums. I have read that plug-in RCD adapters are available that trip at
10mA - would you consider this sufficient, or should I be focusing on GFCIs instead (if possible)?
<RCDs (Residual Current Device) or RCCDs (Residual Current Circuit Breaker) are the UK version of GFCIs.
RCDs and/or RCCDs are designed to prevent electrocution by detecting the leakage current, which can be far smaller (typically 5--30 milliamperes) than the currents needed to operate conventional circuit breakers or fuses.
RCDs are intended to operate within 25-40 milliseconds, before electric shock can drive the heart into ventricular fibrillation, the most common cause of death through electric shock. Rest assured that these devices will protect you from electrical shock when properly installed. What surprises me is the UK has only mandated the use of RCDs in new installations since July 2008.>
Any ideas or advice would be very gratefully received. Thank you kindly for your time.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re GFCI Query 9/8/10

Hello James,
Thank you for replying so quickly, I do appreciate it.
<You're welcome.>
I was surprised too when I read about the very recent mandatory installations of RCDs in the UK - given how necessary they are, it seems as if this should have been done long ago.
Still, it seems we're on the right track, just going a bit slower than might be preferable.
<Better late than never.>
It seems I was misinformed about the difference between GFCIs and RCDs, then! It's concerning how much misinformation is on the internet... In any case, thank you very much for clearing that up.
<Is always best to compare more than one source of information.>
I have also read - though I'm wary of trusting my sources after the past confusion - that it's worthwhile getting plug-in RCDs in addition to the general one that covers all the circuits in the house.
<I do not see the sense in this redundancy...I know of no one who keeps two spare tires in their trunk.>
I've tracked down a good model (according to a comparison of 8 types run a few years back), so I reckon it would be
worth the money for the extra peace of mind. What do you think?
<Doesn't tell me too much, no detailed product description.>
Incidentally, for the benefit of future UK-based archive-trawlers who may want to know, the reportedly good RCD is here:
Thanks very much again for your time and help.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Warm regards,
Re GFCI Query 9/8/10 - 9/9/10
Hi James,
<Hello Oliver>
Just replying to thank you again for your advice - I'm glad the portable and built-in RCDs can be considered equivalent, so I won't take any further action. Thanks for your time and help.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
All the best,

Electricity And A Saltwater Aquarium 3/13/10
<Hello Shawn>
I have a few questions relative to electricity and the saltwater aquarium.
I have a Smart UPS that I am using to provide power and back up a 30 gallon fish and invertebrate aquarium. I have the UPS plugged into a GFCI outlet and various submersible pumps and a heater plugged into the UPS outlets.
Is this the proper setup when using a UPS? I am not sure if the UPS outlets are in turn protected by the GFCI outlet.
<Anything plugged into the GFCI outlet will be protected. Do ensure that your UPS has the capability of handling the wattage/current of the devices plugged into it.>
I have also measured stray voltage to be around 40Vac by using a multimeter with 1 probe in the sump water and the other in the ground of an outlet.
Is this considered a normal reading?
<You should read 0 providing there is indeed a ground wire hooked up to the outlet ground. If your home is an older home, the old two prong outlets may have been replaced with grounded outlets to avoid the use of adapters and it is possible that no ground wire is connected to the ground terminal.
I would recommend the use of a ground probe even though you are using a GFCI. Sounds like one of your devices has a voltage/current leak and I'm sure this device had this problem before you plugged it into the GFCI and is the reason why the GFCI did not trip. GFCI circuitry measures current going into the device on the hot leg and looks for the same current on the return leg (common). If the slightest change occurs, it will trip. If the device was defective/leaking before you plugged it into the GFCI, (and this is why I recommend a ground probe in addition to the GFCI) it would not know the device is defective as it sees no current change going into and out of it. If the device went bad/leaked while plugged into the GFCI, it would trip, as it would sense a current change going into and out of the device.>
I do not have a ground probe and have seen much debate on whether they actually provide additional safety. Would you recommend a ground probe?
The tank has been running for 1 year with this voltage present.
<You need to set up your multimeter in the manner you mentioned above, then unplug one device at a time until you read 0 voltage, once the culprit device is found, I would strongly recommend replacing it. Do make sure your multimeter is set to AC voltage and select volts, do not use the Millivolt setting. If you were grounded when you placed your hands in the tank, the GFCI would instantly trip as it would sense a loss of current, as much of it would be going through you to ground.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Electricity And A Saltwater Aquarium 3/15/10

Thanks for the advice.
<You're welcome, Shawn.>
I have a new home and the GFCI outlet is new with proper grounding.
However I would like some further clarification regarding your suggestion that the stray voltage reading should be 0. Do you mean with a ground probe installed?
I made some more detailed measurements and each device was tested separately without any other devices plugged in. All devices are less than a year old and are located in my sump/skimmer.
Pump: 18.45VAC
Heater: 16.65VAC
Skimmer: 18.73VAC
With all items powered the voltage is around 40VAC. Based on the above measurements, I think it is common for "healthy" submersible devices to induce voltage in water.
<Yes, they are considered inductors and can create stray voltage in that regard, but if the tank water is indeed grounded, you should read no voltage, the induced voltage should be going to ground.
There are some UPS devices that use isolated ground circuitry and are considered above ground devices. Try measuring the voltage without the using the UPS device and see what you get.>
I will get a ground probe and re-check.
Any further advice is greatly appreciated.
<Not yet. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Electricity And A Saltwater Aquarium 3/15/10

