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The Best Aquarium Controller for 2021

best aquarium controller

What if I told you that there is a way to control the different aspects of your aquarium from just one control panel? If you are tired of constantly adjusting the heater, the flow of the pump, and when to turn on the lights, then you need to get the best aquarium controller that you can find.

An aquarium controller board is a device that will monitor one or more tasks or pieces of equipment that you use in your aquarium. Their functions can be as simple as turning the light on and off at designated times, monitoring the condition of the water, and initializing an automatic water change.

Aquarium-keeping is a time-consuming hobby and today when everyone seems to not have enough free time, aquarium controllers are like gifts from heaven. In this article, you will learn what these controllers can do and how to shop for the best aquarium monitoring system for your needs.

Best Aquarium Controller Reviews

1. Hydor Smart Wave Circulation Pump Controller

hydor smart wave circulation pump controller

This pump controller is ideal for reef tanks as the water needs to flow constantly and randomly so that the corals and fish remain healthy. This controller will allow you to set a time when the flow pumps will start working and in which directions the water moves automatically.

One neat thing about this product is that there is hardly a learning curve to use it properly. Although it is always recommended to read the manual, you can pretty much figure out how to use this controller just by looking at the symbols on the dials.

Of course, this freshwater aquarium controller is water-resistant, more specifically splash-resistant. There is still a distinct possibility that water can get into the plugs and sockets of the device. However, if you place it where the most water that it can receive is a bit of splashing here and there, then you do not have to worry about it too much.

The best thing about this saltwater aquarium controller is that it can make the pumps recreate the ocean currents. Unlike rivers where the water only flows in one direction, ocean currents deviate from one direction to another at certain times. This controller helps by only allowing some pumps to work and then switching to the other ones.

The only complaint that I have is that if you place it in mode II and the timer runs down, both pumps shut down, thereby losing all flow in the tank. It would have been better if there was another mode where the pumps would work alternately after running them both at the same time.

Pros
  • Allows to control at least two pumps at the same time
  • Easy to use
  • Water-resistant
  • Allows the pumps to recreate natural currents
  • Has a built-in hanger for convenience
Cons
  • You lose all water flow when in Mode II

This product is one of the simplest and easiest to use flow controllers that I have ever used so far. There are only two dials, and you can probably figure out how to use them without even looking at the manual. The product has a couple of quirks, but for the price, you are getting a lot of value.

2. Inkbird ITC-308 Digital Temperature Controller

inkbird itc-308 digital temperature controller

One might think that a temperature controller would be difficult to program and use, but not this one. You just plug the device and then plug your heater and chiller in their respective outlets. Once you set your desired temperature and place the probe in the water, it will automatically keep it that way.

Once you set the temperature, the automated aquarium systems will be responsible for monitoring the temperature. If the temperature in the tank gets a bit too hot (around 5 degrees above your target), it will turn on the chiller, and vice-versa.

You can still place a separate thermometer just for your peace of mind. However, you can be sure that this controller will be all that you will need.

If you are worried that the sudden switching between the heater and the chiller would damage your equipment, don’t be. There is a built-in delay before either the water heater or chiller turns on, which will protect them from electrical surges. This will keep your aquarium equipment working properly for many years to come.

If in case the sensor malfunctions or the temperature suddenly rises, this smart aquarium controller will let out an audible buzzer. This will give you more than enough time to figure out what is going wrong, or at the very least, save most of your fish and coral before they all die.

There is nothing serious to complain about. Other than it might be a bit too complicated for absolute beginners, this temperature controller has worked quite well in my experience.

Pros
  • Automatically switches from heating to refrigeration as needed
  • Comes with a delay built-in to protect your equipment
  • Comes with a buzzer alarm for when the sensor malfunctions
  • Long-lasting, allowing it to work for several years
  • The company provides excellent customer service
Cons
  • Kind of complicated to use for beginners

If you have a reef tank and the temperature in your area fluctuates quite a bit as the seasons change, then you need to hook your aquarium heater and chiller to this device. If you have a particularly sensitive stock, then it will help keep the water temperature at a constant level.

3. BN-LINK Digital Temperature Controller

bn-link digital temperature controller

This device is for controlling the heating and cooling of your aquarium. I have it hooked to a heating pad and on a chiller. When the water gets a bit too warm, the chiller turns on until the water goes back to the ideal temperature, and vice-versa. This took a lot of the hassle from aquarium-keeping by automating the heating and cooling.

This device comes with two brightly lit LED screens. One displays the temperature of the tank and the other is the set temperature on the controller. Don’t worry if there is a bit of a discrepancy between the two temperatures. If the heater or the cooler is not turned on, the temperature of the aquarium is still within the safe range.

