I’ll be honest. When I first started out in the fishkeeping hobby a little over a decade ago, I didn’t know aquarium chillers were a thing—let alone the best aquarium chillers in the market. I’d heard and read a lot about heaters, filters, tanks, lights and everything but not chillers. That’s why, today I’m going to tell you everything about you need to know about this crucial device, as well as my pick of 5 best aquarium chillers to choose from.
The Five Best Aquarium Chillers At A Glance:
- Activa Aqua Chiller (Best for Saltwater)
- IceProbe Thermoelectric Chiller (Best for Small Tanks)
- JBJ Aquarium Arctica Titanium Chiller
- Teco Tank TK-500 1/6 HP
- Coralife Energy Savers ACL36060 Chiller
For my top pick, I’ll go with the JBJ Aquarium Arctica, which is also a favorite amongst many aquarists.
This chiller provides a good value for money with several handy functions. It’s super quiet, has 2-year warranty, and suitable for both freshwater and reef aquariums. It’s an excellent choice if you have cold-water fish like goldfish and koi.
It’s a durable and reliable chiller that will last you many moons.
Likewise, I think the IceProbe Chiller is a pretty impressive option for a small tank since you need to tweak the temperature by just a couple of degrees.
It’s a good value for money, has simple operations, is quiet, and leak-proof.
Now let’s move on to the detailed reviews.
Activa Aqua Chiller (Best For Saltwater)
Hydrofarm is one of America’s oldest hydroponics equipment company. So, when it comes to durability, quality, and consistency, Activa Aqua Chiller can be the best aquarium chiller for you tank.
These chillers are available in four sizes: 1/10 HP, 1/2 HP, 1/4, and 1HP, making them suitable for tanks ranging in size from 1 to 40 gallons. At 1/10 HP, you get an impressive rate flow of 1/10 gallons per hour, which is well suited for most aquariums.
The freon-free chillers are environment-friendly and use R13a refrigerant.
Likewise, the pure titanium evaporator and chassis with ABS plastic housing will prevent any chances of rusting and corrosion. Thus, the chillers are safe for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.
Each unit comes with user-friendly, digital temperature controller system which allow you to regulate the temperature precisely. And once the desired temperature is achieved, Activa Aqua Chiller can maintain it with great consistency.
Each chiller also comes with a boost function that can speed up the chilling cycle. It can be especially useful on occasions like heatwave.
As for noise levels, it is quiet low since the compressor effectively suppresses the force on the rotor.
- Large refrigeration quality
- Quiet, noiseless operation
- Double protection against rusting and corrosion
- User-friendly and easy-interface
- An eco-friendly, freon-free unit
- Some buyers received wet unit (although that doesn’t any pose any risk)
- Doesn’t include hose or water pump
IceProbe Thermoelectric Chiller (Best For Small Tanks)
If you’re on a lookout for the best aquarium chiller for a small aquarium, you might want to check out the Nova brand’s IceProbe Thermoelectric Chiller.
Suitable for aquariums up to 10 gallons, this small yet powerful chiller will keep your bettas and guppies cool and refreshed with help of smooth flow rate and optimum temperature.
It comes with aa 5-foot, 9-inch cord with a 6-foot probe card. And it only measures around 4″ x 4 3/4″ x 7 1/2″ including the prob, making it suitable for small tanks.
For a 10-gallon tank, IceProbe Thermoelectric Chiller can reduce temperature by 6-8 °F from normal room temperature.
Since it doesn’t include or requite a water pump, you will barely hear it make any sound.
However, the litter chiller has a fan above the heatsink which produces very low humming noise that’s audible unless you have extra sensitive ears.
The advanced thermoelectric technology directly converts electricity into cooling water, making the chiller energy-efficient.
However, you’ll need a separate temperature controller to turn the device on/off at pre-set temperatures.
Lastly, the chiller comes with a well-built threaded nut and gasket which seals the chiller in place to avoid potential leaks.
- Doesn’t require a pump
- Very quiet operation
- A great value option for small tanks
- Energy-efficient system
- Need to buy a separate temperature controller
- Not efficient for mid-sized or larger tanks
JBJ Aquarium Arctica Titanium Chiller
If you have super sensitive ears, this super quiet option can be the best aquarium chiller for you.
It is a powerful chiller that comes in 4 sizes: 1/3 HP, 1/5 HP, 1/10 HP, and 9.8”W x 16.5” D x 20.9” H.
