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Tank Automation Part 1 - The Introduction to the concept
http://articles.aaquaria.com/articles/5/1/Tank-Automation-Part-1---The-Introduction-to-the-concept/Introduction.html
Steve S
Steve S, aka LBritish, is the owner of several aquaria websites including http://LittleFishTank.com, http://LittleFishTank.org, http://Aaquaria.com, http://FishDictionary.com, and http://AquaticDictionary.com. These quality sites are part of the LittleFishTank Network of sites on Everything Aquatic.  
By Steve S
Published on 09/8/2005
 
Looking for easier ways of managing your fish tank?  Look here for the introduction to a series of articles with information about sensors, timers, and other ways of monitoring your fish tank for daily or vacation needs.  *This article discusses general ideas of automation only for those curious of what automation means to an aquarium.  Those even lightly experienced with automation should continue to the next article*

Introduction
With the advances in technology you soon will be able to do just about anything by remote control.  The average individual now has high speed internet and wiring or wireless throughout the house for network access.  With the advances in the smart home world you can program your house to adjust temperature, lighting, security, deploy video cameras, have it read your email, announce caller id, respond to voice commands, and even be controlled from inside or outside the house by web, phone and more.  This article is the beginning of an ongoing series of articles discussing these topics.  Some of it will be theory while other parts will be from my actual experience.

So why would you want to automate your tank?

Many people hate maintenance and wish to find ways to simplify it so they can sit back and watch their fish.  Mainly this is an effort to save time and make the tasks of maintenance or controlling stability easier so that you can enjoy the hobby more.  Many types of maintenance or changes in the water are stressful to the fish as well so anything to stabilize the changes and limit your time with your hands down in the tank stirring things up the better for your fishes "mental sanity".

Another reason someone might be interested in automation is so that if they go on vacation for several days or several weeks they can either A) monitor the fish and let someone know what to do to take care of it at home or B) monitor it and initiate automated controls to adjust the tank that either require manual initiation OR can do so on its own based on programming.

What else can you do?  Fish Cam to let the world see your fish.  Online tank data to show the world what your fish tanks are like for pH, temperature. Maybe even emergency measures in the event of failures of critical devices by activating spares, and more.  The possibilties are as endless as your finances and your imagination (and technology) allow.


So how do you know what to automate?

What you gain by selecting a task for automation varies depending on the work you had to do to do the task, how often you do the task, and how much effort you end up putting into the automation and testing to ensure the automation is working and what is it going to cost you to do that automation.

In your aquarium world many tasks are repeated over and over.  Any of these tasks is a candidate for potential automation. 

Some things that are commonly performed are things like feeding various live, frozen, pellet or flake foods, water changes, pH monitoring and adjustment, kH monitoring or adjustment, fertilizer dosing, temperature adjustments and more.  Some types of automation are simply just methods of efficiency and distribution to improve a manual and sometimes complicated process.  In these cases the automation is not really to replace the human work but to make it more efficient or accessible.

Sit back and make a list of everything you do.  Think about how it would be better if you could have a way to do it without you touching it.  Just because you have one type of automated way of doing something don't just accept that as the final answer.  There may be better, faster, more efficient ways of doing it.


Part 1 conclusions
You don't have to be a geek to appreciate automation through wires and sensors and computers. As time goes on man finds easier ways to take care of our pets to reduce cost, time, or increase stability and life span.  Some of the technology is simple things like plugging in a timer.  Other things involve installing web cam servers, servers to monitor data, scheduled processes, automation scripts, web interfaces and more.  For everyone there is usually some level of automation to make tank maintenance easy.