The 10 Best Aquarium Heaters

Updated May 13, 2018 by Jeff Newburgh

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. When it comes to taking care of your fish, environmental maintenance is one of the most important considerations. For that reason, you'll need one of these reliable aquarium heaters to help keep an eye on those piscine companions. Many function in both fresh and saltwater tanks, will shut off for safety when removed, and they'll even adjust the water temperature automatically as it fluctuates. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best aquarium heater on Amazon.

10. Fluval E Series

The "VueTech" technology leveraged by the Fluval E Series allows its LCD to change color whenever the temperature inside a tank varies up or down from a preset value. Should that variation exceed 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit, the unit will flash to indicate a potential risk.
  • integrated fish guard
  • sleek and slender profile
  • switch is a bit finicky
Brand Fluval
Model A773
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

9. Aqueon Pro

At its heart, the Aqueon Pro has a resilient aluminum core that is built to maintain steady temperatures of between 68 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. The electronic thermostat will shut the unit off automatically when removed from water.
  • shatterproof build
  • easy-to-use control knob
  • it's pretty bulky
Brand Aqueon
Model 100106109
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

8. Eheim Jager

With its fully shock-resistant glass jacket and versatile design, the Eheim Jager not only improves the efficiency of a tank's heat distribution process, but it can also withstand any type of aquatic environment. It is available in eight wattage choices.
  • decently long power cord
  • built-in power indicator light
  • initial calibration is a pain
Brand Eheim
Model 3619090
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Finnex HMA Series

The Finnex HMA Series features corrosion-resistant, rapidly-heating titanium tubing with an internal heating element housed in a protective guard, all of which serve to provide a superior defense against the harshness of both fresh and saltwater tank environments.
  • comes with suction cups
  • intuitive electronic controls
  • power cord is too short
Brand Finnex
Model HMA-500S
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Choson Automatic

The Choson Automatic boasts an intelligent design with integrated smash guard protection that helps to prevent direct or prolonged exposure to its internal heating element from aggressive fish. Its bright LED screen shows both the preset and current tank temperature.
  • 500 watts of power
  • very easy to use
  • needs a memory function
Model pending
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Ista In-Line

Crafted for both efficiency and reliability, the Ista In-Line leverages an internal heat pump and two dedicated thermal sensors working in tandem to minimize temperature variations, while also sampling tank water at both the unit's inlet and outlet for consistency.
  • flame-sprayed glass material
  • works with most canister filters
  • displays only celsius values
Brand ISTA
Model pending
Weight 15.8 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

4. Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm

Boasting a sleek, flat, and modern-looking profile, the Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm is a fully-submersible electronic device with a convenient one-touch programming operation, ensuring that it can maintain temperature accuracy to within 0.5 degree Fahrenheit.
  • supports up to 55 gallons
  • comes with a 3-year warranty
  • cannot be installed horizontally
Brand Cobalt Aquatics
Model 31006
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Hydor Original

Suitable for marine and tropical fish and built to maximize the space within your tank's interior, the innovative Hydor Original installs externally and vertically into the return lines of most canister filters or sumps. The built-in clamps allow for easy plumbing.
  • sturdy plastic casing
  • integrated overheat protection
  • relatively easy to install
Brand Hydor
Model T08203
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Catalina RF-1000T

The Catalina RF-1000T is capable of sustaining aquariums with a capacity of between 150 and 400 gallons, and is equipped with a convenient sensor that immediately cuts power to the unit in the event it is accidentally exposed to the air.
  • rust-resistant titanium tubing
  • fourteen inches long
  • ideal for saltwater tanks
Brand Catalina
Model pending
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. JBJ True Temp System

Deliver consistency to your fish in any fresh or saltwater environment using the JBJ True Temp System. The durable titanium construction ensures rapid heat transfer, while an integrated smart memory chip restores the previous temperature setting after a power failure.
  • built-in digital microprocessor
  • includes magnetic holders
  • 5-foot range for the remote probe
Brand JBJ Lighting
Model T3-1000
Weight 3.9 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Ensuring The Longevity Of Your Aquatic Ecosystem

Regardless of the species of fish you display in your home, an understanding of their biology is important. So, too, is the realization that, as cold-blooded animals, they are unable to regulate their own body temperatures the way other animals do. For that reason, you'll need a reliable heater to maintain a constant environment in your aquarium for piscine survival and longevity.

