Well dern it! I was typing a reply and power just went out! No internet, and better yet 9 fish tanks and 3 reptiles without lights, heat, or filters! Fun. So yea, I'll shorten my answer completely. Yes it can read surface of water when used properly. While the conversion may be a "guess" as you call it .. It is correct and able to be checked and calibrated . Even health inspectors use them to test boiling water and other liquid surfaces( which can be highly inaccurate if the right technique is not used along with the right IR thermometer. Well anyway this wasn't meant to be a debate.. Just meant to help someone who had the same heater as one of mine ( that's currently without power) that happened to notice the sane thing I did.. The heater isn't broken it's the way the temp is read that doesn't work. However fish keeping doesn't need to be so specific or complicated.
And yes, I do like my steaks medium rare
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