June 28, 2013, 1:00 p.m. EDT
By David Lass
In the past the aquarium hobby / industry was not always that eager to embrace new technologies from other industries. Today the situation is very different, and aquariums are rapidly coming into the age of the latest electronics and methods. In just the past year or so we are seeing a variety of new monitors and controllers that allow the aquarium hobbyist to monitor, and control, his or her aquarium from their smart phone; actually they can do these from anyplace where they can get on the Internet.
Being somewhat of a Luddite myself, I have not really kept up with these advances, but with some recent research I was called upon to do I came to appreciate what we can do nowadays. The top line monitors/controllers I looked at are very impressive. Not only can they monitor hundreds (even thousands) of points and parameters, but they can also control just about everything from the temperature and lighting to salinity and water level. One setup I saw at a good local fish store was monitoring a number of large marine/reef tanks for all of the standard parameters, as well as controlling the production of RO water, the addition of RO water if that was needed, or mixed saltwater if that was required. Perhaps the most important advantage of these new devices is that they serve, as one manufacturer put it, as an inexpensive insurance policy. The example he gave was that they have as an option that you can monitor for water on the floor, and if there is water the system sends a call to your smart phone alerting you. If the water level in the tank is also dropping, the device is "smart” enough to figure out that there is a problem, and it turns off all water feeding the tank. You can then turn on the camera over your tank, and see what is going on. Amazing.
The new high tech monitors and controllers are impressive, and they are being used by the high end hobbyists. The reef geeks are, of course, the first ones to adopt this technology, since (without being too much of a cynic) I think that these folks are always simply trying to see how much money they can spend on their hobby, and how quickly they can buy and use the latest toy. The new monitors/controllers do give the hobbyist the ability to keep better water conditions for their fish, but I have two concerns. First, I am concerned that these products are being sold all over the web, and the local fish store may not be able to compete on their sale. Second, there is this thought lurking in my head that I fear that hobbyists will spend most of their time flipping dials and switches and reading numbers off screens, and not watching their fish. All of the water parameters may be perfect, but knowing that does not seem as important as seeing that the new $50 wrasse you just bought is getting the snot kicked out of it by another fish.
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