The more experience you gather as an aquarist and the more you expand your hobby, the need for automating a few processes becomes increasingly critical. Devices that employ simple control systems to facilitate, terminate, or moderate these processes are called aquarium controllers.
From manual timer-based outlets to App-based dosing systems, these aquarium controllers are capable of managing most sensitive processes, including water change. However, some of them aren’t as efficient and accurate as we would’ve liked.
In this article, we’ve reviewed the most capable aquarium controllers that we regularly use and find pretty effective.
Table of Contents
7 Best Aquarium Controllers
1. Best Temperature Controller: Inkbird WiFi ITC-308
Designed with both saltwater and freshwater tanks in mind, the Inkbird ITC-308 for Aquariums is one of the most trustable temperature controllers available in the market. With its sturdy build and accurate probing, you won’t need to worry about overheating or hypothermia.
- WiFi Temp Control
The controller can be operated with the free “InkbirdSmart” app and WiFi. You can adjust the set temperature and view temperature trend diagrams through the app.
- Dual Relay Output
The device comes with a pair of relay outputs to control both the heater and the cooling device (cooling fan, wavemakers, etc). Just plug the appropriate device into the befitting socket to reach the desired temperature.
- High-Temperature Range
This controller can probe and adjust (if not limited by the equipment) aquarium temperature into the range of -58 to 248F (-50 – 120C) with utmost accuracy of around 2 points.
- Corrosion Protection
Safe stainless steel probes and a molded body ensure that corrosions can be minimized even if it’s used in saltwater.
- Dual display to view both set and current temperature.
- Safety alarm, sensor failure alarm.
- Celsius and Fahrenheit support
- Instructions are pretty vague.
- Needs recalibrating after every few months.
2. Best pH Controller: DANOPLUS pH Controller
pH strips and solutions can often be inaccurate. Ditch them to embrace a more accurate Danoplus pH Controller. Thanks to its always-connected configuration, you can constantly check your aquarium’s pH without making recurring investments.
- 2-in-1 pH and Temperature meter
While it may not replace your temperature controller yet, it’s capable of measuring and notifying you about the unusual metrics. The pH meter works as it should.
- Replaceable pH Electrode
The BNC-type pH electrodes are replaceable, and the replacement part also is available online. You don’t need to replace the whole unit to maintain top-notch performance over a few years.
- Wide pH Range
Measurable from 0 to 14 pH, the Danoplus pH Controller is one of the most accurate and efficient pH meters out there. With calibration and proper technique, we’ve been able to derive the most accurate results with this equipment.
- Easy Calibration
Dip the probe in the buffer solution (pH 6.8) or RO water (pH 7.0) to adjust the calibration screw accordingly.
- Accurate to 0.1 pH.
- Well-built probes and controller
- Needs weekly calibration
3. Best Lighting Controller: Fospower 7-Day Programmable Digital Timer
Day-night lighting settings are essential for planted tanks. But, as most lighting setups lack the basic control, Fospower 7-Day Timer fulfills the purpose. Able to customize each day of the week individually, this lighting controller is simple to use and accurate. It also comes with 24/7 customer support.
This controller allows you to set 7-day programs for any time of the day to turn the lighting off or on. You also can save the settings and change to a different program when required.
- 10 Set Programs
Ten programs can be saved to use your programs for different devices or different preferences for, say, springtime.
- Random Function
Although not very useful in an aquarium setting, the RND Function randomly turns the lights On and Off to confuse burglars and other malicious actors.
- Control up to Two Fixtures
Two different devices can be controlled simultaneously. You can manage multiple lighting fixtures to enhance the day-night settings.
- 100 hours of battery backup
- Easy to assemble and use
- Pricing is perfect
- Not waterproof. Keep it dry.
- The LCD is a bit hard to read.
4. Best Pump Controller: BN-LINK 8 Outlet Digital Timer
Similar in mechanism to the lighting controller, the BN-LINK digital timer is much more capable and versatile. With multiple auto and manual settings and easy-to-use operation, this 8-outlet digital timer is appropriate for using multiple pumps and filters simultaneously.
- 4+4 Outlets
The outlets are designed in such a way that the 4 outlets on the left are programmable and can be used to control pumps, lighting fixtures, and other schedulable equipment, while the rest are always on to support filters and other continuously operable components.
- 8 On/Off Programs
The four programmable outlets are powered by 8 On/Off customizable settings for effortless switching.
- Manual / Auto Mode
You either can set the programmable outlets to work automatically as intended or override them whenever required with the manual mode. We usually use this to turn the filter off for cleaning or turn on the lights at unusual times without losing the settings.
- Pre-Set Combination Settings
This controller allows you to both set your programs and use the convenient pre-set settings.
- Bright indicator lights
- Surge-protected and reliable
- Backup battery
- Mountable on wall
- Instructions are incomplete and hard to understand.
5. Best Wave Controller: Uniclife Aquarium Wave Maker
Designed to generate ocean-like flow in 120-300 gallon fish tanks, the Uniclife Wave Maker is an absolute beast. With a max flow rate of 3400 GPH and all-around circulation, it can satisfy even the most demanding fish in your tank. Additionally, it comes with an adjustable DC motor.
- Frequency Control Knob
Don’t stop at just controlling the flow rate and delve into the frequency settings to offer a true ocean-like experience to your fish.
