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HomeBlogChoosing the Right Aquarium Heater

Choosing the Right Aquarium Heater

Many of us strive to recreate a beautiful aquatic environment in our home. Colorful tropical fish, swimming in synchrony, is certainly a sight to behold. In order to keep these aquatic gems alive and thriving, certain environmental needs must be met. Water quality, oxygen levels, hides and visual barriers, pH - this list goes on. High up on that list is temperature. In most climates, you'll want to raise your aquarium water's temperature to make your fish happy. Obviously, this is done by using an aquarium heater - but which one?

What to Shop For:

  • Large enough wattage for your aquarium
  • Submersible
  • Thermostatically controlled
  • Not made of glass

Heater Wattage = Aquarium Volume (gallons) x 3

Choosing the Right Wattage

In general, aim for about 3 watts per gallon of aquarium water. This is a general rule of thumb based off of a room temperature of 72F and a desired temperature of 78F (commonly required by most tropical fish). If your room temperature is not close to 72F, consider using the general rule of 25 watts of heater power will raise 10 gallons of water 10 degrees over ambient temperature. Do not use an oversized heater - if it malfunctions, it can quickly change the water temperature and harm or kill your fish. For larger tanks (55 gallons and over or so), I'd recommend using 2 smaller heaters. This greatly reduces the chance of harm to aquarium inhabitants should one heater fail.

Choosing the right aquarium heater

Immersible vs Submersible

Immersible aquarium heaters are the common hang on the back type heaters we're all familiar with. Once the only option for heating up your tank, these heaters are known for their low cost. They depend on a fairly constant high water level in the tank, as the heating element can malfunction (or shatter!) if it's exposed to air for very long. If you're on a tight budget, this may be the heater for you, though immersible heaters are generally not the most reliable choice.

As the name suggests, submersible aquarium heaters can be submerged in water. For an electronic device that's being used in water, that's a great benefit. Submersible aquarium heaters tend to be of a higher quality than immersible heaters, and are much safer to use - for you and your fish.

Choosing the right aquarium heater

Thermostatically controlled vs Preset

Many lower priced aquarium heaters are preset to a certain temperature, generally 78F. If you're looking to maintain your water temperature cooler or warmer than this, you'll want to make sure you choose a heater that allows you to set the desired temperature.

A special note about mini/small heaters - If you have a tank less than 10 gallons, consider using one of these! They're perfect for smaller desktop aquaria or betta tanks. In the past, these small tanks were not typically heated, which resulted in short lifespans of their inhabitants. These mini heaters often are completely submersible and look more like a block or pad than a traditional heater, making them very easy to use.

Remember, every aquarium heater should be paired with an accurate, waterproof aquarium thermometer. The cheap, LCD thermometers tend to be the least accurate (generally within 2-3 degrees), but it's good enough for most home use. Digital thermometers, as well as the old fashioned type floating ones, work well and are a bit more accurate.

Looking for an aquarium heater, or another product to help keep your fish friends happy and healthy? Check out our ever-growing selection of aquarium products at Josh's Frogs today!

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