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FAQs about Controllers and Marine Systems

Related Articles: ControllersX10 Controllers, An Economical and Functional Approach to Aquarium Timers, By James Gasta, Marine System HeatingColdwater Systems

Related FAQs:  Water Changes for Marine Systems 1, Evaporation/Water Make-Up, Treating TapwaterMarine Water QualityMarine Plumbing Heating 1, Chillers, Water Temperature

If water goes on the deck... who will call you?

LA Fishguys - Aquarium Tech Talk APEX nine part series       4/3/16
Hi Bob, The newest LA Fishguys Aquarium Tech Talk episode is now on-line. It’s a nine part series and your WWM promotion appears in part Two.
Part One, Unpackaging https://youtu.be/xoESeNIOzHY
Part Two, Wires and Connections https://youtu.be/NWzWIGTanT0
Part Three, Firmware Update https://youtu.be/1YZL5Jcm-jY
Part Four, APEX Fussion https://youtu.be/J7Pdvw3lYIc
Part Five, pH Probe Calibration https://youtu.be/UeZb-mA2ArE
Part Six, Automatic Top-Off https://youtu.be/KNPD3mqEw2A
Part Seven, Power Bar Connection https://youtu.be/UdEBn_8ZYF4
Part Eight, Virtual Outlets https://youtu.be/MtRN_fiv7Y0
Part Nine, Lighting Programming https://youtu.be/W9MZYz1CMZM
Thank you for your involvement. We hope that this has a benefit to you and look forward to working with you again J Feel free to promote it through your Web Site, Facebook, Magazine or E-mails. If you have some feedback or suggestions we are receptive to it as well, Jim Stime, Jr
Aquarium Design - Installation and Maintenance
Midwater Systems - JELLIQUARIUM Jellyfish Display Systems
MyFishTank.com - Acrylic Aquariums, Stands and Canopies
LA Fishguys - Aquarium Reality Television
<Thank you Jim. BobF>

Controller Question 5/20/09
Hope everyone is doing well!
<Hello Joey, all is well here.>
I've been doing some research on Aquarium Controllers as of recently and I believe that I've been given a preliminary "ok" to purchase a unit as my wife has become quite the closet aquarist and enjoys our wonderful hobby just as much as we all do! Amazing how now all of a sudden it's not that "stupid tank he spends all our money one" any more...uh huh... if I only thought to record her rants.. anyway I digress!  So my general take (good site btw that has a comparison chart, a bit dated though is http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/ ), and what I'm most interested in is getting as much information about the inner workings of my tank as I can as quickly and painlessly as possible. I'm not sure If most people have that as a core motivation when the decide to get a controller but I'm not so interested (at least at this juncture) with all the other bells and whistles like turning on lights, or phase simulation and all that jazz cause that's what they are "Bells and Whistles" . Certainly nifty things to have but not at all a motivation to go out and spend a couple grand on. SO... the root of my question.  As my goal is to get as much information as possible, I unfortunately found that the controllers listed on the above site all seem to monitor a few basic parameters and that's it. From what I can tell they do pH (very important), Temp (obviously), RedOx (ok I guess), Salinity (nice), and some have O2 sat (guess that wouldn't hurt but after you've established a tank that's not something that will change all that much but it is a nice safety net in case something were to go wrong and starts sucking oxygen, say your son dumps a bottle of Phyto in the tank at night while I'm not looking and it sucks the O2 out of the water....can't say that's never happened : -) .
So... with that said that's pretty much it. And honestly that's not what I'm looking for. That's a start. But in my head if I have a controller I'd like it to, for the most part, replace all my test kits. I'll still keep them obviously just in case (to double check high/low readings) but the whole idea I thought was to have this device that enabled the aquarist to have all the information about his aquarium he could ever want easily, quickly and really quite inexpensively considering the legacy costs of test kits in time and materials. None of them seem to have probes or other methods of reading the things I'm interested in:
1)Ammonium (all variations)
6)heavy metals (Iron<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron>,
molybdenum<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molybdenum >, and
zinc<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinc> etc I'm sure I missed some and yes I know who measures for cobalt..LOL sorry its technically a heavy metal so I threw it in there)
7)Alkalinity (DKH, Total hardness)
My understanding is that these parameters can be measured electronically so the technology exists.
<Yes, all probes emit a voltage relative to the measured level.>
I have to believe that if a hobbyist is willing to pay the amounts of money we pay for other things (and even some of the controllers that DON'T do this stuff) there is or should be a market (even if its marketed as an "Upgrade" market) for a controller that has these capabilities. In my search I have not found any. I have however found DIYers that have created from scratch controllers using custom Circuit boards and IC's that are capable of measuring Some if not all of these parameters. So that leads me to believe that there HAS to be someone out there making a full blown controller that will give the demanding hobbyist everything he could ever want to know about his aquarium. Could you point us in the right direction?  If none exists, perhaps we here within the WWM family could pool our resources and expertise and develop one together. What do you think?
<Well, first off, I know of no company that produces a monitor/controller that will monitor all of the above parameters you list.
Neptune produces a model that will monitor and/or control pH, ORP, Temperature, Conductivity and Dissolved Oxygen.
Pinpoint produces individual monitors that read pH, ORP, O2, salinity, calcium, conductivity, and nitrate. A monitor that would do all would be very expensive to produce, and is likely the reason there are no hobbyist grade units available as they would be unaffordable to most aquarists. The technology to do this has existed for years in the form of industrial PLC controllers using digital to analog cards, but again, very unaffordable for our use. James (Salty Dog)>
Joey Freyre

Re Controller Question 5/21/09
I see. Okay so basically if we wanted to have a meter like that we would have to figure a way to integrate a colorimeter somehow? I was reading about the Hach handheld units but my concern is that is seems it requires reagents in order to take measurements which would make it impossible to utilized it in a "probe" type setup like a controller would require. The idea would be to make it real time/automatic or at the very least on demand (click of a button perhaps). Are you aware of anyone doing any research or perhaps working to get a product like this to market?
<Have not heard anything in this regard.>
At any rate thanks for your answer. At the very least I have a good idea of the unit that measures the MOST parameters which seems to be the Neptune systems unit and then I would have to add the pinpoint nitrate meter which is a doable compromise. Thanks a bunch.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Joey Freyre