I have measured the devices without the UPS and get the same readings. You made the statement "Yes, they are considered inductors and can create stray voltage in that regard, but if the tank water is indeed grounded, you should read no voltage, the induced voltage should be going to ground."
Without the use of a ground probe, how will the tank water be grounded?
<Exactly my point, and wanted to prove this out to you. GFCI's do not ground your tank water, they just provide protection should you become grounded and place your hand in the water with stray voltages present.
A ground probe will eliminate these induced/stray voltages and is also much better for the animals in your system.>
All of my devices that are submersible do not come with 3 wire cords.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Plumbing and RDP [Bob F, Scott V] 4/13/09
Hey Bob, Scott V, crew! Happy Easter to all!
<Hello Jeremiah, happy day after to you! Scott V. today.>
I hope this finds everyone in "hoppy" spirits hehe!
<It does, thanks.>
I have two really quick questions... I am setting up a 75 gallon reef that I have received tons of great info on thanks to Scott...thank you Scott!
<Happy to help.>
I'm having 3 holes drilled in the back wall. Two to accommodate my GlassHoles overflow box and the other to accommodate a possible CL. The purported closed loop hole is not very deep in the tank, slightly under the other 2. So that the tank won't have to be drained to the hole level with future plumbing installation I have come up with an idea I'd like your input on. I will be using flex pvc for all plumbing but in this case I thought that out of the bulkhead I will plumb a hard pvc line long enough to put a valve on. The end of this line would have threads so that I could adhere some kind of threaded cap/plug on the end with a little silicone until the rest of the plumbing is intact.
<Sounds good.>
That way if the valve slowly seeped the cap would definitely stop all else. Also, whenever I decided to finish the plumbing, ideally I would keep the valve shut off, undo/unthread the cap, install the rest of the flex pvc to wherever it is going, allow enough cure time, then open the valve and let the flow proceed. If I works out, it'd allow me to finish the plumbing without draining the tank at all. Do you see any problems or hidden obstacles?
My hopes are that this arrangement would be leak/drip free. It could be a year or two before anymore action was taken on this hole. I wasn't sure because it seems too easy! Will there be a trade off or sacrifice installing this way?
<Just a bit extra work, but no issues.>
Ok, on to my next question. Other than my 75 gallon display, I will be running a 55 gallon "display" refugium slightly lower and to the side, and a 55 gallon sump underneath. The sump will house a skimmer, return pump, heater, and a few stray pieces of live rock. It will sectioned off in 2 sections, skimmer and return. Since the fuge will be its own display, I'd like to have its lights on the same time frame as the 75 reef. I was shooting for the benefits of RDP, and was wondering if I could light the sump and use it for the reverse photoperiod, still getting the same benefits as if I were to use the fuge?!?
<Not without a macroalgae growing in the sump.>
Would there be something "alive" I would need to put in there to reap the benefits?
I didn't know if the reduction of PH fluctuations was just from lit water...heeee!?
<It is not.>
Ok.. to change the subject for a sec, there was a disagreement, slight difference of opinions so to speak, between Bob and James "salty dog" back in January regarding ground fault devices.
<And again recently!>
I'd like to give my "2 cents" [I hear my wife saying uh-oh], I am an Electrician by trade and I must side with Bob...[no not kissing rear] they are called GFCI, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter! It was also said that any Electrician would use the term GFIC....uh naw, down here in KY we call em' GFI's!
<Well, I do agree. The President could pass an executive decree that they are to be called 'Elephant Outlets' from now on and it would still be GFCI to me. But it is all a label here, still the same essential safety item.>
If this is Scott, can you pass this along!
<For sure.>
Oh yea Scott, Mike was great, the tank company lost the first drill bit and template he sent them so he mailed them another one no sweat. He has indeed been as helpful as you!
<Hmmmm, lets not let him hear this! ;-P)
I am waiting on the tank to be finished now so I can get that overflow box shipped out! Oh yeah, by the way, GOATS ARE COOL.
Thanks for all you guys [gals] do and for the wonderful site!
<Welcome and thank you, have fun with this new system.>

Atlantic Blue Tang/Behavior 4/9/09
<Hello Greg>
I have had my Atlantic Blue Tang for several years now, and just recently he has been reacting oddly to lights. First, I should say that my water parameters are excellent -- ammonia: 0, nitrites: 0, and nitrates nearly undetectable.
<That alone is not indicative to good water quality.>
My tank is 125 g, and I have 120 lbs.
of established live rock, and bulbs that are 6 months old. In the last week, when the lights turn on, the tang begins to breath rapidly and dart around the tank violently. Despite this behavior, it still eats everything that I put in the tank and seems perfectly healthy otherwise. This behavior continues until the lights go off, at which point the fish calms down and behaves normally again. I have considered the possibility of stray voltage from the lights, but the fixture in in good condition and does not come in contact with water at all. Everything is on a GFCI <GFIC>
 circuit, and I have a ground probe in the system. I am just looking for some answers as to what the problem could be, as this behavior not only makes the tang appear to be extremely uncomfortable but also seems to slightly stress the other fish.
<Mmm, is the ground probe connected to a known ground. Is a pump or any other in water device starting at the same time the lights go on? Pumps can also release stray voltages into the tank. Reflections due to lighting can also cause the fish to become nervous. I'd try leaving the lights off for the entire day and observe it's behavior.
Might want to read FAQ's here on Acanthurus behavior.
Thanks in advance for your help.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Greg Fasano

Time to settle: GFCI <GFIC> circuit 4/10/09
It's GFCI James. B
Re: Time to settle: 4/10/09

Nope, it's GFIC (Ground Fault Interrupter Circuit). Do a Google (GFIC),
<... I did... it was attached in the email I just sent>
you will see.
Some folks may call it a GFCI. i r a elektrishun, and any electrician will use the term GFIC.
<I say tomatoe, you say to may to... Shall we short-circuit the nonpolarized duplex outlet? Heeee! B>

GFCI Question  1/3/09 Happy New Year, Crew! I have a question to which I hope you have an answer. My power outlets where my tanks are located are not GFCIs, so I have been using the GFCI multi-plugs that plug into the regular outlet and have several ports for several devices. <Ah, good> The problem I have found with this type of device is that, without exception, it trips whenever the power goes out and needs to be manually reset once power is restored. <Yes> This situation is a disaster waiting to happen. I did some searching on WWM and I see that others have asked pointed out this problem, but I couldn't find a solution posted. Is this just the price you have to pay if you want to use these hardware store devices? <Mmm, no...> Is the solution to swap out the regular outlets for GFCI outlets, as I have read (and experienced with the outlets in my kitchen/bathrooms) that these do not trip with a power outage? Thanks for your insight. Andy <It may well be that the addition of "simple" in-line anti-surge devices (twixt the wall plugs and your stand-alone GFCI's) will solve this issue here... this is the first thing I would try... There are more expensive UPS devices that could be employed, and even issues of load, outlet arrangement, polarity and electrical connection/checking that might be discussed, of concern... but let's hope not here. Bob Fenner>
Re: GFCI Question 1/3/09
Bob, The querior may way to purchase an inexpensive polarity tester available at Home Depot etc. I'm guessing his wall receptacle may not be wired correctly. The GFIC's are polarity sensitive. James <Yes... and right while I was responding I was thinking... "Now, where is that James?". BobF>
e: GFCI Question Thanks, Bob. I will try a good quality surge protector and post how it works for others to see. <Ah, good... and our resident real electrician, JamesG/Salty Dog wrote me to emphasize the need to check polarity in these circuits... I would do this... simple enough, with an inexpensive checker you can get at Home Depot, Lowe's, Radio Shack... BobF>
Re: GFIC Question 1/4/09
Will do. My house was built in 1930 so nothing would surprise me. <For sure.> By the way, I was given the new CMA for X-Mas and I have very much enjoyed reading a little bit every night. The updated info is very helpful. Take care. <Bob thanks you for this. James (Salty Dog)>

