best aquarium chiller

What is the best aquarium chiller?

Albert B Ulrich III Saltwater Fish 2 Comments

What is the best aquarium chiller brand? 

A few weeks back, I had a major set-back with my display tank. While working under my tank, I messed up the temperature my heater was set at…unfortunately at the same time I was leaving for vacation, which was also during a heat wave. Long story short (you can read about that story here), my tank heated up significantly and caused some of my corals to die. Once that happened, I set out to figure out how to prevent that from happening again. What I realized is that the best insurance policy against your tank hitting unsafe elevated temperatures is to have an aquarium chiller. Until then, I had never considered a chiller, so I set out to find out what the best aquarium chillers were.

What I found out is that the best aquarium chiller is the one that is the right size for your aquarium, at the right price. The aquarium chiller shouldn’t be too big or too small–it needs to be just right, or it won’t be able to properly cool your tank, when needed. In this article, I will describe how an aquarium chiller works, how do you know if you need an aquarium chiller, why is high temperature bad, how much does it cost, how do you set one up and I will also provide product reviews for some of the best aquarium chiller brands. If you are interested in just jumping ahead to check out the products and prices for yourself, here are a few affiliate links where you can learn more about these products, including their price, on Amazon.com:

How does an aquarium chiller work?

An aquarium chiller is like an air conditioner for your water. There is a thermostat, that monitors the temperature and switches the aquarium chiller on when the water temperature gets too high. When the chiller is on, tank water flows inside the chiller and gets cooled off in a heat exchanger before being returned by the pump to your aquarium.

best aquarium chiller

Do I need an aquarium chiller?

Technically, you may not need an aquarium chiller. I’ve been keeping fish for almost 30 years now and never previously had an aquarium chiller. But very recently, I had an issue where my tank water heated up…and caused big problems. I don’t want risk it any more, so I’m getting an aquarium chiller–to protect against error and protect against loss.

Why is a high water temperature bad?

  • Temperature changes, in general, are bad
  • Warm water holds less oxygen
  • May cause problem algae growth

Top reviews: What are customers saying?

When properly sized (large enough to lower the temperature of the tank sufficiently when just running for a few minutes each hour…not continuously) and installed,   an aquarium chiller is a great product that will keep your aquarium temperature from elevating into the danger zone. People who live in hot climates boast about these workhorses doing the job day in and day out without a hiccup. The top brands are quiet and should run without issue.

Most common complaints

The most common complaints about aquarium chillers are:

  1. Sometimes they break–there are reviews (in the minority) of products that failed after a short period of time
  2. Manufacturers are not always as responsive as hoped for in resolving any issues
  3. Can be loud–may sound like ‘an old refrigerator’ when running

Factors that can impact the performance of an aquarium chiller

To keep your aquarium chiller working properly, keep these things in mind:

  1. Avoid extreme temperatures–if the temperature in the room is in the mid-to-high 90’s, just about any chiller is going to have some trouble keeping up. If this is something you expect to happen in your home–you want to pick a significantly oversized model
  2. Don’t forget about the heat load contributed by your equipment. If you are running serious metal halide lights close to the water–you’re going to have a lot more heat to dissipate than your neighbor in the same town who is running cool LEDs
  3. Your chiller needs good ventilation to run properly–be sure to place it in a well-ventilated are.
  4. Just like an air conditioner, you need to keep the grill clean to avoid over-working the system
  5. Ensure you are equipping your aquarium chiller with a properly sized pump to enable the appropriate water flow for your particular model. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure you have the right sized pump.

How much does an aquarium chiller cost?

An aquarium chiller will cost anywhere from about $260 to over $1,200, for the biggest and best models. One of the most commonly available sizes that should be large enough to handle an aquarium in the 125-150 gallon range or smaller is the 1/4 HP model, which benchmarks at about $600 for all but one manufacturer.

If even the least expensive models are out of your price range, you may want to consider an aquarium fan, like the Aquacool, which can help keep your tank water a bit cooler by facilitating evaporation.

To check out the latest prices for popular aquarium chillers on Amazon, with this link here.

