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Aquarium heaters are one of the more essential, yet prone to fail, pieces of equipment that you can add to your home aquariums. The vast majority of us in the aquarium keeping hobby keep tropical fish that require a warmer water temperature, so a fish tank heater is a must.
There are many aquarium heater types out on the market and it is very easy to just select a cheap aquarium heater and think you are good to go. The best aquarium heaters are not prone to fail, are built very well, and will heat your home aquariums safely. I will go over what is a fully submersible heater, and also talk about the typical glass heater vs a titanium heater. I will also talk about fail-safes and how to prevent a tank disaster if a fish tank heater fails (and also what usually fails). Let’s get started!
Benefits of an Aquarium Heater
Because most of us in the fish keeping hobby keep tropical fish (saltwater fish), they require the water temperature range to be consistently around 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit ( 24 to 27 Celsius). Since we keep aquariums indoors in our home, most people would think that the room temperature of our home could keep our aquariums at a safe water temperature. However, seasons change and there are certain times, like in the winter, when the room temperature in your home can drop below 70 degrees or less in your home putting our precious livestock at risk. They don’t handle temperature changes well.
The best aquarium heaters not only keep your water temperature up for your tropical fish but are easily adjustable so you can keep your water at the desired temperature. They are also accurate to boot. Some will even come equipped with a separate temperature controller so you add redundancy in the event a heater fails.
What We Looked For
Figuring out the best aquarium heaters on the market is not easy to do. There are lots of manufacturers out there from many different price points. To filter out the good from the bad here is what we used in our criteria.
Manufacturer of Origin
The aquarium industry is loaded with a ton of budget-friendly products, but this also means the quality and reliability of the product could be suspect. It’s very easy to go to places like Amazon and find a cheap Chinese-made heater to work on your tank. However, they typically do not have good quality control and aren’t built to last.
Heater failure is a serious issue in the hobby. I’m looking for German or Italian made and looking for products with big warranties.
Good brands back up their products with warranties and lab tests. Brands like Eheim have stood the test of time and get my vote over budget brands.
A heater should be pinpoint accurate and consistent. The best heaters on the market will be within 1 degree accurate and will be easy to calibrate.
You want a product that has features like auto shutoff if the heater gets too hot or it runs dry. You want a heater that is more durable materials like titanium or lab-grade glass.
All these criteria get a rating of 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best. We take an average score to determine our best heaters. Note that price doesn’t come into the equation. With the exception of heaters on this list, we don’t feel that price is a major determining factor. With these two products that are pricey, if your livestock is expensive, we feel the purchase is justified.
The Aquarium Heaters Candidates – a Quick Comparison
There are many aquarium heaters out on the market for various tank sizes. The list below was handpicked by our years of experience in the hobby and through various client builds. They all have their strengths in particular setups which I will explain below. This post will primarily focus on my aquarium heater reviews for the best fully submersible heater types.
The Best Aquarium Heaters – 10 Best For 2022
Let’s go into the details and see why each fish tank heater made the cut.
1. BRS Heater Element
I’ll say it now and I’ll say it later in this post, aquarium heaters as a whole are generally prone to failure and highly unreliable. We as hobbyists have struggled for years waiting for someone in the market to develop a heater that could be reliable and not destroy our bank account in the process. We finally have a player in the market who has finally delivered that reliable heating unit we have been waiting for.
Randy’s team at BRS has developed the holy grail, a German heater that rids us of all the nightmares of heater failure. What are the factors that scare us as aquarists with fish tank heaters? They are:
- My heater gets stuck in the on position and fries my tropical fish
- My heater cracks and explodes, which kills my fish
- A large fish smacks my heater and cracks it
- My glass heater is made of cheap glass that breaks over time from the heat stress
The heating element is made of titanium, which is unbreakable in our hobby and can conduct heat better throughout the body than other materials. It is German-made, a standout among a number of heaters that are now being produced in China.
