freshwater planted tank using aquarium chiller

Best Aquarium Chiller (Reviews and Buyer’s Guide)

Are you looking for the best aquarium chiller?

You’ve come to the right place! We provide in-depth reviews of chillers so that you can find the perfect one for your setup. It’s important to keep your fish and other inhabitants in the correct water temperature range, which is why we want to help you with this process. If you want a shortcut, our favorite aquarium chiller is the JBJ Aquarium Arctica Titanium Chiller, 1/10 HP.

Chillers are a great way to regulate water temperature in an aquarium, but it can be difficult finding the right one if you don’t know what features are most important. Our chillers reviews will give you all of the information that you need about each product on our list so that when it comes time for purchase, there won’t be any guesswork involved.

Let’s dive in!

What is the Best Aquarium Chiller?

Our favorite aquarium chiller is the JBJ Aquarium Arctica Titanium Chiller, 1/10 HP. JBJ chillers have a long reputation for quality so you’re getting a durable piece of machinery with this choice. It has titanium coil construction which is a must-have in our opinion. It is also an energy-efficient option. However, it does cost quite a bit so be prepared for the price to avoid any sticker shock.

What Is An Aquarium Chiller?

Aquarium chillers help to maintain the correct water temperature in an aquarium. The chiller is installed in line with an external filter system to cool the water as it is circulated through the filter. Not all aquariums require aquarium chillers; it is dependant on the individual tank circumstances, which we will discuss below.

Aquarists can further automate the system by coupling a chiller with a thermostat that triggers the chiller to start working whenever the water temperature exceeds a pre-set threshold.

Fish, amphibians, invertebrate species, such as shrimp and snails, and even the bacteria that process fish waste all need specific water temperature ranges, so chillers can be an essential part of the tank setup.

When To Use An Aquarium Chiller

You can use an aquarium chiller when you need your tank to maintain a certain water temperature. There are several reasons why you may want this:

  • If the fish or other species in your tank prefer colder water (i.e., axolotl, goldfish) and the temperatures are difficult to achieve naturally
  • If you need the higher levels of dissolved oxygen that cold water provides
  • If you live in a warm climate during the summer months and need support maintaining cool temperatures
  • If you live in a very cold climate during the winter and heat your home a lot and need support maintaining warm air temperatures and cool water temperatures
  • If you would like more accurate control over your tank
Axolotl tank uses aquarium chiller

Why Do Aquariums Overheat?

There are multiple reasons that an aquarium can overheat including water pumps, lighting choices, ambient air temperatures, and more.

Filtration Systems

Canister filters, HOB filters, submersible pumps are incredibly important pieces of aquarium equipment. They also all generate heat, which is transferred to the water in your tank. The bigger the filter, the more heat it generates, and the more it heats your water.

Saltwater Set-ups

The average saltwater or marine tank uses more equipment than freshwater tanks. There’s filters, lighting, biopellet reactors, protein skimmers, and more. All of this equipment generates heat, which can cause temperature increases. Corals can often require very specific temperature ranges and will struggle to adapt to warmer temperatures.

Lighting

You can probably sense a common theme here. Older models of lighting, including incandescent bulbs and metal halide, produce the most heat. Fluorescent tubes are cooler.

LEDs are the coolest form of aquarium lighting but they’re not exempt from heat production.

Switching to LED lighting is one way to reduce the heat in your tank.

Other Causes

Sometimes, the cause of a warm aquarium isn’t caused by equipment issues, but instead linked to weather-related issues such as:

  • Hot weather or climate
  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Lack of air conditioning
  • Placement of the aquarium close to a heat source

Some of these are changeable, some require a chiller to workaround.

How Does An Aquarium Chiller Work?

An aquarium chiller uses “heat exchange” to lower the temperature of the water, removing heat from the water. Alright, now we are about to get a little science-y! Stay with me!

In the most basic form, aquarium chillers have four main components:

  • Heat exchanger
  • Condenser coil
  • Compressor
  • Expansion valve

The heat exchanger starts everything off. The coils have liquid refrigerant inside which evaporates into vapor, pulling off heat from the aquarium water that’s pumped through the heat exchange unit.

The compressor then pumps the liquid refrigerant vapor into the condenser, elevating the temperature and pressure inside the condenser. The refrigerant then condenses inside the tubes, back into a liquid.

Next, the aquarium chiller blows cool air from a fan across the hot condenser coil, removing heat from the refrigerant.

