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FAQs on Electricity and Aquariums

Related Articles: Electricity and Aquariums, GFI use,

Related FAQs:  Freshwater Heating, GFCI Use

Filter and Hood Interference? 4/12/14
Hello crew. I have a cheap LED aquarium hood and I just installed a Fluval U1 internal filter. When I unplug the filter, the LED lights momentarily dim off, then go back on. ?? They are both plugged into the same outlet.
I tried using a floor lamp plugged in with the hood and unplugging the floor lamp did not affect the hood lights. I contacted the filter manufacturer and they said the filter is only 5W and should not interfere with the hood, and that I should have an electrician check out the outlet.
Well I haven't gone that far yet. Instead I plugged an extension cord into a different outlet and plugged the hood and filter into that, and the same thing happens, the LED lights dim off when I unplug the filter. Anyone else experience something like this? Any suggestions? I appreciate any advice; I'm concerned about the safety aspects. Thank you for your time, Lorie
<In all likelihood this is "just one of those things" about your aquarium.
You have done exactly what I would have done: used an extension lead to connect the tank to another wall socket on the other side of the room. If the flickering doesn't happen, then yes, it's the wall socket by the aquarium that's faulty. But if the flickering does happen, then it's the aquarium that's malfunctioning. So with that said, the problem is with the manufacturer. If you can, take the tank bank and get a new one. Depending on where you live in the world there will be specific laws pertaining to the fitness of items for the purpose they're being sold for, but usually it's 12 months. Your aquarium should also have a warranty of some sort between you and the manufacturer, irrespective of what the retailer does to
help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: re: Filter and Hood Interference? 4/
Ok, thanks Neale for your time and advice. -Lorie
<Most welcome.>

my water is electrified (FW, heaters)  6/18/2009
hi i changed the water in my tank but we accidently left the heater on. now the water is electrified. How do i go about electrifying it.
cheers Glenn
<What do you mean the water is "electrified"? Heaters are meant to be left on, except when physically removed from water (in which case they quickly overheat and the glass cracks, making them unsafe to use). Water doesn't become "electrified". What can happen if a live wire is placed in an aquarium is that the water becomes live as well, and when you touch the water, you can give yourself a shock. That's why you don't allow heaters to crack, because that would expose the live wires inside them to the water.
It's actually a good habit to switch off any electrical devices in contact with the water whenever you stick your hands in the tank -- heaters, powerheads, submerged filters, etc. In any case, since such devices carry
electrical current, not static electricity, switching them off will break the circuit, so if the water happens to become live because it's exposed to a current-carrying wire, switching the device off stops the current
flowing, rendering the aquarium safe. If for some reason you are concerned about the wiring or safety of your aquarium though, do contact a qualified electrical engineer. Without seeing what you've done to your equipment and/or aquarium, I can't be held responsible for any damage or harm caused by faults in, or misuse of, your equipment. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: my water is electrified (FW, heaters)
ok thanks for that very helpful cheers Glenn
<You're welcome. Neale.>

Power cut... send to BBs  2/21/08 Hi Neale, For some reason, there was a power cut on the whole road that I live in last night, and it has only just come back on a few hours ago. The fish are looking a bit lifeless - they are still alive, but they seem to be hanging at the top of the tank and breathing fast. Also, the Plec now seems to have patches of light brown on his skin when it should be a dark brown. The pictus is lying at the bottom of the tank not really moving and the sharks are just hiding in a corner. Their scales appear to be falling off. When the electricity got turned off, I watched the tank for a couple of hours and the temperature dropped several degrees and also the pump stopped working. Is there anything I can do about all this? What if the fish die? How does one maintain a tank if the electricity cuts off? Thanks, Neervana <Fish tanks can last some hours without electricity, though the biological filter will die back quite quickly if there isn't enough oxygen getting into the media. It's a good idea to remove biological filter media from closed filters (e.g., canisters) and place them in an open bucket with just enough water to stay damp. Short of getting an uninterruptible power supply for the fish tank, there's no terribly effective way to look after a fish tank through a power cut. Putting blankets over the tank to keep it warm is one of the best things, but that's about it. If you have hot water in your house still, you could do a water change if the temperature drops too much. Once you have the power back, it is a good idea to do a big (50%) water change to flush out some of the ammonia that will have accumulated over time. Do a nitrite test some time in the next 24 hours to see that the filter is working properly, and if not, act accordingly. Anyway, as for the Silver Sharks: losing scales can be caused by them bumping into things when they are scared. Do check for sharp objects in the tank. Floating plants (even plastic ones) are very good for reducing fear in schooling fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Power cut  2/21/08 Hi Neale, From what I read in your last e-mail, does this mean that all the good bacteria in my filter thing has died? It came in-built with the tank as did the pump and the heater. It was out of the water for at last 4-5 hours and there was no water flowing on it because the electricity was off. What should I do now? Will my fish die because the bacteria aren't there anymore? I mean how long will it take for it to grow back? Thanks, Neervana <No, not all the bacteria will have died, but some will because the oxygen that will have passively diffused into the filter will be less than the amount of oxygen that gets in when the motor is running. So do your water change, and then over the next few days, reduce/stop feeding, do nitrite tests, and basically act as if the filter is only partially cycled. With luck, the remaining bacteria will spring back into life straight away, and quickly undo the damage. Cheers, Neale.>

