Choosing an aquarium heater: Glass, titanium or electronic?


It’s hard to believe in the middle of summer we’re going to talk about aquarium heaters. Heaters are an essential part of the aquarium to help keep temperatures stable and if you go to any aquarium store or peruse online, you’ll see there are a variety of heaters in different styles, materials and with various features. Here we are going to examine a few of the different types of heaters on the markets, and their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Glass Heaters
The most popular and traditional heater you’ll probably come across is the glass tube heater. These are sealed glass tubes with heater coils inside and typically have a temperature control dial. Traditionally these heaters would clamp on the rim of an aquarium but many are submersible making them both safer and more versatile. The glass is typically made from quartz, Pyrex and other break-resistant materials. Since glass can be fragile, its best to go for the highest quality shatterproof glass you can find.

Glass heaters typically cost less and come in a variety of wattages. The higher the wattage, the larger the aquarium it can properly heat. Even though we mentioned some being made from shatterproof glass, they can still crack or break. You also get what you pay for. Cheaper heaters can have inaccurate thermostats, break easily or fail.

Titanium Heaters
Titanium heaters are made from titanium instead of glass and are much stronger, but also will cost more. Titanium heaters are typically more of a premium type of heater and will come with a controller and temperature probe. The addition of the probe allows you to measure the water temperature away from the heater, giving you a more stable overall temperature. The probe will tell the heater when to activate the heating element to warm the water and shut it off then you hit the right temperature.

Although they are nearly indestructible, they can cause damage themselves. Since the titanium heating element can get pretty hot, it could actually melt acrylic so care must be taken if used in an acrylic tank or sump. They are also available in different wattages.

Electronic Heaters
These are the new kids on the block when it comes to heater technology. As the name implies, these are heaters controlled by electronics that make them more accurate and efficient. They use advanced microprocessor thermostats giving them accuracy within a fraction of a degree. Many of these are also made of durable plastic and compact forms.

These typically cost more than glass and in line with premium titanium heaters, but typically offer more features, controlability and reliability vs. other heater types. They are relatively new on the market, but we are beginning to see more companies delve into these types of heaters.

These are just a few of the main heater options. There are also other heaters (inline for example) available. Costs can quickly add up with equipment, but as you build an investment and attachment for your fish, its one of the areas you may not want to cut corners. Another topic for a later article is why heaters fail and things you can do to prevent it.