Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

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LoachOrgy
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Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by LoachOrgy » Wed May 30, 2012 10:37 pm

So for the last 6 months or so I have had this striata that has been clamping its fins. No other fish in this tank have had symptoms. I thought it was a parasitic infection on the skin. I treated several treatments over the course of 6 months that did not help the fish. However, when placed in a qt tank with no power heads, the fish was fine. I put him back in the main tank which i have two Aquaclear 70 jetheads going at all times he clamps up again. These jetheads are placed like a river tank manifold design about halfway up the tank under water. I believe the issue is now stray voltage from the jetheads. I stick my finger in the water and if I have a hang nail, i get stung a little. So I am about to buy a grounding rod for the tank.

Does anyone have any experience using a grounding rod and if so is there any good brands or suggestions?

I am reading about GFCI now. Is this better than a grounding rod?
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DainBramage1991
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by DainBramage1991 » Thu May 31, 2012 2:59 pm

Neither a ground or a GCFI is the proper solution in this case, either one (if they actually worked) would simply be masking the real, very serious problem.

What you have is probably insulation breakdown in one or both of your jetheads, a VERY dangerous situation (I spent 15 years as an electrician, so I know a bit about stray voltages).

Using a multimeter (not your finger or your fish), determine which jethead is at fault and chuck it straight in the garbage without hesitation. Better yet, replace them both as they are the same make and model, and likely prone to the same fault.

You are lucky that, 1: this didn't kill all of your fish and, 2: this didn't kill you.

One last thing, using a GCFI for your aquarium equipment is a very good idea, but fix the problem at hand first.

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LoachOrgy
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by LoachOrgy » Thu May 31, 2012 8:43 pm

Ok I will test everything. It is either the two jetheads or the heater element built into the canister intake.

These are aquaclear jet heads 70's and the heater attachment attaches directly to the intake on the rena fillstar. Im going to clean the tank and unplug the jetheads for now and see if this fish starts to perk up. If nothing happens I will unplug the heater a little later to see if its the heater. I will keep you posted on results.

IF the problem is the jet heads, Do you think that placing the jet heads above the water with no submersion would solve the issue?

Thank you for the advice.
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DainBramage1991
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by DainBramage1991 » Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:45 pm

If the insulation on any of those three devices has broken down to the point that they are conducting current into the water in any amount, they will be just as unsafe out of the water and possibly even more so (possible fire hazard).

I know how expensive aquarium equipment is, and it's not easy having to replace it when you weren't planning on it; but the potential alternatives are downright scary.

I would be surprised if your fish would suffer any ill effects if you were to remove the jetheads completely until you have a chance to replace them, especially if you have good aeration and strong filtration present in your setup. You would need to replace the heater right away if that was the problem, but I'm certain that you knew that already.

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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by Diana » Fri Jun 01, 2012 10:10 pm

No way to you want to keep a faulty piece of equipment. Figure it out ASAP and remove it! Do not try to figure out a way to use it. These things are made in a way that the electricity should be insulated from the water. If there is any breakdown in that protection do not trust that item. Remove it!
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by LoachOrgy » Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:21 pm

Well I removed the electrical equipment about a day and a half ago. But i still feel a sting in the water on my finger. The sting is only when i have a hang nail. It is a mild sting that goes away after about a second. This is not the case if there is no hang nail, I feel no sting.

I am trying to observe the striata in question. all other fish look normal as usual. I believe what I have seen for about 30 minutes so far is the striata without clamped fins. So that is good. I am still going to keep an eye on him all day.

If one is faulty and the other isn't, I would like to keep the working jethead. I won't place anything back in the tank until this is figured out. i hooked up some bubblers for extra air in the tank and there are still 2 rena x3 fillstar canisters on the tank which is a 90 gallon


Would one of those pen shaped volt meters work for testing the equipment?
How should I go about testing the jetheads?
Should I run the jethead in a bucket full of water? Then place the meter against the electrical chord and areas above the water to see if I get a voltage reading?


Do any of you use other jet heads other than Aquaclear? I may try another brand if the jet heads are the problem.

Thank you for the help.
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by DainBramage1991 » Sat Jun 02, 2012 7:29 pm

Putting the jetheads, one at a time, into a plastic bucket is certainly better than testing them in your tank. As for only feeling the "bite" when you have a hangnail, I can only guess that with an open sore, the resistance of your skin in that spot is reduced.

