Today we welcome the inaugural post from Terence Fugazzi who has built up quite a reputation as an experienced aquarium controller user. Terence is our go-to guy for all questions about electronic control and monitoring and we are delighted to have him join the writing team where he can specialize in topics pertaining to aquarium controllers.
When aquarium controllers first came around a number of years back (long before I was in the hobby), they were nothing more than glorified light timers. Soon after that, many new features were added but they were still mostly used only in the circles of tech-craving reef-geek. And, even now, many of the old-timers in this hobby are not running an aquarium controller. Well, the times they are a changin’ and the benefits of having an aquarium controller are growing all the time.
First, my soapbox:
One of the key things most people do not realize about having an aquarium controller is that it is like buying a little bit of insurance. How so? Well, some studies show that as much as 60% of all hobbyists will have a major catastrophe in a tank at some time.
Temperature control and monitoring is the best example where the “insurance” of a simple controller would cut down that statistic dramatically (just ask Tony Vargas). Probably the biggest contributor to people returning home to bio-soup is tank temperature that is out of range either due to a stuck heater or a failed AC in the home or business. With a controller, it would either cut power to the rogue heater, or in the case of a failed AC it would notify the owner by email or text that their tank was out of safe range with enough time for them to go and correct the situation.
Here, a $150 purchase could save thousands in livestock not to mention all the time and effort…it might even be that one thing that keeps someone in the hobby!
So how have things changed?
Well, three key things have happened in the last year or so that have made aquarium controllers more accessible for mainstream saltwater hobbyists. They are:
1.Ease of use – although still not challenge-free, aquarium controllers are much easier to set up and get running today than they were a few years back – especially when you factor in getting them to communicate to the outside world via the web, email or SMS.
2.The ubiquity of smart phones – the percentage of people who own smart phones in developed nations is over 50% – for the demographic profile of a reef hobbyist, that number is most likely as high as 80%. Now people can easily check in on their tank remotely and receive email notifications from the controller, anywhere in the world.
3.The cost of aquarium controllers has dropped dramatically. Up until this year, to get an internet-connected controller would cost you around $300 or more. Now you can get a system with four outlets, temperature control, and internet connectivity for just $149.
So, now that you know why you should have one (insurance) and I have shown that the key obstacles of the past have been overcome, you now are convinced you need to have an aquarium controller…but which one? That will be covered next in the series.