Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hydor Smart Level Control ATO System: Simple, Inexpensive and Effective



As aquarium automation marches toward being the norm rather than a luxury enjoyed by few, more and more products have been made available to make maintaining your reef aquarium easier than ever before.


Numerous new automatic top-off systems have been introduced recently to meet the demands of the modern aquarium hobbyist. Not only do ATOs save you the trouble of topping off your aquarium daily, it also helps to maintain a stable salinity level that is better for your aquarium inhabitants.


Among these new ATOs is the Hydor Smart Level Control ATO System. This new ATO from Hydor is just about as easy-to-use as can be!

It uses an advanced thermal sensor to accurately maintain the water level in your sump. With no moving parts, you do not have to worry about mechanical floats getting stuck or issues caused by calcium deposits, bacterial film, wave action or snails climbing on to the sensor.

Green LED indicating low water level

The compact sensor easily mounts in your sump with magnets. The three-prong sensor has sensors for minimum water level, maximum water level and alarm. A 6-foot cord connects the sensor to the main control unit and there is another 6-foot power cord that plugs into the wall, so you have plenty of cabling to work with.

Red 'Alarm' LED and an audible alarm indicating water level raising to high

A two-prong plug is provided for you to attach any pump of your choice for top off (up to 50W). An ideal pump should slowly top off your aquarium and take 25 seconds to 10 minutes to go from the minimum to maximum level, which spans 8mm-12mm (1/3” – ½”) from minimum to maximum. The Cobalt MJ-Series or Eheim Compact powerheads work nicely for most applications.

Updated polarized plug

When the Smart Level was initially released, Hydor had included a non-polarized socket, which made pumps with polarized plugs incompatible. Customers were limited to using Hydor pumps or would have to get an adapter. Fortunately, this has since been corrected and now a polarized socket is included so you can use just about any pump up to 50W.

On/Off switch with a thoughtful water-resistant cover

If the water level reaches the “Alarm” level, the Smart Level will illuminate all LEDs, cut off power to the pump and trigger an audible alarm. Operation goes back to normal once the water level drops below the “Alarm” level.

The alarm will also trigger if top-off takes longer than 10 minutes, which can occur if the top-off reservoir runs dry or the top-off pump fails. In this scenario, the system will shutdown to protect the pump and will need to be restarted by pressing the on/off button.


Another great aspect of the Hydor Smart Level Control is its price. At less than $100, it is the only ATO in this price range that does not rely on a mechanical float. With its practical design, great safety features and affordable price tag, the Hydor Smart Level ATO makes a great case for itself.

If you have been waiting for an economical and easy-to-use top-off system, the Hydor Smart Level Control may be just what you are looking for.