Automated Reefing: How "automated" are you?

BRS

How automated is your current saltwater reef aquarium?

  • Almost Fully Automated

    Votes: 209 26.7%
  • Somewhat Automated

    Votes: 251 32.1%
  • Very Little Automated

    Votes: 221 28.2%
  • Not Automated At All

    Votes: 102 13.0%

  • Total voters
    783

Starganderfish

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I'm as automated as is cost-effective with a small tank. I have Nano tanks so haven't yet been able to justify a Profilux or Apex System for full-blown automation, but I use ATO, AWC, almost all electrical equipment is on smart timers (either built-in or separate and hooked up to Alexa), Fuge lights are on timers, auto cut off sensor on RO/DI refill, auto dosing.
I also employ a large cleanup crew including sand sifting Gobies, Algae eating snails and crabs, pods growing in fuge and scape.
Even things like upgrading from refractometer and dropper bottle tests to Hanna testers to reduce the manual effort.
At this point the occasional water test, filling up SW reservoirs once a fortnight and cleaning the glass are the only requirements. I tend to hand-feed most of the time for variety and as an excuse to hang with the tank but I do have auto feeders available for busy times or holidays.

I've always loathed water changes, siphoning the sand bed, remembering to manually top up is a pain and so many of the mundane tasks of the aquarium are just time wasters.

I've been back and forth on the expense of a GHL system - the idea of the automated testing and dosing sounds amazing, but it's kind of overkill for a small tank and once I dial in the dosing and water changes, testing isn't required that often so it's on the backburner for now. If I ever upgraded to a larger tank (unlikely at this stage) I would definitely be adding GHL automation and auto testing/dosing.
 

TL1

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The only manual tasks I haven't automated are feeding and emptying trident waste and skimmer waste. I don't dose anything at the moment, but will automate if and when that time comes.

I have a 165 gallon mixing tank in the garage. Perfect for one full bucket of salt @ 150 gallons. I do this once every so often and will not automate this.

Pretty hands off overall.
 

Labridaedicted

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Pretty much my whole system is automated except water changes (which I have made very easy, but not automatic) and nitrate/phosphate tests. I also haven't figured out a way to add nori automatically and like 1 big manual feeding per day because it makes sure I spend time in front of the tank every day.

The tank is fed by my homemade Refrigerated auto feeder and an avast marine plank for a total of 10 automatic feeding per day.

Alk, Ca, Mg, Salinity, etc... is handled by the Apex and trident.

RODI and Top off are controlled by backpressure valves and a smartATO system.

Lighting runs on its own software.

Pumps run on their own controllers.

Micro Dosing is handled by red sea 4 head peristaltic pump (acropower, Koralcolor, Mg (as necessary), Alk (as necessary).

Major element dosing is done by a 2 chamber calcium reactor with a built in ph probe to ensure the carbondoser maintains a proper pH. Volume of dosage is controlled via a peristaltic pump to ensure constant levels.

All this let's me keep my hands out of the tank as much as possible. The most frequent manual work I do on the tank is changing the reef diapers every few days and cleaning the glass. The only reason I don't have a roller mat to do away with the socks is space limitation in the sump.

So I think the last things I could automate would be a robosnail cleaner, a roller mat, and an auto water change peristaltic system which I'm ok without I think.
 

Starganderfish

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The only manual tasks I haven't automated are feeding and emptying trident waste and skimmer waste. I don't dose anything at the moment, but will automate if and when that time comes.

I have a 165 gallon mixing tank in the garage. Perfect for one full bucket of salt @ 150 gallons. I do this once every so often and will not automate this.

Pretty hands off overall.
Two questions:
1) how big is a 150 gallon water tank (ie: how much room does it take up)
2) how long does it take to fill with RO/Di water?

I'm pretty happy with my two x 30L jerry cans for my AWC system (small nano/pico tanks) but the thought of having one massive container that would last for 4 or 5 months is kind of cool... I get somewhere between a week and a week and-a-half from each jug at the moment. But it would take days to fill something that large with RO/DI?
 

