Web cameras for home monitoring are nothing new but recently, the feature set and ease of use of the Dropcam series of IP cameras have made it incredibly simple to install and apply. We recently picked up the new Dropcam Pro for $199 and after installing it in a strategic location in the living room, we are astounded by how much we can see and monitor of our aquariums with just a single camera.
Listen, we love aquarium monitors and controllers as much as the next techie but this is a very quantitative way of knowing what your aquarium(s) is up to. With an aquarium controller, a lot of different devices, modules and sensors have to work well in order to know some basic things like aquarium pH, temperature, water level and a few other parameters. Ecotech Marine and Neptune Systems both understand the value of having an IP Camera to keep an eye on your precious little world of reef with both Ecosmart Live and Apex Fusion slated to have integration with popular IP cameras; the Apex Dashboard already includes it.
Using an advanced web camera like the Dropcam Pro, only two thing needs to work, the internet & camera, in order to get an at-a-glance qualitative overview of an aquarium. With the High Definition of the Dropcam Pro, we can easily zoom in to one of three marine aquariums on the ground floor, and there’s a wealth of information visible in a single short video clip.
The obvious thing to look for in a live web-feed of your home tanks is the quality of the water, how the fish are swimming and if the lights are on and water moving indicating proper function of the aquarium system. What we weren’t counting on is being able to see the protein skimmer cup and top off tanks to see how these ancillary devices are running.
Skimmer overflows and running out of top off water can lead to serious problems for your aquariums. If the skimmer is full and starts overflowing all over the place, the initial problem is waste going back into the aquarium water, and even worse if that overflow leaves the sump or happens to foam onto any electrical devices. The clear view offered by the Dropcam Pro allows us to monitor these behaviors of the aquarium automation and to catch issues well before they arise into serious problems.
In our case we were able to place a small mirror in such a way as to keep an eye on an aquarium located behind the Dropcam’s ever watchful eye. The Dropcam Pro is not necessarily an aquarium device but it really should be sold in LFS. It’s so easy to set up, pretty affordable, and it even has two-way talk so you can instruct your aquarium babysitter as to how to make adjustments or fixes as you are watching them on screen, be it your laptop or mobile device.
If you’ve at all been considering a webcam for your reef tank, consider the Dropcam or Dropcam Pro. They’re so easy to set up and install, we probably spent more time picking a location to mount it than actually fiddling with any on-screen instruction. The wealth of information from a single camera feed is well worth the investment so much so, that we are even considering picking up another one to keep an eye on the rest of the tanks in the fishroom.