Okay Google. Siri what’s happening? Alexa, turn off my lights.
It’s 2018, and whilst were not quite at the year 3000 (Busted fans rejoice), we are living in a technological master age where pretty much anything with an electrical current can be controlled remotely via the internet, voice or some kind of technical wizardry.
We can control most of our home appliances now, if we so desired, kettles, washing machines, ovens, many are now sold with built in WIFI. Our TV’s and Computers are now smarter than ever and my home especially is fast becoming a place where its easier to ask Alexa to perform a task for me than it is for me to physically perform it myself.
Okay this can be perceived as lazy, sure, but time is money and so if i can perform a 60 second task in 5, over the course of my day and week, this is valuable time saved.
It goes without saying that if we can automate, control and monitor just about every device at home with the power of technology that we can almost count certainty on our reef tanks being controllable too.
Aquarium Controllers and monitors have been around for some time, adopted by some as necessity and seen by others as luxury, some even considering them a waste, but do we really understand the power at our disposal.
Let’s look at the Seneye Reef device. An inexpensive aquarium monitor (£99 in the UK). that will alert you via email and text message to things like a drop in water height, PH, Temp, Oxygen and Ammonia increases or decreases. How useful could this really be? If you’r away from home, or even at home but engrossed in the TV, if your heater stuck on, how quickly could you fix it? Well if you didn’t even know it was happening probably not very quickly!
Home smart plugs are now too really a thing! You can download Smartphone applications or link them to your Amazon Dot/Echo, Google Home or Apples Siri Homekit allowing you to by the touch of a button or a quick spoken command turn off an outlet at the wall. So now not only will devices like the Seneye tell you your temperature is raising to dangerous levels, but suddenly you can also now tell the heater (if controlled by a smart plug) to turn off.
Corrective action from anywhere in the world. Amazing.
Even more advanced controllers exist with offerings from companies like GHL and Neptune Systems.
Let’s take a look at the Neptune Systems Apex for example.
Several years ago, I owned zero controller for my aquarium. Everything was ‘dumb’. I has to manually flick switches and open the cupboard door to check my temperature was okay or for overflowing and filling skimmer cups. Many accidents and faulty bits of equipment later, i ended up with a Neptune Apex.
My Neptune Apex can now do a whole host of wonderful things that improve the success of my hobby and give me the peace of mind. For example ..
If my return pump turns off for any reason whatsoever, power cut, damage, blockage, whatever .. it also shuts off my Skimmer to prevent the cup from overflowing. Then when power is restored, the pump will automatically turn back on AND it adds a delay to my skimmer coming back, on allowing my sump level to lower to normal operating height before finally restarting the skimmer and resuming operation. This itself is one of the most basic levels of programming, but a fine example of what i can do.
I can also programme feed modes where i can at the touch of a single button, or a spoken command (more in a minute) i can instruct the tank to be fed, pumps can be set to slow down to a particular rate (or off entirely), return pumps can be set to off, the tank lights can come to a set intensity, skimmers can be set to off, filter rolls can be bypassed, all to allow corals and fish to feed, and then in a designated period of time it will all automatically revert to normal, meaning if i forget to turn it back on OR i’m called away on an emergency, the tank can go back to taking care for itself.
Thinking about it, id need some serious hours to sit here and list the examples as the reality is the options are simply endless but this automation makes my life ALOT easier, and surely much more convenient.
In recent weeks companies have been working hard to begin to integrate smart home devices like the Amazon Dot or Echo into communicating with our reef tank tech. I can now sit beside my aquarium conducting maintenance with wet hands and I can simply say ”Alexa, ask Apex fusion to turn off the skimmer”. Voila, she’s off, my hands remain wet and no plug nor human is damaged in the process (water and electrics don’t mix well).
Reality is, no matter what our opinion of this technology is, or how desperate or resistant we are to development, 2018 technology and reef tank automation does help us to up our game. We can programme as much or as little as we want, and so if we enjoy doing certain tasks by hand, then we continue to do those, if there are things we want to speed along, we can do that too.
Imagine being out of the house and the return line comes off and your return pump starts squirting water onto your living room floor like an arterial bleed. How do you explain down the phone to your panic loved one who’s home and you’re not how to find the correct return pump plug and shut it off? It’s far easier to instruct them to say ”Alexa, ask Apex Fusion to turn off the return pump”. Again Voila!
By nature, humans can be a bit resistant to change, and thats ok, we are nervous and creatures of habit. But imagine the realms of possibility if we allow our minds to be opened to the technology thats being developed and presented to us.
2018 is an incredibly exciting time to be a reef keeper, particularly for those with a passion for gadgets! To what level will you take it? Home plugs, a Seneye or are you a full on Neptune Control Freak?!
If you want to learn more about Reef Tank technology, take a look at this Neptune Systems video where Terence visits the Steinhart Aquarium in California and meets with Senior Biologist Richard Ross to find out how this tank tech is allowing them to simulate coral spawning and carry out pivotal research to the hobby sustainability.
As a lifelong adult hobbyist, making it almost 15 years in the making, Danny has been keeping Saltwater for quite some time. As one of the biggest passions in his life in 2014 he combined that with his second biggest passion, photography and videography.