In this article, we will discuss the topic of aquarium chiller, an item which allows you to regulate water temperature in your aquarium. We will present you with 7 best aquarium chillers currently available on the market, and evaluate their features, strengths, and weaknesses.
More importantly, we will provide you with our Buyer’s guide, where we’ll explain the purpose of aquarium chillers, why you need them, how should you value them, and so forth. While it is important that you buy the right item, one that will be compatible with your aquarium, it is even more important that you understand the reasons behind your purchase, that is, why do you even need one in the first place.
In this section, we will discuss the aquarium chillers in general: what they are, how do they work, why you need it (or don’t need it), and so forth. Please, go through this section with care and attention, for it will help you understand the product more profoundly.
What Is Aquarium Chiller?
As the name suggests, aquarium chiller’s purpose is to lower the water’s temperature to the desired level (preferably optimal level). Though we mostly focused on aquarium chillers, the same technology is used in aquaponics and aquaculture systems.
What Is It For (Why You Need It)?
The simple answer would be something like this: “Because aquariums overheat.” Well, when we speak of aquaponics or aquaculture, the farmers use the system to increase productivity. As you probably know, fish, corals and almost all sea organisms are at the mercy of their environment when it comes to heat.
Fish and other creatures are cold-blooded, which means that they exist without autonomous body control (see this article). Consider this: when it’s hot outside, you probably use AC, right? But you don’t need it, per se; you seek comfort. Well, fish and corals need AC more than you do; they need it to survive.
All that yelling about global warming is mostly predicated on the idea that corals and fish cannot withstand high temperature (or higher temperatures). So, if you do have fish in your aquarium, you should consider obtaining aquarium chiller, for fish’s survival and comfort.
But Why Do Aquariums Overheat?
Numerous things affect the water’s temperature. For starters, there’s the atmospheric heat, the one within your place of living. Now, you can lower that down using the air conditioner, but that wouldn’t solve the problem. Why? Because of all the equipment attached to your aquarium: the filters, the lights, water pumps, etc. All these things generate heat, in one way or the other.
How Do Chillers Work?
Well, that depends on the type of chiller you buy. The low tier chillers commonly use the power of the wind, that is, the cooling fans, which help circulate the air and disperse the heat. On the other hand, most conventional and sophisticated chillers feature heat exchanger (see Wiki), condenser, compressor and expansion valves. The entire process is predicated on this principle: hot water out, cold water in (similar to the air conditioners, in a way).
Which One Should I Go For?
I believe that it is needless to say that “you get what you pay for.” To be honest, you can’t expect amazing results if you buy a $30 chiller. Note that I’m not speaking against low priced chillers. In fact, it is sometimes best to go with the compact, low priced chillers, mainly if you have little or nano aquarium.
But, if you have medium to a large aquarium, you should consider investing in something more expensive. In fact, your selection process should be based on multiple factors (other than your budget).
Thermostat Or No Thermostat?
Always go with the chillers that come with a thermostat. Naturally, you can purchase them additionally. Otherwise, you won’t be able to tell the water temperature, which beats the whole purpose of owning a chiller. Thankfully, most chillers nowadays come with integrated thermostats.
What About Temperature Controllers?
Some aquarium chillers can’t function without temperature controllers. For instance, the Nova IceProbe Chiller doesn’t have on/off button. Instead, you control the chiller via the independent temperature controller (ps. I found it quite ironic that the product comes without an essential part, but it is 2018).
The chillers that come with integrated controllers operate automatically. Firstly, you set the desired temperature to let us say 60 F. Now, as soon as the water goes beyond the desired level (let us say 61-63), the chiller will lower the temperature down (to 55 – 59 F, depending on the settings, adjustability, cooling power, etc.)
If you don’t have a temperature controller, you have to turn the chiller on and off manually. And if you don’t have a thermostat; well, you can see where this argument is going.
Are Aquarium Chillers Difficult To Assemble?