Aside from the aquarium, I also have another one that I am using to convert a chest freezer into a regular refrigerator. I just put the thermometer probe inside the chest freezer, plug the appliance into the cooler outlet and leave the heater outlet vacant. This effectively converted the freezer to a fridge without the need for any rewiring.

I am not worried about this controller damaging my aquarium equipment. It protects them from damage. This device comes with several safety features, like a surge protector and delay switch, among others. You can be sure that your heater and chiller will be working perfectly for as long as possible.

This would have been the perfect temperature controller if only it was a bit easier to use. Don’t get me wrong. This device is still quite easy to use but it does have a bit of a learning curve.

Pros
  • Allows the user to control both heating and cooling
  • Come with bright LED screens
  • The controller has a variety of uses
  • Highly accurate temperature probe
  • Comes with several safety features
Cons
  • A bit complicated to set

Although it does have a bit of a learning curve, once you get the hang of it, setting the temperature will be easy. This helps keep my aquarium at a steady and healthy temperature, and my fish have never been happier.

4. JBJ Automatic Top Off Water Level Controller

jbj automatic top off water level controller

This device comes in handy if you live someplace that can get quite hot during certain parts of the year. This gadget monitors the water levels of the tanks, and when they dip below a certain point, it will trigger a pump to move water from another tank into the sump.

You can also use this controller for water changes. You only need to put new water into the reservoir and remove water from the tank. This will trigger the controller to replenish the tank with new water. You do need to remove the water gradually as the controller has a three-minute cutoff switch to the pump.

This device is not for beginners. The main reason is that you will be using three different tanks. If you are already a seasoned aquarist, though, then you will appreciate that this controller can work in three different tank setups, depending on which tank it will be monitoring.

The only real hassle I have with this device is that whenever the three-minute safety mechanism trips, you will need to unplug the controller to reset it. It would have been better if there was a convenient reset switch on the device itself.

Pros
  • Automates water topping off
  • Simplifies water changes
  • Ideal for use in three different tank setups
  • Keeps your sump pump from running dry
  • Quite durable and can last for years
Cons
  • Needs to be restarted whenever the 3-minute “safety” feature goes off

This controller is not for beginners. You should only consider getting this if you have a sump system in place, which is well beyond the realm of beginners. Now, if you know what you are doing and how to set up this rather complicated device, then you will discover just how useful it can be.

5. Inkbird ITC-608T Temperature & Humidity Controller

inkbird itc-608t temperature & humidity controller

This neat reef keeper aquarium controller allows you to monitor different parameters, but you will only be using the temperature monitoring capabilities for your aquarium. With that, you only need to plug the heating pad and the chillers into their respective outlets set a temperature target, and let the controller handle the rest.

Aside from being a temperature controller, you can also use this device to monitor and adjust the humidity in an area. You only need to plug a humidifier and a dehumidifier and set the target humidity that you want to maintain. You can also use it to monitor heat and humidity, like what you need to do for a reptile enclosure.

You can also use this handy device to turn a freezer into a regular fridge. You just need to insert the probe into the freezer. Once it gets to above your desired temperature, then it will turn the appliance off. You will be getting a spacious chest-type fridge without having to do any new wiring.

This device comes with highly accurate temperature and humidity probes. If any of the two were to break, you do not need to replace the entire controller. You just have to buy the required probe. I have been using this controller to monitor the temperature of my aquarium, and so far, it is working quite well.

The problem that I have with this gadget is that it is a bit hard to figure out, even when you are reading the manual as you set it up. I consider myself a bit technically-inclined, but I still needed several re-readings of the instruction manual and watching instructional videos before I knew how to operate this thing.

Pros
  • Allows you to control heat and humidity
  • The device has a myriad of uses
  • Comes with a delay switch to protect refrigeration equipment
  • Accurate and sensitive temperature and humidity probes
  • Comes with a built-in timer for temperature controls
Cons
  • The instructions are vague and hard to understand

Once you get over how difficult it is to understand the included instructions, you can then start using this device to keep the temperature in your tank at a constant value. You no longer need to start and stop your tank heater or chiller manually. This device will do it for you.

6. Pymeter Digital Temperature Controller

pymeter digital temperature controller

Unlike other temperature controllers, this one has two independent outlets. It means that two temperature probes are in charge of turning each of the outlets. Other controllers rely on just one thermometer probe.

Having two separate probes for the outlets allows you to operate a heater and a chiller at the same time. Other controllers rely on just one probe. When that single probe malfunctions, both the heater and the chiller will not operate. Having two probes serves as a safeguard against this.

This controller also comes with several alarms. There is an alarm that goes off when the temperature in the tank gets too high or low. There is also an alarm for temperature differences between the probes. If the difference is too high, then there might be a malfunction that needs your attention.

