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Old 03-05-2005, 07:21 PM   #1
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Is an automated control system possible?

I don't yet have a saltwater aquarium, but I plan on building my own in the next 2-3 years. So right now I am in the research/planning stage.

Is it possible to build a "self correcting" aquarium? I am an engineering student right now so if it is possible I think I could figure out a way to build it.

Would it be possible to build a system that can automatically correct pH, nitrate, ammonia...etc?

I know you can't plan on unexpected failure of certain parts, but taking that out of the equation could it be done?

I'm mainly interested in this as a safety net for times I go on vacations or can't attend to the tank. You can't always trust people to know what they are doing with your tank.

Opinions?
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Old 03-05-2005, 07:55 PM   #2
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You might appreciate this 1997 design from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. . .


Abstract
Many aquarium hobbyists and fish enthusiasts would agree that having an aquarium that completely cares for and monitors the aquarium environment would be a priceless asset to their hobby. The general scope of this project is to do just that. The Automated Aquarium will have the ability to sense and control the pH, temperature, and salinity of the water.



I hope you can improve on what they did back then and post it to the DIY forum.
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Old 03-05-2005, 08:50 PM   #3
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There are several controllers available now that will automate some of the levels in the tank...but nothing (that I know of) that will automate to the degree you're talking about. For instance, a calcium reactor coupled to a pH controller will keep calcium and pH within the desired parameters. That's two of the big ones. Auto top off is easy to do and I believe automated water changes wouldn't be difficult to set up although you'd have to keep SW mixed up. Temp control is no problem...a dual channel temp controller will control the heater and chiller. Auto feeders are available. Ammonia/nitrite should never be a problem in a cycled tank so I wouldn't even bother with them. Nitrate presents a problem in that to test for it (AFAIK), you must first convert it to nitrite, then measure it. Water changes and efficient biofiltration will take care of nitrates though so, IMO, that isn't really an issue. Check out some of the multicontrollers that are on the market now such as the Neptune Aquacontroller II and the Aquadyne Octopus. These are very capable units and will handle most of the things that really would benefit from automation...again, IMO. They will even call you if something goes wrong. No amount of automation or controllers will ever take the place, or equal IMO, the hobbiest's knowledge and manual testing of water parameters. Even more than that is visual inspections. I know what you're saying about being gone and I think it's entirely possible, either with enough money to buy what's already available or with enough knowledge to build it, to automate the tank to a degree that it can take care of itself for a couple of weeks. Boy...I got carried away with this one didn't I? 8O
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Old 03-05-2005, 08:57 PM   #4
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I googled Automated Aquarium and found this page. Looks like it has been thought of already and completely possible.

http://www.automatedaquariums.com/

Even if I do build something like this I won't be posting about it for a few years.

Thanks for the input, that should make it a lot easier.
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Old 03-05-2005, 09:04 PM   #5
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Yeah, the software is definitely not up to todays standards. I can't believe they don't have something out that's designed for XP. However, checking one of my wholesale catalogs turned up that Aquadyne's "Aquaweb II" is compatible with Win 2000 so, chances are, it would work OK with XP. I'm thinking that Neptune's "Aquanotes 3.0 is a Win 95 (anybody remember Win 95?) based program. Auto control is something that interests me, and many others on here I'm sure, so don't hesitate to throw out any ideas you may have. I wonder if anyone has written a control program for Linux?
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Old 03-05-2005, 09:10 PM   #6
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I looked closer and there is something compatable with XP, so I edited that part out of the post. Still pretty pricey. I have people who could whip something up for a case of beer if needed.
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Old 03-05-2005, 09:20 PM   #7
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Yeah, you can get things done for a case of beer that money couldn't buy you. Keep us posted as to what you come up with though...as I said, I find it very interesting.
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Old 03-07-2005, 12:01 AM   #8
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I've spent about 12 hours researching since I came upon this idea. I am considering making a business out of this.

So my question to everyone (please answer, this is very important to me)...

How much would you be willing to pay for a system that can automatically measures and corrects temp, pH, nitrates, nitrites, ammonia, SG, copper, and alkalinity?
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Old 03-07-2005, 10:32 AM   #9
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The hardware exists to do this. All that's needed is someone to write the software to work with the hardware.

So, I assume the price that you're asking about would be for the software and not the hardware, correct? Or would it be a whole system? The problem with a whole system is that it would need to be modular as some people would only want some things controlled but not others.

Also, I think it's really hard to put a price on software without seeing the software/system first. It all depends on what it looks like, how easy it is to use, how configurable is it, etc... All this adds or subtracts to the price.

Now, that being said, IMO if someone's going to design the software/system to do this, they should view it as something to help others out or as a fun project, not a 'get rich, put a high price on it, how much can I make' project. Once this is built, maybe you can assign a small price on it as a way to help re-coup some costs and time spent on the project.

There are many DIY projects posted on websites that people could have charged money for but haven't as a way to help the hobby out. And I'm sure there are a lot of people on here that would be willing to help you out with this in testing, building, etc. I know I would be willing to help test and give feedback (as it's a part of what I do for my daily job anyway).

I'm also thinking of trying to automate a 120gal Reef system that I will be keeping a log on and posting on DIY forums once done with. However, I'm not a computer programmer so I've been asking some friends if they would help me get started with some of that but it looks like it's going to take a lot of time and money to get it working. Who knows if this will ever take off but we'll see..
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Old 03-07-2005, 02:22 PM   #10
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It is do-able....however, it would not be inexpensive nor easy, and you would have to be very sure of the reliability of the system and software before you trusted your reef to it (can you imagine coming home after a long weekend away, only to discover that the program or computer had crashed Friday night?).
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