The Cold Is Coming…..

It is that time of year again where the climate is starting to change to the colder type. It is not the type of weather I personally am a fan of. I like warm weather where time can be spent in the garden, have barbeques, play with the family etc but there is nothing we can do to influence the climate is there?

There are of course certain areas of the world where the climate is still quite nice but where I am from a chill can certainly be felt in the air. For the people who live in more temperate climates than I do then I can officially sayheat that I am very jealous – not that I am complaining about the area I live in as it s very nice but I do wish it could be a bit warmer.

Anyway now that the cold is coming we need to think about our aquariums and how we can keep the heat inside where it needs to be.

We can’t win can we – in the summer periods we concentrate on preventing them getting to hot and in the colder periods we concentrate on keeping them warm.

This does depend upon whereabouts the aquarium is located in the home but for the majority of aquarists heat loss is something which needs to be prevented if possible. If for example your aquarium is located in your family room then due to central heating the aquarium will be ok for the majority of the day, however what about night time when normally the central heating is turned off and we are all tucked up nice and warm in our beds.

Another example could be the in-wall aquarium where the front of the aquarium is like a living picture however the rear and sides of the aquarium are in another room. This could be a garage, fish room etc – somewhere where perhaps heating is not provided. In these areas it is going to get cold. This is what my aquarium setup is like.

The first things to check are your physical heaters. You need to ensure that the thermostat is not stuck at all and that the heaters are still working correctly. A good way to do this is to remove them from the aquarium – after unplugging them first and then put them in a container with some cold water in it. The thermostat should pick up the cold water temperature and turn the element on which will in turn heat the water. This means that the heater is working ok. Don’t remove the heater just yet. Let it heat up the water until it is the correct temperature and ensure that it turns off ok. If it does then the heater is working as expected. If it does not then the heater needs to be replaced.

A better way in my opinion is not to rely upon the thermostat of the actual heaters but to utilise a device which monitors the water via a probe and turns the heaters on if required. It is the same principle but I have had to many heater failures to put my complete trust in them. The controller I use (as does John) is one which monitors the temperature and pulses the heater which then warms the water up. The warmer it is towards the correct temperature the less it pulses – the colder it is the more it pulses. There are of course other variants of aquarium heater controllers on the market.

Now that you have verified the heater is working as expected the next thing you want to look at is keeping this expensive heat inside the aquarium.

Glass in the aquarium and especially open top aquariums allow heat to dissapate and therefore the aquarium will cool down. On my aquarium what I have done is lag the sides and rear of the aquarium with polystyrene which effectively insulates the aquarium. Whilst this does not look that good they cannot be seen as the rear and sides of the aquarium are in the garage. The rear and sides of the aquarium are painted so from the front the polystyrene cannot be seen. At night I also use cover glasses over the aquarium for when the lights go off in an attempt to keep the heat in the aquarium. The sump/refugium area are also both insulated so that again heat is kept in. I do not insulate any of my overflows or return pipes as the water travels through them at such a pace that heat loss is not that great a concern.

For the aquarium which is inside the home then insulation is probably not something you would choose to do for aesthetic reasons however cover glasses could be used at night time or even all the time if fluorescent lighting is used. In this instance I would recommend that aquarium temperature controllers be investigated and purchased to control the heat more efficiently rather than the on or off methods of traditional heaters.

Of course it is also imperative that enough heating wattage is being used in the aquarium and that two heaters are used instead of just one just in case a heater failure was to occur.

As we always say – stability is key and temperature is no exception.


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1 Comment
  1. Hi Guys,
    Yeah that cold weather sucks. We live in Homer, Alaska which is fairly mild by Alaska standards but nevertheless can get pretty chilly. Aside from the usual preventitive maintenance and pre-season checks, the real concern for fish keepers up here is what to do when the fuel oil runs out or the power goes off. Most of us have wood stoves to supplement our heat and some have portable generators to keep the fish tanks running. But if the power is out for any length of time our fish are in trouble.

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