Um.. I'm worried... Oscars... simply fighting, or an electrified situation?  2/18/08 I have 2 albino tiger Oscars. A couple of nights ago my larger one started freaking out and trying to almost jump out of my 55 gallon tank. <Yikes! Two of these fish need more room than this...> I would hear a crash and splash and it seemed he was almost unconscious in the water. My other one seems to be following his pattern because I picked him up of the ground this morning. I do have a top but they jumped threw the lid. <Yes... can happen> They are both very scared up and have almost knocked them selves out. It keeps happening but there's nothing wrong with my other fish in the tank. Im really worried could you please help me with your advice.,,,Aki <I do hope so... I am concerned that you may have a situation here of "stray electrical current"... making these fish "jumpy"... DO be careful around the tank till this can be checked, solved... Have someone check with a volt meter... FIND the fault... DO install a GFCI on all aquarium gear that uses electricity... IF this is not the root cause here, I suspect the two Oscars were "just" fighting... need to be separated, ultimately placed in a system of twice this size or larger... Bob Fenner>

Re: L-25 Scarlet Pleco feeding, Now: Grounding proves vs. freshwater tanks (RMF feel free to comment)    12/11/07 Neale! <Hello again!> I'm back :) Thank you very much for the great information. Anyhoo, this one is slightly off-topic. I was wondering what was your take on grounding probes? Is there any hard evidence that it is of any use? <No personal experience. Can't do any harm, and they certainly don't cost much. So if you want to use one, go ahead. But I'm sure other things, like water changes and filters, have a much greater impact on overall fish health. In any case, have a read of this brace of replies on the topic for other peoples' comments... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/grdprobeaq.htm I get the impression these are more an issue for marine aquarists.> There are articles out there stating the down sides of using grounding probes, how they create a complete circuit for current to flow, bypass the use of GFCIs in a way, etc... I comprehend their views on this situation, but then there are others out there who states grounding probes are an absolute necessity. Natural bodies of water simply have their own way of handling stray voltage and since they are in direct contact with the earth, there is no issue there, but when we have an enclosed system of water, shouldn't we be providing a path for that voltage to complete itself? <No idea. Doesn't seem a major problem compared with nitrogenous wastes and pH fluctuations in aquaria. Freshwater doesn't hold much charge anyway, at least not compared with brackish/salt water.> Are there any proven evidence of its uses/harms? <Nothing scientific that I'm aware of. There are all sorts of stories about "stray voltage" causing lateral line erosion and all that sort of thing, but whether or not these have been adequately proven is beyond my knowledge. It's the sort of thing that strikes me as being so minor in impact, if it exists at all, that an aquarist's attention is better focused on water quality, water chemistry, diet, and social behaviour first.> Any personal experience from you? <Nope.> I'm asking because I got one a few months ago, but have yet to ever install it. Should I install it just to be "better safe than sorry" or will it just cause more problems? I checked my water with a DMM today and found it at approximately 35 V. Understanding that voltage itself creates no harm until amperage/current is supplied, the idea that a grounding probe might due harm in the event of something shorting out in the tank and creating a circuit path sounds really reasonable to me. <If you haven't needed it thus far, I wouldn't bother. I don't know any aquarists with freshwater tanks who use these things. Marine aquarists seem more interested in them.> Question is does stray voltage causes diseases in fish that the ground probe was designed to rectify? <The evidence that "stray voltage" (whatever that is!) would cause sickness in health may or may not be true, but compared to other factors like water quality its impact is surely very, very small.><<Am in total agreement. RMF>> How do you see it? <No strong feelings either way.> Anyhoo, this time I promise I will "try" to stay out of your hair as much as possible :) Thank you very much. <You're welcome, and good luck, Neale.>

