Stray Curent Grounding

Discussion in 'User-Created Articles' started by fatman, Jan 13, 2008.

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  1. fatman

    fatman

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    Grounding the Aquarium

    There is no doubt that, nowadays, aquariums need to be grounded. Although this may not have been "that" obvious a few years ago, the consensus among many hobbyists today is that grounding greatly improves tank conditions and may, in fact, prevent lateral line disease.
    Quite a bit of anecdotal evidence to this effect has built up over time, lending more credence to the fact that grounding may help in that respect. Of course to prevent lateral line and hole-in-the-head disease your water quality parameters also must be high.
    This is, of course, nothing new as low general water quality would be stressful and detrimental to all animals in the tank.
    Hobbyists also tend to agree that their corals do much better in a grounded aquarium than in one that is not. There is no real scientific data available as to why this should be so though. It is, however, a fact that in their natural environment corals are not subjected to stray current. That is, for me, enough of a reason to duplicate that condition in aquariums.
    The reason for the recommendation to ground the aquarium has a lot to do with the fact that so many hobbyists cannot be wrong, and that because so many report better results, one can infer with being subjective that grounding the tank does indeed help.
    Grounding your aquarium is not complicated at all. Do not think that you will need some very intricate piece or pieces of equipment that are going to cost you hundreds of dollars, and that the grounding process is going to be really hard to maintain and install. This is not the case at all. Grounding your aquarium is easy and it is inexpensive as well.
    Grounding is performed to remove "stray" voltage from the aquarium; stray voltage that comes, or may come, from implements such as powerheads, pumps, lights, inductive currents, pumps and so on. There are many sources that could put such low voltage currents in your aquarium. These electric currents need to be eliminated based on the reports from hobbyists outlined above. Measurements taken on aquariums that are not grounded demonstrate that such low stray voltages are present in your tank. An inexpensive multimeter from, say, Radio Shack will demonstrate it to you without a possible doubt .
    How do you ground your Aquarium?

    You will need two pieces of metal wire. One can be just regular metal, any metal for that matter, as that piece will not be submersed. The piece that is submersed definitely needs to be salt water resistant. This sort of metal "may" seem hard to obtain and may appear to be expensive.
    It is not expensive at all. It is extremely simple to get too. Go to any bicycle shop and buy a "titanium wheel spoke". This cost you around 2 or 3 dollars a piece. Nothing really expensive! With one aquarium you obviously only need one such piece.
    The Titanium spoke is the "only" part that is immersed in the water. To the end of the Titanium spoke you simply attach a length of regular metal wire, e.g. stainless steel or any kind of metal for that matter. You can even use copper, as long as you can make sure that it will never get into the salt water. That is the reason I prefer to use stainless steel. Better safe than sorry. Make sure that the contact between the two wires is real tight. Twist them together with a wrench to get a tight fit.
    The titanium end goes into the tank or into the sump. Run the other end to a good grounding element. This is perhaps the only difficult part of the whole process. You must find a real good ground.
    A good ground that is usually easy to find is the screw in the middle of a grounded electrical outlet. Make sure, though, that if you use this method that you remove the paint from the screw, or you will not have a good ground. Make sure too that the outlet is indeed "grounded".
    In modern houses they would tend to be, but in older ones you may need to test them. Hardware stores sell an inexpensive tester that allows you to do so. The last time I got one I paid around $ 5.00 for it, again at Radio Shack. These devices even tell you whether the line and third wire are hooked up correctly by the little lights that come on. The plug (testing device) has three LED lights, yellow, green and red. The directions will tell you what each combination of lights mean.
    Any water line, usually copper pipe, is also a good ground too. Clean the portion to which you are going to attach the wire real well, so all the oxidation on the copper pipe is gone. Rub the pipe with sandpaper or a metal brush until it is shiny again and you do not see any sign of corrosion or oxidation, and then wrap your wire around it very tightly so a real good contact between the two exists.
    To have a real good ground you need a tight fit between your grounding wire and the pipe itself (hardware stores sell a simple clamp for this function), or whatever else you hook the ground up to ( Properly installed metal wiring conduit (pipe) also is grounded). That is why when you use an outlet you must make sure that the paint is totally off the screw to which you attach the grounding wire.
    Other good grounds can be found in any house or apartment. Look around at what is close to the aquarium and determine whether or not it will give a good ground or not. My personal experience is that grounded electrical outlets are usually the easiest to wire into, and are always nearby enough the aquarium to be able to be used.
    Check from time to time make sure that the connections you made are still tight and that no corrosion exists on the portion that is immersed in the water. If you used copper pipe as the grounding element you will need to clean the area where the wire is wound around the pipe with sandpaper from time to time. Indeed, corrosion of the copper pipe, due to humidity in the air, will prevent good contact which leads to a bad grounding effect.
     
    fatman, Jan 13, 2008
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