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Electrocution by aquarium heater


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I also was nearly electrocuted yesterday morning. I was doing a water change in my big aquarium. When the tank was down to about 1/3 full I started hearing this quite sizzling noise. Accept I couldn’t think of any thing that would sizzle. I looked underneath the tank fearing I had cracked the bottom and it was leaking on the floor.

I had this horrible image in my head of a spider web of cracks spreading out across the bottom of the tank and causing the noise.

As I looked underneath though the noise got louder and I looked back up. That’s when I saw the heater with its red light on almost completely out of the water (except 4 the very tip).

Now I have already got my hand in the tank, I'm holding the siphon. I’m not certain what happened next. I think as I reached for the heater to pull it out of the water the siphon I was still holding pushed a little wave towards the heater. At any rate just before my hand got to it, it exploded.

Sorta anyway, maybe exploded is a bit of an embellishment but bare with me.

My hand froze for just a second as the electrical heating coils dropped into the tank. I don’t know if they had shorted out or were still live at this point but my instincts kicked in.

Not the normal flight or fight instincts you might expect but rather the "if I don’t do something now my fish is going to die instincts"

So my wet hand darted the last few inches in and grabbed the mutilated heater. At this point I realized instantly that I might have had the wrong instinct but in any case it was to late and I wasn’t having a seizure so everything was ok. Sorta at least.

Now I'm standing in the mess of spilled water I created doing the water change, holding a 300-watt broken heater, and still wet up to my elbow. Worse still the heater comes in the top but on the other side of the glass hood and light fixture. So I cant just pull it out. And of course left arm isn’t going to help me out any. (My left arm is paralyzed from a motorcycle accident 3yrs ago).

Now here is the icing on the cake, about the time I'm realizing that I’m in a bit of an awkward and potentially dangerous predicament the siphon (which is still going) begins to overflow the bucket its draining into. So now the spattered drops of water I have been standing in are rapidly becoming a standing pool of water.

At this point I start getting really scared. I just knew that at any moment I was going to become the path of least resistance for 120-volts running at 300-watts (or however that watt/volt relationship works out) and get ####### zapped.

So naturally I should just drop the heater and step out of the pool of water right? Wrong that’s crazy talk there, my fish is still in danger too ya know!!!!!

At any rate this all happened real quick. I drag out the details too often and it makes it look like I was standing there for 30min. It prolly wasn’t 30sec. I called for help and my dad came rushing out and unplugged the heater for me.

In the end Veronica (sister, lives down stairs) got a wet sofa out of the deal and both the fish and I lived.

I know its just common sense I should have unplugged that heater. Strangely enough though in all my years of keeping aquariums I’ve never done it and never had a problem. I sure learned my lesson though.

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formerly icyuodd/icyoud2

lucky guy! next time think "screw the fish, lifes too short" :)


if you let those hot heaters go dry, it takes no time at all before the crack and break.


good to hear your ok.

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Next time pull the plug. THEN grab the heater! :o


You're very lucky. 120v is enough to contract muscles and you can't let go. There you are until someone finds you, dead.


Oh, get a GFCI plug. It will save your life.


Edit: Note to self. Pick up a GFCI plug.

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Also, because you will now be needing a new heater, invest in one of the new hydor theo heaters... you don't have to unplug them, as the glass they use is thermal shock proof. (is that a real term?) anyhow, I got one, and they work very nice. Also they don't use the coils like a traditional heater, but a resistive grid inside that produces the heat.



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you got very lucky. ive heard good things about the stealth heater too. make sure you turn everything off when you do water changes.

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I use stealth heaters in ALL my tanks and they are great, set them and forgot about them, no glass to break and they shut off automatically if their pulled out of the water.


Also ppl i've read horror stories about whole houses burnt down because some water got into a wavemaker or such. GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interupeters) are a life saver and very cheap and easy to install. They range from $6 to $12 and replace the plug in box all together. It took me roughly 4 minutes per plug to change all of mine. Seriously, any place you have water and electricity, you need one of these, they would have kicked off and you and your fish would have been safe.


Glad to hear your ok though. GO BUY A GFCI

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I use stealth heaters in ALL my tanks and they are great, set them and forgot about them, no glass to break and they shut off automatically if their pulled out of the water.


Yeah I use Stealth heaters as well and also have the Hydor Theo mentioned. Get a Stealth. If you have PetSmart print out the web page for the Stealth heater and pay the ultra cheap online price less shipping in the store(just present the printout to the cashier), you will pay around $16.00 for a top-flite heater and save half off the in-store price!

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