New Tank Questions, stocking 3/24/08 I have been a lurker on your site for a week now and really appreciate the knowledge you all impart. I am the beneficiary of lots of "advice by several LFS in my area. Briefly, I have an oceanic 200gal reef ready tank, sump with protein skimmer (CoralLife - I know, its what they sold me!) <Can always upgrade.> 200 lbs life rock, W/D in sump and Solaris light system (I don't want to buy a chiller!). <Neat, an LED system.> It has been running since the middle of February and I dose twice a week with liquid reef. Temp is 79.2 in morning, 79.7 in the heat of day. nitrate/nitrite/ammonia are 0.0 PH is 8.0. <A little low.> I don't test for Ca (I bought a kit today) but the LFS tested it at 260 (I think she made a mistake, the girl mentioned she had to multiply a number and asked someone else what it was and then said 260) but when I add the liquid reef, some of it precipitates out as I have black crumbly rock all over the bottom after dosing. <Need to test for alkalinity as well, see here about how they relate to each other http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm .> Long story short. last weekend the LFS sold me a fire shrimp, large yellow leather coral, an anthelia (sp?) frag, two clowns and a green haddoni carpet. They said they would all be "easy" to keep. <A lesson to trust no one but yourself.> As you know, as soon as he was acclimated he first enlarged to twice his size, next morning it was the size of a cookie with his mouth disgorged. he went from bad to worse over the next few days while the LFS store said "its normal, <Sadly this is normal, but then again dying is normal for the majority anemones in captivity.> they do that to expel their waste". It started to disintegrate this morning and I took it out. The other fish are doing great, the shrimp has molted once, the snails are laying eggs all over the place and the anthelia has doubled in size! <Good> SO, what I would like to know is, what are the proper corals, inverts and reef safe fish that a newbie can add slowly over the next several months to add a) life, color and interest and b) slowly ramp up my husbandry skills without overtaxing the little guys? and c) who do I believe when some people say sifting stars are great and carpet anemones are easy when the other 50% say sifting stars will sterilize my DSB and carpets are only for dedicated professionals???? Thanks in advance.... Dave in Dayton <There are so many options here, it would be almost impossible to give much help. Your best bet is to check several sources and go conservative. There are several very nice books out there on corals and I would suggest checking them out. Just stock very lightly initially, you have quite a bit or room there so take your time in picking fish and enjoy the process. As far as the star specifically, I in in the second group, although once established I think your tank could support 1 star, but they are not necessary or particularly beneficial.> <Chris>

Re: New Tank Questions, stocking 3/25/08 Wow are you guys fast! <Sometimes> I am reading everything I can but your FAQs are sometimes hard to read and I have limited time since I am in law school. <As is my fiancé? so I understand that.> Regarding testing for ph, ca+ etc. how do you feel about controllers like Neptune and octopus. <I do everything the old fashioned way so I have no direct experience with these, although they do generally have quite good reputations.> Is there any one system that monitors ALL important items to be tested? <Lots of choices, best bet is to check out some of the larger boards to get a broad view of that is available and how people like them.> I am at the point in my life where I have more $$ than time and am being buried under a mountain of test tubes and reagents! <Can happen.> Dave from Dayton <Chris>

Pump Failure...Emergency Back-Up/Notification Systems? - 05/06/07 Hi guys, <<Hello John>> I had a pump failure on my 500 gallon salt tank. <<Uh-oh>> Everything died. <<Sorry to hear>> Are there any automatic back-up pump systems, alarms, cell phone notifiers for this situation? Sincerely, John Moore <<There are/have been PC based controllers/programs to do this.  Have a look here ( http://www.neptunesys.com/) to see if this fits your need or to get an idea of what to look for while perusing the Net.  EricR>>

System Controller, SW  3/23/07 I'm wondering about the Neptune Systems Aqua Controller 3 Pro. It says it monitors a lot of things but I'm wondering more about the controllers. I was thinking of getting a Turbelle Stream Kit TS21 (6000) wavemaker but The Aqua controller says that it can do it's own wave making. Would I only need to use regular powerheads and take out the Turbelle kit? <The Tunze product is spectacularly more efficient> I was thinking about getting a JBJ A.T.O. <Automatic Top Off System Water Level Controller> Do I still need this unit? <No... comes with its own Electronic Controller Module> If I get a calcium reactor, this system will monitor/control the unit I'm trying to automate the whole system with one unit as much as possible. I want it to also control the lights, fans, chiller/heater unit, etc. <Can be done, though there is something to the axiom about "Not putting all of one's eggs in one basket" here. Bob Fenner>