My recommendation is to use any digital meter that will read AC voltage and is rated for at least 300 VAC (volts alternating current). Often these can be found in electronics stores for as low as $10 - $20. Accuracy isn't paramount here, but if you buy a better meter, you'll never regret it later (there's always a use for a good multimeter). Pen shaped meters are ok, but meters with wire leads are preferred because they keep your hands more isolated from the work area.

Add several tablespoons of salt or baking soda to the bucket water to insure conductivity (fresh water is almost completely non-conductive and will hinder the test). Carefully ground one meter lead (If you don't have access to grounded metal electrical conduit, the screws on outlet covers are usually grounded but PLEASE be careful!). With the jethead submerged in the bucket and turned on, observe what the meter reads with the second meter lead in the air (it should read near zero) and when you submerge the lead in the water (it should read the same as it did in the air or very close). If you see a significant increase in voltage when you submerge the lead, you've found a bad jethead.

Be sure to test both jetheads, as well as your heater. What Diana said is correct, junk any failed equipment immediately. It's just not worth risking the life of your fish, or more importantly YOUR life.
In all honesty, if it was my tank I would have already replaced all three items, despite the hit to my budget.

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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by Diana » Sun Jun 03, 2012 1:06 am

As an alternative power head look into the Koralia product line. More water movement for less electricity.
More difficult to add any sort of filtering sponge, though.
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by redshark1 » Mon Jun 04, 2012 5:32 am

Always worth having spare equipment in reserve in case of failure.

Something you may have to work towards if you can't afford it all at once, but it's worth having.
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by LoachOrgy » Mon Jun 04, 2012 6:37 pm

Well I observed the striata all day Sunday and he seemed fine with no clamped fins. I come home today, the striata is clamping again. I can't figure this thing out. I am not entirely sure this is stray voltage now. I've tried numerous treatments for parasites, bacteria ect. and nothing seems to work. I don't see how it can be the jetheads if they have been out of the tank for more than 3 days and the striata is still having issues. It is only 1 striata having issues, no other fish in the tank.


Yeah I have had a heater break down on me and come home to find all tank inhabitants boiled alive due to faulty equipment. I definitely won't order that brand again. I won't put anything back in the tank till I am certain and have time to get the meter. I just commute 2 hours a day and work most of the hours when stores are open. So my best bet is on the weekends.

I may just put him back in the separator tank and see how he does. There are a ton of snails in there now that I am sure he will enjoy. Now it is just a matter of catching him and differentiating this striata from the rest.

Yeah my spare equipment is in limbo right now. I got 1 extra 70 jethead but I am not entirely sure if this is the real issue yet or if it works. I just don't see the point of investing in another jethead if this brand is faulty. I would rather do the research and get proper equipment when time allows.

Even then, the stray voltage may not be the issue.
DainBramage1991 wrote:Putting the jetheads, one at a time, into a plastic bucket is certainly better than testing them in your tank. As for only feeling the "bite" when you have a hangnail, I can only guess that with an open sore, the resistance of your skin in that spot is reduced.

My recommendation is to use any digital meter that will read AC voltage and is rated for at least 300 VAC (volts alternating current). Often these can be found in electronics stores for as low as $10 - $20. Accuracy isn't paramount here, but if you buy a better meter, you'll never regret it later (there's always a use for a good multimeter). Pen shaped meters are ok, but meters with wire leads are preferred because they keep your hands more isolated from the work area.

Add several tablespoons of salt or baking soda to the bucket water to insure conductivity (fresh water is almost completely non-conductive and will hinder the test). Carefully ground one meter lead (If you don't have access to grounded metal electrical conduit, the screws on outlet covers are usually grounded but PLEASE be careful!). With the jethead submerged in the bucket and turned on, observe what the meter reads with the second meter lead in the air (it should read near zero) and when you submerge the lead in the water (it should read the same as it did in the air or very close). If you see a significant increase in voltage when you submerge the lead, you've found a bad jethead.

Be sure to test both jetheads, as well as your heater. What Diana said is correct, junk any failed equipment immediately. It's just not worth risking the life of your fish, or more importantly YOUR life.
In all honesty, if it was my tank I would have already replaced all three items, despite the hit to my budget.
Thanks for the help. I will try this soon.
Diana wrote:As an alternative power head look into the Koralia product line. More water movement for less electricity.
More difficult to add any sort of filtering sponge, though.
I will look into them thanks.
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by glenna » Mon Jun 04, 2012 10:06 pm

it just seems strange to me that only one fish in the tank would be affected by stray voltage. If there were random shocks, wouldn't you think it would do that to ALL The fish?
Makes me think there may be some other issue going on in the tank,,,maybe bullying by another fish or fishes? social issues within a group could cause a fish to be stressed. I do not know if that would result in clamped fins.
glenna

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LoachOrgy
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by LoachOrgy » Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:31 pm

Yeah I have no experience with it. I was talking an aquarium guy that cleans the office tank. He said that might be it but he wasn't sure. I was explaining to him what I did.

