This is a hot topic of debate. Whether it’s on forums, Social Media groups or a question we often have asked in store. Aquarium Controllers/Monitoring Systems – are they worth it?
It often seems that your Marine Aquarium is like a never-ending money pit. Especially after all that previous investment into the fundamentals: Lighting, Return Pumps, Flow Pumps, Heating & Cooling. This part of the Project really does need some discussion and some understanding.
When I was a hobbyist in my younger days, I had plenty of free time on my hands. This was due to a relatively undemanding job. The time I had to devote my energy into a single, low demand Reef Aquarium was plentiful. I focused on honing my skills in the hobby. I would read and research everything I could and take quality advice as often as it was available. Very frequently, I would test my water. Either with Salifert Test kits, the (then) newly emerging Seachem Kits or Red Sea Test kits. I was the ‘Aquarium Controller’ so to speak. I made the minor changes or adjustments on a daily or weekly basis. And just as well, as there was very little available that could otherwise do these jobs for me.
Pinpoint Monitors were probably the first useful supplementary testers. This was followed by one or two early attempts to break into this market thereafter. In fact, we didn’t think to use something digital to monitor our ‘slice of reef’ back then. Fast-Forward to today. We are now at a point where there’s so many brands offering choice in the Digital Monitoring/Testing Market. Neptune Systems, Reef Factory, Hanna Instruments, Xepta and Focustronic are to name but a few. With what’s available on the market, and from customer reports, its clear that hobbyists find these products useful. But, are they for you?
Firstly, Lifestyle really dictates this choice, as of course does your budget. If the demands of your Aquarium are pushing you to the edge, the basics of just Alkalinity/KH Monitoring by a Reef Factory KH Keeper Plus will get you off to a good start. Or even an Entry-Level Control and Monitoring Package, such as the Neptune Systems Apex . These Monitoring Systems will also keep you informed about your Aquarium from anywhere in the world. Whether that’s by either email or ‘Push’ notifications via the Manufacturer’s App(s). Is it just me, or does everything seem like it has an app today?.
The beauty of many of these Aquarium Control/Monitoring Devices are that they can grow with you and your Aquarium. These can provide you with what’s necessary at first, straight out of the box, but with the possibilities of adding further, more in-depth Control and Monitoring Devices to the basic system that’s already in place. For example Neptune Systems offer elements of control for a variety of aspects. Power Monitoring is ideal for detecting Power Cuts whilst your away from the Aquarium. It also stems into Leak Detection, Heating/Cooling and Automatic Feeders. KH/Calcium/Magnesium Monitoring/Dosing and much, much more. In addition to this, Reef Factory has a never-ending range of peripheral accessories to add to the ‘SmartReef’ App. Other Brands like Focustronic and Xepta’s Autobalance prefer to concentrate on the chemistry-side of Monitoring.
All of these machines add extra value and protection to your valuable livestock. But, these machines aren’t going to lead to you needing to do nothing from here-on-in, once installed. Like any piece of technically sensitive electronic equipment, they will need maintenance, the occasional replacement of spare parts, and cleaning. So whilst they may save you some time, you will need to ‘monitor’ the Monitoring Equipment itself occassionally. It’s also important to note that cross-referencing the ‘Tech’ with the liquid Test Kits that you learnt with is vital. It will ensure that everything’s intact before you make that holiday or business trip away.
When considering your purchase, an important question to consider is: what aftersales support is offered alongside? Fortunately most companies offer great support streams to customers, whether via Social Media groups/Facebook Pages, Email Support Forms and Forums to name a few, but some offer way more. If you’re not very technically minded (like myself), this choice is very important as some offer way more assistance than others. it goes without saying that this should be a vital part of your research before purchase, as Retailers often can’t offer support on something they can’t see ‘hooked’/attached to your tank.
More often than not, to determine and/or identify an issue the kit needs to be seen running or in action. Neptune Fusion’s RMA Support is unrivalled in the industry, with a dedicated team operating the Support side of things. the RMA System offers quick response times, usually within 24hrs (it’s worth bearing in mind that the guys at Neptune are based in the States so operate several hours different in their time zone to us here in the UK). Likewise, Reef factory’s Support Team are very quick too. However, all the Brands listed above will (at the very least) be on hand to deal with you direct, either via Email Support or a Social Media Group.
So should you invest in Aquarium Monitoring Systems? If funds allow, then yes.
As your system grows, and the animals contained reach a point where chemistry is fluctuating or you’ve found yourself in a position of ‘not enough hours in the day’, then a solution like the aforementioned products could really make the difference between a thriving reef, over a heavily labour-intense Reef Aquarium.
If you feel you would like to discuss further options for your Reef Aquarium, then get in touch with a member of staff via our email: [email protected].
Paul, AAC MD.