controller for my tank

Discussion in 'Test Kits, Controllers, Reactors and Dosers' started by marcel, 2 Dec 2009.

  1. marcel


    18 Jun 2009
    Likes Received:
    Hi All,

    I’ve been looking at controllers for marine tanks, and nothing that’s available impressed me. For me a controller’s function must be to help keep everything alive. So I made my own controller, to do what I want it to do.
    The biggest problem for me is a power failure when no ones home. So my controller had to run of batteries. I don’t like the genie root its useless if no ones home to switch it on, and even if you could automate, it will only run till the fuel is finished. I don’t like inverters but for now it’s the best option. The question is what’s required to keep everything alive? On one of the U.S forums a guy had too leave his house for a week because of a hurricane, with just a battery-operated air pump running and everything survived. Then you hear of others that start loosing livestock after only 8 hours. Escom is not the only reason for power failures. Even your tanks equipment could be responsible for a power failure.

    This is what I will be using for my tank

    My controller
    8x time programmable relays 1x temp probe/ meter
    1x PH probe/ meter
    MS programmable alarm on all functions

    2) Cheap1.5 volt air pump. I converted it to 12v by using a regulator. This pump will come on when the power fails, it will not work from my controller.

    3) My dosing pumps, any one can make them and it’s cheap. All you need is a plastic container, small submersible fish pump and a one-way valve on the end of your dosing pipe. I will also be using an air pump, blowing in air before dosing.

    4) Cheap inverter. You get from an auto shop. The inverter will be used for top-ups and dosing it will also be used for powering a small heater during a power failure. The inverter will remain off and only switch on to perform a function.

    5) Deep cycle battery, 12v 202Ah. This battery will be my only souse of power during a power failure.

    6) Solar panels, I have two different types I want to experiment with. Most of the marine guys seem to run a total lost system. I would like my system to be self-sustaining as far as possible.

    7) Small 50w heater, I will place this in my main tank. This is the component that consumes the most power. When it run of the inverter it consumes nearly 5Amp from the 12v side.

    8) Pc power supply, I will use this for powering all my lights. I will use a 250w unit.

    9) All lights will be led lights. I will be using 6x Cree led’s on a motorized rail that will change every 12 hours from day white lights to blue night lights. And 3x Cree led’s without optical lenses for a wide viewing angle.

    What I want my system to do normally
    Send me SMS if the temp/Ph is to “hi/low”
    Dose by time set for dosing.
    Top-up by time set. “No switches”
    Send me SMS if dose/ top-up liquids are low.

    What do I want my system to do when the power fails?
    Send me a SMS telling me the power is out.
    Send me a SMS with temp/ Ph parameters every “ hours set”
    Execute option one for power out after set time.
    Execute option two for power out. After set time
    Send me a SMS telling me the power is back on.

    At this stage I don’t know what’s required for a survival mode. Ambient temperature will also play a role.
    Does one need to run return pumps during a power outage? Return pumps consume lots of power, and the movement will also cool the water faster. If its winter you may not want to run those return pumps. For now I will not use them during a power failure.
    The small 50W heater will not be enough for my size tank, running it from an inverter continuously will give me around 21 hours from a 102 Ah battery. After a period of no power the system must go over to option two. Now switching the heater on only 30 min in every hour increasing my battery life. Hopefully fish will move to areas with warmer water.
    The water temp around Durban can go down to around 18C during the winter months, would the things in our tanks survive temperatures like that? In the sea there are also many cold currents moving around.

    I see some reefers go for a big battery pack/ inverter combination, and continue running their whole system. That’s fine if you know how long the power will be out for. Let say you have a system that will keep everything running for 24 hours at what stage do you start cutting down on consumption? You need a plan B that will extend your time by switching at least some of the system on and of. I would also not like to use my same equipment; what if the reason for the power failure was a faulty return pump that tripped the earth leakage? Depending on ones wiring setup, switching an inverter on with a short on the load is not a good idea.


  2. Guest

  3. durleo


    27 Jul 2009
    Likes Received:
    Will Be nice to see this how this baby works - then you can supply us ! :)
  4. Annoying


    14 Jun 2009
    Likes Received:
    Port Elizabeth
    Awesome, I would buy it, darn eskom shut of my power last week for 36 hours!!
  5. lIghty


    3 Nov 2007
    Likes Received:
    Westville, Durban
    Sounds interesting, want are you going tu use for logic control? PLC or uC
    Posted via Mobile Device
  6. leslie hempel

    leslie hempel Moderator MASA Contributor

    7 May 2007
    Likes Received:
    Gonubie East London
    very innovative.. sometimes making something yourself is so much more worthwhile that attempting something new.. if you know what you doing offcourse :) seems like you do..
  7. maj


    13 Oct 2009
    Likes Received:
    Cape Town
    whats the reason for keepin it off for 36 hours?

    what happend to ur tank?
  8. Neil H

    Neil H Moderator

    11 May 2008
    Likes Received:
    interesting concept......

    i would have a long think about what it is that causes death during a powerfailure ......

    in my humble opinion there are 3 major elements to worry about and in this order

    Oxygen levels

    i personally would not waste power on lights, dosing pumps and other things

    I run a deep cycle battery on a trickle charger with an inverter and it powers my stuff for more than long enough, all i run is a return pump and a fairly large airstone in the sump and DT ....

    Water looses its temperature much slower than we think, and my opinion is that a pump would if anything heat the water not cool it.

    the sms functionality would be awesome.

    Without hooking up 4 or 5 deep cycle batteries together you will not get a system to survive very long periods of time without a backup generator. As far as generators go one can certainly set up certain generators such that they kick in automatically during a power outage (this could in turn charge a deep cycle battery which would again prolong the life of the tank 12 to 24 hours after petrol runs out - of course you COULD also put a float switch in the petrol tank with a massive 200L petrol top up unit powered by the genertor which would run for long enough for you to get home)

    I think it boils down to cost ...... but anything is possible
  9. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac

    15 May 2007
    Likes Received:
    Agreed :thumbup:

    Run one or two power heads and your sump return pump, and everything will be OK for at least 24 hours. In winter, insulation of the tank would be pretty important as well ( i.e. if you know you won't be at home for (say) 2-3 days, place Styrofoam sheets over all the glass.)

    Your corals and fish will easily survive a few days without light.


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