Aquarium Chillers: Which One & Why
Chillers can be an intimidating purchase for aquarists. They’re somewhat expensive and unsightly, and they take up a lot of space. Yet, in certain situations, a chiller is a very smart addition to your aquarium. We offer three reasons for why adding a chiller could be right for you. We also offer some advice on choosing the best chiller for your needs.

Check out our new Aquarium Cooling Video on YouTube

Three Reasons for Buying a Chiller
1. Tank is Too Hot
We recommend tropical freshwater tanks have a target temperature of 80 degrees, and saltwater and reef aquariums have a temperature of 78 degrees. If your tank is too hot you need a way to cool it down.

There are methods other than chillers to cool your tank. Aquarists remove their aquarium lid and turn off the lights during a heat wave. They replace T5 lights and AC pumps with LED lights and DC pumps. In situations where your aquarium is 30 gallons or less, a fan such as the JBJ C-Breeze can bring down the temperature a couple degrees. However, while this might do the trick if the room is 78 degrees and the tank is 80 degrees, it will not suffice if the room is 80 degrees and the tank is 82 degrees.

Face it—if you have an aquarium in a room hotter than you want your tank to be, you will need a chiller.

2. Save Money
If your tank is too hot you could turn your air conditioner temperature down (assuming you have one). But does it really make economic sense to cool the entire house just to keep your aquarium cool? And does it make sense when you’re out of town?

While the upfront cost of a chiller is at least $450, the upfront cost of an air conditioner is much, much more. The more you run your air conditioner, the quicker it will need to be replaced. And although $450 for a chiller is a great deal of money, they do typically last at least ten years. If you maintain your chiller, and use it only a few months out of the year, it could last 20 years.

In most cases, buying a chiller will be more economical than increasing your air conditioner use. This electric bill savings is often the best reason to buy a chiller.

3. Redundancy
We recommend you avoid putting all of your animals’ lives in the hands of any one device. If your air conditioner breaks during the peak of summer, it may take a week or more to get it running again, and in that time all of your fish, corals, and invertebrates can die.

Having a chiller as a back up in case your AC fails can save your all of your animals. The chiller will also turn on automatically, which can save your animals even if you are away from your home.

Which Chiller Should You Buy?
When choosing a chiller, there are two important questions. Where is your chiller going to be and how big of chiller do you need.

We carry the JBJ Arctica Chillers and Teco Tank Chillers. They are both very high quality chillers lines and we have a variety of sizes to match the needs of tanks of various sizes.

Where Is The Chiller Going To Go?
Chillers work just like air conditioners and refrigerators. They have water pass over a coil containing a refrigerant, such Freon or Puron, which draws the heat away from the water and into the refrigerant. Then they cool the refrigerant coils by venting the heat out.

Because of the need to vent out hot air away from a chiller, the most common installation is to set a chiller next to the aquarium where the heat is removed from the aquarium and then exhausted into the room. All of the chillers we sell can be installed this way. However, this does have some disadvantages:
1. Your air conditioner will work harder since the air inside your home is being warmed up by the chiller.
2. The chiller is exposed and looks very unsightly.
3. The chiller controls are exposed so they can be bumped or tampered with by children.

Fortunately there are some chiller designs that can circumvent these problems:

Teco Chillers are specifically designed to be placed inside an aquarium stand. The Teco chillers do this by having a special vent that allows you to cut a hole in the back or side of your aquarium stand to vent the heat out of the stand. While this still heats the room, it keeps the chiller hidden from view and protects the chiller controls from being tampered with.

JBJ Arctica Chillers are not designed to be put in stands. We know many people do put them in stands, and they will work if put into a stand. But they will not work at maximum efficiency because the chiller will be recycling the hot air it produces.

The JBJ Commercial Chillers (1/2 HP & larger at bottom of page) can be placed outside your house where all of the heat they draw from the tank goes straight outside. This solves all of the problems with having a chiller next to your aquarium, but it can be difficult to install since it involves cutting through walls to run plumbing.

How Much Chilling Do You Need?
Aquarium chillers are rated by how much of a temperature drop they can provide, in a given volume of water, under ideal conditions. For example, a Teco TK-500 Tank Chiller can cool a 120 gallon aquarium up to 9 degrees. If you have a 150 gallon aquarium, and you only need to cool the tank by 5 degrees, the chiller could also work fine.

When you compare chillers of different sizes, you will notice that a chiller that is a lot more powerful is often only slightly more expensive. For this reason we recommend going one size larger with your chiller if you are ever uncertain about the size chiller you will need. In other words, if a 1/4 HP seems to be big enough your needs, get a 1/3 HP chiller. It will get the job done if your calculations are a bit off, and it will also last longer because it will not have to turn on as often.