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Two weeks ago, I started a weekly column, taking advantage of the new Comparison Shopping tool at The Reef Tank.

The goal of this column was to make The Reef Tank community aware of the importance of researching before buying anything for your tank. I've already compared and contrasted Protein Skimmers and Water Pumps.

This week, I am focusing on Heaters. Perhaps we underestimate the importance of heaters, especially to a saltwater tank. About.com's Saltwater Aquariums section says that "Most experienced saltwater aquarists know that using an inexpensive, poorly constructed tank heater can quickly lead to a disaster by either allowing the tank to chill, or worse yet over heat." And it's so true. That's why research is key.

And for now, though one can only research price, we'll soon have lots of reviews and features so that you'll be able to research quality, too.

I only had 58 heaters to sift through this time, but this number will certainly grow soon. Among them, heaters ranging from 50 to 400 watts. Many of them had a Features tab which meant that there were summaries about them and reviews for them, which was exciting.

The price differences were very middle range. I saw that many of the differences ranged in the 50% mark for products, especially those in the 100 and 200 watt range.

But there were some price differences that even ranged as high as 70 and 80%. The highest price for the Hydor Theo Shatter Proof Heater in 200W was about $15 while the highest was $81 making it a whopping 81% difference! And the lowest price wasn't even offered by Ebay, which was quite surprising! (For your information, Ebay offered the third cheapest price.)

In general, I noticed Visi-Therm heaters from Aquarium Systems (like the Aquarium Systems Visi-Therm Deluxe Heater 150W and the Visi-Therm Deluxe Heater at 200W) and products from Eheim Jager (like the Eheim Jager Aquarium Heater at 250W were in the 50% range while there were significant differences in price for Hagen Fluval products (like the Hagen Fluval Tronic Submersible Heater 150W) and Hydor Theo products.

I couldn't figure out exactly what it was about certain products that made the price range so distinct but could it have something to do with the type of heater? There are a slew of heater types including Submersible heaters, Hang-On heaters, Cable heaters, and more. And it really depends on your tank size, if you're going with fish-only or fish and reefs or only corals.

What do you think?



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