Possible issue with advice... Wavemaker controller/s, "advice" and WWM, good/better methods of cat-skinning     1/14/07 Bob, Anthony, Crew; <Tirion> Lots of time has past since I last wrote; I hope to find you and the Crew happy and well. <Life rolls onward, as the saying goes. Thank you for this.> This note is not necessarily something directed at being published on the board - I simply wanted to point out that I disagree with it and get your collective input. <Ok> Catching up on some reading, I happened by this question/response; "- Overflow Noise and More... - Hi All, Finally, found a great site that will help me develop a great saltwater aquarium.  Thanks for taking time to answer my questions.  First I have a 125 gallon tank with 2 overflows.  The main pump that I am using is a Quiet One 4000, at 4 feet of head the GPH is 750.  The sound of water, like a waterfall sound, is loud and very disturbing in my dining room.  Any suggestions of how to eliminate this waterfall sound. <Consider a standpipe... this will raise the water level in the overflow so that the water pouring in doesn't have to fall as far. Check out this link: http://www.rl180reef.com/pages/standpipe/standpipe_frame.htm > Last question. Recently I just purchased the Red Sea Wavemaker Pro.  I know how you feel about not needing to use wavemakers, but I would like to try this thing out.  The issue is that I purchased 2 CAP 1800's and 2 CAP 800 Powerheads.  They are quiet, but they are not designed for the on/off function of a wavemaker.  I am going to exchange those for powerheads more designed to work with a wavemaker.  I know that the MaxiJet1200 works well with wavemakers.  But with a GPH of 295, will 4 of these pumps be enough for a 125 gallon tank? <No.>  If not, can you suggest which kind and how many powerheads I should use with the wavemaker (I am looking for quiet and something that will work with a wavemaker)? *<I would look into the Tunze Stream Pumps, although you'll have to can the Red Sea wave maker and use the Tunze model made specifically for their electronic pumps.>* I have coral, a few tangs and 125 pounds of live rock. Thanks again for your help!!!! Regards, Roger <Cheers, J -- >" Up to the point that I have highlighted and underlined in Fuchsia (Responders note; color codes don't remain when we go to post to the site, so I've marked the quoted area with asterisks.), I didn't see any issue.  The Tunze recommendation is rock solid.  However advising Roger that he will have to "can" the Red Sea is not valid, IMHO - in this scenario the Red Sea should work well with the Tunze as A) The user said nothing about needing to control the output, B) The Red Sea does use Soft Start which would be exactly the same as what the 70XX.X Tunze multicontroller does at start up to ramp the stream output and C) unless flow output manipulation is required, the Tunze controller is 2.5x the cost of the Red Sea. <Here is simply a difference of opinions. This is why we here recommend people to not blindly follow our suggestions, but instead we act as a means to nudge people in the right direction, and encourage them to further investigate on their own and make their own conclusions. Part of the strength of WetWebMedia is the fact that its presentation, while sometimes chaotic, is very conducive to learning on your own, and beyond that, picking up on things you may have not even known you needed to be aware of.> To be honest, without asking about the current standpipe or plumbing, not sure the Durso comments were on track either. <Again, a difference of opinions. J's response may have not been on track, but the original emailer was simply asking for some base guidance, which was provided.> Do you concur or am I being too picky?   <Not too picky, just further proving that, as the tacky adage goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat.> I would hate to see someone 'can' a super product like the Red Sea based on a recommendation I believe is not solid; albeit well intentioned, since your site is such an awesome resource to use all. <I agree with you on this point, Tirion. However, Tunze does not recommend their use on controllers other than the Tunze equipment, so my guess is that this is why the original replier made this suggestion. We're always open for a difference of opinions, and oftentimes the opinions from crew member to crew member vary. This is one of the things that has allowed WWM to grow into the behemoth that it is, allowing so many varied facets of this hobby to be seen. An extra set of eyes with a different intuitive approach to problem solving often results in different solutions to the same end.> Thanks and take good care. T <Same to you, T. Thank you for this, we will post it for all to see. -JustinN>

pH Controller Recommendation - 10/25/06 Hello, <<Hey Danny>> I have an 86-gallon, FW, heavily planted tank, with a 20-gallon wet/dry sump (Eheim 1260 return pump, 5-gal of bio balls, three partitions) with CO2 injected from a 10lb cylinder into a DIY reactor (fed with Rio 600 submersible pump).  I want to add a pH controller to fully automate my CO2 injection, and I was wondering whether you have any suggestions/recommendations? <<Sure...the Pinpoint or Milwaukee controllers should serve you well>> I have read good things about the Milwaukee sms122 pH controller.  In fact, most Google searches return only that controller. Thanks, DanTheMan <<I have a Milwaukee ORP controller on my reef tank that has served very well for more than two years but I think either manufacturer will suit your need.  Regards, EricR>>