That is why I started the thread. I haven't had the time to get the meter yet. The initial symptoms were scraping and clamped fins. I treated with an anti parasitic medication De-Los one treatment for 4 weeks(recommended dose). It did not work. I waited a few weeks. I did a different anti parasitic treatment to see if this one would work. The 2nd treatment called Prazipro seemed to work. The fish stopped clamping and scraping. The fish would swim up and down the tank as if back to normal. So I placed the fish back in the main tank. Later that evening the fish was clamping again. But the fish is more active, swims with the other fish, eats with the other fish and swims at the top of the tank up and down. He/she definitely has more energy so that is a good thing.

The only feedback I have received so far is stray voltage. I read around on the internet about it and it sounded similar to what I felt when I stuck my finger in the water. Although, I really don't know what the problem is. I am still trying to figure this out. Its ongoing.
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by LoachOrgy » Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:40 pm

I was able to pickup a multi meter today. I set the setting to 200V on ACV. I hope this is correct. I placed 3 tablespoons of iodized salt into the bucket then plugged each piece of electrical equipment into the bucket and did the test one at a time. One lead was placed against the screw on the wall socket. the other lead was placed into the bucket with running jethead/ heater ect. when one lead is placed against the screw and the other placed into the water when the bucket is empty, there is a reading of 0.00. The reading of the lead on the wall and in the air is reading 0.0 or 0.1.

When I placed jethead 1 into the water the reading jumped to 7

When i placed jethead 2 into the water the reading jumped to 9.

When I placed the heater in the water the reading jumped to 42.6.

The reading for the heater is so high that freaked me out a little. I had a faulty heater before and this is another apparently. Although this brand comes highly recommended.

Thank you for your help. If this is the case, then it seems all the equipment is faulty?

Can that be? Id like to test this on a brand new jet head and see the results to compare.

The jetheads were only submerged into the water enough to put the spout under the water. The heater was placed compeltly under the water.
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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by DainBramage1991 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:15 pm

The 7 and 9 volt readings are low enough that they could be induced voltage, likely harmless. If they were mine I would keep an eye on them (check them periodically to see if that voltage reading changes drastically), but not be too worried. To be clear, an induced voltage is NOT due to insulation breakdown, rather it is due to the sensitive nature of digital meters and electromagnetic coupling (insert scientific explanation here). You can do the same test in your tank, to see what your fish are dealing with. My loach tank measures 25v, of that my submersible heater contributes 5v (10v when on), and my HOB contributes a whopping 16v and the other 4v is ambient. This is all induced voltage, I've tested all of the equipment and it's perfectly safe.

Your heater is a different story, and is certainly exposing you and your fish to potentially lethal voltages (I know, it's the current that kills, but increasing the voltage makes it easier for the current to do just that). Your reading of 42v tells me that you likely have a hot-side insulation breakdown, and that your heater should be tossed into the garbage, NOW. For all intents and purposes, your tank is plugged directly into the power outlet, via that faulty heater.

I've heard horror stories (like this one) when it comes to expensive, brand name heaters, and I've seen the cheapest throwaway heaters last for years without a fault. I won't recommend a brand to you, but from my own experience I think that simple heaters work best and last the longest.

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Re: Stray Voltage: Grounding Rod or GFCI Experience?

Post by LoachOrgy » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:41 pm

I really appreciate all your help.

Even with all of this equipment removed from the tank, the striata is still clamping fins. Poor little guy.

I will put the jetheads back in the tank but I believe I will place them at the top of the tank with only the portion of the intake submerged. I will go ahead and order a new heater soon. The room temperature here in the tropics stays around 78 degrees so they should be fine for the time being. I doubt it will freeze anytime soon in this 92 degree heat lol..

I will run a test on the tank to see if there are any issues or what the exact voltage is. Also, with the two jetheads reading a similar voltage I figured they may be ok having that close reading. But I needed a 2nd opinion as I know very little about electricity other than Physics 1 and 2 in college.
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