Using aquarium heaters

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by woodmort, Aug 22, 2010.

  1. It seems like I've written about 10 post on threads concerning heating waterers using these with the simple warning: do not use. So I'll make a single thread and hope those with the same questions will read it.

    I spent 30 year in the aquarium hobby not only as a hobbyist/breeder but I used to write consumer testing reports for a national magazine on a variety of aquarium products, including heaters. In that time I used and checked not only the simple, hang-on-the back of the tank heaters but submersible types made of glass, metal, even heating pad types. Most had the thermostat inside the same tube as the heater but for some units the two were separate. All were designed to heat water from interior room temperature to a maximum of 85 degrees and most weren't total reliable. (Over the years I probably lost more fish from failed heaters--either too hot or too cold--than any other single cause.) The thermostats of most were bi-metal ones that would either stick open or fail to close--just adjusting them often took several days. Additionally, if the water level fell below the heating element when the temperature was below the set one, the heater would not shut off until it either burned out or, in those cases where the tube was glass, shattered the tube. Often when the latter happened the electrical circuit remained open pumping power through the water. In short, they are not made for nor do you want these things in the waterer that is in your chicken coop! There are heaters designed for this thing, either submersible birdbath heaters which are probably okay in areas where the temperatures aren't extreme to specific chicken waterer devices. Don't try elaborate schemes to save a couple of bucks by using an aquarium heater, go with a device designed for the correct job. Chances are you'll end up with one eventually anyway.
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  2. rcentner

    rcentner Songster

    Sep 6, 2009
    Le Roy, NY
    thanks for the input, we chicken folk are always trying to save a buck! I like not learning the hard way!
  3. I agree.

    The only fishtank heater I've seen that might work in a waterer would be the Marineland Stealth. No glass parts, electronic thermostat and an automatic shut-off when the water level drops. They run about $25. But it was meant to keep a fish tank at a minimum temp, no where near the lowest temp that will keep ice from forming. So this heater will be working twice as hard as it was designed to. I'm sure it will burn out in no time, it will be trying to keep the water at a minimum temp of around 70 degrees ALL THE TIME. I have to replace my fish tank heaters about every so often because they just burn out and that's indoors where the temp never drops below 60 degrees. I've gone through 4 for three tanks over the last 5 years.

    I don't think you are saving much money in the long run using a fish tank heater.
  4. Mak

    Mak Songster

    Dec 12, 2009
    Londonderry, NH
    And I'm going to be the voice of dissent here. [​IMG] Not that I am endorsing using aquarium heaters for chicken water buckets, but-

    I've been keeping fish for over 20 years now. I currently have 4 tanks indoors and small goldfish pond in the yard. I can say that since I started using Ebo Jager heaters in my tanks, I have never had one fail or break. The heater in my 90 gallon African cichlid tank has got to be over 10 years old and still going strong. Keeps the temp exactly where I want it, except when we get an extended heat wave and it just doesn't come on. The dgital one I have in the saltwater tank (it's a WON ProHeat II) varies by no more than about 3 or 4 tenths of a degree. I've never lost a fish to heater failure. I have lost 'em to power failures, but that's a whole 'nother thing.

    Again, not saying these are the best solution for chicken water buckets. As pointed out, that is not their intended use, but then again, how many of us are using other things not intended for the use we put them to?
  5. I've used a lot of Jager heaters and found they were reliable but given that an aquarium holds a lot more water than a chicken waterer they probably wouldn't stand the constant usage that would be required to keep water temperatures above freezing. Any aquarium heater is just not designed for that kind of use--even the best would burn out. Also I once had one in a 50-gallon stainless steel/glass aquarium that had a single 16-inch Cichla sp. (Peacock Bass). Somehow, in his trashing around he broke the Jager heater without my knowledge. Of course he wasn't grounded in the tank but I was when I touched the frame. It gave me a nasty jolt which, because the room was in a GF circuit, kept me from worse damage.

    Quite simply there are things that can be used where they aren't originally devised but an aquarium heater in a chicken waterer isn't one of them.
  6. Mak

    Mak Songster

    Dec 12, 2009
    Londonderry, NH
    True enough about the aquarium holding more water. And I wasn't really suggesting that anyone use an aquarium heater. I have no plans to. I need all mine for the tanks! [​IMG]

    On an unrelated note- Oxford, huh? We used to live in Norwich about a hundred years ago.
  7. Been here since '62--retired from teaching at OACS in '94. Was really active in tropical fish, especially cichlids, from late '60's through mid'90's. If you lived in Norwich and had tropical fish chances are you knew Francis Vining on Canasawacta St., loved her.
  8. Ariel301

    Ariel301 Songster

    Nov 14, 2009
    Kingman Arizona
    A heater/de-icer for livestock waterers will probably cost you the same as a good aquarium heater anyway...

    Aquarium heaters scare me. I've had so many of them explode in tanks, or overheat and cook expensive fish...I lost several breeding pairs of angelfish in a big tank with dividers that way, came home to find the water over 100 degrees and the fish floating because the thermostat on the heater stuck on. I had one that had a flaw in the glass tube and it actually exploded in my hand when I bumped it against the back of the tank trying to move it! You'd think they would figure out how to make them more reliable, as long as they have been around.
  9. MsPony

    MsPony Songster

    Mar 2, 2010
    Santa Barbara
    Quote:Agreed about the Marineland Stealth! Love the line, best seller. However, I would never use one for a chicken waterer! Just the other day we were getting brine shrimp and my manager was getting shocked by the heater, through the water (or brine shrimp?!) It was weird, and not even an old heater.
  10. greenmulberry

    greenmulberry Songster

    Jul 17, 2007
    Yeah, I have had my fair share of shocks from aquarium heaters, only the glass ones though. They would make me too nervous in a chicken coop environment.

    Even the higher end titanium ones, I always used three or four smaller ones in my large reef tanks rather than one or two large ones, that way when one inevitably failed, either by staying on, staying off, or just going wonky, it wasn't so strong as to influence the temp quickly.

    I am all for finding alternative ways to heat chicken water, given it gets into negative teens, AND I happen to have a bunch of aquarium heaters gathering dust, but I am going to pass on using them in a chicken coop for heating drinking water.

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