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)>

GFCIs In An Old Apartment 10/18/07 Hello. <Hi Gary.> Thanks to all of you WWM Crew for sharing your wisdom with us. <You're welcome.> I have a question for James (Salty Dog). I was reading the information on WWM regarding the importance of using GFCI's with aquariums. I have two salt water tanks and live in an apartment that was built in the 1930's, I believe. <Is ice still being delivered there?> I already have a plug in GFCI and I was thinking about buying another, however, after reading some of the information on here, I'm unsure whether a GFCI would work in my apartment because it is so old. I can say that on one occasion the plug-in GFCI that I have did trip--I can't recall what I was doing, but I was fiddling with something and it tripped. Also, if I hit the test button, it trips and when I hit the reset button the power flow resumes. Does this mean that my outlets are properly grounded and that I can use GFCI's? <If the test button trips the unit, it is working. GFCI's actually monitor the load balance in both the hot and neutral lines. When an imbalance is detected it trips. As long as the neutral line is grounded, the unit should work. Now if you are cleaning your tank and say the heater gets cracked while your hand is in there (Yowsi!), some current is going to pass through you, thus creating an imbalance between the hot and neutral lines.> Thank you in advance. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Gary

Re: GFCI's In Old Apartment 10/19/07 Thank you so much for your quick response. I'm glad to hear that the GFCI that I have works, and I will go ahead and buy the other one that I was considering. I really appreciate it. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Gary

Just when you think all is fine...WHAMMO!  Thirteen fish dead...  GFCI use, alcohol use (in denitrators mostly)   5/21/07 Hi Bob, Not to solicit sympathy, but because I know you would care/be interested to know... <Oh oh....> A faulty GFCI (still investigating but this is where the finger is pointing) tripped sometime <Do this... even go bad w/o any notice...> after my last look at my tank on Saturday night and was not discovered until mid-morning Sunday while the tank was still dark when I noticed the drop in water level in the display.  This circuit happened to be the one my sump return pump is on.  By the time I saw there was a  problem and got the system running, twelve fish were expired and the remainder were in severe distress from what I have concluded was oxygen deprivation. <... bunk>   Normally with good circulation (the Tunze pumps) I would expect my tank to be able to maintain acceptable oxygen levels, but about an hour before the tank went dark the night before I had dosed 6ml of Ethyl Alcohol and believe the resultant bacteria boost consumed the available oxygen faster than water circulation could handle without support from the sump/skimmer. <Arggggg! Am sure you've seen my rants re such feeder stocks to boost anaerobiosis...> Of the initial survivors, the Yellow Tang never fully recovered equilibrium and died several hours after discovery.  Amazingly the Copperband Butterfly was/is still alive and is swimming upright but seems disoriented/confused, as well as light sensitive, and will not eat...not a good prognosis.  The pair of Orange-Tailed Damsels seem unaffected, as does the Dragon Goby. The Yellow Wrasse (H. chrysus) is very active and appears to be swimming well but is not eating though it did show more "interest" in food than the Copperband.  But most surprising to me...the pair of Leopard Wrasse popped out of the sand bed shortly after the lights came on and are actively cruising, browsing, and ate well when fed! <Thank goodness> I can only guess the effects of oxygen deprivation would be much the same on the fish as it is on us/any animal, and only time will tell the full extent of damage.  Eric <Yes... sorry to realize your travails. Socios miseris habuisse dolorem dicet. Cicero. BobF>

Proper use of GFCIs   4/12/07 Hi Crew,   Thanks again for taking my e-mail?  My question today is in regards to GFCIs.  I have read several time not to use extension cords with GFCIs.  However, I hate to admit that my pumps, etc. are connected to surge protectors that then connect to GFCIs.  I am assuming that surge protectors will produce the same problems. <Best to place these "ahead" of GFCIs; not between them and the appliances...> Also, I am not completely sure as to why I shouldn't use extension cords/(surge protectors).  Is it because the extra connections will increase the probability of getting an unusual current thereby tripping the GFI? <Yes... the chances for "lost electrons" increases with more connections... especially "plugs">   Or would the extension cord/(surge protector) decrease the likelihood of tripping (resulting in an increase in injury, etc.)?  Please enlighten me.   <See above... the surge protection devices guard against another class of probable trouble... too much change in "flow" of power vs. (for GFCIs) a difference in outgoing/returning number of electrons (as in electrons going elsewhere)>      Also, if your recommendation is have every appliance (pump, etc) plugged directly into a GFI enabled outlet, than where would you recommend that I install my outlets (as I will need probably 2 to 4)?  Would it be a good idea to have them 3 feet above and 1 foot behind my aquarium (on the wall that is directly behind it)?  I know that I need a drip loop and that the outlets should be off the ground, but I'm still not sure that this is a good place.    <Mmm, I would just "wire" or plug all devices through a GFCI protected circuit... either an in-wall, circuit breaker, or in-line type>   I hope I gave you a good visual of my situation, but if not let me know and I will get right back to you with more information.   Thanks for the help!   Tim <You have read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm and the linked files above? Bob Fenner>

