Control systems

Discussion in 'General Discussions and Advice' started by Reef Maniac, 9 Apr 2011.

  1. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    A new member (M247) has been communicating via PM with me during the last week, discussing control systems to be used in a marine aquarium. I suggested that he start a new thread to get other reefers' opinions on this as well, but he is still a bit unsure about posting here on MASA, and has asked me to set up a thread on his behalf. So, without further ado, here is our discussion so far - please feel free to comment/discuss this further, and join me in welcoming Martin and his wife to MASA :)

    Hennie


    Yes, that would be the ideal, but it is usually not practical.

    I'm not sure if you've seen the thread on my tank, but it would be an option to have everything either below the tank, and/or above the tank (like I did with the "crawlway"), and/or with a small "room" next to the tank to house the skimmer if it is a large one.

    Of course, IF you have the space in an adjacent room or outbuilding then that would take first prize...


    Hi Martin.

    No, I am not aware of any control system that can monitor/control these parameters.

    For what it's worth, once a tank is stable (say more than one year old) it is not necessary to measure these parameters (IMHO), as the readings will remain "zero" as long as everything is OK. I would rather (and do...) monitor pH and ORP electronically, and regularly check alkalinity, calcium, nitrate and phosphate. The ORP is especially useful as an early warning system - once you get a reading range differing from the normal, you can haul out the ammonia and nitrite test kits to check if there really is a problem.

    Of course, with some experience one can usually tell by just looking at the tank and the inhabitants if something is wrong. I have not done a single ammonia or nitrite test during the past 4-5 years...


    My comments in blue:

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by M247
    Thanks for the help Hennie.

    So if we summarize the requirements of the control:


    · Control and measure Temp. Yes - vitally important, but fortunately the easiest and most accurate to do.

    · Control and measure PH Yes. the "control" part would be to regulate CO2 to the calcium reactor (stop when the pH drops below a lower limit of (say) 8.0) and the dripping of lime water (kalkwasser) (stop dripping when pH reaches an upper limit of (say) 8.4.

    · Measure conductivity Nice to have... You could add a "control" dimension to either add RO water of a concentrated brine solution to keep your salinity/conductivity constant (thus acting as an ATO), but in my opinion that just increases the risk of something going wrong.

    · Measure ORP Yes. This will give you a general indication of the tank's wellbeing, but should never be acted on in isolation. Also, don't chase numbers - compare the trend from any given day with the average past weeks/months.

    · Measure Dissolved Oxygen Nice to have, but expensive. If you are looking at your ORP then perhaps not really necessary.

    · Control the lights Yes. Very convenient, and adds stability to the tank (in nature the sun does not come up at 06:00 one day, and at 10:00 the day after a party...). Use good quality timers, and make sure that they are rated for an inductive load of at least 1.5x your load, else they tend to burn out pretty quickly (if, of course, you are using electronic timers).

    · Control the pumps Yes, but... Constant switching on and off of "normal" pumps will wear out their impellers pretty quickly, and should be avoided. Rather use pumps such as Polarios or the controllable Tunze pumps (but very expensive...)

    · And maybe automated water change. No. IMHO this adds another element for something to go wrong (pump not starting/stopping when needed, changing salinity/pH/temp etc. too rapidly...)
    I prefer to do partial water changes in person, and only after testing of the old and new water to ensure that all parameters match closely. This is also done as part of my maintenance routine, and the "old" water is obtained by siphoning out dirt and mulm, lime slurry used to kill aiptasia, cleaning around rocks, etc.


    This is an interesting topic - why don't you post it in one of the MASA forums - then you can get comments/opinions from other members as well.

    Regards,

    Hennie


     
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  3. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    Welcome to MASA @M247.

    Hennie is giving you some very sound advice.

    With regards to a remote filter system, being in the maintenance game, we prefer a remote filter. It is easier to work on and you space is less restricted so one can add the extra reactors and fancy bits of equipment.

    We have quite a lot of clients with computerised control systems. Some with the Aquatronica and some with the Profilux. Both are good systems but the profilux has more functionality, especially if you are on the technical side. The Aquatronica is easier to set up and is more plug and play. If you decide to go this route i will be happy to discuss the ins and outs of each system so that you make the correct choice. But be warned that both systems are very expensive.

