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FAQs about Electricity and Aquarium Systems:  Shorts, Shocks, Fires: Prevention, Response

Related Articles: Marine ElectricalSurviving extended power outages: how to keep your aquarium alive! By Mike Maddox and Merritt Adkins Marine Aquarium Light Fixtures and CanopiesGFCIs and Marine Aquariums

Related FAQs:  Electricity 1, Electricity 2, Electricity 3, Energy Consumption/Conservation, Electrical Consumption Measure, Electricity Back-up/Generation, Lighting Costs, Pump Energy Use, Heating/Chilling Costs, Grounding Probes, Power Outages, GFCIs and Marine AquariumsSurge Devices, Grounding Probes,  

Replacing equipment Are you aware of any guidelines by aquarium equipment manufacturers regarding when to change equipment to prevent short circuits, or potential fires?  Thank you. Craig <Mmm, yes indeed. Not manufacturers but end-users. All such circuits should be wired through G.F.C.I.s. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm Bob Fenner>

Voltage In My Tank       12/11/15
Hello Bob,
<Hey Nishad>
I hope this note finds you well! I recently became curious and measured the voltage in my 90 and 210 mixed reef tanks. Results were somewhere in the .30V - .45V range,
AC. Probably should have measured the current too....I am assuming it is the current level
that is more important...right?
<Mmm; well; actually both are important.... okay to have one or the other in low states, but NOT the two together... As in Volts times Amps equals Watts>
So, my questions are:
1) is that range normal?
<Not outside the common>
2) I have some Titanium Grounding Probes arriving today,
any tips on placement (Tank, Sump, etc.)
<Try turning off the pump and other electrical gear one at a time... and testing both the tank, sump.... Have you checked for polarity, GFI use on all electrical gear here? I WOULD DO THIS FIRST>
3) Also, I measured 4 Koralias in a 5 gallon bucket, and they measured 13V - 15V, but when two were placed in the tanks, the readings for the tanks
<Ah yes>
fell into the range mentioned in Paragraph 1. Any thoughts on why they dropped so much? (anyone for a fish fry...JK)
<Resistance, complexing there>
I would like to find the offending piece of equipment in the tanks, but I strongly suspect it is more than one, and to some degree "par" for the course based on affordability and what the industry accepts.
<Well-stated; yes>
Thoughts on the above would be greatly appreciated...thanks,
<Not much more I'd like to comment.... really for fear of liability retribution. Do run ALL connections through a GFI/GFCI protected circuit/s.
Bob Fenner>
Re: Voltage In My Tank       12/11/15

Thanks for the thoughts. The circuits are tied to a GFI, but good question on ensuring Polarity of plug in is correct (Will do that tonight).
<Ah good>
Are you saying that if all of the receptacles are GFI protected, and the plugs are properly plugged in, polarity wise, then I should not see an voltage in the tank?
<Mmm; not entirely no.... this can be a bit tricky.... spinning charge particles about (saltwater), can/does result in induced voltage (hence part of my suggestion to test w/ gear turned off one by one), and the grounding probes, even testing gear can provide millivolts....>
Also, have you seen any risks with using Titanium Grounding Probes?
<Not much risk no. In the old (okay ancient) days/years our companies installed chillers on live-holding systems we fabricated.... the better ones had titanium-made heat exchangers>
Thanks again,
<Welcome. BobF>

220v Powerhead on 120v Outlet   (!)          5/8/14
I just ordered a Sicce Voyager Nano 1000 powerhead. Since these aren't available for purchase in the U.S. I had to order it from Germany.
I completely forgot about Europeans using 220v
<And 50, not 60 Hertz>
so now I'm trying to figure out if I can get away with just using a simple prong-converting adapter or if I have to get a step up/down transformer to bring the 120v up to 220v. It's only a 2.8 watt powerhead so I know it
doesn't require much voltage but don't know enough about electrical circuitry to know if this can be done safely - or at all.
What are your thoughts on this?
<Unplug it now if you haven't done so already. Write the manufacturer re...
There are adapters available... See the Net re.
Bob Fenner>

Electric surge in reef tank 10/13/12
<Hello Janet>
My pump to my skimmer burned and then came unplugged in my reef tank, I think it shook <shocked> my coral. Some of the live rock looks burned, I lost some crabs one by one they die. I did 20% water change,  all my coral is closed <and> I am not sure if they are ok can you tell me what I need to do next?
<Get a GFIC receptacle for the outlet that supplies power to your aquarium.
 You also risk being electrocuted without this device.  Best to let an electrician install this for you.>
 Do I need to replace the live rock or just leave it alone.
<Leave be, not much you can do at this stage.  Hopefully you have not lost everything.
James (Salty Dog)>
 I think some of the coral is fried :( but not sure

Electricity in water and heaters     2/23/12
Hi Bob,
Good news, my fish are doing fine. One of the tangs still has spots from time to time but that is the least of my worries at this point. Since installing the UV sterilizer I am now receiving quite a shock when I put my hands in the sump and also in the main tank.
<?! And so is your livestock! Unplug this device! Read here re GFI use:

and the linked Related FAQs files>
The sterilizer is mounted in line above the sump which is under the cabinet (stand). I wasn't sure that it was the sterilizer but I leaning towards it.
I had an electrician install gfi outlets so at least I will not fry (i hope)!
<IF installed, there should be no detection of stray current>

 I noticed my 300 w heater was fully submersed and passed the recommended water line, so I removed that heater to eliminate that from the possible shocking. But I am still feeling a bite when I stick my hand in the tank, the weird thing is that it is intermittent and gets stronger at times. I am scared to put my hands in the tank!!!!
<You should be>

 I am looking to get a volt meter for the water to use before doing maintenance. Any recommendation?
<Either have a real electrician over to check all, or systematically test all gear through a plug in GFI>
 I also would like to know if this is common as a result of a uv sterilizer.
<Some brands, makes, yes... a crack in the tube surrounding the lamp, poor insulation at the connections....>
 I have read much on this topic on your site and others and people go back and forth about the ground probes. What are your thoughts?
<Posted. Most all are worthless>
 Like I said, I never noticed this before adding the UV.
 Now that I have a damaged heater I am looking to replace it. The one I am looking at is the JBJ True Temp Titanium Heating System 500w or the 800w.
Do you have an opinion on this model and is it better to have more watts than I need?
<I don't have any first-hand experience w/ these, but do like this company's chillers. I'd seek input from the larger bb's, hobbyists who actually have used them. AND wire through an external (extra) thermostat/regulator>
I am mainly concerned with my safety at this point, and this heater appears to be the safest one I have found yet, although very expensive.....please offer your personal thoughts. One day I believe this hobby will be a source of relaxation for me......I just hope that day comes soon :)
<Me too. Bob Fenner>
Re: Electricity in water and heaters    2/23/12
Hi Bob,
I did have a "real" electrician install the gfi outlets before I sent the email to you, since that message was loud and clear on your site :) I did purchase the volt meter as peace of mind I guess since even after the outlets were installed I was still very nervous. The sterilizer is a Coralife twist 36 watts, and I returned it to the store and they are ordering me a new one since they feel it may have been defective. I think I am all set for now, and hope I do not need to keep picking your brain....although it has been fun! Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to help me out, very much appreciated.
Have a good weekend!
<Am referring this to James Gasta, WWM Crewmember and an electrician. You should not get shocked if the GFCI is operative. B>
Re Electricity in water and heaters 2/24/12

Hello Jess,
Bob asked me to comment on your query.  You should not get a shock with a correctly installed GFI receptacle.
There is a test button on the GFI and when you press it, a correctly installed GFI outlet will be shut down. To turn it on  again you use the reset button.  Since 2002, GFI receptacles have had a feature that won't let them reset if they are wired incorrectly or if power is not on.  I suggest you trip the GFI with the test button and see if you can reset it.
James (Salty Dog)

Help Please With Aquarium And Stray Voltage 10/19/11
<Hello Jay>
I have recently discovered I have stray voltage in my aquarium , I know this because I can feel a sting in my paper cuts , I only feel this sting when im bare foot though ,
<You are creating a better ground path being barefoot.>
Now I went out and purchased a multimeter, and inserted the ground end into the ground plug on a outlet and then the red end in my tank, the reading is zero, but when I touch the ground end to some metal, then the red end in my tank, I get a reading, I have tried disconnecting all my equipment to see what was the problem and no matter what I disconnect it still has the shock, what I am thinking is that the shock is coming from the actual outlet.
<I would remove the receptacle and see if there is a ground wire on the ground terminal. Based on what you state, I'd say there is none. In any case, I would get a GFIC power strip to protect yourself.>
Everything is hooked up to one outlet and have one powerbar hooked to one of the plugs and that power bar runs my lighting , the other powerbar connected to the second plug runs my pumps etc , I can unplug all the lighting and feel the shock , and then unplug all the pumps and plug the lighting back in and still feel the shock , so im guessing its not the equipment but the actual plug I live in an apartment , can anyone shed some light on why this is happening to me?
<Yes, you are creating a ground path for the stray current to return to ground.>
any help or suggestions will be very much appreciated
<In future queries please capitalize letters where necessary. James (Salty Dog)>

Wet Power Strip, "not for use underwater"   7/24/11
Hi Bob,
<Hey James>
Take a look at this new "wet power strip", watch the demonstration video but don't spend too much time looking at the lab angel's legs. :-).
<Ahh, Jolin!>
I believe Premium Aquatics is going to carry these units.
<Seventy dollars, but interesting concept. BobF>
re: Wet Power Strip  7/24/11

Just got word that Premium is selling them for 59.95. Not a bad price to
pay for safety.
<I'd still wire through a GFI circuit. B>