Water/Electricity Danger and GFI. Water And Electricity, A Dangerous Mix 4/10/07 Good Morning. <Hello Tracy> I have some questions I would like to ask, along with a warning.  I had a Hydro pump go bad as far as the insulation. I have the aquarium components on a GFI circuit. I cleaned  the tank and everything seemed fine.  I later went to feed the fish and when I dipped a cup in the water I got a pretty strong shock.  I got the digital voltmeter out and measured between ground and the water.  It measured 29VAC. <Mmm, a properly operating/wired GFI circuit should have tripped beforehand.> I noticed a couple of things, first when I cleaned the tank, I had tennis shoes on. <A good insulator, but I'm not saying put tennis shoes on before you clean your tanks, folks.> When I feed the fish, I was barefoot and I had a cut on my thumb.  That is were I seemed to get the strongest sensation of shock. <You're lucky day, do buy a lotto ticket.> I unplugged everything and started plugging in one device at a time.  Everything was fine until, I plugged in the Hydro pump.  I then took the pump and cleaned it to see if I could see any sign of damage or wear.  I could not.  I decided to give it one last try.  I put the pump in a plastic 5 gallon bucket of water and again measured from ground to the water.  In the 5 gallon bucket it measured 59VAC.  I tried this pump in two different GFI protected circuits and the GFI breaker did not trip.  One of the circuits has the wall outlet with GFI built into the outlet and one of the circuits is a GFI unit you plug into and outlet and the plug the devices into it. <Both can be dangerous if the receptacle isn't properly wired to an earth ground.> I was under the impression that something like this should be prevented with the GFI device.  Is that correct? <Yes, and allow me to explain how a GFI works.  There is a longitudinal transformer that detects imbalance in the flow of current in the hot and neutral legs.  There are some sense electronics that rectify the output of the longitudinal transformer and generate a trip signal when the current exceeds a designated amount.  Most GFI's interrupt both the hot and neutral legs for extra safety in case the polarity gets reversed (use of cheater plugs).  And there is the test button that introduces an actual fault current to the interrupter to test its function.  Under normal conditions, equal current flows to the load through the hot lead and returns through the neutral lead.  There is no current flow either in the ground lead or to earth.   OK, so someone touches a hot wire or in your case the water.  Current flows in through the hot lead but then it splits.  Some flows through the load and some flows through poor Tracy to ground.  The actual function of the GFI does not require the presence of a green wire.  Because there is more current flowing through the hot wire than through the neutral wire, current is introduced in the secondary of the longitudinal transformer.  This current is proportional to the imbalance between the hot and neutral leads.  The output of the longitudinal transformer is applied to the sense circuit, and this circuitry rectifies the input, filters it and applies it to a comparator.  When the input from the longitudinal transformer becomes equivalent to 5ma imbalance in current flow in the main leads, the comparator switches stage and generates a trip signal.  These contacts open and break the circuit to Tracy saving her very thin heart, and life.  Now, a properly operating GFI should trip when you press the test button and should reset when that button is pressed.  If it does not reset, you have a wiring problem in the circuit.  Bob, this is quite long but feel it may be useful for others. As you can see there is more to these type receptacles than two buttons.> The Hydro pump has a two prong cord.  (No ground prong)  Is that a problem? <If the GFI is working properly, it should still trip as outlined above.> I will repeat what you gentlemen have always said.  Remove all electricity before you ever put your hand in the water.  I have not done this and assumed I was relatively safe with the GFI. <If working properly, you are safe.  You may feel a quick tingle, but the current should shut off immediately.  If not, you have a wiring problem or a faulty GFI.> I do not know if you can tell me if I have two bad GFI devices or if they do not protect against this type of thing, but I do know that if I had unplugged everything, I would have been safe. <Tracy, do test these devices, please.> Along those lines, is it a good idea to use a volt meter to test the water from time to time? <I would rather see you test the GFI from time to time.> If I had not gotten a shock, I would have never known there was a hazard for my family and my fish and coral. <We always stress the use of GFI's.  That is the reason it is mandatory to have them in kitchens and baths or anywhere else where water may be present.  Hope this helps you out. James (Salty Dog)>   Tracy

Re: Query.. GFI  4/10/07 Bob,   I got rather long winded in this query but I felt it would be helpful for others to understand how this device operates/works, and the importance of regularly testing these. James <Appreciate this... in my ideal world, there would be a range of all such information offerings... From very simple to the most advanced... BobF>

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>

GFCI Problems - 08/10/06 Hi Crew, <<Hello Tim>> Thank you guys <<and gals>> for taking the time to read this e-mail. <<No worries mate...is what we do!>> I just got a Maristar fixture (2x150w HQI + 2x54W T5) from sunlight supply. <<Handsome and pricey fixtures>> I also have it hooked up to a 5-outlet "plug in" GFCI. <<Mmm...think I know where this is going...>> I have included a pic of the GFCI. <<No pic mate...it didn't make it here>> The ballast of the fixture is hooked up to a timer that plugs into the GFCI. <<Okay>> Anyways, the GFCI will stay on for a couple hours and then suddenly turn off.  Sometimes it turns off right before timer turns on or off, other times it shuts off arbitrarily.  The fixture is brand new but was kicked around during shipping. <<I see>> I also was having problems with the T5 lights so I might have to send it in either way. <<Indeed>> I am an idiot when it comes to electricity so I was wondering if this is exclusively a problem with the fixture or if it could be a problem with the source (i.e.- not enough power going to the ballast or brownout).  If so, I'll call an electrician to get a better line put in. <<Well Tim, I think this could be a couple of things.  Firstly, I would replace the GFCI and see if that fixes the problem.  These devices do "wear out" or become unstable periodically, or this one could just be bad from the start.  If you discover it's not the GFCI, then possibly something was knocked loose in the light fixture in transit and you'll want to contact the supplier/manufacturer re.  Either way, I also recommend you have an electrician come in and install "hard-wired" GFCI outlets for you.  A double-duplex receptacle will give you four outlets (two duplex GFCIs side-by-side) and will be more "reliable" than the portable model GFCI.  The portable GFCIs are fine for short-term uses (and better than nothing at all!), but for permanent setups like your tank the hard-wired outlets are a better alternative in my opinion.  You might also find it desirable; even necessary, to have the electrician run a "dedicated circuit" for you tank if the circuit you're using now has some heavy usage elsewhere in the house>> Thanks again for the help! Tim <<Happy to assist.  EricR>>

Re: GFIC/Installation/Current Capacity  4/6/06 Thanks James.  <You're welcome.> I am planning to install the GFIC so what you're saying is I need a direct line to the GFIC for it to work, right? <No, that is not what I said. Please reread the original query.> The electrical system in operation is a standard outlet tapped of of another across the room. Providing this, how would I install the GFIC?  <You will just replace the receptacle with the GFIC receptacle.  Did you check the receptacle to see if you have a dedicated ground wire?  Most homes built in the last 15-20 years will, it's code.> And about the total wattage- the circuit providing power to my aquarium also provides power to other things in the basement. Is there an easier way to add up all the wattage without tracing back a lot  of things. <John, unless you are running appliances off this circuit, you should be OK.>  As well, If I wanted to get a direct line to the power supply of the house to the aquarium, (I'm planning on possibly 300 gallons in the future), How much money would I have to pay an electrician to do so?  Depends on whether they are steak eaters.  I don't think it will be necessary though.  A hair dryer uses more current than will be used on most large aquariums.  But to answer your question on cost, that all depends on the difficulty  of getting the wire to the area in question.  Most licensed electricians will charge 35-40 per hour.  Much cheaper to buy a DIY electrical book at Home Depot and have a go at it.  If you do not feel comfortable doing it, then by no means do it.> yet again- my sincere thanks  <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