Fish fight sparks house fire   5/9/06 Inferno sparked by a fish By JOHN COLES A MUM and her two daughters escaped death when their house was set on fire by their pet FISH. Kipper, an eight-inch catfish, is thought to have triggered the blaze when it fought with a rival in their tank. Water splashed out of the aquarium and landed on an electric plug below. It sent a power surge up the tank's light cable which burnt the lid and sent smoldering plastic dripping onto a leather sofa which caught alight. Flames soon engulfed the lounge as Sharron Killahena, 25, and kids Nicole, six, and Kerry, two, slept upstairs. Luckily a smoke alarm woke landlord Simon Justice, 25, in a different room in the house in Poole, Dorset. He woke the family who escaped. Their home was wrecked and their six fish died but Sharron said: 'At least we are here to tell the tale.' <Use GFI's... Bob Fenner who thanks you for sending this along.>

Water and Electricity    5/2/06 I have a 25 gallon grow out tank stocked with 1 Silver Arrow, 1 Red  Tail Cat, and 1 Clown Knifefish all about 4". Today I stuck my hand in the water to get the thermometer that dropped and felt a slight tingling shock running up my hand. <Yikes and Ouch! Water and electricity are very scary. It's nothing to mess around with.> I did everything to fix the problem and I even called the electrician, who says that there is 50 volts in the tank and who was also stumped by the situation. <I had a similar situation a few years ago. There were 30 volts of stray electricity in the tank and my fish were acting very strange. 2 of them were jumping up at the surface. I had an electrician come out. We unplugged each and every piece of electrical equipment and plugged them back in one at a time until we found out which one was causing the problem. It turned out to be my lights. I removed them immediately and replaced them. > I am looking into a grounding probe or also moving them to a spare 50 gallon tank I may be picking up this weekend. <Look no more, the grounding probe is a must in my opinion. I also had GFI's installed in all the electrical outlets anywhere near a tank.> Is there anything that can happen to these fish within these few days until the weekend? I know about hole in head + lateral line disease and I don't want anything bad to happen. Will these fish make the next few days safely? <I can't say for sure.  There is a much bigger issue here. This is not just a matter of your fish's health or survival. Your own personal safety, the safety of those around you as well as your home are at risk here. There is a potential for much more than loss of your fish.   For more information about electricity and aquariums please do have a look at Bob's articles here'¦ http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/FWGFIUseArt.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwelectart.htm As for your fish'¦.if you felt the current to the degree you did for the small amount of time your hand was in the water, just imagine them being exposed to it continually and not being able to remove themselves from it. My fish were exposed to less current and were visibly disturbed by it. It is a definite stress and stress equals trouble. I personally would not be comfortable leaving my fish for any length of time exposed to stray electrical current I was aware of.  As for moving them to another tank that will only help if you are using different equipment and electrical outlets. The weekend is 5 days away, which is much to long to wait in my opinion. I would suggest you place a ground probe on the tank immediately. In addition I would strongly urge you to have the electrician come back out to check each piece of equipment to try to determine the source of the problem and install GFIs as soon as possible. Please be very careful until the problem is solved.> Thanks, Zach <Your most welcome! Stay safe, Leslie>

