The power is out. How many hours does your tank have? UPS vs. DC battery backup!

A battery back-up can be used to keep your pumps and/or powerheads running inside your aquarium during a power outage. This ensures the water stays oxygenated keeping your fish and other water breathing animals alive through the power failure.

During a power outage, your filtration and pumps stop working. The temperature will start to slowly drop but the most immediate threat is going to be lack of oxygen. The fish inside your tank will use up the dissolved oxygen quite quick, likely under an hour depending on the water volume and the particular animals inside the tank.

Tang with scuba gear

The way aquarists avoid suffocating the fish is to keep the tank water moving with a water pump, powerhead or air stone. Moving the water will constantly expose the water molecules to the surface, promote healthy gas exchange and keep the oxygen levels stable for your fish.

Battery options we tested

EcoTech Marine offers a battery back-up designed specifically for use with their DC powered aquarium pumps. Some of you are probably already considering one of the UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) battery back-ups for computers. Both of these battery options will work but which one will last longer?

We also aim to evaluate the investment cost for each to see if it is really worth the expense in terms of protecting your tank from a power failure.

Battery test setup in BRS lab

The Experiment

We chose to test our battery back-ups using the most popular aquarium powerhead, EcoTech Marine’s MP10 VorTech pump. We picked up three different battery back-up options and set up a side by side test to see how long each battery could power the pump.

The first obvious difference aside from the price is the weight of these batteries. The 1500AVR is the largest at 23.79 lbs, the 900AVR weighs 21.76 lbs and the EcoTech Battery is much smaller and only weighs 14.78 lbs.

Killawatt meter with EcoTech MP10

The test we performed was simple. First, we wanted to know exactly how much power the MP10 pump draws under normal use so we tested it using a Kill-a-Watt meter which showed a steady 18 watts at full power.

We set the pumps to operate at 100% power in constant speed mode and filmed a timelapse to record how long it took until the driver lights went out and the pump propellers stopped moving water.

MP10 battery run time results

The Results

Immediately after pulling the power, the two MP10s plugged into the UPS battery backups continued to run at 100% in constant speed more which means they used the full 18 watts of power through the entire test.

The VorTech MP10 connected to the EcoTech battery, however, automatically switched over to Battery Backup Mode when we pulled the plug. The driver LEDs dim and the pump speed automatically reduces to 20% of the maximum speed which we measured using the Kill-a-Watt as well prior to testing at only 4-5 watts of power draw. One big bonus for the EcoTech Battery Back-Up!

Here are the results of the total run time for each of the batteries.

  • CyberPower 1500AVR - 5.25 hours
  • CyberPower 900AVR - 5.75 hours
  • EcoTech Marine Battery Back-up - 81.5 hours

These results raise a few questions about UPS battery backups and make a really compelling case for EcoTech Marine.

UPS battery back ups

Why would the higher volt amp and wattage UPS battery fail before the smaller battery?

The UPS systems are not designed to run small 18 watt pumps and require an inverter to invert the energy from DC to AC power before powering your pump. This inverter sucks up energy during the inversion and the larger 900 watt inverter simply pulled more electricity to do this draining the battery quicker even with it’s larger capacity.

This is some valuable knowledge for those of you thinking about a UPS battery back-up. The higher wattage UPS systems which are almost always more expensive may not actually be the best choice for protecting your tank. This is something we may circle back to in the future in order to figure out how we can look at the battery size compared to inverter size when choosing a UPS backup.

This inverter or the lack thereof is also the reason we see such long-lasting power from the EcoTech battery. The DC VorTech pump can run directly off the power from the battery meaning an inverter is not required. Even without the special battery back-up mode that drops the VorTech down to 20% power, you still would experience a much longer run time.

Reef scale

Are the costs of these backups worth it when protecting your tank?

This gets an 8 out of 10 since a battery backup of any kind is always worth the investment, however, there are some clear choices as to where your dollars will be best spent.

Need a more affordable option for saving your tank during a power outage? Check out Ryan’s video - Cheap way to save your aquarium in a power outage | How To Tuesday

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