Poll: Auto this, auto that. Gone too far for me.

Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Discussion' started by atoll, Nov 10, 2017.

?
  1. Yes

    95 vote(s)
    14.7%
  2. No

    472 vote(s)
    73.0%
  3. Undecided

    80 vote(s)
    12.4%
  1. jkapit

    jkapit Well-Known Member NJRC Member

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    The whole hobby is a want. No one needs a Reef tank. So the argument that some things are wants vs needs I find a bit humorous but I’ll go along.

    One thing that I think makes this hobby so interesting is that there are many paths to success. I respect anyone running a successful Reef regardless of the approach.

    I personally love the automation, when I first started to automate I had independent systems for each of the automation. Now I have everything automated through my Apex and absolutely love it. To me, I spend much more time enjoying my tank vs maintaining it.
     

  2. chefjpaul

    chefjpaul Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Partner Member 2018

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    What makes it a truth that because those that are automated, are any more hands off than those that don't?
     
  3. Waterjockey

    Waterjockey Well-Known Member

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    Not aure what you mean by more "hands off". Do I have to do some tasks less often and do they consume less time? Yes. I make up new water for waterchanges once a month or so..but the tank gets a daily % waterchange. Does that make it more "hands off"? I had spent more than 40 years hauling buckets and siphon hoses around on a near weekly basis...I don't miss that at all...and I enjoy my tank that much more because "automation" reduced that to less than 15 a month...I'm not any less "in tune" with my tank. I can open a browser at work and look at my current parameters...and historical trends...I'm probably more "in tune" with my tank because I am so familiar with it's trends that I notice when something has start to drift away from "the normal" far sooner. I can go away on vacation/work for weeks at a time and not worry too much about the tank...I can check in on it from my phone and start or shutdown a piece of equipment remotely if a problem develops....doesn't mean the glass isn't dirty as heck when I get home after a couple of weeks away though :)
    I *enjoy* the automation part...I enjoyed tailoring programs to do things *exactly* the way I want...not to mention the automatic failsafes with notifications. Is it necessary? No....I can attest to 40+ years of various tanks with no automation. Do I *enjoy* my tanks far more because of some of the things I mentioned above? Absolutely...and isn't that the point of having a tank in the first place? To bring you simple pleasures? Be it fish, corals, or tinkering..with buckets or code :) To each their own....neither is better or worse in the long run.
     
  4. chefjpaul

    chefjpaul Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Partner Member 2018

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    Exactly!
    That was my point.
     
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  5. Ferrell

    Ferrell Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    +1
     
  6. dangros

    dangros Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    It’s a good thing the earth is flat, otherwise all our tanks would tip over.
     
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  7. Tek

    Tek Well-Known Member

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    I used to travel out of the country often. Most of the vacation posts had people terrified of being gone for a weekend. I was gone for 2-6 months at a time! Each time something happened I learned a new way to automate or add redundancy. I am now able to leave for months with the tank on auto, switches to prevent flooding, and alerts remotely for almost everything else. I even remotely monitor from a webcam if needed. An aquarium will thrive when left alone and water changes weren’t needed when the main parameters (temp, salinity, mg, alk, ca) where kept within range.
     
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  8. Bruce Burnett

    Bruce Burnett Well-Known Member

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    I look at this as the required controls, the would be nice and then the just to have. You don't need controllers for pumps but some kind of control on wave pumps is almost required. Timers are almost required on lights and so is a ph controller on a calcium reactor. An ATO is a requirement for stability. If you need a chiller and or a heater some kind of controller is needed. An all in one controller is never required but falls in the area of nice or just to have. I do know of people who had to redo things to keep their tank going while they had their Apex in for repair.
     
  9. Script_Kitty

    Script_Kitty New Member

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    I think a lot has to do with the person, and what Parts they enjoy in the hobby. It reminds me a lot of the model train hobby, different people focus on different parts. My father has spent the last 20 years building a layout he almost never runs trains on. For him its about the planning.

    I suspect i represent one extreme in the saltwater automation spectrum. I just got into the hobby with my son, and have a small BIocube 32 LED. To it i have added an Apex Controller with so many monitors, i litterly run out of things to monitor.

    Would I catagorose it as far too much automation for a small tank. Without a doubt. But it allows me to leverage my computer background as a foot hold into a new (and very addictive hobby).

    There are so many differrnt types of people on this hobby. And one of the things i find most facinating is how different people solve problems in different ways.
     