Protecting your aquarium setups in power losses I apologize for the previous version of this message.  I am sending a spell- checked and proofed version as my comp garbled the first and it doesn't read well please just post the original info if you wouldn't mind. <Thank you> Well, I searched WWM for this info but didn't see it so I figured I would offer this fairly inexpensive protection insurance for our pricey setups.  I went to Bestbuy and bought a battery backup and surge protector all in one rated for computers. This allows for brief power outages without losing vital pieces of equipment. My bottom of the line unit (65$ before rebates 20 after)... <A bargain!> ...will run a internal filter with air line attached for about an hour or so. Which with a 55 gallon tank the O2 runs low after 2 hours or so which is when I run the filter for 15 min etc. There are some figures to get it right for your tank, but the other great part is that if a piece is fried by a power surge the company will replace or repair from 50,000$ or more depending on different models. I bought mine from APC and the warranty doesn't say what you cant use it on you just write what it is used for and its covered. I have saved hundreds of dollars in fish and LR by powering my heater, and that cheap filter to keep the flow and O2 going. It is a cheap but effective piece that should be a part of any serious aquarists system, fresh or salt. It is the life insurance policy you will be glad you got. <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Power Outage.. Now What? Hello, I have a question for you guys. <No problem! Ryan with you today> About a week ago we returned from a 3 day vacation to find our power in the home had been out. <Yikes> Our 150 gallon tank had been without air for 2-3 days?  I found my parrot fish in  breathing distress. I removed her, placed her in a oxygenated cooler with her mate the red devil. She soon perked up but never to 100%. I did replace filters and did all the appropriate things to get it in order.  I am very worried about my parrot fish. I have called and also visited my local pet store for advice but  basically end up answering my own questions and going home.  She acts as if she is still breathing hard and the male follows her around bumping her on the bottom of her belly. Now she is a little red from it. <Perhaps caused by lack of oxygen as well> Her isn't being aggressive but she just isn't acting the same. Her head is always down some what and the anal fin is not open to the full extent. She hasn't been eating either.  The pet store person seems to believe it is the male red devil making her act this way, but I know that she was fine until the stress of being without air for so long. any ideas what could be wrong and how I could get her back to normal?   <I'd get the tank a major water change, as many of the helpful bacteria may have died during this time.  I'd also make sure that the water is high in oxygen- You can do this by making sure the surface of the water is constantly moving.  You may want to quarantine the fish and treat with a stress coat of some type, but returning to a larger, safe environment may be better for overall health- You'll have to make the call.  Good luck, Ryan>                                                      Thanks, Lori Conrad

- Hurricane-induced Power Outages - hi We live in Florida and have a 100 gal marine tank, and a 30-gal freshwater tank, with all the hurricane activity we wondered how long can fish typically live without electricity for the air- filters  and pumps. <Well... provided you do something about it, perhaps as long as you have the energy. For a system of this size though, you'd be best off with a generator and a supply of fuel to make it through a week. Your other option is to keep the water aerated by removing pitchers of water and then pouring them back in to circulate the water and keep the oxygen levels up. Depending on the density of livestock in the tank, the tank could probably make it 12 hours or so with no intervention, but by the end of that time serious problems would be developing. Personally I wouldn't wait more than an hour to intervene.> thanks <Cheers, J -- >

Betta, light hood in tank, trouble Dear Chuck (or whoever is on this evening): Yesterday, my toddler missed a step when climbing down the step stool she uses to watch the fish, and, in doing so, knocked the light fixture into the water when she instinctively tried to grab the first thing handy-which was the glass cover under the fixture. The glass canopy had a long shard that broke off, but as far as I can tell, that only happened when it hit the floor, and no glass when in the aquarium.  As to the light, obviously the first thing I did was unplug the light, then I pulled it out and checked to see if my Betta was okay.  (I house him in a 10 gallon tank by himself).  He appeared to be, but this evening, when I was observing him, I noticed what appears to be fin damage.  The odd thing is that there haven't been any pieces of it floating in the water, and my experience with a former Betta was that you would come across these when there was a problem of this nature.  I immediately took out the carbon filter and added Melafix to the water, and plan to do a water change in the morning, and keep this up for 6 more days or until I see improvement.  I saw no evidence of electrical shock at the time of the accident, but is it possible that he's had a delayed shock reaction to what happened?  Could his fin damage be due to emotional distress, or do you think that the lighting fixture possibly landed on his fins?  Again, my question still stands, wouldn't I have found pieces of the fin floating on top of the water or on the substrate?   Your thoughts? < I think he was startled when the roof caved in and may have tried to hide and duck and cover somewhere in the tank. In the process of finding somewhere safe to hide he probably caught the fin on a rock or something and tore it. He probably ate the piece of fin if he found it. Your procedures will definitely help the fin grow back but it may not be as straight or as long when it does.-Chuck> Cyndy Monarez/Thomas Nelson

