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back to article Forget internet fridges and Big Data. Where's my internet fish tank?

The Cloud is a great new way to store and access data, and Big Data is all about leafing through this stuff so you can figure out how to "target your audience" more accurately, almost always with advertising. These are the buzzwords of the now. Lost in all the hype is why we advertise stuff in the first place: we have something …

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Anonymous Coward

You do not need an Internet-connected fish tank filter.

If you do not over-feed your tank then you do not need a filter at all. I learned this from my neighbour who has been keeping fish since before I was born. Now my fish also thrive without filters or air pumps, just a heater.

Why can't we have fish tank heaters that are Internet connected?

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filters

Depends on the tank setup and occupants, some tanks I would recommend having a filter, some tanks I would be a bit less worried about.

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Gold badge

I keep fresh water fish. The fish are almost exclusively catfish. Yes, I need a filter. I don't have any coral-like structures in which to maintain the relevant bacteria in-situ. (Which would still require current flow!)

You can design a filterless tank. It is however nearly impossible with the fish I happen to like. Next tank ll be a 180 with a sump; a lot more resiliant to crashing. But I'll keep the 50 with the G3 around for a breeding box.

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Windows

Redundancy

If your fish die if the filter fails, should you not have more than one filter running in parallel?

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Re: Redundancy

Exactly.

Any "proper" fishkeeper does this.

I know I do on my expensive tank.

Also a filter dying doesn't kill fish instantly. You have a build up of beneficial bacteria in your tank which mostly live within the materials in your filter. There's lots of science on this, but if the filter stops, your bacteria start dying. Few hours later they are all dead.

This is what kills your fish, as these bacteria break down the ammonia and nitrates in your tank. While it won't kill your fish instantly, it will slowly poison them. Slowly being a few days generally dependent upon the fish and type of tank (marine being the most effected). Water changes (50% of water a day) can keep your tank happily running without a filter, and once you have bacteria growing naturally in the tank itself (which takes time) you can run without a filter at all (as mentioned by other readers).

However if your HEATER dies, and its a very cold day..... or it decides to heat your water to 70c...... then your in real trouble and not even having internet connected appliances would allow you to fix this fast enough (Maybe if you left work right away, but for a fish tank?).

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Re: Redundancy

If you're running a 500 litre+ tank then I would certainly agree with some form of redundency, but a redundent filter may not be a cost-effective option for the more 'casual' hobbiest and there are other issues like noise, space and the additional plumbing to consider for many. Plus, are we talking about the redudant filter running all the time anyway - I suppose it would have to ensure it was 'live'? I guess what might be better than having n+1 would be just to have two 1/2n filters so if one fails there's still some filtration going on.

That said, a few years ago I suffered a 3 day power cut over New Year during which time my small (130 litre) marine + invert tank had no heating, no light, no filtration, no skimming and no water current with the house temperature dropping to near freezing each night. With no intervention (I was away at the time), the power came back on and everything fully recovered, not one fatality, even the hard corals.

On the other hand, many many years ago I had a tropical tank in my work office. Got back to work after a long weekend and was hit by an awful smell when I opened the office door. The thermostat on the heater had failed 'on' and the fish had simply exploded - their skins hung up on plastic plants (I was young) like coats and their skinned, cooked white bodies floating around on the surface...

I'm rambling now.

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Re: Redundancy

I was given some very good advice regarding redundancy from a friend, he said same as you, to use two circulation/filter pumps in parrallel and use multiple but smaller heaters,rather than a single big one. that way if one gets stuck off, or worse, stuck on the tank does not freeze/cook.

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Re: Redundancy

I currently run an oversized (70-gal on a 50gal tank) hang-on-back filter as a backup to the canister filter. I still don't like the idea of the primary - festooned with sensors - giving up the ghost without letting me know. Considering the amount of tech in that thing, you'd think it could at least post SNMP...

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Linux

Re: Redundancy

Monitoring trumped by Redundancy - 100% agree.

If I had to pick a key missing feature for high end filters, it would be toxin sensors to automatically offline themselves after long outages. 20/20 hindsight from the recent Stateside power issues here.

