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Aquarium Temperature Guide Part 1

This is the first part of a series on keeping your tank at the right temperature. When you decide to start keeping an aquarium the temperature of the water will determine what you can keep. This is the case whether you decide on a freshwater or marine aquarium. This is because of the way fish have adapted to their habitats very closely.

Fish are ectothermic which means that they have a body temperature that varies with the temperature of its environment.  Water habitats that are generally stable environments and so parameters like the temperature of the water dont change significantly or particularly quickly.

As a result of this fish and other animals living in the water can and have become particularly specialized to their particular habitats and cannot live outside of certain temperature ranges. They must live in a certain temperature of water for all the chemical reactions in their bodies, like their metabolism, to function properly. If you dont provide the correct temperature for your fish they will unfortunately die.


There are a few general types of temperature environments that we can use to keep most fish in. Firstly you have a tropical temperature. This temperature band is used to keep many fresh and most marine fish that are kept. This temperature band ranges from about 24°-27°C with 29°C being the upper limit of any fluctuation on a warm day. This set-up requires heating from an aquarium heater. Some examples of fish you could keep would be any tropical fish, be it a pair of clown fish in a marine mini-reef tank to a school of cardinal tetras in a tropical freshwater tank.

The next type of environment is often called a cold water environment, but I would like to distinguish between this type of cold water and what is possibly a truer cold water environment. I will call the second water temperature "unheated". This is basically an unheated tank. The habitat it is mimicking is one of a temperate environment. °

This is an environment that that doesnt get frozen over but also doesnt rise too much above 20 °C. The temperature range for this type of habitat ranges from about 16 °C to 20 °C. On a cold night the water wouldnt drop to more than 14 °C and during summer wouldnt rise to more than 22 °C. Some example inhabitants are goldfish and if you live in a temperate area a Siamese fighting fish can be kept.

The true cold water environment is one like that of the northern seas or deep ocean habitats where it can be as cold as 2 °C. In specialized deep sea tanks they even need to recreate the same kinds of pressure some fish experience at great depth to keep them, but that is beyond the scope of this article. In this environment you will want to research exactly how cold you need to keep the inhabitants of your tank at. Some will prefer being kept at anything below 16 °C some below 8 °C. You will need to keep your water very cold even during summer months.


To see more about keeping your aquarium at the right temperature and how to do it see the Aquarium Temperature Guide part 2 in which well have a look at temperature stability why it is important and how to do achieve it.

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