Fish Tank Heaters – Are They Safe?

In Aquarium Heaters by PaulK

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Don’t let this happen to you!

Fish tank heaters are safe if you take the proper precautions. Make sure to unplug the heater 30 minutes prior to changing the water or cleaning the tank. If the water level gets too low with the heater running, you run the risk of cracking the glass casing which could electrocute you and the fish. Heaters have been known to blow up because of this!

You hear stories all the time about aquarium heaters failing causing dead fish, electrical shock or even house fires. Heaters can be dangerous and explode if you don’t take the proper precautions.

Possible fails are:
1. Heater malfunction
2. Pump/motor burns out
3. Ballast burns out

I recommend getting a higher quality heater that is fully submersible and covered like this Aqueon Pro adjustable heater. Some of cheaper models that have glass cases can be cracked by bigger fish. Unfortunately, aquarium equipment fails all the time. There is no company or product out there which will never fail. Everything is prone to fail eventually. Some things more than often. We can do everything we can to prevent it, but at the end of the day, these things happen.

OK, so what do you do?

Get a GFCI outlet

GFCI stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter. They are required for building codes where water is near, like a bathroom or kitchen. If your tank is located in a living area, then the outlet is probably not a GFCI outlet. They are safer in that they monitor the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral. If there is a mismatch as small as 4-5 milliamps, it will trip the circuit breaker cutting off the flow of electricity. You can recognize a GFCI by a reset and test button. Also, the left slot is slightly larger than the right slot with a ground hole underneath.

If installing a GFCI outlet is not possible, then consider getting a cover for the outlet to keep out the moisture.

Monitor the water temperature of the tank.

Make sure you have a thermometer in the tank. It can be a digital or a regular glass thermometer. Take note of the heater setting vs. the actual temperature of the water. This can tell you if the heater is functioning properly or if it’s over/under heating the tank.

Make sure you have the proper wattage size heater for the tank capacity.
If the heater is too small for the tank, it will run too long and burn out the heater sooner.
Consider getting an external controller for your heater. They are a lot more accurate.

When you are going to clean your tank and empty out the water, make sure you unplug the heater 15-20 minutes in advance so the element has time to cool down.

I recommend getting a higher quality heater that is fully submersible and covered. Some of cheaper models that have glass cases can be cracked by bigger fish.

Make a drip loop with the cord so water drips off the loop at the bottom into a pie pan or something.

Don’t overload the outlet with multiple plug-in devices. A single outlet can only handle so much wattage. Usually 2400 watts.

If the heater is submersible, then it is OK to have the cord in the water, UNLESS THE CORD IS DAMAGED!

Here are some safety tips to help avoid any danger when using a heater around water. You can reduce the risk of catastrophic heater failure!

A. If the appliance shows any sign of abnormal behavior, immediately unplug from the power source.
B. Carefully examine the appliance after installation. It should not be plugged in if there is water on parts not intended to be wet.
C. Do not operate any appliance if it has a damaged cord or plug, or if it is malfunctioning or if it is dropped or damaged in any manner.
D. To avoid the possibility of the appliance plug or receptacle getting wet, position aquarium stand and tank to one side of a wall mounted receptacle to prevent water from dripping onto the receptacle or plug. A “drip loop” should be arranged by the user for each cord connecting an aquarium appliance to a receptacle. The ”drip loop” is that part of the cord below the level of the receptacle or the connector if an extension cord is used, to prevent water travel along the cord and coming in contact with the receptacle. If the plug or the receptacle do get wet, DON’T unplug the cord. Disconnect the fuse to the circuit breaker that supplies power to the appliance. Then unplug and examine for the presence of water in the receptacle.
E. Close supervision is necessary when any appliance is used by or near children.
F. To avoid injury, do not contact moving parts or hot parts such as heaters, reflectors, lamp bulbs, and etc.
G. Always unplug an appliance from the outlet when not in use, before putting on or taking off parts, and before cleaning. Never yank the cord to pull plug from the outlet. Grasp the plug and pull to disconnect
H. Do not use an appliance for other than intended use. The use of attachments not recommended or sold by the appliance manufacturer may cause an unsafe condition.
I. Do not install or store the appliance where it will be exposed to the weather or to temperatures below freezing.
J. Make sure an appliance mounted on a tank is securely installed before operating it.
K. Read and observe all the important notices on the appliance.
L. This Appliance has a polarized plug (one blade is wider than the other). As a safety feature, this plug will fit in a polarized outlet only one way. If the plug does not fit fully in the outlet, reverse the plug. If it still does not fit, contact a qualified electrician. Never use with an extension cord unless plug can be fully inserted. Do not attempt to defeat this safety feature. M. If an extension cord is necessary, a cord with a proper rating should be used. A cord rated for less amperes or watts than the appliance rating may overheat. Care should be taken to arrange the cord so that it will not be tripped over or pulled.

You can never be too safe when it comes to electricity and water, so take the proper precautions or you may be sorry!


Related Articles –> Your In-Depth Guide To Fish Tank Heaters

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