Vacation lighting Hi Crew, <Hi! Ananda here this morning> With the Memorial day weekend upon us, I was wondering what I should do with my aquarium lighting?  <Put it on a timer. There are timers available where you plug the power cord into the timer, plug the timer into the outlet, and the timer controls the on/off of the device. Just make sure you leave the light switch in the "on" position!> I have a 30G tank with 1 male Siamese fighter, 3 Cory's and 5 cherry barbs. As far as planting, I have green Cabomba, Mayaca, Echinodorus tenellus, water wisteria and some tall hairgrass. <Yep, a timer is definitely in order. I got mine for about $7 each; they're available at hardware stores, discount centers, grocery stores... just make sure you can set it yourself.> The pH is 6.5 and no A/N/N. Should I keep the light on for the 3 days while I'm away or should I keep it off? I'm kinda stuck because my plants are growing well right now and I don't want them to be stunted and I also don't want nasty algae to start growing. Please help Chris <Most people use timers on their lights when they've got plants or photosynthetic critters in the tank. Keeps the light schedule constant, too. --Ananda> 

Oscar disease? Potential electrocution My Oscar is fairly good size, he has been swimming frantically across the tank slamming into the sides and everything else in the tank. When he is not doing that he floats almost as if he is dead. I have him in a 55 gal tank. he has a yellow coloring along his belly and gills. There is also marks on his face from slamming into the rocks on the bottom and turning in circles. He acts as if he is going crazy.. < Carefully unplug all electrical devices going to this tank, NOW! Heater, and pumps and  lights, Everything! After a few minutes and everything has cooled down I would inspect all the wires and devices for damage such as frayed wires, cracked housings and or leaks around seals. An electrical short such as in a heater that may have been cracked may be adding current to the tank every time it tries to turn on. This would account for the Oscar wildly dashing around every time the heater is turned on and acting half dead when the heater goes off. If you find any damage do not try and repair it. Instead head down to your local store and get a new and hopefully high quality heater for your tank. I would not try and skimp on price here. The are some models currently on the market that are  very durable. As you Oscar chases feeders around the tank he may have inadvertently cracked or damaged it. This can be a very dangerous situation so I would not put my hands in the water until everything is checked out. If everything checks out OK then check the water temperature and make sure it is around 80 degrees. Give your Oscar a large piece of PVC pipe that he can hide in it like a cave. This should help him settle down and give him some refuge from a tank that may be in a high traffic area and stressing him from all the outside activities. Check for infections on the open wounds and watch the fish closely. Do a 30 percent water change and check on the filters to make sure they are operating at full capacity. When you add new treated water to your tank, try and find a water conditioner with some wound control medication included.  -Chuck>

- Finding Efficiencies in a Fish Room - Hi Bob, <Actually, JasonC here this time.> I Love WetWebMedia - its one of my favorite fish websites. I refer people to it daily. <Glad you find it useful.> I had a question for you, I'm in the negotiation (with wife) and design stage of building a fish room. In actuality it will be a 16x20 building in the backyard. With the ever increasing price of natural gas, propane, electricity and Water/Sewer. I've been looking for ways to make the new fish room more efficient, so the wife's nagging about the electricity, water/sewer and gas bills goes down. :) The whole reason for building an out building, is so I can treat the room as a whole better than in the house. I'm planning to use radiant floor heating, to heat the whole room, rather than running heaters in each tanks. Filtration will be a 220v linear air pump, driving sponge filters. Lighting has been a sore point during the design, it would be nice to use natural light via some skylights, but that would result in a measurable loss in insulating ability of the roof. I'll probably end up using standard shop light fixtures w/ 34w T8s. <Nothing wrong with that, and really about as cheap AND efficient as you're going to get.> The boiler for the radiant floor heating is a dual fuel design, allowing switching between natural gas and propane, dependant upon which is cheaper at the time. But I don't think the wife will be too happy about a big propane tank in the back yard... <Bury it.> Do you have any advice/suggestions? <Sounds like a good plan to me - just make sure your wife can't lock you in the shed and I think you'll be all set. ;-) > Andy <Cheers, J -- >

Electricity use of freshwater aquariums Dear Sir Approximately how much additional electricity can I be expected to use for a 10 gallon aquarium per month if possible or any helpful information on costs. Thank You , Lisa Paulishen <Ahh, an exercise in either direct measure or calculation. You can rig up a wattage meter to your ten gallon gear, or do the multiplication of amps times volts times the number of hours the gear is "on", dividing the same 1000, multiplying the resulting kilowatt hours by the rate the utility company charges... To get an approximation of the charge per period of time. More detail here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwelectart.htm Bob Fenner>

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