Kalkwasser reactor setup... Tank Automation - 05/18/06 Good evening Crew (Guys AND Gals!) <<Hello!...morning now>> First off, I want to thank Bob for all the help with the pond construction last year.  We made it through the winter (including a few below 0 DEG days) with no problems and the water is still crystal clear so far this spring!  THANK YOU! <<Am sure he will be delighted to hear>> I do have a question about my on going 200 GAL Marine setup (~450 GAL total volume). <<Okay>> My family and I are going on a 10 day trip this summer and our previous "Tank Sitters" have moved away and there is really no one we trust to come into the house to take care of it in our absence. <<Pity...is so much better to have someone "look in" from time to time>> So I am trying to automate everything for that time. <<Even so, still might want to have "someone" stop by just to make sure the breakers haven't tripped/something gone awry>> In essence, I have auto feeders, am going to turn off the skimmer, cut the lighting down to about 6 - 8 hrs a day (keep down the heat), <<Mmm...at the expense of your photosynthetic organisms...>> and design/implement an Auto-Top Off Kalk Reactor which is where the question arises. If you have a minute, can you look at this drawing depicting what I am thinking of doing: <<You bet>> http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y195/navajo001/kalk.jpg As a quick explanation, the RO barrel will stay topped off via float switch.  The Tunze Osmolator will sense the water level in the sump and "kick on" when the level drops and turn on the pump to feed RO water from the RO barrel to the Kalk Barrel which, in turn, will overflow into the sump before the skimmer.  I am planning it this way in order to (HOPEFULLY) keep the Osmolator pump from stalling due to pumping Kalkwasser) <<Indeed, keep the Osmolator pump in the make-up water barrel.  There's one thing I would change here...have the effluent from the Kalkwasser reactor feed directly to the settling tank.  The Osmolator is a great unit (use it myself) and very reliable, but feeding the Kalkwasser to the same vessel that houses the optical sensor is problematic (speaking from experience).  The Kalkwasser will form a slight film on the surface of the water where the effluent discharges.  This film will coat the sensor keeping it "wet" even after the water level falls, thus rendering your "automation" moot.  It's easy enough to clear the sensor with a quick rub of a wet finger (or a short soak in vinegar for extended buildups), but who's gonna do that if you're not around, eh?  Best to move Kalkwasser effluent...this will also extend the life of your skimmer pump(s)>> The Osmolator Pump will be on a battery backed-up Timer, <<...?  Why a timer?  The pump needs to be "available" when the senses a drop in water level>> as will the Kalk Mixing Pump (Running maybe twice a day for 10 minutes) so that they will operate independently of each other, giving ample time for the Kalk to settle before it is pumped into the Sump <<Of little concern...really>> It seems that I am missing a BIG design flaw in this setup and cannot figure it out.  Can YOU see any problems? <<As already stated>> As always, you guys/gals are the BEST and I/we really appreciate the time and effort you put into helping our passion (Hobby doesn't quite cover it).  I hope, some day, to be able to assist you in this endeavor. <<Thank you Tom...and if you're serious about "helping out" and have the capacity/time/background...give Bob a shout re at this address>> Thank you for your time, Tom (The Tool Man) <<Quite welcome my friend.  Eric Russell>>
Re: Kalkwasser reactor setup
... Tank Automation II - 05/19/06 Hey Eric!  Thanks for your reply. <<Quite welcome>> Just wanted to clear a few things... <<Sure>> I see now that the picture (once posted) looks terrible.  Sorry about that. <<No worries mate>> But anyway,  As far as placement of the effluent, I was planning on putting the Osmolator Sensor in the settling tank.  That will be the fluctuating" level since the 2 upstream tanks are gravity overflows. <<Ah, yes...should have sussed that out from the diagram.  Should be fine then...but for the effect of the Kalk on the skimmer pump>> I agree with you about not putting it before the skimmer though.   How about in the refugium portion since it is in the middle? <<Is fine...is where mine is>> Also, we have found a likely victim (HA!) to come in every couple of days to make sure the floors aren't wet, breakers tripped etc. <<Yes, if nothing else to "put out the call" is something goes amiss>> They aren't comfortable with any maintenance, etc., but are willing to "keep an eye" on things and feed the outside Koi for us. <<You will rest easier for this, trust me>> As for turning down the lighting, I only have a few "Leathers" right now but I see your point there too.  Will likely just leave the lighting as is. <<Excellent>> No real reason to change it since it's working right now, right? <<Agreed>> THANKS for the tip about the Osmo sensor "slime".  Will add that to my weekly maintenance "to-do" list. <<Indeed...as you are aware, everything will work fine even with  months of neglect...till that ONE day you're not around...>> And last, but not least, the timers for the Osmolator and the Kalk Stirrer pump.  My reasoning was that you wouldn't want to chance dumping unsettled Kalk powder into the system so I figured that if I kill the Osmo pump for 1 hr at a time twice a day while having the Kalk stirrer run for a few minutes that will give it time to settle again before being pumped into the tanks. Example: Osmolator pump turn off at 12:00 PM.  Kalk Stirrer kick ON from 12:15  PM - 12:25 PM, then Osmolator back ON at 1:00 PM.  Am I over thinking this? <<I think so.  Your concern is unfounded really, in my opinion.  The Osmolator will sense a water drop of 1mm...this equates to very small amounts of top off water at any one time.  And if you've ever used/read about Anthony's (Calfo) "slurry method" for dosing Kalkwasser, well, I think you would realize what little concern you have here.  And while unlikely, the timer just adds another layer/gadget/gizmo to go wrong when you're away>> Thank you for the time, and Yes I AM serious about actually putting my typing where my mouth is in the near future and volunteering to help you fine folks out.  I am stuck traveling a LOT right now so don't feel I would be able to pull my (considerable) weight yet.  But soon! <<Ah, good my friend>> Thank you for your time and all you do for the hobby! Tom (The Tool Man) <<I consider it an honor that Bob lets me help out.  Regards, Eric Russell>> <And am honored to have such friends here. RMF>

Pinpoint Salinity Monitor Problems 2/18/06 Hi gang,  I've run a Pinpoint ph monitor on my reef system for several years. . . overall I'm pleased with it, although it has to be run with a 9 volt battery. . . two attempts at using the optional adapters provided by the manufacturer went astray -- I had a techno-geek friend test the second one after it shorted out my unit for a while. . . turns out the adapter was supplying 11.8 volts. . . way too high, and almost destroyed the monitor. The salesperson at my usual internet supply source confirmed the adapter unit is cheap/unreliable. <Indeed, the power supply problem is well known among Pinpoint users, and you would think they would supply a better quality unit, but alas... pinpoint monitors are made to be inexpensive hobbyist models.  Top of the line models cost much more.> On to my real point. . . a month ago, I ordered a Pinpoint salinity monitor. After calibrating the unit, I added it to my reef tank. Readings were WAY high and fluctuated wildly. I called the supplier. . . who was immediately aware of the 'problem'. Turns out the unit won't function properly in proximity to electrical current. . . e.g. my power compact reef lights. Since the only places available for mounting on my system are a crowded sump with several hundred watts of pumps being powered up (returns and downdraft skimmer pumps) and the top of my reef tank, there's nowhere I can run the relatively short (less than three foot) probe-and-cord to use the unit. I feel like I've effectively purchased a hundred-dollar-plus paperweight. As the last straw, the unit ate up a 9 volt alkaline battery in just a week's worth of use. The thing is, there's no disclaimer describing this problem on the website where I bought the thing. And the supply source wasn't willing to allow me to send back the unit to upgrade for another Pinpoint product. So 'caveat emptor' on this one. . . Chuck <It is a shame that this problem exists, and pinpoint should probably at least state in the instructions that the unit must be away from such interference, but again, these are entry level inexpensive products.  Your comments are appreciated and will be posted amount the FAQ's.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Information on Ocean Motion wavemakers  12/18/05 Dear Bob: <Hello Ed. You've got Josh instead.> I'm having a great time with the Conscientious Marine Aquarist. <An excellent read. Wait until the fourth or fifth go.> My LFS recommended an Oceans Motion wavemaker and I can't find any information on the company.  I've Googled the web with a variety of  spellings and I get a mention or two in forums but no company site. Can you help? <Sorry Ed. I don't have any info. on it, but I encourage you to read over our closed loop manifold FAQ's before making a decision on this. Probably much cheaper and almost guaranteed to be more efficient.> Thanks Ed <Gladly. Josh (huge fan of the closed loop manifold)>

