Let me ask you something…
What do the following aquarium products have in common?
- Air pump
- Wave maker
… If you said that they all run on electricity, you would be spot on.
Now, look at the electrical outlet on your wall. Chances are that you have more plugs than will fit.
Fortunately, this is an easy fix. All you need is a power strip.
But not just any power strip – an aquarium-safe power strip.
You see, in an aquarium environment, you are essentially mixing two things that don’t belong together – water and electricity.
So, it is important that you not only choose a power strip that is functional but also safe – you and your fish’s lives depend on it!
What makes a power strip right for your aquarium?
I’m glad you asked…
- What to look for when choosing a power strip for your aquarium
- Which is the best power strip for your aquarium?
- Power strip safety precautions
What to look for when choosing a power strip for your aquarium
Generally speaking, there are three different features that I look for in an aquarium power strip.
You don’t want to leave your power strip lying flat on the floor. Let’s face it, accidents happen. If you spill water during a water change or your tank leaks, you are going to blow your power strip and attached plugs into it to smithereens.
Many power strips come with loops or holes that you can screw through to mount it off the floor.
I personally mount all my power strips on the back wall of my wooden aquarium stand, inside the cabinet.
2. Surge protection
Protect your aquarium equipment from frying in a thunderstorm? Yes, please!
Ideally, you want a commercial surge protector installed in your electrical panel, protecting your entire house. But if you are renting, or can’t install one for some reason, a power strip with a surge protector is better than nothing.
For simple aquarium equipment like heaters, filters and lights, a power strip with a built-in surge protector could be your savior the next time lightning strikes.
Just remember that most power boards with a surge protector are single use. If the surge protector trips, you need to dispose of the power strip. But hey, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than replacing all your damaged aquarium equipment that was plugged in.
Note: A consumer-grade power strip with surge protection probably won’t trip at a low enough voltage to save sensitive equipment like a computer.
3. Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
Most modern homes should already have a GFCI installed in the electrical panel. If your house doesn’t, then I highly recommend that you consider a power strip or extension cord that has one built in.
A GFCI is a life saving device. It protects you from fatal electric shocks if it detects electricity is flowing down an unintended path – such as through your aquarium water or through your body!
Let’s say your filter has a fault that causes the water to become electrified. A GFCI will shut off the power, saving your life.
Remember, a GFCI is not a circuit breaker. A circuit breaker is designed to protect electrical equipment and cables. A GFCI is designed to protect you!
While you can certainly run an aquarium without a GFCI, I personally wouldn’t do it – it’s a vital safety net if something goes wrong. I mean, I love my fish and all, but I’m not sure I would give my life for them.
Note: If you need GFCI protection, one of the cheapest and easiest solutions is to buy an inline GFCI cord, like this one and plug your power board into that.
And, that’s it!
You might have noticed that I didn’t mention timers. Between you and me, I don’t consider a timer to be an essential feature on power strips.
I mean, it sounds great, right? Why buy a timer and a power strip separately when you can combine them into a neat package at an affordable price?
The reason for this is that as a 2-in-1 device, power strips with built-in timers are kind of lame.
One short coming is that the timer turns all sockets on or off at once. You cannot set individual times for each socket.
But my biggest gripe with them is that the timer adds one more point of failure to the power strip. I find timers to not only be unreliable but often break when you need them most.
It may cost more, but I recommend buying a separate timer for each piece of equipment you need to control. It’s much more reliable.
Still convinced that you want a power strip with a built-in timer? Many fish keepers have success with this one. But I’ll be straight up with you, it’s nowhere near as good as my top pick…
Which is the best power strip for your aquarium?
Okay, so this power strip is designed for computers. But let me tell you right now, as an aquarium power strip, it rocks! Affordable and feature-packed – the Tripp Lite 7 Outlet Power strip is the best for most people!
Also available in black, I have been rocking two of these power strips on my aquarium setup for 3 years now – and they are still going strong!
It’s the individual switches that I love the most. And, you will love them too!
Most power strips have a single on-off switch. Just one. What if you want to turn off your heater? Nuh uh! You have to unplug the heater. Pressing the power button will turn off everything else plugged into the power strip.
With the Tripp Lite, six of the seven sockets have their own switch. Want to turn something off? Toggle its switch without interrupting anything else. It doesn’t get any easier than that! And, if you want to turn everything off at once, there is a switch to do that too!
There are two mounting holes on either side of the strip, allowing you to raise the strip off the floor. I recommend mounting it to a wall for easy access to the switches!
The only thing this power strip is missing is GFCI protection. If you feel that is a must, simply buy one of these inline GFCI cords and plug the power strip into it. Your power strip, and any aquarium equipment that is plugged in, is now protected by a GFCI.
The Tripp Lite is a very worthy addition to your aquarium setup. In terms of value for the money, it cannot be beat!
Power strip safety precautions
Is your power strip mounted and ready to go? Before you plug everything in, there are some extra steps that you can take to ensure your power strip is as safe as possible.
First, you want to block off any unused sockets. A piece of tape over them will prevent water from entering.
But if you want something that’s a bit neater, I personally use child safety plugs…
My little one is old enough to no longer need the home baby-proofed, and I had plenty of these on hand. I discovered that these make amazing fillers for any unused sockets in power strips!
One final piece of advice before I go.
Remember that any plug that you insert into your socket should have a drip loop. This way, any water that accidentally runs down the cable will fall off before it reaches your power strip.
What power strip do you use for your aquarium? Let me know in the comments below!