Electrical Current In Tank 11/15/10
Hey guys!
<Hello Melissa>
Been a while! I lost a cleaner shrimp this week. I had lost some snails as well nothing major really. I thought that my Chocolate Chip Starfish had been getting them. So sadly I was happy it wasn't any of my fish but then with the shrimp I got worried. I should send you some new pics of the starfish there are some on the starfish page from several years ago when I naively bought him. He has gotten huge! I went to fish the cleaner shrimp out and stuck my hand in and got shocked. Really shocked. My Blue Tang had been acting quirky for a bit too and I couldn't figure it but knew they were more sensitive so had been babying it. However, after testing everything with a multimeter I had 3 Hydor Koralia powerheads throwing current. Specifically 2 of the model 3's and one model 1. With the multimeter setting on 250 it was still reading at 100. How scary is that?
<Well, obviously you weren't measuring milliamps or you wouldn't be writing this. Voltage measurements, especially floating voltages, that are taken with inexpensive meters can give erroneous readings and is due to the ohms per volt rating on the meter although I certainly do not deny you have voltage present as you obviously experienced. It's the current that kills, not the voltage.>
I have some old powerheads on there now they came off my 55 and are much too small but with the Remora C and the Mag Drive 3 pump I still have some movement. I did send an email to Hydor. Have you heard of these having this problem? I would definitely say everyone should check theirs. I have
had them for a while but they seemed to be in good working order. Ha. If you don't count the shocking bit.
<This can happen with any submerged electrical component as it ages. I previously have not heard of problems with Hydor Pumps. I do strongly suggest you use a GFCI device on your system to aid in increasing your lifespan on earth.>
Also in the reading here, I noticed everyone fretting about power outages.
Correct me if I am wrong but if you have enough live rock doesn't that help with the oxygenation tremendously? Or am I missing something?
<Oxygenation occurs at the waters surface and water movement/exchange is required to efficiently do this.>
We went through a week long power outage in Jan due to an ice storm. I have 125 gal tank and about 125 lbs of live rock too. I made do with one battery operated air pump.
<This helps as the air bubbles bring water up to the surface where oxygenation takes place. Air bubbles alone do not directly oxygenate water.>
We did have heat. We also had the ability to heat water. So I mixed up salt water and heated it to help keep the temp up. That was our nightly routine.
Nothing like reef keeping by fire and candle light ;) Everyone survived.
Even all the inverts. Just my 2 cents.
Sorry for babbling. Thanks for listening and answering!
<And thank you for sharing. James (Salty Dog)>

Electricity In Water/They Do Not Mix 8/23/10
Hi Guys, great site.
<Hello Steve>
I've spent plenty of time reading posts. I run a 140 gallon reef. 50 gallon sump(20 gallons water plus live rock). The main tank has 75 - 100lbs live rock, Tunze Wave Box, 2 1400 gal/h power heads Deltec Skimmer. I've been reef keeping for 5 or 6 years now. Been fighting with nitrates. My zoos and clams started looking pretty rough, so I decided to pull all the
rock and remove the 1" of substrate at bottom of tank (figured this would help the nitrate problem). While doing this I got a pretty nice shock (I hate electricity). I narrowed the problem down to an old power head (in garbage now!). I even found a couple of my rocks took on an electrical charge. Guy at LFS didn't believe rock took a charge. I know they did, they zapped me! My question is how much damage to my corals would the electricity leak have caused, and will they recover????? Oh yeah the nitrates are returning to acceptable level >20ppm soon to be 0 (with help of np pellets). I think the electricity was far more harmful than high nitrates. Any opinions?
<The tank inhabitants do sense stray electrical fields in the water but they really do not get the same dance out of it as you did as they are not grounded or even partially grounded. The damage done, if any, will largely depend on the level of the stray current. I would be more concerned with grounding the system to protect yourself. The minimum current a human can feel is about 1 milliampere (mA). The current may cause tissue damage or fibrillation if it is sufficiently high, and currents approaching 100 mA are lethal if they pass through sensitive portions of the body. Ensure your equipment is plugged in to a GFIC device and/or install a ground probe on your system.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Help With Filter Needed, electricity issue  5/19/10
Hello there, first of all I love your website!
<Hello, and thank you.>
I read through it often to keep myself 'on top' of everything with my aquariums and I've never had any serious problems. Now though, it's getting warmer and my air conditioner is triggering more frequently. I've noticed
(well it's pretty hard not to!) that every time it does, my larger (50 gallon) tanks filter makes incredibly loud grating noises, sometimes it recovers and returns to quiet filtration, other times it keeps making the noise and even halts the water from passing through. Every time something more than 100 watts goes on, my filter does this, it's as though the power is momentarily cut from the filter then returns. Simply topping off and running more water through it doesn't help, I have to unplug it, re-prime it, and turn it back on. I've bought a better surge protector and that
seems to have helped (not much though), but is there anything I can do to stop this, besides trying to plug things into different outlets, in different rooms with extension cords? Even doing that wouldn't help, I've noticed it happens from time to time when appliances in other rooms switch on as well. It's at the point now where I'm selectively leaving my filter off a few times a day, which I hate to do knowing that it's sacrificing some of my bacteria and probably causing environmental changes within the tank (none have been detected yet when tested, all levels are perfect, but I imagine my fish would still prefer consistency).
<Lorna, I seriously suggest you get an electrician to look at and evaluate your electrical capacity in your home. Appliances drawing more than 100 watts and causing voltage drops generally indicate the wiring is not sized
large enough to handle the current. It definitely needs to be looked at, could be dangerous.>
Thanks for your time and help!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
- Lorna

All Fish Dead In Less Than 12 Hours, poss. e' 2/1/10
Dear Sir/Madam,
<Hi Allan, James with you today.>
I am hoping that you might shed some light on my predicament, I had some power problems over night last week and at 2am when I went to bed all my fish were alive. I got up again at 0630am at which time my fish were all
dead. I carried out all tests and they came up within tolerances. I also got the local pet shop to test it for me and he suggested that nitrates were slightly high and the salt level was up slightly but not high enough to kill anything. I think that there may have been a small tingle when I cleaned out the dead fish, but I couldn't replicate it again. Is it possible that this would kill my fish and is possible that it would happen that quickly?
I am at a loss as my tests were right and I have only felt a tingle once more in the past week.
<Yes, stray voltage/current is capable of killing fish and yourself also.>
I would like to get some corals and fish back in the tank but worried they will die also.
I hope you can shed some light
<I would strongly advise installing a ground probe and/or using a GFIC device.
On another note, where any cleaning chemicals/sprays used around the tank recently.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Allan Twidale

Electrical shock from Tank - Not something to trifle with. 10/1/2009
Hey guys
<and girls, we are a co-ed Crew.>
I don't know who to turn to
Thanks to your website, I am now busy cycling my tank and everything seems to be doing fine.
However, when I put my finger in the tank, I get a slight shock.
<That would be a slightly more than minor problem.>
I have noticed that its only with fingers that have cuts on them.
<Because your skin is a better insulator than most people think. A cut bypassed all of that natural insulation, so you feel it.>
What can I do?
<Determine what is "leaking" electricity and replace it.>
I know its my return pump from my sump, but I can not afford to replace it.
<Assuming it is your return pump, it needs to be replaced ASAP. Grounding probes are band-aid measures at best..>
Thank you!

Current USA Orbit - Shock, JamesG referral   12/30/07 Gentlemen, <And some ladies...> I have a problem with the lighting system on my 110g saltwater aquarium. I have a 60" Current USA Orbit lighting unit that is a little over a year old. Recently, when I try to remove the clogged plastic mesh in my skimmer box by reaching under the Orbit light, I have received a shock similar to touching a low voltage electrical fence wire. I am very concerned here. <Me too> I have a GFI/GFCI that all my equipment is plugged into. Why did the GFI/GFCI NOT trip? <A/the "secondary" circuit here... fluorescents have such...> The GFI/GFCI will trip when tested and it will reset also. I do not know what is going on here. Could this just be static electricity? <Mmm, doubtful> I have never had a problem with shock reaching under the light in the past. And when I touch the top of the lighting unit which is metal, I do not receive a shock. <I am referring you to our resident electrical engineer liaison, James/Salty... I would test (with a voltage meter) to determine the source of stray electric here... make sure you're not grounded, or what you're standing on isn't, when working in this tank> Obviously, a remedy for this is to not stick my hand under the light fixture (dah..) My main concern at this time is for my future safety. Any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, BobbyG <James? Bob Fenner>

Re: Current USA Orbit - Shock, JamesG referral 12/30/07 <Hi Bobby, Bob has asked me to offer my input on this problem, and a life threatening one at that. Bobby, the way a GFCI works is by constantly monitoring current from the hot line to the neutral. Any imbalance that occurs, even as low as a couple of milliamps, will trip the GFCI as quickly as 1/30 of a second. An imbalance will occur if some of the current is directed through your body instead of the neutral line, which is what you experienced. If the GFCI was wired correctly, it will protect you. It is a good idea to manually trip the GFCI on a weekly basis, especially in a wet environment. If it trips, it is working, if you cannot reset it, it is defective and must be replaced. You must be certain that ALL aquarium accessories are plugged into the GFCI, if this is not the case, then please do so for your safety. If the above test works and shocking still occurs, I advise you to have a qualified electrician inspect the unit to insure it is wired correctly. James (Salty Dog)>