Heater sticking protection and controllers 10/8/05 We have a 200 gallon reef tank and travel for work. After reading horror stories, I am worried about the possibility of a heater sticking on while we are gone. We put 2 heaters in the sump, one 350 watt and one 150 watt to try to ensure there would not be a problem.  <Good strategy. If one of these heaters stuck, it would take a while to overheat the tank. It would be a long shot for both of them to stick.> We thought about a dual controller for the heater and chiller... but then, what if the controller sticks on or off and all the heaters were connected???  <A controller is even better, and they are far more reliable than the thermostats inside the heaters. The possibility of a controller failing is remote. There really is no better solution. Also remember that if you set the heaters thermostats to come on a degree or two higher than the controller, you now have redundant control over the temperature and TWO devices have to fail for the tank to overheat.> Our house usually stays around 75 degrees (air conditioned in room with the tank/sump in an insulated basement that never gets below 68 degrees). With the heaters in normal operation, the tank does not exceed 84 degrees without the chiller (we keep the tank at 79 degrees with the chiller). My question is... should we ditch the 350 watt Titanium (Won pro) and go with 3 150s instead (or possibly a 250? and two 150s)? I love the digital display on the Won Brothers Pro... but don't want to fry anything if the wattage is too high. How can we calculate how much each of the different wattage heaters would raise the temperature in a worst case scenario? <Using a larger number of smaller heaters adds a safety cushion, but gets expensive. Here is a test for how fast any one heater (or any combination) can raise the tank temp: Turn all of the heaters off and let the tank temp drift down a couple of degrees. Read the temperature. Turn the heaters to be tested back on at a high setting (88 degrees perhaps) and let them run several hours during the day (while lights are on) and re-read the temperature. After the test, be sure to turn the settings back down on the heaters! You will probably find that the lower wattage heaters would take several days to overheat the tank.> Also, are we wrong about considering the controllers a hazard (it would be great to eliminate the 1-2 degree shift the chiller allows)? Thanks in advance! Peggy  <I don't think a controller is a hazard at all. Quite the contrary, I think it is a beneficial safety device. As for temperature shift, a daily range of 1-2 degrees is fine and is tighter than most of us can accomplish. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Interrupt Switch Looking for a switch to use on my return pump during fish feeding. Tired of getting on my knees every day to turn the ball valve to slow the current to get food to the bottom. Is there such a thing as a switch where you walk up and push a button, and the pump would shut off, and then turn itself back on after a timed interval. Slowing the Ampmaster 300 with a dimmer, or resistor type switch doesn't seem to be possible.  <You don't want to use dimmers on power heads, they will burn up.>  Any thoughts on that subject, or other trick ideas would be appreciated.  <The X10 system is very reasonable and you can program it with your computer. It's wireless. If you feed the same time every day then you can program it to shut off for 30 minutes. Here is a link. X10Active Home Pro  James (Salty Dog)>

- Skimmer and Top Off - Greetings Crew, I am running a Remora with maxi 1200 on my 34x18x25 Zoanthid and Shroom tank, and took home a Tunze Osmolator Universal today to deal with top off duties. I use the skimmer box with the Remora, and its quite picky about water level if you want to keep the surface film going into the skimmer. About 1" below the level in the tank or it doesn't do a good job with the film. I setup the Tunze optical sensor in the skimmer box a little bit above the maxi. This works out great except that with the Tunze pump feeding into the tank, by the time the skimmer box fills up enough that the sensor shuts off the pump there is about a cup too much water and the skimmer box stops getting the surface film for a few hours. This led me to the idea of having the Tunze pump feed directly into the skimmer box. It has worked like a charm, but I'm not sure of the effect on skimmate production. Do you see this being a problem in the long run? <No, I don't think so.> It seems to pump about 1/4 cup of RO in every couple of hours which I'm pretty sure gets pumped out in a minute or less. The tank is currently fishless so I don't see hardly any skimmate now anyways. <Then no worries.> Thanks for your help, y'all are always there with sage advice. EB <Cheers, J -- >

Automated water changes Hi MacL, <HI! Timon> I live in tropical Thailand and the temperature of the room where my refugium and sump are located will vary greatly depending on if the sun shines that day so I am worried that the evaporation rate will vary a lot from day to day. <It might be a problem for corals as well as your tank temp is bound to fluctuate a bit> I have learned today that I can use a conductivity controller that can control a pump based on pre-set minimum and maximum conductivity values. Do you think this is a good way to make up for evaporation? <I think it might be your only option because of the fluctuations. Please if you decide that's the way to go and it works, Please let me know. MacL> Thanks Timon

- Setting Dual Heater/Chiller Controller - How are you Gents... <Fine, thank you.> Thanks for reading... question is regarding my temp control. I have a pacific coast chiller 1/4 HP with its own built in digital temp control... and my 500 watt Gen x titanium heater also with its own temp control (dial) the heater also has a temp probe that is supposed to be submersed... I want to hook both of these units up to my 3 digit dual stage medusa controller... my question is since all items have their own temp control built in what do I set each one on... <Set the heater and chiller to full on, and let the medusa regulate between the two. Alternatively - and especially if you want a margin of error - set the heater just below the low point on your Medusa, and set the chiller to just above the high point of the Medusa, and this way if the Medusa fails, you won't be without heating or chilling.> and also being that the medusa has a temp probe to be submersed do I need to use the one on the heater...? <Either way, and especially if you want the heater to "work", then yes, all temperature probes should be in the water.> thanks for your time guys.... <Cheers, J -- >