The liquid refrigerant is cooling down but it is still under a lot of pressure, so the machine moves it through the expansion valve. Like the name suggests, the expansion valve gives it some breathing room, reducing the pressure and further reducing the temperature. Lastly, the refrigerant passes over the chilled coils, absorbing more warmth and concluding the cooling cycle.

Ok, we did it! You have the basic idea. Now on to more specific variations:

Immersion Chiller

Immersion chillers are not that common for home aquarium set-ups. Immersion chillers get their name because the heat exchanger resides in the filter sump. This option is not suitable for home aquariums because they’re typically large and noisy.

Aquarium Chiller

Standard aquarium chillers, that are purpose-built with home aquariums in mind, are a great choice for cooling your tank. Unlike immersion chillers, they’re small, quiet, simple to install. They often don’t require a ton of maintenance.

Depending on the model, aquarium chillers may have a thermostat for keeping an eye on the water temperature. This helps you automate your tank because you set your ideal temperature and the machinery maintains it for you. Some models take automation one step further with alarm systems. If the temperature rises above the programmed limit, an alarm sounds alerting you to the problem.

Thermoelectric (TEC) Chiller

Thermoelectric chillers (TEC) can be helpful for small tanks – typically 10-gallons or less.

Ready for a little more science? Let’s dive into the Peltier effect. It is how TECs function. This effect describes when a DC current flows through two conductors that are dissimilar. Because of the lack of similarity, heat passes from one side of a ceramic plate to the opposite side, helping lower the overall temperature.

Translating all of that to aquarium speak, heat is pulled from the tank water by a probe. That heat is transferred to a “heatsink” that’s outside of the water and then a fan works extra hard to pull the heat out of the heat sink.

TECs are not suitable for use in very large tanks when there are multiple heat-generating sources in operation, such as pumps and reef lighting.

Pump GPH vs. Chiller Flow Rate

It is extremely important to make sure the water pump and chiller match. Without a match, the chiller won’t work properly.

The pump’s job is to pull the warm water out of your tank through the chiller, push it through the heat exchanger, and then send it back in a cooled state.

For this system to work properly, the water must circulate through the chiller on a continuous basis. If the water moves through the chiller too quickly, it won’t have enough time for heat to be removed. If the flow rate is too slow, the lines could freeze, damaging your equipment.

Therefore, to set things up properly, you need a separate pump to move the water through the chiller or through the filter system and the chiller.

Now in order for the pump and chiller to work hand-in-hand, figuring out the correct flow rate for both pieces of equipment is important. Your chiller will have a recommended flow rate range in GPH (gallons per hour). Your pump must be able to match the GPH rate.

Most water pumps provide information about the true flow rate. When you’re buying your pump, know the recommended chiller flow rate so you get a good match.

How To Choose the Best Aquarium Chiller

Tank chillers are an incredibly important piece of equipment if you need one. Here are our main considerations when choosing a chiller:

The Right Type of Chiller

Make sure you’re purchasing the correct chiller for your type of tank – both size-wise and tank type. Not all chillers can support marine tanks. So make sure it is rated properly for salt and size.

High-Quality Ratings

Chillers aren’t cheap. Make sure to pay attention to the reviews only. One common trick is paid reviewers; make sure it is honest opinions with real feedback before you give it too much stock.

Use Heat Exchangers, When Possible

Try to purchase an aquarium chiller that uses a heat exchanger. The best aquarium chillers use titanium heat exchangers. Titanium lasts for an extremely long time, making them a durable option.

Chiller Placement

Your chiller’s job is to remove heat from the water, thereby lowering the temperature of the water. That heat doesn’t just collect in the chiller though; it is released into the air.

Therefore, you want your chiller in a well-ventilated area. You don’t want to close it up inside your tank, as it will heat your aquarium stand, which means your aquarium will reabsorb some of the heat. Further, if your chiller is overheated, it won’t function as efficiently.

Because of this, most chillers need 12 to 18 inches of space around the unit for best operation.

Cheap Aquarium Chiller Solutions 

Alright, chillers can be pricey, so maybe you want to think about cheaper options first. Or maybe you have an emergency and you need quick options to cool your tank. Here is what we recommend.

Frozen water bottles

In a pinch, frozen water bottles can help. Use a clean plastic bottle and fill it 3/4 full of water. Leave the top off, and freeze it for several hours. When you’re ready to add it to your tank, replace the cap and put the bottle of frozen water into your aquarium.

