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View Full Version : Titanium heaters and stray voltage


Stones
02-16-2017, 07:50 AM
I recently stumbled across a discussion in Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine that suggested most, if not all, titanium heaters will leak a variable amount of stray voltage into an aquarium. The article also stated that in a freshwater system, this isn't such a big deal however since saltwater is significantly more conductive, this can lead to problems.

Prior to shutting down my 225 gallon tank, I had a very healthy blue face angel that suddenly developed a pretty severe case of HLLE along with a yellow tang and purple tang. I had this fish for a few years prior to this point and my water quality was immaculate. All tank inhabitants except these fish were in great health. After reading up on HLLE, stray voltage seemed like the most likely culprit.

After testing my tank with a grounded multimeter, I got a reading of around 10 V and you could actually feel a pretty sharp shock if you had a cut on your hand and placed it in the tank.

I meticulously unplugged and plugged all of my equipment in trying to locate the culprit that was causing the stray voltage to no avail. It seemed like it was a cumulative effort as all equipment gave off a small amount of stray voltage.

In the end, I added a grounding probe to the tank and to the sump which solved the problem. My blueface angel started healing however I had a Chernobyl scale tank crash shortly there after so I wasn't able to see the fish fully recover as all my livestock perished.

After reading this article, it made sense that the titanium heater I was using may have actually been the culprit. All of my current tanks have glass heaters in them as I had a bad bout of luck with several of my titanium heaters grenading on me within a 6 month period. However, I had a nearly brand new titanium heater in my 30 gallon discus water change barrel. Since I always have bad cracks in my hands thanks to the Hoth like climate of mid-winter Saskachewan, I stuck my hand into the barrel and sure enough, a sharp shock from the heater.

Long story short, I will not be using a titanium heater in a salt water tank ever again. I don't know if these are just bad units with poor seals or if there is in fact some stray voltage coming across the surface of the metal heater element. I'm curious to see if anyone else running titanium heaters has had a similar experience.

DKoKoMan
02-16-2017, 09:13 AM
Blah sorry to hear! I hope your able to rebound and get the tank back on track.

dino
02-16-2017, 05:06 PM
I use titanium on all freshwater and salt tanks and will never go back to glass. I believe a small amount of voltage is ok but you should be getting shocked that's for sure

intarsiabox
02-17-2017, 12:06 AM
I've been using titanium heaters for years and don't have any measurable voltage in my tank. That said any electrical device in your tank can break down over time and cause stray voltage regardless of what it's made of.

Default
02-17-2017, 01:14 AM
I run Ti heaters but I have my tank grounded every tank should be grounded if you have ac going into your tank or sump.

daplatapus
02-17-2017, 03:10 AM
I'm running titanium heaters in mine as well. If I have a cut on my hand (which is pretty much 90% of the time, lol) I feel some stray voltage as well. It's been so slight that I've never actually measured it or tried to chase it down. I'll have to check it....

Stones
02-17-2017, 06:42 AM
It sounds like most people aren't experiencing the same problems I was having regarding stray voltage. Perhaps I just had a few bad heaters or the seals went over time as the HLLE did come on very suddenly and the same heater had been in the sump the entire time.

I much preferred the titanium heating elements as you don't have to worry about cracking like you do with a glass heater but for now I'm back to all glass heaters in my stocked tanks.

Blah sorry to hear! I hope your able to rebound and get the tank back on track.

Sadly my tank has been shut down for over 2 years now and I won't be setting another large reef tank up in my current house.

I'm running titanium heaters in mine as well. If I have a cut on my hand (which is pretty much 90% of the time, lol) I feel some stray voltage as well. It's been so slight that I've never actually measured it or tried to chase it down. I'll have to check it....

Daplatapus, I would check your system to see if the stray voltage drops significantly when the heater is unplugged. If so, I'd either replace the heater or add grounding probes to your tank and sump.

Most livestock seems relatively unaffected by stray voltage but certain species like large angels and certain tangs will develop HLLE quite rapidly if there is an excess of stray voltage.

Myka
02-17-2017, 03:05 PM
Were you using carbon in the tank?