As with so many of us who have livestock and live in regions where cold winter temperatures pose a challenge in keeping water troughs thawed. For so many of us the default has been to place a 1000 – 1500 watt heater in the stock tank which does a wonderful job. However, when you have many pens of animals and therefore many stock tank heaters, you can almost watch the electric meter spin as your electric bill increases day by day. At one time I wrapped several of our large 300 gallon galvanized tanks with a flexible foam material and covered much of the top with a board leaving a space for animals to drink from. This did reasonably well but posed some challenges when it came time to clean the tank.
One day as I looked out into our backyard, which has a pond with a submerged aerator, I came up with an idea. The stream of bubbles from the aerator keep the pond from completely freezing over leaving a central open area. I then decided to apply that principal to our tanks. While I first tried a farm wide system with a single large air pump and a set of distribution air lines, I have more recently gone to placing an inexpensive (about $12) aquarium pump in an enclosed, protected container near each tank with air lines and stones submerged on the bottom of the tank.
While the aerator and attached air stones will be sufficient if temperatures are in the 20’s, I usually also provide a submerged 250 or 500 watt heater that I place close to the air stones. A dual output aquarium pump works better than a single one.
We have had subzero temps several days so far and this has done amazingly well. While the attached heaters do add to our electric bill, the total usage is far less than when we have the larger 1000-1500 watt heaters. Also, if animals chew on these air lines and stock tank heater cords, take an old piece of garden hose and slice it lengthwise. Place the air lines and/or cord inside the hose and use intermittent pieces of electrical tape wrapped around it to hold it together and protect the lines. – DDH in OH