- False Reading on pH Monitor - Hi gang: I've been running a pinpoint pH monitor for the past few months and generally love it... but a couple weeks ago I noticed a strong upward trend in my pH readings. The readings got to the 'YIKES' range... and I was trying to sort things out when I noticed an extremely tiny 'Lo Bat' message in the upper left corner. A slapped in a new 9 volt battery... and found my pH in the usual range, fortunately before attempting a massive/drastic fix. So I figured I'd offer my experience to others as something to watch out for... <Indeed, and thanks for sharing. Would also add to your list of things to check, to remove the probe from the tank from time to time and allow to rinse in some fresh water, distilled or RO/DI to allow the probe to live a little longer.> Maybe they should've arranged for the pH reading to 'flash' or for the gizmo to just stop working once power drops below where it needs to be... <I'm sure it would have stopped working soon enough. No worries - you've sorted it out now. Cheers, J -- >

Hello and Thanks again...quick question 5/31/04 I have included some photos this time to aid you in visualizing the tank  setup so you can help me out.....Thanks for taking the time...First question is about auto top off....what is the correct way to do it on a 120 gal. reef and what is the best equipment to do it with...ro/di Tunze Osmolator etc? ro/di to storage container with float valve? Then Tunze Osmolator hooked to storage tank and display or sump to activate auto top off? <I am not a big fan of auto top off devices because of the risk of failure.  I would suggest that whatever delivery method you choose that the water be drawn from a reservoir.  This will limit the amount of water that can run into your system at once if the device sticks open.> Also the second question is about pump sizing...I have included the pictures for this purpose.... <Your pic was not attached, but I will try to do my best without it.> The return pumps... I will have 2...one for each side of the tank and I am looking for 1500 to 1700 gph total between both of them... <Good plan.  Having two pumps offers a nice measure of safety if one fails.> From each pump the return line runs up through the custom overflow box with dual 1 1/2 Durso standpipes (o.d) into a "T" connector one output runs along the upper portion of the tank to the top right rear corner with a ball valve attached to regulate flow....the other part of the t runs down the outside of the overflow box and to the front bottom corner ...second return pump repeats the same sequence on the left side of the tank. (see attached photos) <I think I understand your description.  Be sure that you place at least one outlet very near the surface of the water.  This outlet will allow air to enter and prevent siphoning back to your sump if the pump stops.> taking into consideration the return line layout (3/4 " pvc) what pump would reliably give me the output for that side of the tank to reach a combined total of 1500 to 1700 gph.. <Many submersible or external pumps will fit the bill.  Look for models in the 1000 gph range each to get your desired flow after frictional and head losses.  I am a big fan of Iwaki and GRI for external pumps and Mag-drive and the new Quiet-One for submersibles.> and also how can I stop the tank from draining if the pump fails being that two outputs will be in each front lower corner?  Thank you for your time... <See my comments above about placing outlets near the surface.  Best Regards.  Adam>

Heater/Controller Compatibility Bob, <Scott F. here today!> I have a Custom Sea Life 1/3hp chiller with the two stage controller. As I know they are out of business it has been a bit difficult to get information about the product. I also need to get a heater and the unit has provision for a heater, so what heater is appropriate to use with this controller? Thanks much for your help! -Tom- <Well, Tom, I have a CSL Chiller on one of my tanks (for now- I think the unit sounds like a 747 on takeoff, so it's on its way out soon!), and I use Ebo Jaeger's with no problems. Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F.> 

- Computer Gadgets - Do you know of any gadgets, such as a ph digital monitor that you can hook into your computer that records the history of readings? or temperature, nitrate, calcium, etc.? <Well... how deep is your wallet? There are currently devices that qualify as complete monitor controllers - Octopus and Aquadyne are the two prominent players, but neither are cheap. I've often wanted to develop small scale devices that could monitor individual items but as yet have found an benefactor to finance such endeavors. Cheers, J -- >

Getting His Reef Tank Wired! 30 years ago I had a marine fish tank, said I would never do it again, but here I am. <Glad to have you back! I'm sure that you'll have even more fun now!> I now have a 75 gal with sand and live rock curing and cycling. I am also a gadget freak and would like to have electronic monitoring of the important conditions in the tank. In looking at the posts on your site I could not find any agreement as to which brands or types of monitors are most used and trusted. I do not know what all is measurable by meters and what must be done with test kits, but the more electronic the better for me, I know this is not the least expensive way but neither is a reef tank. If you have the time I would appreciate any suggestions of types and brands. I would like monitoring rather than testing meters but testing is still better and test kits. Thank you for your time   Carson Crenshaw <Well, Carson, if you're into electronics, I'd look into many of the fine quality electronics put out by companies like American Marine, Octopus, etc...Too many to mention here. However, pH monitors are very useful, as are many of the ORP monitor/controllers...Check out the Tunze web site if you really like these kinds of gadgets...tons and tons of high quality stuff out there! Have fun! Regards, Scott F> 

- Infrared Auto Top-off? - I saw on your website that infrared auto top-offs are the best.  Where can I buy products like this?  Thanks! Mark <It took a few Google searches to come up with something, but I came up with a product called AquaSense. Here's some reviews: http://www.saltcorner.com/sections/reviews/productreviews/aquasense.htm by Bob Goemans and http://www.animalnetwork.com/fish/library/articleview2.asp?Section=&RecordNo=185 by Richard Harker. I'd check with Marine Depot b/c I found this  http://www.marinedepot.com/dp_aquasense.htm on their site, but with no price or availability. Good luck and let us know how it goes! -Kevin>

Auto-Pilot Do you know of or know of someone who could possibly direct me to a website or company that has computerized monitoring equipment for a home pc that will monitor everything I would need chemically wise in a reef aquarium? thank you for your time.  thanks, Jon <Never tried anything like this, but http://www.automatedaquariums.com/index.htm.  Best of luck! Ryan>

Re: Neptune aquacontrollers Hi guys, I'm was thinking of buying a Neptune aquacontroller for my reef aquariums, What do you guys think about that controller/monitors. Thanks <No experience with Neptune, but controllers are a great way to automate many functions and param.s. There are several brands available. Perhaps go to WetWebForums and ask others about their experience with Neptune?  Craig>