TL1

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Two questions:
1) how big is a 150 gallon water tank (ie: how much room does it take up)
2) how long does it take to fill with RO/Di water?

I'm pretty happy with my two x 30L jerry cans for my AWC system (small nano/pico tanks) but the thought of having one massive container that would last for 4 or 5 months is kind of cool... I get somewhere between a week and a week and-a-half from each jug at the moment. But it would take days to fill something that large with RO/DI?

~3ft diameter x maybe 5.5' tall? Takes a solid 24-36 hours to fill up with the booster pump.

Here's a pic of them when I was bringing them home.

And I think there's a photo or two of the garage in my build thread.

20211106_090310.jpg
 

LeBon

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I think most automation, particularly the controllers, is frankly just silly on tanks up to say 50 gallons.
Sometimes lazyness sure but nowadays it seems more about people building systems and gadgets rather than actually learning the tank itself. :)

to continue thecontrary view,I love my hands in the tank
 

Starganderfish

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I think most automation, particularly the controllers, is frankly just silly on tanks up to say 50 gallons.
Sometimes lazyness sure but nowadays it seems more about people building systems and gadgets rather than actually learning the tank itself. :)

to continue thecontrary view,I love my hands in the tank
You could just as easily say automating anything OVER 50 gallon is silly. A large tank is a lot more stable, less prone to swings or sudden shifts. A 20 gallon nano can have salinity crash or phosphates skyrocket in a matter of hours and Ph shifts are even quicker. Further, dosing in a massive tank is often 20-30mls at a time and can be done with a plastic cup. Dosing in a nano often requires 1ml or sometimes less - that’s a lot easier to do with automation.
An automated Water Change system on a small tank can handle a months worth of water changes with a single smallish reservoir, while a massive tanks reservoir requires frequent refilling and mixing so even with automation there’s still loads of time wasting manual effort
Automating a small tank makes way more sense because stability and consistency is so much more important and there’s little to no buffer against mistakes.
You can neglect a 200gal tank for a couple of weeks and you may get some algae growth or unhappy corals. Neglect a 20gal for that long and everything dies.
As for laziness? Meh. To me it’s a waste of time doing boring mundane tasks over and over again when a simple automation can handle that and free up more time for the things I love. My tanks are just one many hobbies and interests, to say nothing of full time work and raising a family. My time is way more valuable than futzing around with a hep of grunt work a simple controller can do.
Basically, it could be argued that you actually get way more bang for our buck with automation on a small tank because it’s easier to make them MORE automated and done right it can cut down the requirement for manual Intervention a heap.
nd it’s not like a 20 gal OR a 200 gal is a cheap exercise anyway - the hobby is almost always expensive no matter what your tanks size.
Disclaimer: I'm not sure whether I actually believe this or not, it's been a long time since I bothered with large tanks. But I know how huge a difference automation makes on any tank and the usual bias against small tanks that they are somehow "silly" or "pointless" or "not real reef tanks" is frankly exhausting. I love my 20 gal and wouldn't;change it for a big tank even if I did have the space or time to do so. There's a good chance I will eventually add a Profilux to my tanks, once I'm confident how well they perform tests and can assess the long term cost of replacement parts. Manual water testing is for the birds. Spending 7 minutes futzing around with a Hanna checker if a system can display the same accuracy at the push of a button doesn't make someone a better reefer, it's just wasting time. Thats true of any size tank.
 
