Don’t Let Your Power Cables Become A Spaghetti Junction

Whatever type of marine aquarium is owned there is one thing that it needs and that is electricity. The aquarium is usually placed close to a power outlet so that connection is easier.

Lots of equipment is available for the aquarium. For all types of system there is lighting, pumps for seawater movement, and a protein skimmer. If a sump is used there will be a return pump. On a reef there will possibly be a calcium reactor and the like. Maybe the system has auto top-up, supplementation using a peristaltic pump etc.

All of these devices need connecting safely and securely to the electricity supply.

What often happens is the aquarist connects a device up and then moves on to the next one. As progress is made more and more cables hang down the back of the aquarium crossing over each other or passing in between others. In the future this could mean difficulties.

Equipment can fail and when this occurs the first action is to disconnect the offending device from the mains supply. Which plug is it? Usually there is a row of plugs often connected to a multi-plug bar. There’s nothing basically wrong with this but there needs to be some identification of individual plug functions. This is easily accomplished by using white gloss paint and a child’s paintbrush or sticking on securely a label indicating the function, either by numbers or abbreviation. These are simple, how about ‘S’ for skimmer for example.

Before the devices are even connected, could the number of plugs be reduced? ‘Same function’ devices could give this opportunity, such as multi actinic fluorescent lights, powerhead circulators and similar. It is unlikely that the power rating for the plug will be exceeded as most aquarium devices are low powered. A watch must be kept for this and all devices have a power rating given in watts (W). Examples of devices where wattage is going to be higher are heaters and metal halide lighting.

Clearly if the devices are supplied with plugs of the sealed variety which are already wired up then the above is not an option. If it is legal in the aquarist’s area and if the aquarist is competent, then even sealed plugs can be removed and re-wired with new plugs to permit multi use. Competence and legality have been mentioned, the law must not be broken and competence is a must with electricity as incorrectly used it is dangerous or even lethal. Don’t take chances and/or assume ‘it will be ok.’

Another way of connecting devices is to use ‘cable tidies.’ These allow several devices to be connected. Ensure that the model has sufficient connections plus a couple to spare and be careful to follow any instructions.

The wires hanging down the back of the aquarium could be untidy and give the aquarist a problem in the future. Even if there is identification on the plugs, when an attempt is made to pull the wire through so that the attached device can be removed, the plug could become snagged with other wires. This occurs where wires behind the aquarium are interwoven and/or twisted with others and it is very easy for this to occur in the connecting up stage.

It would be reasonably simple to wrap adhesive tape around groups of wires and this would certainly tidy things up. It would not solve the problem though as the need to withdraw a particular cable would remain difficult. It is better to either keep cables individual or keep them in groups where multi connection through a plug has been done. The wires could be held together with purpose made twist cords, or even string fastened in a bow so it is easy to undo.

To achieve neat wiring it is necessary to put any group wiring in and fasten it together immediately. Any single cables should be carefully placed so that they do not run under and over other cables which will permit them to be withdrawn if required. When any new or replacement device is fitted, the cable must be clear of entanglement.

The attention given to the stocked aquarium is high, and rightly so. Paying attention to simple matters such as tidy wiring (perhaps it could be termed logical wiring) and device accessibility should one require removal is a positive action during the connection process.