Aquarium Heater’s! Our hobby’s hidden shame!
It is no secret that one of the most important components of your system is also unfortunately one of the most unreliable! All heaters eventually go south. Some sooner some later, but always when you least expect it or want it. I wish I could blame this on Chinese low quality control but “NO” that is not the case here. As far back as I can remember & trust me I’m no youngster, this has been the case with all hobbyist grade aquarium heaters. So what can be done to work around this fatal flaw in our hobby other than invent, produce and market a new and reliable heater?

Here’s what I do ….

The goal is basically to add a more reliable external thermostatic controller with its own temperature probe to the unreliable one built into the heater. We do this by purchasing an external temperature controller that your heater or heaters will be plugged into, details to follow. This controller will take over the job of deciding when your heater goes on/off.
We then dump the one built into the heater and only use it in the unlikely case that our new external one fails. In order to use it only as a backup I would set the heater thermostat to shutoff at 81-82 degrees. In this case it will only kick on and shut off the heater if the external controller fails and no harm is done if the water temp rises to 82. The added external controller will be set to shut off at the more standard 78.

Here are my external controller recommendations….

Option 1:

Purchase and setup a Neptune Apex Controller/Monitor. This is a piece of equipment that will not only control the heater but will monitor and control many of your systems equipment and water parameters. It comes with a temperature probe along with PH and ORP probes. The options on the Apex are endless & if you are interested there is a wealth of information out there. Let me warn you, this option is expensive and there is a definite learning curve on its setup and usage.

Option 2:

Purchase a robust external heater/cooler controller with 2 plug receivers (for the use of 2 heaters or heater and chiller). I do not recommend the cheaper aquarium controllers made in china ones that you can find on amazon. The brands that I do recommend are Ranco ETC   and Johnson A421. The edge on reliability going to Johnson. But make sure it is pre-wired with the plugs and probe. I would recommend coating the Johnson sensor probe (it is some kind of metal or aluminum) by dipping it a few times in plastic dip purchased at Lowes/Home Depot or online for a few bucks. The Ranco probe is a water safe material.
Oh! I almost forgot. Here are my heater recommendations and they are not etched in stone. Buy whatever better quality heater you like but I like (like is a stretch) the Eheim Ebo Jaeger and Marineland (Marinland has a 400Watt option) heaters. Buy a wattage heater that is higher than the manufacturer recommendation. I also like titanium aquarium heaters (without thermostats) that come in 500W and 1000W configurations for larger tanks.
There you go… Hope this helped! Please let me know your thoughts.