There are a lot of variables that can impact the health of a reef tank and temperature is something that should be watched carefully during the warm summer months.  A chiller is the best way to keep things cool but they are high ticket items.   Budget conscious reef keepers do have options such as using a fan across the top of the tank to promote evaporation, which cools the water.  This is exactly what I did when I first entered the hobby fresh out of college with minimal coin.  The fans certainly worked but I needed more punch and pondered other cheap alternatives.  I came up with what I thought was a bright idea at the time…..find an old water cooler and turn it into a DIY chiller.


Somehow I was able to track down a working unit that was being thrown out so I was in business.  Or so I thought. Ultimately,  I didn’t have the technical expertise or patience to make it work, but at least I gave it the old college try.  There are other DIY options such as using a dorm fridge but one should use extreme caution since a homemade device is going to have reliability issues.


Lighting is another thing to consider when pondering whether a chiller is necessary.  The metal halides I use (yes, I am old school!) are very warm so using lights that don’t emit a lot of heat such as LEDs will certainly help (I do believe there are other advantages to using metal halides, which I discuss in a blog post on why I still prefer metal halides for SPS).


The location of tank equipment can also have an impact on temperature.  For my last two tanks I have housed my filtration and other equipment in a cool basement.  If a basement is not an option, then consider using a cool garage (warm weather climates only) or another room near the tank.  Anything you can do to keep from cramming all of your equipment in the tank stand will help.  Otherwise, fans will be necessary for venting and cooling everything.


Personally, I have plunked down the bucks for a chiller for my reef tanks and it has been money well spent.  They are not required to keep a thriving reef tank but a tank can go south in a hurry if things heat up so think seriously about how you are chillin your tank.  You will be happy you did.



Please visit the My Setup section of my website for more information and specifications on my chiller.

If you are looking for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my book, A ReefBum’s Guide To Keeping an SPS Reef Tank: A Blueprint For Success. And you can see all of my reef tank videos online now as well as my Live HD Webcam.


Happy reef keeping!