Aquaponic Gardening

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DIY Heater, build your own 2000 watt heater for $20 ***DONT USE COPPER OR NICKEL ELEMENTS!

submersible virsion... ...this how-to has the link for the stainless elements.

After many variations, this is the simplest heater I've been able to build. I had to come up with this last year while waiting for my $600 heater to be built and delivered. when it finally arrived, I just left it in the box and continued to use the home built unit.

DO NOT USE THE COPPER ELEMENT FROM HOME DEPOT!  YOU MUST ORDER A STAINLESS STEEEL ELEMENT.   ....This is a 2000 watt element from Home Depot, a 1-1/2" to 1" reducer, a 1-1/2" uniseal, and a fitting with net pots to keep the fish off the element. I found that a heavy duty timer works for a thermostat. I run it for 15 mins on the hour to keep my 150 gallon tank toasty. this would be adjusted according to your needs. i have used this on as much as 600 gallons, but would recommend going to the 240 volt, 4000 watt for anything over 400 gallon. Note - the 2" net pots slip right onto a male threaded 1-1/2" nipple.

The top pipe is optional, i like to keep it as tall as the water level will allow. This will create a convective flow of water across the element. Works great!

here is the newer version...

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If I detect some copper deficiency, which is always the case with all metals on high PH waters, above 7.5, I pin a tiny bit of electric copper wire in the plant's stem.

Now to avoid to enter in a polemical discussion I suggest this article : that's for humans . Copper is called the emotional mineral, so beware of addiction, Laugh and laugh and laugh. (The icon won't stick).

By the way I work at high elevations with trouts....Emotional he ?

just reading up on this (I live in the Pac NW of the U.S. and heating the water in Winter is probably a good idea) and the debate over how to integrate the heater so you get adequate flow without having to drill more holes or worry about the sump going's a thought:

Could you put the element in the suction/drain line of a CHOP system?  the constant water flow would keep it under control and it would be heating water that's headed to grow beds or the sump, so the temperature increase in the water would be well mixed by the time the water came back around to the fish tank.   You could change the elbow for a Straight + 45 degree WYE and put the heater element in the straight part (and have the 45 degree outlet go to your outlet from the tank).  In this listing, on lowes, you could put the heater in the top opening, have the 45 go to the outlet opening in your fish tank, and have the bottom opening connect to your suction line from the bottom of the tank.

What do you think?  If you have a timed pumping system, you could set the heater to be triggered by the same timer so it would heat when you're pumping and turn off when you're not.  Also, being in the TOP of a fish tank would make it more accessible and make it unnecessary to find a way to hold the water pressure just have to design it and support it so it stays dry.

I saw something like this on youtube a little different, I forgot about it. This will work great. He used a high temp sealant and it was removable when needed. but why have it set up on a therm and set it and for get it.


I am a master electrician and never thought of a hot water heater element

I will build one as you described

but I will install a refrigeration thermostat with a remote feeler


this thermostat can be set from 0-100 degrees  

Johnson controls #a19abc-24

Grainger has this and other brands


bruce hoffman 

SWEET! New project!!!

I found this temperature controller and it works great! It only reads in Celsius but that's not a big deal if you know the ideal temperature range for your species of fish. Tilapia is 28C to 30C. I also printed up a conversion chart in .1 increments. 

You can't beat the price! Heck, buy 2 and have one as a backup. I am editing a video that shows my build. Very excited. 

All Purpose Temperature Controller

here is a pic of a set up that did not use a temp controller or a GFCI plug..

note.. the tanks were 180 gallon tanks,,, now they are about 6" tall.. the  fish survived the fire!

Dave, someone else found these controllers before.... im not sure they can handle enough amps. it says 10 amp

if you try it let us know how it works.


here is a link to the submersible version, it shows the Ranco temp controller that I prefer.. $50

Hey thanks Rob, 

I am aware of the limitation. I am using a 30 amp contactor (relay) to carry the amperage. The relay on the temp controller only has to handle a few milliamps to power the contactor coil. 
I had a contactor already so did not need to purchase one but for those interested, I found one for under $5 that will work for this application. 

30 AMP Contactor

Here is my video of my build. DIY IBC Fish Tank Heater with Digital Temperature Controller 

It is working great and my fish are very happy! 

I thought of getting that Ranco Temp controller but at $50 it was just too steep. I already had the 30 Amp contactor but even if I had to shell out $5, that is still less than $25 for both. The contactor lasts years when used in an A/C system so I can bet it will last at least as long in this application. At that price though, I can keep a spare of each in case of failure!  


Rob Nash said:

here is a pic of a set up that did not use a temp controller or a GFCI plug..

note.. the tanks were 180 gallon tanks,,, now they are about 6" tall.. the  fish survived the fire!

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