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Substrate heaters, who has one?

1484 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  greenleaf888
I was just reading about substrate heaters and I must say that they sound very appealing, especially for a planted tank. One point that bothered me however, was what if the heating cables failed and you had to replace them!?!
But looking at pictures of them, they don't really seem like they would be prone to failure. Is this a valid concern? I don't really see how a cable can fail.. I could see the controller failing, but that is easily replaced..

I looked at a Hydor and a Dupla and the Dupla seems much nicer, but I really have no clue. What have your own experiences been with substrate heaters, any good advice to share? Can anyone recommend a good information source on the subject?

BTW, for those of you who have used Flourite and Eco Complete, which do you prefer? I am using Flourite and it seems ok, a little messy at first, but other than that I have had no real problems.
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Don't use a substrate heater. They don't help anything.
Did you have a bad personal experience with substrate heaters?
they are pretty much useless. I had one for a while that fortunately I got pretty cheap. Didn't notice ANY difference and I actually had to unplugg it for the entire summer and spring because it made the tank to hot.

If your dead set on using one they don't hurt anything. My only reccomendation to use with them is a sheet of screen used to repair window screens. Get a roll from lowes or home dep and cut it to the size of your tank bottom, lay the heat cables then the screen and then the substrate... otherwise good luck moving anything with roots
I had one, and as long as it was working it was good -- heating the tank evenly. Then one day it stopped working and turned into a useless red cable that sometimes tried to come out between the gravel. Then I redid the tank and threw it into the trash.

I don't think they are bad heaters, and I don't think they help to grow plants better or keep the substrate healthier somehow. They can be a total pain when you are trying to pull out severely rootbound plants.

If you are using a canister filter with your tank, check out the Hydor external heater, pretty good idea.
I had 7 of them over the years for about 10 year's total for the usage of each.
I've never seen any difference and tried in vain to show any difference in growth or any other potentially measureable parameter in an aquarium.

I think I covered the bases, repeated a number of test of their marketing depts potential benefits that was claimed, never found anything significant, even the most staunch advocates admitted the same when questioned about it.

Tropica also will tell you that the optimal flow rates for plant roots is much lower, about the rate of no cables, for aquatic plant roots.

There is not scientific support that I have ever been able to find on the topic.


1. Test
2. Practical "does it work"
3. Tropica
4. Lack of any research based support

I see no support, no reason, and that is a waste of $.

If anyone can show otherwise, I'd be happy to see their test and research.
Just a simple test, simple methods etc, it need not be complex.

Many have turned their cables off during the summer and never seen a difference, later, they toss them out entirely and still never saw a difference in the winter either. It's a heater, that's about it. Does not hurt, but sure does not do what the marketing depts claim........... would you like to buy some Hydrilla pills that provide concentrated DNA and increase vigor and stamina? :tongue:

Tom Barr
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Im currently running a Rena Core 8m heater cable under the subsrate in my Discus tank. I love it:D The cable alone heats the 98gal tank to 28c which means my 300w heater is barely ever on! When introduced the plants took no time at all to root and look great, having moved the thermometer around a few times there are no fluctuations in temp even where the flow is very slow!
I wouldn't retrofit one tho as disturbing a substrate is a baaaaad idea, bit like pandora's box....
I have been unable to find any concrete evidence supporting the beneficial effects of substrate heaters on plant life, but I succeeded in digging up a slough of worthless comments that would suggest this. The comments made here however, only seem to confirm that these heaters have no impact what so ever on the planted tank. I still think that they would provide a more even heat source, especially with larger tanks. And after comparing prices on various heaters, substrate heaters may even be a more cost effective way of heating larger aquariums. But these two points are trivial in my opinion, because it's easy to see that the substrate heater has one major flaw and that is the ability to be replaced easily if something goes wrong with it.

I think I will try the visi-therm stealth heaters for my next tank, as I have read nothing but good about them..

Anyways thanks for all the responses and helping me come to my conclusion. I will take good old experience over unsupported comments any day.

BTW Plantbrain, could you tell me more about Hydrilla pills? I always thought I was a little lacking in the vigor and stamina department. :icon_excl
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