GFIC/Installation/Current Capacity    4/6/06 Hello WWM again- <Hello John> I was looking through the articles on aquarium electrical and If anybody knows about aquarium electrical it would be greatly appreciated. Would it be safe to run all of my aquarium equipment off one GFCI <GFIC> outlet( 150 watt metal halide, UV, 100 watt pumps, heater) Would this be overloading and potentially dangerous--- fire/ short circuit?? Don't hesitate to not respond if you don't know the answer because I know you guys are not electricians.  <John, I'm Journeyman Electrician so this will be painless for me.  First thing to insure is that your outlet uses a dedicated ground wire.  Most older homes used the common (white) for the return path and ground.  A GFIC will not work in this regard and you would have to run a dedicated ground wire from the GFIC to the main service panel.  A word of caution, do not attempt to do wiring without turning off the appropriate circuit breaker first.  There is no problem using all this equipment on one circuit providing the total current doesn't exceed the rating of the GFIC and the circuit breaker in your service panel.  Just add up the current draw of all units including other lamps, receptacles, etc that may be running off this circuit. If the units are labeled in watts instead of amperes, 100 watts is equivalent to .87 amperes. Hope this helps you out.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks a lot!

GFIC Adaptor   2/13/06 Hello, <Howdy> This is my first time emailing for help from your site. It's an interesting format :) I had come across the following FAQ and feel I am running in the same situation as the person whose subject is called "GFCI Adaptor". I became more aware of the GFCI issue when I got my Current-USA Satellite 20" fixture and it mentioned that I MUST install on a GFCI protected outlet (to cover liability and safety as well). http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarfaqs.htm shows the location of the article then search for "GFCI Adaptor" I just bought a Portable GFCI 3 Outlet Tri-cord that looks like the following: http://www.trci.net/products/shock_shield/images/14880tc.gif These can be purchased from Home Depot. I am contemplating of switching it out to this one now since I was unsure if I could plug 2 surge protectors into the 1 GFCI 3 outlet tri-cord: http://www.trci.net/products/shock_shield/images/26020ltc.gif Both are manufactured from TRC (www.trci.net). My question is is it safe to run more than 1 surge protector on the 1 GFCI 3 outlet cord or should I run only 1 on each GFCI even though there are additional plugs on the portable GFCI 3 outlet cord? <I don't know the age of your home, but in order for GFIC's to work, the receptacle you are plugging this into must be grounded.  There is no danger in using more than one surge protector in your device as long as you don't exceed the rated current of the unit.> I went this route instead because the electrician charged me $99 to look at my system. Then he was quoted me $280 to replace my existing outlet into a GFI outlet. <Yikes!.  I'm in the business and I could live like a king charging those prices.  I'd feel guilty if I charged more than $75.00 to replace the outlet....about a 10 minute job at most.> I figure I could purchase the portable ones instead so if I move the tanks or to a new location, I can use them. (Our place was built in 2001 so we have all the up to coded specs at that time). <Ah, built in 01, no problem in using the adaptor.> My freshwater systems are as follows: 40G tank with Coralife 96W compact florescent lighting, Eheim 2026, inline heater (Hydor), Coralife UV sterilizer, and a CO2 system (tank) with a regulator. 20G tank with all-glass 15W T12 bulb, 2 Ebo-Jager submerged heaters, Rena 100 air pump, and an Emperor 280 filtration system. 10G tank with Current-USA Satellite 20" 40W compact florescent lighting, Rena 300 air pump, 1 Ebo-Jager submerged heater, and an Emperor 280 filtration system 3G Eclipse tank with standard 6W florescent light, a Hagen mini-compact submerged heater, and an integrated BioWheel filtration system. I hope you can answer my question as I don't think I found the answer in the FAQ yet. <As above. James (Salty Dog)> AoiGSR

Urgent need of Help GFCI tripped 12/24/05 I posted on the forum, no responses yet.  Can anyone offer any help? I accidentally dripped salt water onto my VHO ballast. This tripped the GFCI. I presume this affected my powder blue tang. <?... how?> He is having a very difficult time breathing. What should I do? <Likely... leave the ballast off for a few hours... try turning it back on... with the GFI... and if it won't hold, you will likely have to replace the ballast> Would this change the water chemistry? <Not directly and not immediately...> Should I do a water change? Would it be best to not do anything to stress him out?  Any one have any suggestions? Thanks, Michelle <Please see WWM re Acanthurus leucosternon, read through the article, FAQs files re. The electrical issue is highly unlikely related. Bob Fenner> GFCI Issues 3.25.05 <Hello, Ryan Bowen with you today.> Hi. I'm new to the hobby, and am setting up a 120 gal reef tank (hopefully).  Have Coralife Aqualite Plus 4x96watt fixture, no water in tank yet. Have plug in type GFCI adapter, but the light fixture keeps tripping it off, Manufacturer suggested using 3 to 2 prong adapter to "reduce sensitivity" of the GFCI. This has not worked either and I'm not so sure getting rid of the third prong is a good idea. <It's not a great idea. It sounds as if the adapter is rated for lighter use? I would get something super-duty. It is backwards logic to buy a safety device, and then use a two-prong adapter to dull its effectiveness.> Any suggestions to make the system work? Or get an electrician? <Try a nicer quality bar, and go from there. If you call an electrician, he will probably just keep asking you "Why do you need so much light over the aquarium?" It's a misunderstood hobby, my friend!> Thank you. Rich. ( I've read your book The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, thank you!) <Will pass along your kind words to Bob!><Marina suggests passing this along to James (Salty Dog), as I believe he is an electrician.> 

GFCI Adaptor Hello, after reading the GFCI FAQs, I realized the importance of getting a GFCI Adaptor for my saltwater aquarium but not quite sure how to use it. I currently plugged all my electrical equipment into two surge protectors which in turn plugged into the two wall outlets. Where should the GFCI Adaptor(s) come into place? Can you please recommend me the best (safest) configuration? Should I plug in one of my surge protectors into a 3P Adapter GFCI and the other surge protector into another 3P Adapter GFCI which in turn plugged into the two wall outlets? I need too many electrical outlets so it is not possible to skip using the surge protectors altogether and use only the GFCI with the limited available outlets.  <Winston, first off they are GFICs (Ground Fault Interrupter Circuit). <<Actually, no... they're GFCI's.... try Google here. RMF>> You have two ways of going. You can replace the breaker that controls your plugs in that room with a GFIC breaker, thus protecting all the receptacles on that circuit, or you can choose to replace the single wall receptacle with a GFIC receptacle. If you have an old home, there may not be any ground wire in the wall receptacle which will render the GFIC useless, in fact it won't even stay energized. In that case you will have to replace the breaker with a GFIC breaker. Naturally, make sure power is off when you do this or your fish may be looking at the electric human. If you are alone, plug a radio into the wall receptacle, then you can hear when you shut off the correct breaker. Be careful. James (Salty Dog)> Thanks much!  <You're welcome> 

