A 50 to 55 gallon aquarium is a reasonably large size, so it’s key to heat it consistently and evenly throughout. The best heater for 50 gallon tank setups needs to have the right amount of power along with an accurate thermostat.
We considered some of today’s top heaters for 50 gallon aquariums, including those we’ve used in our own larger tanks. And we chose the Fluval E200 Electronic Heater as our favorite. It’s not only accurate but robust and perfect for larger community tanks.
But we’ve also included other options like external inline heaters if you want to maximize tank space, and budget heaters for affordable yet accurate heating.
So take a look at our top picks!
- Best For Aggressive Fish: Fluval E200 Electronic Heater
- Best For Calibration: Eheim Jager 150W Aquarium Heater
- Best Budget Pick: Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater
- Best Heat Distribution: Fluval M200 Submersible Heater
- Best Overheat Protection: Hydor Inline Aquarium Heater
Best Heater For 50 Gallon Tank Setups Reviewed
All the heaters below are suitable for 50 or 55 gallon aquariums. We’ve highlighted the appropriate wattage along with assessing ability to hold a consistent temperature, key safety features, and ease of use.
- Heater Type: Submersible, adjustable, digital
- Dimensions: 14.0 (l) x 2.0 (w) x 1.12 (d) inches
- Wattage: 200 Watt (other wattages available)
- Key Features: Temperature range of 68 to 93°F, two digital temperature sensors, LCD screen with VueTech color alert system, bumper guard
- Best For: Aggressive Fish
The Fluval E200 is a 200 Watt digital heater that’s rated for aquariums up to 65 gallons. Whilst it’s a premium option, it’s one of the most accurate we’ve assessed. And as it’s suitable for freshwater and saltwater, it can be great if you have a reef tank with sensitive fish and corals.
With an adjustable range of 68 to 93°F, it holds a stable 78°F with ease. And the toggle switch on the top lets you set the temperature in 1°F increments. So perfect for getting a precise temperature in a large 50 or 55 gallon tank.
The 2 digital temperature sensors also help accurately monitor and maintain your water temperature. And Fluval’s VueTech color alert system changes the LCD display to blue if too cold by 2°F, or red if too hot. So you can easily see any issues, even from across the room!
This heater is highly durable. Its strong suction cups and solid, adjustable bracket make installation easy. And its tough plastic bumper guard means your fish won’t come into contact with the heating tube. So it’s great if you have aggressive cichlids like Jack Dempsey.
Some owners remark that placing the E series can be tricky, as you have to position it correctly near your filter and get the toggle switch just above the water line. But overall owners praise the E200 for its accuracy and ease of use.
- Heater Type: Submersible, adjustable
- Dimensions: 13.63 (length) x 1.4 (diameter) inches
- Wattage: 150 Watt (other wattages available)
- Key Features: Temperature range of 65 to 93°F, built-in thermostat, calibration dial for temperature adjustment, indicator light, run-dry shut-off, shatterproof quartz glass
- Best For: Calibration
Eheim’s Jager 150 Watt Aquarium Heater is one of the most accurate analog heaters we’ve featured as it allows manual calibration. So you can improve the accuracy of the temperature and maintain it throughout your 50 or 55 gallon aquarium.
The temperature dial is large and split into 1°F increments, making it easy to set. But by turning the separate ‘TruTemp’ calibration dial to your tank’s actual current temperature it makes the heater more accurate. So you can ensure more stable heating for your fish.
There’s a simple indicator light showing when the Jager is actively heating, making it easy to see if your heater’s not working properly. And it comes with an automatic shut-off if it runs outside the water. So peace of mind that you won’t accidentally risk shattering the tube.
Note there’s no overheat sensor though, so as with most heaters, use a separate in-tank thermometer to ensure the safety of your fish. But overall many owners feedback that the Jager gives accurate and stable heating for an affordable price.
- Heater Type: Submersible, adjustable
- Dimensions: 11.0 inches (length)
- Wattage: 200 Watt/ 300 Watt (other wattages available)
- Key Features: Temperature range of 68 to 89°F, built-in thermostat, 2mm thickened shatterproof quartz glass, separate digital thermometer
- Best For: Budget Pick
If you’re looking for a budget heater for your 50 gallon aquarium that does a good job of holding a steady temperature, the Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater is a fantastic choice.
