There are many expenses in the aquarium hobby, but one often overlooked expense is the cost of electricity. Small aquariums may only add between $10-$50 a month in energy costs, but larger aquariums can easily cost hundreds of dollars a month without energy efficiency planning. Three simple areas where energy savings can make a difference are pumps, lighting and temperature control.
Water pumps can use a significant amount of power, but there are several ways to reduce power usage. Investing in new pumps might have a large up-front cost, but if you
expect to have your aquariums for more than a couple years, the pumps we recommend will probably pay for themselves with all you will save on
In the past, water movement was done with external pumps, but internal flow pumps such as the Hydor Koralia
, Maxspect Gyre
and Maxspect Jump Gyre Pumps
only use about 1/3rd the electricity of a similarly sized external pump. If you’re using closed loop pumps or a large external pump connected to a sump, consider either replacing the external main system pump
with internal pumps or using a smaller external pump. For reef aquariums with a sump, you only need enough flow through the sump for your protein skimmer. The rest of your flow can be done more cheaply with more efficient internal pumps.
Some equipment, such as recirculating skimmers, media reactors, calcium reactors, and sump return pumps, require the use of impeller pumps to operate. For these needs, consider switching from an AC pump to a DC pump. DC pumps such as the Reef Octopus DC Pumps
use about half the power and are also quieter and controllable. Or, you could switch to one of the innovative, energy-saving AC pumps such as the Hydor Seltz D
or the Rossmont Riser
Using one pump with a manifold can replace multiple pumps. Larger aquariums with sumps tend to have a lot of equipment in the sump. All of this equipment needs water feed pumps. Rather than using individual pumps for each of these pieces of equipment, it is more efficient to use a single large pump with separate ball valves to control the flow to each piece of equipment. Doing this can not only reduce power consumption but also simplify the system by removing the number of cords and moving parts needed for your aquarium.
Aquarium lights are often the most energy intensive part of your tank’s equipment, but there are ways to make lighting more efficient.
Most aquarists have given up on energy inefficient metal halides and florescent lights. Modern LED lights can significantly cut back on energy costs. In most cases an LED light will use less than half the power of an equivalent halogen or florescent light. In some cases the savings can be much greater. The Kessil A160WE LED Light Fixtures
were designed as replacements for 150 watt metal halides, but they only use 40 watts!
Even if you are using energy efficient LEDs, you may still be wasting a lot of money on electricity by keeping your lights on longer than necessary. Corals and plants in your aquarium only need 4-6 hours of light. If you have your lights on for longer than this, it is only for your enjoyment and not for the benefit of the animals and plants in the tank. Putting a simple timer
on your lights can ensure that your lights are not kept on for longer than is necessary. For those with dimmable LED lights, only run your lights at the selected maximum intensity for 4-6 hours and use dimmer light for viewing the rest of the day.
Heaters & Chillers
use a great deal of electricity, but there are ways of making them more efficient.
Keep your aquarium in a well insulated area of the house. The best way to make your tank’s heater and chiller use less power is to have them turn on less. Placing your aquarium against an interior wall can stop hot and cold air from the outside effecting the temperature of your tank and triggering your heater and chiller. Avoid placing your aquarium in sunlight or opening windows that are close to the aquarium.
Choose a proper target temperature. Any temperature between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit is OK for a reef aquarium. If you are in a cold climate aim for 77. If you are in a warm climate aim for 80. It is far more important that you limit the variation in temperature than that you achieve a particular temperature.
Use a chiller rather than air conditioning. If you are in a hot climate then air conditioning can be a huge section of your electrical bill. You can turn your air up or all the way off when you leave your home, but this can lead to the death of your entire aquarium. Adding a chiller will allow you to turn your air up when you are at work or out of town.
Chillers are miniature air conditioners and they vent out the heat pulled out of the water into the air. If this heat is pumped into your home then your air conditioning will work harder to remove this added heat. It is best to vent a chiller outside of your house. This is easily done using a Teco Chiller
and Teco Chiller Air Conveyer Extension
. The Teco Chillers are designed specifically to vent hot air outdoors.
If you are using both a chiller and a heater then there is a risk of the two fighting each other. If the chiller is plumbed after the heater then the heater could be sending extra hot water to the chiller which causes the chiller to turn on and give the heater extra cold water. In the end your heater and chiller will counteract each other and waste power. Using a temperature controller such as the Pinpoint Temperature Controller will allow only the heater or chiller to be on at any point in time. Setting this up is very simple—the heater and chiller just plug into the Pinpoint Controller and the included Pinpoint Probe is placed in the sump or tank. The Teco Aquarium Chillers have a controller and heater built in. The Neptune Apex
can also be used to control both the heater and chiller. The Apex Gold
can also be used to monitor electricity usage (only the Apex Gold, not the Classic or Jr.
). You can even plug in your kilowatt-hour cost to see how much each of your individual components are costing you in electricity.