Most commonly, no. Products generally arrive with solidly written instructions and assembled. And even if the chiller requires assembly, you can use user manual for construction. If that doesn’t help, type in the product’s name in your favorite, and you’ll probably find a couple of instructional videos.
Last but not least, you can always call customer service and ask them to guide you through the assembly process. If they don’t comply, tell them that you’ll leave a poor comment online; this usually gets them going!
Will Every Chiller Fit On My Aquarium?
No. Most aquariums feature adjustable clamps, which can fit on some, but not all aquariums. For instance, if the clamp is adjustable to 1-inch thick aquarium wall, but your wall is 1.5 inches thick, it just won’t fit, no matter what you try.
Admittedly, some thermostatic ones feature cooling probe (like the Nova IceProbe Chiller). They ignore the wall’s thickness but require, in the case of Nova IceProbe Chiller, 1.25-inch hole.
What About Aquarium Capacity?
For instance, if you use 40-gallon chiller in a 100-gallon aquarium, that doesn’t mean that the chiller won’t work. However, it won’t cool the water or will do it poorly. There is a reason why we have strong chillers for big aquariums and small chillers for nano aquariums.
Similarly, you wouldn’t want to use a 100-gallon chiller in a 10-gallon aquarium. Not only will you waste energy, but the chiller will also create disturbance in the water, perhaps even diminish fish’s quality of life.
What About Tubes?
Most chillers come without the necessary equipment, which is understandable. But, if this is your first time buying the aquarium chiller, you will need to buy tubes for the system to function correctly. The easiest way to do this is to include the tubes in the offer as you are purchasing the chiller.
Or, you can do it manually. Most chillers use 1/2 inch tubes, but you shouldn’t rely on “generality”; always consult with manufacturers and read manuals to find adequate information.
Why Should I Pay Attention To Water Flow?
It is vital that your newly purchased aquarium chiller works well with your water pump. The more compatible these two items are (pump and chiller), the better the water flow rate (see Wiki). The pump sucks the warm water, sends it to the chiller, the chiller cools the water and brings it back to the aquarium.
Now, in the US, we measure the process in gallons per minute. In short, the more gallons, the faster the cooling. Result? Cooler water = happier sea life.
How Important Is The Maintenance?
Well, it comes down to the particular item. Some are more durable and require less care; other’s might need more attention. For instance, if you obtain the iPettie Aquarium Chiller with six fans, it will take you more time than to clean, let’s say Hamilton Technology Aquarium Chiller.
Now that doesn’t mean that you can buy a sturdy and durable chiller and leave it be. We suggest you either read the manual for more info regarding the maintenance or that you contact the customer service. Remeber: it is not just about buying the best aquarium chillers, but it is also about maintaining them and keeping them in their best shape.
The first product on our list is the Zoo Med aquarium chiller, simple, inexpensive and compact one-fan cooling system, ideal for a nano aquarium. The item consists of a small but potent pump’s motor, adjustable arm and nozzle, power supply system and a suction cap.
It is relatively easy to assemble, and even easier to use, featuring simple on/off button. However, its simplicity is also its downside. This chiller comes without a thermostat and features one operating mode. But, it is highly adjustable and inexpensive. It is also reasonably straightforward to use, ideal for people who seek basic cooling system for their fishes.
Also, this chiller is a bit noisy. Now, you can’t expect that a cooling fan operates noiselessly, but this tiny fan is surprisingly loud.
Very easy to assemble, and the setup process is straightforward
Inexpensive (among the cheapest aquarium chillers on the market)
The pump’s motor is sturdy and durable, capable of lowering the temperature to an optimal level
For a such a small fat it produces quite a lot of noise
It comes without the thermostat (you should consider obtaining it additionally)
The ACL36060 Chiller is a more sophisticated chiller, featuring LED control panel, a lot of control and adjustability. The product comes with a reusable air filter, which is both easy to access and maintain.
The chiller can power aquariums up to 55 gallons, with ideal pump rate flow of 200-300 GPH (gallon per hour). The heat exchanger is titanium made, durable and highly functional. It cools rapidly and efficiently; as soon as the temperature is a few degrees higher than the desired one, the chiller will start cooling the water.