Basically, if a relatively dirty filter stays offline for more than 3 days and then starts up without being cleaned, the contents of the flter are likely to have gone anaerobic and pump poison into your tank water. Imagine snails in the filter all dying and rotting - and that rot being pumped in a rush right at your fish.

Worry about NICs in our high end filter later, lets get some toxin sensors so that tanks already crippled by outages don't get KO'd by filters...heck if I had to pick something I'd want in a smart filter, a little LED screen telling me oxygenation, ph and hardness would be a real perk.

-Algo

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Re: Redundancy

Yep have to agree on the redundancy thing any tank I have run above nano is usually set up this way heater wise, usually with two filters that are more than capable of handling the job on their own. That and understocking the tank, and the addition of heavy planting usually leaves me with a tank that gets a partial water change every 6 months or so. Even if not I have so much spare fish keeping junk that I have a filter that can be used as a back up lying about anyways.

Right time to past some IT stuff on a fish forum now in the interests of balance.

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FAIL

ZigBee?

I don't understand why you wouldn't want these things just to use your WiFi network directly. By designing it with WiFi instead of Zigbee, the customer need only buy the shiny new fish-tank filter and absolutely nothing else. That is, of course, making the assumption that anyone whoi would be interested in the device likely already has WiFi in their home. Well enough designed, it should be absolutely trivial to install it and get it talking via email.

Make it with ZigBee but no WiFi and it might use less power (who cares? it's plugged into mains, not battery powered) and your customer must now buy another ZigBee device to act as a controller, then configure that controller device to connect both to the fish-tank filter and your home internet connection and then set up the rules for it to email you at the appropriate time. That's way more faff than most people are prepared to tolerate and an additional expense. Someone who already has a ZigBee network at home (If I had no digits at all I could still use them to count the number of people I know who this applies to) might be pleased to have an opportunity to do this. Normal people won't.

I think this is why home automation won't take off. The barrier to entry needs to be made so low as to be imperceptible first. I don't think we're anywhere near that point now.

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Re: ZigBee?

ZigBee/Z-Wave/Low-power Bluetooth instead of Wifi.

Two words: Power consumption.

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Ru

Re: "Two words: Power consumption."

Probably a bit more tolerant to a poor electrical environment, and you can run em on a lower frequency ISM bands so they're not fighting for bandwidth with your microwave cooker and their signals will have a better job penetrating the walls of your house.

There's also stuff to do with mesh networking rather than relying on a router for all communication, but that's probably a lot less important or interesting in this particular situation.

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Re: "Two words: Power consumption."

Mesh networking is why they can work in low power environments. Handy for getting sensors into places where you have battery or PV power.

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Re: "Two words: Power consumption."

...and yet neither of these replies to my comment address my main point: People simply don't want to be bothered with setting up an entire new network if they don't already have it.

Very few people already have it (the exceptions to my previous sentence). The barrier to entry is still way too high for this sort of thing to become popular and I'd argue it will continue to be too high until it is practically zero. One simple way to make it practically zero would be to use the already existing wireless infrastructure in most people's homes, WiFi, instead of expecting them to install and maintain another one.

I'm no Apple fan but I bet if Apple did it it would be dead simple. Apple don't do it. It isn't.

I look forward to being proved wrong on this. I think it's a shame that home automation hasn't taken off yet.

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Re: "Two words: Power consumption."

Zigbee, Z-wave and LPBluetooth are all dead simple. Home automation mesh tech is easy as pie. Device selection is all that is lacking.

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Re: "Two words: Power consumption."

Device selection is probably lacking because practically no-one is buying them. As a result there's little motivation for companies to produce more devices. If you talk to an average non-IT person, the kind of person who you would need to be prepared to spend money on these things in order for them to become popular, chances are they'll think of home-automation as something difficult and nerdy and not something they'll want to try for themselves.

Home computer networking by comparison is relatively easy. If they don't know how to do it themselves, they definitely know someone who does.