Plug in GFCI  Hi Bob. I have in my hand a plug in GFCI. It plugs into grounded  rect. and  has two rect. to plug into. It has a test, reset and red pilot light  to  indicate the test/reset function. It was mfg. by Bell and the catalogue  number is  2290 rated for 120V-15amp-1800W. I too have had a problem finding one  similar.  It seemed like a good idea because it was not necessary to hard wire  the  normal GFCI duplex of single rect. I did find a few in the Grainger Catalogue which will work in my case.  Hope this helps you. I could not find Bell  GCFI  listed anywhere. Regards Bill Cook  <Thank you for this input Bill. Will post/share. Bob Fenner>    

The Conscientious Marine Aquarist and GFI source Dear Mr. Fenner,                            
I just want to tell you how great your book is as well as how you present it to first time marine keepers like myself, it is total commonsense. But Sir if I may ask a question? On page 60 of your book you talk about different types of GFI and advocate the use of them, I cannot agree more with you on this issue.                             
I am trying to find a plug in GFI that you describe in your book, but I am having a hard time trying to locate it for my system. I am hoping that you can point me in the right direction of finding one with your vast knowledge. I appreciate all and any help you may give. Thank You Mr. Fenner, Mike Gardner <Thank you for your kind words. If there is not one of the two "giant" hardware stores, Home Depot or Lowe's nearby, do look on the internet using your search tools and the terms: plug in GFI for sale. Bob Fenner>

GFCI - lost and confused! Dear WWM crew, <Tim> As always, I must thank you first and foremost for taking the time to help the community in the manner that you do.  Your willingness to lend a helping hand are most appreciated!   <You're welcome> I recently relocated my residence and in my new house the electrical wiring are of the older, two wire types with no grounding wire and the outlets are all two-prong. <Do check or have an electrician check to see if the conduit can be used for a ground> I replaced my conventional two-prong outlets with the three-prong GFCI but am not sure if this will work since my electrical circuit does not have a third ground wire to connect to the GFCI I just purchased.  I also purchased a hand held circuit tester with the option to trip GFI circuits.  This tester did show my hot and  neutral wires are wired correctly.  However, when I tested my newly installed GFCI outlets and tried to trip it with the hand-held test unit, the circuit did not trip. When I press the GFCI outlet's "test" button the circuit does trip.  I then tested my hand held circuit breaker device at a friend's house with a three wire GFCI and the hand held device was able to trip the circuit.  Fearing my GFCI is not working, I purchased a plug-in GFI device and plugged this into my recently installed GFCI outlet and again, was not able to trip this circuit with the hand-held tester.  The "Test" button on the plug-in GFI device does trip the circuit even if it was plugged into my wall mounted GFCI outlet.  I tried to use the plug-in GFI device on a different non GFCI outlet in my home (had to use a three-prong to two-prong adapter since the rest of my outlets are all two-prong) and was not able to trip the device with the hand held tester but could do so with the device's "test" button. <The "test/reset" buttons/features on GFCI's are operational irrespective of their real functionality> I've also considered purchasing a Titanium Ground Probe and was wondering if you think it is worth purchasing or just a waste of money? <Almost always the latter. Folks detect induced current... and panic> It also appears that not everyone is sold on the notion of stray voltage since one of the WWM crew's FAQs mentioned that a cup of salt water can conduct stray voltage itself (please see bottom of email for a copy of the FAQ). I was wondering if you believe stray voltage is worth worrying about? <If you can actually feel it... yes! Otherwise, the careful grounding of electrical items, use of GFCI's... and otherwise keeping an eye on electrical cords, plugs... outlets and keeping them clean and dry... is about all I do> My apology for the lengthy email, as you can see I am very confused by the whole GFI ordeal.  I realize it would be best to upgrade my electrical circuit but was hoping you had some pointers on what to do for those that do not have the money to hire a professional electrician. <Maybe look in the newspaper, cheapy free weeklies... for a qualified electrician who is willing to run an extra ground/neutral here... maybe someone in the local marine club knows or is someone who can/will assist you. Bob Fenner> Summary: - Had a two-wire non-grounded, two-prong outlet.  Replaced this with GFCI three-prong outlets but do not have third ground wire in the circuitry of my home.  Unsure if not having this third ground wire in my electrical circuit will allow the GFCI to perform its function of tripping the circuit. - Purchased plug-in GFI device.  Not sure if this will perform its function while plugged into a GFCI outlet without a ground wire. - Purchased hand held circuit tester/breaker.  The test device is not able to trip either the wall installed GFCI outlet or the plug-in GFI device.  The built in "Test" button on the plug-in GFI device and the wall mounted GFCI does trip the circuit. - Should I worry about stray voltage or is it a "red herring"? Thank you in advanced for your assistance! Tim

Plug GFCI 3/22/04  Dear Sir, We are Yueqing Dongya Electric Switch Factory. we can supply GFCI, Here are brief introduction of our company: Our are a special manufacture in LBD type GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) and Mini Hair Drier. Our products are widely used in outdoor Receptacles, bathroom receptacle Circuits, Garage wall outlets, kitchen receptacles and all receptacle in crawl spaces and unfinished basements. We have gained CCC certificate for China market and CE for Europe markets. And UL is being applied now. If you find any interest, please don't hesitate to contact me. Your early reply will be highly appreciated.   Best regards! Address: Area, Bai Baixiang Wenzhou ZheJiang China Zip:     325603 Tel:     86-577-62750688 Contact: Tony Shen wy75ipq@mail.hz.zj.cn http://www.cn-dongya.com <I will post your note on WetWebMedia.com in the hopes a distributor or manufacturer will find you. Bob Fenner>

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. GFCI's, 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

GFI cord availability - 12/12/03 Good Morning, <Good morning...It's great to stay up late> Just wanted to let everyone know that Wal Mart is now carrying the GFI extension cords <Great> - 2 ft length with 3 outlets for about $20.00 and the kind you plug a little box into your outlet and have only 1 outlet for about $10.00. <Fantastic>  These are Alaska prices so it should be cheaper for those of you in the Lower 48. <Maybe. Thanks for the heads up. Happy Holidays ~Paul> Thanks

GFI extension cords Good Morning, Just wanted to let everyone know that Wal Mart is now carrying the GFI extension cords - 2 ft length with 3 outlets for about $20.00 and the kind you plug a little box into your outlet and have only 1 outlet for about $10.00.  These are Alaska prices so it should be cheaper for those of you in the Lower 48. Thanks <Wotta bargain! That's a whole bunch of electrical safety for a few dollars. Thank you for sending this notice along. Bob Fenner>