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  10. Dennis Cartier

    Dennis Cartier Well-Known Member

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    One person's utopia is another's dystopia ...

    As a person who is about to retire, and with a 500 gallon build underway, I have been thinking a lot about how to make the new tank as resilient as possible. I expect to be travelling more often than I have in the past, and would hate to home to a catastrophe. The bases I am trying to cover include both the major elements, like automatic whole house generator, and the minutiae like automated testing. The basics, like AWC and ATO are easily done nowadays, but things like automated testing are just coming onto the horizon. Even with all the automation that I hope to integrate, I expect to play a big part in the oversight function myself. Because excessive automation can breed complacency. Which can lead to problems on a whole different scale.

    Dennis
     
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  11. dricc

    dricc Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    I appreciate threads like this. I ran a fowlr for many years I have been out of the hobby for many years. I am just about to start a reef and threads like this help me to make an informed decision. Thanks to this forum I've been able to make many choices that I would otherwise have had to depend upon a book or my lfs. The diversity of opinions and thoughtful posts have been invaluable to me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017
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  12. Labridaedicted

    Labridaedicted Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    I have alot of automation on my tank (apex, ato, auto refrigerated feeder, programmed lighting, calcium reactor, etc.....) but that doesn't keep me from being elbows deep for hours a day. I still spend over an hour with my tank almost every day. Sure, there's risks that something could fail but a return pump or something could fail if not on a controller, just as easily.

    What I love about automation and having a controller is I know if alot of things go wrong, remotely. It allows me to take preventative addition with some of the redundancy of the system from my phone at work. (Because this stuff always seems to happen while I'm out...)

    The auto feeder allows me to keep my fish healthy by providing 7 feedings throughout the day, like on a natural reef keeping food going throughout the day. I do still do several manual feedings throughout the afternoon in addition.

    Ato is a no brainer. Everyone should run one (In my opinion) unless you like lugging buckets.

    In this hobby, everyone has different ways of achieving the same goal: mimicking a complex natural ecosystem. I feel that I am able to maintain that more appropriately through constant monitoring and automated systems. I've run successful systems without all the fancy gadgets in the past and they've been successful, so no arguments there. Also it does let you spend alot more time with your tank. I have found that on average now, I spend more time watching the fruits of my labor than laboring. I already work most of the day between my job and keeping up with work around the house.

    This topic, though, is completely subjective. It's cool that we have the technology and option to automate, but its also still awesome to see a simple setup that rivals all the fancy $10000 setups. That's what is awesome about this hobby. There's no right or wrong way to get to the goal. :D
     
  13. mrbluefox

    mrbluefox New Member

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    I'm just getting back into the hobby - doesn't mean I haven't been running a tank but it's relatively basic in terms of automation and that was because that's how I wanted it but I had a couple of outages that would have been picked up by "automation" (failure of a heater leading to loss of coral due to temperature swing and failure of a return pump). They were a couple of interesting lessons to learn but that was the risk I took in the KISS model - alas, I didn't react in time.

    For some it's the extra pair of eyes/hands on a tank that, whilst also prone to failure, acts as an early warning system. For others it's complete control over their entire aquarium's life support systems.

    Would I recommend it blindly, god no - but then again I still get my newbies to do server room checks even though we have tools to tell us - because if you don't know how to interpret the data/how to react in a failure/understand what you're asking automation to do then it can be more of a risk than human error.

    I wouldn't ask anything of it that I hadn't done myself and now I'm looking to design a new aquarium I'll be looking for it to keep a more vigilant eye on the tank and take out some of the stuff I don't enjoy so I can spend more time on what I do enjoy when it comes to reef keeping. 2p fwiw
     
  14. Dhoggs

    Dhoggs Well-Known Member

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    I too have automated several tasks for my tank....i.e. feeder, auto water changes and etc. Without these automations, I probably wont be able to be in this hobby as I travel for weeks at a time.
     
  15. AquaART

    AquaART Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    There are needs and wants in on this fourm and IMO the wants have far outstripped the needs. The "Must posts" are yesterday's not going to never will. The only fourm posts I have are the on my tank crash and build thread. Who needs anything more. IMO just more to read and never remember. Proof read, things to worry about and not to mention time . Of course those who have all the posts will defend them after all they cost you an year and a PhD.
     
