Automating your reef: What aquarium control system do you currently use?

Another controller survey: What control system do you currently use?

  • CoralVue Hydros

    Votes: 73 17.3%
  • GHL ProfiLux

    Votes: 29 6.9%
  • Neptune Apex

    Votes: 145 34.4%
  • Multiple controllers

    Votes: 28 6.7%
  • Other

    Votes: 33 7.8%
  • None

    Votes: 113 26.8%

  • Total voters
    421

n2585722

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I custom built a 4k gallon a day RO/DI system. It has solenoids on the incoming and and outgoing sides to make sure the flow stops when it is supposed to. It has a custom built TDS control system that monitors TDS going in, TDS After the Prefilters, TDS After the Membrane and TDS after the DI Resin Tank. If any of the TDS go below the set value an alarm goes off and alerts me it's time to change something. My RO/DI system is outside my house and I use as much as 75g a day during the summer time. With a commercial RO System and Membrane and a 50lb tank of DI Resin, this system only requires attention about once a year for something. Pre-Filters last 2+ years, Membranes Last 2 years, DI Resin tank gets exchanged every 12 months by a service company.

The brand name controller watches all these things - but doesn't have the ability to control any of the critical things. It controls things like in-tank flow pumps on random timers, tank lighting, and limiting by time the amount the RO system can run when it is needed ( a third level backup).
Dave B
I use my Hydros to control my RODI and mixing station. I also have solenoids on the input and the outputs of the RODI. I have low level and full sensors in the three storage tanks. The input to the tanks also have a float valve as a backup. The on time of the RODI is also limited and will shut off the input solenoid if the time is exceeded. As another failsafe there is a leak detector under the RODI and near the three storage tanks. My RODI and storage tanks are in the garage. The ATO and AWC pumps are also in the garage. The tank is 35ft away from the garage. Since on the Hydros there is no single brain and each module is a controller but can be members of a collective. In a collective they share inputs and outputs between each other so you can control an output on one controller with a input on another. The communication for this between the controllers happens over the command bus. So the controllers are hardwired to each other. I currently have 6 controllers in the garage controlling the RODI, mixing station, ATO and AWC. There are 7 controllers at the tank that control lights, heaters, pumps and alkalinity testing on a schedule. It also controls dynamic dosing of All For Reef and a KH buffer using the alkalinity readings. So far the controller has saved several times. One of those was not even a aquarium issue. I have a leak detector under my air conditioning unit and it detected a leak and sent an alarm. When I check the drain hose had cracked and it was leaking on the floor underneath the unit. There is a sunken living room next to the closet the air conditioner is in. It has a wooden floor. If that leak would not have been caught so soon it probably would have ruined the wooden floor. Most of the time when I get a critical alert it was something I did or forgot to do and the controller caught it before it became a disaster.
 

n2585722

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Apex Classic. zero problems. If it ever dies I'm not sure what I will do because the orange plastic thing has horrendous reliability comparatively (especially the EB832) and the Hydros is like old satellite packages - this package will give you everything you want except that channel, you need to add another package for that.
You do realize that on the Hydros each module has it's own brain and can be used independently or together in a collective. So instead of having a central brain and several modules you have several controllers so a loss of one will only impact outputs and inputs on that controller or outputs on other controlles that use inputs on the lost controller. The outputs on the other controllers have fallback settings you set for either on or off if the input is stale or unknown. On controllers with a central brain if that is lost then everything goes to fallback on the modules and no control. On the Hydros you can still login and turn on or off the outputs on the working controllers. I currently have 13 Hydros controllers in a collective.
 

Mr Fishface

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I don't have any automation. Yet. I'm excited to read the responses now that there is more than just neptune. I have a couple of auto doses that I am even a little worried to tried. My AIO did not work well with auto top off. The filters get full very quickly and it slows down the flow in the back.
 

n2585722

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I don't have any automation. Yet. I'm excited to read the responses now that there is more than just neptune. I have a couple of auto doses that I am even a little worried to tried. My AIO did not work well with auto top off. The filters get full very quickly and it slows down the flow in the back.
I am not sure I understand what was happening. Was the level dropping in the back but rising in the tank instead of being evaporation, so the ATO was overfilling?
 

