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Electricity and Your Aquarium

After reading this tread http://www.gcca.net/gccaforum/index.php/topic,577.0.html I thought I would post this article that I wrote for Aquatic Terrors.


Electricity and Your Aquarium


We all know that our aquariums require electricity and we also know that water and electricity can be a dangerous even deadly combination. There are ways to safely reduce this risk without costing an arm and a leg.

Let’s go over a few basics about electricity before we begin. We all know that water conducts electricity very well. We also know that glass, wood and plastics don’t conduct power well. Electricity is lazy by nature. It looks for the fastest way to get to ground. This is called the path of least resistance. If your tank is electrified and sufficiently isolated from the ground and you stick your hand in there, you become the new path to ground. Remember volts don’t kill, amps do. 1 amp is way more than enough to kill any man.

Almost everything we use in/on or aquariums require some amount of power. Heaters, filters, pumps, lights, etc. have power needs. Most people just plug these items into the wall or an inexpensive power strip. That can be a problem.

First I will address the wall socket. Standard wall plugs are tied to a 20-amp circuit in the breaker panel. Generally there is 1 20-amp circuit per room. Rooms like kitchens and laundry rooms will need more to run appliances. One of the best ways to protect your aquarium and it inhabitants is to plug each item into a GFCI outlet. GFCI outlets will shut off power when they sense a short/ground in the circuit. Your other option is to go purchase a power strip that has GFCI circuits built into it. They are a little expensive but well worth you and your families’ safety. I know that a buddy from the Greater Chicago Cichlid Association (Chris Karnuth/nuth88) has gone as far as to have an electrician come to his house to up the amperage on his fishroom breakers as well as add GFCI outlets where he could.

I like to mount my power strips high in the tank stand. This keeps them off of the floor and out of any puddle that might form from a leak or splash. This also put a natural “drip loop” on the cord so that any water that gets on it drips on the floor instead of the plug/socket.

Other things I watch out for are corroded plug leads, frayed insulation on the cord, cracked insulation, and insulation pulled away from the plug or appliance itself. All of these things can lead to a power short.

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