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I've found the common red fluid (I recall reading that it's colored
alcohol) thermometers sold for aquariums to be quite inaccurate, off by
as much as 5 deg. F.
The most consistent and accurate thermometers I've seen sold for
aquariums are the Second Nature Acura stick-on thermometers (Note: I
haven't tried any of the electronic ones). To test them, I removed a
few (I think I had three) from their packages and set them on a table
with a lab-grade mercury thermometer. I looked at them after about 5
minutes, and they all read within 1 deg. F of the lab thermometer. I
didn't test them at higher and lower temps, but the room temps here are
usually in the mid 70's to low 80's.
I don't care for the stick on idea, since I would think they'd be more
accurate if they were submerged. But I guess the idea is that the
thermal conductivity of glass is high enough to keep the readings
"close". Anyone have any ideas for how true this is, and how it is
affected by glass thickness (or even acrylics)?
I've also considered the Radio Shack thermometer that they currently
have on sale for $12 here in Hawaii. But when I played with it, the
response time seemed too slow for just sticking the probe into a tank to
take an "instantaneous" reading. But it probably would be OK if it was
constantly submerged. The outdoor sensor is supposed to be weather
proof, but I don't think that means waterproof.