Can tropicals be kept outside without a heater? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-19-2019, 05:28 PM Thread Starter
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Can tropicals be kept outside without a heater?

Hi all! If I used a pop up greenhouse, could I keep genuine tropical fish outside for the summer without a heater? I was hoping to keep Microctenopoma fasciolatum, which prefers temps no lower than 68 degrees (no clue what its lower lethal limit is). I live in zone 5, so even in the peak of summer nighttime air temps frequently drop into the low 60's; I was wondering if the greenhouse could mitigate that. Thanks!
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-19-2019, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Grah the great View Post
Hi all! If I used a pop up greenhouse, could I keep genuine tropical fish outside for the summer without a heater? I was hoping to keep Microctenopoma fasciolatum, which prefers temps no lower than 68 degrees (no clue what its lower lethal limit is). I live in zone 5, so even in the peak of summer nighttime air temps frequently drop into the low 60's; I was wondering if the greenhouse could mitigate that. Thanks!
I very much doubt that fish will live through a winter in zone 5 without a heater.

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-19-2019, 06:58 PM Thread Starter
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I very much doubt that fish will live through a winter in zone 5 without a heater.
I know...I was asking about summer, though
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-19-2019, 09:36 PM
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Air temps and water temps can be different - you could try setting it up and then monitoring the water temperature to see what range you actually get before introducing fish.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-19-2019, 09:43 PM
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I mean possibly. If anything I'd be worried about cooking them during the middle of the day rather than the tank cooling down too much at night in a greenhouse

It sounds like it would be really difficult. Assuming it all worked perfectly, one cloudy day and everything is thrown off.
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-19-2019, 10:13 PM Thread Starter
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Hmmm...I guess I can open the ventilation on the greenhouse in the morning and close it before nightfall? Would that help? (And of course I could leave it closed on a cloudy, cool day)
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 12:24 AM
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Greenhouses are a separate world just like fish tanks. They all take some figuring what will work but when I tried them in the St. Louis area, I decided it not worth the effort as it just got too cold to really enjoy the heating bills to keep them up to 45 which was what my plants felt okay. Now that I'm way South, we have the greenhouse and it's not too bad with setting it up full time and using an automatic vent opener from Harbor Freight ($25 ish?) We did hit ninety last week!!!
But in your area and adding the fish question, it looks really tough. I think you are more likely to be needing a full blown heater and running quite a lot, so that means thermostat to control and pretty tough bills--- Sometimes we have to admit it is just not THAT much fun?
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 12:53 AM Thread Starter
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Guess I will stick to more cool weather tolerant fishes outdoors then...thanks though
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-20-2019, 04:46 PM
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I know it is a dangerous subject to even open but I will anyway as weather is an old time subject with me. My Air Force job was "weather observer" and I still like it!
But as fish keepers we get to observe some detail things closer than lots of folks do. Things like how the water moves when we heat one side of a tank and the water goes up in that spot and comes down in another? Air moves much the same way, so as we see some spots on the globe get heated more, air will go up in that area and also see that air move down in the cooler spots like around the poles. So when I see it getting 90 degrees in Texas, I have to assume there will be lots of cold air pushed out from the poles and the Northeast United States will get a big hit from snow and cold!
That makes it really hard to cope with the weather because it becomes much more common to have the radical changes. Folks with greenhouses may find they are not heated enough one year and not cooled enough the next! Still being February, I had not considered connecting the vent opener yet and we nearly cooked the plants we had moved inside to protect from the cold!!
Not meant to start the silliness of the political argument, just something we may need to think about if we keep our fish/plants outside at times.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-29-2019, 07:22 PM
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I honestly wouldn't do it if temperature falls under 50s but that's just me. I have done it with guppies before but that's all.


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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-30-2019, 03:46 PM
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I kept guppies outside in an 18 gallon tote and they were fine through mid October, which I think was pushing it a little. My biggest issue was keeping them shaded enough during midday sun and heat. They produced quite a few fry. It was a learning experience. You should look at Rachel O'Leary's YouTube's on summer tubing. I am planning on either a 40 gallon or 110 gallon stock tank tub this summer and plan on trying platties. The plants will go in the tub long before the fish but fish will go into it. Good luck!

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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-02-2019, 02:02 AM
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I kept guppies outside in an 18 gallon tote and they were fine through mid October, which I think was pushing it a little. My biggest issue was keeping them shaded enough during midday sun and heat. They produced quite a few fry. It was a learning experience. You should look at Rachel O'Leary's YouTube's on summer tubing. I am planning on either a 40 gallon or 110 gallon stock tank tub this summer and plan on trying platties. The plants will go in the tub long before the fish but fish will go into it. Good luck!
I second the recommendation to look at Rachel O'Leary's YouTube's on summer tubing. She keeps shrimp in tubs in her greenhouse (in PA).

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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-17-2019, 12:35 PM
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I kept an outdoor tropical tank last season spring->summer>fall in zone 5 (no greenhouse!). HOWEVER, I had an 800w Titanium heater w/external Finnex controller to ensure that the water temp never got below 70F (Actually had it set to 75F.) I think it would work fine in a greenhouse in zone 5 with proper ventilation and shade cloth if/when necessary...BUT for most fish, I say you need a heater for backup. You can find some really good deals on 500w heaters.

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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-17-2019, 01:33 PM
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On the other hand, there are a number of fish that we keep in warm waters that can stand, and prefer, cooler water. Cory's come to mind. While not cold weather fish by any stretch, there are some that prefer cooler water than what we keep them in. Also, I believe that the biggest issue is in temp changes. You might not be able to put your fish out until say June, but then they get conditioned to the temperature and with a large enough tub the temps do not swing that drastically. Having said that, there are always exceptions. Here in the Northeast we just had snow in mid May. Unusual but not unheard of. So, give it a shot, keep an eye on the placement of your pond (shade/sun) and the temperature in it, both mid day and say first thing in the A.M.

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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-17-2019, 02:15 PM
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@reddhawkk makes a good point. I had a 110g stock tank, but a 300g tank would be even more thermally stable. With very small tubs, temperature swings will be close to ambient.
A couple of other thoughts. When I moved my tank into the basement for winter (55F), I used some old carpet padding to wrap the tank (like a koosie) to insulate it. In a greenhouse you might create a heat sink with containers of water (absorbing excess heat during the day and releasing it during cooler nights).

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