How do I decide what aquarium chiller model is the best aquarium chiller model for me

Picking the right aquarium chiller model for you is about weighing a few considerations:

  1. How big is your tank
  2. How much money are you willing to spend
  3. How good are the average product reviews

The JBJ product website has a calculator that will help you figure out the right size for your particular aquarium. To pick the right size, you need to look at all the things warming up your tank…and while not the most intuitive tool, that is what the JBJ calculator helps you to do.

Best Aquarium Chiller–what are the options?

As I mentioned earlier, the best aquarium chiller is the one that is the right size for your aquarium, at the right price. The aquarium chiller shouldn’t be too big or too small–it needs to be just right, or it won’t be able to properly cool your tank, when needed.

Here are a few of the most popular aquarium chiller brands for you to choose from:

JBJ Arctica Aquarium Chiller

The brand is relatively easy to set up, runs efficiently and runs quietly. It is the exclusive brand offered by at least one popular online store. A JBJ Arctica aquarium chiller will cost you around $400-$800, depending on the model you pick. Check out the current prices here.

JBJ offers 5 models in the JBJ Arctica Titanium Chiller line:

This chiller boasts nearly 160 reviews on a prominent online retailer and 4.5 star average and 5 star average out of 15 reviews on another and 4.5 star average out of 23 reviews on Amazon.com.

Hamilton Technology Aqua Euro Max Aquarium Chiller


The Hamilton Technology Aqua Euro Max Aquarium Chiller also boasts a 4 star average review on Amazon.com, with about 40 reviews at the time of this article. These aquarium chillers range in price from about $375 for the smallest model upwards to $1,300 for the largest models, if you have a large tank. The 1/4 HP represents a reasonable value for the money at just under $600. Check out the current prices here.

If you are looking for an aquarium chiller that is the perfect fit for your aquarium, the Aqua Euro Max should be your chiller of choice, with 5 models to choose from:

  • 1/13 HP for a  30-50 gallon aquarium
  • 1/10 HP for a 60-80 gallon aquarium
  • 1/4 HP for a 100-170 gallon aquarium
  • 1/2 HP for a 200-300 gallon aquarium
  • 1 HP for a 300-700 gallon aquarium

Coralife Aquarium Chiller

The Coralife Aquarium Chiller line offers 5 sizes to help you find the right model for your tank. The smallest model runs at 1/10 HP and is suited for tanks up to 55 gallons in size, whereas the 1HP model (quite large) will work for tanks up to 500 gallons in size. Expect to pay about $400 for the smallest model and over $1,000 for the largest model. Check out the links below for the current prices.

  • 1/10 HP for tanks up to 55 gallons
  • 1/6 HP for tanks up to 90 gallons
  • 1/4 HP for tanks up to 125 gallons
  • 1/2 HP for tanks up to 250 gallons
  • 1 HP for tanks up to 500 gallons

Active Aqua Chiller

With nearly 100 reviews on Amazon at the time of this article and a 4 star review average (85 are verified purchases!), the Active Aqua Chiller is the most popular chiller model available. It is available in 3 sizes: small 1/10 HP, medium 1/4 HP and large 1/2 HP. The price ranges from about $260- $630. The 1/4 HP model (workhorse model for most tanks) is only $378, making it the best value for the money.

It is no doubt that the low prices here are part of what’s driving the popularity on Amazon.com. Check out the reviews for yourself and decide.

Best aquarium chiller: Most relied upon brand

The good news here is that there is no shortage of options, when it comes to selecting a popular aquarium chiller brand. After searching the available information online, the JBJ Arctica Aquarium Chiller brand is the most consistently available and positively reviewed product available.

Best aquarium chiller value for the money

In terms of the best aquarium chiller value for the money–the obvious choice here is the Active Aqua line of aquarium chillers. They are significantly less expensive than some of the other brands and boast a similar product review profile.

Albert B Ulrich IIIWhat is the best aquarium chiller?

Comments 2

  1. Michele

    HI Al,
    While we are talking about water temps…what is the optimal range for a tank with a few corals, anemones, and a variety fish? What’s a reliable thermometer you recommend?
    Thanks!

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