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pamelajo 05-31-2009 06:04 PM

saltwater tank circuit overload
My son has a saltwater fish tank which has over the years become more and more elaborate; upgrading filter systems, lighting etc. He has two or three power strips that are close to full plugged into two separate outlets in his room. Since the weather has warmed and we started running the AC I have had the circuit trip when i run my washing machine which is on its own GFCI, I think that's right, circuit. (the outlet my washer is plugged into has its own breaker). We sometimes have issues with running the microwave in the kitchen and hair dryer in the bathroom at the same time and circuits tripping.

Can his tank draw from other circuits in the house jeopardizing my appliances? and are all of these 'fish' items too much for one circuit.

nap 05-31-2009 07:29 PM

it's "too much" when you trip a breaker because of the draw.

a load will generally only cause the breaker it is on to trip. The one way a highly loaded breaker can make another circuits breaker trip is if the circuit is loaded so much that it causes the breaker to heat up. A typical breaker can trip by heat as well as a high magnetic field caused by a very high current flow.

Feel the breakers (just lay your hand on the face of the breakers). If any of them are hot, they are most likely loaded too much. Their proximity to another breaker that is also highly loaded and heating can cause enough cumulative heat to trip that breaker.

what brand of breaker panel do you have?

hayewe farm 05-31-2009 07:33 PM

If the "fish items" where to much they would trip the breaker they are on and not affect any other circuit. GFCI have a tendency to trip with capacitive loads like the capacitive start motors in washing machines. It has to do with current flow delays caused by the capacitors.

Scuba_Dave 05-31-2009 07:50 PM

How big is the fish tank?
I have a 125g saltwater tank & I have equipment on several circuits

Lights - 1 circuit
Recirc pump + 1 heater - 2nd circuit
2nd heater & work area lights - 3rd circuit
In tank recirc pump - 4th circuit

Too much on 1 circuti will trip it
Too many plugs into a power strip is not a good idea either
Each item should have a drip loop before it goes into the outlet/surge
Water can & will drip, salt will form & cause problems

Also if the one circuit kicks off his tank is dead

J. V. 06-01-2009 11:08 AM

Do you know for sure the breaker that the tank is on is the one tripping? If it is, just run a new 20 amp dedicated circuit to the tank. Then install a couple receptacles to eliminate at least one of the strips.

Or, just run the new circuit to the existing recepts close to the tank.

ScottR 06-02-2009 12:14 AM


Originally Posted by nap (Post 280989)
it's "too much" when you trip a breaker because of the draw.

Perhaps "way too much"? :)


Is the AC on the same circuit as the tank? (Is it a window or wall unit in your son's room, or do you have CAC?)

As far as the stuff related to the tank goes, you should start by adding up the ratings of each of the components (lights, pumps, etc). Lights might be .5A, pump #1 2A, pump #2 3A, heater 5A, etc. Maybe a lot more, maybe less.

Take that total, and multiply by 1.25. That number is the rating of the circuit you'd want (dedicated) for the tank. I'm assuming that most of the load would be continuous. Maybe it wouldn't be (the heater probably cycles on for < 3 hrs. at a clip), but it couldn't hurt to have some overhead anyway.

If the number you got in adding everything up * 1.25 is low (5-10A) you don't generally need to bother with a dedicated circuit, though it would still be a good idea if your son's room is sharing a circuit with other rooms. (If your son has a TV/stereo/computer in his room, that adds to the load, assuming that right now his room only has 1 circuit powering its receptacles. If there is an AC in his room running off the same circuit as the tank and/or other appliances, then the AC should also have a dedicated circuit).

As Scuba_Dave pointed out, you can always distribute the load of the tank equipment across more than one circuit, which will help keep the fish alive in case one circuit blows, and keep the load balanced.


Originally Posted by pamelajo
We sometimes have issues with running the microwave in the kitchen and hair dryer in the bathroom at the same time and circuits tripping.

You might want to consider having an electrician take a look. I only say this because it sounds like you have too few or strangely laid out circuits or a lot of heat in your panel, and it could take us a while to sort it out here.. But you could post some more info; panel mfr./model, age of your electrical system, service rating (50A, 100A, 200A, etc).

BTW - I'm not an electrician, just putting in my 2c.

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