Regular Saltwater Smarts visitors are well aware that I’m not exactly what you’d call “tech-savvy” or an “early adopter” when it comes to the latest gadgetry (though I am intrigued by this newfangled doohickey the kids call an “eight-track player”—it’s gonna be yuuuge!). So, it should come as no surprise that I take a pretty low-tech approach to the marine aquarium hobby.
Nothing in my system is really automated (unless you count the timer on my lights), and I don’t use a lot of devices beyond your basic heater, protein skimmer, and submersible pumps. And, until very recently, I monitored all my water parameters the way God intended—using a hydrometer, floating thermometer, and various and sundry colorimetric test kits.
I tell people that I like to keep things natural, but the truth of the matter is, my lone functioning brain cell has always struggled with technology and figuring out how the various components of a high-tech system interconnect (how I managed to finish Air Force Crypto School with high marks back in the day is anybody’s guess!).
So, when Nathan Levine, founder of Current Labs, asked me to beta test their new FishBit monitor and controller, I was a bit apprehensive. How embarrassing would it be if I had to admit I couldn’t figure the thing out or, much worse, if I somehow damaged the unit by installing it upside down or…I don’t know…accidentally swallowing it? But after hearing that FishBit is specifically designed to be easy, trouble-free, and intuitive for people like me (analog folks trapped in a digital world), I felt somewhat reassured and agreed to give it a try.
FishBit allows you to monitor key water parameters in real time as well as control multiple aquarium devices, such as your lights, pumps, and heater, through an app on your smartphone or other device. You can also program the unit to send you important reminders, such as when it’s time to do water changes, dose additives, or what have you. Thus far, I’ve only experimented with the monitor component, so I’ll limit today’s discussion to that, but I look forward to trying the controller and sharing my impressions of it in a future post. [If you’re interested in learning more about FishBit, be sure to check out Episode 1 of Salt Speak.]
Having used the monitor for a few weeks now, my take on FishBit is that, for the most part, it truly is as easy to set up and use as the designers claim. Basically, the monitor goes inside your tank and connects via magnet to the BackPack power unit situated outside the tank (if you’ve ever used an algae magnet, you’ve got the idea). Then you just need to download the FishBit app to your phone or tablet and follow the steps outlined in the app (under the Settings icon) to connect the monitor to your Wi-Fi network.
I did run into one obstacle while trying to make this connection because in one of the steps, I mistakenly thought I was supposed to be in the Settings menu of the FishBit app but I was actually supposed to be in the Settings menu of the phone itself. But as soon as I got that cleared up (with a little nudge from CC), everything fell into place rather quickly and easily.
Once the Wi-Fi connection is made, data will begin to show up on your phone or other device for the first time within about 10 minutes. Thereafter, readings will be updated about every 5 minutes. The water levels that the unit tracks include temperature, salinity (expressed as specific gravity), and pH. I can see how some hobbyists might want to track additional data, but for me, a first-time aquarium monitor user, those values are perfectly adequate. I also love that I can now check my vital water parameters whenever and wherever I happen to be. It’s quite freeing!
So, as I mentioned, I’m now excited by the prospect of experimenting with the FishBit controller and all the different features that technology offers. Who knows, I might just abandon my Luddite ways and morph into a truly tech-savvy reefkeeper—just as soon as I can figure out how to set the clock on my VCR.
FishBit kicks off Kickstarter campaign!
Coincidentally, FishBit just took a big step beyond beta testing today with the official launch of their production version on Kickstarter. Check it out here: