Updated: Sep 27, 2020
What if you could turn off all your pumps with one simple action without fishing through a bird’s nest of electrical wires? How much easier would it be to stop a flood when your overflow looses its siphon or killing flow when it is feeding time? What if the device that can make this happen can also be programmed so that all your peripherals are properly timed—lights, heaters, reactors, etc.?
No, I’m not here touting an aquarium controller that costs hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars. I’m taking about:
The Amazon Echo. A small device that I use to control flow and time my lights.
Why I Designed The System
Ok, I admit it. I really thought the idea of an aquarium controller was super cool. But those things cost nearly $1,000 and I just couldn’t shell out that kind of cash for my 14 gallon BioCube. But it’s 2019, right? I figured there must be some way that I can have a power strip where each plug is programable, eliminating the need for bulky timers that take up half the real estate anyway. I use smart lights in my house wherever I can, so making a move to a smart power strip was a natural step.
Now, granted, a programable power strip won’t do everything a controller can do. For example, it won’t automatically turn off your heater if the temperature probe detects your reef is getting too hot. Nor will it automatically turn on a fan if the temperature really spikes. And it won’t automatically start dosing additives when it senses a drop in the pH. For that, you’ll need something like the Apex — a great system if you can afford it. But if all you are looking for is a simpler way to program certain basics and a really cool way to bring your tank into the 21st century, my DIY work around will be more than sufficient.
How to Program the Smart Power Strip For Your Tank
I went to the brand that I use for most of my smart technology: Kasa. (I like them because you do not need a hub with their products, which not only takes up room in your house but also makes a further dent in your wallet). Kasa makes the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip. Each socket can be manually turned on and off but can also be programed and controlled from your phone. I plugged lights into one socket, pumps into another, and a heater into a third, etc., etc. I set the light socket for the times I want the display tank on and set another socket to turn on at the opposite times to run my refugium. No more bulky timers or fiddling with archaic timers when I want to turn a light on or off for maintenance. Instead, I can simply control it from my phone.
The Kasa app also allows you to create groups and “scenes.” And this is where it truly shines. I put all my pumps into one category and created two scenes: Start Flow and Kill Flow. Time to feed? Just turn on Kill Flow. Done feeding and need to have circulation again? Turn on Start Flow. Wake up to the sound of water crashing on your flow, turn on Kill Flow! Easy and simple.
How to Integrate With Alexa
One of the best parts about Kasa is that it is fully integrated with Alexa. Alexa can recognize the scenes and the names of each smart plug in the power strip. This is incredibly useful when working on your aquarium when your hands are wet and you are attempting to keep your phone as far away from your tank as possible. Working on your protein skimmer? Simply say “Alexa, turn Protein Skimmer off.” Same idea when you want to turn the lights on or off outside the normal schedule.
Here’s a video showing it in action using my Kill Flow and Start Flow scenes.
There you have it, a basic setup allowing you control your aquarium with your voice. The future is here.