Use a fan

Evaporation (or when water turns into gas) will help to cool your tank. Evaporation occurs most efficiently in open-air aquariums that don’t have hoods.

Using a small fan that blows air across the surface of the water will help increase evaporation. For a small tank, one fan is likely sufficient. For a large tank, you might need a fan or two.

Placement of aquarium

Keep your aquarium out of direct sunlight. This will help with both heat issues and algae issues.

If you don’t want to re-position your tank, you can also install blinds in your tank room to block the sunlight.

Remove the Aquarium Hood

Same idea as the fan concept above. By removing the aquarium hood, you can increase the amount of evaporation, leading to cooler tank temperatures.

Reduce Lighting

Another quick-fix idea is simply turning off the lights on a tank that is too warm. However, if the light is shut off for a long time, it could harm plants or corals. Therefore, if your tank is consistently getting too hot, consider switching to cool-running LEDs or reduce the total lighting time per day.

Best Aquarium Chiller Options:

JBJ Aquarium Arctica Titanium Chiller, 1/10 HP

This chiiler has been a lifesaver for many aquarists! This is one of the quietest chillers on the market today. This option comes in a variety of sizes. They use a titanium coil design, which is corrosion-resistant and highly durable. Compared to some chillers out there, they are highly energy-efficient.

However, they are one of the more expensive aquarium chiller options out there. If you’re looking for a quality chiller, you won’t go wrong with a JBJ.

Features:

  • Available in range of powers (1/10 HP, etc.)
  • Corrosion resistant; contains safe ozone friendly refrigerant R-134A

Pros:

  • Quiet operation, great for living spaces
  • Powerful output
  • Titanium-construction

Cons:

  • Flow can be too strong for some fish species
  • Expensive

IceProbe Thermoelectric Aquarium Chiller 

The IceProbe Thermoelectric Aquarium Chiller is a compact, quiet, and efficient chiller that provides continuous chilling when plugged into a source of power. It can be bulkheaded into overflow boxes, sumps, and plastic aquariums. A single unit can cool 10 gallons of water by as much as 8°F, 20 gallons of water by as much as 4°F and 40 gallons as much as 2°F below ambient air temperatures.

Features:

  • One year warranty
  • Continious chilling, does not have an on/off switch

Pros:

  • Very quiet operation

Cons:

  • Not as heavy-duty chiller as some other options

Active Aqua AACH10HP Water Chiller Cooling System, 1/10 HP

The Active Aqua Water Chiller, 1/10 HP is a great solution for your aquarium. It includes a titanium evaporator coil with anti-corrosion properties. Its powerful performance maintains the temperature in both fresh and saltwater aquariums. Furthermore, it features a flexible design that can be used in aquaponics, aquaculture applications, and even terrestrial gardens. This chiller is easy to install.

Features:

  • Freon-free (uses R134a refrigerant)
  • Large refrigeration capacity (recommended volume: 10‒40 gal / 50‒150 L)

Pros:

  • Quiet operation
  • Titanium coil, durable construction

Cons:

  • Some users experienced coil damage from shipping
  • Uses a lot of electricity

BLACK+DECKER Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control, 5,000 BTU 

Ok, bit of a secret here. This one is clearly not an aquarium chiller. But using a room air conditioning unit can be a way to lower your aquarium temperature in a manner that is cheaper than purchasing an aquarium chiller, especially for multiple tanks. There are lots of mobile ACs that can be purchased online that will keep the area you keep your aquarium cool!

Features:

  • Simple remote control and top-mounted LED display with 24-hour timer allow you to precisely control the air temperature
  • Three modes: cool, fan, & dehumidifying modes

Pros:

  • 5,000 BTU covers 150 sq. ft. rooms
  • Easy to install

Cons:

  • Doesn’t directly cool aquarium

Teco WiFi Capable TK-1000 Tank Chiller, 1/4 HP

The Teco WiFi Capable TK-1000 Tank Chiller, 1/4 HP is an example of a high-performing aquarium chiller. This version includes an internationally recognized high-end compressor for excellent cooling performance, low energy consumption, and low noise levels. The required flow through the chiller is between 132 GPH and 211 GPH. This option works with the TECOnnect WiFi Controller (purchased separately) that works with your smartphone to set and monitor water temperatures for full automation.

