How Twitter Killed My Fish

Aquaponics ArduinoI’d like to share a story with you today, about a bonehead move I made.

It’s the story of how I trusted a little bird to care for my fish, and how they ended up dead.

But first you need to know something about my friend Arduino.

Arduino is a plucky little microcontroller that runs the pump, and fans, and heater in my aquaponics system at Maple Bottom. He keeps my fish and plants alive and healthy. He also keeps meticulous records and tells me what’s going on over the internet. Arduino is my friend. He watches my fish.

Twitter AquaponicsFor a time, Arduino had another friend – a little bird named Twitter. While Arduino was happily sending me data through the internet, sometimes he would notice a problem and wanted to warn me about them. So Arduino told Twitter when there was a problem, and Twitter would chirp at me and send me a text message.

All was happy with Arduino and Twitter in the land of Maple Bottom, till one day a great and mighty rainstorm came. For three days it rained and it rained. The rain poured off the roof and down the hill. The garden overflowed with water. The water ran into the greenhouse where the aquaponics lives.

Rain CloudArduino saw the rain and thought, “It’s okay.  What can rain do to fish? It’s not like they can drown :)”

But Arduino forgot something. Can you guess what it is?

The waters rose higher and higher till they began to touch the pump, when Arduino remember the Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor. If the pump gets wet, he thought, we will lose power. Then the aerator will shut off and the fish won’t be able to breathe. Oh no!

Arduino Aquaponic PumpAnd just exactly that happened. The power shut off and all went dark and quiet at Maple Bottom.

Not to worry – Arduino had a plan for just such a moment. He would tell Twitter to come and find me before the fish ran out of air. I would bail out the water, restore power, and all would be well.

“Twitter!” Arduino called, “Twitter!” But Twitter didn’t answer.  He tried again, “Twitter, where are you?  I need you!” But Twitter didn’t answer.

What Arduino didn’t realize is that Twitter had changed her permissions settings, and would have to be reset before she would send any more messages. Twitter had flown the coop, at the worst possible time!

Red TilapiaA deep and profound sadness settled upon little Arduino, as one by one the tilapias ran out of air, starting with the biggest one.

The next morning Jeremiah returned to find nearly half his fish floating in the fish tanks, and the rest gasping for air. He restored power, but Arduino was inconsolable. They wept together over the fish, and Jeremiah gave each of the tilapia a proper burial.

And as the rain cleared and the rainbow filled the sky, they vowed a solemn vow that they would never again trust that blasted little bird to care for the fish.

And thus concludes the tale of brave Arduino, foolish Twitter, and the tragedy of the tilapia.

The End.

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6 responses to “How Twitter Killed My Fish

  1. JR-
    Sorry about the fish loss but appreciate your telling us all will so we avoid learning the same lesson the hard way. May I suggest a big, nasty UPS for at least the air pump, and maybe a screeching audio alarm that will bring your neighbors running! Sadly, I make my living with computers. But my friend Arduino sits next to me as I type, hoping you will share your code. Great frustration ensues trying to send my aqua-telemetry to Xively…

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    • Thanks Terry. I’ve been meaning to put up a set of plans for the controller with code. Soon. Thanks for the reminder!
      I took the aerator off GFCI after that incident. So far no more problems yet. I realize it’s only a matter of time before we get a power loss incident that lasts more than 2 hours. I’ll start looking for a UPS.

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  2. This is hands down the single reason we don’t use Twitter or any social media outlet for sending alerts from our arduino aquaponics controllers – one update and you’re out of luck. We use App Engine, which allows for email notifications (and obviously SMS) and we control all of the permissions. You can check out our arduino tutorials geared for aquaponics on our website:

    http://www.iowa-aquaponics.com/arduino/

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    • Thanks for the link. I’ve been following you guys with great interest. Thanks for your awesome posts!
      Since about January I’ve been using Zapier through Xively to send texts. Been completely bulletproof thus far.

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  3. Just found Rob Bob’s backup air pump with simple relay. Have a look; it would seem a good idea to use this “hardware” solution and monitor the state via the Arduino.

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