Warmer Weather

In my neck of the woods its been a glorious day, sun shining and warm. Work has been going on in the garden after I’d finished my aquarium maintenance (I start that job early so I don’t miss out on the good weather).

Later in the afternoon I walked by the aquarium and noticed that the heater controller (I have an external controller with probe controlling two heaters) indicator was not flashing at all. This didn’t cause any alarm as I assumed it was caused by the increased air temperature. A check was made though and this proved to be the case.

Now there are those aquarists who have mainly blue skies and warm – or hot – weather all the time. Then there are others like myself who have seasons, these being spring, summer, autumn and winter of course.

Those with continuous warm or hot weather could find it best to invest in a chiller (seawater cooler). Though these are not cheap, they are very worthwhile to protect the reef (or fish) from unwanted excessive temperature increases. The device should be sized to suit the aquarium, and the pump used should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, to ensure that the seawater has sufficient contact or cooling time. They are easy to set, the heaters (if any) are set to the design temperature and the chiller to 2 degrees F higher. Again, the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed.

For other aquarists such as myself the increase in temperature because of the season may be insufficient or over too short a period to justify the cost of a chiller. There are other ways to cool an aquarium.

I have a 12″ electric room fan on a small pedestal. The fan will oscillate if required but I keep it fixed. The fan is directed across the front glass of the aquarium so that the air flow runs along it. The flow of air is surprisingly cool. This air flow causes the aquarium to act like a radiator and it spills heat. Sometimes I leave it running all day, switching it off in the evening when I notice that the heater controller indicator has started to flash – that is, the seawater is cooling sufficiently to need heat.

Another way of cooling an aquarium, and it is more effective, is to blow air across the top of the seawater. This can be done with small 4″ to 6″ fans, one or more as required. The fans are fixed to the end panels of the aquarium. The potential problem with this is electricity: the fans must be stable and secure and there must be no way whatsoever for seawater to splash the fans or it could be dangerous.

A much better way is to use a room fan such as I do – 12″ or so – but buy one mounted on a taller adjustable pedestal. This means the fan can be adjusted to blow across the seawater surface but is safer as it is not near the seawater, but standing away from the aquarium.

Using fans to blow air across the seawater surface is a good cooling method, but does increase evaporation.

Any aquarist who uses a hood for the lighting system should consider the heat that could be getting into the aquarium. This applies to metal halide bulbs, and also to T5 fluorescent tubes. An array of T5’s can give off a surprising amount of heat. The output from the lighting can increase the seawater temperature on its own, but allied with warm air in the room the temperature could rise excessively.

It is not difficult to vent a lighting hood in most cases. The use of computer type fans can be of use. Need depends to an extent on the size of the hood and the number of bulbs or tubes in it. Some aquarists use two fans, one at each end. One is set to suck and one to blow, creating a continuous cooling flow of air which moves the heat out of the hood.

Another way is to put a fan (or more depending on need) in the upper surface of the hood. The fan is set to blow air out of the hood, that is upwards. Therefore air is drawn in from underneath, or vents in the ends, and the heat is blown up away from the seawater.

Of course, depending on the amount of heat being extracted from the hood, this could have an effect on the room air temperature. If the air temperature rises, it can increase the seawater temperature. In this case if air conditioning is in use then that will deal with the air temperature but will have an impact, probably not particularly significant, on the running cost. Or maybe an extractor fan can be used in the room. Or maybe just leaving a window or two open will be sufficient.

Whatever the aquarist decides, the usually simple operation will avoid the stress caused by temperature increase. A large enough increase can be a disaster.

(Note: electricity and seawater can be a lethal combination. Electricity on its own can be dangerous. If the aquarist is not totally confident in his/her knowledge and ability, then it is important to seek qualified advice.)