Aside from keeping my aquarium at the perfect temperature for my fish, there is also another controller that I use in my greenhouse. This device technically does the same thing as the one with my aquarium, but this one controls a space heater and a fan. This keeps my greenhouse always at the perfect temperature and humidity.

Now, here’s the catch: this device has a steep learning curve. I consider myself no stranger to tech, but it took me a while to figure out how to set the temperature switches properly. I suggest that you watch online video tutorials on how to use this device.

Pros
  • Comes with two independent temperature switches
  • Allows you to control a heater and a chiller at the same time
  • The two temperature probes make this device more accurate
  • Has different alarms for different situations
  • Has a wide range of uses aside from aquarium-keeping
Cons
  • Has a steep learning curve

Although it might take a while before you can understand the included instructions and you might even think that you got a defective item, you will discover that this controller might just be the best one in the market right now.

What to Look For When Buying a Aquarium Controller

best aquarium monitoring system

Now that you have received a couple of recommendations and aquarium controllers’ comparison, you now need to learn what features and qualities you need to look for when shopping for the best one that you can use in your aquarium.

Type of Controller

The first thing that you need to think about is the type of controller you need. Do you need one for your pumps, the lights, or the heater? Maybe you are in the market for a pH controller aquarium.

There is no such thing as an all-in-one aquarium controller. With that in mind, you will need to find a controller meant for a specific task.

Ease of Use

Do not punish yourself by getting a device that you cannot even understand how to use. As much as possible, the controller should be plug-and-play. It should not require you to do any rewiring, complicated programming, or anything of the sort. Everything that you need to do, you should be able to do using the main controls.

If the device is not simple enough that you cannot figure out how to operate it right out of the box, then the included instructions should teach you how. Now, if the instruction manual still does not offer that much help, then you should not bother with the device as it will only cause unwanted stress.

Reliability

You will be relying on the controller to monitor the conditions of your aquarium, and then making sure that they stay at the optimum levels. This means that you need to find controllers that you know you can trust to do their jobs.

For instance, a heater/chiller controller should have an accurate thermometer to measure the temperature of the water. That way, it knows when to switch the heater or chiller when needed. You can check other customers’ aquarium monitoring system reviews for information on reliability.

Durability

Just like how you should expect an aquarium controller to be reliable, it should also work for an impressive amount of time, or at the very least an acceptable length of time. You would not want to buy a new controller every two or three months. These devices are supposed to last a couple of years before you have to replace them.

Moreover, these devices do not come cheap, so if you need to replace the controller every time it breaks, then you are just wasting your money. Find an aquarium controller that can last at least a couple of years.

Safety Features

You will be using Neptune aquarium controllers on expensive tanks full of expensive fish, corals, and plants, so you better believe that you need one that can guarantee that it would not endanger any of your aquarium equipment.

The first thing to look for is surge protection. This will protect the equipment plugged in the controller from sudden electric surges that often happen during thunderstorms and other inclement weather. Moreover, the device should also be insulated and grounded properly. This will prevent electricity from leaking into the aquarium.

Cost

Some aquarium controllers can be quite expensive, but you do not necessarily have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a single device. There are plenty of aquarium controllers that are below $50 and they work quite well.

However, you should not buy the cheapest device that you can find. Try to find the happy medium between price and quality. Also, if you already have a set budget, it is not worth going over your budget just for a controller. Take a bit more time to scout your options so you can get the best deal.

Frequently Asked Questions

aquarium controller board

Why do I Need an Aquarium Controller Reef?

You will be mainly using an aquarium controller for added convenience. In the case of keeping your aquarium at a steady temperature, you would not want to be continuously checking the thermometer. Aquarium keeping is already a time-consuming hobby as it is.

An aquarium controller for water temperature will monitor your tank for you, and it will automatically turn on the heater or chiller to get the water back to temp. Once the water temperature goes back to normal, the controller will cut the power from the heater or chiller.

How to Control the Aquarium Heater with a Controller?

First, you need to get a proper temperature controller. Dip the probe into the water, plug the heater into the appropriate outlet on the controller and make sure to turn it on. After that, plug in the controller.

After turning on the controller, you need to set the temperature that you wish to maintain in your tank. When the sensor probe notices that the temperature dropped, it will automatically provide power to the heater.

Conclusion

Having an aquarium controller can be a game-changer, especially if you haven’t been an aquarium keeper for that long. With a proper controller, you will no longer need to closely monitor your tank to prevent any untoward disaster. You just let the device handle it for you.

You will discover that with the best aquarium controller installed and working, keeping an aquarium can truly be a relaxing hobby.

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