Mr Fishface

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I am not sure I understand what was happening. Was the level dropping in the back but rising in the tank instead of being evaporation, so the ATO was overfilling?
Yes that's exactly right. So when the ato added water, the main tank just kept rising. I only had 3 gallons in my ato tank so it never flooded, but now I add top off by hand.
 

n2585722

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Yes that's exactly right. So when the ato added water, the main tank just kept rising. I only had 3 gallons in my ato tank so it never flooded, but now I add top off by hand.
I do ATO with my Hydros controller. I use a Hydros dosing pump with a flow rate of 42ml a minute. It has several settings a couple of them minimum off time and maximum on time can limit the amount of top off in a given time especially when using a dosing pump since it has a slow flow rate. Also you could also put a water level sensor on the tank so if the water level went above a certain level it would send you an alert. You would also need a water level sensor in the back like with your other ATO. The tank water level can also be used to keep the ATO off when wet and also send an alert soyou would know the filter needs attention. Here is a screenshot of my ATO output settings. I would not all dit on one screenshot so I had to take two screenshots. I use the generic output type. I set it for 4 input. input 1 is the sump level input it is active when dry since we want the ATO to run when the sump level drops. Input 2 is a leak detector at the tank. That is also active when dry since we don't it on if there is a leak. input 3 is also a leak detector but it is where the pump, DI storage and RODi unit are located. If there is a leak there we do not want the ATO pump on since it is at that location and could be the source. Input 4 is a sensor in my DI reservoir that tells me it is low. It is set to active when wet since it is not low when wet. If it is low we do not want to run the pump. You don't need all of these but you could add the water level sensor in the tank and set it to active when dry. That way if the level in the tank reaches that point it will keep the output off. The combiner mode in this case is AND. So with that combiner mode Input 1 and input 2 and input 3 and input 4 would have to be active for the output to turn on. If input / dependency unavailable setting determines if the output is either on or off if something happens to one of the inputs. In the case of a ATO you would want it to stay off in something happens to one of the inputs. You can enable advanced settings ad set the minimum off time. I have mine set for 15 minutes. That means it has to stay off at least 15 minute before it can come back on. I also set a maximum off time to 6 hours. On my tank if it goes that long without a top off I want to know so I can check it. This setting will not turn the output on but will only send an alert and turn the tile in the app red. I have a minimum on time set of 1 minute on my pump that is only 43ml of water but it will run at least that long once it comes on. the next one is maximum on time if it run that long it will send an alert. I have that set to 4 1/2 minutes which is 189ml. The next setting run past max on time I have set to off so it will turn off the output if it runs to maximum on time. It will stay off until either the level sensor goes wet or you intervene. There are some other settings I did not go over but one is used to stop thr ATO during a auto water change sequence. Another is since I use a drive port and it has power monitoring I can set a safe range and if it gets out of that range it will send an alert. Another is active in modes. If you want the ATO not to run in certain modes you can set that. One would be water change mode clicking that setting brings up a list of all the mode setup and you can check or uncheck them as needed. That is about it for ATO. I think that this might work i you case if the extra level sensor for the tank level is added. Also set the on and off times for your tank so if it starts adding more top off than normal it stops and alerts.

