Inline heaters, backup heaters and ambient room temperature.
I was going to put an inline heater on my filter as I want a backup and liked the idea of the inline out of sight heater. Hydor have two units, 200W and 300W which are a little larger than I need for a 37 gallon tank.
I currently have a 150W Aqueon Pro (black plastic case, no glass) that I like as it hides beside a vertical piece of driftwood so it doesn't stand out. It also has a bi-colour LED that is green for power and red for heating. I always know that it is plugged in.
This would become my backup heater.
The issue arises that a 150W heater is not enough to maintain the water temperature without adequate water circulation, at least in winter when the ambient room temperature can be 65F or lower.
Apparently I need the filter on to circulate the water for the heater to do it's job, it's own convection is not enough. Oversizing the heater is a good idea for those in colder climates or in homes that the temperature may vary throughout the day. Even air conditioning blowing in the vicinity of the tank could cause some problems.
My conundrum is that I was going to consider the intank a backup to the inline and in another thread I even said that an inline shouldn't be the sole source of heat as with the filter off, the tank has no heat. I might suppose that my intank would have still maintained a somewhat lower temperature but I don't think I can really rely on it as a full backup. Even during water changes in high 60F temperatures I am surprised how fast the water loses temperature... yesterday I did a 10% change and left the heater plugged in and still lost a few degrees.
So I suppose that I am technically still relying on my filter to provide heat throughout the tank, even if indirectly, and my backup is not truly a backup afterall.
It's never as simple as it seems.
Circulation is very important for maintaining an even temperature in the tank - the heater won't do that on its own. That's just the way it is - no way around that. Without the circulation, the water around the heater reaches temp and shuts it off.
Water actually retains heat very well - it's one of its properties. In a 37 gallon tank, you should not be losing that much heat during a small water change. What is the tanks temperature normally? If you are maintaining a very warm tank, then I can see how it might lose a couple - but over what kind of time frame?
In my experience a temp swing of a few degrees is no big deal.
I expect that perhaps a larger heater just has a warmer or slightly larger warm water spot. Would placing the heater horizontal make it more effective as it is not longer a column of warm water I wonder?
It's six of one and a half dozen of the other - some form of water circulation is required to evenly distribute the heat. Some people like to have their heaters horizontally mounted, others like it vertically mounted. It's a preference. Proponents of the horizontal claim benefits in doing so, while the vertical crowd shrugs their shoulders and says their way works fine. As long as the tank is essentially the same temp throughout, I don't see what difference it makes.
I only use heaters in my quarantine tanks, for preemptive heat treatments on new fish, but I've seen this topic debated a number of times.
It seems multiple issues are in play here.
> Regardless of the heater wattage, you need water circulation in the tank to establish a uniform temperature to prevent thermal gradients in the tank. Just like air, if stagnant, hot water rises and cold water sinks. I don't know that there is any significant difference in vertical vs. horizontal heater position.
> Some feel differently, but I added another heater (Aqueon Pro's) that is also capable of maintaining tank temperature. That way, if one heater fails, the temperature is still maintained.
> Heaters are typically rated in wattage relative to room temperature, so if the expected room temperature range may get rather low (winter in the north) you may need to step up the wattage to the next size greater. Again, two heaters can better guard against temperature drops when the room temperature drops low.
> When doing water changes, you should ensure the source water temperature is the same as (or close to) the tank temperature. Easy if you can fill from the tap...just find the right tap settings and index your faucets. I'm forced to use 5g buckets (long story) so I heat (treated source water) with inexpensive submersible heaters the day before.
However, as mentioned slight variation is no problem and some even suggest a slightly cooler source water temperature for changes that more closely would represent rain in the wild (It's felt this stimulates some fish).
I'm in the 5 gallon bucket source club, but it's a short story... the tap cannot be adapted to a hose of any type. Pail and pump.
I still like the inline and, seeing as the filter is an integral part of my heating system anyway, I will probably go that way for my second heater. Worst case I can always drop my fountain pump turned down low to circulate the water in a pinch... but, the failure of the filter is pretty unlikely.
The "difference" between vertical and horizontal placement of the heater is a matter of physics. Warm water rises, so the proponents of the horizontal mount feel that that prevents the warmed water from rising to the thermostat of the heater. Depending on the location of the heater with respect to the filter, people with minimal to no circulation could probably benefit from this. In a tank with good circulation, that's just a non issue.
The other heater that I had chosen, but didn't go with due to availability and my impatience, was the titanium (Aqua Via or something like that) that uses an out of tank digital temperature control and separate probe for water temp. It meant more wires but the remote temperature probe looked like a great idea.
Yes, that argument assumes the thermostat is at the top of the heater.
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