FishBit: So Easy Even I Can use It!

Here’s the FishBit monitor mounted in my 125 gallon reefRegular Saltwater Smarts visitors are well aware that I’m not exactly what you’d call “tech-savvy” or an “early adopter” when it comes to the latest gadgetry (though I am intrigued by this newfangled doohickey the kids call an “eight-track player”—it’s gonna be yuuuge!). So, it should come as no surprise that I take a pretty low-tech approach to the marine aquarium hobby. Nothing in my system is really automated (unless you count the timer on my lights), and I don’t use a lot of devices beyond your basic heater, protein skimmer, and submersible pumps. And, until very recently, I monitored all my water parameters the way God intended—using a hydrometer, floating thermometer, and various and sundry colorimetric test kits.I tell people that I like to keep things natural, but the truth of the matter is, my lone functioning brain cell has always struggled with technology and figuring out how the various components of a high-tech system interconnect (how I managed to finish Air Force Crypto School with high marks back in the day is anybody’s guess!). So, when Nathan Levine, founder of Current Labs, asked me to beta test their new FishBit monitor and controller, I was a bit apprehensive. How embarrassing would it be if I had to admit I couldn’t figure the thing out or, much worse, if I somehow damaged the unit by installing it upside down or…I don’t know…accidentally swallowing it? But after hearing that FishBit is specifically designed to be easy, trouble-free, and intuitive for people like me (analog folks trapped in a digital world), I felt somewhat reassured and agreed to give it a try. FishBit allows you to monitor key water parameters in real time as well as control multiple aquarium devices, such as your lights, pumps, and heater, through an app on your smartphone or other device.

How Simple Can You Get with Your Marine Aquarium?

While the title of this post puts me in mind of a song performed by Nick Rivers in the 1984 comedy film Top Secret, it’s a question many a novice has posed before setting up his or her first marine aquarium. How basic can it be? Or, put another way, what equipment is absolutely essential and what isn’t?This is a perfectly logical question because ours can be a highly equipment-intensive hobby, and the choices of gear and gadgets designed to make our lives easier can be downright mind-blowing. Add in all the online forum chatter about—and volatile disputes over—the latest-and-greatest hobby technology and methodology, and it’s no surprise that many beginners have a heck of a time distinguishing between the bare essentials and the “bells and whistles.” Complicating matters, of course, is the fact that opinions on what constitutes “essential equipment” can vary widely from one hobbyist to the next. I would humbly submit that the following items are all you really need for a bare-bones saltwater setup: (Note that you’ll also need various and sundry small-ticket items used for regular operation and maintenance, such as aquarium brushes, an algae magnet, etc. Plus, if you plan to keep a reef system, you’ll need to add some means of calcium/alkalinity supplementation to the list.) Some folks might say this list is grossly incomplete while others might contend you could get by without some of the items on it.