Although combined heater/thermostat units have in the past been key in enabling hobbyists to maintain tropical species in captivity, when it comes to modern reef aquaria, even modern units are sadly not sophisticated enough to guarantee the safety of expensive and delicate livestock. Beyond general inaccuracy, these units are often incapable of maintaining the consistent narrow margins required by sensitive marine organisms on their own. On rare occasions their failure can even have catastrophic consequences for your livestock.
To avoid such issues, marine hobbyists have been linking heaterstats to third part devices such as the ATC 800+, STC-1000 and Elitech E-1000 for some time now and in such cases, providing the heater is set to maintain a temperature slightly above that set on the controller, this can work well. Unfortunately, all of the solutions above require time and effort to assemble and wire properly, and some people just don’t have the time or ability to achieve this. However, there’s now an ‘off the shelf solution’ available!
The plug and play dual temperature controller from Simply Aquaria side-steps the need to wire your own unit as it comes with a double 3-pin UK socket outlet attached. This not only allows for the simple attachment of a heater on one socket and a fan or chiller on the other, but actually, as the heating outlet can handle up to 1600 watts, and the cooling socket up to 600 watts, one could power a number of devices from this controller. In addition, it features a constantly lit display so you can see the reading without pushing a button, and an audible/visible alarm is incorporated to alert if a device isn’t able to heat or cool the aquarium effectively.
In operation, this controller is exceptionally easy to set indeed it only has 3 buttons… up, down and set. With a sensitive plastic-coated probe (2m cable) detecting water temperature accurately, it is capable of operating with a 0.3 centigrade resolution although in our situation, the unit seemed to maintain the temperature within 0.1 degree of the target consistently day and night (a reasonably stable ambient room temperature helps of course). We also tested the alarm and although audible, it probably won’t be enough to wake you in the middle of the night particularly if the unit is located within an enclosed space or if it is a long way away. In most cases it should be fine though. For mounting the unit, two sticky Velcro pads are included in the box and this worked well for us. Finally, the unit does have a memory function so it should recall settings in the event of a power outage.
In short, the controller is impressive and has worked perfectly for us so far. Let’s also note that this unit is available as a bundle with a German-made Schego titanium heater. Much tougher than glass heaters, Schego heaters are not only shatterproof but also considerably shorter than combined glass heater/stat. As such, you’ll be able to fit one or more units into restricted spaces much more easily, and they don’t need to be orientated in a specific way either. On top of this, let’s face it, they just look really cool! Beyond the aesthetics, note that these units are backed with a 2-year guarantee and, in terms of exact dimensions, take a look below:
100, 200 and 300w units are all 250mm x 25mm (LxW) – for aquaria 100 – 300 litres
600w 350mm x 25mm (LxW) – for aquariums up to 600 litres
So to summarise, the Simply Aquaria controller and Schego titanium heater are an ideal marriage for the accurate maintenance of temperature in reef tanks… from nanos, to swimming pools! The kit comes for a great price too with the controller available at around £40 and the heaters ranging from £33 (100w titanium heater) to £55 (600w titanium heater). For a list of stockists, check out the simplyaquaria website