An Overview of What Aquarium Equipment You Can Automate

The 15 products that will
save time, increase aquarium stability
and give you peace of mind

Automation can be intimidating for many aquarists because it can be seen as complicated and confusing. However, most aquarists have automated at least one or two aquarium tasks. Most aquarium heaters automatically turn on and off based on the temperature. Light timers automatically turn your lights on and off.

Here is a list of tasks you can automate to save time, increase stability, and give you peace of mind.

Auto Top-Off
Aquarium water levels drop as water evaporates. This can affect the performance of protein skimmers, or even lead to pumps running dry, burning out, and potentially starting a fire. In saltwater aquariums, the salinity level will also rise as water evaporates—causing instability. Adding an automatic top off will keep your water level and salinity stable so you can save time topping off the tank, have a more stable salinity level, and have peace of mind while you are away. The most reliable top-off is the Tunze Osmolator 3 Water Level Controller. We also recommend the IceCap ATO EZ System. If you have a Neptune Systems Apex or Hydros aquarium controller you might consider the Neptune Systems ATK V2 Automatic Top-Off Kit or CoralVue Hydros Auto Top-Off (ATO) Kit as these will give you advanced control options and water level notifications.

Further Reading: “A Simple Guide To Auto Top-Offs

Automatic Feeders
Automatic feeders, like the OASE FishGuard Automatic Fish Feeder and the Lifegard Aquatics Intelli-Feed Aquarium Fish Feeder (NEW USB VERSION), feed a consistent amount each time and give you peace of mind knowing your fish is being fed while you are gone. Many aquarists have experienced either an algae bloom or dead fish because they trusted someone to feed their fish when they were away. The “trusted” person either fed the fish way too much or way too little.

Light Timers
Many lights these days come with built-in timers. A timer will keep your light cycle consistent when you’re home and when you’re out of town. Limiting lighting to only when it’s needed is also is a good way to limit algae growth. If your light doesn’t have a timer, you can use the Coralife Digital Power Center Timer. Full aquarium controllers from Neptune and Hydros can provide a timer function through controllable outlets.

Heaters and chillers will automatically turn on and off to ensure a stable temperature.

Further Reading: "Aquarium Chillers Overview"; "Heater Overview"

Battery Air Pumps
Oxygen is introduced into aquariums primarily when there is ample water movement created by a water pump or air pump. In the event of a power outage, if you do not have an alternative way to move water, all of your fish will slowly suffocate due to a lack of oxygen. The simplest solution is a battery air pump. Many battery air pumps need to be manually turned on, but the JBJ Maxum Air Pump can be set up to automatically turn on or stay on in the event of a power outage. This can give you peace of mind even if there is a power outage while you are out of town.

Battery Back Ups
The JBJ Maxum Air Pump will give you about 24 hours of air and that typically is enough for a power outage. However, in parts of the country with bigger storms and longer power outages a battery backup may be needed to keep your aquarium alive.

For aquarists who use DC pumps these pumps can be connected to battery backups like the Ice Cap Battery Backup V3. This will keep your pump running when the power goes out. You can also chain battery backups together to get even more run time. With this setup, you can make sure that your fish can have days of air in the event of a power outage even when you are out of town.

Temperature Controllers
Heaters are prone to failure, and when they fail in the on position they can cook everything in your tank. If you also use a chiller there is a risk that the heater and chiller will fight each other with both heating and chilling happening at the same time. There are a few solutions for this issue. The more sophisticated solution is using the CoralVue Hydros Temperature Sensor to control your heater and chiller. This solution also requires you to have a Hydros Controller. A simpler and less expensive solution is the AutoAqua Smart Temp Security. It will not control your heater and chiller, but it will turn them off if your tank gets dangerously hot or cold.

Float Valve Kit

For aquarists with RO systems, it is not uncommon to forget about a container you are filling and flood the house. A simple float valve kit like the AquaticLife Float Valve Kit for RO & RO/DI Systems will turn off the RO system once the water level reaches the float valve. This means you can leave your container filling while you do other tasks and have peace of mind that there won’t be a flood.

Dosing Pump

Reef and planted aquariums require many additives to keep coral and plants growing and healthy. Every time you dose your tank the parameters change leading to instability. When you are out of town either the tank either doesn’t get dosed or you risk someone unfamiliar with your tank overdosing the tank. Dosing pumps like the Kamoer F4 Pro WiFi Doser automatically add small amounts of solution throughout the day. This saves you time, increases stability, and gives you peace of mind while you are away. If you have a Neptune or Hydros Controller then you can use the Neptune DOS or Hydros Dosing Pump

Further Reading: “Why Use A Dosing Pump

pH Controller
When adding CO2 to a planted aquarium, or kalkwasser or buffer to a reef aquarium, there is a risk of overdosing the tank and killing the tank's inhabitants. The Milwaukee Instruments pH Controller, MC122 will turn off your CO2 system, dosing pump, or auto top off if you accidentally overdose your aquarium. This can give you peace of mind while you are away. Full Aquarium Controllers like a Neptune Apex or Hydros Controller can control pH and allow you to get notifications if the pH is out of range.

Skimmer Neck Cleaner

For aquarists with protein skimmers cleaning the skimmer neck regularly keeps the skimmer functioning properly. The Reef Octopus OCTO Protein Skimmer Neck Cleaners will automatically clean your skimmer neck to ensure that your skimmer is functioning properly when you are away, and save you time.

Skimmer Waste Collector
Protein skimmer collection cups need to be emptied when the cup is full. The Reef Octopus Waste Collectors allow you to go longer before needing to empty skimmate, automatically turn it off your skimmer when the collector fills, and use carbon to remove the bad skimmate smell. This saves you time and allows you to leave your home for a few days confident the skimmer is working. If you have a Neptune Apex you can use a Liquid Level Sensor to see the amount of skimmate in your skimmer container remotely and turn off once the skimmate reaches a certain point. If you have a Hydros controller you can use a Skimmer Sensor to convert any container into an automated waste collector.

Roller Filter
For aquarists with filter socks, changing and washing the socks every couple of days can be a huge chore. The Klir Drop In Automatic Fleece Filter is specifically designed to replace 4" & 7" filter socks. It uses a roll of filter material that automatically supplies more material as the filter clogs. You can go from changing socks every few days to changing the roll every few months. The filter saves you time and exports waste before it pollutes your water.

Apex Controller

The Neptune Apex is a complete aquarium controller. Its main role is as the aquarium alarm system. The Apex will continually monitor your aquarium parameters and send you notifications if any parameter strays outside of your selected values. The Apex can also turn on and off equipment based on the parameters you set — acting as a temperature controller, heater controller, and pH controller. An Apex can give you peace of mind in knowing that the aquarium is functioning properly and nothing has malfunctioned.

Automatic Water Changes

The most dreaded aquarium task is water changes. By connecting a Neptune Systems FMM Fluid Monitoring Module to your Neptune Apex you can automate the water change process. The DOS can be programmed to do periodic large water changes of up to 31 gallons by the push of a button or do small water changes continually. You will need a container of new water for the pump to draw from and a drain for the dirty water to go to. Once the system is set up all you need to do is fill the clean water container periodically and clean the pumps a few times a year. The small frequent water changes keep the aquarium stable, and save you time. If you want a stand-alone solution, you can use the Kamoer X2SR Water Change System which can also do regular automatic water changes.