    There are a few things that you and Hennie have not mentioned.

    PH
    We use a PH controller to control the PH in a calcium reactor. How this works is that CO2 is injected into the reactor to reduce the PH and and allow the calcium to "dissolve". So by controlling the injection of CO2 one maintains a steady PH in the reactor.

    ORP
    Can be used to control ozonizers. In fact IMO a ozonizer should never be used without a controller and should only be used by a more advanced aquarist.

    We also use a ORP controller to control the redox in Denitrifiers. By controlling the water flow through the denitrifier/denitrator one keeps the reactor in an anaerobic state to optimise Nitrate reduction.

    Control of lights.
    Depending on the lighting system you choose, controllers can dim lights (0-10v or DALI) that a timer cannot do. So one can simulate sun rise, sun set, overcast days, moon cycles, lightning etc. One can get very creative here. and even in conjunction with the 0-10 volt controllable wave pumps, simulate storms.

    Remote monitoring
    These systems, with the extra modules, have the ability to allow for remote monitoring.
    SMS
    A sms module will send out a sms to you when a parameter is out of range or a power out occurs. It can also be programed to send a daily status report on the measured parameters.
    Ethernet
    Modules are available to enable one to connect to ones LAN. This allows you to connect to your system while traveling on business or on holiday.

    Water leak detector
    Sensors to detect water leaks are also available. These are nice to have to avert a flood. level switches do sometimes stick and pipes do come off pumps etc. A must if you go the auto top off and water change route.

    Water flow detector.
    Some aquariusts add a flow sensor to their return pump feed. Basically this tells them that the filter is running. This is useful because it tells you that the sump might be dry due to a faulty top off system. If you are remotely connected you can switch the return pump off to save it from burning out till the situation is remedied.

    Programming
    There are many scenarios one can program on the controller and to many to mention here. but these controllers have vast flexibility. If you need an application or program to do or control something, it most likely can be done.

    Hope this helps in your decision.
     
    Last edited: 10 Apr 2011
  4. Yuri

    Yuri

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    Get a proflux
    To control it remote you can use the iPhone proflux app
     
  5. Yuri

    Yuri

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  6. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    I forgot to add the controlling of dosing pumps.

    One can get dosing pumps to add your daily additives.
    If you do not go with a Calcium reactor you can also dose 2 or 3 part calcium.
     
  7. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Automation, two methods
    Full out.
    or
    Essential.

    Obvious biggest difference is price.

    Essential

    1. normal electronic timers (brand Major) from Builders Warehouse. About R160 each. One per set of lights. Normally a 4 tube T5, you use 2 timers. Cheap
    2. Auto Top-UP. Helps with stable salinity, and you do not need to add water every day to the system. Good quality ATU about R1000, Cheap about 200.
    3. That's it.
    Full out

    1. Profilux
    2. SMS modules
    3. Controlling stuff from I-phone or other enables cellphone.
    4. Temperature control, below and above thresholds
    5. PH, ORP, dosing, various detectors...
    6. Automatic Feeders.
    But I feel uncomfortable with being able to adjust things remotely via my cellphone without being able to SEE what is happening.

    Of the "Flat Out" option mentioned, the temperature control can actually be seen more as an intermediate option. The next thing to be able to control. Also Auto Feeders
     
    Last edited: 10 Apr 2011
  8. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac Thread Starter MASA Contributor

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    Good info so far, people :)

    Automating the fresh water top-up is important, but I differ from most in keeping this simple and fail-safe (and thus inevitable non-electronic :whistling:). Most ATO's work on the principle of having a water reservoir, and a small pump which is activated by a level switch (or two) that starts the pump when the water level in the sump/tank drops below a set level, and switches the pump off when the water level rises to a second set level. I have heard of or witnessed many instances where either the level switches or the pump failed, with the result being that either the full volume of water in the reservoir is dumped into the tank (flooding and lowering of salinity), or no water is added, resulting in a steady drop in the water level in the sump, increasing the salinity and ultimately burning out the main return pump.