Selective stray current?  - 3/12/07 Hello! <Hello Kimberly!  Brandon here tonight.> I am a regular lurker here! <Me too!> I have a strange question for you today… <Impress me.> I work weekends at a popular on line retailer, we have recently moved and set up all new systems.  Over the weekend, I had a customer who needed snails, I placed my hand in  the tub of snails and ZAPPP! <Been there more times than I care to count.  Perhaps I should pay closer attention to the wires.> I looked at my hand and there was a cut on my finger, but this was more than just the sting from a cut touching saltwater. I  was not getting zapped in  the main displays , so I tried the other hand.. same thing! Two tubs down, another employee was bagging up some crabs from a tub that is plumbed into the same system mine is, he was unaffected. I ask him to try the tub I was having issues with and he felt nothing. I had him get my snails, I didn't want to get ZAPPED again! I touched the water of another tank about 10 minutes later, nothing. Unfortunately, about a half  an hour later I was ZAPPED again while getting some crabs. This tub was plumbed into the same system as the other  tub that zapped me. By then I was a little freaked. I grabbed another employee and had him try the tub. HE HE! Hard to believe people will stink there fingers in water to see if it shocks them! <People are funny like that.> He felt nothing. Then a few other employees came by to test it and comment that it must be my 'electrical personality. HA HA! I told the manager, he said he too had been shocked once about a week ago. He placed a grounding probe on the system and will be investigating the equipment. So, any ideas why I was getting ZAPPED and nobody else? <I had the same problem Saturday as a matter of fact.  I happened to be drip acclimating a few Acroporids, and I noticed after being shocked, that the finger that was shocked, had a small cut on it.  Out of curiosity, I tried the other hand.  To my surprise there was no shock.  Now I am no electrician, and this is not professional advice, but my guess would be that the current was so minute, that it only shocked the super-sensitive, sub dermal layers of skin that were exposed due to the cut.  I would further imagine that the same thing happened in your case.><<Mmm, much more likely a matter of what shoes... grounding or not was in place... At any length, very dangerous to the livestock and people involved... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/elecmar.htm and the linked files above, particularly re GFCI use... VERY important. RMF>>   Another quick question, if you don't mind. A customer brought in a Seastar he had caught himself. I am about 95% sure it is a Pentaceraster cumingi, <You could check here to confirm, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars2.htm.  Scroll down to Family Oreastridae.  There are three pictures shown.  Does it look like one of these?> the Panamic Cushion Star.  He stated it was eating his corals so we placed it in one of  the 100 gallon refugiums. I have two tanks, one is a 125 gallon  reef the other a 240 gallon FOWLR. The manager told me I could take him for my 240. He doesn't think it will survive long in the refugium. I am afraid, however, that it won't last long in my FOWLR ! Your website states it's not the hardiest of Seastars.   <I think that it is not so much a matter of hard, as much as starving to death.  These stars get rather large, and their feeding habits are very specialized.  Micro-fauna in the substrate, benthic algae, seagrass, other echinoderms,  and possibly corals.  In a large, very established tank with a large refugium as well, with no other competitors or predators, if you could get it to eat prepared foods you might have a chance.  But again, these are a lot of ifs.  To me it would be worth the shot if the above conditions could be met, but do realize that it will most likely starve to death, much like Astropecten spp.> What do you think? <Please see above.  Re: very established system.> It is really pretty, my kids would love it. I am just really finicky about what I place in my tanks! Thank you for your time and your opinions! <You are very welcome.  Brandon.> Kim

Fish tank shocking me   12/1/06 <Hi Kevin, Mich here tonight.>  I'm sorry to bother you two times in one month, but I have a problem. I'm getting shocked when I touch the tank lamps.  <Ahh Houston, yes, you do have a problem, and a dangerous one at that!>  It's hard to explain, but I have a 48" current Satellite power compact lighting fixture.  If I touch the black casing or even the legs on my fixture, I get shocked.  Or if I touch the fixture with one hand and  hit the glass canopy  or even the top of the tank where the top border goes around I get zapped.  <Uhh, stop touching it.>  I totally took my light apart tonight to see if I found any loose wires, but nothing.  I believe the one ballast is bad, and that was the reason for my prior email, but that's been blown for months, and I just got this shocking problem today.  Its definitely the light cause when I unplug it I don't get shocked.  As of right now its going to stay unplugged until I hear back from you.  <Good, remove it from your system before you are seriously injured.>   First of all are my fish in danger or are they getting shocked?  <You and your fish are in danger.>  Everyone seems pretty much normal, with the exception of my maroon clown hiding out behind the rocks lately, but he's still feeding.  Second what could be wrong with the lighting fixture?  <I honestly do not know, but it is not worth risking you life!>  Honestly I'm ready to throw the whole thing in the garbage, so hopefully you can help.  <Please do not use this fixture.>  Thank you so much for your time. It's greatly appreciated.  <You are welcome, also, in the future please use proper capitalization.>   Kevin

Mitch.. Re: Fish tank shocking me 12/1/06 Mitch, <or Mich ...there are a few of us girls in the hobby too!> <Hi Mark, Michelle here.> I thought I'd send in my 2 cents worth here as I thought I had the same thing happen to me. <Donations welcome.>  As it turned out I actually had a short in one of my pumps. I wish I new <or knew?> more on how to test for the short but I had to do the same thing. After taking apart my light and not finding anything wrong I just started unplugging everything I had one at a time until I didn't get shocked anymore. I'd just hate to see someone through <or throw?> an expensive light away just to find out that's not the problem.  <Oh, I absolutely agree.  But our friend Kevin stated:  "Its definitely the light cause when I unplug it I don't get shocked."  The light is replaceable, the life is not.>    Re: Electrical shock incident   12/6/06 Hi Michelle.   <Hi Kevin, glad to hear from you!> Last week I sent an email about a lighting fixture that I was receiving shocks from.  Well anyway,  I believe I found the source of all my problems.   It turns out the sleeve that protects the bulb in my UV light was cracked and filled up with water.   <Yipe! Yipe! Yipe!  That would cause a problem!> Creating the shocking.  I just wanted to let you know and thanks for the speedy response.   <I am very happy you are ok.  That was my biggest concern.  I have a good friend who was electrocuted, lost his arm and nearly his life.  Electricity is nothing to fool around with.  Thank you for sharing the source of the problem.  I am always happy to learn.  It is often difficult to trouble shoot with only written descriptions.  I appreciate your kind words and your feedback.>     Thank you so much WWM crew.    <You are quite welcome and thank you again for the follow-up! -Michelle>

Overheated Lighting Fixture...Dangerous Situation - 11/20/06 Hello Cam here again. <<Hi there Cam!>> I would like to thank you guys and girls for replying to all my previous messages (except when I add a picture as an attachment, but I can understand, bandwidth and all). <<Am sure all would say you're quite welcome>> This might seem a bit weird, but I think my lights are fuming, because there is a burning smell coming from my canopy's (Jebo R119) light switch. <<Mmm, not good...you may want to consider discontinuing use of this unit until it can be checked out>> I am a bit worried that the 2 new T5's (about 30W to 100W, can't remember the actual amount of Watts) are too close together, about 5mm from each other, and there is a risk that the T5's will explode or fracture, because of the heat. <<I wouldn't expect the bulbs being close together to be a problem.  But...are you using bulbs of differing wattages?  The unit should specify which wattage bulbs to use...if you are mixing/exceeding wattages this may be the problem>> I also think that the wiring could be the culprit here. <<...?>> I have used normal security wiring. <<Hmm, I'm a bit of a DIYer myself, but "security" wiring is not familiar to me.  I hope you aren't referring to the "very light gauge wire" used to for some security/alarm system connections, sometimes also referred to as "bell" wire, as this is not appropriate for wiring an AC light fixture such as you have>> The smell is coming from my light switches (on the left side of my canopy). <<I think you should disconnect/replace this fixture>> I also can't remember who the manufacturer of the T5's is, so please give me the safest estimates (I have a small canopy (1200mm x 60mm x 60mm). <<Estimates of what?  The safest thing to do at this point is not use this fixture>> My real questions are: 1) What is the minimum recommended distance between T5 lights? <<Shouldn't be an issue>> 2) What sort of wiring should be used for T5's? <<As a minimum, 14-guage copper...in my opinion (I am not a licensed electrician) 3) Should I change the light switches to some that can take the heat or current or is there no such thing as to much current when using digital/electronic ballast? <<If these switches came with the fixture they should not be heating up.  You need to have someone who is qualified to do so, assess the problem with this fixture>> I know that these questions seem a bit silly, but I am in quite a pickle here. <<Not silly...and you have a potentially hazardous situation.  I would stop using this fixture and get it fixed or replaced immediately>> Thank you so much for your time. <<Happy to assist, EricR>>

Electrical Shock 10/14/06 Hi, <Greetings> I purchased a used tank set up including a Jebo UV sterilizer. It worked fine for a while but then it started to shock me when I touched the tank. <Yikes!> Then it started to shock the water in the tank. It has a ground so I am confused and don't know what to do about it. I went to the Jebo website and submitted a letter, but it wouldn't go through. Can you help me with this? Thank you for your time. Joy <I would continue to try to contact the manufacturer for their advice and please…take out the sterilizer and don't use it in the meantime.  Cheers! - Dr. J>

Fried shrimp... electrical leak in a marine system. Critically dangerous   7/26/06 Hey. <Hay?> I seem to have a problem with too much current in my water, and I don't mean water current either!! <Yikes> Three days ago I noticed that my 2 normally very happy and active cleaner shrimp and 1 peppermint shrimp were staying very still.  I watched them for a little while and saw them twitch and spasm from time to time and act as if they were having trouble controlling their movement.  They responded to food, but instead of swimming directly to it they would twitch and swim in circles.  All my snails, hermits, starfish, and numerous soft and LPS corals looked fine.  I stuck my hand in the tank and noticed a very very slight tingle only for a brief second as my hand first entered the water. <Very dangerous! You could be shocked... electrocuted...>   I believe that this is what caused the shrimp to act funny, because all other testable water parameters seemed fine.  Unfortunately I was on the way out the door and going out of town for 3 days when all this happened.  I tried unplugging the filters, lights, heaters, etc. one by one testing for the tingle, but after a short time I stopped noticing it all together.  I unplugged the two pumps I decided were most likely the problem and left.  I just came back in to town to find that one of the cleaners and peppermint shrimp are missing, I believe the green starfish ate them <Could have> when they couldn't move, and the other cleaner shrimp is laying on his side and still twitching.  I moved him to another tank while I try to solve this problem.  I guess what I'm asking, and maybe I should be talking to an electrician instead, is how can I measure such a slight current in the water in order to pinpoint which appliance is faulty, multimeter?? <Mmm, likely a polarity or small ground problem here... but if you can't detect it yourself, and cure... I would call an electrician. At any length I would wire all these outlets to/through a G.F.I.: http://wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm and the linked files above> What is the allowable amount, if any of watts, amps, of whatever in a reef tank?? <Very small indeed... any detectable amount is deleterious> How would this effect my fish? <Shorten their lifespans, kill them...> Luckily they were in a QT.   Is this a common occurrence??  Any words of advice??  Thanks in advance Jon <GFCIs... Water and electricity do not mix. Bob Fenner>