Orlushy recommends the 300 Watt model for 50 to 55 gallon aquariums, and unless you live in a particularly warm climate we’d agree. It maintains a stable 75 to 78°F in a 50 gallon tank, which is around the middle of its 68 to 89°F range. So it’s great for most tropical fish including cichlids.
Some owners report the set temperature can be out by up to 4°F in some cases, particularly if you run it at the top of its range. But as long as you use a separate in-tank thermometer to compensate, once set it will hold the temperature well.
Both the 200 Watt and 300 Watt models are just 11 inches long, making the Orlushy the shortest heater we’ve featured. So you’ll have no problem fitting it in a 20-inch high 50 gallon tank and keeping it well away from your fish.
The adjustment dial is marked in clear 2°F increments, and the large control knob makes setting this heater simple. The indicator light also lets you see when it’s heating your water, although it doesn’t have an overheat or run-dry shut-off. So keep it submerged at all times.
- Heater Type: Submersible, adjustable
- Dimensions: 13.0 (length) x 1.0 (diameter) inches
- Wattage: 200 Watt (other wattages available)
- Key Features: Temperature range of 66 to 86°F, computer-calibrated thermostat, ceramic heat sink, heating indicator light, shock-resistant glass
- Best For: Heat Distribution
Fluval M Series heaters are great all-rounders for a variety of aquarium sizes, balancing power and even heating with affordability. The 200 Watt M200 is suitable for up to 65 gallons. So whether your tank is 50 or 55 gallons, it will easily hold a steady 78°F even in a cooler climate.
The even heating comes from its ceramic heat sink running along the tube which helps distribute the heat. So it’s very efficient for larger 50 to 55 gallon tanks when placed near the filter’s output.
Its adjustable range of 66 to 86°F makes it suitable for most tropical fish, although we found it to do best around the mid-point of 78°F. It can struggle with stability at the top end of 86°F, so bear this in mind if you keep marine fish or corals that need high temperatures.
At 1.0 inch in diameter at its thickest point, the M200 has a slim, modern look, and you can easily disguise it in your 50 gallon tank. Yet despite this, it’s made from shockproof borosilicate glass. So it won’t get damaged by the occasional knock from larger fish.
Its large adjustment dial is easy to access at the top of the heater and split into 3-degree increments. So you can easily see to set the temperature. It also has an indicator light so you can see when it’s actively heating and identify if there’s a fault.
But note M Series heaters do not have an overheat or run-dry sensor. So always make sure yours is submerged at all times to avoid the risk of cracking. Overall though many owners praise this heater for its even heating in a larger tank at an affordable price.
- Heater Type: External inline, adjustable
- Dimensions: 12.5 (l) x 4.0 (d) x 4.0 (w) inches
- Hose Sizes: ½ inch, ⅝ inch
- Wattage: 200 Watt/ 300 Watt
- Key Features: Temperature range of 65 to 93°F, electronic temperature dial, built-in thermostat, hanging eyelet, LED heating indicator
- Best For: Overheat Protection
The Hydor is an external inline aquarium heater made for larger tanks. It sits on the outflow line from your canister or sump filter, meaning you don’t need room for it in your aquarium. So it’s a great choice if you have a 50 gallon reef tank to give more space for fish and corals.
And because it constantly heats the filter outflow you get consistently heated water returned to your tank. This continual flow means you can be confident your 50 or 55 gallon aquarium will be heated evenly throughout.
It comes in a 200 Watt or 300 Watt version and in most cases, we’d recommend the latter for a 50 or 55 gallon tank. Especially if you have a cooler room and need to raise your tank temperature by around 10 degrees.
The Hydor has excellent overheat protection as it uses a PTC (Positive Thermal Coefficient) polymer in the heating element. PTC stops conducting above its maximum temperature of 93°F. So there’s no risk of overheating your tank or aquatic life.
With a range of 65 to 93°F and an easy-to-use adjustment dial split in 2°F increments, you can easily set an accurate temperature. So it’s perfect whether you have a 50 gallon freshwater tank that needs around 78°F, or a reef tank needing 82°F or above.
Factors To Think About With The Best Heater For 50 Gallon Tank Setups
When looking for the best heater for 50 gallon tank setups there are several things to consider before choosing which one to go for.
