An aquarium heater can’t touch the gravel. If it does, the temperature difference between the untouched portion of the heater’s glass tube and the area touching the gravel creates stress and breaks the glass surface. Moreover, it can create a hotspot that can prove fatal to the tank inhabitants.
Let’s now understand this in a bit more detail.
3 Main Reasons Why Aquarium Heaters Can’t Touch The Gravel
Given below are some of the main reasons why aquarium heaters can’t touch the gravel.
1. Damage to the heater.
If the heater touches the gravel, it creates stress on the area touching the gravel.
This causes cracks or breaks in the glass.
Eventually, the moisture will find its way inside the heater and cause short circuits and fire.
2. Unstable water temperature.
When the heater touches the gravel, it blocks the flow of warm water inside the aquarium.
Therefore, it will result in an uneven distribution of warm water and unstable water temperature inside the aquarium.
3. Hotspot inside the aquarium.
The area of the heater touching the aquarium gravel becomes a hotspot.
Such hotspots are extremely dangerous as they cause burns to the aquarium inhabitants.
Which Aquarium Heaters Can Touch the Gravel?
Most aquarium heater types are placed at a distance and don’t touch the aquarium gravel. However, the only exception is the substrate heater.
This heater has a wire or coil inside its insulation that serves as the heating element.
When the heater is turned on, the wire gets hot and heats the gravel inside the aquarium.
The heat generated in the process is then released from the gravel to warm the aquarium water.
When the temperature reaches the preset level, the thermostat switches the heating system off.
These heaters are best for aquascaping and creating a forest-like environment inside the aquarium.
This is because the gravel acts as an insulator and keeps the buried plant roots warm and healthy.
Which Aquarium Heaters Can’t Touch the Gravel?
Below are some of the heaters that can’t touch the gravel.
1. Submersible Aquarium Heaters
Submersible aquarium heaters are immersed inside the tank’s water.
Suction cups and clips are used to attach them to the back of the aquarium.
They can be placed either horizontally, vertically, or at an angled position deep inside the aquarium.
However, it’s best to place a submersible heater horizontally because it will allow the thermostat inside the heater to read the water temperature accurately.
Also, it’s necessary to maintain sufficient space between the heater and the gravel to ensure the safety of your aquatic pets.
Any accidental contact by the fish with the heater can be fatal.
2. Immersible (Hanging) Aquarium Heaters
Immersible aquarium heaters are also known as hanging heaters. They are less expensive and are widely used in aquariums.
You can hang this heater at the back wall of the aquarium from the top of the tank.
The immersible heater has a glass tube with a heating element inside it that’s immersed inside the water.
You must secure this heater properly so that it doesn’t knock and break the glass.
If these heaters aren’t installed correctly, there’s an increased chance of breakage and harm to the fish. Furthermore, there’s a potential risk of fire too.
Finally, ensure that the glass tube isn’t touching anything else in the tank.
If it touches any other part of the aquarium, it will create a hotspot that is fatal to the fish.
3. In-Sump Aquarium Heaters
They are also known as sump heaters. They are similar to a submersible heater and are set up in the sump of a trickle filter.
An in-sump aquarium heater is safer because there is no chance of the fish getting trapped underneath the heater.
Moreover, the chances of fish injuring themselves when they dash against this heater are very less.
4. In-Filter Aquarium Heaters
In-filter aquarium heaters are inside the filter and are hence called in-filter heaters.
They heat the water that passes through them. After heating the water, it’s released back into the aquarium.
An advantage of using an in-filter aquarium heater is that they save space.
Moreover, the water gets cleaned and heated at the same time.
Furthermore, the warm water is evenly spread throughout the tank when it enters the fish tank through the filter.
5. External Aquarium Heaters
Unlike other heaters, an external aquarium heater is placed outside the aquarium.
It’s more like a sturdy pipe that contains a heating element inside it.
Additionally, it contains a built-in thermostat that automatically switches off the heat flow once the preset temperature is achieved.
One type of external aquarium heater is an inline heater that needs a water pump to circulate the water through it.
This filter works in conjunction with a canister filter or a trickle filter.
Water flows out of the tank through the tubes into the heater. After heating the water, the warm water goes back into the tank.
Amongst the most significant benefits of inline heaters is their ability to distribute the hot water evenly throughout the tank.
As a result, you don’t necessarily have to turn them off while doing a water change.
These heaters are also suitable for small aquariums. However, they are expensive than other aquarium heaters.
How To Hide A Heater In An Aquarium?
An aquarium needs a heater to maintain a stable water temperature.
But a heater affects the aesthetics of your aquarium.
However, there are ways to hide your heater and maintain the beauty of your aquarium.
Given below are some ways to hide a heater in an aquarium.
1. Sump Pumps
Sump filters, also known as trickle filters, are used in saltwater aquariums more often than freshwater.
Nevertheless, they work just fine for either type of aquarium.
The sump consists of a second fish tank or container.
This container is connected to the main aquarium using a water circulation system which consists of an aquarium pump and a drain.
You can hide the sump inside the aquarium stand and connect your heater to the sump instead.
It means that you need to focus just on the drain and the return plumbing.
The drawback of using sump pumps is that they are often tricky to install and increase the aquarium cost.
You can use rockwork to hide heaters.
Aquarists who keep large, aggressive cichlid species such as Nile Tilapia use rockwork to prevent damage to aquarium heaters and other equipment.
Territorial fish often attack anything that flashes like lights, toys, and even people’s fingers.
So ensure that the rocks don’t shine because of the lighting.
Also, ensure that the rocks don’t block the aquarium’s water intake or damage any sensitive equipment such as the heater.
3. Aquatic Plants
Aquatic plants can be used to hide the aquarium heaters.
However, you must ensure that you don’t block the heater, and the warm water is quickly circulated throughout the fish tank.
Moreover, there should be sufficient distance between the heater and the plants.
This will avoid any contact between the plant leaves and the heater, thus ensuring that the heat doesn’t burn the leaves.
4. Heater Guards
You can use heater guards to conceal the heater and other aquarium equipment.
However, the primary purpose of a heater guard is to protect the heaters from large fish like cichlids.
Some large cichlid species are very aggressive toward flashing lights on the heater.
A heater guard protects the heater from such aggressive fish.
5. Dark Backgrounds
You can use dark backgrounds to camouflage the dark color of the aquarium heater.
The heater will easily merge with the aquarium background and will not deteriorate the beauty of your fish tank.
However, make sure that the aquarium heater doesn’t touch the sides of the aquarium wall to avoid any damage to the aquarium.
6. Substrate Or Gravel Heaters
Substrate heaters are buried under the gravel inside the fish tank.
The only visible thing is the cord that runs from the top of your fish tank to the gravel.
They are best for aquascaping inside the aquarium.
Some experts theorize that substrate heaters gently heat the soil beneath the plant roots and mimic the natural conditions that help aquatic plants thrive.
Can Aquarium Plants Touch The Heater?
Aquarium plants can’t touch the heater. Therefore, ensure there’s plenty of space between the plants and the heater to prevent the leaves from burning. Moreover, if the aquarium plants obstruct the water flow from the heater, the water temperature inside the tank will be lower and less stable.
Many experienced aquarists report that they haven’t had any trouble using their heaters when the leaves touch them.
However, it’s better to be careful while using high-powered heaters because they burn things up quickly.
Moreover, your heater will remain cool if there’s sufficient water flow around it because the generated heat will get distributed evenly across the tank.
However, some parts of the heater may get too hot if the water flow gets blocked.
Finally, you can also use a heater guard to ensure there’s no contact between the tank inhabitants and the heater glass to ensure their safety.