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How to Buy the Right Aquarium Chiller
Whether you have a warm water reef or specialize in cold water marine species, an aquarium cooler is a great investment. A refrigerator allows you to grow cold marine species that require lower temperatures than you are willing to maintain in your home or office. For saltwater aquarium owners, rising water temperatures can be a serious problem, as warmer saltwater contains less oxygen than cooler saltwater. If the water gets too warm from sunlight or heat production from other aquarium equipment, marine organisms can suffer from a lack of oxygen.
What is an aquarium cooler?
An aquarium cooler is a piece of equipment placed outside the aquarium that helps you maintain a constant temperature in your marine aquarium. Just as you have an aquarium heater to heat the water to the optimal temperature, especially on cloudy or winter days, a cooler cools the water and prevents it from getting too hot. Other aquarium equipment, such as lighting and water pumps, actually release heat into the water, so the more equipment you have in use, the more you may need the services of a chiller.
The cooler itself emits a large amount of heat, so careful planning is required to ensure the unit has plenty of ventilation. In fact, placing the cooler in a poorly ventilated area, such as an aquarium cabinet, can cause the water temperature to rise. Another aspect of chillers is that some chillers need to be piped into your aquarium system, so the sooner you decide to add one to your new aquarium system, the easier it will be to plan and build the necessary plumbing for it.
Types of aquarium coolers available
When shopping for an aquarium cooler, you can choose between an in-line water cooler, a thermoelectric cooler, or a drip water cooler.
The built-in cooler is designed to fit into a larger aquarium system and is typically used for saltwater aquariums. This cooler requires plumbing to fit the in-line filtration system, which means you should try to add it to your aquarium during the design phase before any part of your system is actually built. This cooler fits into the system where it can receive already filtered water from the reservoir. The water flows over the chiller coil, is cooled, and then returns to the sump area just before the main return pump moves the water into the aquarium. Inline coolers come in a variety of sizes, from 1/5 to one horsepower.
The built-in cooler is the easiest to install, as it consists of a coil that is placed in the aquarium tank or in a wet/dry filter. The coil is made of titanium and filled with refrigerant, then sealed to make it watertight. This coil is connected to the unit’s compressor via a thermostat. Built-in coolers range in size from 1/5 to 1/3 horsepower. The built-in cooler is mainly used by aquarists with marine reefs. Since no plumbing is involved, the built-in cooler works very well in systems that don’t have a lot of space for accessories.
Thermoelectric coolers use the idea that a current passing through two different conductive materials will heat one side while the other side will reject the heat. This cooler has the hot side isolated from the cold side, and the cold side is directed towards the aquarium, which cools the water. Thermoelectric coolers should only be used in aquariums up to 15 gallons. These coolers are quiet, but are only effective in aquariums with slow water flow. Fast flow can overload this cooling system.
What to look for in a good aquarium cooler
There are many elements to consider before choosing the right aquarium cooler for your installation. First, do your homework and discover the temperature comfort zones for your aquarium livestock. Some creatures and plants tolerate heat better than others. You also need to figure out the size of the entire aquarium system, including the area of the tank, as a large system will require a larger cooler. Also consider the amount of equipment you use that emits heat into the aquarium water.
If you have a saltwater aquarium, always buy a cooler with a titanium heat exchanger, because copper exchangers exposed to saltwater can poison your livestock, and stainless steel rusts over time. When deciding on the right size cooler for your aquarium, remember to invest in a cooler that is slightly larger than you need, as a larger cooler will do the job more efficiently and run less often. Refrigerators that are a bit too small turn on and off more often, making them work harder and use a lot more electricity.
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