When you start telling them about the 3 standards that they have to choose between for the new network they will have in their house they'll almost certainly switch off from your conversation and start looking for someone else to talk to.

My point still remains that until it both is and is seen to be trivially easy to set up and maintain these things it'll never become mainstream and as long as it's not mainstream, the market won't be big enough to encourage device makers to improve their selection.

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Re: "Two words: Power consumption."

Patrick, buddy, you are wrong. Home automation tech is easy. It is simple to set up. At worst, you need to ensure that all your devices have the same logo on it.

"The market" isn't a bit of magic that automatically makes tech plentiful and cheap as soon as standards are settled and the basic ideas are sound. The problem is far - far - more basic than you seem to grasp: it is the problem of the chicken and the egg.

Home automation tech isn't everywhere because home automation tech isn't everywhere. It has nothing to do with easy of use, or even the standards. It has everything to do with lack of mind share amongst manufacturers and the fact that one piece of home automation tech is useless, where as a dozen or so starts to make for a smart home.

Home automation tech faces an uphill battle simply because – for it to work properly – you really need to have multiple bits of gear. I am not talking strictly about the technology involved, but the practical aspects of reaping the benefits of automation.

Not having to poke the fish filter doesn’t save me a huge amount of time. But not having to poke the fish filter, furnace, A/C, fridge, individual light bulbs, toilet paper stocks, security system, windows and all the other bits of maintenance that go with owning a home…that does add up to a great deal of time saved.

The problem is that for home automation tech to take off…home automation tech has to have already taken off. Hobbiests can only take it so far. For it to ever work it needs to not be a “selling feature” and start being “just another tickbox item.”

People may not buy a device because it has a home automation logo at first. But if you start building it into all your products now, soon enough people will choose not to buy any device that doesn’t have the home automation tech built in.

Look; you wouldn’t buy a car in Canada without a defrost setting on the HVAC. It’s lunacy. But the car dealerships don’t sell cars here advertising the existence of the defrost setting. It is simply expected. Not having that feature would simply mean no sale, regardless of however nice the car is otherwise.

This is where we need to get to for home automation; widespread manufacturer support. Get enough of the gadgets into the home, and you can start to tell people “you know, half your stuff already has this. Buy this widget, plug it into your home router and it suddenly all starts working!” (Home automation tech actually is that simple. Some of the widgety boxen even speak all three major protocols.)

At that point, they will buy the widget, play with it…

…and never buy another widget for the house without the automation tech again.

We don’t need to make it more simple. It’s simple enough. We need to make it more widespread.

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Boffin

Project

I have long been planning a aquarium (tropical marine, mainly invertebrates but with a few fish), but have wanted to do it well (large tank, good lights etc..) so this represents quite an investment of both time and money. The latter being why I have not started already!. However now I am in a position to kick it off.

Being of a somewhat geeky nature, remote alerting and graphs (oh hell yeah! lots of graphs!) are kind of an essential for me. But looking at the market for monitoring equipment, it is very expensive and rather limited. Like the article states, loads of clever monitoring but no good if its flashing away in obscurity on an LCD screen in a cupboard.

So I intend to roll my own, probably a embedded Linux box, with analog to digital hardware to connect probes (flow meters, pH, EC, DOC etc), and some relays to control pumps, lights etc.

There are a few of these sorts of projects already out there, but mainly to control hydroponics systems.

But given the number of potential contributors, I think this would make a good open source hardware/software project.

Hopefully next year I will have stopped talking about it have something to show.

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Stop

Re: Project

Having meationed relays and things, it is my intention that at least for phase-1 the system is purely monitoring, and will not control anything (I will leave that to timers and manual intervention). As I don't want to have my code hanging like a sword of Democleas over the innocent occupants of my aquarium.

Once I am happy it works and may think about giving it control.

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Re: Project

Few things on hack-a-day might help you

http://hackaday.com/?s=aquarium

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Go

Re: Project

"So I intend to roll my own, probably a embedded Linux box, with analog to digital hardware to connect probes (flow meters, pH, EC, DOC etc), and some relays to control pumps, lights etc."