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Someshmuk

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I used to aim for getting all my automation into apex but after having an outlet fry on me, (apex was controlling heater to maintain +- 1 F), I'm striving for independent systems validated by apex but not controlled by apex as i'd rather have the cheap parts break than the more expensive items. I also have a GHL doser managing 2 part, kalkstir, mag, and trace but am in the process of decommissioning that piece of kit because the 2 ways to control it are a PITA (app disconnect intermittently from dosers and i don't use windows laptops anymore so no USB or local wifi control)

So its a little bit of everything as the systems organically grow.
Apex: monitoring: temp, ph, pumps, skimmer
Heater controller: Bayite running finnex titanium heaters
Calcium reactor: aquamax t1 w/ cheapest peristaltic pump with a kamoer head swap and a milwaukee ph controller
ATO: avast system + aqualifter pump (to be replaced with a kamoer diaphragm when it kicks the bucket)
GHL: DIY kalkwasser stirrer & stirring plate (fun fact 50 bucks + shipping gets you a computer fan with a magnet and call it a stir plate)
Lights: orpheks and t3s on smart switches, radion and vortech pump on eotechs app.
 

shwareefer

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You do realize that on the Hydros each module has it's own brain and can be used independently or together in a collective. So instead of having a central brain and several modules you have several controllers so a loss of one will only impact outputs and inputs on that controller or outputs on other controlles that use inputs on the lost controller. The outputs on the other controllers have fallback settings you set for either on or off if the input is stale or unknown. On controllers with a central brain if that is lost then everything goes to fallback on the modules and no control. On the Hydros you can still login and turn on or off the outputs on the working controllers. I currently have 13 Hydros controllers in a collective.
What I see is a bunch controllers that are each castrated in a specific way that forces you into one choice - the Control X4. Or you could have an expensive collective of redundancy I guess...
 

Paul B

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About a hundred years ago I built an ATO that works by gravity. Thats about it.
 

c4haskett

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I'm using a felix controller currently on my 65 g mixed reef. I bought it used, I love the customer support on the product. So far I'm happy with it. I do wish it was expandable to accommodate more equipment but so far so good.
Never heard of this! How do you like it? It says it measures dkh, is that fairly accurate?
 

Rusty_L_Shackleford

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I went with other because while I have some automation, it's kinda ad hoc. The lights are on a timer, I have a Prism ato, I have a jebao auto-doser for all and ca. I also have some auto-feeders I can out on if needed. I also have a security cam so I can keep an eye on the tank. I'm drooling over the new hydros x10 tho, but i don't have $800 laying around.
 

mike550

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I started with an Apex when I started my tank about three years ago. I chose it over the GHL knowing about quality concerns. But it also had a large user group and help was easy to find. That said, if I were to do it again, I’d definitely consider GHL now that I have a better sense of what I want a controller to do for me.
 

Dan Palmer

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7zxm25.jpg


In the future I'm torn between a full apex setup or creating some reefpis. I made a reefpi to handle my freshwater tank a couple years ago, but I'm not 100% sure how I'd use it to handle the automated water changes (due to my reservoir tanks in the garage being on the complete opposite side).
 

mattdg

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Neptune Apex upstairs (mainly because I got it in a coral trade) power strip and switches with wifi pumps downstairs. Now that I have the Apex, I really like it, mainly for it's monitoring capabilities. It has already saved my behind a few times. Looking forward to installing a Trident soon.
 

Marquarium

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I am the controller and monitoring but want one of my next purchases to be something to monitor levels. More accurate, keeps track of data, and less work - sign me up
 

SocalS14

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New Hydros adoptee here - former Apex user.

What can I say, I was attracted to the design philosophy and IP65 rating of the devices. I use it to run everything - seven pumps, three lights, ATO, and heaters across two tanks; including two non-Mobius MP40s.

I do use an old LiterMiterIII for continuous water change duties - but when it dies, I'll swap over to Hydros to implement water change duties.

It has been reliable and most importantly - easy to use. I have enough stuff going on where I just need the controls to be easy to access and update. Hydros nails each of those needs.
 