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LeBon

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You could just as easily say automating anything OVER 50 gallon is silly. A large tank is a lot more stable, less prone to swings or sudden shifts. A 20 gallon nano can have salinity crash or phosphates skyrocket in a matter of hours and Ph shifts are even quicker. Further, dosing in a massive tank is often 20-30mls at a time and can be done with a plastic cup. Dosing in a nano often requires 1ml or sometimes less - that’s a lot easier to do with automation.
An automated Water Change system on a small tank can handle a months worth of water changes with a single smallish reservoir, while a massive tanks reservoir requires frequent refilling and mixing so even with automation there’s still loads of time wasting manual effort
Automating a small tank makes way more sense because stability and consistency is so much more important and there’s little to no buffer against mistakes.
You can neglect a 200gal tank for a couple of weeks and you may get some algae growth or unhappy corals. Neglect a 20gal for that long and everything dies.
As for laziness? Meh. To me it’s a waste of time doing boring mundane tasks over and over again when a simple automation can handle that and free up more time for the things I love. My tanks are just one many hobbies and interests, to say nothing of full time work and raising a family. My time is way more valuable than futzing around with a hep of grunt work a simple controller can do.
Basically, it could be argued that you actually get way more bang for our buck with automation on a small tank because it’s easier to make them MORE automated and done right it can cut down the requirement for manual Intervention a heap.
nd it’s not like a 20 gal OR a 200 gal is a cheap exercise anyway - the hobby is almost always expensive no matter what your tanks size.
Disclaimer: I'm not sure whether I actually believe this or not, it's been a long time since I bothered with large tanks. But I know how huge a difference automation makes on any tank and the usual bias against small tanks that they are somehow "silly" or "pointless" or "not real reef tanks" is frankly exhausting. I love my 20 gal and wouldn't;change it for a big tank even if I did have the space or time to do so. There's a good chance I will eventually add a Profilux to my tanks, once I'm confident how well they perform tests and can assess the long term cost of replacement parts. Manual water testing is for the birds. Spending 7 minutes futzing around with a Hanna checker if a system can display the same accuracy at the push of a button doesn't make someone a better reefer, it's just wasting time. Thats true of any size tank.
stability in a small tank comes from frequent water changes. its really that simple.
Large tanks are more stable by default but simply require a lot more manual work, so in commericial spaces it makes sense to save 50 hours a week swapping water.At home its ten mins work.

Commercial spaces might have 100kworth of corals and fish spread over large areas. Again ,makes sense to have an extra layer of protection. Tho not fully automated, why trust an app todo something we can do perfectly ? Kinda common sensethe way I see it.
 

Starganderfish

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stability in a small tank comes from frequent water changes. its really that simple.
Large tanks are more stable by default but simply require a lot more manual work, so in commericial spaces it makes sense to save 50 hours a week swapping water.At home its ten mins work.

Commercial spaces might have 100kworth of corals and fish spread over large areas. Again ,makes sense to have an extra layer of protection. Tho not fully automated, why trust an app todo something we can do perfectly ? Kinda common sensethe way I see it.
There’s a lot more to keeping a small tank than just water changes.
As for common sense?
Why do something by hand when technology can do it better? I don’t mow my lawn with shears or cook over an open fire. I don’t use candles for light or a hole in the ground for a toilet.
Why would I manually drain and fill water from my tank when a device does it more precisely, more reliably and automatically? Why would I top up evaporated water with a cup? Why would I use a syringe to manually dose a drop at a time? Heck, if there’s an effective alternative, why futz around with dropper bottles and vials of water to test parameters?
I’m not Amish! This naive idea that doing something the hard way by hand is somehow “better” baffles me? Lugging hoses and siphons around doesn’t somehow mystically make me “one with my tank.” Manually testing parameters and squinting at colours on a plastic card leaves me LESS aware of the waters quality than constant automated testing with a digital readout.
It’s the 2020’s… there’s so much technology out there to make reefkeeping easy, fun and accessible. Folks really need to drop the whole BS that “only by immersing myself in my tank do I truly KNOW my tank.”
 

LeBon

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There’s a lot more to keeping a small tank than just water changes.
As for common sense?
Why do something by hand when technology can do it better? I don’t mow my lawn with shears or cook over an open fire. I don’t use candles for light or a hole in the ground for a toilet.
Why would I manually drain and fill water from my tank when a device does it more precisely, more reliably and automatically? Why would I top up evaporated water with a cup? Why would I use a syringe to manually dose a drop at a time? Heck, if there’s an effective alternative, why futz around with dropper bottles and vials of water to test parameters?
I’m not Amish! This naive idea that doing something the hard way by hand is somehow “better” baffles me? Lugging hoses and siphons around doesn’t somehow mystically make me “one with my tank.” Manually testing parameters and squinting at colours on a plastic card leaves me LESS aware of the waters quality than constant automated testing with a digital readout.
It’s the 2020’s… there’s so much technology out there to make reefkeeping easy, fun and accessible. Folks really need to drop the whole BS that “only by immersing myself in my tank do I truly KNOW my tank.”
It isnt bs you just have your perspective. ts just obvious that the more hands ony you are in any subject matter the better you do it. My mechanic is brilliant at tuning my car but has absolutely no feel for driving it all. Im good at driving,dont know **** about the engine.