These fish tank heaters have the confidence of the manufacturer to provide a 3-year warranty. Because of their makeup, they require a controller to adjust the temperature. You can either hook it up to an aquarium controller or use the model offered in the link above that connects to an Inkbird. The Inkbird has been a personal mainstay for me over the years and I feel great using it with this system.
It’s a pricy heater, but it really is what aquarium owners have been looking for all these years. When you have a tank with hundreds or even thousands of prized tropical fish and corals (or tons of live plants) – you demand a heater that doesn’t fail. The titanium element offers you that peace of mind. It’s a must for anyone with a prized display tank.
- German Made
- 3-year warranty
- Works with a controller
- No models for smaller fish tanks
BRS Heater Element Rating
2. Eheim Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater – Old Faithful with Legendary Brand Name
Ah the Eheim Jager Aquarium Thermostat. They have been around seemingly forever and completely unchanged for ages, and there is a good reason why. It is simply a very well-built and reliable heating unit for fish tanks. Quality German-made, UL-listed electronics, and a manually adjustable heater gauge are its main features. The Jager aquarium thermostat heater has an accurate temperature sensor up to 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit of the desired temperature. This makes it as accurate as the Cobalt Neo-Therms. It also has the ability to be re-calibrated!
Because it is it a quality manufactured heater, it simply hasn’t been updated in years and looks the part. It is a big and bulky glass tube, it uses old school lab-grade glass, and the adjustable dial itself is cumbersome. However, Eheim’s legendary name brand is behind it and anyone who has been in the aquarium industry knows the great quality and durability that Eheim manufactured products bring. It’s ugly looking and big, but you won’t be disappointed using this as your fish tank heater.
- German-made and Eheim name
- Accurate up to 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit of set temperature
- Can be re-calibrated
- Big and bulky
- Old school lab-grade glass design
- The water temp dial is a bit clunky
Eheim Jager Rating
3. Innovative Marine Helio Heater
There comes a time with aquarium technology when a major breakthrough is made. We saw this when aquarium return pumps shifted from AC to DC and when we saw the shift from T5s to LEDs in lighting technology.
We now see the same shift with PTC technology with the Innovative Marine Helio. This heating unit is the first of its kind in the industry. It does not operate like the other heaters on this list that use traditional resistance wires to heater terms. This type of technology is quite old, originating from toasters. That’s right, the same technology used in many aquarium heaters today is no different than what you use to toast your bread!
The problem with this traditional technology is if these fish tank heaters are exposed to air or become covered in debris, they run the risk of overloading, which leads to the explosions and failures many of us experience hobbyists have dealt with in the past.
The Helio changes all of this. The PTC technology uses chips that are programmed to heat at predetermined set temperatures. This results in a safer and more reliable heater. It’s all controlled by the Helio controller. Both the heater and controller were heavily researched by the IM team. They looked at how aquaculture facilities managed their aquarium water temperature. As a result, the Helio is developed like a commercial versus hobbyist grade product.
A new commercial developed product like this demands a very high price. This is the most expensive heater on the list but has the most potential of every heater here. The technology is promising. I see more and more high-end heaters in the future utilizing this technology as it matures, and the price as a result drops as more brands develop it. You will pay a price premium by adopting this technology early.
- German-made and Innovative Marine name
- Cutting-edge PTC technology
- 5-year warranty
- Not designed to be used inside display tank
- Very expensive
Helio Heater Rating
4. Cobalt Aquatic Neo-Therm Heaters – The Most Accurate Heaters on the Market
If you have a system that requires precise constant water temperature with sensitive inverts, corals, or tropical fish like a reef tank, the Cobalt Aquatics Neo Therm Heater can’t be beaten. Cobalt Aquatics computer tested all their Neo therm heaters. They are accurate up to 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit of the set temperature (better than most controllers on the market in fact), the Aquatics Neo Therm heater to many in the reef aquarium hobby is the go-to. The Neo-Therm is also one of the most compact heaters. It can fit in any all-in-one aquarium or nano tank and will hide well if placed inside the tank. For overall features, this is the best submersible aquarium heater you can buy today.
