What is the best aquarium chiller for a saltwater aquarium? Read on to find out more.
Last year, I had a major set-back with my display tank. While working under my tank, I messed up the temperature my heater was set at…unfortunately at the same time I was leaving for vacation, which was also during a heat wave. Long story short (you can read about that story here), my tank heated up significantly and caused some of my corals to die. Once that happened, I set out to figure out how to prevent that from happening again. What I realized is that the best insurance policy against your tank hitting unsafe elevated temperatures is to have an aquarium chiller. Until then, I had never considered a chiller, let alone sort through all the different options to know what the best aquarium chiller is.
So I set out to find the best aquarium chiller.
Criteria for selecting the best aquarium chiller
The best aquarium chiller is the one that is the right size for your aquarium, with the best performance and best reviews at the right price. The aquarium chiller shouldn’t be too big or too small–it needs to be just right, or it won’t be able to properly cool your tank, when needed. In this article, I will describe how an aquarium chiller works, how do you know if you need an aquarium chiller, why is high temperature bad, how much does it cost, how do you set one up and I will also provide product reviews for some of the best aquarium chiller brands. If you are interested in just jumping ahead to check out the products and prices for yourself, here are a few affiliate links where you can learn more about these products, including their price, on Amazon.com:
How does an aquarium chiller work?
An aquarium water chiller is like an air conditioner for your water. There is a thermostat, that monitors the temperature and switches the aquarium chiller on when the water temperature gets too high. When the chiller is on, tank water flows inside the chiller and gets cooled off in a heat exchanger before being returned by the pump to your aquarium.
How do marine chillers make the aquarium cooler?
A marine chiller or aquarium chiller essentially works like an ‘air conditioner for your water’. Which doesn’t really make sense, I know, but there is cool stuff (literally), inside the machine that helps bring down the temperature of the water removed from your tank that is running through it. As a result of coming in contact (safely) with the cooling elements, the water that gets returned makes the aquarium cooler.
Do I need an aquarium chiller?
Technically, you may not need an aquarium chiller. I’ve been keeping fish for almost 30 years now and never previously had an aquarium chiller. But very recently, I had an issue where my tank water heated up…and caused big problems. I don’t want risk it any more, so I’m getting an aquarium chiller–to protect against error and protect against loss.
Why is a high water temperature in a reef aquarium bad?
- Temperature changes, in general, are bad
- Warm water holds less oxygen
- May cause problem algae growth
Top aquarium chiller reviews: What are customers saying is the best aquarium chiller?
When properly sized (large enough to lower the temperature of the tank sufficiently when just running for a few minutes each hour…not continuously) and installed, an aquarium chiller is a great product that will keep your aquarium temperature from elevating into the danger zone. People who live in hot climates boast about these workhorses doing the job day in and day out without a hiccup. The top brands are quiet and should run without issue.
Most common complaints
The most common complaints about aquarium water chillers are:
- Sometimes they break–there are reviews (in the minority) of products that failed after a short period of time
- Manufacturers are not always as responsive as hoped for in resolving any issues
- Can be loud–may sound like ‘an old refrigerator’ when running
Factors that can impact the performance of a saltwater chiller
To keep your saltwater chiller working properly, keep these things in mind:
- Avoid extreme temperatures–if the temperature in the room is in the mid-to-high 90’s, just about any chiller is going to have some trouble keeping up. If this is something you expect to happen in your home–you want to pick a significantly oversized model
- Don’t forget about the heat load contributed by your equipment. If you are running serious metal halide lights close to the water–you’re going to have a lot more heat to dissipate than your neighbor in the same town who is running cool LEDs
- Your chiller needs good ventilation to run properly–be sure to place it in a well-ventilated are.
- Just like an air conditioner, you need to keep the grill clean to avoid over-working the system
- Ensure you are equipping your aquarium chiller with a properly sized pump to enable the appropriate water flow for your particular model. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you have the right sized pump.
How much does an aquarium water chiller cost?
An aquarium water chiller will cost anywhere from about $260 to over $1,200, for the biggest and best models. One of the most commonly available sizes that should be large enough to handle an aquarium in the 125-150 gallon range or smaller is the 1/4 HP model, which benchmarks at about $600 for all but one manufacturer.
If even the least expensive models are out of your price range, you may want to consider an aquarium fan, like the Aquacool, which can help keep your tank water a bit cooler by facilitating evaporation.
To check out the latest prices for popular aquarium chillers on Amazon, with this link here.