    To prevent this, I have chosen to do the following:

    • connect the RO filter directly to a water dripping reservoir above my tank, through a float valve. I then add my lime to this reservoir, and replace the evaporated water by dripping in the (fresh) lime water at a drip rate of just less than the evaporation rate (about 1 drop per second).
    • connect the RO filter directly (using a "T"-piece to "T" off from the line going to the above-mentioned reservoir) to a float valve in my sump return-pump chamber. This float valve only opens about twice per week to "make up" the difference between the total evaporation and the RO constantly dripped into the tank. Should this float valve fail "open", the rate of fresh water added to the tank is limited by the rate of the RO filter, and as everyone who has a RO filter knows, this is pretty slow. In a worst-case scenario, it will take about two days to fill my sump to the level where it will flood, and the rate of salinity change will be slow enough that it won't affect my tank too negatively (I know, it has happened a few times in the last 6-7 years). If the float valve fails "closed" then the water level will slowly drop, but it will take about 10-12 days (depending on rate of evaporation) before my return pump will become exposed, as the "dripper" above the tank replaces about 80% - 90% of the water lost through evaporation.
    These "computers" are pretty versatile, and nice if you have the money, but I still prefer to use more robust industrial controllers - they have less "bling", but are more reliable (IMHO) in the long run.

    Hennie
     
  9. M247

    M247

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    Robust industrial controllers... sounds like my type of controller...:thumbup:
     
  10. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Depends on where you stay. In Pretoria east my water pressure is 8 BAR. I easily make 90L RO within 6-7 hours. 11 at night till next morning and 90L RO drum is already overflowing. First time I installed my ATU., what happened was that the full level of the drum was higher than my sump. So even after the pump switched off, it kept on siphoning RO to the sump. Eventually flooding my sump. I was overseas. And my non-reefer forgot the next morning to close the RO inlet tap. That afternoon the Lapa was flooded. Luckily it was about 5 days before I returned. System was running for those days at 1.016 with softies and LPS. To my calculation it was about 120L RO that went into my 1000L system. I'm amazed that I lost no livestock. But DSB did take a knock as cayno started on the sand in the week thereafter.

    Where I stay now, the water pressure is sooooo low, It takes more than 24 hours to fill the same 90L drum.

    Another point to remember, or take into account. The water evaporation rate will be different in the summer and winter. In winter with colder ambient temp and lower humidity, the evaporation rate is actually higher.

    Best option, my opinion, is to have an ATU that can only run for a set time limit with 2 switches (low and full). And if within that time limit the upper switch (full) is not reached, then the system must shut down. Most likely due to your RO chamber being empty (normal behaviour for me, wake up in the morning, walk to tank and hear the ATU alarm - peep peep peep).
    But the return chamber must be able to handle enough evaporation until you get home. Preferably at least 2 days. Sure, you will have salinity swing that one day. But it is not a constant every day swing.
     
    Last edited: 10 Apr 2011
  11. Johan van Aardt

    Johan van Aardt I love marines [R.I.P.]

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    totally off topic, but here is my home made diy led controller[​IMG]
     
  12. M247

    M247

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    Nice....may we see the inside?;)


     
  13. Johan van Aardt

    Johan van Aardt I love marines [R.I.P.]

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    uhm the inside is a whole lot of wires and two busted buckpucks. very dumb but the buckpucks(drivers) went up in smoke for some unknown reason
     
  14. RiaanP

    RiaanP Moderator

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    Yes and electronic devices all have packets of smoke in them. Once they release that smoke, it does not work any more. ;)
     
  15. Johan van Aardt

    Johan van Aardt I love marines [R.I.P.]

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    LOL everything still works just these damn drivers im not sure of.

    they are especially good at releasing the smoke
     
  16. Johan van Aardt

    Johan van Aardt I love marines [R.I.P.]

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    [​IMG]

    the inside.

    so apparantly theproblem is that you should never put the drivers on unless there is a load on them.
     
  17. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    J
    This kind of load shit :lol2:

    Well done nice DIY
     
  18. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    just to add to this...
    being a RTOS developer writing software for realtime monitoring and applications take into considertation of DIY units vs Commercial units. Yes the cost is way different but commercial units have been tested and passed some sort of certification, CE, ILC etc to make them compliant etc. IF YOU DO DIY, remember to test, test and test again and when you implement it, suppliment it with the manual process untill all the bugs are ironed out.
     
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