Heater guards are something many aquarium owners have never heard of – at least not unless they have a heater accident. So what is a heater guard, and do you need one? The answer depends on your tank and the species of fish you keep. To better understand, let's start with what a heater guard does.
What a Heater Guard Does
A heater guard serves two purposes. The first is to prevent the heater from being cracked or broken, either by boisterous fish or by tank décor falling against the heater. Believe it or not, such accidents happen more often than you might think.
The other purpose of the heater guard is to keep the heater from coming in direct contact with the aquarium glass, aquarium décor, and the fish. Although it’s not common for heaters to cause burns on fish or damage tank décor, it is possible if the contact is prolonged. Better safe than sorry.
When to Use a Heater Guard
Heater guards are wise anytime you have a breakable heater. Which heaters are breakable? Glass heaters are breakable, even if they state they are ‘durable’. Don’t consider a heater unbreakable, unless the manufacturer specifically states it is unbreakable.
If you have a glass heater in your tank, it doesn’t mean you should immediately run screaming to the store. Heater guards are not critical in tanks with small to medium sized fish, particularly if the heater is located in an out of the way location, such as in a corner of the tank away from the decor.
However, a heater guard is advisable when you have large active fish, as they are more prone to damaging a heater. Any tank with large rocks is also a danger zone for heaters. In such cases, using a heater guard not only protects the investment you made in the heater but protects your fish as well. It is possible to lose all your fish if a heater is broken in the aquarium.
Where to Get Heater Guards
Heater guards are generally available wherever you purchase an aquarium heater. They are also available online and, in a pinch, you can make your own. Do it yourself heater guards are not as attractive as purchased ones, but they get the job done, particularly if they are intended to protect a heater placed behind rocks where appearance isn’t an issue.
Do It Yourself Heater Guard
Plastic pipes can be used to make a great heater guard. Use a diameter large enough to easily fit the heater tube into it, and also allow for water circulation around it. Cut the pipe to the proper length, and be sure to drill or cut enough holes in the pipe to allow for good cross-current water circulation. The top and the bottom of the tube are left open. Attach the suction cups on the heater inside the tube to hold the heater in place, and voila, you are all set.
Another unique DIY heater guard I’ve heard of is one fashioned from a plastic soda bottle. It was designed for a turtle cage, and it wasn’t pretty, but it certainly protected the heater from bumps that might crack or break it.