Re: Lighting Question... extending wiring on/for MHs (Salty!)  7/15/06 Good day fine people!   <And to you> Once again I turn to you for a little expertise that I seem to be lacking. I am in the setup phase of my 200 GAL tank with 300 GAL fuge/sump/return in the basement and have a quick question. <Hotay!> I want to remote my magnetic ballast for the 3x 175 W MH lights to the basement. I am thinking that if I cut the existing cable between the ballast and the lights and splice some 3 wire Romex cable in, there shouldn't be any problems, but just wanted to run it by you fine folks to make sure I am not missing something. If it matters, it will be about 30' from the ballast to the lights. <Mmm... am going to send this response to our resident "electrician", Salty/JamesG... If it were me, mine, I would NOT do this, but instead contact the actual manufacturer, ask for their input, and if they're amenable, buy new cable from them... follow their directions re re-terminating the connections...> Thanks for your time and all you do for our hobby (sickness ;-)  ) <Mmmm... Well... do perhaps wait on Salty's go here as well... I'm just too concerned re the gauge of wire over the run here, the implications of overheating, possible fire and electrical shock hazard. Bob Fenner> <<Extending the wire length is not recommended, but not for overheating, as this can be overcome by using a larger gauge wire.  The problem we have here is the extremely high starting voltage of the lamps, some as much as 4000 volts (low current).  Extending the length of wire 30 feet (with standard #14 Romex) will more than likely cause a voltage drop in start-up which will lead to shortened bulb life due to longer start times, if the lamp even starts at all. This will all depend on the VA capacity of the start circuit transformer being used in the ballast.  Romex is definitely a no-no as the insulation on this wire is not rated for that kind of starting voltage, and leakage can/will occur and could lead to electrical shock.  I ditto Bob's suggestion of contacting the manufacturer re this before doing, and get information on proper wire size and type, warranty considerations, feasibility of doing such, etc.  James (Salty Dog)>> <Thanks for this Big J! BobF>

Electrical Shock/Dancing Aquarist   4/21/06 Hello, <Howdy>  I was wondering if you guys could give me some advice on what could be the cause of every time I put my hand in my refugium I get a jolt of electricity. <You are acting as part of the return path of the circuit, hopefully you will not be the complete path.>  I have a 180-gallon with a 40-gallon refugium below using a dolphin 800 to return water back to the tank and a mag7 to drive my ev180 skimmer. Last week i had somewhat of a flood and after everything was pretty dry i plugged everything back in but ever since the flood the refugium has been shocking me. If you guys could offer any advice it would be greatly appreciated do you think it has something to do with the outlet being moist <Do remove the receptacle cover and point a fan toward it and allow to air dry.> and it is not acting as a ground? <My friend, if you enjoy life on this earth, do put a GFIC receptacle in place of the receptacle you are now using.  If not, you have already been on this earth longer than you are probably going to stay.  Please do a spelling/grammar check in future queries. All "i"s should be in caps.  James (Salty Dog)>

MH lighting fire...!!! - 03/25/2006 Hello WWM Crew, <Hi Rori - Tim answering your question today!> Tonight disaster struck!!! I love my fish tank and have been a reef tank hobbyist now for about 5 years, but tonight my fish tank SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF ME!!!! I do not know what to do??? My wife and I were sitting watching T.V. when all of a sudden we both smelt a plastic burning smell that got pretty strong. We started looking around the house because it smelled like something plastic was on fire!!! Then I walked into the fish room and the room was filled with smoke!!! It turned out one of my ballast to my Coral Life HQI's was smoking pretty badly. Now I'm not talking about a little smoke I'm talking there was a fire going on inside the case of the thing and smoke was pouring out of it, and it filled the room with black smoke. Now I am so scared thinking about what would of happened if I wouldn't have been home, my house could of burned down! Another thing I don't understand is I am very cautious when it comes to building something. I have these ballast bolted to my stand with a dedicated fan blowing right on them. Also I have a circuit protector that will shut everything off if anything goes wrong. Looks like none of this stuff helped out, I honestly think that if I was not home it would of started a fire, and it would of eventually turned into a electrical fire. I am debating now if this is worth the risk. I am so disappointed that I spent so much money on these Coral Life 150 Watt HQI's and they fail like this. I will be contacting them about this situation I have run into. In the mean time I have all the lights turned off in the tank due to I am scared the other two ballast are going to catch fire like this one did. So now my corals are in the dark for now??? Any advice what would you do in this situation??? Anxiously awaiting your helpful response on what I can do??? Thank You!!! P.S. I took the ballast apart and in the case where the actual round ballast is inside is all swollen looking and melted inside!!! <That is very concerning indeed! Do contact the company and include in your correspondence very detailed information on your current set up so that they may identify any problems with your arrangement. Also do a search through online forums - to my knowledge, this is not a common occurrence but there is of course the possibility of a bad batch of ballasts - in which case you may be saving many other aquarists from potential disaster! Try to find out exactly what caused this - and please do keep us informed so that we may warn others of this situation! In the meantime, you will need to take care of your livestock. Make sure that you do a number of considerable water changes - I am concerned that some of the smoke may have become dissolved in the aquarium water and can potentially cause significant harm. Your corals will need light or they will not survive for long - I would suggest, if you are presently unable to comfortably provide them with adequate lighting (your situation being completely understandable) then I would suggest contacting a fellow reef keeper or your LFS to see if either will hold your corals until you can rectify your lighting situation. The same applies to your fish, although clearly these are less dependant on light for their survival. Keep a close eye on your fish as the stress of this incident may cause disease outbreak. As I said, please keep us informed as to your findings! Thank you and wishing you the very best of luck!>

UV and stray voltage... Trouble Hi, I just recently installed a 80w Current USA Gamma UV on my 220g marine tank.  After installing it I noticed that my Pinpoint PH probe would no longer get a steady reading. <... you have an electrical "leak"... bridged contacts, perhaps a cracked sleeve...>   It would vary drastically and caused my to believe that it was possibly stray voltage from the UV. <Yes, likely so> I know they read positively charged hydrogen ions and thought that maybe electricity was altering it. Well, I unplugged the UV (it was on a separate outlet) and the PH probe began to read normally. I haven't plugged the UV up since and was trying to find some information on what the problem could be, and if it is harmful? <Potentially... very. To your livestock, you> Do UV's normally alter PH probe readings? <Mmm, will elevate them slightly over time...> What can I do to ensure its not harming my livestock? The fish in my tank acted normally for the few hours it was on. Also, I've tried emailing Current USA but have yet to receive a response. Do you know of a tech support number they might have? Thanks, Brandon <I would remove this unit, carefully take it apart, dry all, re-lube the compression fittings for the lamp/sleeve, use silicon lube on the contact pins... put it back on, plug-in and see if this corrects the stray voltage... AND I would definitely plug this (and all other electrics) through a GFI/GFCI device. Bob Fenner> Re: UV and stray voltage... USE the GFI! Thanks for the reply. Well after sending the email, I found a contact number for the manufacturer and they said this was very normal. I explained that the PH probe was not just varying slightly, but was erratically moving back and forth to abnormal readings (ex.8.8-7.3). <... pH is the negative log (base 10) of hydrogen ion concentration... this is a huge variance...> The tech support guy said that this is common and that the UV light attracts ions toward the unit altering the probes ability to get a steady reading. He advised me to plug this unit back up and install a grounding probe if I wanted my PH probe to work properly. <? A grounding probe? For what purpose?> He sounded like a trust worthy source. I spoke with two other people before I finally spoke to someone competent about my situation. But it still makes me wonder. I don't feel any type of shock when I stick my hands in the water. I'm going to try your advice and make sure its installed properly. But what if it still reads erratically? I also plan to use grounding probe. I have a GFCI that contains three prongs, that I can also hook the UV to. I know this device protects against shock and electrocution, but how will it prevent stray voltage from flowing into the tank? <... These devices "count" the flow of current/numbers of electrons if you will, coming and going... as in sixty times a second (Hertz) from and to the two wires in the circuit... if this number varies just a little, the circuit will be interrupted (shut off) by the GFI... if the electricity is flowing elsewhere... as in through you to ground, the GFI will shut off the power> Will it just reset, if there is some type of leakage? <...? No... has to be manually re-set... Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Brandon <I would contact a real electrician or ask an electrical engineer for "real" advice here.> Re: UV and stray voltage 1/16/06 Thanks again for the response. But now I'm really confused. I guess I just really want to know, what I'm supposed to do to insure that the UV is hooked up properly. <Uhh...> I know that it causes my PH monitor to read erratically. Not slowly over time, but it makes irregular readings skipping multiple tenths at a time (ex.8.3 then to 8.56 then to 7.93, all in a matter of seconds). <Mmm, yes...> The company tech said this is normal, and that the UV attracts or disperses ions, causing the Pinpoint PH probe to not get a clear reading. <... no...> He said that he fixes this by placing a titanium grounding probe in the tank. And that he had just recently done this on an octopus tank he had set up. <Think... such probes... are grounds, electrical... but not designed to make large voltage potential run-offs... your wet feet might be a better route...> I hooked the UV up to a GFCI plug and experienced the same problem with the PH monitor. I thought that maybe if the UV was causing stray voltage that the GFCI would reset or automatically turn off. <Danger Will Robbins!> But it functioned properly. <It did not shut off?> I've checked to make sure the unit and bulbs are installed right, and they are. I guess my question to you is, short of never running the UV, how do I insure that UV is not slowly leaking voltage into my tank? I never feel anything when I stick my hand in the tank, and I know that the signs to my livestock are not immediate, and their health will just slowly dwindle with time. So is there anything I can do to insure myself that my livestock are not being slowly tortured? I'm sorry for nagging you so much, but this is nagging me a lot worse knowing the potential consequences. Thanks, Brandon <Please re-read my last email to you... Seek/get professional electrical help. Bob Fenner>

