Retaining Heat - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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Retaining Heat

Hey all,

Does anyone have any experience insulating a glass aquarium?

I recently planted my 20 high glass tank, outfitted with a Marina Slim S15 HOB filter and a sponge filter. I also DIY'd a plexiglass top and a simple wooden "canopy". It has a 100w heater.

That heater should be more than enough to keep the tank at a consistent temp right? I live in WI, and my apartment can get pretty cold during the night. The heater seems to be having difficulty keeping the tank up to the 78 degrees it's preset to...

I'm wondering if there's any way to add a background/back piece that would at least partially insulate the tank. I know that plywood is a good insulator so would that work?

If this isn't possible, does anyone have any advice for a fix?

Thanks!
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 03:46 PM
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I use sheets of foam board insulation cut to the size of the tank panels and insulate the sides, back and bottom of the tank. If the heater is not up to the task though, I'd suggest getting something a bit stronger and still insulate the tank.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 03:47 PM
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I'm not currently in cold country but have in the past. I find plywood is somewhat more difficult to work than some of the foam insulation board (blue or pink board?) that I can cut and shape with a hand held tool.
The canopy is a good start and if you also have lights inside the canopy, that heat can be used as well. When wanting heat, closing the back of the canopy can help a lot?
But then, I might have some question on the heater setting. I do not use the numbers as much more than "suggestions" of what they may do. If adjustable, try setting it higher but if not adjustable, I might consider it defective if it can't maintain heat in that size tank.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 05:17 PM Thread Starter
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Great advice, thanks!

So step one should be making sure the back of the canopy is closed. Right now, about an inch at the back of the plexiglass is open to make room for the HOB. I'll work on closing that first. I should do that anyway, to keep my fish in the tank and off the floor!

Next step will be seeing what the heater does, and if it can't maintain 78 degrees, I'll replace it. Would 2x50w heaters work better? I've heard that can be the better route, but I'm not sure with the taller tank.

After that I will look into purchasing some foam board, that does sound more manageable than plywood!
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Fishbeard View Post

Next step will be seeing what the heater does, and if it can't maintain 78 degrees, I'll replace it. Would 2x50w heaters work better? I've heard that can be the better route, but I'm not sure with the taller tank.
If 1x100 w heater cant do it then in theory 2x50 w shouldn't be any better for you. 100 watts is still 100 watts no matter how many devices you might use to reach it. You're always better off using a more powerful something at less than full capacity than using the smaller version at full capacity.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 08:43 PM
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You're always better off using a more powerful something at less than full capacity than using the smaller version at full capacity.
Well except for furnaces.. but that is a different story..


Anyways agreed.


And also being from WI I don't have a single tank that is either over-watted or has 2 heaters-both over watted..
But I have an older home w/ tanks near windows..it is a necessity AFAICT..
500W on a 40 (300/200) 2 heaters (150,100W) on a 55 125w on a 20..ect..

They only use power when they are on..so you get no savings by going smaller.. just less watts for longer time..
Oh and I do prefer 2 over one.. but each one should be sufficient..

Considering both aren't synched (could be done w/ a controller.) probably use a bit more power than necessary.........

water is fairly good at retaining heat (warmer by the lake.. ) but when it is 0 outside.. well another story.

EDIT: MADE corrections to my overzealous watt ratings..

"A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure."

Last edited by jeffkrol; 02-15-2017 at 01:04 AM. Reason: edit
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-14-2017, 10:45 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, so would adding a 50w heater (ordered as a backup for all my tanks, so I have it anyway) to the 20g high be a good move if improving the plexiglass doesn't do it?
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 03:00 PM
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They only use power when they are on..so you get no savings by going smaller.. just less watts for longer time..
Oh and I do prefer 2 over one.. but each one should be sufficient..
.
Very true!