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>

GFI and Electrical Questions - 8/19/03 I was looking at some of your commentary on WetWebMedia regarding GFI's and was wondering if you would be so kind to comment on the following, which relates to a new 46G bow-front aquarium I've set up.  The electricity issue has been a concern of mine from the outset.  <very understandable> My system has the following:  2 MaxiJet power heads (20 watts each from what I can tell); a SeaClone skimmer which uses on of the same pumps (20 watts); an Emperor 400 power filter (I'm guessing this can't be more than 40 watts); a 150 watt heater; and a 96 watt power compact light.  So, all told that probably maxes out at about 350 watts. Naturally, the lights only run half a day.  <the heater won't be on that much either unless the room is very cold>> 1.  Could all of this be run, in your view, safely through a single standard wall outlet with two plug-ins? Could easily be done from the outlet point of view  <yes, but from circuit point of you, it is to be determined as you don't know what else is producing load on the circuit> 2.  Will a GFI provide protection with, for example, power heads which have cords with only two prongs (i.e., most everything except for the light fixture has only two prongs)? <Yes. The GFI is 15 amps and you about a 3.5 amp load at 120 volts> 3.  Should one turn off the powerheads during feeding to keep the food from going everywhere, or is this not important?  <I would leave them off for about 15 minutes but then again you could leave them on for a more natural current swept feeding regime>   I ask only in as much as I've noticed that when I kill the MaxiJets for a feeding this has a tendency to trip the GFI.  <Hmmmmm>   Is that normal?  <Not sure> 4.  The GFI's I have plug into the wall,  <Never heard of a GFI that plugs into the wall usually needs to be hardwired>  have six feet of 12 gage cord which ends in a 4 outlet box.  <This sounds like you're talking about a surge protector not a GFI. The GFI is usually an outlet box that is hard wired into the wall>  Then you add to that the length of cord for each power head, etc.  Is that 10-12 of cord in your mind a problem or reasonable?  <The 12 gauge cord and length are fine in my opinion, but be sure we are talking about a GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter)> Thanks for any thoughts you may have.  I appreciate your time.  Jon - Tulsa, Oklahoma <My pleasure - Paul>

More Electrical Questions - 8/19/03 Thanks for the reply.   For what it's worth, the GFI unit I was referring to below you can get at Lowes, for example.  It looks like the attached (if you can open it), but it has a 6' cord that runs out the bottom and ends, as I mentioned, with a 4 outlet box (which, incidentally, has a circuit breaker in it). <Very cool. Haven't seen such a contraption before, but I do understand its usefulness. Very cool find>   A couple follow-ups if you have the time (if not, that's understandable): 1.  What is the real gripe with extension cords?  <Haven't really heard of one per se>  Do they tend to overheat easily (from having power run through them 24 hours a day)?   <Possible, but I have rarely experienced this> 2.  If one could afford it, would it be advisable to replace say at one year or so intervals a few items such as in-tank power heads and heaters?  <No need>  It seems to me they'll eventually fail over a period of years, so why wait for that potential, which may result in relatively harmless shock even with a GFI?   <Most quality products are made to withstand breakage and provide years of service under normal circumstances (up to ten years or more in some cases)> 3.  Do you think for the 46 gal bow front I referred to the 96 watt light is sufficient for everything but stony corals.  The store person suggested so.  <Wouldn't go that far, but a few of the hardy less light sensitive soft corals. Many Zoanthids and mushrooms, and some Nephtheids, Alcyonium, and Lobophyton...... maybe. Do your research before purchasing, and that doesn't mean whatever the store clerk tells you. =)> 4.  There seems to be low regard for the Sea Clone skimmer which I unwittingly bought.  It doesn't fill much with foam but it does collect gunk and recently had a half-inch of green liquid in it.  Can you give a couple alternatives should I upgrade next year and that is, say, under $200.  <CPR BakPak Reef ready, (hang-on the back) and any AquaC product. Use the links here for purchase!> Through the grapevine I hear the AquaC Remora is good?  <Oh yeah. Check through our site and the chat forum for reviews and recommendations. Use this site as a tool, dude =)> 5.  Lastly, I'm thinking of how to stock my tank in a conservative way with as much color as possible (fish-wise).  Again, it's 46 gallons (with 40 pounds of live rock plus 2-3 inches of sand,<Make it 4 inches> which probably displace the water to about 37 gallons).  How would you view the following:  one or two maroon set (or other clown set);   <Maybe> .. a flame angel; a royal gramma; PLUS combination of the following within a tolerable overall limit:  a damsel(s) <Nope>, a Longnose Hawkfish; a blue hippo tang ; <not sure about this one>   a yellow tang;  <not sure about this one>  a lawnmower blenny.... Just wondering what your sense would be.  Am I off in assuming that from the foregoing list, somewhere between 5-7 fish would be the good limit?  <Totally depends on aggressiveness of chosen fish and ADULT size (not the juvenile size when usually purchased.) All I can say about your prospective inhabitants is I would definitely not do a damsel or in most cases even the clown fish as these are fairly aggressive fishes and perhaps limit future inhabitant choices. Do your research, ask in the forums, and read some books before purchase -Paul oooout!>

More Info on GFIs - 8/20/03 Hi, Paul, <Hi Marc> Saw the post below in today's Q&A where you indicated you had not seen a GFI adapter that plugs into the wall and wanted to added that you can now buy external GFI adapters. <Yeah, I don't get out much....> Instead of replacing an outlet with a GFI outlet, you can buy one that plugs into the outlet and has a heavy gauge extension cord. <Yeah, quick check of Lowes website showed as much> These are considerably more expensive than the in-wall type (maybe 3x) but you can't beat the convenience. <Yeah, I always just wired mine in> Better some extra money on the GFI adapter at tank setup then getting to it "later" which often turns into "never." <ABSOLUTELY!> One of the things I've always wondered about is exactly how a GFI works- specifically does it require a return path to ground. A brief check on the web indicates that it detects an imbalance between the hot and neutral and that therefore a ground (from a 3 prong plug) is not required. <Yep.> That's good to know since most aquarium products seem to be 2 prong. <True> However, as an electrical engineer, I think it is still worth putting in a ground probe were possible. <Sure> Most tanks are electrically insulated from ground and if you have a defective piece of aquarium equipment, there may not be a current imbalance for the GFI to detect until the aquarist puts his hand in the tank and provides a path to ground. <Been there before.>  It would likely be a brief, non-life threatening shock but an unpleasant experience all the same ;-) Marc <hehehehehe Thanks so much for your input here. Great info and likely to help more than just me. I will make sure it is in tomorrow's Q&A. A tip o' the bottle to yas, mate.>

