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re:DIY Substrate Heating Cables (plus: Iron test question)

In Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #251: 
>Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 00:49:08 -0500
>From: bickford at black-hole_com (Jay Bickford)
>Subject: DIY Substrate Heating Cables
>Hello All!
>I am currently in the process of setting up a 75G planted tank, and am
>considering building a DIY substrate heating system as described in the
>Dan Resler and Uwe Behle article published in the March 1995 issue of
>Aquarium Fish Magazine.  Has anyone out there built a system like this,
>including the cables?  The system I calculated out using the formulas in
>the article consists of 7.7 meters of 30AWG wire and a 12volt / 4.5 amp
>ac transformer to provide a power rating of 54 watts.  If the system
>works, I don't have a problem with building it, as it certainly will be
>a lot cheaper than buying Dupla cables.
>Feedback from anyone who has built such as system would be greatly
>appreciated, including the in and outs of building such a system, as
>well as long term usage experience.


I've had my 55 Gal planted tank set up for about a month and a half
using cables designed and built by myself as per the article you
mentioned.  I used an old UGF plate to hold the wire (Radio Shack wire
wrap 30AWG), simply threading the wire along the various slots.  My
calculated current pull for my 40 watt element was about 3.3 amps at
12 volts, so I looked around for a transformer that would put out that
much current - I found many, but most were about $40 for just the
transformer.  Then I noticed the $25 battery chargers at WalMart were
rated to 6 amps!  This was the most convenient package and is
what I'm using to power the heater.  I leave it on continuously so
far: keeping a thermometer stuck down into the substrate shows a temp
of 88-90 degrees (ambient water temp is kept at 86 - it's a discus
tank).  The only other thing I did was wire up TWO heating elements
onto the plate: one is a bit shorter than the other, and so gets a
little bit hotter and I could switch back and forth if I felt like the
40 watt one wasn't providing enough heat.

I can't provide any long term usage experience yet - the tank's only
been filled for a couple months, heavily planted for about 3 weeks,
and I just transferred 3 of my smallest discus to it last night just
to see how they do.

One question for the group - I bought Sera's iron test kit and have
been adding Sera's trace element additive weekly (21 ml as per
instructions).  I also used Flourite (supposedly iron-rich) as the
substrate additive.  However, I have never seen ANY sign of iron in
the tank.  Is the Sera test kit one of those I should have avoided?
If it is an okay kit, should I increaase my dosage of Florena until I
can get a reading on the test kit?


Brent Harsh
Cary, NC