Stray Electricity - 12/15/2005 Hello, <Hi Brian.> I recently installed a light (Dual Satellite Compact Fluorescent Fixtures) and realized today that when I touch the water, it gives me a small shock (not worse than licking a 9 volt battery). <Whoa...that's not cool. Are your fish exhibiting any stress? Watch for changes in their behavior.> I also have a protein skimmer, submersible heater, and carbon filter. Do you think it's possible that the new light is causing it, or do you know how to figure it out if it's the light or something else. After all, the light is standing on plastic legs a good 4 inches above the rim of the tank so I wouldn't think it would be causing it. Is there much of a chance of shorting the light or causing fire? <If something is letting out enough electricity for you to feel it when you touch the water, then it's likely that this could get worse. Something is probably not grounded correctly or there's a slight tear/gouge in a cord (just enough to clear the insulation). You'll have to check all. If it's as noticeable as it sounds it should be as easy as unplugging each piece (one at a time) and checking the water with a voltage meter. As for repair of the piece when located I would contact the manufacturer.> Brian <Josh>

Re: Stray Electricity  12/17/05 Hello again, <Hi Brian.> I checked everything and couldn't find anything. It stopped shocking me though. <Was this after you messed with the plugs? Any salt creep on or around them?> Could I simply have too many things plugged into the wall? <Would most likely trip the breaker in that case.> I have my protein skimmer, filter, three lights and their fan, and the heater plugged into one outlet (as in only one of the two sets prong holes are used because of the surge protector). <I don't think that's it. Is your surge protector the right rating? I wouldn't just let this go. It's happened once and you don't know why. What's to stop it happening again? Did you check each unit as well, not just the cords? Look for any cracks or loose casings. Is your surge protector mounted up off the floor? Any salt creep around the outlet itself? How old is the wiring of your house?> Also, the only thing I've noticed weird is that my Clownfish, who seems perfectly fine, has taken a strange liking to my Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp, letting him frequently clean him (which I doubt is a result, but shouldn't it only clean bigger fish)? <Well that would just be discrimination!.> Brian <Josh>

Shocking reflector 1/12/04 hi,  I am hoping you can help with a question I have regarding halide voltages. I have just retrofitted my 46 gallon bow with 175w Ushios powered by a blue wave 2(ps) and 2 17000k 96 w pc's. I have noticed that if I contact the reflector and the water with a bare arm I get a small zap. I am an auto tech by trade so know something of electrical theory, be it 12volts dc. So I measured the ac volts between the reflector an the water and found around 22 volts ,obviously this prompted removal of the fixture and full investigation. It is definitely being generated by the halide (proven by switching everything else off) but I found no sign of a short. I ran a ground wire between an outlet and the reflector which had no effect. <Did you test the voltage between the water and ground?  It could be that the water is "hot" and you were getting shocked by the competent ground of the reflector.  Metal halide and florescent lamps are known to create and inductive current in adjacent conductors (salt water).> I have all this wired through a GFI but it is still concerning me where this voltage is coming from. The reflector is a PFO and came with the mogul installed, I just wired the sunlight cable to it, the ground for the cable connects to the reflector which seems normal. I do not know what amount of voltage is being produced by the ballast and am wondering if it is a significantly high figure is it normal for there to be some excess voltage produced just from the way these bulbs/ballasts work. I would use ohms law to calculate the voltage but I don't have enough parameters on the outputs of the ballast. Could it be possible there is a problem with the ceramic socket? <I would test several things.  First, measure the voltage between the reflector and ground with the lights running "on the bench" away from the tank.  If you do not measure a voltage, the fixture is fine.  I would also measure the voltage from your tank water and ground with and without the lights on.  A voltage here with the lights off indicates another appliance is leaking current (powerhead, heater, etc.).  With the lights, your lights are inducing a current in the water.  If induction is occurring, you can try raising the lamps or  wrapping the first couple of inches of the fluorescents in foil.> I have found your site invaluable over the two years I have been reefkeeping and am hoping you can help me shed some light sorry that just came out) on this problem, thanks in advance, Liam. <Glad that you have found the site beneficial.  Be glad we don't punish bad puns<g>.  Best Regards.  Adam>

- Shocking - I have 2 Pro-Heat II heaters. They are each only 1 month old and have not been handled roughly. The problem I am having is that they seem to be leaking current. I've tested the water with them on separately and not plugged in at all. There always seems to be a little tingling when either one of them is in, and nothing when they're not plugged in. It's not quite a shock, but it is enough to feel it. Is this normal? <For many devices, yes.> Especially seeing as these are new and supposedly good heaters. If this is not typical, what steps can I take to remedy the situation? <Step number one is to keep your hands out of the tank - you are the final link in the circuit, becoming the ground required to 'complete' the circuit. Next, make sure everything electrical is plugged into a GFCI outlet - any true leaks in current will trigger this device and save you from real problems.> Thanks. Brian. <Cheers, J -- >

Old equipment, the shocking truth Dear whoever's on staff,                         I hope you had a happy new year. I wrote a few days ago while I was mourning a mass coral crash.  Sorry for the novella.  Corals have progressively gotten worse, and even the colt is beginning to close.  My royal Gramma basset has what looks like a strange fungal infection at the base of its fin.  Today I removed a five-inch bristle worm, possible the coral crash culprit? <Possibly a contributor... but I strongly suspect something more profound/basal as a root cause here... something in the way of a toxic situation... either biological or not in origin. Have you tried using a PolyFilter in your water flow path? The change in coloration in this product is often telling as to what sort of poisoning is going on in a system... Massive water changes? Activated carbon in a Dacron bag?> I'm also questioning some type of Cyanobacteria infection because of the brown algae growing on the front of my glass and the top of the toadstool. <Me too... another indication of "something" first priority wrong with the system/water> By the way, the corals had all been growing well for about four or five months with well opened polyps.  I have never seen a crash like this before.   <What have you added last, done recently that is different in your upkeep?> On a whim I tested my aquarium with a voltmeter and was shocked to find that the potential between the aquarium and ground registered 67 volts AC.  I systematically plugged in each piece of equipment to find the source of the leak and was surprised to find that everything leaked electrons to some degree. Each of three small powerheads registered less than a volt each, but the large Rio that powers the protein skimmer came in at a whopping 24 volts.   <What? This is WAY too much> Other significant contributors were the heater (13.5 when heating and 19.4 when plugged in but not heating a bit of a mystery but could make sense; think of electrons like water in plumbing with a small leak; when they can go through the pipes not as much leaks out but when the valve is closed the pressure builds up) , <Mmm, am not in agreement here... with the circuit open there should be NO electron flow, no loose potential whatsoever> one 65 watt CP bulb gave me less than a volt, while the two on a separate circuit gave me 10 volts.  The bulbs could be inducing current in the water and the two bulbs together may amplify the effect, but my sense is that something is terribly wrong with the wiring.  Also, the whisper power filter offered another 11.8 volts.  Much of the equipment is 5+ years old.   I am in the process of installing GFIs, will install a grounding probe as soon as it arrives, and will wipe all the wires in the fish tank to try to reduce the leaking voltage. <A very good idea. Also, will you please check the units you are measuring? Is this really "volts" and not "millivolts"?> Is it normal for powerheads to leak electronically and produces small voltages?  What is small in fish tank terms? <Not atypical, but orders of magnitude less than you relate... thousandths of volts, i.e. millivolts> Should I replace all my equipment that's creating significant voltages if a good wipe down doesn't do the trick?  Will grounded equipment (i.e.. power cord has a third prong) create less voltage? <Should produce none detectable at the volt level> I read someone's account that all of their large Rio pumps leaked about twenty volts.  Is this normal?  Should I test a higher quality brand pump? <I would>   Any insight that you might have on any of the above questions would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks very much.                  <And I would "test the tester" here as well. Get those/that GFCI installed pronto. Bob Fenner>

STRAY VOLTAGE 1/5/03 Hi, this is a very unusual question. <Hi James.  Adam here.  If you think this is unusual, you need to read some more of the daily FAQ's!> The pump I use to keep the water mixed in my saltwater refill container seems to be losing some voltage into the water.  I noticed this when I put my had in the water to adjust the pump.  It was a very mild jolt.  As far as you know, will this hurt the composition of the saltwater in any way?  thanks, James <Please do replace this pump ASAP.  Most importantly because you are you risking injuring yourself (or other household member).  Also, if current is leaking, that means that metal (most likely copper) parts of the pump are exposed to the water, probably through a crack or other defect in the pump housing or potting.  This will allow the metal to dissolve into your salt water.  It is likely in minute quantities, but why risk your life or many costly animals over a relatively cheap pump?  Best Regards.  Adam>

Getting Zapped! (12/11/2003) Ahhhh, yes, stray voltage is something I have had experience with.  I bought a probe, but don't remember the brand.  I though it was working until I took it out to clean one day, and it zapped me! <Ouch> Is this crazy or what? <What part of it zapped you? The current should not come from the wall. Did you have your other hand in the tank. The zap suggests the probe was working.> I threw it away needless to say and haven't replaced it. The main problem is to find out where the stray voltage is coming from. I sometimes think it's from my lights because they do get a bit crusted with salt now and then, and I need to be careful because I found myself being zapped a few weeks ago when I put one hand on the light hood and another in the water. A small zap, but enough to make me jump. I can definitely hear you now. I feel a bit irresponsible, but really don't know what to do about this. My stray voltage meter zapped me, and my tank zaps me, what now??? <There are volt meters available that can measure this. Unplug everything. Plug things back in one at a time to see the effect of each. Are you using GFCI outlets or a GFCI-equipped power strip? You should not be getting zapped if you are. These zaps could be dangerous. The protection of GFCI is well worth the cost/effort. Search WWM under "stray voltage" and looked here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm  Do be careful with electricity.> Thanks, Pam <You're welcome. Steve Allen> 

