Saltwater and Electricity Don’t Mix

Recently we were reminded of the dangers of saltwater and electricity when one of our coral growers had a very close call with one of his reef tanks. He woke up at 3am to the smell of burning plastic, rushed downstairs and saw his carpet sparking and smoldering. It turns out that a chain reaction had occured that resulted in water dripping down into an electrical socket which then was giving off a nice little 4th of July show into his carpet. The cause of this near disaster was one of his hermit crabs that had climbed into the overflow and was blocking water from emptying into his sump. The result of this was the water level rising just enough to trickle down the cord of one of his power heads and right into the electrical outlet. As luck usually has it, this was the only outlet not connected to a surge suppressor. The cords were melted together and the smoke detector when off just minutes later. Fortunately the carpet was actually wet enough that id didn’t actually catch fire. If he had not been home or hadn’t woken up, this surely could have had a different ending.

We asked Jon what he could now do to to prevent a disaster in the future? What were the lessons he learned?

“Well there are a few. All electrical devices associated with the tank should be connected to a protector. This really is common sense but sometimes we take a short cut and don’t circle back to properly install something. Second, I have always been aware the water level that would back siphon into my sump/refugium in case of a power outage. Now I need to be aware of the opposite effect where too much water from my sump/refugium being forced into the tank from extraordinary causes. Last but not least, the most important lesson, large hermit crabs are much more of a pain in the a$$ than they could ever be worth.”

We are glad that Jon’s home and tank are safe and hope that what he learned can help a few other folks out there prevent a similar problem from ever happening. Here are a few other tips on how to prevent electrical issues.

GFCI Outlets are a MUST for a Reef Tank

Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor or GFCI is a fancy way for saying an outlet that will trip if it gets wet or the load of the circuit ( in amps) is exceeded. These are commonly found by building code near areas of water such as your kitchen or bathroom and a reef tank should be no exception. In the event that salt or fresh water was to get into this outlet or if you were to have a device fail and short say while you have your hand in the tank, this helps you from being electrocuted.

Drip Loops on all Aquarium Equipment

Drip loops on any and all aquarium equipment are a simple and effective way to prevent water from ever getting into an outlet in the first place. This basically entails leaving an extra amount of cord length so that if water was to travel from the tank down the cord, the cord would reach its lowest point and “drip” before reaching the outlet. This can be done with all aquarium equipment that has a cord.

Do you have some other electrical safe guards that you would like to share with your fellow reefers? What have you done to your tank to avert an electrical fire?