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I have always used heat tape instead of normal aquarium heaters. I
think the plants appreciate the warm feet and it's a very reliable way
to heat the tank.
I use the 11 or 12" wide tape, cut to fit the length of the aquarium.
This may not cover the entire front to back depth of every tank, but
it's not too far off and anyway, it doesn't come any wider.
I use a rheostat with it; you just attach the connectors to the metal
strips on the heat tape and then plug in to the rheostat. You cannot
see a temperature on the rheostat; you just turn the dial until the tank
reads the correct temp, so it takes a few days of tweaking. The
rheostat isn't terribly sensitive, so you need to turn the dial quite a
bit to see any change.
I never thought this was too hard and I like the results: a warm tank
with no additional "stuff" on the tank wall to clutter things up.
I get my heat tape from Bush Herpetological Supply along with the
rheostats, but the site Scott H. provided is just as good. Site for
Bush is: http://www.bushherp.com/heating.html