Is it necessary to ground an aquarium?

Mother and son looking at aquarium

Several experts have discussed the importance of anchoring an aquarium. The best ways to achieve it are debated in discussion groups. While electrical shocks can and do occur when dealing with aquarium equipment, grounding may not be the best solution. This is why.

Grounding Probes

Dropping a grounding probe in the water and placing the other end on a metal water pipe or a grounded electrical outlet is a popular'solution' for reducing aquarium shocks. Isn't that reasonable? Wrong. All that is achieved is the creation of a route for electrical current to travel through. Meanwhile, the underlying issue has remained unsolved.

Have you ever wondered why birds don't get electrocuted when they rest on a power line? The current is passing via the cable, not through the bird. There would be a new path for the current if the lovely little birdie planted one of his foot on another power wire. The new passage, which runs through the birdie from one wire to the other, is devastating.

Assume a piece of aquarium equipment is malfunctioning. Although there is energy, there is currently no channel for the current to go through. Place a ground probe in the tank and connect the other end to a pipe to provide a channel for the current. The current will go from the faulty piece of equipment via the water to the probe and then out the pipe.

The fish are now exposed to an electrical current running through the water thanks to the grounding probe. If you place your finger in the water, you're less likely to get a shock, but the fundamental problem of malfunctioning equipment hasn't been addressed.

Cure is Prevention

The best cure is to prevent the problem from happening in the first place. Here are some simple steps to prevent shocks.

  • Power Off - Sounds too simple to make a difference, but it matters. Before performing aquarium maintenance, turn off the power to equipment and unplug all the cords from the power outlets. No electricity exposure is a sure fire way to ensure you don’t get a shock. The same holds true if you notice something that appears broken, such as a . Suppress the urge to quickly reach into the tank and yank out the offending equipment. Always turn the power off first!
  • Check Equipment - Regularly check all your aquarium equipment for cracks, frayed wires, or broken bulbs. That includes: heaters, air pumps, bubblers, filters, lights, and any decoration that has a power cord or batteries. If you find damage, it’s wise to replace the item entirely.
  • Use a GFCI - If possible, plug equipment into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet. A GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral poles in the outlet. If any imbalance is detected, it trips the circuit, thus cutting the current flow. The monitor can sense an imbalance as small as 5 milliamps, and shut off the current in a fraction of a second, keeping you from becoming a crispy critter. You may have GFCIs in your kitchen and bathroom, but you can upgrade any standard outlet. You can also purchase GFCI power strips and outlet plugins.
  • Use a Drip loop - This is a very simple, but rarely implemented tip to avoid accidents. but your time, and ensure water doesn’t travel into electrical outlets. make all electrical cords drop BELOW the outlet from the aquarium component, and then go back UP to the outlet. That way, any water dripping down the cord will drop to the floor from the low point of the cord and not run directly into the electrical outlet.
  • Mount Power Strips High - Don’t lay power strips on the floor below the tank where they are asking for water to flow into them. Instead mount them as high as possible, and position them so that you can have drip loops.
  • Insulate Yourself - Standing on a rubber mat, and/or wearing rubber soled shoes when working on the aquarium will help avoid electric shocks.
  • Keep It Dry - Another no-brainer, but it's amazing how often people work in or around an aquarium without a towel in sight and water dripping everywhere. Keep the area dry, and have plenty of towels on hand in case you need them.

In summary, skip the grounding probe, and use common sense methods to avoid electrical accidents in the first place.