Getting Zapped II (12/21/03) <Hello Pam> What do you mean by, "The current should not come from the wall" ? The part of the probe that zapped me was the metal part that sticks into the water. You mean to tell me that was normal? Ahhhh, I threw away a good probe then. Hmmm, that figures. <The grounding probes I am familiar with have 2 plastic (non-conductive) prongs that go into the live sockets of wall outlet. The metal third prong goes into the ground socket and is connected by an insulated wire to the probe that you place in the water. The idea then is that any stray current in the tank passes through the probe and wire and out thru the wall socket ground. For you to be shocked by the probe, some other part of your body had to be connected to a source of current. Either that or whatever you plugged it into has a serious defect.> I have 2 power strips. One old, (Perma Power Socket Plus) and a newer one with a shut off button on it. GFCIs, I don't know. Hmmm, can you tell I haven't been doing this reef thing very long? My tank looks very nice though and all my numbers are right on target, Now, if I could just keep myself alive to enjoy it a bit................hmmm.  <GFCI may save your life or your house. Here's what you need: http://www.lowes.com/lkn?action=productList&function=search&categoryId=PORTABLE_ GFCI_EXTENSION_CORDS.CATEGORY&topic=goShopping> I want to attach a picture of my beautiful mushrooms I took with my new digital camera, what fun! <Would love to see them. Do consider joining WetWebFotos and posting them there.> I will look at the link you sent me and keep you updated on  my "zap data" Thanks a lot for your input. <You're welcome.> Pam

Zapped No More -- Getting GFCI (12/14/03) Tomorrow is my day off and I shall get myself down to Home Depot that just opened here on the Cape and buy my GFCI connections, thank you! <great!> PS. I went to Webfotos and tried to upload my pic, but continued to get a 500 Servlet Exception, why is this? Was the site not working? <I have the same problem. I will forward this to Bob> Thanks again, <You're welcome. Steve Allen> Pam

Static electricity Hello staff, Thank you so much for having such a wonderful, informative site.  I have a strange problem occurring in my sump area.  I seem to accumulating static electricity.  At first I thought it was a short in my heater or return pump but it doesn't seem strong enough and it isn't always there.  It also seems confined to the sump.  I have been filtering my water as it flows into the sump with some poly fill sheeting (basically sheet stuffing for pillows etc...)  Could the water movement over this be causing static to build up?  Have you ever heard of anything crazy like this?  Or is it just me that is crazy and it is a short in my pumps or heater? <Hi I don't know you, but I don't think you are "crazy" (your word not mine) But it is more than likely a pump or heater if it happens every time you put your hand in the sump it is that. try unplugging heater look to see if there is moisture in it and see if the shocking is still there, if not it was the heater. If it is still there try the pumps hope this helps MikeH> Thanks Ray in Ohio

Shocking Tank (a tale of leaking potential from an appliance) Hi All, No question, just want to relate an experience that may help someone. <Please go ahead> I have a canister that trickles water into my main tank.  I have the habit of feeding my fish with a toothpick or fingers and I wash the feed residue in the canister flow or the main tank.  About a couple of months ago I noted that if I had a small cut on my finger tips or cuticles it burned like crazy when I washed my fingers in it.  Attributing this to salt water burning the cuts I ignored it.  Yesterday the skin over my cuticle peeled off.  When I fed the fish I washed only the print side of my finger tips but the cuticle burned like crazy.   I got suspicious and thought there may be an electrical leak in the water. So I took a tester and ran the tip into the water, and guess what it lit up!!  The tank was, well...alive.   The first thing I did switch off a powerhead one at a time to try and eliminate the faulty one this did give me any result as the tester lit up anyway.  Then checked the chiller, still no result. The last thing that I suspected was the lighting but sure enough that was it,  the plug point which connects the lights was faulty.  I am surrounded by wood except where the canister is so when ever I put my hand into the water I was not grounded. I am no expert on electricity, but I would just like people to know that if they experience anything like what it did please check for leaks.  Run a test it may save your life. Faulty Power heads are not exactly rare in the hobby. Kind Regards, Jorell <Thank you for relating your experience. Bob Fenner>

Ground Probe Does not Seem to Help - 8/23/03 In the past 2 months I have had lost many corals all my tests come out fine. <I wish I could agree with you/know them> Then I found there was electric in my tank by getting shocked in it. got a  grounding probe hook it up made sure it was grounded properly and I still get a charge. Check all pumps power heads and heater all fine. I'm stumped. <simply use a voltmeter on the tank while systematically unplugging each electrical instrument to find the faulty one> all my pumps give off a charge, I also had a electrician look at it and he said all wires are properly ground. hope u can help me thanks <did your electrician also suggest that you install a GFI outlet for your safety? If not... get another electrician to install one (a ground fault interrupter can save your life. Best regards, Anthony>

Ground probe does not seem to help III 8/25/03 <simply use a voltmeter on the tank while systematically unplugging each electrical instrument to find the faulty one> I tried that all of them give off volts and most are only 3 months old <<at this point, I need to direct you to a professional electrician... your voltmeter is inaccurate or not perhaps not being used properly. Play it safe, bub. Anthony>>

Killer Via Aqua Heater! Last night, I went to feed the pods in our refugium and got a shock - literally! You could feel the electricity (pain through your fingers). The culprit - a less than one year old Via Aqua Stainless Steel heater. Rust had leached out of the end cap (a gob about an inch wide) and it was shooting electricity through the sump!!! $100 worth of Copepods we added last week that were flourishing one day earlier were all dead, along with the Amphipods! Luckily the refugium was running off a powerhead and not yet connected to the new tank!!! <Yeeikes!> A few questions: 1) We removed the heater (of course) complete with it's attached "rust ball" and changed the water out. The pods are definitely dead (most floating). The Caulerpa and Chaeto look fine. Do we need to change out the mud substrate before we attach it to the main tank because of the rust and whatever else may have leached out of that <expletive deleted whaa!> piece of junk - Via Aqua heater? <I would leave these as is. More likely than not ferrous metal has "settled out"... I would however add a pad of "PolyFilter" in your filter flow path> 2) Do you know the Via Aqua manufacturer or website (we couldn't find it). Not that it will do any good, but we would like to inform them of this mess. <I do know the company... Commodity Axis: http://www.commodityaxis.com/Home.aspx> 3) We are going to trash our other Via Aqua Stainless heater too and would like to warn your other saltwater readers about this potential disaster waiting to happen!  Thanks in advance! <Please do contact the company, mail them your heaters.... you could very well save other people's lives. Bob Fenner> 

More than a shocking situation I work at a fish shop and there are surge protectors that hold a lot of our pumps for the protein skimmers and such they have quite a bit of salt on them and are usually damp I cant work under the tanks with the plugs without getting shocked any tips or ideas? <Yes... do NOT go anywhere near these outlets... turn all off, have a licensed electrician and/or electrical engineer come and trouble shoot your store... have them make a working plan for duplex or quad outlets mounted on the wall... above the tanks... and have all circuits wired through GFCI's... Not just the livestock's lives depend on this... Bob Fenner>

Titanium grounding rod DANGER!  Bob, <James> Just something I'd like to pass on to you should a question arise on the www. Do encourage people NOT to use these things.  <I don't, and never have> They are a potentially very dangerous item to have in the aquarium. A friend of mine decided to pull his grounding rod out of the tank to clean the algae off it. Unknowingly, he had a powerhead that was electrically defective as far as insulation goes. Well, he grabbed the rod in one hand and had the other hand in the water, and presto, since he was connected directly to earth ground he got quite a jolt which caused his arm to go numb for some time and also created nervous twitches for about a week.  Regards, James (Salty Dog) <Yeeikes! Bob F>

Maximum wire length between ballast and bulb Howdy, I have a retro kit for Halides & VHO's and the cabling that came with the kit has approx 10' ea between the bulb assy. and the ballasts.  I have two separate ballasts, one for the halides & one for the VHO's.  They are just a standard Advance transformer w/cap ballasts.  I wanted to lengthen the distance between the ballast and the bulbs by an additional 10'.  I have the appropriate cable to do this and the wiring is simple enough.  The question really is, is there a maximum distance one should not exceed in length from ballast to bulb for either Halide or VHO?  Overall the length would be about 20' from ballast to bulb when I'm done. p.s. I've already wired it up...I just was wondering if the minimal extra capacitance in the line would cause a problem down the road with startup or voltage loss. Thanks <Yes, this could be a problem, depending on wire size for this length run, voltage, amperage, etc.  The manufacturers of these ballasts provide the maximum length and recommended wire size for these applications, please refer directly to the manufacturer (or vendor) for their requirements.  Craig>

Salt Water Spray Shocking Fish Hello, <Howdy> Wanted to share a story with readers regarding what has just recently happened to my 135 gallon FOWLR tank. The occupants are 1-black dog faced Puffer (Lexi), 1-Purple Tang (Welch's), 1-BlueFaced Angel (Mardi), and 1-Harlequin Wrasse (Harley). I had attached a fan by a nail inside the stand. I had done this to keep tank temperature in lower 80s. I was aware of the fact that there was some salt spray, and had the fan set at the lowest temperature furthest away from the wet/dry. During my usual daily maintenance, I noticed that my Puffer and my Wrasse had a little ick on their fins (this tank has been set up for a year). Also, in retrospect I had witnessed my Tang swimming patterns were not normal/excessive the night before. I was baffled by the ick thing, as my maintenance schedule is strict. I was preparing to hook up the UV sterilizer (I have a UV Sterilizer which I did not have in use and felt was not really necessary at current) after testing the water, and realized when I touched the power strip that I WAS BEING SHOCKED slightly from the salt spray hitting the strip!!!. <Oh oh> I have unplugged the fan and completely switched out the power strip, as well as wiped down all electrical cords, and plugs before plugging all back up. My fish immediately starting getting color back on the fins and the ick began to disappear immediately-weird but true. If I had a grounded probe plugged in that I purchased at my LFS why was there still shocking that occurred? <Not able to handle this amount of electricity... I strongly encourage you to rig up a GFCI here. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm> There is still just one problem, my Blueface Angel has not eaten in a day. I have NEVER had a problem with finicky Angels. I have a Bicolor Angel in Reef tank. I have noticed at first after this happened that he would not come out from behind the rock, and now he is out and comes to see me when I am there. He is very fat, and up until a day ago has eaten like a pig, likes to snatch food my hand that I am trying to give to the Puffer. I have had him for four months, he is about 4.5-5". It seems as though he wants to eat, because he comes out in the frenzy when I feed. Is there any words of encouragement or advice that you can give? <Give this animal time, it should resume feeding soon. The effects of the electrical exposure will fade with time.> When should I start becoming nervous about this feeding strike? <Days to a week> Should I add Selcon to the water directly? <You could> P.S. For this tank, I feed frozen seafood in the morning( from my own makings), various flake at night and hang Nori on a clip daily. <Sounds like a good routine. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Nikki

