It’s a very common question from, newbie fish keepers: “Do I need a heater for my aquarium?”

The answer, of course, is yes. The majority of fish are cold-blooded so they rely on the surrounding water to help them regulate their body temperature. The majority of freshwater pet fish tend to be from the tropics where they are used to enjoying temperatures in the region of 78 to 80°F.

Most aquarium fish can tolerate temperatures that are cooler than that.  That’s because in the natural world the environmental temperature can dip several degrees at night or during one of the many rainstorms.

But, keeping water at a steady warm temperature is going to be much less stressful for your fish. It also as a consequence helps prevent disease. Species like Japanese ricefish, goldfish, and white cloud mountain minnows like cooler temperatures and are fine without any sort of heater. But plenty of other fish, including ram cichlids, discus, and some of the Apistogramma cichlids, definitely prefer hotter climes. Think temperatures of around 85°F. It’s for fish like this that you need a heater.

Of all the things you need to buy when you are starting out keeping fish and setting up your new fish tank, an aquarium heater is not the one that you should be thinking of skimping on.

If you are in the market for a good quality brand that is both safe and reliable click here to see the best aquarium heaters.

Unproven brands can so easily fail. They can overheat, shut down, or crack – with all the disastrous results you can probably imagine. It is not recommended that you get a used aquarium heater. You can have little or no idea whether the old owner ever dropped it, let it overheat by leaving it running out of water.

Read More: A quick guide for keeping fish in a nano reef tank

The best heaters have things like LCD screens that offer large, digital temperature displays with useful color indicators. In some a blue light indicates the water is too cold, red tells you that the water is too hot, and green means the water is ideal.

Heater guards are protective plastic cages around a heater. They prevent fish from wedging themselves. They then can’t get stuck behind the heater. An enclosure like this also protects the heater from any of the larger fish that may be prone to crash into it. These guards can easily be removed when you need to do some cleaning.

Adjustable temperature features are useful when you need to be raising the temperature so you can treat diseases. They can also let you lower the temperature when you need to induce breeding. Unlike a lot of heaters that are fitted with temperature dials, some heaters have simple switches on top that can add or subtract from the set temperature in small 0.5 degree increments.

Dual temperature sensors offer extra reliability so you can get an accurate, water temperature reading in real-time. Look for a five-year limited warranty. It will offer you a wealth of peace of mind and stop you worrying about heater malfunctions and any manufacturing errors.

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