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Seneye Reef Review

  • I’ve read a few reviews on the web and they are all pretty varied on whether the author likes or dislike the unit so I decided to wait about 2 weeks before doing my review. Now I’m not going to go into to depth on what the is, you can read that here >>> seneye - Aquarium water Testing | Fish Tank water sensor - seneye aquarium water testing devices

    Being from a pretty strong IT based background, I’ve always wanted my tank to be A.) computer based and B.) online, it’s just one of those things that happen when you’re deeply involved in technology. So when the Seneye Reef was 1st announced I knew I had to have it, period. Truthfully I didn’t even think it would be released in South Africa at all and I thought I would more than likely need to import it, so kudos to Nathan from The Serious Reefer for having the balls to bring them in! Anyways as soon as I heard that they were here, I bought one.

    Box Opening

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    On opening the box you get the sense, right off the bat, that it’s a decent product. No cheap chinesey feel here. The unit is about the size of 1 and a half matchboxes with a long “marine proofed” lead terminating in a USB plug. This can either be plugged into a USB power supply (supplied but with a UK spec plug so best you start looking for an adapter), a USB Wi-Fi router or a PC.

    It is well designed, well constructed and pretty well thought out, but the euphoria of getting a new toy is quickly muted when you discover that you need to soak a slide (this is needed for PH and Ammonia testing and streaming and lasts a month) for 2 days in a glass of tank water before you can do anything. This sucks but it’s pretty important and it’s why I think this product may have got some negative reviews in the past, the authors were simple being too impatient. As far as I can see, the slide works on a kind of litmus paper/laser scanning principle (I stand to be corrected) and this litmus paper needs to soak for a few days in order for your tanks parameters to match those of the slide.

    Light Meter

    Anyways so being a fairly impatient person when it comes to new gadgets (I’m human), I let the slide soak (yeah I actually did do this, kind of) and while that was happening, I decided to mess around with the light meter.

    So I created an online account with Seneye, downloaded the manual and the software and installed it. Truth be told, the light meter was one of the main reasons I bought this device. A PAR, LUX, Spectrum and Kelvin meter for R1700?! Really!? That has to be a joke! And to be honest, at that price I wasn’t expecting much, I thought it would really be a pretty subpar (excuse the pun) device but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s good, really good. I would need to get a pro PAR meter to be able to compare accuracy but to me it seems pretty accurate when compared to other tank/PAR tests I’ve seen online.

    So I started with the Spectrum meter and to test its accuracy, I started messing with my RGB LED’s. I switched off all the lights, switched the RGB’s to red and lo and behold a nice spike in the red spectrum! Nice! The same thing happened with both the green and blue spiking in their respective regions. I then started messing around with the other 16 colors available on the RGB remote and you can actually see the spike either widening or shifting on the Seneye monitor software to match where the LEDs are, on the spectrum. Thoroughly impressed, I then switched on the rest of the lights (2 x 2ft T5’s and 3 x 36w PAR32’s) to see how the change in color of the RGB’s would affect the overall spectrum. It did! Wow. Impressed!

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    The spectrum meter

    Along with the Spectrum meter, you also get a kelvin meter that measures overall light. Now what’s interesting here is to see how the combination of lights, change your Kelvin readings. I have 3 x LED 36w PAR38’s with a Cree XRE 8 Cool White/4 Royal Blue split in each. I was expecting a Kelvin of around 12000k but instead it’s about 9500 according to the meter. To be honest I have to agree with it as they are definitely more white than blue. Pretty chuffed with all this I moved forward.

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    Floating the Seneye so I can get some PAR readings. Normally its attached to the glass with the supplied suction cup.

    Wi-Fi

    So the whole point of this unit is not that of a parameter measuring device, but that of a warning device. Sure it’s nice to be able to monitor your parameters constantly BUT this device is really there to tell you when a particular parameter, be it too high or too low, has been exceeded (these max and min levels can be set on your control and monitor page (Create New Customer Account - seneye aquarium water testing devices)), when that happens you get both a SMS sent to you and I tested it, it works, so it’s pretty effective. Thing is, you obviously need to be connected to the web in order for this to work. You can get a Belkin Homebase which effectively turns any USB devices signal into a Wi-Fi signal you can then pick up with your PC (this eliminates the need for a PC close to your tank) but herein lies the rub, the Seneye software is PC based only (this will change later im told but it’s the case for now) and I have an Apple network at home. So after some thought I decided it would just be easier and cheaper just to buy either a cheap laptop or netbook that I can plug directly into the Seneye and be done with it all. It sounds extreme but to be honest, once you have played with this Seneye it starts to make complete sense. So I ended up buying a little Gigabyte Netbook Q2005 for around R2000 (ive seen 2nd hand Asus EeePC’s going for R1000) and that seems to be doing the job quite nicely. What I can commend the developers at Seneye on, is how easy they have made the whole “online” process. No having to configure web or Wi-Fi settings, simply type in the e-mail address you used to create your online Seneye account into the Seneye monitor software and bang, you’re streaming. It’s as simple as that. So for those of you that may be a little technologically challenged, don’t worry, Seneye’s sorted out all that hocus pocus internets magic for you

    The Slide

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    So by this time the slide was ready to use and I duly popped it into the Seneye. Now truthfully I didn’t wait the full 48 hours as suggested (hey I’m human), it was more like 32 and I can now see why you need to stick to the recommendation. I took a look at my 1st PH reading and it was sitting on 7.9! (OMG!!!) I nearly had a heart attack, but a quick test with my digital PH meter confirmed that the tank was in fact sitting on 8.4. A few hours later I checked the Seneye reading again and it had risen to 8.1, a few hours later, 8.4. At 3:00 in the morning I was woken up by an SMS from Seneye telling me my PH level was too high! On closer inspection, the Seneye was telling me the tank was on 8.6, I tested the tank with my digital meter, 8.3. Hmmmm….so this is where “calibrating” your Seneye with the Monitor software becomes important. It’s pretty straight forward, you have a little lock at the bottom right of the front page, you unlock it and you can then adjust your Seneye monitors figures to match those of your PH meter or test kit. I took it down by 0.3 points and since then I’ve never had an issue. I’ve tested a few times against my Digital PH Meter since then and the Seneye’s figures are pretty much spot on. The same applies for temp.

