WTB Tank controller.

Discussion in 'Buy, Sell, Trade' started by anathema, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. anathema

    anathema Supporting Member

    Shopping for a controller, leaning towards the Apex or Apex Lite.

    I want to be able to at a minimum monitor PH and salinity, and shut off the top off if either goes out of spec. Temp and other stuff would be nice. I'd love to be able to set it up to email me if something goes wrong as well.

    Thought I'd see if anyone had one or part of a setup collecting dust before I shop for new, as I didn't expect to spend money right now.
  2. treylane

    treylane Supporting Member

    Headsup that controllers don't monitor salinity. :)
  3. anathema

    anathema Supporting Member

    The apex says it does, for the additional cost of 4 trillion dollars. |(



    Which is ridiculous because they built in the ability to monitor ORP, as if that was more important.
  4. anathema

    anathema Supporting Member

    However, since we are on the topic, I'm interested in hearing what people's opinions are regarding how I can set up one of these controllers to control my ATO system so I could hopefully avoid ever coming home to a dead tank again.

    Fwiw, I've vetoed any suggestion that uses a "water on the floor" sensor.

    It seems that I am kind of stuck using PH to accomplish this, unless I want to spend close to $800 on a controller. I'm assuming I'd just make a script that says: If PH > ~9.5 then shut off ATO pump outlet? The problem I see here is that in the event of an overflow malfunction or float switch sticking, as soon as the PH dropped, it would resume dumping in kalk. It would slow the disaster down, but not actually shut off the ATO completely until it was fixed. I would need to monitor both PH and salinity(or conductivity) to actually accomplish using a controller as a failsafe for this event.

    I really wish there was a controller that was actually built with this hobby in mind that had ph, salinity, and temp capability right out of the box, but unless I'm missing it there doesn't seem to be one.
  5. sfboarders

    sfboarders Guest

    The apex has a salinity/conductivity probe. You have to buy the PM2 module and the salinity probe. It's a complete waste of money. I had it for awhile til it started reading bonkers. I cleaned the probe and re-calibrated and still couldn't get it to read correctly. Ended up selling it.
  6. seminolecpa

    seminolecpa Past President

    Actually they do. Both the Apex and the Reefkeeper Elite have modules and probes to moniter it. Not sure that it is really that useful though.

  7. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Two ways:
    1) Have a second level sensor.
    You put a second water level sensor slightly higher than the normal one. If it hits that, shut of the ATO.
    Since it is normally out of the water, unlikely to get crud on it and stick.
    2) Check the water level only every hour, and only add a set number of ml each time.
    Basically you tune it such that even if it the sensor gets stuck on, it really will not add much more than normal.
    That way, it can never really spike, would take days to overflow, and hopefully you would notice.

    Of course, that implies a controller that is a bit controllable and programmable. Like a reef angel.

    Looking at Salinity is likely too slow of a feedback loop. The concentration sure seems too low.
    So by the time it changes enough to make a measurable difference, you will probably have a flood on your hands.
  8. iCon

    iCon Supporting Member

    Temp and pH are really the only ones you need. Salinity probes are pricey iirc. I'd look at solving the fundamental problems first - making sure a new tank won't flood etc. Then go about setting up a controller to kill an ATO when pH > 8.4 or something. Can also set a delay so the ATO does not turn on immediately - Commonly seen in delaying the turn on of halides when they've been shut off. Can set for any amount of time so it doesn't 'resume dumping in kalk'
  9. anathema

    anathema Supporting Member

    Thanks Mark,

    I've already thought of option one, and in fact already use two float switches. Unfortunately that didn't save me from last week's disaster, and neither would option 1.

    Going through my recent disaster logically: Partially plugged overflow, leading to tank water running out of the top of the display, leading to low sump levels, ATO kicking on, overdosing kalk until it shorted out, then the sump ran dry. The problem with that scenario is that the water level in the sump never got high enough to activate the second switch on the float switch rack, so it never shut down the ATO. If I'm going to set up a tank again I want to be able to stop this from occurring, or at least get an email and slow it down enough that I can get it fixed before total devastation occurs. Adding dual float switches to a controller doesn't really add any functionality above what I already had.

    I think option 2 would work, though I was thinking of doing it slightly differently. I was thinking of adding an "on timer" to the top off pump, and only letting it stay on for 30 seconds out of every hour or something. However, this would only slow down a disaster, not stop it. If I set something like this up, I would need to have an email alert informing me of a fault, and I'm having a hard time finding an event to place the fault on if that system maxes out. If the float switch sticks on, how do I detect that and have the controller send an email?