Suitable for big tanks, this product packs some of the most advanced technological features you’ll find in a chiller. For example, the smart memory chip restores to the last set temperature after power failures.
Likewise, the condenser is located on the front of the chiller. Thus, this configuration draws cool air from the front and exhales the warm air out of the back.
The pre-built LED thermostat and controller is capable of automatically maintaining the set temperature within the range of +/- 1°F. On top of that, it comes with a remote control and a bright display that allows easy reading in any lighting.
The corrosion-resistant chiller also comes with eco-friendly R-134A refrigerant and 3 different-sized hose connections. The hoses are fitted to the chiller by ½”-3/4″ barbed fittings.
The maximum aquarium size is recommended at 130 gallons, while the water pump has to be rated at 160-295 gallons per hour. Since the chiller is very powerful, make sure to get the right size for your tank.
The 1/4 HP variant will be suitable for a 50-gallon tank.
- Powerful yet very quiet chiller
- Easy-to read LCD display and a remote controller
- Eco-friendly refrigerant
- Integration of smart memory chip
- It’s on the pricier side
- Customer service is not too great
Teco Tank TK-500 1/6 HP
An all-rounder in efficiency, features, and temperature control, Teco Tank TK-500 1/6 HP is a one of top contenders for the best aquarium chiller title.
And the number one reason for that is it has both heating and cooling capabilities.
Rated as suitable for tanks up to 130 gallons, the chiller features a rotatable top exhaust conveyor which enables the user to direct heat exchange and air flow away from the chiller—allowing better efficiency. Likewise, a big fan moves air without producing unpleasant noise.
The Italian-made, anti-corrosive chiller also boasts of excellent built and finish. No annoying rattles and vibration.
If you have an aquarium cabinet, you can easily extend the exhaust conveyor opening in 2-inch increments with help of modular conveyor extensions pieces. It’s a great unlikely benefit which allows you to transfer the hot air out of a confined space. Likewise, the inset along with rotating water inlet and outlet valves also allows the chiller to be placed in enclosed spaces.
As for display and temperature setting, the chiller uses a digital thermostat controller with precise temperature detection from 32 to 95 ºF. The thermostat can be configured to display temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius, while audible alarms can be set for specific situations.
- Durable and quality build
- Extremely quiet in operation
- Both heating and cooling capabilities
- Easy-to-read and configurable
- It’s on the pricier side
- Not suitable for small tanks
Coralife Energy Savers ACL36060 Chiller
We all know that Coralife is one of the most popular brands for aquarium products, and it’s this particular chiller is no different.
Coralife Energy Savers ACL36060 Chiller is a chiller rated best for marine and freshwater aquariums up to the size of 55 gallons.
This model is equipped with precise temperature and humidity control system in single unit. Often overlooked, humidity is also one of the main factors to consider in a tank’s ecosystem to ensure long-term health benefits for your fish.
Similarly, the temperature control system can automatically maintain the set temperature at +/- 2 degrees °F. The programming is also quite simple and can be achieved with a single step via LED display.
The tank features an air filter that’s essential to protect the cooling unit from contaminants. The reusable air filter can also be easily accessed for cleaning. Likewise, the titanium heat exchanger won’t rust and corrode, ensuring efficient heat transfer from the tank to outside atmosphere.
- Accessible and reusable air filter
- Easy one-step installation
- Humidity Control
- Low-noise operation
- Only one-year warranty
- Can rattle when in operation
What To Look For When Buying An Aquarium Chiller?
Every tank is different, and so is its needs. Whether it’s a 200-gallon koi pond, a 20-gallon tropical aquarium, or your child’s first-ever Nemo, things can go south pretty quickly with a wrong chiller. Look into factors like the tank’s capacity, chiller mechanism, and refrigerant material used.
Since the flow rate goes hand in hand with the aquarium’s capacity, you have to choose a chiller that has the right flow rate for you tank. A chiller with lower capacity won’t work too well for big aquariums and vice versa.
When buying, don’t forget to check the recommended flow rate range in gallons per hours, which is mostly mentioned by the brand.
Basically, you can choose from two most common kinds of aquarium chillers. First is an in-line chiller with in-line filtration, which will cool the filtered water. It’s best suited for big tanks and saltwater tanks.
The next is drop-in chiller, where you have to drop the coil in the filter or sump directly. These are quite popular as they don’t need plumbing.