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    As I said before, this device is primarily a warning device, it’s not a scientific measuring instrument used for testing water parameters. It’s more there to tell you when there is a sudden shift in your parameters. So don’t think you can go along, buy this unit and get rid of all your test kits and equipment, it’s not going to happen, you are still going to need to calibrate the Seneye with them from time to time.

    The online page

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    The heart of the Seneye concept is the Seneye Reef monitor unit, however it means nothing if you can't track the progress of your tank. Now this is where things get REALLY interesting. Just the PH swings your tank goes through between day and night are incredible and the Senye is not exaggerating, I've tested it against my PH meter and it was bang on. What I love is you can now start seeing a direct correlation between all your parameters at a glance, like how your temp affects Dissolved Oxygen Potential (yeah it measures that, one to watch during a power failure) and NH4. The direct correlation between how much your individual lights heat up the tank (sounds stupid but you can actually see the ramp in temp when certain lights go on).

    The web page (Create New Customer Account - seneye aquarium water testing devices) is where you set your min and max levels and this is where I have a small gripe. I can understand why the developers chose to go with an HTML5 concept. It makes sense since it suits everybody straight off the bat and once that’s fine tuned, they can then start developing the apps for the plethora of phones and tablets out there. However my gripe is this, the website is not very tablet or touch screen friendly. Once the page is open, when you try and navigate by either pulling the page up or down, you inevitably end up changing one of your parameters high or lows and this happens EVERYTIME. Granted you have an undo but still, it's a pain in the ass and it can be fixed simply by adding a lock on each individual parameter. Bar this issue, it works fine and I have been pretty happy with their offering but truthfully I'll be happy when they have released their iPhone and iPad apps.

    Versatility

    Bar the monitoring aspect of this device it's pretty useful as well. For instance, I initially had a pair of ATI 14000k T5's flanking my LED's. When I tested the spectrum I realized that although the T5's and the LEDs were sitting higher up in the Kelvin range individually, and ultimately more in the blue spectrum by themselves, but when combined, the Kelvin reading was a lot lower (8000k) and pushing my overall light spectrum more into the red. Not good. So I changed out the ATI 14000k for some Actinic and I'm now back to being more in the blue spectrum (12000k). Another thing I didn't realize was how cold my tank was getting at night. To try and keep my temp more stable I run my fans constantly, this works fine in summer but now that we are starting to hit winter, the fans are obviously having more of an impact and at night the tanks temp now drops a lot more dramatically, this is easily remedied by slowing down the fan speed but to be honest, it really never occurred to me as I was never up at 3 in the morning to check my tanks temp. Both these things I would've never have realized without the Seneye and it's only been the 1st 2 weeks.

    Being able to look at all your parameters at once is quite novel and to be honest, I think just this fact will ultimately have a big impact on reefing as a whole. The reason I say this is because putting 2 and 2 together is not always so easy unless it's right in front of you and that's what the Seneye gives you. Add to this that there are 5 new parameters on the way (Nitrate, Nitrite, General Hardness, Carbonate Hardness and Chlorine) and you have a serious analyzing and fault finding tool!

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    Verdict

    The reefing community can sometimes be pretty hard on a new product and personally I feel that most of the time it’s down to established reefers wanting or thinking that they know best. This is a very boys toy orientated hobby and there are constantly debates on what's better i.e Metal Halide vs. LED debate, DSB vs. Zeo, Nitrate Reactors vs. Zeo vs. DSB etc. The truth of the matter is that we are able to keep these fish and corals out of their natural habitat due to this very technology we are debating and had it not advanced or changed we wouldn't be able to do what we do now. Tanks have become smaller, more efficient and more successful enabling us to keep more and more diverse species and we need to constantly push these boundaries if we hope to be even more successful.

    Where am I going with this? Think how big the Seneye concept is and then you start to realize what a brave step these guys have decided to take. To design and develop an affordable parameter and light monitoring sensor that can plug into a server and relay all your parameters instantly online wherever you are? That’s pretty dam amazing. Sure you have been able to do this with Profilux units for ages but at a pretty steep price. This kind of technology was always reserved for the wealthier reefers but now, if you already own PC, this unit (with 4 months worth of slides) will set you back only R1700!

    To be honest, it's been 2 weeks and i've already gotten used to the Seneye. Checking my tanks parameters while i'm at work is granted, pretty novel, and I don't do it every day, but it's a reassurance I never had before. Being able to monitor my tanks progress at night has also given me some insight into my tanks cycle and ultimately helps me make more informed decisions if something should go wrong.

    Personally I feel this device is going to change the industry as we know it, they have made an affordable product that helps us reefers do the one thing we most desire, keeping our tanks more stable.