    I guess I could simply: If (float switch input on > 60sec) then (email, turn off ATO) which would be a minimal kalk overdose, notification, and then shut off until it is maintained.

    However if I was using this system I would think I'd need a third float switch to set up a "low level" alarm in the sump. It just gets more and more complicated. :~
  10. tuberider

    tuberider Guest

    Not a big fan of the Apex, I'm trying to get a problem resolved currently with my first dealing with the unit, it has a mind of its own shutting lights off randomly, display screen cutting out, gibberish on screen etc. I have yet to have any problems with the ReefKeepers, just my experience of course.
  11. anathema

    anathema Supporting Member

    Thanks Jeremy,

    Which RK unit have you used? That is pretty much the exact opposite of what I've been hearing, and finding in my research. I originally looked at the DA stuff first, but got turned off by all the bad press. Their unit is a bit cheaper than the Neptune version, so that might be a better choice.

    Of course, when I called Neptune Systems to ask some questions and test their customer service I wasn't impressed either.

    I've always been for keeping things simple, and this is a big mass of complicated things to add to a tank. Of course, my simple tank isn't looking so hot. Not sure which option is best.

    Another big complication I am facing is that my tank is underneath the house, so if I need to run an ethernet cable to my router, I have to drill a hole in the rental house, which I think is not in my best interest.
  12. iCon

    iCon Supporting Member

    ^ You can connect wirelessly with adapters.
  13. tuberider

    tuberider Guest

    The lite, it is easy and I'm mostly controlling lights and cal reactors.

    You got through to Neptune? Wow, I called them three days straight and only got a busy signal, you're a lucky guy. Curt has been good via email, but it gets tedious trying to diagnose a problem going back and forth emailing. I'm just taking the unit to RAP and am going to have Curt look at it for me down there.
  14. iani

    iani Guest

    +1. Get a cheap router that you can load dd-wrt onto. Run it as a bridge. That is what I am doing right now.
  15. anathema

    anathema Supporting Member

    I got through to Neptune on the 5th try, but it was a young person who responded to every question with "hold on, let me go ask" and then came back with conflicting information.

    Ian, what type of router do you use and how much did it add to the cost to set that up?
  16. seminolecpa

    seminolecpa Past President

    I had nothing but problems from day 1 with my Reefkeeper Elite. In the beginning their customer service was awesome but as it progressed along it was less then stellar. Can't speak for the lite versions but I wouldn't with the Elite on my worst enemy.
  17. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    For that specific failure, it sounds like what you need is a third sensor - in your display tank.
    That needs to turn off your main return pump though, not the ATO.
    But risky in itself, in case it turns off on a false positive.

    Best solution is really to change your plumbing, and have an extra emergency overflow.
    You want one that runs in full-siphon, so can be smaller, and as a bonus, will make loud flushing noises.


    Assuming you do the check every hour, add X ml, the water level sensor should always
    register as full if you check that after the dose. So you can program the controller to send
    and email if it is ever not full.
    Expect a few random emails on water changes though.
  18. iCon

    iCon Supporting Member

    If you already have wireless set up, you don't need another router... Just something like this: http://www.amazon.com/NETGEAR-WNCE2001-Universal-Internet-Adapter/dp/B003KPBRRW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319050964&sr=8-1

    FWIW, I got mine for $30 via Amazon bulk packaging. Seems like they upped the price though. There's an 'Unofficial user guide' for the Apex which is infinitely better than the actual user guide. Also a few very knowledgeable people over at the big forum. Set up can be a little confusing and you'll need GMX email and dyn-dns (or similars) to 'create' a static IP. Not sure, but I think this is the same for all types of controllers though, not just the Apex. Roberto may have a more price effective alternative... That'd be a second choice to the Apex IMO. Regardless of the controller, I'd look into fixing the groundwork plumbing first.

    Aquanotes is nice and clean. Android app is functional but just 'ok'.
  19. iani

    iani Guest

    When I did mine I got a cheap linksys access point and flashed dd-wrt on it. It was 30 dollars for the access point from amazon. Or ask here on the forum, I bet someone has an old router (that they want to get rid of) that is compatible to ddwrt. I bet someone may be willing to give one away. I figured I could get a wireless bridge for cheaper than the 60 something dollars that you need to spend on one out of the box.
  20. iCon

    iCon Supporting Member

    Works too. I ended up using a spare Cisco router to expand my wireless instead...Now across the street could access if it weren't invisible. eBay has the Netgear wireless adapter for about $30...New I think.

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