Do Aquarium Heaters Go Bad? (4 Effective Ways To Prevent It)

Image of an aquarium with a working heater

A good heater is vital for tropical fish tanks as they need stable water temperatures. But do aquarium heaters go bad?

Yes, aquarium heaters can go bad if they’re not maintained or installed properly. However, you can minimize their chances of going bad with proper installation, handling, and regular maintenance. You can also get a high-quality heater with a capacity greater than the tank size so that it lasts long.

Let’s now understand in more detail why aquarium heaters stop working.

6 Main Reasons Why Aquarium Heaters Go Bad

Aquarium heaters are an integral part of aquariums. They help maintain a stable temperature in the tank, which is critical to keep fish healthy.

However, if your aquarium heater isn’t working correctly, it can cause serious problems to your fish.

Below are some of the main reasons why aquarium heaters go bad.

1. Power socket is damaged.

Make sure that the heater cord is securely connected to the heater and the power socket. Also, check if the power socket is properly discharging electricity.

If the power socket is damaged, you will hear popping or cracking sounds. You may also notice a burning smell if the power socket is corroded.

Call an electrician to replace the damaged power socket.

2. Thermostat isn’t set properly.

A thermostat controls the flow of electricity to the heater.

Make sure the thermostat is set up correctly to measure the temperature of the aquarium water.

3. Heater is too old.

If your heater has gotten old, it might not work efficiently to maintain the required water temperature inside the aquarium.

You can certainly check for any signs of damage that need repair. However, consider replacing the heater if you are unsure why it’s not working. This will ensure the safety of the tank inhabitants.

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4. Heater has a defect.

If your heater is new, place it in a bucket to check if it is heating the water properly. You can check the water temperature using a thermometer or by hand.

If the water temperature doesn’t change, it means the heater is defective. Get in touch with the seller and try to get a replacement for the defective piece.

However, if the heater was in use and you suddenly noticed a defect, check the warranty. If it’s under warranty, you can get the heater replaced.

But if the warranty period has expired, you can try to get it repaired. However, you must consider buying a new heater if the damage is beyond repair.

5. Heater is kept plugged in during maintenance.

It’s common for aquarists to forget to turn off the aquarium heater while doing tank maintenance or periodic water changes.

Changing water while the heater is on can damage it as it can’t withstand a sudden change in the water temperature.

Moreover, you may also get an electric shock if the heater breaks down. So ensure your safety first. As a best practice, always turn off the heater before starting the maintenance of your fish tank.

6. Heater is not well-equipped.

If your heater is not well-equipped to maintain the water temperature under varying ambient temperatures, it is not suitable for your aquarium.

When the room temperature drops significantly, the heater may not heat the water efficiently because it doesn’t have enough capacity to heat cold water.

Constant changes in temperature can cause heaters to break down or stop functioning correctly.

Let’s now understand how to figure out if your aquarium heater is broken.

How To Know If An Aquarium Heater Is Broken?

Given below are some ways to identify if your aquarium heater is broken:

1. Switch on the heater and check the light.

The first way to check if your heater is working fine or not is to check the heater light after switching it on. If the heater light doesn’t come on, it’s an indication the heater is damaged.

It’s also possible that the light turns on, but there’s no change in the water temperature. This is also an indication that the heater is not functioning as required.

2. Measure the tank temperature.

A more reliable way to determine if the heater is broken is to check the aquarium’s water temperature.

You can use an independent thermometer to measure the temperature of the water. Place the thermometer inside your fish tank and start the aquarium heater.

You can return after a few hours to check the water temperature. If the water temperature inside the aquarium has changed, the heater is working fine. On the contrary, if the water temperature hasn’t changed, your heater is not functioning correctly.

Another way to determine the water temperature is by glazing your hand inside the water. You will quickly feel the heat if the water temperature has changed.

However, ensure that you switch off the heater before placing your hand in the water to avoid any risk of an electric shock.

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3. Set the heater temperature higher than the ambient temperature.

You can also determine whether your aquarium heater is working fine by setting a temperature higher than the room temperature.

After a few hours, you can check if there’s any change in the water temperature.

To test whether the heater is working, hold a flashlight to illuminate the water flow. If you see the water move beneath the lights, it’s an indication that your heater is functioning correctly.

4. Use a bucket for testing.

The best option is to use a bucket to check if the heater is working.

Fill up a bucket halfway with tap water. Then, record the water temperature before you place the heater inside the water.

Next, set the desired temperature and start the heater. You can leave it for a few hours so that the water can heat.

After a few hours, take out the heater and check the water temperature using a thermometer. If the water temperature matches the preset temperature of the heater, then the heater is working fine.

However, note that the bucket test is not an option for in-line or substrate heaters.

How To Prevent An Aquarium Heater From Going Bad?

Here are some practical ways to prevent aquarium heaters from going bad.

1. Follow the manual for installation and usage.

It’s crucial to place the heater near a filter or air pump to improve the water circulation throughout the tank, even if it affects the aesthetics of your tank.

Also, understand how to make optimal use of the aquarium heater. It can help you maintain a stable temperature and manage costs.

2. Purchase a cover for your aquarium heater.

Buying a heater cover can ensure that the heater doesn’t touch the aquarium glass, decorations, plants, or your aquatic pets. It prevents the heater from getting damaged.

Moreover, the cover also protects the heater from accumulating any dirt and debris present in the water.

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3. Perform regular tank maintenance.

Regular maintenance of your fish tank, heater, filter, and other decors will add to the overall lifespan of all the equipment.

However, switch off the heater before starting the maintenance. It will eliminate the risk of an electric shock and avoid heater damage due to sudden changes in the temperature.

Moreover, always seek professional help and don’t try to fix heater issues by yourself. It can create unnecessary risk for you and your tank occupants.

4. Install multiway socket.

An aquarium contains multiple electrical pieces of equipment like a heater, air pump, air stone, etc., to make it habitable. So using a multiway socket is far more reliable than using a power bar.

Moreover, you can avoid the risk of any water spills or drips from the tank by using a multiway socket.

What Should You Do If The Aquarium Heater Is Broken?

A heater ensures that the aquarium temperature remains stable. If your aquarium heater is broken or damaged, fix it immediately to avoid fluctuations in the water temperature.

Below are some ways to fix a damaged or broken aquarium heater.

1. Seek professional help.

If the heater is under warranty, you can get it replaced. However, if the warranty is over, you can get the heater checked by a professional to identify the issue and get it repaired.

If the damage is irreparable, you must immediately lookout for a new heater. It’s highly recommended to avoid fixing it yourself if you are not an expert.

2. Purchase a new heater.

To maintain a stable water temperature, you must purchase a quality heater. Although it can stress your budget, buying a durable and high-quality heater will work out well in the long run.

This will ensure that your aquarium water has a stable temperature that’s necessary for the fish and other aquarium inhabitants.

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How Long Does Aquarium Heater Last?

Heaters can last for years, or they can stop working in a few months. However, they will wear out with continuous use.

Before buying a heater, you must determine the heater capacity that you need to heat the aquarium water. In general, the heater capacity must be higher than the size of your fish tank.

Moreover, if your room temperature varies significantly throughout the day, then the stress on the heater to maintain a stable temperature will be relatively higher.

So the heater will wear out faster than in places where the room temperature doesn’t vary significantly.

With proper maintenance at regular intervals, you can improve the performance and lifespan of your heater.