What's in YOUR Turtle Tank?

What's in YOUR Turtle Tank?

By Anita Peddicord
State & Federal Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitator

For those of you who have aquatic turtles that must be wintered over indoors, you may be
interested in some opinions I've developed on submersible heaters for aquariums. Since I do
rehab, I usually end up with several ill or injured turtles in the fall that must not be allowed to
hibernate. Years ago I started off using the popular fully submersible all glass heaters. These
are fine for very small turtles but larger, active turtles can break them. Have you ever reached in
a tank full of water to attend to something only to quickly withdraw because the heater was
cracked and you didn't know it and you got zapped?! Not very fun. Yes, the manufacturers tell
us to unplug the heater before putting your hand in the water, but really, how many of us do that?

I've had glass heaters break even when they were protected in the tank. Very frustrating. (I'm
also very careful not to remove the heater when still hot.) A couple of years ago I decided to try
some inexpensive all stainless steel heaters (ViaAqua) which had an external non-submergible
temperature regulator. It took a bit of extra rigging to hang the temperature regulator on the wall
outside the tank. I really liked them because setting the temperature dial was very convenient
but the scale was very difficult to read even in bright light. Anyway, no more worrying about
cracking. One I'm using for the second winter. One lasted only one winter. It died when I set it
up to use this fall. It just died and wouldn't come back on. Heaters ought to last more than one
year, in my opinion!

Ok, now I'm short TWO heaters because my last glass one cracked (for no reason) around that
same time. I like to keep an extra as a backup. (sigh) What do I try now? I decided on the Visi-
Therm Stealth. Since I needed it for a 65 gallon tank, I would need a 250 watt one. After doing
a bit of price comparing, I purchased a new one on eBay. In no time at all my new sleek black
heater arrived. It has an all plastic housing covering aluminum and ceramic internal parts. The
temperature dial on the end is easy to read AND set but not so easy that an active or nosy turtle
could turn it. (Ever had one of those blasted heaters with the temp dial that needs muscle to turn
it?) It even has an auto shut off just in case you forget to unplug it before you do a water change
and expose it to air. That's a handy reassurance.

The heater is pretty, unobtrusive and made with a shatterproof plastic. Would it heat and
maintain 55 gallons of water in a room kept about 70 degrees during the day and lower at night?
This new heater is keeping the water a cozy 79 degrees with no problems. How come the
plastic doesn't melt? I don't know but it works great and I don't have to worry about cracking
glass!

If you are in the market for a submersible heater, I recommend the Stealth. If you don't know
what size to buy, most sellers will tell you the tank size a certain wattage is good for, or you can
refer to the GCTTS webpage on heaters:

Selecting Aquarium Heaters

I've noticed many manufacturers are getting smart and putting a protective cap on the vulnerable
end of their all glass heaters. I haven't tried one of these yet but they are probably worth trying
in some situations.

Copyright (c) 2006 Gulf Coast Turtle and Tortoise Society
Permission is granted to copy for non-profit use with proper credit given. For any other use you must obtain permission.

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Houston, TX 77073
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