How to Tell If the Aquarium Heater Is Broken (or Working)?

How to Tell If the Aquarium Heater Is Broken

Heaters are an essential part of your aquarium. They help keep the temperature in your aquarium warm – especially during cold days.

The tricky part about aquarium heaters is that it is hard to tell whether it’s working or not.

Read more to learn more about aquarium heaters and how to tell if your heater is broken.

How Do I Tell If My Aquarium Heater is Broken?

Follow these steps to find out if your heater is broken.

Things you’ll need:

  • A thermometer
  • A bucket filled with water

Check the Light (Duh!)

An easy way to check if your aquarium heater is still running is by checking the light while running your aquarium heater.

If your heater has a metal body, you may not be able to see whether the light is on or off.

In some cases, the aquarium heater light might not be working, which indicates that your heater may be broken.

Check the Tank Temperature

If you’ve checked the light and are still unsure, try a more legitimate way.

You can use a thermometer or even your hands to check the temperature inside your tank.

If you’re using a thermometer, make sure to put the thermometer in your fish tank before starting the aquarium heater.

After you’ve turned the heater on, let it run for a while and check if there have been any changes in the temperature of the water.

Check if your tank is directly facing sunlight because if it is – it might give you an inaccurate reading because the sun might make the tank hotter.

Make sure to place your tank in a neutral zone.

A good idea is to always check the temperature with your hands after you are done checking it with the thermometer.

Thermometers can sometimes give inaccurate readings.

Wash your hands before putting them into the fish tank. Slowly move your hand toward the heater.

If you can feel the heater emitting heat and the water getting hotter as you get closer to the heater, it is working just fine.

You can touch the heater only when you don’t feel a change in the temperature because chances are, it’s broken.

Avoid touching the heater when it’s emitting heat because you can easily get hurt.

Increase the Temperature and Check in a While

Another way to ensure that your heater is working is by checking the temperature of your room and then the water in your aquarium.

Start by setting the heater at a higher temperature than the water.

For example, if the temperature of the water is 34 degrees, set your heater to 40 degrees.

After you’re done, keep your heater back in the water and check for all the signs – whether the light is on and if the water is heating up gradually.

You can use a torch to check if the heater is working after you’ve placed it back.

If your aquarium heater is working, the heater will automatically blur everything close to it so you can easily see the water moving under the light.

Test the Heater in a Bucket or 

Besides using thermometers and your hand, you can also test the heater with a water bucket.

A water bucket is smaller than an aquarium and will take less time to heat up as compared to the bigger aquarium.

A fish tank, ideally, needs at least a day to warm up with the heater turned on.

A small water bucket with 5 to 10 liters of water will take less time, so you can easily determine whether your heater is working or not.

Start with filling your bucket. Make sure to check the temperature of the water inside the bucket before attaching the heater.

After you’ve put the heater inside, turn it on and wait for at least 2 hours for it to warm the water.

You can use your hand or a thermometer to easily determine whether the water has turned warm or not.

It will be easier to tell if your heater is working or not if you use a smaller space as it heats up much faster.

Why Isn’t Your Aquarium Heater Working?

If you’ve followed the steps mentioned above and determined that your heater is indeed not working, here are a few reasons why that might be the case.

It’s Defective

If you just got a new heater, you can simply test it with a thermometer or your hand.

If it’s not working, no need to panic. It’s simply a defective product. Make sure you have your receipt so you can go back to return it and get a new one.

If your heater has had a problem since the beginning, don’t keep it in your aquarium for longer – just exchange it for another one.

It’s Not Heatproof

No matter how new your heater is, if it isn’t heatproof, it won’t do you much good.

It may be an all-glass aquarium heater or might be made with materials that cannot stand high temperatures.

This means that when the room temperature is lowered, your heater won’t be able to operate under such conditions because it doesn’t have the range.

This constant change in temperature can lead to your heater breaking or eventually not working.

You Forgot to Unplug It

This is a pretty common mistake that various aquarium owners make.

When changing the water for your fish and doing maintenance, many people forget to unplug the heater.

Just like any other heatproof item, when the water temperature changes drastically and the heater is still on, it can damage the heater and even cause it to stop working.

In some extreme cases, your heater might break immediately and can even give you an electric shock.

Always be careful when cleaning your fish tank and turn the heater off before starting.

It Needs a Break

If your heater is quite old and has been working for a while, it may just need a long break till it starts working properly again.

If you feel like your heater is too old, you can always replace it with a new one.

Can My Aquarium Heater Catch Fire?

Your heater can definitely catch fire. Besides your heater, the filer and the lights can also catch fire because they all have one thing in common – electricity.

A fish tank heater can sometimes overheat, which means there is a chance that it may cause the glass tube to explode.

If the glass tube explodes and there is a flammable object nearby, a fire can start.

This is not very common, though, and only occurs if your heater is really old and worn out.

Plus, it may just stop working instead of overheating. If the heater is underwater, which it will be most times, it obviously won’t catch on fire.

Keep in mind to get a heater with heatproof wires which will prevent it from overheating for a long time – no matter how high the temperature is.

What Do I Do If My Aquarium Heater Is Broken?

Now that you’ve determined that your heater is broken, it’s time to take action.

Here are a few ways you can do that.

Get a New One

If you’re an aquarium owner, you’re probably used to tweaking and fixing things on your own.

Remember that you can’t do that with your aquarium heater.

Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater,150W Adjustable Fish Tahk Heater with 2 Suction Cups Free Thermometer Suitable for Marine Saltwater and Freshwater

Do not try to fix it yourself. For the safety of your fish, it’s always better to just buy a new heater that will last you for ages.

Even if you feel like it’ll work just fine after you fix it, there is a huge chance it will break again soon – save yourself the trouble and just get a new one.

It is always better to get a good quality heater, which is durable and versatile.

This way, the heater will not only last you very long, but it will also not cause any problems during the time that you have it.

If your heater works properly during winters, your fish will not die.

Get an Aquarium Heater Cover

If you don’t want to damage your heater, a good idea is to get a heater cover for your aquarium.

The cover will make sure your heater does not directly come into contact with the glass, the decorations, and even your fish.

Follow the Instructions

This is an important one. When you get a new heater, make sure to follow all the instructions when installing it.

Place it in the ideal place in your aquarium so it can perform well without any problems.

Clean Your Tank Regularly

What most aquarium owners might not realize is that maintaining the tank affects everything – not just the fish and the quality of the water.

Make certain to clean your tank regularly, and don’t forget to clean the heater, the filter, and the lights.

Keep in mind to unplug all the electrical appliances before starting the cleaning.

Get a Multi-Way Socket

Your fish tank has multiple electrical pieces of equipment inside, so it is best to get a multi-way socket.

It comes with more sockets, so if the water starts dripping from your tank, it will be a much safer option for your home.

Multi-way sockets lower the chance of an explosion.

Figuring out whether your heater is broken or not is not that hard.

Once you know for sure it is broken, simply follow the steps mentioned above for optimal performance.

Final Words

A heater is important for aquariums, especially if you keep fish that are sensitive to temperature change.

While you may not notice that your aquarium heater is not working, and it may take you a few hours or even days to notice your broken heater, your fish would feel the difference a lot sooner.

And if the temperature goes below the certain level that your fish need, it can stress them out and can lead to lower immunity and diseases.

So it’s a good idea to keep checking every once in a while to make sure the heater is working as expected.

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