The aquarium heater is a device specifically-designed to maintain environmental stability inside a fish tank. Its core heating element is usually enveloped in either glass or ceramic, which is further contained inside a watertight plastic, glass, or steel housing fully-immersed in water. The device is also equipped with an adjustable thermostat responsible for turning the heating element on or off. Traditional aquarium heater thermostats employ bimetallic strips composed of two different metals that expand at different rates as the internal water temperature fluctuates. Other types of thermostats make use of microchips for improved maintenance and accuracy. Most freshwater and marine aquariums are maintained at temperatures between 71 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

Aquarium heaters are divided into four main categories, including: immersible, substrate, filter, and submersible varieties. As one of the least expensive options, the immersible heater regulates temperature by means of a control pad located above the water line. This placement makes it less efficient than other heater types, especially when it comes to heating large aquariums. It is also easy to break should it fall into the water, hence its low degree of popularity for mainstream use.

The substrate heater is not typically visible inside the aquarium and, instead, lies below the gravel normally present at the bottom of the tank. This heater is especially useful for those piscine aficionados interested in growing aquarium plants to create a more natural habitat for their fish. It also works to distribute heat evenly from the bottom of the tank. The disadvantage to substrate heaters is that everything inside the aquarium needs to be removed prior to installation.

Filter heaters minimize the amount of extra equipment needed inside the aquarium. Water is heated as it passes through the filter, making it an efficient option for use in extremely large tanks. Submersible heaters are the most popular and common of all four types, given that they waste very little energy, they can be placed anywhere inside their tanks with suction cups, and they function completely underwater.

Maintaining Balance And Knowledge

Before investing in an aquarium heater, it's important to introduce yourself to all of the requirements and processes involved in maintaining a healthy environment for your aquarium fish. Sustaining aquatic life within a controlled environment, and allowing it to flourish for an extended period of time, requires balance and patience. While it isn't always an easy job, the experience of fishkeeping is definitely a rewarding hobby.

Determining the type of heater that works best really depends upon the size of your tank and the types of substrate and objects you plan to place inside it. However, the majority of hobbyists tend to lean more towards the submersible variety because of its efficiency, durability, compact size, ease of installation, and its relatively inexpensive price point.

Make sure to check the rating for the heater in question to determine the size of tank it can support. Some submersible heaters are equipped with integrated memory control functionality, which is designed to maintain a preset temperature for the aquarium in the event of a power outage. It's also a good idea to ensure the unit has built-in overheat protection, considering that fish are quite sensitive to even minor temperature fluctuations. If you do need to adjust the temperature of your aquarium, it's not difficult to find an option with a dedicated control knob for manual adjustments. Depending on the size, shape, and nature of your tank, consider a heater that installs vertically or horizontally and is capable of working in both salt and freshwater environments.

A Brief History Of The Aquarium Heater

Archaeological evidence suggests that fishkeeping dates back to the times of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians between 5500 and 2500 BCE. For example, the ancient Egyptians considered the fish sacred, even going so far as to worship the Nile Perch among other species. The Roman Empire also maintained rudimentary aquariums for the purpose of piscine consumption.

Records from the Chinese Sung Dynasty suggest that people selectively kept and bred carp for ornamental purposes between 960 and 1279 CE.

The first practical use of the aquarium heater occurred during the Victorian era in Europe. With the opening of the first public aquarium at the London Zoo in 1853, there was a cultural renaissance of sorts during which people became fascinated with the study of animals and nature. Flames from oil lamps were used to heat fish tanks from below using slate bottoms. With the introduction of electricity into the home, people began to experiment with immersion heaters in glass tubes.

By the 1920s, the first tropical fish were being sold in toy stores. After World War Two, fishkeeping became more of a mainstream hobby accessible to the middle class, thanks to advances in aviation that made it possible to transport a more diverse population of fish species all over the world.

The first reliable submersible electrical heater was invented by Eugen Jager in the 1960s. Jager's innovative design served to eliminate the dangers associated with older, over-the-side type heaters with the use of a borosilicate tube and an integrated bimetallic thermostat. Jager's design was later marketed in the United States during the 1970s. Since that time, the device has become an integral part of the hobbyist's aquarium setup.

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Last updated on May 13, 2018 by Jeff Newburgh

A dedicated writer and communications professional spending his days lost in the intricacies of both proposal and freelance writing. When not sharing the knowledge of both fully and self-insured medical benefits to employer groups of all industries within California, Jeff Newburgh can be found at home spending time with his family and 3 dogs, pondering the next chew toy to be thrown, while kicking back and relaxing with a nice glass of red wine.

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