Why Your 50 Gallon Fish Tank Needs A Heater
As with many other sizes of aquarium, the majority of fish you’re likely to keep in a 50 to 55 gallon tank will be tropical. So you’ll need the best heater for 50 gallon tanks to keep yours in the range of 74 to 80°F.
Even if you keep colder water fish, like fancy goldfish that prefer a lower 65 to 75°F, the key is to maintain a consistent temperature. Rapid changes, sometimes of even +/- 2°F, can stress your fish, leading to disease and even death.
A larger water volume in a 50 to 55 gallon tank takes longer to heat up, but also longer to lose heat than in a smaller tank as it has a higher thermal capacity . So although it’s less prone to temperature fluctuations, you still need the right heater to keep it stable.
What Fish Do You Keep?
While most tropical fish do well in an aquarium between 74 to 80°F, it’s important to research your chosen species as they can all have different needs. Some fish suitable for 50 to 55 gallon aquariums prefer temperatures at the higher end of this range or above.
Discus for example, many of which originate from the central Amazon region, need around 79 to 86° F. Whereas many African cichlids, such as the Duboisi Cichlid, can go to the lower end and tolerate a wider range of about 72 to 82°F.
But whatever the species, again it’s consistency that’s key. You want to keep a stable temperature rather than allow it to fluctuate from the top of the range to the bottom. Hence the importance of choosing the best heater for your 50 gallon tank.
Power And Wattage For A 50 Gallon Aquarium
Choosing a heater with the correct power output, measured in Watts, is critical in keeping your tank heated consistently and safely. The general rule used by most aquarists is 2.5 to 5 Watts are needed to heat 1 gallon of water .
So based on this, the best heater for 50 gallon tank setups is between 125 to 250 Watts. But bear in mind this is a general rule.
Your ambient room temperature, location and climate, and how much you want to raise your tank’s water temperature by all make a difference. So do check the manufacturer’s recommended wattage for the heater you are considering too.
Placing Your Heater In Your 50 Gallon Tank
Evenly heating your 50 to 55 gallon aquarium is key to maintaining a stable environment for your fish. Some of the heat from your heater will be circulated by natural convection, where warmer water rises and cooler water sinks, creating a current.
But one of the key ways the heat is circulated is via the flow provided by your filter. So for submersible heaters, it’s important you place them near your filter’s outflow. But pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions as they will also specify proper placement.
Should You Use Two Heaters In Your 50 Gallon Tank?
Many aquarists like to use two smaller heaters rather than one in a 50 gallon tank. Whilst it’s not essential, it can be a good idea for a tank this size if you need to raise the temperature by more than 10°F. It can also allow one to act as a backup if the other fails.
If you do choose to use two heaters, make sure the total wattage across them both stays within 250 Watts. You should also position them at either end of your tank for even heat distribution.
What Type Is The Best Heater For 50 Gallon Tank Setups?
When choosing the best heater for 50 gallon tanks, there are a few types that perform well and are suitable depending on your setup.
Submersible Aquarium Heaters
Whether you have a freshwater or saltwater aquarium, one of the best heaters for 50 gallon tanks are submersibles. They usually consist of a coiled wire heating element inside a glass, plastic, or sometimes a metallic tube such as titanium.
Because they sit fully submerged below the water line they are excellent at detecting temperature changes and keeping your tank stable. They are a great choice for a 50 gallon aquarium as they can transfer lots of heat to a large water volume very efficiently.
Inline And In-Sump Heaters
Inline heaters sit outside your aquarium and are connected to the outflow from your large external filter, such as a canister filter. They can be one of the best heaters for 50 gallon tanks as they are great for evenly heating a large water volume, although they can be costly.
If you own a 50 gallon saltwater tank you may have a sump underneath housing your filtration and heating equipment. An in-sump heater simply sits in your sump and warms the water before returning it to the main aquarium. Again, it allows even heating while decluttering your tank.
Heaters Unsuitable For 50 Gallon Fish Tanks
As with other larger aquarium sizes, there are some types of heater you may come across that aren’t recommended for 50 gallon tanks:
- Immersible Heaters: Also called hanging heaters, these hook onto the back of your tank with the heating element immersed in the water. They are generally found in small starter tank kits and don’t have the power or efficiency to heat a 50 gallon aquarium.
