Can a Fish Tank Heater Catch on Fire? Why They Get Too Hot & Overheat!

Estimated read time 5 min read

In this article we’ll answer the question; can a fish tank heater catch on fire? We’ll also look into what causes a fish tank heater to catch fire, as well as how to prevent your heater from catching on fire.

A fish tank heater is necessary to keep most fish tanks at the temperature the fish need to survive. This is especially true if your aquarium is stocked with tropical fish, whose water should typically be at least 80℉.


Can a Fish Tank Heater Catch On Fire?

Yes, a fish tank heater can catch on fire for a few different reasons. Often, fish tank heaters that catch fire are cheap, making them more likely to burn out or get salt in them. If you pay close attention to your aquarium and buy a good heater, you can prevent the heater from catching fire. 

Keep reading to learn more;


A Few Top Rated Fish Tank Heaters

What Causes Fish Tank Heaters to Catch Fire?

A fish tank heater might catch on fire due to a couple of different things. Watch for the following causes of a fish tank heater catching fire.

Cheaply Made Heaters 

Fish tank heaters that are cheaply made are not fit for long-term use. These heaters experience burn out, salt creep, or cord and plug damage at a much higher rate than heaters designed to last and work more effectively.

Related: When Should You Replace A Fish Tank Heater

Heater Burn Out 

One of the most common causes of a fish tank heater fire is burn out. A heater becomes burnt out when it overheats, making the glass tube protecting the heater explode.

Not all heaters are designed with a glass tube, but any type of fish tank heater that overheats with an exposed heating element is highly flammable. The heater itself may be all that catches fire, but even so, a burn out fire will probably overheat and kill the fish.

Heater Salt Creep 

If you have a saltwater aquarium, the fish tank heater can leech some of the salt out of the water and into the heater itself. The heater can become coated in a salt buildup, which is a noticeable, grainy white covering.

Once salt manages to come into contact with any heating or electric components, it can easily start a fire. This process usually takes a few days, so it is not quite as common.

Heater Plug or Cord Damage 

As with any other device that runs on electricity, if the cord or plug of a fish tank heater is damaged, the misdirected electricity can easily spark a fire. These types of fires are often more dangerous, as they tend to be less contained.

Further Reading: How To Use An Aquarium Heater

How to Prevent a Fish Tank Heater from Catching on Fire

Luckily, preventing a fish tank heater from catching on fire is not very difficult, especially since the heater can be taken care of while you do other things for your fish. To prevent a fish tank heater from catching on fire, follow these steps:

Buy Quality Heaters 

Because a fish tank heater is essential for most aquarium owners, you should treat it as an essential purchase. Buy a quality fish tank heater that will last and withstand salt creep or burn out. Some people buy two good quality heaters on the off chance that something will happen to the original.

One of my favorites is the EHEIM Jager Aquarium Thermostat Heater. Eheim is one of the top brands in the industry so you can be sure this heater will last a long time.

Double Check Temperatures

It is always a good idea to confirm the temperature your fish tank heater is displaying. You can do this with any decent thermometer. If the temperature starts to climb out of the mid-eighties range, your heater is probably about to overheat and should be unplugged and replaced immediately.

Never Run Heater Dry 

Fish tank heaters are not designed to be plugged in when they are not partially submerged in water. They can quickly overheat in the open air, so be sure to unplug your heater whenever you need to change the water. Also, inspect the cord and plug for damage every so often.

It’s important to know which type of filter you are using and if your heater can be fully submerged in water. or not.

Further Reading: Find A Fish Tank Heater For A 10 Gallon Tank

Video: An Aquarium Heater Catching Fire In A Empty Tank

Final Thoughts – Prevention Is Key 

Although a fish tank heater can catch fire, a heater is typically an essential item for anyone who owns an aquarium. So long as you take good care of your aquarium and use a quality fish tank heater, you will most likely prevent it from ever catching on fire.


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