Personal Opinion on equipment (controller) 2/16/03 Again, I'm back to pick. What's yer opinion on the AquaController II system?  Worth the money for someone who would rather let automation rule the tank? Or a waste of money? <Not a waste at all. I have a complete Octopus 3000 outfit myself and love it. They are not fundamental pieces of equipment, but are very useful for serious aquarists that want to refine/finesse husbandry. Anthony>

Web-enabled aquarium  Using the Web to save lives-tiny lives Aquarium WebCams abound on the Internet. Apart from providing a nice picture, WebCams aren't an important part of the hobby. But a Web-enabled aquarium that monitors itself and reports serious problems to its owner is a big help to aquarium aficionados. I used a tiny, self-contained Web server with temperature probes and remote control switches to build a system that lets me monitor-and manipulate-my ocean reef aquarium from anywhere in the world. Saltwater aquariums in particular require constant vigilance to maintain the narrow temperature range compatible with sea life. It can take months to establish a complete ecology in the simulated ocean reef-the most challenging saltwater environment. You can lose that time investment in a single day if water temperature strays. I used Dallas Semiconductor's teeny Tiny Internet Interface (TINI) micro-Web server and digital sensors to put my tank on the Web. By itself, the TINI is the size of a standard SIMM memory module, and when it's plugged into its Systronix TINI Initial Learning Tool (TILT) chassis, it's only slightly larger than a paperback novel. The TINI is a completely self-contained Web server that runs Java servlets, and it can communicate with sensors and controls by using Dallas Semiconductor's one-wire interface and iButton devices. The Web-enabled system lets me remotely view temperature graphs and other status sensors, as well as remotely turn on and off support devices such as lights, chillers, heaters, and pumps. For example, if the temperature gets high, I can turn off the lights and activate a backup chiller. Already, this system has twice saved my micro-ecology from virtual extinction. http://www.connectedhomemag.com/Networking/Articles/Index.cfm?ArticleID=24760

The fish started it (Automated systems controls) <Neat> It was a fishy way for a scientist to start wiring houses onto Web Monday, September 18, 2000 The fish started it. Yi-Min Wang, a scientist at Microsoft Research, loves his fish. And so he used to worry about them, especially when the occasional storm rolled through and knocked out power. Wang would rush home to check on his fish tanks. "I thought to myself, this isn't right," he said. What wasn't right is that Wang is a leading computer scientist at Microsoft -- surrounded by all the technical expertise and resources the company has to offer -- and yet he still had to drive across town simply to find out if his five fish tanks were working. "It was ridiculous," he decided. So Wang shifted some of his efforts away from his official Microsoft Research focus on systems networking over to figuring out how to make his fish tanks accessible over the Internet. The result is "Aladdin" -- Wang's up-and-running project (now official and involving colleagues Wilf Russell and Anish Arora) that demonstrates how to wire a house onto the Web using existing home wiring and relatively inexpensive off-the-shelf technology. There are companies out there already marketing "smart home" technology, Wang noted, but many of these systems are often pricey, specialized or not really too smart. What the Microsoft scientist wanted to create was a relatively cheap and reliable smart and wired home that didn't require specialized wiring or new technologies. "In order to get home networking to take off, we need to rely on existing wiring," Wang said. "Wire is just wire and any wire can carry bits." Using some Radio Shack devices, his home's telephone lines, standard electrical wiring and radio frequencies on the airwaves, the Microsoft scientist now has a home that does a lot more than simply allow him to check on his fish. Aladdin is a system of six PCs that are connected to each other and to devices in Wang's home. They monitor what's happening and talk to each other using the power lines in the home as well as the telephone lines. Wang's house knows when you plug in a lamp or an appliance. Using those PC "eyeball cams," Aladdin allows Wang to visually check rooms in his home from anywhere using his laptop. He can see if the garage is open, if the lights are off or if there's an intruder. If he wants to close the garage door or turn on some lights, he can send his house an e-mail message. Hit "send" and the garage door closes, the lights go on. If something happens at home, like a leaking fish tank, a sensor informs the house network and the house automatically sends Wang an e-mail alert. All this is based on some pretty sophisticated software techniques developed by Wang and his colleagues. But the aim of Aladdin is to create a system that anyone can use. "I don't want to have to learn anything to make this work," said Wang's wife, Emerald Chung. Her favorite use of Aladdin, she said, was when they came home late one evening and their two young boys, Jeffrey and Andrew, fell asleep in the car. They pulled into the garage and decided it would be best to wake them gradually. "We asked the computer to keep asking them to wake up," Emerald Chung said. The eyeball cam in the garage allowed the parents to see when the boys finally woke up. "It's cool," Jeffrey said. Wang and his colleagues have also worked on maintaining security in the home network so would-be cyberburglars can't intercept -- or manipulate -- commands on the Internet to gain illicit access or information. All the signals sent to and from his house are encrypted and contain an embedded password. Simplicity and reliability is key, too, he said. "People won't want a system that is only 95 percent reliable," Wang said. Aladdin has to be as reliable and simple to use as the telephone, he said, which means it will need to be flexible and "self-stabilizing." Self-stabilization, Wang explained, means the home network will have to be able to adjust to changes (like power outages) without requiring the homeowner to do anything. Aladdin isn't a system ready for mass marketing yet, he noted. The project, he said, is simply to show that wiring your home to the Internet isn't waiting for major new innovations. Wang's wired home may sound futuristic, but it's not that far off in the future. "In a few years, it will seem really weird to people that there was a time when you couldn't check on your house as easily as you can now check your stocks or the weather," Wang said. "This is an obvious extension of the Web."