It does come with a higher price tag though. The Neo Therm heater is one of the more expensive heaters available and they also only come in smaller wattage sizes, meaning you will need multiple units to run a larger tank.
- Accurate up to 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit!
- Manual water temperature adjustment dial
- Compact design – fits in all in one system
- Only available in smaller wattage
5. Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater – An Aquarium Heater with a Limited Lifetime Warranty
If you are looking for a reliable shatterproof adjustable submersible heater, with a limited lifetime warranty, look no further than the Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater. Aqueon has been in the Aquarium industry for a long time and many of us have trusted them for our tanks as many of the standard tanks old these days are manufactured either by Aqueon or Marineland.
The Aqueon Pro Adjustable Heater comes with a water temperature dial that is painless to adjust the temperature. Because it’s manual control, it is less prone for its temperature configuration to fail because the setting will not reset during a power outage. The Aqueon Pro is accurate within 1 degree of the desired temperature, which is adequate for most home aquariums, but would be considered suspect in a delicate environment such as a reef tank.
- Lifetime warranty and Aqueon Name
- Manual water temperature dial that will not reset in a power outage
- Shatterproof design
- Temperature sensor only accurate up to 1 degree
- No separate controller for redundancy
Aqueon Pro Rating
6. Fluval M-Series Heater – A Reliable Aquarium Heater
The M-Series is Fluval’s value heater offering and one of the common ones you will see at pet stores and local fish stores. If all the heaters you will find at non-specialized pet stores, this will likely be the best glass heater you will find on the rack. It’s made of Borosilicate glass and backed by a 3-year warranty. Fluval has a big presence in our aquarium industry and many of its products are known for their reliability.
While heaters are prone to failure, this is still one of the better ones out there. With proper backup protocols, you should be happy with purchasing an M-Series.
- Good price
- Hagen/Fluval name
- Computer calibrated
- More compact than the Eheim
- The suction cups work well
- Inferior to the Eheim heater
- Still prone to break from large fish
- No separate controller for redundancy
Fluval M-Series Heater Rating
7. Finnex Deluxe Titanium Heaters – The Heater of Choice for Monster Fish Keepers
For those of us with large tanks over 200 gallons, it is difficult to not only find a high wattage heater, but also a heater that is about to take the punishment of large aggressive fish who may thrash about in the aquarium and knock down rocks and equipment.
This is where the Finnex Deluxe Titanium Heaters answer the call. It is a titanium-built heater, which makes them virtually indestructible. A titanium heating element is more corrosive resistant than glass heaters, making it ideal for saltwater environments.
It, unfortunately, does not have a built-in way of controlling water temperature, which is why this package comes with its own controller. However, because there is no adjustment dial on the heater itself, there is no redundancy on the submersible heater to protect against failure. The controller itself is only accurate up to 2 degrees Fahrenheit, which is fine for freshwater fish tanks and fish-only saltwater setups. Reef tank users will want to consider purchasing the Finnex Titanium Heater Rod only and go with a more accurate aquarium heater controller or utilize a high-end controller like an Apex Controller.
- Titanium built design
- Comes with a digital controller
- Available in up to 800W
- No adjustment dial on submersible heater itself
- Controller is accurate only up to 2 degrees Fahrenheit of set temperature
- Not available in smaller sizes
Finnex Deluxe Heater Rating
8. Finnex Titanium Heaters – Titanium Heaters for the Rest of Us
Titanium heaters are considered better than glass heaters due to the fact that titanium is more corrosive resistant and is nearly indestructible. Our last heater was only available in high wattage, but this variation of Finnex Titanium Heaters is for the rest of us. With very similar pros and cons, this heater will get you a titanium submersible heater at a reasonable price. It also comes with a heater guard to protect fish from touching it.
Like with most titanium heaters, the heating element does not have a manual adjuster on board. To program to the desired set water temp, you have to use the controller that comes with it.