Some chillers come with in-built controllers that can operate automatically. Whereas, some don’t have temperature controller. In this case, you’ll have to turn the chiller on and off yourself.
Most chillers have been designed to consume less electricity, so that won’t really be a problem when choosing. You can easily compare different models to see how much energy do they consume. But I’d not suggest you to not to compromise on quality and effectiveness just because a chiller consumes less energy.
You should pay special attention to the refrigerant material since its potency is responsible to ascertain how chilled the water temperature within the tank be.
It’s best if you go for a chiller that uses environment-friendly refrigerant liquid. HFC-134a and EcoFlour R410 are two most common types of refrigerants.
Do I Need An Aquarium Chiller?
Of course, you do! While some tanks may need it more than other, it’s wise to invest in a good chiller to be on the safe side. The risks related to overheating and lack of oxygen are alone enough reasons to get a chiller.
Aquariums Are Prone To Overheating
All the equipment that are attached to your aquarium—filters, lights, pumps, heaters, and automatic feeders—generate some level of heat.
The chiller will effectively curb the extra, artificially generated heat to regulate the right temperature.
Summer is fun but also uncomfortably hot. And that’s quite similar to how your fish feel to. The slightest increase in atmospheric temperature can have more effect then we might realize. On top of that, it also helps you prepare well for unexpected heat waves.
Overheating Reduces Oxygen Levels
Also, if the water temperature goes above the normal level, the tank’s oxygen holding capacity will diminish quickly. As a result, your fish will experience stress, breathing difficulty, and even fatality in some cases.
In the natural water habitats, the temperature is very stable. So your fish, reptiles, and amphibians don’t have much to worry about even if they depend on external factor for temperature regulation.
Overheating Encourages Algae Growth
Algae thrives the best in warm and stagnant environments. And an overheated tank provides just that. Green water and patchy algae growth are common sights in a warm tank. An aquarium chiller will help keep this problem at bay.
How to Clean An Aquarium Chiller?
Cleaning an aquarium chiller is fairly easy. First, remove the electrical connection and disconnect the water pipe connection.
Then you can simply rinse and clean the chiller with water.
For deep cleaning, some aquarists take water and vinegar in 3:1 ratio, mix them in a bucket, add the chiller, and pump the water unless all impurities come out.
This method can be more beneficial for chillers used in saltwater tanks as there will be some calcium deposits on the side.
Where To Place An Aquarium Chiller?
Most aquarium chillers feature small bodies and take up less space. So, they can be conveniently kept anywhere.
However, make sure that the chiller is positioned close to the aquarium water so that the water can be easily regulated within the right temperature range.
How To Install An Aquarium Chiller?
To install a drop-in chiller, simply dunk the heat exchange coil in the sump.
As for in-line chiller, since it is installed outside the tank, simply put it in a place where it won’t make much space and is convenient.
Nonetheless, the chillers with come with manual instructions that will guide you step-by-step.
How Does An Aquarium Chiller Work?
So, first and foremost, let’s start out with how an aquarium chiller works.
To put it simply, an aquarium chiller is basically a small refrigerator. Well, in some cases, it’s a fan or a small ac.
So, these chillers work by absorbing the heat and transferring it to the relatively cooler places in your tank.
Generally, there are four components in an aquarium chiller: heat exchanger, compressor, expansion valve, and a condenser coil.
As for the process, the cooling cycle starts in the heat exchanger coil. The liquid refrigerant evaporates vaporizes in the coil and retains the heat from water passing through the heat exchanger unit.
Since the heat exchanger is made of titanium most of the time, there are no chances of corrosion. Thus, chillers are perfectly safe for saltwater aquariums, too.
Next, the compressor pumps the refrigerant vapor to the condenser, increasing its temperature and pressure. As a result, the refrigerant liquidates inside the condenser tubes, transforming its heat to the air.
The chiller then uses a small in-built fan to blow air across the hot condenser coil.
This is the process of removing heat from the refrigerant.
After this, the liquid refrigerant from the condenser goes through the expansion valve that diminishes the refrigerant pressure and temperature as it goes inside the evaporator.
Once again, the refrigerant flows over the chilled coil, soaking in more heat and continuing the cycle.
Conclusion: 5 Best Aquarium Chillers in 2022
This article covers pretty much everything you need to know about aquarium chillers. So, I’m confident that you’re capable of knowing what to look for in aquarium chillers. Remember, the best aquarium chiller is the one that complements your tank’s needs the most.