AquaticTechTank.net

A forum dedicated to design and program aquatic tanks
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 Post subject: Automate ALL the things!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:32 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:36 pm
Posts: 9
Hey everyone, I got into aquariums a few months ago. Today I have a planted 55 gallon FW community that has recently really started thriving. This week we just redid the GF's 5 gallon into a Walstad tank. I actually got thrown into fish keeping out of the blue when the GF brought home a ghost shrimp from class. A few days later she had him in a 5.5 gallon tank and we were off to the races. The first iteration of that tank didn't do so well and I stepped in and started learning all that I could about keeping aquariums as fast as I could when her fish started dying. Once I got her tank stabilized I decided I wanted to start my own tank. My old roommate had several tanks laying around that he had running when we lived together so he sold me a 55 gallon setup for cheap. Immediately I started wondering about automating things like monitoring water parameters, lighting, and setting up some kind of alert system to let me know when things were out of wack. Sadly most of the sensors for that kind of stuff aren't really intended for hobby use and when I see them, they are far outside of my current budget.

As far as electronics go, I would describe myself as a little bit beyond beginner hobbyist. Most of my experience with building electronics involve making electronic cigarettes and pre-made kits. I have decent soldering skills, and can put together a few simple circuits. I can follow instructions to build more complex things pretty well. I have a couple Arduinos floating around but so far I haven't done much more then blink some LED's with them. My coding skills are only a little more advanced then my electronics skills and most of my experience is with Python. Just a few weeks ago I finished the 'Intro to Interactive Programming' class on Coursera which pushed me further then I have ever been before. I highly recommend this class to anyone who has dabbled in programming or perhaps just finished an introductory programming course and would like to learn something new.

I'm pretty excited to see this forum come to life. I don't think I will have a whole lot to contribute immediately, but I hope as I learn more (and get more of a budget) that I will be able to do some cool stuff. I have a few ideas rolling around in my head, but lack either the means and/or knowledge to implement them. I imagine this crazy awesome high tech tank that monitors everything and can e-mail me to let me know that parameter X is out of range. Or maybe it sends me weekly logs to help me keep an eye on trends. Perhaps my file server stores the weekly logs and can help me analyze them and notice that parameter Y has been dropping by some small amount week after week. Maybe all this is overkill, but I think it sounds fun.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:04 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:54 pm
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Welcome to the forum! The only water parameters you really need to keep track of is co2 and temperature. Yeah, hopefully we'll build some cool stuff here.

I'm formulating in my head for build an easy to use aquarium controller. We'll see where that goes. I'll have to experiment with a few things first. I'll post them on the forum.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:07 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:36 pm
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In an established aquarium you don't have to worry about too much else. However, I think it would be useful if there was a low cost way to monitor for ammonia when tanks are still pretty new, especially while you are new to keeping aquariums. That way if you screw up and do something wrong, you will know before high levels of ammonia start killing all of your fish. I find it useful to keep an eye on pH as well, especially in smaller tanks where it's easy to accidentally cause large swings. After one mishap involving low tank pH, I don't do water changes without a pH test of both the aquarium and new water first.

While my 55 gallon was cycling I was checking water parameters at least once a day and recording them in a spreadsheet. I think it would be cool to have a higher resolution record of the nitrogen cycle in a new tank. Perhaps you could test different methods of cycling and see if one is more effective then another and by how much. Admittedly you could do that without automatic logging, but what's the fun in that?


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:18 am 
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Joined: Sun Dec 30, 2012 5:48 pm
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Hey Jairun, welcome!

There's one other useful thing I plan to measure when I manage to get around to building my own controller. If someone else uses the idea first, I don't mind. :)

As the physical load increases on a constant speed motor, so does the current required to maintain that speed. Compared to more common motors, the effect is quite a bit smaller in mag drives, like those used in filters. But it's still detectable. I can see it with the filter plugged into a Kill-A-Watt meter. Would love to have a little warning pop up saying when it's time to clean the media, rather than noticing reduced flow alone; which I often miss.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:32 am 
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Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:36 pm
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That's a pretty cool idea. My current method of deciding filters need cleaning is more like 'hrm... it's been a while, perhaps I should clean them'. Then I proceed to be amazed at how low the flow had gotten without me realizing it.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:13 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:54 pm
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I believe they do sell flow rate sensors commercially. Connect it inline to your canister filter hose. With a newly cleaned filer, you can use that flow rate as the baseline and alert you when it's down x amount.
I'll keep an eye out for it.


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