- Titanium built design
- Comes with a digital controller
- No adjustment dial on the submersible heater itself
- The controller is accurate only up to 2 degrees Fahrenheit
Finnex Titanium Heater Ratings
9. Hydor In-line Heaters – A Great Choice For Canister Filter Users
The Hydor Inline Heaters are the perfect choice for aquarists who own a Canister filter. Because this heater runs through your return line, you do not have to worry about this heater being inside of your fish tank and prone to the abuse some of your fish would cause on it moving rock work or even yourself hitting it accidentally performing maintenance. It is constructed with Hydor’s patented PTC heating technology. The way the unit works is that it is made of a special polymer that has been printed with aquarium-safe ink. This ink heats up the passing current as the water is transferred into your aquarium. It really is a fascinating technology!
It does come with some major drawbacks though. It must be installed in the vertical position, which can be a problem for those with limited space in their cabinets. It can be only installed with vinyl tubing, making it non-ideal for setups with hard plumbing. Hydor also does not state how accurate the heater is on their specs, which forces me to say a controller is a must. It is a great alternative to a submersible aquarium heater.
- External heater
- Slick operation and patented technology
- No risk of heater burn on fish
- No specs from Hydor on how accurate it is
- Can only be used with vinyl tubing
- Only available up to 300W
Hydor Heater Rating
10. Hyggar Titanium Aquarium Heaters – New Player on the Market Delivering Budget Titanium Heaters
This aquarium heater really surprised us. The Hyggar Titanium Heaters come with a digital controller that claims 0.5 degrees of accuracy. That claim would make it one of the most accurate controllers on the market.
They are an unknown brand at this point, but the reviews have been pretty stellar, enough for us to consider them on our list for aquarists looking for an all-in-one solution titanium heater with a controller.
- Titanium design
- Controller claimed accuracy of 0.5 degrees
- New manufacturer
Hyggar Titanium Heater Rating
How to Choose the Right Aquarium Heater
I’ve provided a lot of choices here and it can be frustrating to figure out which one works best. No worries though, let me help you out.
Size of Aquarium Heater
All the aquarium heaters listed in this blog post come in various sizes. Some like the Eheim Jager Aquarium Thermostat are very bulky while the Cobalt Neo Therm Heaters are very compact in size. If you do not have a sump or canister filter, the size of the heater will come into play as it may stick out like a sore thumb. Smaller heaters are easier to hide and also getting multiple heaters will help with hiding them in the fish tank (redundancy is also another reason to get more than one heater which I’ll explain in further detail).
Types of Aquariums
The type of aquarium you own will help determine what heater you will need. For example, if you have a fish-only freshwater community fish tank with mostly hardy fish, you can likely get by with a single heater and a relatively cheap one.
If you have larger predator fish like Cichlids or Arowanas, you will want a submersible heater that can take a beating. This is where Titanium heaters can come into play as they are virtually indestructible.
For those of us who have sensitive inverts or exotic fish as you may have with a saltwater reef aquarium, the accurate and reliable temperature is critical. A swing in temperature range could cost thousands of dollars in lost livestock with such setups. Therefore, as a reef tank owner, it is imperative that we build our heating system with multiple redundancies and safeguards to protect our livestock.
Types of Aquarium Heaters
I did throw out a number of terms when it came to fish tank heater construction so I can be a little more detailed here. A submersible aquarium heater will typically be constructed with the following materials:
- High-Quality Glass like Quartz or Borosilicate
Glass heaters are what you will typically find with value-based brands that are not listed on this list. I have completely ignored these because they are prone to exploding in a fish tank and shattering! Not something you want:
Highly quality glass like what you see with the Eheim and heaters is durable glass that is resistant to thermal shock and less prone to exploding like above. They can still crack if dropped or hit by a rock, but in normal operation, they should be fine, especially if they are placed in a safe area like a sump.
Titanium heaters like the Finnex heaters are virtually indestructible and great for tanks with larger fish. They also tend to be the most expensive of the lot.