Tahiti

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I've been doing everything manually for years. But I finally got a Tunze Osmolator 3155 ATO today. Wish me luck! :D
 

chema

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I rely on GHL as I have Profilux 3, KH Director, ION Director and Mitras fixtures. I have been a big fan of GHL but should I have to define this brand right now, after the ION Director fiasco I would say:
- Solid old fashioned hardware
- Weak and difficult to learn software.
- Terrible and bad manners customer service
 

DJ Mike Fury

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Been running Hydros for over 2 years now. I have a Control X4, X2, XS, and two XP8s. I use everything to power my tank except the X2. The X2 is used for my mixing station. It runs a TDS meter (feature that other companies don't offer), water solenoid, & leak sensor. You can expand Hydros to do autowater changes as well which provides the only true end to end automation from monitoring the creation of RODI water to automating the water change.

Ease of use can't be stressed enough as it can handle from simple to very complex processes with a more powerful front end that doesn't require you to use computer coding. The fact that they're built end to end in the US in one lab helps with quality control using higher grade raw materials (i.e. meanwell power supplies for their XP8 module, colored coded BNC connectors to securely connect cables (just liked used in the Airlines industry) to the module as well as help point to which port to connect to based on color, IP65 rated to handle incidental splashes as we're near water, etc) . There's "meat" to these products where it doesn't feel like a cheap plastic toy. Its all about easy of use so that you spend less time coding and more time enjoying your tank. I think we can all sign up for that.

As for accuracy, Hydros is all about making high quality products to meet standards we expect. Look at the new salinity (conductivity) concept they introduced to the market. The industry used the K1 probes which are predominantly meant for fresh water. The salinity aspect was on the outside range of that probe which leads to less accurate results. Hydros, instead, is using K10 probes which are meant for saltwater. They went a step further with the Hydros iV to isolate the testing of salinity so that equipment such as pumps don't potentially skew the results with any stray voltage. Its things like this that they pay attention to which give us a peace of mind.

You should also check out Hydros' free alkalinity testing that is built into the software (you don't have to buy any other add on). It allows you to either use the supplied dosers on the X10 module OR you can use your own high precision dosers to run the Alk tests, Further, they realize that Alkalinity testing has not standardized in the hobby among ALK testers. Because of this, Hydros added the ability so that if you prefer a certain manual titration company's Alk test, you can replicate the results. Ever notice why some autotesters simply are not spot on to your manual tests? It's because ALK is measured with different methods that have different end points (i.e. 4.5 vs 4.2). Hydros allows for that flexibility never before seen in the hobby. Not to mention, they offer offsets as well.

With the X10 already out and the Kraken coming soon, future is bright. Kraken is particularly great as its a WHOLE system battery backup, not just a few pumps.

When it comes to redundancy, Hydros' module ecosystem provides each module you add a FULL copy of your controller settings so that if one module were to fail for whatever reason, the Hydros system continues on with the brain then assigning to the next module to carry the load. With competitors, if the brain goes, your WHOLE system is down, not the case with Hydros.

Lastly, Hydros works with more 3rd party equipment than anyone else (whether through cloud data like autotester readings to carry on dynamic dosing schedules, using 0-10v control for pumps, lights etc, to direct cable integration to work with modules like Wave Engine, etc), but is always looking to add companies as they realize people have different needs and use different branded equipment. We have too many "walled" garden app solutions where they want you to use just their brand specific equipment, but that rarely works for most people. Where Hydros DOESN'T have direct access to these walled gardens, you can still use generic functions (i.e. such as on/off pumps for feed modes/water changes, lighting schedules, timers, and other advanced settings) which will limit your need to manage other apps.

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Mixing an (un)intentional concoction: Do you know what you are adding to your reef tank?

  • I am aware of every item that is added to my reef tank.

    Votes: 19 59.4%
  • I know most of the items that are added to my reef tank.

    Votes: 7 21.9%
  • I am somewhat aware of the items that are added to my reef tank.

    Votes: 2 6.3%
  • I follow the directions of others when adding items to my reef tank.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I randomly add items to my reef tank.

    Votes: 3 9.4%
  • Other.

    Votes: 1 3.1%
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