Dosing Solution Hi Bob, I am a Mechanical Engineer working on a dosage problem with my solution. I am making a gallon of solution of Kalk. to drip into my Saltwater tank. I would like to leave the gallon of solution below the tank in side of the cabinet. The approx. amount of drops that are going into the tank is 7ml/min. (.166 ml/sec.) Using this amount I have designed a way to dose into the tank without leaving a gallon of solution on top the tank to be siphoned. If I had a sump I wouldn't be in this situation. My questioned is if I dose into my tank every hour using the above amount(7ml/min.)= 420ml/hr. will this amount have a negative affect in the tank? <Mmm, for how big a tank? This is a bunch of material if saturated for a typical hobbyist system... might overflow it even... And, you don't want to apply the Kalkwasser during the day... at least probably not. Are you infusing carbon dioxide? Do you plan to utilize a pH controller or some other automated metering device with the supply? Please read the following "Kalk faqs": http://wetwebmedia.com/kalkh2ofaqs.htm> I know that Kalk. has some kind of residual effect I am not to sure.  I may perform a test but I figured I would ask for your opinion first. Thanks, David Garcia <I would study first. A few, very important effects... potentially and really toxic. There are other, better ways of supplying calcium, hydroxides/pH stability, other biominerals... Bob Fenner>

Re: Dosing Solution I have a 45 gallon tank the Bio load is not very high I only have Live Rock and 1 Starfish. I also use a EcoSystem w/ a "PROTEIN SKIMMER". I know Eco proclaims not use a protein skimmer however, it is beneficial to remove some waste. <Agreed... though Leng Sy (the owner/manager) is a friend, indeed an advertiser/sponsor of our principal site (WetWebMedia), I am of the same opposing opinion> I may use a buffer type chemical like the Kent A&B. The only problem I have had in the past is I could never get my Calcium above 350 PPM.  <This is likely fine... you can read about why this... and alkalinity mentioned below are likely challenged, limited in your system on our site> and my Alk to be stable. I would add these chemicals two or three times a week, maybe I should lower the dosage to once a week and see if that will work. <There's more to this then simply changing the dosage interval. Read on. Bob Fenner>

Marketing feed back request (and general promo.) Hello Fresh Water and Aquarium Magazine; <Fwd.ed by Sue Steele, Art Goddess at FAMA to RMF> Benke Company, Inc. has developed a new aquarium controller. We are seeking marketing feedback from experienced aquarium professionals and distributors. The objective of this controller is to provide an automated aquarium environment that helps to protect the users investment in fish.  Our new aquarium controller will retail for $139.00  <A bargain comparatively> The aquarium controller has the following features:  1 Controls tank temperature to 1 degree accuracy with a sold  <a faux pas> state temperature sensor.  2. Provides two built in 110 volt A.C. sockets, to provide heater power and a pump power socket.  The pump power outlet turns on a users pump in a reserve tank when the liquid level sensors indicate the water level is low. 2. (Optional) liquid level sensors allow automatic filling of the aquarium tank from a reserve tank.  3. Monitors for all error conditions: Temp sensor not responding, Heater element is not working, water Level sensors stuck, and other internal controller detected error conditions.  Error conditions are reported via a local audio enunciator and via an RF link to our (optional ) wireless 110 monitor product.  see www.wireless-house.com for details.  4. Has optional plug in accessory to accommodate two 10 Amp heaters. 5. User setup, controller configuration and error condition display are available by using the FREE windows software.  6. Contains a built in GFI for protection against shock hazards.  7. An optional fish feeder plug in accessory will be available at a later date. 8. The MS Windows software supports 248 user defined programmable timed events that can control (optional) output devices.  9. Optional PC to Controller hardware interface required if using the FREE windows software.  Please down load and review the PDF file on this new controller @  http://www.wireless-house.com/Applications/Aquarium_P1/Aquarium_P2/aquarium_p2.html  Will this item help increase your aquarium sales ?  We would appreciate any feedback on the features of this product you may have to this new product  or any of our www.wireless-house.com products. <Nice ad, release... like the mention of "options" and "FREE software" juxtapositioning> Thanks, James A. Benke President 1-440-256-9838 <Will post your msg. on our site: http://wetwebmedia.com/marcontrolfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>
Re: Fwd: Marketing feed back request
Hi Bob; Thanks for you kind words of encouragement regarding our marketing release. In one day after the release, we have received a number of very positive responses for aquarium distributors. This product is more than 95% percent software and has consumed a lot of time and effort and money. Thanks for posting it on your site, I appreciate your help. Thanks, James A. Benke President <You're welcome my friend in the trade. Please call on me/us if we may be of service, further input. Bob Fenner>

Techy automatic aquarium for Wired magazine?  Hi Bob-- I'm a products editor at Wired magazine who's always on the lookout for innovative new stuff. It occurred to me that there's probably a lot of interesting things going on with aquariums-- ideally, I'm looking for something ready-made and stand-alone, like an automatic system that feeds, heats, filters, balances chemicals, etc. under digital control-- something that could "cross over" to non-hobbyists who just want to spend a lot and take the easy route to having an aquarium, either fresh or marine.  I don't really know how far-fetched this is, but would like any suggestions or pointers you might have. What are some companies out there who are pushing the technology envelope (apologies for using that phrase...) with aquarium products that would have mass appeal?  Who's pursuing the fun, ambitious new technology ideas?  Thanks very much!  Paul Spinrad  Section Editor <Hmm, well there are "stand alone" aquatic environments manufactured in the US (Marineland Eclipse's) that don't involve controllers with their mechanicals... and ones elsewhere (Eheim in Germany)... but a nice small story might be built around a local (southern Cal.) company named Aquadyne and their Octopus Controller series (see link to them on our sites link page:  www.wetwebmedia.com)... About the most sophisticated product for monitoring, controlling (linking to peripherals like dosage pumps, probes, heaters, wave makers, lighting...) in the ornamental aquatics field... used in aquaculture, public aquariums as well as consumers systems. Bob Fenner> 
Re: Techy automatic aquarium for Wired magazine? 
Thanks very much-- wow, I'm really impressed by Aquadyne! I'll call them. I appreciate your help!  Paul
<Anytime. Bob Fenner>

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