Protect Your Tank From Catastrophe - A Buyer's Guide To Being Prepared
Being a reef tank owner can weigh heavy on those of us who like to vacation or simply spend some time away from home because you never really know when something just might go wrong with the tank. Even the smallest of problems or neglected maintenance tasks can have a catastrophic effect on the health of your aquarium.
Say you forget to top off your aquarium for a few days, the salinity level will spike up, microbubbles can plague the display, and your sump water level can drop to the point the return pump runs dry and burns out.
What if your heater sticks ON and heats the aquarium water to a blistering 85° + degrees?
These are just two of the most common mistakes that plague aquarium owners and if we start to consider anomalous problems that are difficult to prepare for, the thought of leaving your aquarium even just for the day can be stressful.
How do I prepare for the worst you ask? Automation and control are the answer and with the added layer of constant monitoring, you can relax on the beach, snorkel over a wild reef, or hike any trail without worrying about your precious aquarium. In fact, a majority of the most common failures that lead to disaster can be avoided with just a few key pieces of equipment. You can also automate many of the major maintenance tasks which will alleviate the need for daily attention to the aquarium.
Aquarium Controllers and Monitoring Systems
Aquarium controllers like the Neptune Systems Apex or GHL Profilux are the #1 most valuable investment you can make to protect your aquarium from disaster. You can control all of your equipment then monitor that equipment as well as keep an eye on water quality from the convenience of your smartphone. Essentially turns your entire aquarium into a "smart" aquarium that is connected to the internet 24/7.
- Get notified when the power goes out
- Integrate leak detection
- Monitor pH, temperature, ORP, and Salinity
- Turn your equipment ON/OFF using your phone
- Create overflow protections
- Near limitless expansion capability
During a power outage, the most critical component of your aquarium will be the powerheads because moving water inside your aquarium maintains acceptable levels of dissolved oxygen. Without water movement, the fish will quickly use all of the dissolved oxygen and perish.
A battery backup attaches to your aquarium's powerheads and will keep them running during short power outages to move water and maintain dissolved oxygen levels. Alternatively, you can keep a battery-powered air pump on hand which can push air through an air stone to effectively move water and keep the aquarium oxygenated.
EcoTech Marine Vortech Battery Backup
IceCap Battery Backup V3
JBJ Maxum Battery Backup Air Pump
ATO - Automatic Top Off Systems
An ATO is one of the most convenient pieces of equipment for saltwater aquarists because it will automate the daily addition of freshwater to your aquarium. Most ATO systems have built-in redundancies to protect your tank against an overfill and so long as you keep your freshwater reservoir full of water, the ATO will keep your salinity and water level stable.
For those who wish to automate things even further, look into an automatic water exchange system. Auto water change systems often have an integrated ATO function but also supply the necessary sensors and pumps to perform a periodic automatic water change alongside daily top-off.
Heaters are the #1 pieces of aquarium equipment to fail and for this very reason, it is important to be proactive when it comes to temperature control. In addition to the primary thermostat that controls the function of your heating elements, employ a secondary temperature controller to shut things down and/or notify you when the temperature is out of range.
It's also not a bad idea to simply keep a spare heating element on hand at all times so you always have a spare heater ready to go should the primary heating element fail. Most quality heating elements will last 12-24 months under normal operation.
Innovative Marine Helio Universal Heater Controller
InkBird WiFi Aquarium Heater Controller
AutoAqua Smart Temp Security
Automatic Fish Feeders
This one needs no explanation in terms of convenience, the device feeds your fish for you. This can be useful for vacations but also for everyday use in aquariums that house certain types of fish that benefit from frequent feedings. Some high-energy fish like Chromis and Anthias require feeding up to 5 times per day for optimal health!
Combine your automatic feeder with a feeding station to contain the food and prevent food waste. Many fish will learn to retrieve food from the feeding station directly.
Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder
Eheim Feeding Station
Lifegard Aquatics Intelli-Feed Fish Feeder
Dosing pumps are another convenient automation device that precisely and automatically delivers fluid into your aquarium; most often additives. Reef aquariums often require additives to maintain water chemistry and a dosing pump is hands-down the best way to maintain reef tank water chemistry. Simply program how much you need to dose and how often, the pump will do the rest.
Dosing pumps can also be used to supply liquid food, amino acids, trace elements, or any other liquid additive that needs to be dosed regularly.
Automatic Fleece Filter Rollers
Fleece rollers have taken the hobby by storm in the last few years because they are not only highly efficient mechanical filters but they are also virtually hands-free when it comes to regular maintenance. Simply swap out the filter roll on a monthly basis and you can be confident your tank never suffering from a dirty filter sock or pad again.
Fleece rollers are ingenious in design but also quite simple, water from your drain is piped directly into the filter roller. It passes through a section of fleece material before draining into your sump. As the fleece material becomes clogged, the fleece roller automatically replaces the old material with new. Installation is easy so long as you have the space and you can finally ditch those annoying filter socks for good.