Plug-in GFCI Hi Bob, Just read about plug-in GFCI's on http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/gfiuseag.htm I've called every electrical supplier in San Jose, and none have even heard of plug-in GFCI's.  Do you have the name of a manufacturer of same? Thanks, Frank Kirby <Woods makes one as well as several other manufacturers. Try Home Depot, Loews, etc.  Craig>

GFI's and marine aquariums Frank, I had the same problem years ago and would come home to find the power to my reef off for god knows how long. I removed all GFI's at the time and had a successful reef. Since then I have had two rio's (powerheads) short out. One popped a fuse on a power strip. The other basically burned inside the tank, under water until it popped the breaker for the house. I was in the last hour before leaving on a one week ski trip and fortunately caught it before I left! I have also been shocked by a submersible heater that started to leak after three years immersed in my sump. Given my new experience I have my main pumps and computer connected directly to the power without any GFI. All Rio's and any other powerheads and my heaters are on GFI's. I guess a risk low flow and cooling but my main pumps (external) will always run. I will never risk my whole tank to a GFI again, just the submersible devices. By the way, I am slowly removing all powerheads and going with just external pumps and sea swirls. I check my heaters every year as even the best brands eventually leak. <Thanks for this testimonial John (Foster). Bob Fenner> John Frank, I had the same problem years ago and would come home to find the power to my reef off for god knows how long. I removed all GFI's at the time and had a successful reef. Since then I have had two rio's (powerheads) short out. One popped a fuse on a power strip. The other basically burned inside the tank, under water until it popped the breaker for the house. I was in the last hour before leaving on a one week ski trip and fortunately caught it before I left! I have also been shocked by a submersible heater that started to leak after three years immersed in my sump. Given my new experience I have my main pumps and computer connected directly to the power without any GFI. All Rio's and any other powerheads and my heaters are on GFI's. I guess a risk low flow and cooling but my main pumps (external) will always run. I will never risk my whole tank to a GFI again, just the submersible devices. By the way, I am slowly removing all powerheads and going with just external pumps and sea swirls. I check my heaters every year as even the best brands eventually leak. John Following the advice I've read in several books, I have a Ground Fault Interrupt (GFI) receptacle that I plug into the wall. Into this I plug in the power strip that runs my 55 gallon tank. The problem I'm having is that when I have even a momentary power outage, the GFI clicks off and needs to be manually reset. This works fine as long as I'm home and awake. What I am concerned with is if this happens when I'm gone. Is there a similar device that resets itself once the power is back on? I'm still very much a novice, so please forgive me if this is a very simple question. Thank you for any advice you can give me. Frank Lehmann

GFCI question Hello Crew; <<And hello to you.>> How are you today? <<I am well, although the Gulf of Mexico seems to still be in my sinuses.>> I have been reading the articles and faqs on your site about the importance of GFCIs. I found a GFCI device at premium aquatics that plugs into your current outlet, then you plug your power strip into this device. I was wondering if these units are as good as having a GFCI installed in place of the outlet. <<Most certainly, yes.>> The web site for this device is at: http://www.premiumaquatics.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen= PROD&Store_Code=PA&Product_Code=TM-GFI&Category_Code=GFI What is your take on these devices? <<If you don't already have GFCI outlets, that this is an excellent substitute - will work just as well.>> Thanks; Kevin <<Cheers, J -- >>

Tripped GFCI Recent article expressed concern that after the power outage the GFCI had to be reset. <Okay... where did you see this?> The assumption is that the aquarium's equipment was plugged into a GFCI wall outlet. Most wall outlet GFCI devices "only" have to be reset after a ground fault occurrence. After a power outage, they should restore themselves provide they do not detect a ground fault. <Agreed> GFCI products are also available as plug-in adapters. These GFCI outlet adapters can also restore the power after an outage. You can find such GFCI devices on web sites such as smarthome.com . Ground faults can be dangerous to people and the fish if undetected and the power isn't shut off. Be thankful such as product is available. <I am!> John Otto Providence, RI <I was born in Northkingston, my parents both in Providence... Bob Fenner>
RE: Tripped GFCI
I Live in W. Warwick off of Route 2. Only 3 years in Ri having moved here from St. Pete. FL. I use Google as search engine and I was doing a generic search "GFCI problems" and the article from your site came up. I have been a National Sales Manager for GFCI products for 10 years. Take care John Otto <John, does the article state that GFCI's have to be reset after power outages? Thanks, Bob Fenner, who understands that there are 220 v (two hot lead) units nowadays.>
RE: Tripped GFCI
There was a recent discussion on power outages and tripped GFCI. At least one brand of GFCI plug-ins (I don't know the brand but they are bright yellow) do have to be reset after a power outage. (Or at least says so on the box) <Mmm, unusual> I don't recall that being the case with at least the Leviton hardwired ones. I had several short power outages and never reset them. If I had to, then wouldn't everything just not work? <Yes. You would have to push the reset buttons first. Bob Fenner> --des/Jane
Tripped GFCI
Recent article expressed concern that after the power outage the GFCI had to be reset. <Okay... where did you see this?> The assumption is that the aquarium's equipment was plugged into a GFCI wall outlet. Most wall outlet GFCI devices "only" have to be reset after a ground fault occurrence. After a power outage, they should restore themselves provide they do not detect a ground fault. <Agreed> GFCI products are also available as plug-in adapters. These GFCI outlet adapters can also restore the power after an outage. You can find such GFCI devices on web sites such as smarthome.com . Ground faults can be dangerous to people and the fish if undetected and the power isn't shut off. Be thankful such as product is available. <I am!> John Otto Providence, RI <I was born in Northkingston, my parents both in Providence... Bob Fenner>

GFI Read your article about GFI, or GFCI as Leviton calls the unit I just purchased, on Wet Web Media but on my computer the illustration of the arrangement of a service switch, GFI duplex outlet & time clock did not appear. <Have fixed, placed the graphic on WWM, and attached here.> Would you send it to me via email with the hopes that will duplicate here or can you tell me where to get a like illustration. I have read elsewhere of installing a titanium wire from the tank water to a ground such as a water pipe as additional protection to a GFI. To your knowledge is this true or is it overkill due to a thought surge? <Such grounds are a good idea if/when working with much amperage... The GFI/GFCI should provide sufficient protection in your case. Bob Fenner> Alan

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