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If you’re the proud new owner of a fish, congratulations on taking the initiative to care for another being!
Keep in mind that sometimes you won’t just be able to buy a simple bowl, dump some water in it, and throw in your fish like you’ll often see in tv shows.
Fish need to be fed, their tank needs to be cleaned, and oxygen needs to be pumped into the water. More importantly, fish are cold blooded animals, so they need a little extra help regulating their body temperature.
Top 5 Reliable Aquarium Heaters
1. JBJ Temp Titanium Heating System
Power failures are definitely something of a concern when buying a new aquarium heater. It’s frustrating to have to constantly input your settings if something comes unplugged. The JBJ Temp Titanium Heating System internally saves the data you’ve set up, so you don’t have to do it again later. The LED light lets you know whether or not the heating device is on, while the actual controller includes an LED backlight as well.
As expressed in the name, the JBJ heater is made from titanium steel, so corrosion and rust won’t be an issue whether you’ve got a saltwater aquarium or freshwater. It can also be mounted inside your fish tank to prevent it from banging up against rocks, statues, and rough surfaces.
The only real drawback to this heater is that it isn’t very power efficient, and you might see a small increase in your electricity bill. Additionally, the probing feature has been mentioned to fail after 10 to 12 months of use. Some customers feel that 8 months is a better recommendation for cleaning and replacement of the probe.
2. Hydor In-Line Aquarium Heater
The Hydor is effective not only for your fish, but also for your live rocks and coral reef! Keeping your aquarium at a level temperature, this heater takes up far less electricity compared to others because it doesn’t need to cycle on and off as often. There is a noticeable “click” that alerts you to changes in cycles, and the rotating dial allows you to manually adjust the heat.
One of the best compliments the Hydor has received is that it makes the aquarium itself more aesthetically pleasing; you can mount it from the outside, which helps to prevent the risk of shorting and harming your fish, turtles, or other aquatic life.
There have been some unfortunate cases in which the Hydor has overheated or malfunctioned in terms of the temperature set. Older models of this heater have failed to cycle off after reaching their specified set temperature, causing tanks to essentially boil people’s fish. Another issue is that some Hydors were delivered dead on arrival, which may have been a temporary manufacturing problem.
The good news is that this product has had a major turnaround in quality, and even works for tanks that hold up to 22 gallons!
3. Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater
The Aqueon has been recognized as a long-lasting and reliable heater for anyone who has a fish tank. The thermoplastic material ensures that you won’t have to worry about cracks or shattering when submersed, and the thermostat is also not made of glass.
Like the Hydor, the Aqueon has a great reputation for evenly heating a tank no matter what size it is. It does need to be placed in water, but this heater also includes an auto shut-off just in case it’s removed from the tank and turns back on when put into the aquarium again.
Most people have also mentioned that the Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater lasts for years without ever needing to be replaced. As with any heater though, you should still clean yours regularly to avoid any problems.
4. Finnex Hang-On Controller Aquarium Heater
Some of the heaters listed above have had problems with calibration, meaning they tend to stray a few degrees one way or the other. However, the Finnex is definitely more reliable as far as maintaining the same temperature for long periods of time. This heater has been recommended by those who are raising large reef colonies.
Coral reef systems are notoriously sensitive to changes in temperature, so the memory chip installed in the Finnex also keeps you from having to adjust it every time you turn it on. The titanium material protects this heater from corrosion and rough outer surface areas.
While it does include suction cups to help with mounting, there have been some complaints that they aren’t very strong. Owners of turtles might have trouble with their pets pulling the cups off the walls of their aquarium. The design of this product has also changed within the last 6 to 8 months; the thermometer is now attached rather than acting as a separate piece.
5. Eheim Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater
The Eheim is made with a shock proof safety feature, and it can be fully submerged without cracking or breaking under the pressure.Much like the Finnex Heater, this particular mode; has suction cups for mounting and damage prevention.
Being reviewed as a great heater for colder climates, it’s also been mentioned that the Eheim is a decent starter tool for kids who are just learning to raise fish. The instructions for this heater specifically direct users that they must set this heater up vertically, although it does not specify why. So, measure your tank and make sure the Eheim will fit before you buy it!
The problem with the Eheim is that there have been notable complaints about the automatic shutoff feature failing. This usually results in the shocking of your fish, and there’s a good chance that it may melt the heater. In order to use it correctly, this heater needs to be submerged; the only part to remain outside are the obvious wires and the dial heating control knob.
Aquarium Heater Buying Guide
Why Buy an Aquarium Heater?
