Aquarium Tech. A love hate relationship.

We live in the space age of aquarium keeping. Many of us can operate our tanks from our
smartphones. Check in on them via apps and aquarium specific cameras. Our lights are as
advanced as ever. Minute changes in specific color channels are possible, built in timers, wifi of
course, acclimation modes, storms, moving sun, and more. Gone are the days of listening to
the hum of a magnetic halide ballast and having ozone bottles refilled. So, what’s to hate?
Well, keep reading.

I fought automating my home display for many years. I watched products come and go and
simply stuck to my old faithful stuff. In my mind, biology hadn’t changed and that tank grew as
much coral as any other, so why fix something that isn’t broken? Then I had the opportunity
to see the colors other reefers were pulling with their fancy set ups. Sure, my corals were
super healthy and happy, but none of my acros were rainbow colored. My stuff was bright, but
these other guys had corals that Glowed. I needed that glow, and that required upgrades.
First on the list was to upgrade my old metal halides to T5 bulbs. At first I angered every coral
in the tank but after a few months things started getting used to the light and I started to color
up some stuff. The thing is, they still didn’t glow. For that I needed LED. Blue LED to be
exact. So I went out and purchased the fanciest blue LED strip I could find to add to my t5
lighting. Unfortunately the combination put out so much more light that I bleached everything
in the tank, again. Now they required 2 separate timers so I could achieve the dawn and dusk
effect without raining PAR down that not every coral appreciated. So I bought separate timers
and waited a few months and things started to color. I started getting great growth like my
halides, and started to get those sought after rainbows.

Then I read about the need for increased nitrates to pull the really crazy colors. So I decided
to reduce the amount of time my refugium light was on from 24hrs to 12hrs running opposite
my display lighting. This required another timer. I was also over-skimming apparently, so
needed to put that on a timer.

For a while everything went great, corals grew, colored, even Glowed! As corals grow, just like
plants in a healthy garden, they need pruning so they don’t shade or sting their neighbors.
Now I need a frag tank. Which required more lights, and more timers. Soon my electrical
cabinet looked like something wired by Clark Griswold.

Enter the controller. I had read about aquarium controllers for years but always steered clear.
Even in my upgrading process I told myself that was way too high tech and wanted nothing to
do with it. That is until I basically made a fire hazard of box timers next to the tank. It was
time. After many interesting words that thankfully no one was around to hear, lots of
googling, and trial and error, my system was automated. This single control and corresponding
power strip took care of all my timing needs. Not only that, but it controlled my heater and
automatic top off. Pretty neat.

Everything was fine and dandy. Until it wasn’t. About 9am on a Thursday morning I heard a
bang and our power went out. Turns out a landscaping truck hit a power pole on the street.
No one was hurt and electrical crews were on the scene fairly quickly. Power stayed out until
about 4pm that day. When it was restored, all my pumps kicked on properly. Skimmer,
powerheads, everything except the lights. It seems the controller wasn’t happy about the
sudden restoration of power and decided right there to give up the ghost. Our beautiful
display sat dark and there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix the controller. Extension
cords were ran and box timers emerged once again. Clark would have been proud.

The point of this post isn’t to scare anyone out of upgrades, or controllers. The point is to
ALWAYS have a back up plan. Do not for even a second think your fancy stuff won’t just quit.
Warranties are definitely nice, but they won’t help you in the moment. Remember to always
keep some of that old school tech tucked away in a drawer somewhere. When you need it,
you really need it.
-Mike

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