- Substrate Heaters: These consist of a heating wire fixed to the tank bottom, and are used in planted aquariums to heat the substrate and encourage root growth. They aren’t for use as a primary heater and certainly won’t provide enough heat for a 50 gallon tank.
What To Look For When Choosing The Best Heater For 50 Gallon Tank Setups
Take a look at these additional tips for what to look out for when deciding on the best heater for your 50 gallon tank.
Adjustability And Readable Temperature
Although preset heaters are available in the 200 Watt range they can sometimes struggle to heat your aquarium to a precise temperature, particularly in larger tanks. Often they can be a degree or so out, but because their temperature is fixed you can’t adjust for it.
This is why an adjustable heater is always the best heater for 50 gallon tanks. While an adjustable heater could also be slightly out, by monitoring your tank with a separate thermometer you can re-calibrate it and account for any discrepancy.
If you choose an analog heater look for a dial that’s marked in around 2 or 3 degree increments, rather than just a plus or minus, so you can accurately see what you’ve set. Digital heaters tend to show the temperature, and some can be adjusted to +/- 0.5⁰F.
Materials, Price, And Warranty
Most digital heaters are made from shockproof plastics or titanium casings which make them particularly durable. But if you opt for a more traditional analog heater with a glass surround, check to see if it’s shatterproof like quartz or borosilicate glass.
You’ll generally find analog heaters to be the most affordable, with some 200 Watt models around $35 to $40. Digital or inline heaters can be significantly more though, with some around double the price of an analog of the same wattage.
Many of today’s heaters come with excellent warranties to protect you if they do run into any issues. Look out for a 3 or 5-year warranty where possible. Some even come with a limited lifetime warranty for extra peace of mind.
One of the key safety aspects when looking for the best heater for your 50 gallon tank is knowing when your heater is actively heating.
Many digital heaters show this with an LED or LCD display, alongside the current water temperature. If you choose an analog heater, make sure it has an indicator light so you can see when it’s actively switched on.
Some of the best heaters for 50 gallon tanks also have overheat or run-dry auto shut-off mechanisms. This automatically cuts power to the heater above a maximum temperature, or if it detects it’s running above the water line to prevent shattering.
Easy To Install And Calibrate
While more expensive than analogs, digital heaters can be one of the easiest types to set up and calibrate. You can often simply place them in your tank, set your desired temperature and they’ll automatically calibrate and start to heat your water.
Analog heaters can sometimes be a degree or so out from the set temperature. But this isn’t an issue if you keep a separate thermometer in your tank to account for the difference. Some analog heaters allow manual calibration, which while more precise can be trickier to set.
Note that if you choose an external inline heater, whilst they are great for maintaining a stable temperature they can be more difficult to install. Make sure the hose connections are tightly sealed to avoid leaks, and install them vertically to stop air bubbles which can lead to cracks.
When it comes to the best heater for 50 gallon tank setups we chose the Fluval E200 Electronic Heater as our favorite. It’s not only highly accurate, but the tough bumper guard makes it great if you keep aggressive fish like certain cichlids.
But if you want accurate and even heating for your 50 or 55 gallon tank you should also consider the Fluval M200 Submersible Heater or the Hydor Inline Aquarium Heater which will also save space for your fish or corals!
Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions when it comes to choosing the best heater for 50 gallon tank setups.
Is A Submersible Or External Inline The Best Heater For 50 Gallon Tank Setups?
A submersible heater is often the best choice as is an affordable way of efficiently heating a large tank. Inline heaters are excellent at even heating too but can be more costly.
How Many Heaters Should I Use In My 50 Gallon Tank?
A single heater between 125 to 250 Watts is fine for most 50 gallon tanks. You can use two smaller heaters at either end, but ensure the total wattage stays under 250 Watts.
Is An Adjustable Or Preset The Best Heater For 50 Gallon Tank Setups?
An adjustable heater is best as it gives you more control over the temperature you need. It also means you can adjust it in the future if you choose to keep different fish.
How Do I Know My Heater Is Working?
Modern heaters often have LCD or LED displays showing the current and set temperature. But as a minimum check your heater has an indicator light so you can see when it’s actively heating.