I purchased the Reef Kinetics ReefBot v1 back in 2019. Reef Kinetics is a company based in Beirut, Lebanon. I have always been an early adopter of innovative products, especially if that product fills a need in my system. This unit was an innovative device 3 years ago and the thought of automatic water testing with off the shelf liquid based reagents was phenomenal. I personally had issues reading certain levels of colors and have always questioned the repeatability of measuring the correct sample sizes each time. Most of all I was not the most consistent aquarist when it came down to performing regular tests. Due to my day job I used to live in a hotel somewhere in the world 190 days/year; this was the strong reason for highly automating my system.
Principle of Operation
The ReefBot v1 is a fairly simple mechanical device. It holds 8 20mL reagent vials with magnetic stir pills, a RO water rinse chamber, and a testing chamber with a color spectrometer to read the colors. A stepper motor driven belt positions a 1 ml syringe laterally. 2 actuators move the syringe and dispenses in the vertical axis. The syringe bracket also mounts a magnetic stirrer on the bottom. This motor rotates the magnetic pills in each vial and chamber.
There are 3 fluid lines for the device: the 2 input lines for the tank sample water and the reverse osmosis rinse water, and the output line for all the waste. There are 3 continuous and 1 stepper motor peristaltic pumps controlling the flow in the system, 3 micro valves direct the flow, and Raspberry Pi 3 connected to an Arduino-like digital IO board controls the system. The local software loaded on the Raspberry Pi 3 appears to just control the machine’s mechanical functions and the data collection. All the data is analyzed via Reef Kinetics’ Cloud based server.
The user interface is an Android/IOS App or by a web browser dashboard. The mobile app must be used to set up the device and for contacting support.
The ReefBot functionality and accuracy is impacted by calibration of the RO chamber and Test Chamber liquid volumes. The effectiveness and cleanliness of the syringe, and 3 valves are items to keep an eye on for successful tests. The resolution of measurement is only as good as the test kit chosen.
The original unit worked ok for the last 3 years. As with all technology there will be hiccups that require troubleshooting and maintenance; I had to replace an actuator and clean out the valves a few times. The good news is that the level of support I received was really good. The time zone difference will cause a delay in responses, on top of recent COVID related setbacks. The official online resources are the ReefBot Owners Facebook page and the Reef Kinetics webpage. I have been documenting my own service manual based on my experience. It outlines the problems I have encountered and their fixes, and alternative sources for parts. I can understand that if you are not hands-on and technical it can be frustrating to deal with these types of serviceability issues on any product.
- Works as designed
- Simple to use
- Supports WiFi and Ethernet wire connections
- Dashboard can also display some data from Neptune Apex Controller
- Can use various liquid-based off the shelf Test Kit reagents for: Alkalinity, Calcium, Magnesium, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Phosphate, Iodine, Copper
- Continuous improvement from development in the software and seen in v2 and Pro units
- Use non-proprietary off the shelf parts
- Cloud server dependent (biggest long term concern for me)
- 20mL Reagent bottle was only 50% utilized (fixed in V2)
- Manufacturing and component quality (As seen with bent needles from poor alignment, actuator failures or rusting valves)
- No official accessible troubleshooting database and videos
- Support response lag time
- Some of the supported test kits are not always accessible where you are
- No individual component control for the user troubleshooting
- “Clean Machine is a Happy Machine”
- Check all tubes are clear and not clogged
- Ensure all pumps move and peristaltic tubes are not worn or leaking
- Check solenoid valves are clean and the Normally Closed plunger moves easily
- Shake reagent bottles well before pouring into vials.
- Caution: Reagents can be bad even if they have not expired. You may have to get a different lot # of the same reagent to compare. Some manufacturers may compensate you for the bad bottle. Make sure you keep the bad bottle showing the lot #, expiration date, and proof of purchase.
- Filtering Tank Water
- Reduce clogging maintenance of the valves from algae and debris
- I added an inline filter to the tank water input to match what was included with the v2 models.
- Measurement Devices
- Always double check any measurement devices used. The blue labeled graduated cylinder (left) used for the volume calibration that came with my 1st machine was inaccurate. The cylinder on the right is accurate when compared to a calibrated pipette and weighing the liquid. Use the reference standards for RO water: 1 ml = 1gram = 1cc. If using saltwater @ 35ppt or 1.026 SG: 1ml = 1.026 grams
In summary, I like the device. The ReefBot v1 works well for me. I am now familiar enough to troubleshoot the typical issues that may arise from a mechanical standpoint. I hope some of the Cons I mentioned get addressed in the future and will be able to be retrofittable to the 2 ReefBot v1s I have.