Cable management might be the least talked about aspect of setting up and maintaining an aquarium. Cable management is sometimes difficult to explain and is optional to run a fish tank. However, effectively managing your cables is essential for easy maintenance and safety. In this article, we are going to talk about drip loops. What are they, why should you use them, what are the risks of not using them, and how do you use them? AlgaeBarn is here to answer all of your questions.
What are drip loops?
When setting up equipment for an aquarium, inexperienced hobbyists often plug in the cord without a second thought. While this is okay with your phone charger or TV, it is different when working with water.
A drip loop is a simple way to prevent water from traveling down the cord and into the outlet. Instead of the cable going straight to the outlet, drip loops have the cable go below the outlet before coming back up. The cord often has a U shape.
Why you should use drip loops
Drip loops are a vital cable management practice to avoid water getting into a power outlet. The goal is to keep the water inside the tank, but water always finds a way out. Sometimes, it’s just little splashes from your sump or drips from your hands after doing maintenance. Other times, it’s an overflowing skimmer. Whatever the reason, it is wise to assume that water will likely get out of the tank and onto your cables. If this does happen, gravity will pull the water down the cable until it reaches the base. Without a drip loop, the bottom of the cable is the outlet. Getting water in electrical outlets is not something to underestimate. It would be best if you avoided this. Fortunately, drip loops make it easy to do so.
What happens if water gets into an outlet
Before we discuss how to use drip loops, let’s discuss some of the risks of not using them. Let’s say you just set up a new aquarium. You have a power head, a light, a heater, and an HOB (hang-on-the-back) skimmer. All of them are plugged into a power strip mounted to the wall. It is maintenance day, and you have to do a water change. When you are filling the tank up, some water splashes out and gets on the cable for the power head. The water travels down the cable to your outlet. What happens? First, it can cause the power head to short out, potentially causing permanent damage. Second, it could cause the other equipment to short out as well. Just the heater and the power head can short out. This is the best-case scenario for safety, but you may not notice that the heater is shorted out until all fish and corals are freezing. There is also a possibility that all of the equipment becomes damaged, costing you a lot of money. A drip loop is not just a safety feature. It also protects your equipment and aquarium inhabitants.
However, the most significant risks are safety risks. Water in an electrical outlet could result in an electrical fire, which is dangerous for obvious reasons. There is also the risk of shocking yourself when adjusting equipment or simply putting your hands in the water.
An aquarium is supposed to be fun, not a safety threat. You can avoid these risks by implementing simple drip loops.
How to use drip loops
Are you convinced that you need to use drip loops? Okay, good. Now, let’s talk about how to use drip loops.
Most aquarium equipment has a little picture of a drip loop in the directions. In the image, the equipment is in the aquarium with a cable hanging over the glass panel and then looping below the outlet before it is plugged in. While this accurately describes a drip loop, it is only sometimes applicable. Most aquariums have more than one piece of equipment, which means using a power strip. A lot of time, power strips are on the floor. Do not do this. If you use a power strip, mount it on the wall or the aquarium stand’s side. This makes it easy to ravel excess cable before plugging it in. Ensure the raveled-up cord hangs below the outlet, effectively creating the drip loop.
Another thing to consider when using a power strip is its orientation. If you can, you should mount the power strip horizontally instead of vertically. Horizontal power strips eliminate the risk of water dripping onto the cables below. If you can’t do this, ensure the drip loop occurs a bit before the outlet. Have the cable extend a bit from the outlet and then loop it down.
It is easy to tell you to “loop” the cable down, but cables don’t typically work that way. It can be challenging to get cables to stay in place. To solve this issue, you should use a combination of zip ties and cable hooks or straps that can be attached to a surface. These items will not only make drip loops easier but will also make cable management as a whole more straightforward.
Setting up drip loops for your equipment may take some time, but it is well worth it. Remember that the goal is to dip the cable below the outlet, preventing water from reaching it.
Other cable management and electrical tips
You can do a few extra things to improve your cable management and electrical safety. First, if you can, set up your cables in a way that allows you to unplug the equipment quickly and remove it from the aquarium. Doing so will make maintenance less of a hassle. Of course, you still need to implement the drip loop. Second, consider using a GFCI power strip and GFCI outlets. GFCI outlets will significantly reduce the risks, even when using a drip loop tool. GFCI outlets reduce the dangers of stray voltage, which can be harmful.
We would also like to take a moment to mention that one of our favorite features on the CADE Aquarium systems is their power management feature. The CADE Aquarium systems provide a control board which is mounted on the inside of the cabinet. On the outside, the reef keeper can access and control the equipment by flipping a switch. CADE’s design keeps our electrical equipment secure and dry.
The point of this article isn’t to scare you. You can quickly negate all of the mentioned risks by using drip loops and GFCI outlets. Implementing these safety features is relatively easy and well worth it. Keep your aquarium experience safe.