  16. Reef_Pilot

    Reef_Pilot Member

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    Like several others that have post in this thread, I travel a lot... about half the time. Automation is the only reason I am about to make the jump from FW to SW. My wife & kids love to look at my fish tanks, but would never notice anything going wrong until it was much to late. Automation will give me the peace of mind knowing that things are taken care of and/or I will get a notification. Hopefully between the automation, labeling everything well, and having redundancy/spares, my wife or kids will be able to help resolve any issues that may arise while I am away.
     
  17. Dennis Cartier

    Dennis Cartier Well-Known Member

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    Since we are talking about automation here, its good points and bad, I will share an event that occurred yesterday on my frag tank. I dose this tank with Aqua Forest Component 1+,2+,3+ using a Masterflex pump with 3 heads. I have an issue with the Alk getting out of balance with the Ca and Mg due to a Sulfur denitrification stage in my filtration. I plan on removing the sulfur reactor, but as I am going on vacation in 3 days, I figured I would just turn off the 1 & 3 additive from dosing until I get back and allow the Ca and Mg to drift downwards in the meantime. They are quite high, so they have plenty of room to drift. This has been required in the past, but I only recently came to the realization that it was the sulfur reactor that was the cause. In those instances, I would just release the first and third head on the masterflex while keeping the 2nd head clamped, which would essentially prevent those parts from dosing. I did that again yesterday and went out to my LFS to get some supplies for the house sitter for the upcoming vacation.

    When I returned I walked into my fishroom to the sound of the ATO pump running and a growing puddle of water on the floor. In a panic, I first disabled the ATO pump and then started searching for the leak. My first thought was that our house cleaner was currently there, and he does take a great interest in this tank and might have dislodged something while having a look. Everything looked fine hose wise. Then I noticed another puddle in front of my dosing containers for the AF 1+,2+,3+ products. Looking in that area the issue became very clear. The 3+ container was overflowing. Doh. What I had done was to release the rollers of the 3rd head on the dosing pump, but I had neglected to remove that dosing line from the line holder in the tank, which caused a siphon once the rollers were released. After cleaning up the mess, disposing of the contents of the now very full 3+ container, I added a Murlok check valve to that 3+ line to prevent this from ever occurring again.

    My ATO pump is a 6 RPM Masterflex, so it takes a while to add water, and the conductivity only dropped 0.4 on my conductivity meter. So no harm came to the tank and the only effect was a mess to clean up and an opportunity to strengthen the system against boneheaded errors on my part.

    Dennis
     
  18. splix

    splix Well-Known Member

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    For people that want nice tanks, and happen to travel sometimes for work, automation is critical.
    For people who want fragile tanks, automation is critical.
    For people who want nice but easy mode tanks, automation is not critical but it helps.

    I'm in the boat of "do what works for you" but I love automation for the sake of monitoring on my tank. I like to be able to leave the house or go on vacation and not have to worry about the tank, because I can see it all where ever I'm at, and possibly fix any issues remotely as well.
    I've always said an apex will eventually pay for itself, which I've seen more times than not. Heater broke and stuck on? Apex let you know and resolved it on its own before it cooked your tank? Something went wrong with a pump or plumbing and the leak detectors shut the pump down before it flooded your floors.... It's things like that were automation is key. Auto-feedings, dosing, etc any day-to-day stuff is just up to you.
    I do believe in your tank being able to keep itself stable and run for a solid week without a second of your time being a requirement though. Unless you just never like to go on a vacation, or have a life of any sort.
     
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  19. stevieduk

    stevieduk Well-Known Member

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    if you have stuff that mantains your tank for you , it is taking all the skill out of keeping a marine tank. its like having a modern car these days , you dont drive it , you just point it in the direction you want it to go. All the skill of doing everything in life is slowly being taken away from us by technology. You wont even need to know how to write things like this soon , you will just talk and send
     
  20. redfishbluefish

    redfishbluefish Stay Positive, Stay Productive R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor NJRC Member Article Contributor

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    I chose "undecided," not because I'm undecided, it's because I believe this is a personal preference left up to the individual.

    If you wish to dose and top off manually every day (just to pick two parameters), and be a slave to your tank, and need to make arrangements for a tank sitter when you go on vacation, that's your business....more power to you.

    On the other hand, if you want your phone nagging you more than your wife (I guess to be politically correct I should have said spouse), about what your tank temperature is or if your ATO is running, than full automation with WiFi is up your alley.

    I'm a middle of the road guy. No phone is going to be telling me about my tank. I have almost enough redundancy to keep me happy when on vacation. So my choice is an old school ReefKeeper II controllers. If you can still find them used, it offers all the automation I need without needing a degree in programming....and the best part, no phone communication!
     
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