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I know I'm probably going to get flamed for this, but I use an ordinary heating pad underneath my bowls. My fish are incredibly happy & healthy. I set the pad on "low" and keep a thermometer in the bowls to make sure it stays around 78-80F. (They can tolerate 74-86 easily, but seem to prefer more around 78-80). You just have to be sure to get the kind that doesn't have the "auto off" after 2 hrs. I couldn't find that type in any store, but they are $12.99 on Amazon.com (Sunbeam brand).
Good luck, and keep in mind when you read all the other comments that are going to come in after this that there are many different opinions/methods of keeping fish, and they can all be "right" for different people. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
 

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A 25w adjustable, submersible heater is a lot safer and accurate, without the risk of electric shock should it somehow become covered in water.

I won't flame, but I think a heating pad is a foolish idea. I just purchased a 25w and a 75/100w (don't recall offhand, but it's for 20-30gal tanks, temporarily in my sorority, their old heater in a 6gal boy tank, until I can set up a breeding tub, at which time I will purchase a second 25w or 100w). The smaller was 15 dollars, the larger was 23 dollars.

I would absolutely not advise an external heating pad. They can burn people as it is, I would not trust it for my fish. Some people, like the poster above, may use them, but I believe it's an accident waiting to happen.
 

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I have used heating pads on my reptiles and never had a problem. If you, use a heating make sure to keep large amounts of water off of it. And, definitely keep an eye out for the temps.
 

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Certainly any man-made heating element could malfunction, whether an external heating pad or a submersible heater. You can find all over this forum people whose submersible tank heaters have malfunctioned and their fish have died. I don't think an external heating pad is at any higher or lower risk of this, in fact since the pad/cord is not moved at all during water changes I think it is safer than taking a heater in & out twice a week. Now if all you have is one tank, then certainly a submersible heater is the way to go. But, if you have 7 individual containers like I do, I can put 3 on each king-sized pad and 2 on the regular sized ones. Also, getting small amounts of water on them is no problem since they are completely sealed and enclosed in a waterproof cover.
 

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Certainly any man-made heating element could malfunction, whether an external heating pad or a submersible heater. You can find all over this forum people whose submersible tank heaters have malfunctioned and their fish have died. I don't think an external heating pad is at any higher or lower risk of this, in fact since the pad/cord is not moved at all during water changes I think it is safer than taking a heater in & out twice a week. Now if all you have is one tank, then certainly a submersible heater is the way to go. But, if you have 7 individual containers like I do, I can put 3 on each king-sized pad and 2 on the regular sized ones. Also, getting small amounts of water on them is no problem since they are completely sealed and enclosed in a waterproof cover.
Of course anything can malfunction. That isn't the point. An item not designed for being around water has a higher risk from getting wet than something that is designed to be in water. You never know what can happen. Dropping the water bucket, a tank or bowl breaking, even if you think it's not possible, could have much more severe consequences from a heating pad than from a tank heater. Waterproof does not mean watertight. I now have 4 tanks, and each has a submersible heater. I would never set any of them on a heating pad, especially after my 10gal started leaking.
 

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I even thought of an idea where if I had multiple tanks ( Kritter Keepers, 2 gallon bowls) building a rack system and running heat tape underneath the tanks connected to a thermostat.

SwimmR it would definitely work.
 

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I think either would work personally and run about the same risk of failure/malfunction. I can think of lot of bad reasons to use a submersible heater just as well as a pad heater. The thing is getting a set up that keeps the water temp preferably 78-82*and stable. If heater pads work for you then buy them and if a submersible works for you then buy them. There is more than one way to skin a cat as the saying goes. Get a thermometer no matter which one you go with though. That way if something goes awry you can be alerted before your fish let you know that they are cold.
 
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