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Tropical fish aquariums in the news...

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Woah. But also LOL because there is some very clear tongue in cheek writing here. 

I know @Cory has frequently spoken in favor of a greener hobby with less heating, and there seems to be a shift to less water changes for the environment. I took his positive comments about fish farms in the middle east (and also in europe generally) to heart. But it's interesting to see it all converted into carbon emission costs (not actual CO2 expelled by respiring fish, as I thought when I started reading it). Also a bit sad to still see the goldfish bowl concept promoted. 

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I see some serious oversight in the article.  No consideration is given to how electrical use might be offsetting other more carbon intensive energy consumption.

The carbon emissions from electrical use of an aquarium is vanishingly small in any area where home heating is necessary…. In Maine there are maybe 4 months out of the year that homes do not need some environmental heating.

During those months, the aquarium heaters are not running…

Many who are concerned about net carbon emissions are advocating we electrify everything…. Well the heat give off by my aquariums is reducing the fossil fuels being combusted in the basement boiler to keep my living unit warm…

I keep the thermostat set at 60 F in the winter.  15.5 C.  I keep three tanks in my bedroom which is insulated very well. R-30 walls, ceiling, floor.  I sit in there in my recliner and enjoy my aquariums and the room is a delightful 74 F, 23 C.  My electric bill is under $60.00 a month for 214 killowatt hours a month…  the three tanks and my dehumidifier consume about 2 killowatt hours a day.  My refrigerator consumes a killowatt hr a day by itself.


At some point in time, I can install solar panels and not use any grid electricity for the tank…  8, 100 watt panels would take care of it all by itself with power to spare…  Here in Maine our grid electricity is over 70% from renewables… Currently my investments in reducing carbon emissions are more effectively spent elsewhere.

I am waiting for the environmental activists to shine the spotlight on the incredibly high carbon footprint from marijuana cultivation that was legalized here in Maine…  Tropical aquarium fishkeeping absolutely pales in comparison.  the indoor grow facilities are heated to near 90 degrees 365 days a year, high intensity lighting high co2 supplementation.   Nary a peep about it…   Chirping crickets…

I found the article sorely lacking in objectively and honestly accounting for “true” carbon costs.  It may be intellectual dishonesty or it could just be laziness or oversight…


edited in order to be kinder and gentler in my response…

Edited by Pepere
Edited to soften response and be kinder and gentler.
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On 7/13/2023 at 1:06 PM, Pepere said:

the heat give off by my aquariums is reducing the fossil fuels being combusted in the basement boiler to keep my living unit warm…

I just... I don't...


Okay I'm taking this as a personal learning opportunity... I assumed that the electricity that heats your tank @Pepere would likely have a coal or natural gas origin (meaning heating the aquarium wouldn't actually save any fuel use in the bigger picture), but I'm the kind of person who prefers research over assumptions (weird, right?). So I ask Professor Google, where does Maine's electricity come from? Lo and behold, it's 72% renewable (which includes wood and wood-fired sources, which I dispute as being renewable, but that's a different convo). Kudos to you Maine! 🥂

So @Pepere, your task, if you accept it, is to fill all the space in your house with electrically heated aquariums, so that your heating costs from fuel/oil will drop to zero. Nothing less than the fate of the planet is on your shoulders. 

Also, who exactly are the Greens? 👽

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Over 70% of the electricity in Maine is renewable.  Only 27% is fossil fuel, predominantly nat gas.  No coal is burned in Maine to make electricity though some out of state electricity generated with coal gets purchased at times.  A small amount of fuel oil for Cousins Island Wyman generating facility which pretty much only runs when it is  really, really cold.  Like single numbers cold F.

