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Aquarium Heater - What Type is Right for Me

Updated on October 5, 2009


   Before I discuss The types of aquarium heaters available today. I first feel the need to call upon you to use them safely. Before you put your hands in the water, always unplug the heater. All heaters manufactured today have a fuse that cuts the power if water gets into them. But you don't want your hands in the water when that happens. It can really ruin your day(speaking from experience).

   In forty plus years of fish-keeping I haven't seen a heater with its own on/off switch. So I visit my local hardware store and purchase a short (3ft to 6 ft)heavy duty extension cord with a built in on/off switch. Plug the heater in this cord and plug the cord in (separate from all other electrical devices). All of my aquarium stands are the wooden cabinet type so I screw a cup hook just inside the door and place the switch there. Always make a drip loop in your electrical cords.

Photo A

Photo A
Photo A

Aquarium Heaters - $5 to $20 (see photo A)


   The heater on the left is what you will find in most aquarium starter kits. It uses a thumb screw to clip to the upper lip of the tank. The glass tube can be a weak point if you keep larger fish. And the two little metal points that it uses to control temperature can corrode over time and stick together( in the on position) over heating your fish.

   The heater in the middle is a little better. It still uses a metal heating coil, but it has a electronic thermostat (no points to corrode).

   The heater on the right addresses all the issues but the glass tube. It has an electronic thermostat and its heating element is a printed circuit (on the inside of the glass). Like the defogger on a car.

   All of these heaters are good at doing the job. They are all adjustable and accurate.

Photo B

Photo B
Photo B

Aquarium Heaters - $20 to $50 (See Photo B)


   The heater on the left is the one I prefer (pricey but you get what you pay for) It has a titanium tube over its heating element. Its fully submersible. So you can place it horizontally at the bottom/back of the aquarium. And the temperature control can be mounted on the wall above and behind the tank. But it still doesn't have its own on/off switch.

   The heater in the middle has a all plastic housing and electronic temperature control. Its listed as fully submersible. But I can't bring myself to submerse it beyond the temp adjustment(because I just might want to adjust it ).

   The heater on the right is the high-tech of the group. It is micro processor controlled. With the right adapter it can be used as the intake tube of a power filter. I tried this, but found that the heater seemed to be on all the time. For fear of the electric bill I took it off of the intake tube. I can say, it is very accurate(the dial setting matches the tank thermometer). This heater has two flat sides and my angel fish like to lay eggs on it.

   All in all, You get what you pay for – A little extra money can mean a lot less worry.


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