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Re: Heating Cables

At 03:48 PM 9/25/98 -0400, you wrote:
>From: Jim Spencer <jimsp at yahoo_com>

>The primary reason I use heating cables is to prevent the substrate
>from getting cold.  The room my aquariums are in can get quite cold in
>the winter and without the cables the substrate will run several
>degrees colder than the water.
>Finally, because DIY cables are inexpensive, simple to install and are
>generally a set and forget it accessory I would put them in any large
>aquarium I setup.

Two important comments:(1) There is another way to keep the substrate from
getting too cold and (2) I successfully grow plants and I have NEVER used
heating coils.

The alternative way to keep substrate from getting too cold is to place a
sheet of insulation board under the aquarium. It can be styrofoam or
thermax foam board. The R value is 4 -6 and cuts down the heat loss
tremedously. The tank doesn'f have to sit on the board. It can be wedged
thru the stand to cover the bottom glass (if the stand is open). I have
been doing this for almost 20 years... even before I kept so many plant
tanks. I did it to save on the electricity cost of heating tanks (when
using individual tank heaters). I once published the $$ savings... I think
in 1983.... you can save bucks.  The only tanks that do not use an
insulation board are ones on multi-tank stands where one tank is sitting
directly over the heat generating lights of the tank below. These may or
may not produce convective currents, but I don't care (see 2nd paragraph
below). I still keep a foam board behind the back glass to conserve heat.
Most of my tanks are in one small room, so even in the winter the room
stays warm. If they were in an cold basement, I might use the foam bd on
those plant tanks too.

One reason I never used heating coils is that the room holding my tanks
gets too hot during the summer. I don't want to install an air conditioner
just to maintain the convective water current of heating coils. Some people
put the coils on a timeer and only run them for one hour per day.  I
already generate too much heat from all the damn lights <g>.. so I donit
want ANY extra  heat from the cables. In theory, heating coils are a great
idea. First, I think that heating coils can't hurt. Second, they will be
especially helpful during the initial tank start up  (before the plants are
creating a desireable substrate environment) and during temporary periods
when plants may be doing poorly in an established tank. But when enough
healthy plants fill the substrate, the plants transpiration system will
move water thru the soil (from roots thru leaves)... and their aerenchyma
provide O2 to the roots to create a healthy aerobic micro-zone in the
vicinity of the plant. Together, these mechanisms accomplish the same
objectives as the heating coils! Someday, I will have tanks in a colder
space that will enable me to see if I can get more stability and even
better growth with the use of heating coils... as suggested by a few other
experts that contribute to this list. Maybe it will help with some specific
plants or some combination of plants. Until then, I continue to say that
"Heating coils are nice, but not necessary. They may generate unwanted,
undesireable heat during the summer, and if they are turned off during the
summer, their advantages of creating long term stability are lost.  They
are the LAST thing that a newby wants to add to a plant tank."

Neil Frank