The issue I take with this article is it takes the electrical consumption as additive with no consideration of the fossil fuel use it is offsetting.  All of the electricity consumed by an aquarium is dissipated as heat energy..,  without question that reduces the other sources of heat needed to keep a living unit heated. Every  killowatt of electricity consumed running a fish tank turns in to 3,500 btus of heat.  It always goes from an area of higher heat to one of lower heat, which is the living space.  It is disingenuous to not include that offsetting in calculations.  If the house is heated with resistive electrical heating elements it is a 1 for 1 offsett of CO2.  If the unit is heated with fossil fuel, it is a net benefit  here in Maine where so little of our electrical supply is fossil fuel based.

You may not view wood as a renewable resource, but it is waste wood that is being combusted for electricity. If you leave that wood to rot it releases the same amount of co2 as burning it does or it decomposes anaerobically  releasing methane The fact is, I am not thrilled about the wood fired electrical generation either, but those in power did t ask me.

I have invested thousands of dollars reducing carbon footprint.  In 1999, I bought 6,000 gallons of heating oil to heat my house and commercial properties.  In 2022, I bought 2,300 gallons of heating oil to heat the same properties.  Every year I continue to invest about $4-5 K on reducing heat loss from properties and improving efficiency…  The goal is to reduce heat loss by about another 2/3s from current before then installing heat pumps for the heating.  By spending money on insulating first, I reduce the cost of the heat pumps necessary to heat the property dramatically…  Once all of that is done I will start putting in money to invest in solar panel installation.  I personally take reducing carbon footprint fairly seriously.  


Edited by Pepere
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Fwiw, here is the actual study that is being cited as well as some quotes.


In addition, the majority of CO2eq produced from tropical fishkeeping is generated from the energy consumption of aquarium equipment and as more national electricity grids begin to decarbonize, this estimate should decrease.”

The study goes on to estimate the carbon cost of heating the water by calculating heat loss in to the tank. It makes some accounting how demand might be somewhat lower due to the room warming up from the aquarium use…. But no consideration is given to the value of the aquarium heat loss offsetting other carbo costs of heating the house..  It calculates the energy consumption of the lights and pumps, but makes no allowance for the heat gain to the living space from these sources.  Unless light escapes your living space through windows, all the energy consumed by the lights eventually converts to heat when the photons stop reflecting off surfaces and converts residual energy to heat.  Even the energy used to move water gets released as heat as frictional losses convert to heat…


later on, after the calculations are done, it does mention the very point I made…

”Despite the high energy usage of heating tropical aquarium water, the process of heating that water does have the possible beneficial side effect of acting as an electric radiator, providing a secondary benefit of heating a space, with electrification of home heating highlighted as a low-carbon solution in climate change action plans”

Exactly! All of the electrical energy consumed by the tank ends up contributing to the houses heating during heating season…zit is not a cumulative carbon cost but a replacement… unless you want to also turn off the heat for the winter…

Factoring  in the offset from heat benefit to ones home the co2 impact is easily overstated by a factor of 2-4 depending on the renewable content of your own electricity supply…. 

Edited by Pepere
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I call Manuretiae!  I don't think all of my aquariums combined consume the energy required to operate one display tank in the local Commercial Aquarium.  Additionally, most of the water and anything contained within said water is used twice, either by humidifying the room, which cuts energy consumption, or by recycling into house plant or garden water.  I sometimes wonder how much CO2 consumption is lost each time we pave over a field or woodland to build a strip mall that will remain underutilized.

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Doing some rough math. The study states a usage of a little over 4 killowatt hours per day on a 100 gallon marine tank

4 kilowatt hours per day will liberate 14,000 btus per day.  420,000 btus per month.

burning enough natural gas with a boiler efficiency of 80% will generate 58 killograms of CO2

Burning enough heating oil with a boiler efficiency of 80% will generate 77 killograms of CO2.

multiply that by the number of months you combust fossil fuels to heat your living space to figure out how much it offsets your carbon footprint.


at 6 months you are looking at 348 killograms for nat gas,   And 462 for heating oil…


They estimated 4 killowatt hrs per day would release 372.52kilograms of co2…..  and this is with electricity in the UK with roughly 42% renewable content…

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