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A controller is in my near future

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  • A controller is in my near future

    Well since the cook off of my tank due to a faulty heater and at the advice of my zeo brothers in arms, a controller has become painfully obvious as an essential piece of equipment.

    To begin, I have outlined my needs as follows:

    temp monitor and control
    ph monitor and control
    salinity monitor
    monitor and control for all equipment
    skimmer, pumps, lights, reactor(zeo and ca)
    ability to hook a couple of flood switches for auto top off
    ability to store and retrieve data - I want to be able to pull this into a web page and be able to monitior from anywhere - I would even like to control individual components from the web.

    With those defined, the available units the meet that criteria are the Aquatronica, the Aquacontroller units.

    I think the Aquatronica is too new still and since a lot of the features aren't out yet, I have a hard time buying this unit.

    I am torn between the Aquacontroller III Pro and the Aquacontroller II. Like I said, I eventually want this thing to be web enabled. With the 3 Pro, it sounds like it is pretty much plug and play. Just need to run the cable to my router. Of course it comes with a heafty price. The other thought is the II - get it set up now and eventually purchase another pc to hook up to the controller. Then probably have to write some code to get it to do everything I want it to. With both these units, I would be running DC4 units, not the X10 stuff.

    what are your guys' thoughts?

  • #2
    I think the octopus is the only one that measures salinity. The neptune boxes don't do that.

    If you take out the salinity requirement, I do all of the stuff you mention with an ACII.

    Check out

    for how I integrated the data into a web site.

    Zeovit user since October 2, 2004


    • #3
      Since you want salinity monitoring, you are looking at the AC 2 Pro or AC 3 Pro. Between those two, definitely go with the AC 3 Pro. If you are going to use the software, then the AC 3 Pro is actually cheaper, because it has the software built in. With the AC 2 Pro, you have to buy the software ($150) cable ($15) and most likely the ground isolator ($40) separately, so you end up spending $50 more than just buying the AC 3 Pro, plus you need a computer to run it on.

      Now, if you can live without the salinity monitoring, you can get a regular AC 2 and save a truckload of money. Everything I've read says the salinity monitor is not precise enough to use for topoff, if that was your intention. It's really only useful for triggering an alarm if you have a sudden change in salinity (for example, your topoff pump gets stuck on). For me, that feature is not really worth paying double the price for the Pro model.

      I am not a proponent of the DC4 units. I bought a DC4HD initially and had a lot of problems with it blowing fuses. Neptune's answer was that I had too much load on the circuit, but I don't believe that because the fuses were blowing during the middle of the night, when the only thing running was my return pump (2 amps max). The biggest problem with these units is that when the fuse blows, you lose all 4 outlets, so you have a single point of failure for 4 devices. The cost is also an issue - for the price of a single DC4 unit, you can buy 4 X10 modules with noise filters for each device, which will eliminate most of the problems people have with X10. In reality, you would only need 1-2 noise filters if that, so you really come out ahead and have more flexibility not using the DC4's. I was lucky to be able to return mine (thank you Premium Aquatics), but if I had it to do over again, I would just try to get it working with X10 and only use the DC4's as a last resort. FWIW, my system runs very well on regular X10 modules, and I haven't even had to use any noise filters or even a phase coupler, so it can definitely be done. In fact, I think the people who have serious issues with X10 are a minority.


      • #4

        I agree with you and the DC4 box. I had X10 problems because I use coralvue e-ballasts and I ended up designing a custom box to switch them. It is basically a relay that swithed on the power when an X10 controller said too. The power to the actual ballasts came from a seperate source through the relay and was terminated on a 15amp noise filter from

        Zeovit user since October 2, 2004


        • #5
          yeah I can live without the salinity requirement - I do have a salinity monitor - I can control evap using float switches - which if I remember correctly are supported by the ACII. I am not running eballasts - so maybe x-10 won't be as bad as I have read. And like you guys said - get a noise filter.

          Now, for the money question - rick - your webpage is exactly what I have in mind. Mind making my life easier and explain how you did all of that? I am a java developer, so I do have some experience


          • #6
            Basically every 5 minutes my linux box asks the AC for this output:

            Apr 06 2005 10:44:51
            Temp pH ORP
            79.1 8.13 485
            VHO is ON Auto
            MH1 is OFF Auto
            MH2 is OFF Auto
            FAN is OFF Auto
            TZ1 is ON Auto
            TZ2 is OFF Auto

            I then parse it and graph it using RRDTool. I'm about to rewrite this process so that it runs as a daemon, but it's pretty simple. You send a return, wait for the aquacontroller prompt, then issue a "c" command.

            Zeovit user since October 2, 2004


            • #7
              so your box is connected directly to the ACII serial port and you have some sort of cron job that pings the ACII?


              • #8
                Originally posted by tonkadawg
                I can control evap using float switches

                I don't control my top off using the AC. I actually use a two fault system. The first is an old fashioned float valve I got from The line into that comes directly from my RO/DI unit but passes through a solenoid. The solenoid is controlled by a float switch that is above the normal water level.

                If the float valve fails, the water level will rise causing the float switch attached to the solenoid to shut off the water from the RO/DI. Technically I could monitor this via the AC but I have been too lazy to make/buy the cable and since I don't control my return pump on the AC I'd wouldn't help anyways.

                Zeovit user since October 2, 2004


                • #9
                  OK, I have decided to go with the ACII controller. Obviously I will be getting a PH probe and a temp probe. I was going to order the unit from Marine Depot - unless someone else can recommend a better place - preferrably a Zeo sponsor?

                  Also I will be going with the X-10. Not using electronic balances, so I don't think noise will be a problem. What are all the x-10 pieces that I will need? Here is what I plan on hooking up:
                  CL pump
                  zeo reactor
                  ca feed pump
                  ca recirc pump
                  2 MH ballasts
                  2 heaters
                  return pump

                  and if I miss anything, I am counting you guys to catch it!

                  Where is the best place to pick all this stuff up? Radio Shack?


                  • #10
                    you need a powerline interface and an x10 module for each "thing" you want to control. search online for the best prices on that stuff.
                    10x3x2 FOWLR (for now)
                    RD12 return, 2 RD12 closed loop, wavebox with extension
                    MRC kalkmixer


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tonkadawg
                      Also I will be going with the X-10. Not using electronic balances, so I don't think noise will be a problem.
                      Both my magnetic MH ballasts and my Power Compact ballasts interfere with my X10 signals.
                      400 gallon reef, Bubble King 300, I~Spin, 2 x 10,000K BLV 400W, 2 x 20,000K Radium 400W, 2 x 6,400K Osram 400W, Schuran Jetstream 1, AquaController Pro


                      • #12
                        are you using noise filters?


                        • #13
                          I just bought some but I haven't plugged them in yet.

                          As it is now the X10 doesn't work if any of the lights are on, unless the modules are right next to each other
                          400 gallon reef, Bubble King 300, I~Spin, 2 x 10,000K BLV 400W, 2 x 20,000K Radium 400W, 2 x 6,400K Osram 400W, Schuran Jetstream 1, AquaController Pro