It is quiet and sophisticated, but some consumers complained about missing parts, lack of proper instructions and poor customer service.
Rapid and efficient cooling (operates automatically according to the set temperature)
Features easy to control LED control panel (for temperature control, flow rate, etc.)
Relatively quiet and durable (features titanium made heat exchanger), also easy to setup
Lacks proper instructions and user manual, which may cause problems for some people
Made by Hydrofarm, the Active aqua chiller is advance, multipurpose water cooler, which can be used for aquariums, aquaponic and aquaculture systems. It is quiet and features user-friendly control system (up, down and set buttons), suited for both beginners and professionals.
Much like the previous product, it uses a titanium-made heater and can be used in both freshwater and saltwater systems. You can use it in 13 – 105-gallon aquariums, thanks to its high rate of flow.
This chiller is also eco-friendly since it uses freon-free refrigerant (the R410a, see Wiki for more info). The only downside of this chiller is the built-in thermometer, which is off by a few Fahrenheit degrees.
Friendly in every sense of that word(user-friendly, eco-friendly, and amiable customer service)
Mighty motor with high flow rate, it can cool 105-gallon aquariums
Quiet and durable chiller, it features anti-corrosive titanium-made evaporator
Value for money (not cheap, but well worth the price)
The built-in thermostat isn’t always accurate when reading the temperature
AquaNeat chiller is mid-priced chiller+thermostat, ideal for small-sized aquariums. The product is quiet, reasonably easy to assemble, and quite potent. Control panel is straightforward, featuring add and sub buttons for increasing and decreasing the desired temperature.
The thermostat isn’t as accurate as we would like it to be (offset by 2-3 Celsius degrees). Also, it cools rather slowly, when compared with some other, more sophisticated chillers on our list. Note that the product comes with 160 GPH water pump, and, according to the manufacturer, should be used for small aquariums (max 15 gallons).
The product features easy to use control panel (with add and sub buttons)
Adjustable, will fit almost any small-sized aquarium (up to 15 gallons)
Operates rather quietly and doesn’t heat up the room (most other chillers do)
Our biggest concern is the slow cooling system (the motor isn’t that powerful)
iPettie Aquarium Chiller is purchasable in several forms: you can opt for 2, 3, 5 or 6 fans. It requires no assembly and comes with compatible AC adapter: install, plug in and turn on. The clamp bracket mounts on aquarium walls that are up to 15 mm thick.
The 5-fan system is recommended for 10-gallon aquariums, 6-fan for 12-gallon, and so forth. It comes without a thermometer, though you can purchase it additionally or include in your offer.
The system uses very little power, which poorly reflects on its cooling capabilities; it can lower the temperature by 1-2 degrees, not more. This chiller is among the most popular units on the market, due to its simple installation, decent cooling speed, and low price.
You can choose between 2-6 fans, depending on your needs
The chiller comes preassembled (with AC adapter) and is simple to mount
It is durable and fast (regarding cooling speed), and uses very little power
This chiller is arguably the most cost-effective unit on our list
It lowers the temperature by 1-2 degrees only ( and comes without a thermostat)
Petzilla chiller is another cost-effective aquarium cooling system, with the option to purchase 1 to the 5-fan system, depending on your needs. The cooling effect is both rapid and generous; the chiller can lower the temperature by up to 4 Celsius degrees.
The clamp is sturdy and adjustable, allowing angled setup. Note that this cooler is fit for aquariums with 0.5 inches (roughly 12 mm) thick walls. Also, mind that the size of the product varies depending on the number of fans you order (each fan is approximately 7 inches long).
1-fan chiller is fit for the 10-gal aquarium, 2-fan for 20, and so forth. It comes preassembled, with AC adapter. Interestingly, it is the first product on our list that features two cooling speeds. The only real downside of this chiller is its loudness.
