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Tank Temperature

Temperature can be the single most important component in your aquarium. Fish, whether they are in the wild or in a household aquarium, are very sensitive to changes in temperature, and a sudden or unexpected shift can shock the fish and throw off the harmony of their immune systems. One of the major temperature regulating components is your heating unit. Because your heater has control over the temperature of the entire aquarium, it is important to choose one based on the size of the tank; a general rule is 3 to 5 watts per gallon. Each heater can only raise the temperature of the aquarium a certain number of degrees. If the aquarium is located in a room that has a lower than average temperature, the suggested ratio of 3 to 5 watts per gallon may no longer be sufficient to maintain the temperature that your fish require. Depending on your location, in the summer you may actually need to turn the heater down or off; there is also the possibility of adding a chiller. Whatever measures you take to achieve and maintain the desired temperature, do it slowly. Since house temperatures during the spring and fall vary greatly, this is a time that owners see fish with cases of ich or other diseases directly related to a compromised immune system. When fall comes, an easy way to avoid this is by turning the heater up no more than one degree per day as the temperatures begin cooling. This is when a quality heater will really help you, since value heaters may cause the temperature to increase more than one degree per day, causing much unwanted stress. The ideal range for a freshwater tank with most tropical fish is 77 to 83 degrees. This will make 95 percent of the fish out there very happy. For a saltwater tank, the range is 76 to 82 degrees. For the reef aquarium, slightly cooler, at 76 to 78 degrees, is best. Given the chance to acclimate, all these systems will tolerate higher temperatures. If you normally set your heater for 77 degrees, and during the day the tank temperature rises to 88, then at night falls back to the 70s, this is what will kill fish. The sudden change in less than 24 hours is too stressful. If you normally set your heater at 77 degrees, move it up to 80 degrees. This will make that fluctuation a little less dramatic. Now keep in mind that whenever you increase temperatures, you decrease the amount of oxygen available to the fish. So you want to make sure you have good aeration. In crowded tanks, it's advisable to add at least one additional air source during the warm months.

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