There are a few good reasons why most aquariums these days need a heater. The obvious reason is to keep the water from falling below certain temperature levels. You can’t always be sure that your water temp will stay the same, but with a heater you can take steps to avoid too much fluctuation.
Another group who needs a heater are owners of fish who require water that is above room temperature. All sorts of tropical fish, such as bettas, have this requirement. Make sure to research your fish and find out it’s ideal water temperature!
Something you may not have thought of is the stress that constant and sporadic water temperature changes can cause to your aquarium dwellers. Stress isn’t only harmful to humans, it’s harmful to all animals. A good aquarium heater can help you to maintain a constant temperature in your tanks to keep your fish happy.
Note: Smaller tanks are much more susceptible to irregular temperature changes.
Different Types of Aquarium Heaters
As with most products, there are a variety of different types of heaters for your aquarium. Here i’ll go into a bit of detail about each type, but, if you’re a beginner, I’d recommend you do even further research to pick the type you need.
This is one of the most common types of aquarium heaters on the market. It is sometimes referred to as a “hanging heater” because it hangs over the top of the tank and a glass tube, containing the heating element, goes in the water.
This is the type of heater that you will most often find in “aquarium kits for beginners”. This is most likely because it tends to be very affordable.
In order to accommodate it, you will need an aquarium with an opening in the hood (which most do).
- Double check that it is properly secure
- Avoid bumping it! The glass element could break and lead to problems like electrocution and fire.
- Do not use for marine or brackish aquariums. The salt can cause corrosion or electiral problems.
This is an aquarium heater that can be placed in the water itself, thus making it more efficient. It can also be positioned however you’d like.
However, be sure to have enough space around it so your fish don’t get stuck inbetween it and other aquarium elements. Make sure not to let it touch the glass because the heat difference between the aquarium glass and the heater could cause the heater glass to crack.
Some aquarium filters come with a built in heater. This is a convinient option, but make sure to do extensive research on which filter you plan to buy.
This is a good one for larger aquariums. It is an external heater that in between the sump or filter and the aquarium tank. It can be complicated to set up but it helps prevent contact between fish and your heater.
This heater is within the sump itself. It is similar in benefits of the in-line heater but a little easier to maintain.
Not very popular in the US, it uses wires running through beneath the gravel.
The Type of Animal You Have Matters
As I mentioned above, whether it’s fish, turtles, coral, or all 3, you need to know what temperature is appropriate for them. Turtles for example require a general temperature of 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, in addition to special lights for basking.
This can have effect on the entire tank when coupled with a heater, so be sure you have a second thermometer. Coral reef enjoy a slightly cooler setting of around 73 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit; so you’ll need a pretty large tank or separate ones if you plan to care for both. If you have fish, the heat of your tank may depend on what kind of species you own.
Tropical fish like their environment to be 76 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas Koi fish prefer 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Should My Aquarium Heater Include?
A great heater will include on and off cycling to prevent overheating, the ability to calibrate, and it should have some type of water-resistant coating. Ideally, you want to titanium or another rust-proof material that won’t succumb to possible corrosion.
There are a few heaters on the market that don’t need to placed directly in your fish tank, but even if they do, there should be some type of automatic shut-off in the event of a power surge. A self-calibrating option ensures that the on and off cycles occur at appropriate times.
If the heater stays off for too long, it gets too cold and vice versa; so, keep a manual thermometer on hand, it may give you a better reading should the built-in monitor malfunction.
Always Test Your Heater First
Be sure your fish tank is set up to keep moisture and condensation away from outlets and wires. This way both your aquarium, and your home, are protected from the potential of accidental fires.
Keep an extra tank on hand so you can test your heater or use a large container that resembles the same environment.
Allow the heater to run for at least 24 hours on the setting you’ve selected. Check on it every few hours and ask yourself if the temperature of the water matches up with your intended setting.
If there are any severe problems with the one you’ve purchased, you’ll be glad your pets weren’t hurt because you tested it first!
Aquarium Heaters Need to Be Cleaned as Well
Regularly cleaning your heater is a must, and not doing so is a prime reason why people see malfunction months after use. Algae buildup and calcium from saltwater aquariums can make a big impact on how well your heater is working.
Titanium steel submersible models can be soaked with vinegar, then just use a brillo-pad sponge to scrape off any remaining buildup.
Of course, you’ll need to turn it off before you clean it! This means unplugging the device as well, just as an extra safety precaution. While you’re cleaning, check for any possible pieces of debris, dents, cracks, or any other forms of damage.
If you do notice an issue, have it repaired before using your aquarium heater again. What seems like a small crack at first could become a big problem as time goes on.