- Strong Magnetic Base
The strong magnetic base ensures that the base is fixed in its position, and the pump can be rotated as you see fit. The rotatable head, on top, strives to achieve multi-directional wave generation.
- Four Wave Modes
Linear, pulse, half-wave rectified sine wave, and a random wave mode are offered in this wave maker unit. You can adjust the patterns with a single tap of a button.
- Externally Adjustable Flow Rate
The controller is to be installed outside the aquarium, where you can easily reach it to manage several different settings.
- Feed mode for slow wave feeding times.
- Ultra-quiet operation. Day-night mode.
- 360-degree rotation.
- Can’t be used in small tanks.
- Pricing could be a bit better.
6. Best Automatic Feeder: EHEIM Everyday Fish Feeder
It’s not acceptable to starve your fish whenever you’re required to stay outside for a week or even a night. The EHEIM Automatic Feeder takes care of the feeding portions and frequency to ensure that your aquatic friends aren’t famished when you’re back home.
- Up to 8 Feedings Per Day
The fish feeder can be programmed to facilitate the feeding cycle up to 8 times a day at regular intervals. Just set the interval timer and see it working effortlessly.
- Splash Proof Buttons
While the feeder is a bit susceptible to getting wet, the buttons and electronics are safe from accidental splashes.
- Large Feeding Drum
The 100 ml/3.3fl. oz feeding drum is large enough to feed smaller breeds of fish continuously for up to 6 weeks. However, we recommend not putting it to an extreme test.
- Manual Feeding Option
You may also feed your fish with your own hands just by pressing the manual feeder button. However, it doesn’t reset the timer.
- Adjustable slider to ensure appropriate portions.
- The ventilation system keeps food dry inside the chamber.
- Battery operated.
- Dispensing portions aren’t accurately adjustable.
- The fan doesn’t run 24/7.
7. Best Dosing Controller: Jebao Doser 3.4 WiFi 4-Channel
Dosing controllers or dosers, like the Jebao Doser 3.4, are electronically controlled systems that move little, accurate amounts of fluids to the tank. Typically, minerals, phytoplanktons, and fertilizers are injected in small amounts into the water to satisfy species-specific demands. The Jebao Doser 3.4 can be controlled remotely.
- Four-Channel Dosing
This doser comes with 4 channels to dose different liquids to your freshwater or saltwater aquarium. The channels are also stand-alone and can be programmed individually.
- WiFi Support. App Control
The lack of manual control is fulfilled by WiFi support and extensive app control. You need to install the Jebao app and use a 2.4 GHz connection to program the unit.
- Broad Dosing volume and frequency
Any dosing volume between 1 ml to 9999 ml can be chosen per day, and distributed up to 24 times each day.
- Max 30 Days Dosing Interval
A max interval of 30 days can be set with the Jebao Doser. This setting is particularly useful when you have a lightly stocked fish tank.
- Designed for calcium, magnesium, and other mineral dosing.
- Easy to use Jebao App. Available for both iOS and Android.
- Each channel works individually.
- The directions aren’t great.
Despite our best attempts to enlist most types of controllers, numerous products are beyond the scope of this article. Here, in this section, we’ll try to guide you through a few pointers that we find critical while buying any type of controller.
The most critical component to buying an aquarium controller should be your purpose. For example, if your purpose revolves around controlling most of your equipment with a single device, you need to commit to an expensive multi-purpose controller with app control and waterproofing.
For the rest, a single outlet controller should work for every device. Regardless, you may invest in a double channel one for futureproofing.
Wi-Fi and App Support
Lack of housing space and settings clarity often make it challenging to adjust the units with a manual controller. For example, you can’t squeeze your manual controller to the smallest of openings if your hands are too big to reach them.
Additionally, if you have multiple tanks, it may become a hassle to physically adjust each one of them.
With WiFi and App Support, you can control multiple of the same units without needing to reach the buttons and make a mess.
Most controllers are operated by AC sources and can prove to be destructive to both your house and livestock if short-circuited. Therefore, it’s critical to keep an eye out for surge protective equipment whenever possible.
However, you don’t need surge protection in all your controllers. The ones that run on battery or aren’t designed to run a motor constantly, may be bought cheaper without a surge controller.
Controllers are meant to automate human processes without losing any efficacy points. So, accuracy should be an essential contributing factor to your decision of buying an aquarium controller.
For instance, imagine a doser not dosing correctly and injecting much more minerals than it should. While it may not be an issue if the deviation isn’t great, it can prove to be detrimental if the levels are stretched to extremes.
Always go through the reviews when choosing any type of aquarium controller. As some of the controllers can be exorbitantly expensive, you should weigh the pros and cons before committing to them.
Even if you like the product very much, don’t ignore the negative reviews about them. While some of them may be a bit extreme, do follow the recurring ones to understand the value you might be getting out of it.
Controllers come in various shapes, sizes, and prices. For example, you can buy a simple multi-purpose controller for around fifty dollars, while the premium ones may cost you hundreds of dollars.
Check out our article on ‘Best 9 Hang-On Back (HOB) Protein Skimmers For Aquarium‘.
The Bottom Line
We’ve listed the 7 best aquarium controllers that are suitable for various types of operations. Hopefully, you’ll now be able to choose the ones that you require without being misguided. We also have prepared a comprehensive buying guide for your convenience.