Can't you already do this easily and cheaply (adding all the sensors etc that you would want) with an Arduino or similar?

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Re: Project

Yep, that was the sort of building block I would be using. I intend to use as much stuff that has already been done as I can possibly get away with. Like using rrdtool for the graphs.

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Pint

Re: Project

Heh. I have a beagle board, a soldering iron and the DigiKey website. The sump on my new 180gal is going to run Webmin...

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Happy

Seneye

Trevor - what you want is a Seneye system - can keep an eye on things via their web site and a mobile app. Does require a computer to be on and connected to update the website but still pretty cool. Needs a mothly subscription though.

http://www.seneye.com/

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Re: Seneye

Not precisely what I was I looking for - the G3 reports on conductivity, rate of flow and impellor status as well as what that appears to - but a brilliant step forward. Certainly a tool worth adding to the mix, thank you!

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Re: Seneye

You might want to check the sensors on them last time I looked I seem to remember the sensors need replacing every x amount of readings as well.

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IT Angle

It's been done already

Here.

If the fish is upside down then you have an fatal error condition.

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Re: It's been done already

"If the fish is upside down then you have an fatal error condition."

Not always fatal, sometimes constipated.

Certainly with Goldfish.

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Re: It's been done already

If the fish swims upside down, please don't give up on them. They probably have a swim bladder disorder; and this is something that can usually be dealt with. Remove the fish to a dedicated tank with little-to-no current. Keep the water clean with regular changes. Feed the fish nothing for three days. (They will be fine!). This should reduce intestinal pressure on the swim bladder. If the fish is still swimming weird, feed them shelled peas.

Visually inspect the fish. Look for white spots, or any other discoloration. If you see anything like that, find a fish nerd. You may be able to solve this with medication. (Anti-fungals, typically.) Do not attempt to medicate your fish if you don’t know what you are doing; the medicines are highly toxic.

Examine the other fish in your tank for similar infections. These types of things typically spread. You may have to actually remove your fish filter media and run it off a separate tank (with a piece of shrimp in it or somesuch, to keep the bacteria alive) while you medicate the main tank.

There are a lot of different approaches, depending on the exact disease in question that can cause this, but no…

…swimming upside down is not necessarily a fatal error condition.

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Headmaster

Re: It's been done already

You learn something new every day.

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Coat

Alternatively ....

Take away your furnace, fish tank, i-Filter and air conditioning and perhaps you would save the lives of some real fish struggling to live in the real world due to anthropogenic carbon emissions and climate catastrophe - just saying ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Alternatively ....

And your body is emitting lots of carbon, it should be powered down immediately, filthy human.

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Re: Alternatively ....

Scott,

If he takes away his furnace he would definitely cease contributing to the build-up of atmospheric carbon. Except in the direct way, due to decomposition. He lives in deepest, darkest Canadia, and it gets mighty cold there in winter...

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Bronze badge
Coat

Re: Alternatively ....

CANADA - I knew it (?)

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Gold badge

Re: Alternatively ....

No frunace = death. I live in Edmonton. Winters here will kill you.

Besides, I pay the extra money to source my 'leccy from the wind farms in the south (Alberta has more wind power deployed than any province excepting Ontario,) and I do more than my part to fund the reforestation efforts in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan. I'd be willing to be my carbon footprint is negative, despite being a fat nerd from the evil oil-producing province.

I even go out of my way to ensure that (most) of the fish I get are hobby-bred, not wild caught. Admittedly there is debate about this within the hobby. There is a significant school of thought that says that – especially in Peru – the folks who currently can earn a living with sustainable fish trade (specifically various Corydoras species) would otherwise turn to deforestation to support agriculture if that trade dried up.

I try to do my research and make my decisions on a species-by-species purchase. What’s your carbon footprint like?

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Happy

Re: Alternatively ....

at least the carbon emission would be deferred until spring .....

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Pint

Re: Alternatively ....

Did you see what I did there "I knew it" - inuit - Canada (hehe).

