See Underwater With the Looky Box

Anyone who works on the water could benefit from a better picture of what’s going on underneath the waves. The Looky Box is a simple tool that makes it easier to take a look at submerged gear, bottom culture, and more.


Charlie Neill, GMRI Intern

A close-up of a Looky Box

What is a Looky Box?

The Looky Box is designed to eliminate glare so you can get a better picture of what’s going on beneath the waves. Even on the calmest days it can be difficult to see even a few feet under the water’s surface. By making it possible to see better underwater, this device could have a wide range of important uses for aquaculture growers, fishermen, researchers, and anyone else who spends time out on the water.

How does it work?

The design of the Looky Box is about as simple as it gets. The box is made from four wooden sides about a foot or so in height and a bottom made from a clear sheet of plexiglass. When the bottom of the box is submerged, it acts like a large pair of swimming goggles and allows you to see through the water to monitor gear or take a look at the bottom. The maximum visible depth depends on how clear the water is, so the majority of useful scenarios for this tool are probably in shallow waters.

Who could benefit from one?

While almost everyone who works on the water could benefit from better underwater visibility, there are a few uses that this tech would be especially usefully for.

  • Growers who use bottom culture can get a better picture of how oysters or other shellfish are doing on the bottom. The Looky Box makes it possible to check on bottom-grown oysters to make sure bags on the bottom are lying flat and in the proper distribution, verify when oysters are ready for harvesting, view the growth progress of recently spread seed, and help with the even distribution of spat.
  • Even when using surface culture, there’s a lot of submerged gear involved in aquaculture. Checking on gear such as mooring anchors and lines can help growers find and replace failing equipment before it breaks.
  • It’s important to know what bottom type is underneath your lease, especially when considering where to place gear that must be attached to the bottom (e.g. moorings, Zapcos, etc.)
  • In reef restoration projects, it’s often necessary to look underwater to see the status of existing reefs and seed, as well as monitor invasives like green crabs.

How to make your own Looky Box

  1. Cut four pieces of plywood, two 15”x11” and two 11”x11”
  2. Cut a piece of plexiglass 15”x11”
  3. Cut dado joints into the plywood that are the width of the plexiglass and about a half inch from the side of the plywood
  4. Cut handholds in the smaller pieces of plywood about an inch from the border
  5. Screw and glue the plywood into a box shape with the plexiglass inserted into the dado joints
  6. Apply silicone to the interior joints of the plexiglass to make the box watertight
  7. Apply a coat of paint if desired

Keep in mind that these instructions are just suggestions! Feel free to make any kind of modifications that you think would be useful. One common adjustment is to make the sides slant inwards towards the top in a pyramid shape to help block glare from incoming sunlight.

Innovations articles highlight creative devices and methods used on aquaculture farms. They are informed by farm visits and interviews with experienced growers. See our About page for more information.