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Has anyone used a Reef-Pi?


Supporting Member
Hi all!
I just learned about the Reef Pi and RoboTank. The reef pi is like an open source apex and the robotank is a modified raspberry pi so you dont have to solder a bunch of tiny things. The most feature rich preassembled kit is only $270 vs like $800 for an Apex. IIRC the Reef-Pi's developer is from NorCal. I plan to order one this summer to tinker with it.

Has anyone dabbled in with any of this stuff? How do you like it?


Supporting Member
Years ago I got a Reef Angel which is Arduino. It was fun, but when I set my tank up again, I decided to go with Apex because I thought it would be "easier." It probably is, but not 100% sure it's worth the extra $.

If you're into programming like that, you will probably enjoy either of those.


Supporting Member
I've just finished up the hardware for my Reef-Pi setup. I have 3 Nanos I want to control with 1 controller...in any case, I'm still in-progress. But I will say that some things have gotten easier in the last few years of the Raspberry Pi and HAT/Bonnets (daughter cards). In the included picture....
  • Raspberry Pi Zero-W
  • PWM+Servo Bonnet to control A80s https://www.adafruit.com/product/3416
  • DC+Stepper Bonnet to control 4x Dosing pumps (Used to ATO in my case).
  • A custom build lighting control daughter card for the level conversion from 5v to 10v PWM
  • Some stacking 2x40 headers.
Fewer things to build in detail compared to the past. Wires need to be assembled and soldering and the daughter card. I'll share the full build and details when I get there. Probably in two weeks. My intent is to pack the entire thing into the existing case from: https://www.amazon.com/hygger-Aquarium-Peristaltic-Programmable-Titration/dp/B087Q47Q7K?th=1.

This is by no means a 'ready to deploy' solution for anyone that doesn't have drive to solder a little and shrink wrap some wire. But most of the reef-keepers I've met aren't afraid of jumping in to building something that appears complex to the outside world :)


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Years ago I got a Reef Angel which is Arduino. It was fun, but when I set my tank up again, I decided to go with Apex because I thought it would be "easier." It probably is, but not 100% sure it's worth the extra $.

If you're into programming like that, you will probably enjoy either of those.

I've got 2ea Reef Angels, one brand new, other is barely used.... if anyone wants them, lemmo know >free<


Supporting Member
I have two reef pis, setup via robo tank. If you own a raspberry pi, a power adapter, have a bit of Elec Eng knowledge, some software eng knowledge, and and are interested in tinkering with it as another hobby, it is alright. If you're looking for a super reliable controller platform, or looking for something cheap, or looking for something easy to use, it's not a good investment.

Especially now a days when Pis are impossible to get ahold of, and you start adding up the cost of all the things you need to buy, it's not cheaper than just buying other stuff used. It's also not reliable enough that I'd trust it on a main display at this point.

Finally, it's a PITA to use/setup, and actually not that programmable.

I got the first one because I'm interested in the concept, wanted to tinker, and misunderstood that it'd be a cool system where I could write code to control my aquarium. However it's not actually programmable, the UI is very difficult and buggy, and it gets into bad hangs where stuff just fails to work. Eg trying to setup a doser I made led to it completely falling to control my heater, and my heater got turned off and my tank dropped to 73°.

I still got a second one because I enjoy the tinkering.

I'm using it to control diy ATOs made of some peristaltic pumps I put together, controlled by an optical sensor with a mechanical backup. I also have it controlling heaters through a temp probe + some kasa smart plugs.

I'm not trying to complain about the devices/software, it's free and that's common to OSS stuff. However it's not a robust, tuned, controller system. It's a tech, aquarist, nerd fun, system.

You'd certainly be better off buying a used controller system if you're really into it.
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Supporting Member
Also, regarding the robo tank. The guy who sells it is great. The device is pretty solid. Be aware it's huge though, because to do anything you really do need the full set of 3 boxes.

If you just buy the single controller you can't actually do anything besides a very basic on/off based on a mechanical switch, ATO and temperate readings. The signal box is if you want any other probes (such as an optical water level sensor). The equipment box is required if you want to do any connections of 12v-24v devices (such as a peristaltic pump). Then you need the power supply and pi and sd card and ... which means you basically need that one you linked.

If you want to control directly electrical outlets, then you need to about that controllable outlet. As great as the kit is, and as much as I trust Rob the seller, I have a hard time with the idea of running 120v * 6 outlets through a device that certainly has no safety certification or testing. It's probably fine, and it's not like every device out there is super safe, but a benefit to a big company building things is they have a lot to lose and would get certified and hopefully have a QA department. DIY 12v DC is very different to me that DIY 120v AC.

Finally, it's a great home built++ kit, and the 3d printed case is nice, but it's not a device that's battle hardened. There's no water protection at all, and there's lots of live electrical ports begging to get saltwater in them and fry. I burnt out one sensor port already when I had some water splash when I wasn't paying attention during a water change.

Finally finally, it's just kind of huge and has a ton of wires everywhere. The 3 piece kit takes up a lot of space. Each one is big. Each is connected with Ethernet cables. Because of the port locations you can't stick them next to each other nor stack them. Overall that means they're going to take up like 8in by 18in of space.

Finally finally finally, you still need to buy all the sensors and things you're controlling, and hunt through forums to try and find which things you can buy on Amazon that are compatible.

Would I personally buy one? Yes, I bought two. Would I tell my other friends to buy one, who aren't tech dorks, no, they should just buy a used controller system. Should I buy another one? Probably not. The fancy controllers with those auto doser Alk controllers and hardened software and hardware seem like the way to go.