Re: Salt Water Spray Shocking Fish Bob, <Nikki> Thanks for the feedback on the GFCI. My brother had actually insisted (a few years ago) I get one of those for my BR. He actually installed it for me where my blow-dryer is plugged. <Very good> I also have one outside for my pool equipment. <Yes, it's "the code"... and for very good reason> I guess, I just had not even thought about this for my tanks. I will have my brother come by and get the GFCIs installed for all three tanks... I just feel so terrible because I accepted responsibility for my fish, and love them so much. I can only hope that my Blueface Angel eats SOON and that all is well again for all!!! <I would wager that in your good care it will soon. Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Nikki

Re: Salt Water Spray Shocking Fish Bob, Just wanted to let you know that my Blueface Angel ate a small piece of shrimp this morning. I feel we are definitely on the right track and he will be eating like a pig again soon. I also wanted to say thanks for always being there when I need advice as well as just being there to listen. Thanks, Nikki <Ah, a pleasure. Thank you for the update. Bob Fenner>

Re: Rio 600 (electrical use, aquarium in general) Hi guys (since I never know who'll answer this), <Hi Rene, you're right!  Craig here today.> I just found out this morning that the Rio 600 powerhead isn't worth it's weight in feces.  It shorted out on me and now my fish are hurting, the water smells like a burned motor, and I'm frustrated as you can imagine.   <Oh, yes, I can!> My question is, other than a massive water change (20 gallons out of a 45 gallon FOWLR tank), is there anything else I can do?  this is the first time I've ever had electrical failure inside a tank and am kind of out of my element.  Thanks.  Rene <Hmmm, not really. Replace the darned Rio and the water.  Perhaps several water changes over several days. I trust you have a ground fault interrupter installed so you don't become a victim of another failed powerhead? If not buy one ASAP....you have been forewarned! A PolyFilter may help.  Craig>

Funky smell / one dead fish Hi, Bob. I spoke to Jason today and am ordering my EV-180 tomorrow but unfortunately it might be a little too late. Earlier today (hours after speaking to Jason) I went down into my basement which houses my 125 FOWLR tank run with a wet/dry (bio/balls) and built in skimmer (not productive at all). I immediately smelled this odor which source could not be detected. I thought it might be a cleaning product that the dogs had tipped over. I went over to the tank and could smell it there but didn't think it was the source because the odor was stronger about 15' from the tank. I then noticed my 3yr. old Coral Beauty swimming about the tank on it's side. It eventually settled on the bottom breathing heavy, gills open wide. I immediately checked my other fish (Niger Trigger, Maroon Clown , Blue Palette Tang and Clown Wrasse) . All were fine with the exception of the tang (8"), he was in his sleeping position and I disturbed it to view it's reaction. It reacted as if it were weak and I fear it will receive the same fate as the Angel. I immediately changed about 40% of the water hoping the others would not get ill. My question is have you ever heard or should I say is it normal for a tank to emit a odor in conjunction with fish getting ill and dying? The odor dissolved after the water change so I think it came from the tank. It was a strong odor initially. Could it be the live rock which is cured and been with me for five yrs. Thanks. (by the way Jason of Aqua-C speaks highly of you) Jim <As you have detailed. The apparent, odd behavior was due to an electrical leak... I suggest plugging all aquarium gear in/through GFCIs: Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfcimarines.htm Take care, Bob Fenner>

Re: funky odor/ one dead fish Hi, I e-mailed late last night about the unidentified funky odor (ufo) and dying angelfish. Well this morning I ran down to the tank and discovered the angel dead but everyone else o.k. I found the problem, a cracked plugged in sub. heater (Visitherm) in the sump w/o being suctioned. Another lesson learned in the world of fishkeeping. Thanks. Jim. <Yikes! Glad no one (else) was electrocuted. Bob Fenner>

Deteriorating Fins? Hi Dr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo in your service> I was looking through a pet supply magazine and noticed a product that is supposed to remove electricity from an aquarium. It was only a grounding wire connected to a titanium rod on one end and the other to the grounding screw at the outlet. I had been mildly shocked on several occasions while in my aquarium so I constructed my own grounding wire using a stainless steel rod. So far it has worked. <excellent> My question is, the magazine stated that electricity in the water can cause deteriorating fins. I just removed a fish from my tank because I strongly suspected him of chewing on my 3 Searobins. I have not observed any aggression from any of the other fish, yet the Searobin's fins seem to be getting worse. My water quality tests out excellent. I have been treating the tank with copper at around .25ppm. Do you think the voltage in my water could have caused the problem with the fins, or is it something else? Thank you, Steve Tilotta <stray voltage has been implicated as a deleterious influence on the health of fishes but cannot fairly be said to cause anything so specific. Enough said that it is a stress and can contribute. I think that it is generally wise to have stray voltage grounded but would not rule out the possibility of a pathogen or aggression with your sea robins. Anthony Calfo>

Deteriorating Fins? II Thank you Anthony for your advice. <always welcome> An update: I caught the culprits that were chewing on the fins of my Searobins. They were my spadefish.  <hehe... yes, Cheeky little monkeys!> Butterfly fish seem to leave the Searobins alone. I think I'll fill my tank(135 gal.) with an assortment of them if they don't fight amongst themselves. Thank you again. Steve <eh... you'll get a whole new set of challenges/problems <wink>. Anthony>

Tank Emergency....burning smell Hi guys - sorry to write you, but it's kind of an emergency situation. I searched the site and the forums, but came up empty, possibly b/c I didn't quite know what to search for.  Funny Smell? Bad Pump?  None seem to come up with my situation. My husband and I came home from work today and noticed the return pump had stopped running.  We had another, so we took out the one that wasn't working and put in the new one. <Did you check to see if there was an obstruction in the return?> Then we noticed that our mushroom and yellow polyps weren't happy and started closing up.  Then we realized the tank actually smelled - it smelled almost medicinal and kind of like plastic.   Our initial thought was it was the new pump and it had an odor and it would quickly go away.  However, the old pump also had the smell and now it seems like it caused the problem (it was after all not working!). <Some pumps shut off without water....is it moving water or is there an obstruction?  The inhabitants may be reacting to the now dying filter....remove and service ASAP. Also check water flow and heater. Perform good sized water changes to remove filter wastes. When/if it goes out in the future, remove and service before restarting.> It's a 75 gallon tank with about 75lbs of live rock, all of which is very purple with coralline algae and all have lots of mushroom and yellow polyps. Other than the polyps, we have a bubble tip anemone and a Devil's Hand Leather. We also have a Tomato Clown and Yellow Tang, which actually seem to be doing ok.  Some snails have already died.  We have an extra 30 gallon tank that we've used to quarantine fish before, but we didn't see a way to try and save everything and thought the water we had on hand was better put to use as a water change. <Buy yourself an inexpensive Rubbermaid container to hold all your stuff.> At this point we have changed 25% of the water, left the pump off and the filter is off because it sits in the sump (with no pump, no reason to filter just the sump).  We've mixed more water and have it setting out ready to go tomorrow.  We're at a loss as to what really happened and what to do.  Any advice?  Hopefully we didn't do anything bad in our panic, and hopefully we can save them.  Help! Thank you, Amy <Sounds like a pump failure due to obstruction, overheating pump(s). I hope your heater is in the main...if in the sump you don't have heat....Don't start the pump until cleaned. I would completely go through the overflow/returns and clean to be sure it's flowing properly.  Good luck!  Craig>

"Fire" and Live Rock Thanks for all of your great information and quick responses.  I have a "situation".  Recently I ordered 180 pounds of live Kaelini rock and it arrived in beautiful condition with lots of color and attached organisms.  The rock was placed in a large 55 gallon container with a heater, power head, and lighting and all were connected to a power strip.  To make a long story short, two days later a "fire" occurred apparently at the power strip and melted part of the container and some of the melted debris from the light strip fell into the water along with some of the melted plastic. <Not unusual enough... these strips come in a few formats... some are very "safe", others must be placed where water cannot get into them (mounted vertically on a wall, high up> Needless to say, it was quite a mess.  Luckily, I was able to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher! <Yay!> I immediately removed the rock and put it in fresh salt water; however, I did not have a replacement power head until the next day.  I also added charcoal in a mesh bag and have replaced it every other day. My question is:  Do you think the rock will survive and will be able to be used in my tank? <Almost certainly yes>   I am afraid that chemicals were released into the water or the extinguisher material could have poisoned the rock-----even though it wasn't sprayed into the water.   A lot of the color is gone from the rock at this time but there is still a little present.  I am not sure if that is due to the curing process or if it is due to the fire.   Any suggestions? Thanks, James <Just to monitor ammonia, nitrite... when the rock is cured, place it. Bob Fenner>

