Bob Mehen gets his hands on a new easy-to-use automatic feeder.
Feeding your fish while on holiday can be a problem. For shorter trips, your fish should be none the worse for a few days fasting, but for longer holidays it can be a considerable headache. Asking relatives or neighbours to help poses the risk of overfeeding and polluted tanks.
Automatic feeders have been around for a long while now, but while the principle is sound, they’re frequently plagued with design flaws, leading to issues with reliability. JBL has now introduced the AutoFood feeder — a solidly built, electronically programmable unit available in both black and white finishes.
This is a very well thought out unit. Mounting feeders securely has often been an issue, but JBL has two different mounting options: suckers to fix it firmly to cover glasses or smoother finished hoods, or a strong clamp, to attach to the edge of a tank or hood. The clamp also allows 360° rotation to make lining up the feeder with a tank opening easier.
The controller features a 24-hour clock that’s easily set using hour and minute buttons. It allows for four feeds each day and meal sizes can be adjusted using a setting of one to eight.
The feeder is designed to work with small, granular foods with a size no larger than 3mm. While this might seem restrictive, granular foods can be selected to suit most species, and flake and tablet foods have, in my experience, been the nemesis of automated feeders, often causing blockages due to their shape.
The hopper holds a generous 125ml of food but can be supplemented with a further 250ml by screwing one of the medium-sized JBL food pots onto the top. There’s an integrated opener to cut the foil seal on the food container when attached to help avoid spillages. The food is released through a small hatch on the underside of the feeder and is pushed forward by a 'dosing screw' — basically a plastic auger that shifts a controlled amount of food forward depending how long the motor drives it for. The self-clearing nature of this mechanism means that if the right types of food are used, blockages are less likely.
There’s also a connection for an air pump hose to prevent moisture from the aquarium making the food damp.
The AutoFood remembers the time and feeding settings even when switched off, so you shouldn’t need to reprogram it every time you use it, and the display has an indicator to warn you if the batteries are reaching the end of their life.
The feeder comes complete with the required 3 x AA batteries as well as a manufacturer’s three-year warranty.
Well-designed and easy to use, this is the best automatic feeder I’ve seen so far.
Price: RRP £43.95.
More info: www.jbl.de/en or email firstname.lastname@example.org