New hobbyists are geting the impression they 'need'much of the automation when in most cases the oppositte istrue,they will learn more feeeding the fish by hand and watching it a while than using an auto feeder and never being there.

Plus the autofeeder may stop working,its electronic,they fail regulaarly for various reasons andthe more apps you have the more possibility for failure, its just a fact.

Imnot saying dont anybody use tech,your anaology of using lawnmower to mow thelawn i because its totally impractical to use scissors but it is not impractal nor a chore to spend ten minutes doing a manual water change of 5gallons. Automating that process is not a neccasary requirement in the slightest. Its fine and harmless bu totally unneccassary.
 
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Starganderfish

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It isnt bs,its just obvious that the more hands ony tou are in any subject matter the better you doit. iI without proper intEraction. i
Nothing obvious about your assumption at all. How does a once a day manual test with droppers make you more aware of your alkalinity than an automated test run every 10 minutes and graphed out?
How does sucking water through a hose make you better than using a pump and a timer?
You’re argument is based on the fallacy that “manual” is intrinsically better than “automatic”. It’s not.
 

LeBon

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Nothing obvious about your assumption at all. How does a once a day manual test with droppers make you more aware of your alkalinity than an automated test run every 10 minutes and graphed out?
How does sucking water through a hose make you better than using a pump and a timer?
You’re argument is based on the fallacy that “manual” is intrinsically better than “automatic”. It’s not.
the Majority of tanks in peoples homes doing basic water changes regularly will never have to worry about alk or Calc etc Some folk like to give the impression things are difficult and it isnt, its only more difficult in certain high volume systems
 

Thrashed

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I'm almost fully automated at this point, only thing that isn't is my testing and water changes. Alexa came out and made it way to easy to automate your system and for a way cheaper price. Goal has always been cruise control on a tank and with the systems we have now it's way to easy to reach
 

MickeysFins

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I travelled a lot when I was working, usually a week at a time and my husband had little interest in doing any maintenance on my 225 gal reef, other than he liked the way it looked. Now that we're both retired we're doing more travelling ( or were before Covid hit anyway :eek:) and having the tank automated really gave me piece of mind. I would check Apex Fusion several times a day and also view the tank and sump areas via my cameras just to make sure everything was okay. Cameras were through the camera app, not Fusion.

I don't have a tank sitter other than a family member who stops by to look in on things, but knows nothing about managing a reef tank.

The automation allows me to be away for weeks at a time without worrying about coming home to a disaster. This year we spent 5 weeks in FL and tank was great when I got home.

Mickey
 

JulesH

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A cautionary tale of tech.

My biggest problem is relying on too much tech. I work away from home and have an automatic tester. I dose according to the test results. My test results indicated a decreasing KH and NO3 level(s). The reality was the other way round, I got home and my tank looked dreadful, I had a dKH value of 17.4 and an NO3 level of 54.3. At the moment I am trying to wean my tank back into stability. The weird thing is that 90% of my coraline algae is dead, that must have bombed my dKH. The inhabitants look frail but still here. I have used this set up over the last year and it has worked well. I need to figure out why my automatic tester is producing low results compared to my Hanna checkers. looking at the state of my tank I am more in line to believe my Hanna checkers at the moment.
 
BRS

How close to perfect, for you, is your reef aquarium?

  • IT'S PERFECT NOW

    Votes: 17 3.8%
  • It's getting close

    Votes: 64 14.2%
  • It's about half way there

    Votes: 84 18.6%
  • It's slow but progressing

    Votes: 133 29.5%
  • It's not even close

    Votes: 141 31.3%
  • Other (please explain)

    Votes: 12 2.7%
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