You have the option to chose 1 to 5 fans, depending on your needs (10-50 liter aquarium)
The chiller comes preassembled and is very easy to set up (also quite adjustable)
Features excellent cooling mechanism with potent fans (lowers the temperature by 2-4 Celsius)
Operates quite loudly (primarily when you use 3 or more fans)
Chill Solutions chiller is sophisticated, easy to use and highly durable. It features integrated thermostat, which can be set from 45 F (7 C) to 90 F (32 C). This chiller is ideal for aquariums of up to 30 gallons.
This thermoelectric chiller is capable of lowering the water temperature by 4 – 10F, depending on the size of the aquarium. But most consumers disagree with the mentioned cooling power, arguing that this chiller lowers the temperature by 1-2 F at best.
Also, be aware of the fact that the product comes without tubes (you’ll need 0.5-inch tubes). It comes assembled, with AC adapter, which is a plus. The control panel is simple, with – and + buttons for temperature adjusting.
Among the most durable chillers on our list (high-quality HDPE base)
Comes assembled, with AC adapter and built-in highly accurate thermostat
Among the quietest chillers on our list (also conservative when it comes to power consumption)
Comes without tubing (you will have to purchase them separately if you want to use this chiller)
Hamilton Technology chiller is the most expensive item on our list, but also the most durable one (and probably the most potent one). It automatically maintains and regulates the water temperature, and will turn on when the water reaches set value.
Furthermore, it features easy to navigate LED control panel, with simple up, down and set buttons. The item is highly durable, featuring titanium, anticorrosion heater. Also, this chiller will memorize your settings even in the case of power outage.
It is easy to set up, maintain and is also very conservative (regarding power usage). Note that you can purchase the item in different sizes (1 HP, 1/2 HP, 1/4 HP, 1/10 and 1/13 HP). It is a bit loud, especially the 1 HP and 1/2 HP ones, but other than that we have no complaints.
Probably the most sophisticated and accurate chiller on our list
Features impressive cooling speed; it lowers the temperature substantially
You have the option to select between different HP cooling systems
The most durable product on our list (made in US, titanium heater, anti-corrosive build)
The most expensive chiller on our list (the more HP, the more expensive it gets); the same can be said for loudness
IceProbe Chiller is thermoelectric aquarium cooling system, perfect for small aquariums (up to 55 gallons). It cools with the integrated probe; the probe will fit through the 1.25-inch hole. It also features security nut, which will fix the probe’s position.
Installation is easy, and the process arrives preassembled (the manual will explain how to install). The chiller is potent, cost-effective and durable; it is an Amazon’s choice for aquarium chillers. It comes without temperature controller, meaning that you’ll have to obtain it additionally.
Its cooling power is excellent, both rapid and efficient; it lowers the temperature by a couple of Celsius degrees. Admittedly, we don’t like the fact that you have to purchase the temperature controller separately (beware, the device won’t work without it!).
It cools quietly, rapidly and efficiently (uses thermoelectric technology)
Value for money; the product is well worth the price, considering all the features and benefits
Well built and highly adjustable, which makes the installation process very straightforward
It comes without temperature controller (purchase the basic one, no need for anything fancy)
JBJ is the best all-around chiller on our list. It is titanium made, durable and anti-corrosive. You can buy the products in several sizes (1/3, 1/5, 1/10 and 1/15 HP). The control panel is simple (up and down buttons), featuring LED temp controller.
It is quiet, energy-efficient and simple to set up (comes assembled). The one we are reviewing is 1/15 HP, ideal for 40-gallon aquariums (or less). It is worth mentioning that the product is eco-friendly, utilizing R-134A refrigerant.
But, this chiller isn’t perfect. Specifically, the thermostat is often off by 1F degree. While this isn’t disastrous, it is a downside nonetheless. The chiller, on the other hand, is very useful, conservative and quiet.
Fantastic cooling, both rapid and effective (regarding the temperature lowering)
Among the most silent and conservative coolers on our list
Arrives assembled, features easy to use LED control panel, simple setup
The built-in thermostat is off by 0.5, sometimes even 1 F degree