Your Budget for an Aquarium Heater
I have listed a number of quality heaters in this post in all ranges of budgets. One thing to note is that many aquariums will run multiple heaters and I am aware that not everyone will have the budget to deploy a multiple heater setup. The heater for bang for the buck I feel is the Eheim heater. Eheim offers a reliable heater with the best mix of quality and price.
Where to Place Your Aquarium Heater
It is the best to place your fish tank heater in an area that gets a good amount of flow. This will normally be an area in close proximity to a power head, power filter, or air stone. You also want to keep aesthetics in mind so if you are placing the heater directly into your display, you will want to place the heater behind rock work or plants.
Placement is even easier with an all-in-one aquarium as there are compartments available in the return section where you can place your submersible aquarium heater in. If you have a sump, it’s even easier can you can place them in your sump after your first chamber.
How Many Watts Does My Aquarium Heater Need to Be?
It is actually a very simple rule of thumb that unfortunately gets confusing if you visit aquarium forums. The rule is 3 watts per gallon of water. The chart below provides a clear breakdown of the common aquarium sizes for reference
|Fish Tank Sizes||Watts Needed|
|10 G||30 Watts|
What is the Best Fish Tank Heater? (Our Recommendation)
So we have discussed multiple types of aquarium heaters at this point. It’s time to bring in the verdict. The answer may surprise you.
- German Made
- 3 year warranty
As we mentioned, the best bang for the buck for those who are only able to purchase a single heater would be the Eheim Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater. If you want the best quality you can purchase, go with the BRS heater element. If you want to get the newest technology, go with Innovative’s heater.
The overall ratings of all the heaters we tested and reviews are shown below for quick reference.
An Aquarium Heater System – The Expert’s Approach
As I stated when I talked about the BRS heater element, aquarium heaters unfortunately are prone to a number of failures. These failure points are:
- The aquarium heater explodes
- The aquarium heater cracks
- The aquarium heater’s internal thermometer fails
- The aquarium heater’s off/on mechanism fails
- The aquarium heater’s settings reset after a power outage
That is A LOT of failure points. It’s also a bit scary to know that the #1 tank crash reason are aquarium heater failures. It’s not a disease, it’s not a power outage, but your heater failing. That’s correct, a measly $30 heater can be the cause of you losing hundreds of dollars of fish and pets that you have owned and cherished for many years.
This is why we recommend purchasing an aquarium heater system. This would encompass:
- The best fish tank heater from this list
- Running two heaters instead of one that gets to the recommended wattage level
- A separate aquarium controller that is accurate at least to 1 degree Fahrenheit and can run both heating and cooling equipment
- A reasonable piece of cooling equipment that won’t break the bank
Since I know a number of my readers cannot afford or do not want to pay for the premium of the BRS heater element or Helios, this section of this blog post is to help guide you on setting up a reliable heating system for less money.
Eheim Jager Aquarium Thermostat – My Recommended value best aquarium heater
- Both the Eheim and Cobalt Neothem are accurate up to 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit
- The Cobalt works great in smaller systems, where an Eheim would be considered too bulky to work
- Both have manual adjustable dials that will not reset during a power outage
- For larger aquariums with larger fish, I am assuming that the aquarist has a sump or background that allows one to safely store a heater keeping it away from accidents
Both these heaters met my strict criteria and receive my full recommendation – if you cannot afford the BRS heater element.
Aquarium Heater Failsafe #1 – Running Two Heaters Instead of One
Why would we run two heaters? Well, as I mentioned, heaters have many fail points and one of them is the off mechanism failing. This will mean that the heater will stay on and effectively cook your tank. This is the #1 reason for a heater fail. When you purchase two smaller heaters, if one fails at the on position it is not powerful enough to cook your tank inhabitants. It will stay on and you should have ample warning to notice the failure and act accordingly.
Aquarium Heater Failsafe #2 – Running a Separate Aquarium Controller
Since running two heaters will give you time to act in the event one fails at the on position, you could be out of town or not present for some time to act. This is where a separate aquarium controller comes in. A separate aquarium controller has it’s own temperature probe and mechanics separate from an aquarium heater. This provides you with an additional fail safe. Now both heaters AND the controller would need to fail at the same time in order for your tank to experience a crash. That is very unlikely to happen.