How do I decide what fish tank chiller model is the best for me?
Picking the right fish tank chiller model for you is about weighing a few considerations:
- How big is your tank
- How much money are you willing to spend
- How good are the average product reviews
The JBJ product website has a calculator that will help you figure out the right size for your particular aquarium. To pick the right size, you need to look at all the things warming up your tank…and while not the most intuitive tool, that is what the JBJ calculator helps you to do.
Best Aquarium Chiller–what are the options?
As I mentioned earlier, the best aquarium chiller is the one that is the right size for your aquarium, at the right price. The aquarium chiller shouldn’t be too big or too small–it needs to be just right, or it won’t be able to properly cool your tank, when needed.
Here are a few of the most popular aquarium chiller brands for you to choose from:
JBJ Arctica Aquarium Chiller
The brand is relatively easy to set up, runs efficiently and runs quietly. It is the exclusive brand offered by at least one popular online store. A JBJ Arctica aquarium chiller will cost you around $400-$800, depending on the model you pick. Check out the current prices here.
JBJ offers 5 models in the JBJ Arctica Titanium Chiller line:
- 1/15 HP for tanks up to 40 gallons
- 1/10 HP for tanks up to 80 gallons
- 1/5 HP for tanks up to 180 gallons
- 1/4 HP for tanks up to 260 gallons
- 1/3 HP for tanks up to 340 gallons
This chiller boasts nearly 160 reviews on a prominent online retailer and 4.5 star average and 5 star average out of 15 reviews on another and 4.5 star average out of 23 reviews on Amazon.com.
Hamilton Technology Aqua Euro Max Aquarium Chiller
The Hamilton Technology Aqua Euro Max Aquarium Chiller also boasts a 4 star average review on Amazon.com, with about 40 reviews at the time of this article. These aquarium chillers range in price from about $375 for the smallest model upwards to $1,300 for the largest models, if you have a large tank. The 1/4 HP represents a reasonable value for the money at just under $600. Check out the current prices here.
If you are looking for the best aquarium chiller that is the perfect fit for your aquarium, the Aqua Euro Max should be your chiller of choice, with 5 models to choose from:
- 1/13 HP for a 30-50 gallon aquarium
- 1/10 HP for a 60-80 gallon aquarium
- 1/4 HP for a 100-170 gallon aquarium
- 1/2 HP for a 200-300 gallon aquarium
- 1 HP for a 300-700 gallon aquarium
Coralife Aquarium Chiller
The Coralife Aquarium Chiller line offers 5 sizes to help you find the right model for your tank. The smallest model runs at 1/10 HP and is suited for tanks up to 55 gallons in size, whereas the 1HP model (quite large) will work for tanks up to 500 gallons in size. Expect to pay about $400 for the smallest model and over $1,000 for the largest model. Check out the links below for the current prices.
- 1/10 HP for tanks up to 55 gallons
- 1/6 HP for tanks up to 90 gallons
- 1/4 HP for tanks up to 125 gallons
- 1/2 HP for tanks up to 250 gallons
- 1 HP for tanks up to 500 gallons
Active Aqua Chiller
With over 130 reviews on Amazon at the time of this article and a 4 star review average (85 are verified purchases!), the Active Aqua Chiller is the most popular chiller model available. It is available in 3 sizes: small 1/10 HP, medium 1/4 HP and large 1/2 HP. The price ranges from about $260- $630. The 1/4 HP model (workhorse model for most tanks) is only $378, making it the best value for the money.
- The 1/10 HP model can chill 40 gallons by 15 degrees Fahrenheit in about 20 hours
- The 1/4 HP model can chill 80 gallons by 15 degrees Fahrenheit in about 20 hours
- The 1/2 HP model can chill 132 gallons by 15 degrees F in 20 hours
It is no doubt that the low prices here are part of what’s driving the popularity on Amazon.com. Check out the reviews for yourself and decide.
Best aquarium chiller: Most relied upon brand
The good news here is that there is no shortage of options, when it comes to selecting a popular aquarium chiller brand. After searching the available information online, the JBJ Arctica Aquarium Chiller brand is the most consistently available and positively reviewed product available.
Best aquarium chiller value for the money
In terms of the best aquarium chiller value for the money–the obvious choice here is the Active Aqua line of aquarium chillers. They are significantly less expensive than some of the other brands and boast a similar product review profile.
Do you have an aquarium chiller? Which model do you think is the best aquarium chiller in 2017?