Never zap the hand that feeds... Hello,    I have a 125 gallon with two arctic penguins, a baby seal and a sea turtle.
<What, no buffalo? What kind of cheesy tank is this?!>
OK, that's a lie.
<Oh... bummer...>
I just thought you might be ready  for something a little less routine! I do have 3 Rio 2100s circulating a Fish and Live rock setup, plus the filtration, skimmer and lights and 2 days ago, I stuck my recently cut hand in the tank and I could definitely feel some low voltage in the water. I've been checking out ground probes on the net, but it will be about 4 days before I  get one. Do you know of any short term, simple solutions besides unplugging everything until I pick up the ground probe?
<Don't stick your hand in the tank.>
I've got a 10 inch Blonde Naso, a 7 inch Grey Angel, a 4 inch Queen Angel and some ancient Damsels all bound for a much larger tank within the year. The uncut hand feels nothing, but I am not sure what the fish feel.
<No worries for 4 days. We had several old poorly maintained Rio's at the shop (back in the day) and as soon as I stepped in the smallest bit of water I'd get zapped. The long term effects of stray voltage are no good (hole in the head, lateral line erosion, etc), but no worries for a few more days. >
None of them seem bothered and it's probably been this way a while, but I just thought you may have some ideas. I know copper wire is not preferred.
<Well, if you're an invert you'd prefer titanium b/c using a copper probe would KILL THEM. :) Most probes made for aquariums are made of titanium, I trust you ordered that one.> Thanks, Rich <Good luck! -Kevin>

Lighting Emergency I have a CSL retro 2 x 96W PC fixture and one of the end caps is burned out. As in smoke and ash. I am not sure what happened as I was on Vacation (Isn't that the way everything happens). Where can I order a replacement End cap and is it OK for me to run the ballast with just one Bulb.  <I wouldn't. Too much change of other corrosion, shorting damage elsewhere in the fixture.> I kinda have to. I removed the affected end cap and taped up the wires w/ electrical tape. I then plugged it back in and turned it back on but the light kinda flickers and isn't as bright as I am used to seeing it. Please Advise me as to the best coarse of action. <Unplug this unit, call Custom Sea Life in the AM: http://www.customsealife.com/ Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia>

Concerns about stray electricity Mr. Fenner I would appreciate if you could perhaps give me some suggestions. I have a fish only 180 gallon tank, I have a Harlequin Tusk, a Marine Betta, a Blue Face Angel, a X-mas wars, and a black Dalmatian puffer. My pH, salinity, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia are perfect, These fish eat better than I do, I feed them shrimp, squid, krill, and a verity of pellet foods, I have had then for about a year. with out no problem till now, my Blue face has lost all of its blue on his face my X-mass wrasse seems to have HLLE decease along with the Marine Betta. I gave back to the fish store the Blue face so that they hold it for me for a while to see what would happen and the blue started to come back again, the owner of the fish store told me that that probably had some type of an electrical current in my tank, so I purchased a ground probe, took back the Blue Face and the Blue that had returned while it was at his store again came off I grounded the 4MD pump that I have from the wet-dry going back to the aquarium. I have a Rio 2100 pump that goes to my UV, and a Mag-Drive pump that goes to my protein skimmer. My question is this. SINCE THESE PUMPS ARE UNDER WATER HOW CAN I GROUND THEM, AND WHAT CAN BUY WHERE I CAN MEASURE IF THERE IS ANY ELECTRICAL CURRENT INSIDE MY TANK. Please, help me I would really hate loosing these fishes. <Thanks for all the useful information here. The sealed pumps are very unlikely leaking electrical potential into your system. They are grounded through their plugs... and can be checked for ground faults by having them wired through GFCI protected circuits. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gfiuseagb.htm Electricity in an aquatic system can be checked with simple "multi-meter" test gear that measures down to the "milli" range... Now, more to the point. HLLE conditions are attributed to "stray voltage", "poor water quality", "Octamita/Hexamita necatrix"... and these co-factors may well play some role... these conditions are cured with nutritional make-up... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hllefaqs.htm Be chatting. Bob Fenner> Ramon Donestevez

Electrocuted Reef / PLEASE HELP QUICKLY !!! Good Morning, I need help. I have a 55 gallon flat back hex. reef tank. My tank is almost 2 years old. I have not had any major problems since the tank was set up, until last night. We were watching the baseball game and I started hearing a very loud noise coming from the tank. I jumped up and grabbed a flashlight, because by this time the lights had cycled off. When I looked in the tank I could see sparks and a lot of bubbles coming from the powerhead that runs my protein skimmer. I quickly unplugged everything. I raised the hood door and there was a lot of smoke, then I raised the glass cover and even more smoke pours out. There was a black slimy substance covering the top of the water. I ran and got a bowl and tried to skim the top.  <Good idea... I hope after unplugging the pump/s> Then I noticed all my fish swimming around very irately and gasping for air, within 10 minutes they were on the bottom dying. I noticed that my maroon clownfish no longer had white stripes they were black. My husband said that the powerhead must have shorted out and electrocuted the fish. This morning when I checked the tank everything is dead. I lost everything.  <Very sorry to hear/read.> All my precious fish, corals, shrimps, starfish, etc.. I need to know what to do next. Do I tear the whole tank down and start from scratch. <Mmm, what is the make/model of the pump?> I have about 60lbs. of live rock in the tank. Do you think it needs to be replaced also. I want to make sure everything is in perfect condition before I begin rebuilding my treasured reef. I would appreciate any answers and advice you could give me. I know you are very busy, but I need help a.s.a.p.. You can reach me by e-mail at XXX, by phone at XXX, by fax at XX, and by mail at Tamara Teta XXX Pineville LA 71360 . I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thanks for any help you can give me. <Thank you for writing. I do encourage you to drain the tank, clean it thoroughly, but would just rinse the live rock thoroughly and let it "air dry" for a few days to a couple of weeks (yes, this will kill most of the live part of it). Later, to place this rock more as a "base" with new live rock on and about it. Do please send me the information re the maker of the unit that failed. My thoughts are with you. Bob Fenner>

Stray Voltage  Hi Bob,  I have another question for you. Do you have a procedure for measuring stray voltage in a tank? I've tried all kinds of things with a volt meter but nothing registers. Either I'm doing it wrong or I have no stray voltage. I suspect the former.  Thanks,  Brian Battles  <A simple millivoltmeter... probably like you're using... and agree with you, you likely have no stray potential, induced or otherwise. Bob Fenner>

Electricity and the aquarium I have read your advice and have followed all of it in regards to safe use of electricity around water (i.e.. GFI, ext. cords off the ground, drip loops, etc.). However, yesterday I noticed a "tingling" in the water when I changed the filter in the top of my eclipse system. Today, I felt the tingling as I was lifting the hood and again when I touched the water. Is this an eminent danger? How about suggestions for stopping this problem? I can see nothing obviously wrong with the cables. Oh. . . the equipment and all fixtures is 1.6 years old.  Once again, thanks for your help. David Dowless >> Hmm, something is amiss... off hand, if the rest of the gear is okay, and the GFI has been installed (pretty simple), then I suspect an open "secondary loop" in your lighting (there is a possibility of bad electrical shock, even fire here...). Do at least check your system for current (a simple volt, ammeter will likely do.) and supply a grounding device to the tank/water... at best/better, call in a licensed electrician to check your wiring, set-up and ground it properly. Bob Fenner, who thanks you for scaring him.

You're Grounded! My marine tank is not grounded properly and I get a mild shock if  working in the tank. Can you tell me what type of material I can use to ground (or earth) the fish tank to the mains supply. Does the "floating voltage" and stray currents effect the tank, I have a reef tank with fish and inverts. >> Yikes! Electrical potential (voltage) you can detect is dangerous... to your livestock and YOU! I would use a conductivity tool to detect the source (probably moisture getting into a wiring junction) and solve it immediately (electrical potting material or silicone sealant can be used to fill wire nuts). Additionally, do look into rigging up all your 110 volt circuits through a GFI... notes on these tools can be found on my site: www.wetwebmedia.com. You're Grounded! Dos Bob First off, thank you for your extremely fast response to my first email. The Q&A is a great resource and reading it today I thought my own experience might help your reader with the electrical current flowing through his ground probe. We have an old house with no original grounds. A previous owner replaced the 2 prong receptacles with 3 prong units and shorted the neutral to the ground pin. Maybe not a problem by itself, but many of the receptacles were wired wrong with the hot and neutral reversed making the ground hot. It was even done in the bathroom - potentially dangerous. The scary part is that my (and the house inspector's) cheap plug-in-the-socket continuity checker showed everything being okay. <Yikes... out with the cheesy continuity checker, and in with a simple polarity checker... Very common problem... especially in the age of do-it-yourselfers and the big warehouse stores offering everything up to sub-panels to the home-consumer... Thank you for this... will add to my anecdotal accounts after urging folks to use GFI's on their systems: Home Page > Feel free to forward this email if you think it might help. Now for my question: We just got some live rock (FFE pre-cured Fiji, nice looking stuff) and was wondering if we should upgrade the lighting in our (for now) FO 26 gallon tank to benefit the organisms on the LR. Right now it has just one 20 watt full spectrum fluorescent (about 1000 lumens) on the 3 foot long, 16 inch high tank. And if we went for power compacts (without MH), looking ahead to possibly adding invertebrates (including an anemone) what should we use? 2 55's? 2 96's? More? I've read a lot of the Q&A archives and its answered a lot of my questions, but I still don't have a good feel for how much light these creatures need. Thanks for your help, Scott Ginaven >> <Thank you for the above... And I would get the twin 96's... if I was pretty sure I wanted SPS corals (small polyp stonies, like Acroporids), and/or giant clams in my future.... Otherwise, the 55's will do for anemones and most all other types of photosynthetic life hobbyists have available currently.... Both will be incredibly brighter than your present circumstance (single, regular output, 2 foot fluorescent). Re the anemone and your comfort level... do wait a few months, enjoying your live rock and other hardier forms of stinging-celled life before launching into one of these animals... they do have some definite downsides... not easily kept in all honesty... and real trouble if their health starts going sideways... to your system, other livestock. Caution and patience here Bob Fenner 

Grounding probe from hell I recently added a grounding probe, now any time I touch the water, I can feel a small, but definite currant?????? If I remove the probe, the electricity is gone? Shouldn't it be doing the opposite? I have tried to isolate the culprit by unplugging everything one at a time, but to no avail. Help, Chris. >> Time to check the connection of the grounding probe... sounds like you have IT plugged into a live electrical source... Keep your hands out of the tank till you locate and remove the source of the current... Do you have a volt, conductivity meter? Know how to use one? May be time to call in the real thing... an electrician. Bob Fenner

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