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!
I have tested over 13 different power strips for ease of performance to answer a single question:
Which power strip is best for your aquarium?
Want the answer? Read on!
- What should you look for when choosing a power strip for your aquarium?
- Which is the best power strip for your aquarium?
- Power strip safety precautions
What should you look for when choosing a power strip for your aquarium?
Generally speaking, there are four 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 smithereens.
Many power strips come with loops or holes that you can screw through to mount it off the floor, say on your base board.
Me? I mount all my power strips on the back wall of my wooden aquarium stand, inside the cabinet.
However, if you leave the power strip for your aquarium on the floor, I describe a solution to keep it safe from splashes and drips later in this guide.
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 salvation 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 or maybe your outlet has a GFCI built into it. 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 certainly can 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.
With that said, most power strips do not have a GFCI built into them and those that do are not necessarily suitable for your aquarium.
4. Fits all your plugs
Okay, this one is obvious:
Let’s say you have 8 pieces of aquarium equipment that you need to plug into your power strip.
You would buy a power strip with 8 sockets, right? Heck, you might even decide to purchase a power strip with 12 sockets because who knows when you might need spares…
But here’s where many people are caught off guard. While you might have the right number of sockets, they might be in the wrong configuration.
This is a particular problem if you use timers, say for your aquarium lighting. Timers are typically big and bulky and take up more sockets than is necessary. Check it out…
Adding a timer covers 4 sockets on this 12-socket power strip, reducing the useable number down to 8. Bummer, huh?
As you see, the layout of the sockets is important. It’s for this reason that I prefer thin power strips with the sockets in a single row.
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. In my 30 years of fishkeeping, it is my opinion that power strips with built-in timers are not only 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.
Want a good aquarium timer? I have you covered, check out my guide where I test and review the best aquarium timers for more info!
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 picks…
Which is the best power strip for your aquarium?
It might surprise you to learn that most power strips designed for aquariums suck. Well, that’s been my personal experience anyway.
You see, despite being advertised to aquarium owners, there isn’t really much going for them – they are more expensive, more bulky and, surprisingly, less suitable for aquariums than your conventional power strip.
Yep, when it comes to aquarium use, any old power strip will do. But with that said, some definitely perform better than others.
With hundreds of power strips to choose from, I narrowed testing down to 15 contenders. And from those, 2 winners were chosen…
Best all-round power strip
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 in my aquarium setup for three 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 or filter while cleaning? Nuh uh! You have to unplug the heater or filter because 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!
But here is where Tripp Lite’s design beat out the competition…
The switches are recessed.
Until I reviewed other switched power strips, I was not even aware that this was a feature I needed.
That is, until I compared it to the competition. You see, all power strips work well, as long as regular plugs are used.
But what happens if you use a product with a plug that is wider than normal?
Well, if your power strip’s switches are not recessed, the plug will prevent you from turning the switches on or off…
Allow me to demonstrate by plugging a timer into your run-of-the-mill switched power strip:
Yep, the plug-in timer actually rests on the switch, turning the power off – making the timer unusable with this power strip.
The Tripp Lite, on the other hand, does not have the same issue…
Seriously, recessed switches are where it’s at!
The seventh socket on the power strip is “always on.” What this means is that anything you plug into it will keep running unless you unplug your appliance or turn the switch off at the wall.
I actually found this socket perfect for plug-in timers. Not only do you not want your timer turning off (it messes with the timing settings), but because it’s the final socket on the power strip, I could plug a bulky timer in without blocking off other sockets.
Seriously, look at just how well this power strip handles everything I need to plug in…
On the rear, there are two mounting holes on either side of the strip, allowing you to raise the power strip off the floor. I recommend mounting it to a wall for easy access to the switches – no more bending over.
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!
However, for those of you who are looking for a power strip that will keep your aquarium cabinet neat and organized, you might want to check out my next pick, especially if you need more than one power strip to run all your gear!
Best power strip for aquarium cabinets
Okay, I know this power strip is designed to be used by DJ’s – you know, for all that lighting and sound equipment (and smoke machine, of course!).
But ADJ accidentally made one of the best power strips for aquarium cabinets, ever.
If you have set up a reef tank before, you know full well that your aquarium cabinet can become a jungle of cables and plugs.
This power strip can make organizing your cabling an easier task…
How’s that for a neat aquarium cabinet?
The outlets are on the rear of the power strip, allowing you to neatly position any cables and plugs toward the back of your cabinet.
Meanwhile, the switches are at the front, within easy reach when you open your aquarium cabinet. Each switch will light up when it’s turned on, allowing you to quickly determine which aquarium equipment is running and which isn’t.
Now, I must mention that in order to install this power strip into your aquarium cabinet, you are going to need to do a little bit of DIY.
You see, this power strip is designed to screw into a rack. However, by nailing a block of wood into both walls of your aquarium cabinet, you will easily be able install this power strip using the mounting holes on either side.
Your efforts will be rewarded – you will have one of the neatest aquarium cabinets on the block.
And if you need more than 8 sockets, you can easily mount a second strip underneath.
If you need to constantly unplug your equipment, the location of the sockets on this power strip can be a little awkward to reach. A simple way around this is to use a one-foot extension cord…
This way, you can easily plug your equipment into the extension cord that dangles down – beats sticking your head in your cabinet to see what you are doing. You can buy a one-foot extension cord here.
Just be mindful that this power strip doesn’t have surge protection or GFCI built in. Not a problem! Grab one of these and plug your power strip in for complete protection!
Power strip safety precautions
Is your power strip mounted and ready to go? Before you plug everything in, there is one extra step that you can take to ensure your power strip is as safe as possible.
First, block off any unused sockets. Despite your best efforts, drips and splashes happen – especially when cleaning your tank!
I don’t have to tell you that any water that enters your outlet is going to cause a bang. It is for this reason that you should cover any unused outlets in your power strip.
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!
Seriously, check it out:
One final piece of advice before I go.
Remember that any plug 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!