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DIY Do It Yourself Aquarium Chiller


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Purpose, Materials and Materials Cost Considerations for a DIY Chiller
Submitted by: Don Carner

Purpose: A rather quick and inexpensive method for maintaining a steady system temperature, especially during those long hot summer months.


  • Dorm-sized refrigerator (1 to 1-1/2 cubic feet).
  • 50 to 100 feet of 3/8 inch hard plastic tubing (depending, vinyl isn't as good a choice here).
  • PVC fittings (90 degree elbows or straight connects, threaded or slip).
  • Aquarium safe Silicone sealant.
  • 1/2 inch thin-wall PVC pipe (about 1 foot for the "thru-the-box" connections).
  • Hand drill and 1/2 inch drill bit (or 5/16 inch if you prefer).
  • Screwdrivers to fit the various hardware of the particular fridge you own.
  • Rio 2500 or similar pump/powerhead to push the water through the chiller.

Materials Cost Considerations

  • The fridge should set you back $89 to $199 depending on the size you choose.
  • The Rio 2500 runs anywhere from $39.95 (mail order) to $69.95 at your LFS (Local Fish Store).
  • The fittings, tubing and pipe shouldn't run more than $10 to $15 bucks, depending on how much and what style you choose.
  • Hopefully you already have a drill and the bit(s).
My chiller ran a total of $175 once completed (without the 6 pack), still significantly cheaper than a commercial unit. While not as efficient as commercial chillers, this is a viable alternative and will draw your water temp down surprisingly well. Use a pre-set or variable heater to "balance" the temp within the sump and it'll become "hands-free"!

Do you just need a temporary Emergency Chiller to help keep your tank temps down for a few days? Substitute an ice chest (even one of those inexpensive styrofoam ones will do) for the Dorm-sized refrigerator and fill it with ice. Drop the tubing coil in it and you are ready to start chilling!

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