Twas all a little tongue in cheek dear fellow, as was my earlier quip bout anthropogenic climate disaster, furnaces and the like. I doff my cap to anyone who takes such measures to limit their carbon hoof print whilst living in such hostile climes. Mine, in urban UK land, is comfortably small thank you very much, by which I mean we simply put more clothes on rather than turn the heating on/up etc.etc. It's the scenery that's lacking really :-(

Have a pint on me.

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Pint

Re: Alternatively ....

I like the cold. When it is cold; put more on. When it is warm, I can legally only take so much off. But the question of carbon footprint is valid. Fish - and reptiles - are carbon intensive hobbies. They also potentially disrupt several ecosystems. The saltwater hobby is destroying coral reefs, for example. We are right to ask the uncomfortable questions.

But these hobbies also save species. The red-tailed black shark only exists today because of the hobby. It's habitat was destroyed by Chinese industrialisation some time ago.

There are no quick and easy answers....and real action on environmental issues requires cooperation on an international level. But I choose to do what I can to make up for my wasteful lifestyle. I understand the science behind these concerns. If I didn't put the effort into addressing them...what kind of person would that make me?

As to the pint; sure! There's a wonderful local microbrewery called Alley Kat. If you're ever around, give me a holler so I can introduce you....

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Re: Alternatively ....

There is a lot of movement with salt fish keepers who are also concerned about environmental issues, don't tar them all with the same brush. There have been projects to see if the reefes can be treated in the same way as the south american environmental fish trade you referred to earlier, and some of the Inovations such as postlarval capture could have potential environmental benefits on restocking.

Fishkeeping has both bad and good things going for it environmentally wise, the red tailed black shark and the south amaerican projects are definetly good things but there have been a few shameful incidences as well where species have been almost fished out.

Generally speaking though apart from some who frankly dont care as long as they get something flashy in their tank, I'd say most of the dedicated fishkeepers tend to be quite environmentally aware and do lend some force to getting things changed for the better.

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Re: Alternatively ....

Sorry; was not trying to bash salties. (Well, any more than a freshie normally does.) But simply raising the point that the hobby - both fresh and salt - has it's share of things to answer for. Your point is well taken however; most serious hobbiests deplore the enviromental destruction, and go to great legnths to avoid participating in those aspects of the hobby.

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Anonymous Coward

Fish nerd + tech head = fish head?

Never got the smart fridge idea. It might be able to read a barcode, even a use by date but can it tell if you've used up the homegrown carrots from your neighbour, or tell mouldy Cheddar from Stilton?

Never got the Roomba. Building the smarts into the vacuum cleaner means that it isn't that smart. If the house had a central CPU, cameras and other sensors, it could not only remote control a dumb vacuum cleaner, it could even decide whether the rooms needed vacuuming. All great, but like Daleks, vulnerable to stairs. And unlike new Daleks, a hovering vacuum cleaner ain't gonna fly (well it will, but, you get the idea)

It's all a bit half-assed. Solutions in search of a problem to gratify gadget hungry nerds. The smart home needs enough brains to be tactful and adapt to my needs, not vice versa

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Facepalm

Re: Fish nerd + tech head = fish head?

A horror story from a friend with a Roomba comes to mind. Not great for with pets.

Freshly laid steaming runny dog poo in middle of living room carpet + roomba 90min floor sweap = not the best thing to come home.

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Re: Fish nerd + tech head = fish head?

Love Roomba. Not terribly smart, more of a random walk, but it means I come home to a clean floor every day. Would never ever go back to vacuuming the floor myself. Can live with dusty stairs.

Only issue has been training the humans not to leave trailing charger leads on the floor...

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Re: Fish nerd + tech head = fish head?

If ever a post deserved a downvote and an upvote, that one is it.

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Anonymous Coward

Just point a webcam at it...

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Then how would you tell the difference between that and a screensaver? :-)

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Re: how would you tell the difference

Simple. The fish on the screensaver aren't holding a sign to the webcam saying

Buy a new filter QUICK!

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Happy

Webcam tells you want about water quality?

Though it does make me happy when I am away from home, and want to see how all my catfish are doing. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle! Catfish! \o/

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