Features:

  • 132 – 211 GPH required flow rate
  • 9 degree cooling up to 260 gallon aquariums. 39 degrees cooling for 55 gallon aquariums

Pros:

  • Powerful chiller for salt or freshwater tanks
  • Can be controlled via app, which makes full automation easy

Cons:

  • Expensive

BAOSHISHAN Aquarium Chiller 42gal 1/10 HP 

The BAOSHISHAN Aquarium Chiller1/10 HP is a high-quality chiller. It has a water capacity of up to 42 gallons. It features a powerful and energy-efficient Freon-free compressor. The two built-in fans also work well to dissipate heat from the machine and the chiller is equipped with an overcurrent automatic shutdown protection system and power-off memory system. After powering off and restarting, the machine will continue to cool according to the original set temperature, reducing your stress in the event of a power outage.

Features:

  • One year warranty
  • Uses Freon-free refrigerant; more environmentally-friendly

Pros:

  • Two cool down fans around compressor help it operate most effeciently
  • Quiet operation

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Requires cleaning every 2-3 months

Petzilla Aquarium Chiller, Fish Tank Cooling Fan System for Salt Fresh Water (1-Fan)

For the budget-conscious aquarist, this cooling system is a great option. This nano aquarium chiller is budget-friendly and will keep your small aquarium cool. This chiller works for both freshwater and saltwater tanks.

The Petzilla Aquarium chiller system attaches to the wall of your aquarium wall. It has the capability to reduce temperatures up to 7-degrees Fahrenheit. The fan has two variable speeds and wide adjustment angles, giving you the optionality to get the perfect set-up for your tank.

Features:

  • One-year warranty
  • 30-day money back guarantee

Pros:

  • Affordable cooling option
  • Easy to install
  • Can combine units for up to 6 fans to increase cooling capability

Cons:

  • Limited cooling capability compared to aquarium chillers
  • Increased tank evaporation means you’ll need to add water more frequently

Inkbird ITC-308S Aquarium Heating and Cooling Dual Stage Temperature Controller

This product is not an aquarium chiller but instead a temperature controller so you can get the best results from your chiller.

The tool has an LCD display that can be programmed in either Celsius or Fahrenheit. Our favorite feature is the alarm, which alerts you if the temperature moves outside of its intended range. To add further safety features, there’s a device failure alarm in case the product fails or experiences a power outage. The chiller and heater combo has a fully submersible, replaceable plastic probe that is built to resist corrosion.

Features:

  • Corrossion-resistant probe
  • Programmable LCD display

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Alarm systems let you know if there is a problem with your tank

Cons:

  • Some users report high temperature variance

Aquarium Chiller FAQs 

Why Are Aquarium Chillers So Expensive?

Aquarium chillers are expensive pieces of equipment because they’re specialized pieces of equipment that aren’t mass-produced. It takes more energy to change the temperature of water than air so chillers have to work harder than air conditioners, which are only cooling air, and refrigerators, which are insulated so they’re better able to retain the coolness. Additionally, they also require a water pump and often use titanium in their construction.

How much does it cost to run an aquarium chiller?

This depends on a lot of factors, including the size and wattage of your unit. There are a number of factors that affect how much it will cost to run your chiller, so there is no set answer. However, if you’re looking for an extremely rough ballpark, you could likely estimate between 10-20 dollars per month if you run your chiller daily for 12 hours. Keep in mind though, this is a total ballpark and does not factor in your local utility cost or aquarium chiller specifics.

When should I use my aquarium chiller?

For most aquarium setups, your chiller is most useful during the hot summer months. You’ll want to use it when you have a tank that cannot keep its cool naturally. In general, your aquarium chiller is required when the ambient room temperature is higher than the desired water temperature. This can come up when you’re keeping cold water species, live in a warm area of the world, or use a lot of heat-emitting equipment such as pumps and lights.

Is a chiller necessary for a planted aquarium?

Planted tanks can benefit from chilled aquariums. First, lighting can increase the temperature of your water significantly. When planted tanks are kept cooler, gas exchange is better as the water holds carbon dioxide and oxygen better. Additionally, plant metabolism and algae growth is slowed down. For this reason, consider chilling your planted tank if you find it consistently out of its ideal temperature range.

Conclusion

The temperature of your aquarium water can have a dramatic effect on aquatic life. That’s because fish, amphibians, invertebrates such as shrimp and snails, and even bacteria that process waste in your filter system require certain water temperatures to thrive.

In this article, we walked through extensive reviews to help you find an aquarium chiller for any size tank setup so that all creatures living there – from tiny shrimp to big goldfish – will be comfortable enough to thrive!

What type of aquarium chiller do you own? Add a comment below if we missed something important about this topic!

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