Reefing from Afar, Part 2: Automation Options

There are a wide variety of solutions for automating your reef aquarium and monitoring from afar

There are a wide variety of solutions for automating your reef aquarium and monitoring from afar

In Part 1 of this series, I laid down some of the expectations for success, and now we are ready to dive into the functions that we can automate. Automation can range from low-tech to high-tech and fit various budgets, though the level of refinement of the solution and its robustness can be a function of cost and knowledge. As long as the solution serves the purpose you need it to perform, then it is a viable solution.

Stages of automation based on budget or need

This is a major part of the planning phase since you need to understand what is available to you and for what cost. Fortunately these can be implemented as needed or as funds become available since very few people can afford all this at once. We will focus on the practical levels of automation, but if you have the money and the knowledge, you can reach very extreme levels of automation. So below are some ideas of what to automate and their options. This is by no means an exhaustive list but something to act as a guide to what’s possible.

If you are “do-it-yourself” type of person, then many more options are available to you as long as you understand the principles of what you are trying to achieve. If not, then stick with off-the-shelf solutions. In the end, it may be a wash with respect to cost since DIY folks will have to purchase tools and materials in addition to having the proper skills to produce the same product.


  • Simple/cheap: food blocks and battery-operated feeders, DIY “mush.”
  • Complex/costly: controller-linked feeder, refrigerated auto dosing of fluidized foods.

Salt water mixing:

  • Simple/cheap: manually mix with a powerhead as needed with distilled fresh water in five-gallon buckets.
  • Complex/costly: semi-automated RO/DI unit with float valves into storage/mixing tanks to 100% automated mixing stations.



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About Ellery Wong

Ellery is a mechanical systems engineer at a Fortune 500 technology company. He has professional automation experience in the automotive, appliance, printing and robotics industries, as well as over 25 years as a saltwater aquarium hobbyist. He currently maintains a 365-gallon SPS/LPS system while regularly traveling for work, which presents a variety of challenges he enjoys tackling.

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