What do you need to know about a heater
Mar 31, 2001 (Updated Apr 14, 2001)
The Bottom Line Make sure you know what to look for in a heater
Why is a heater so important for some fish?
All fish are "cold-blooded" and they need the same range of temperature which would be found in their natural environment. There is a specific enzyme the fish use in order to digest their food which is many times unable to digest foods properly if out of their natural temperature temperature range
I have had many tanks over the years, and even more heaters. I have had
cheap $8, 25 watt heaters to good high quality $25, 25 watt
Which type of heater is best?
Well in my experience a metal (yes there are metal heaters, they are more expensive though, and no they are not dangerous) heater is by far the best. For good reasons also, these reasons being;
1) WILL NOT BREAK, you'll need a hammer to break one.
Where as many glass heaters will break if you just plug
them in before they are submerged in water, a metal one
will not, not if you drop it, not if you step on it. Plus most of
your fish will bump into your heater and after a while if you
have a glass one it will most likely crack (my fish have cracked a total
of two of my heaters) a metal one will not.
2) Much, much easier to clean, most everything which
sticks to it will come right off. (Best way to clean any
accessories you use in your fish tank is with vinegar)
3) Last longer
Don't get me wrong now, glass heaters are still good. Many of them you will never have a problem with, I myself still have a few glass heaters, just not in my tanks with large Fish (they seem to break most often in those tanks because the large fish are constantly bumping into the heaters).
All heaters I have come across have a on-light, which lights up when the heater starts to heat the tank because the tank's temperature goes below what the heater is set to keep the tank at. But I know there are some
out there which don't. DO NOT buy a heater, which doesn't have an on-light. So when the light is on, the heater is heating, when the light is off the then the tank is at the right temperature and the heater does not need to be heating.
Many heaters do not have a temperature display, (when you twist the heating dial, the heater tells you what you are putting the heater at) they require the guess and check method. What is the guess and check method? That is when you turn the heating dial to where the on-line just flickers on. Then you turn the heating dial just a little bit further, wait a while till the on-light goes off and then check your thermometer to see what the temperature of your tank is. Then turn the heating dial just a little past where the on-light goes on again, then wait till the on-light goes off
and so on. This method can take a long, long time. Especially in big tanks where in order for the heater to just increase the temperature by a few degrees it takes an hour or more. These heaters are usually the cheapest because they are the lowest quality.
Then there are heaters with the temperature display, these usually cost 2-4 times as much as the cheaper ones without the display. (these numbers weren't taken from just one visit to my local fish store. I have been working in a fish store for over five years and these numbers have to the best of my knowledge always been accurate) Most companies make heaters with and without the temperature display.
How loose should the heating dial be?
You never, (with extreme emphasis on never) want to buy a heater with a loose heating dial. Because what can happen with a loose heating dial, is that you accidentally bump it and then you cook your fish, or freeze them.
And that really stinks when you have a lot of money invested in your fish. So you should always check to see how loose the dial is, and see if you bump it, does it move easily? If it does don't get it.
How should you attach the heater to the tank?
There are 2 different types of ways to attach a heater to your tank.
1) the top of the heater has a clamp on it to be stuck on the side of your tank. These heaters cannot be completely submerged, a major minus (I
have only seen these on the cheaper heaters).
2) The heater comes with a detachable clamp, and suction cups so
you can place the heater anywhere in your tank. These heaters can
be completely submerged, a major plus. Now this might bring up the question… But if the heater has a loose heating dial, isn't it more likely to be bumped by the fish, if its completely submerged in the tanks and be moved? I can only answer that I have never seen a heater that has a loose heating dial that can be completely submerged (and I have seen many heaters, where I work we have over 40 different heaters).
What size heater do I need for my tank?
I always recommend 2-3 watts per gallon. For tanks from 1-70 gallons you really only need 2 watts per gallon (i.e. a 20 gallon tank needs a 20 watt heater, though 20 watt heaters aren't made but 25 watt heaters are so you choose the one closest). But for tanks over 70 gallons I always recommend 3 watts per gallon in order to accurately heat your tank.
How do I care for and clean my heater?
Whenever your heater, gets dirty you might want to clean it, though it is not necessary. But it does help your tank look nicer. Before you take out your heater, unplug it and let it sit in your tank for 15-30 minutes. You do this to prevent breaking in glass heaters, because if your heater is eighty
degrees and you then put it into thirty degree water to clean it, it will immediately crack everywhere. Then it MUST be immediately trashed. If something will not come off of you heater, soak your heater in vinegar, then try again. Do not plug in the heater before you put it into the tank, let it sit in
the tank for 10 minutes then plug it in. Once again this is to prevent cracking. You will also often want to check your heater over for cracks, because a crack in your heater could end up with all your fish being electrocuted to death. Even a hair line crack can result in the death of your
Does price really matter?
Yes, if you want a good heater, you will not be able to get one cheap unless you get it used. You can get cheap heaters though, but beware, they are not always trustworthy heaters. And the cheaper they are the more of
the faults I have described can be found on them.
What about the brand name?
You should always go with a trusted brand name like Hagen, Tetra, Rena, Penn-Plax, etc.
Do I still need a thermometer?
Yes, you always want to have a thermometer even if you have a heating dial on your heater. Because if your heater messes up (which is not unheard of) you want to have a way of making sure your tank is not overheated or under
Well that's basically everything, if you have any question, or I have left something out fell free to email me and ask me, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh and if you live in Maryland I invite you to come and visit the fish store where I work, email me and I will give you the name and location.
Good luck to all