The Best Aquarium Heater Controllers
So now let’s talk about aquarium heater controllers. The controllers from Finnex and Hyggar are pretty good, but the Finnex controller is only accurate up to 2 degrees and the Hyggar controllers are new to the market. There is one heater controller that has been around for a while and is trusted in other industries aside from the Aquatic industry – namely aquaponics, and beer brewing.
The Inkbird Aquarium Heater Controller – The Best Bang for Buck Controller on the Market
I know there will be some folks on the comment section who may post and say that I should talk about aquarium controllers, but to me, that is a completely separate subject. Aquarium controllers are very expensive and even an entry-level controller is going to cost over $200, which is going to be out of the range of many readers of this post.
The inbird is a great budget controller. The Inkbird ITC-308 is a great aquarium heater controller that is accurate up to 1-degree Fahrenheit. It is easy to program and has the ability to not only control heaters but cooling equipment as well. This actually provides a TRIPLE FAIL SAFE as the cooling function will kick off in the event the aquarium gets too warm. If the aquarium gets too hot or cold, the Inkbird can sound an alarm letting you know something is wrong. There is also a wi-fi version available so you can get temperature alerts on your phone if the fish tank gets too warm or too cold!
HYDROS Control 2 – An Entry Level Controller
The Hydros Control 2 is a step up from the Inkbird. It has the wifi features and more. It can control temperature and a number of devices, detect leaks, and more. It was developed to be a cheaper alternative to the Neptune APEX and a worthy successor to the Reefkeeper entry-level controller.
This controller provides even better assurance that your temperatures stay stable. I typically go with an inkbird on smaller budget builds, but if I have more budget and my client isn’t looking to get an APEX, this is a definite consideration for me. If you are looking for a compete solution, I would recommend looking into my best aquarium controller post for details about controllers that are able to automate multiple aquarium functions.
The Best Aquarium Cooling Fan – The Final Fail-Safe
Since these aquarium heater controllers have the ability to cool down a tank, let’s get a reasonable piece of cooling equipment. An aquarium chiller is going to be out of the budget range of many aquarists so a cooling fan is a good option for us to look into.
The IPETTITE Aquarium Cooling Fan is a very reasonable piece of equipment when teamed with an aquarium heater controller can provide some cooling in the event your tank gets too warm. It’s not a chiller, but it should get you by in most situations. If you need to take it to another level, you can try looking at my best aquarium chiller post for options regarding chillers.
What Is The Best 300W Aquarium Heater?
The best 300W aquarium heater is going to be the BRS titanium heating element. At this size and given the likely size and value of your livestock, it’s best to invest in a titanium heater that uses a high-quality controller. The BRS heating element achieves this at a decent price.
How Often Should I Replace Aquarium Heaters?
Ideally, you should never have to replace an aquarium heater. Unfortunately, that is not the reality in the hobby. The unfortunate fact is that heaters are replaced when they fail – which results in catastrophic results. To avoid this, you should replace a heater every 2 years. You could alternatively invest in a high-end heater like the Helios and likely keep them for the life of the tank.
Do Aquarium Heaters Use A Lot Of Electricity?
Yes, aquarium heaters use the most electricity of any other piece of equipment other than high-end lighting systems. To save on your energy costs, consider keeping your fish tank in a well-insulated room or keeping your home at a higher temperature. In warmer climates, this actually might save you on your home bill since your AC won’t be on as much. Keeping your home at 78 degrees in the warmer months will keep your heating costs down.
Wrapping It All Up On Best Aquarium Heaters
Well, this was a pretty long post. I hope I was able to provide you with the information you need to make the best-informed purchase. As I stated earlier, there is a reason for these aquarium heaters to be on our best-of lists as they all have their place depending on your aquarium situation and budget.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment in the comment section. If you have a fish tank heater you feel is the best, drop your thoughts below. Thanks for reading :).