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Ok, so would adding a 50w heater (ordered as a backup for all my tanks, so I have it anyway) to the 20g high be a good move if improving the plexiglass doesn't do it?
Yes....but using 2 without a controller can be a bit tricky just because of finicky it can be to set these thing where you want/need them.

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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 05:11 PM Thread Starter
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Gotcha. I'll leave just the 100w for now, hopefully I'm able to remedy it w/o replacing the heater then... I'll update when I'm able to sit down and work on the tank...
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 05:56 PM
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If you are looking for a temp of 78 F in a 20 gal tank you should have 150w worth of heating. You can insulate and do lots of other things to help like reducing surface agitation all of which is not necessary and could be more harmful. In the end I would say your going to shorten the life of your heater and chase solutions that are unnecessary. The proper equipment for the job is the only advice I can give in good conscience. So in short I would say your only practical option is to get another heater with a min of 150w or add another to achieve the same.

Dan
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 06:21 PM
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Does your tank temperature fluctuate much during the day? How cool does the room get? Your heater may be fine. Have you tried setting the thermostat a bit higher? These things can be off by a couple degrees.
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 07:32 PM
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you will be fine with just the heater. don't even worry about it. you may need more than 100W heater though... luckily heaters are super cheap. you can get one for like $15 on amazon

generally you do not want to strain your heater... like Dan said... just get the right equipment for the job


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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 08:41 PM Thread Starter
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Temp can vary throughout the day, since my apartment has radiators that kick on at random intervals.

I do have a lot of surface agitation, because of the sponge filter, but I have that it my other 2 tanks have the same setup with fine results.

The temp has been more consistant around 75 degrees lately, but takes awhile to heat back up if I do a water change with a small degree difference (like 73). I'm hoping that keeping heat from escaping out the top will solve the problem.

I'm also thinking ahead to the summer, where it can get in the high 80s regularly. I know there are chillers, but I'm wondering if the insulation on the back with prevent the tank from heating up as quickly as well?
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 09:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishbeard View Post
Temp can vary throughout the day, since my apartment has radiators that kick on at random intervals.

I do have a lot of surface agitation, because of the sponge filter, but I have that it my other 2 tanks have the same setup with fine results.

The temp has been more consistant around 75 degrees lately, but takes awhile to heat back up if I do a water change with a small degree difference (like 73). I'm hoping that keeping heat from escaping out the top will solve the problem.

I'm also thinking ahead to the summer, where it can get in the high 80s regularly. I know there are chillers, but I'm wondering if the insulation on the back with prevent the tank from heating up as quickly as well?
The only thing insulating will do and do poorly since you cannot fully insulate it, is slow down the change in temp and without fully insulating the measurable difference will be next to nil. Think of a regular styrofoam cooler filled with ice, completely insulated with the lid on the ice will last several hours but will eventually reach the same temp as the ambient temp outside the ice box. Now take the lid off and test the same. The ice will melt virtually at the same speed as if it were not insulated at all.

Water will have a lower temp than the ambient temp due to evaporation and temp will change slower as the volume of water increases. So even though you may reach 80 degrees in the heat of the day the lower temps at night will offset this to some degree. example ... temp is 75 during the night and 80 during the day you may only see a 1 degree change in water temp over a 24hr period because water takes much more time to change in temp that air. Another point is that putting a bigger heater in will not make your tank warmer during the summer... it will heat to the setpoint and shutoff so in summer it may not come on at all if not needed but in colder months it will keep the tank at the proper temp. The more evaporation the cooler your water will be as compared to the ambient temp. So surface agitation with no lids combined with a proper sized heater should give you a nice stable tank temp throughout the summer and winter. And I say should because I by no means can guarantee you this.

Dan
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 10:33 PM
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I think you should add another 100w heater.

My 60g 'could' function (at normal room temperature of 72F) with a single 150w heater.
Instead, I have two 200w heaters in the tank, both controlled by an external Finnex (HC-0810M) controller.
Having two heaters lightens the load on each and should one or the other ever fail, the temperature can be maintained by a single heater.

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