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Aquarium Chillers and How They Work


Fish make great pets.  They’re easy to feed, delightful to watch, and they don’t tear up
your furniture!  The only drawback to owning fish is you must learn to care for them
properly.  You’ll have to clean the aquarium without harming the fish, keep the water at
the correct temperature and have the right bacteria balance in the water.  Fish are very
sensitive, so the least little change might harm them or cause death.  Fortunately, there are
many new products on the market to help you care for your fish.  For example, adding an
aquarium chiller is one way you can control the climate in your aquarium easily.

How an Aquarium Chiller Works

A chiller is similar to an air conditioner or refrigerator in that it compresses gas to cool the
temperature of aquarium water.  A heat exchanger, along with gas, separates heat from
the water, carries the heat to a radiator, and releases it from the chiller with a fan.  Some
chillers are simple to use and some are complicated, requiring some plumbing work during
installation.

Does Your Aquarium Need a Chiller?

The location of your tank, operating equipment used, and the type of fish in your aquarium
can each help determine whether or not you need an aquarium chiller.

Location of Your Tank

Is your tank located in a room where air circulation is limited or no air conditioning is
available?  Is the tank exposed directly to sunlight throughout the day?  If so, an aquarium
chiller will come in handy to keep the water cool.

Operating Equipment for Your Aquarium

A chiller might be necessary if you use operating equipment in your tank for lighting or
filtering.  These devices often warm up the water too much, so a chiller would work great
to keep a balanced temperature at all times.

Types of Fish

Different types of fish require different climates to live.  For example, goldfish typically live
in water temperatures of between 78 degrees F and 85 degrees F.  The temperature of
your tank water might fluctuate with the seasons, so it’s a good idea to have a way to cool
or warm the water when necessary.  

Save on Energy Costs

If you’re away at work all day, you might want to turn down the heating or cooling
thermostat for your home to save on your energy bill.  During the summer months, you
can use an aquarium chiller to keep the water temperature cool while your home might
become very warm during the day.  

Types of Aquarium Chillers

There are several different types of aquarium chillers.  The size of your aquarium and the
room temperature where it’s located will determine what type of chiller you need.  The
types of chillers are described below.

Drop-In Chillers

Normally used for saltwater reef aquariums, the drop-in chiller works by putting cooling
coils in a filter sump.  Drop-in chillers work great if you have limited space, and they come
in a variety of sizes.

Thermoelectric Chillers

These usually work with small freshwater or saltwater tanks that hold 55 gallons of water
or less.  They’re easy to install and operate quietly.  To operate a thermoelectric chiller, a
probe is placed in the water along with a fan that disposes of heat.  Ventilation is required
for this type of chiller.

In-Line Chillers

These chillers are used for large aquariums such as saltwater reef systems.  They use
internal cooling coils to cool water that has been filtered.  The cool water is returned to
the tank.  Because in-line chillers put off a lot of heat while operating, you will need to
provide plenty of ventilation, or place the chiller away from the aquarium if necessary.  
Plumbing is required to set up this type of chiller.

You’ll find that using a chiller to control the temperature of your tank water is much easier
than trying to control the temperature of the room, and often less expensive.  A chiller can
help keep your tank water cool and prolong the life of your fish.

Written by Candice Pardue
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