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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Under the gravel.

Here's a story (I typically write too much). I set up my 60 gallon tank a little over a month ago. I have one heater stuck to the back like normal, but in an effort to hide some of the equipment, I decided to bury an extra 150W stealth heater (in true stealth fashion) beneath an inch or so of gravel. I figured water circulates enough through the gravel, and if anything, this would help facilitate that process (a la a standard UG heater cable). Poor decision on my part.

My girlfriend called me at work. "Something is happening. The power flickered off and on, and the light on the aquarium made a weird noise, and it was smoking, and now it smells weird."

Many things went through my head. Namely "I just got that brand new Coralife 2x96W fixture in the mail to replace the one that stopped working after 2 months. How bad are these things?"

I ran home, and after some investigation, I apologized to the light fixture, which seemed to be working just fine. If anything, the water smelled a little weird, but not so much the light. I just happened to notice part of the buried heater sticking up out of the gravel. It looked cracked. I unplugged it and pulled it out.






So, my theory is that a power surge (the "lights flickering" in the house) came through the lines, past 2 [cheap] protected strips. The heater, perhaps weakened by repeated expansion and contraction under extra external pressure, couldn't handle the spike, and it popped. I mean literally exploded. It blew itself out of the gravel, and itexpelled some rank chemical smoke, which was caught up by the intake fans of the coralife fixture, giving the appearance of a smoking light.

What's the silver lining? Well, so far everything else is ok. The fish--amazingly--survived. I don't have any RO water on hand, so I can't do an emergency change, but I'll take care of that tomorrow. The light is fine. And the tank is intact. With a pressurized explosion underwater, I hate to think of what could have happened. For example, the shock wave could have killed the fish or collapsed my log mountain upon them. Or it could have expanded down, blowing a hole through the bottom of the tank, presenting a 60 gallon tsunami upon all of my home theater equipment (which I acknowledge is too close for comfort).

So, all in all, I came through the emergency ok. But I got lucky. Let this be a lesson to you all: use underwater electronics the way they were designed to be used. Don't bury your heater in the gravel.

:iamwithst
 

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I feel like the heater cracked and when it shorted out thats what cause the lights to flicker. Probably no "explosion". Still a disaster though. The electric current wouldn't have bothered your fish...
 

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Glad to hear that none of the fish were harmed.

Like other posters have said, if you have a canister filter, I would also reccommend a inline heater from Hydor. I have one that I am running with my Eheim 2213 on a 10gal, and I have not had any problems with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yeah I've already planned for an inline heater on the new 20L I'm setting up with a canister filter. I really don't know what happened first--the heater blowing or the lights dimming. I guessed we were having trouble with the power because there was a truck from the electric company at a neighbor's when I got home; but it could certainly be a coincidence. I'm definitely getting a GFCI plug after this as well, if not a full line conditioner. Crisis averted. I just hope the inhabitants aren't adversely affected by any chemicals released during the event. Maybe the plants will enjoy some heavy metal trace nutrients. :icon_smil
 

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Good advice. I'm still new to the planted tank world, and all I have is a 15 gallon, but I don't use any heater at all. I've heard too many horror stories. Luckily, I have baseboard heating in my house, which keeps things nice and cosy, and my tank seems to stay between 74 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
 

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Reading threads and I noticed a influx of heater problems.

I need to ask a silly question!
What temperatures do everyone keep their homes at?


I have a few aquariums and none of them require heaters.
The temperature of the room plus pumps,lights and filters is more then enough to keep water in the mid 70s. If anything they would like to be cooled/ chilled.
And for reference, all my systems 50 gal + in size, all have open tops, and a couple have been setup for more the 10 years. Now I am not saying heaters are not required for aquariums,"maybe small aquariums" .
But IMHO I would like to point out from many years of experience that in some cases they are just added electrical equipment that does little or nothing for the health of the aquarium!!!!


MD
 

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Room temperature in my basement where I have 3 tanks can be in the 50s. Soon to have five tanks down there. My wife insists all tanks stay down there. Heaters aren't an option for me. They are mandatory. Never had an issue with any of mine and they run almost constantly...

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I need to ask a silly question!
What temperatures do everyone keep their homes at?
MD
66 degrees in the winter, during the day if I'm home. (if it isn't too cold out)

I regularly drop the heat to 55 degrees during the day when I'm at work, at night, or when it's under 20 degrees F outside.

My tetras would probably find 60 F markedly uncomfortable.

Tom
 

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I have the thermostat set at 60 during the day, but apparenetly it doesn't work right because my house is usually 68-70. I put it to 50 at night, which probably means it's around 55. My 29 doesn't have a heater, but it has cold water fish in it, and is usually around 65-70 degrees, even at night. My 10g shrimp tank has a heater set at 73, just to keep the temp constant.
 

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This is possibly off-topic, but I see a couple comments about inline heaters - I was thinking of getting one but haven't exactly seen a plethora of comments. I've seen several positive tidbits on the Hydor ETH line...

My main concern is that if the heater exploded (or less extreme, malfunctioned) the stand could catch fire instead of just damaging the tank and/or its inhabitants. Any insight from those using them? Is/was that a concern of yours as well?
 

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...hydror is plastic and nothing glass based. I think there is always a risk. I read online that only very very few had an issue with temps with the hydror. But nothing about bursting.

Im kinda scared like you, but id rather have a hydror than a heater in my tank.

If it does explode and catch on fire, the water flow will probably put the fire out lol.
 

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I went with an inline heater b/c since it's not submerged it's much less risk should it fail.

Not to mention it's an ugly thing out of the tank. :proud:

I've never had issues with mine, and I'm never looking back.

During the winter we keep the house 72-73F. I keep my tanks 78-80F, since during the summer they run 80-82F due to living in SW Florida...
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Well I thought mine would be a unique and entertaining anecdote. It didn't take much research to find many similar tales of Marineland Stealth heaters failing and exploding. As it turns out, it may have had nothing to do with it being under the gravel (though I still wouldn't recommend it). A potential manufacturer defect may have made the failure inevitable. I'm just glad I didn't lose any livestock or other equipment.

I live in Texas. In Winter, the thermostat is set to 60 degrees during the day, 70 at night. In summer, it's 75 at night and 85 during the day. In any event, my tank heaters aren't asked to work too hard (set at 78). On smaller tanks, I have more trouble keeping the water cool.
 
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