40B Automated Aquarium - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-27-2014, 10:03 AM Thread Starter
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40B Automated Aquarium

Hey all,

This thread is a journal for my newest and only tank. (Is it bad that I want MTS?)

Present state as of (4/16/2014):


Gonna do a bit of a re-scape soon, couldn't see what was going on because of the murkiness on my first attempt. Most of these plants will be cycled out and replaced with more interesting species later.


In the spring of '13 I got an itch to make a nice 3D background for my 29 gallon tank and the project has been spiraling out of proportion (and increasing tank size) ever since.

----STAND----
I made the stand myself, mostly with 2x4 lumber and 1/4" plywood. I already knew (roughly) how I wanted the background to look, so I chose to enclose the top of the stand on 3 sides, hiding any trace of wiring or plumbing. Unlike most aquariums with equipment along the back, my aquarium has its equipment housed along the sides.

One of two equipment chambers in the background:


I wanted to make sure the stand would hold, so I made a CAD model and did a stress analysis.

Solid model of 2x4 structure:


The result was a completely over-engineered, nearly unbreakable stand. The frame is able to support about 8 US tons (according to the theoretical models). My floor will give out before the stand does

One of the few pictures during the stand construction process:


I am no carpenter; the stand took far more perseverance than skill to complete. I spent over a month of on/off work to finish it.

----BACKGROUND----
The background has two purposes: look pretty and hide all the equipment. I created two equipment chambers on the left and right sides of the background. My canister filter draws water from one and pumps it through the other to ensure good circulation around the heaters and the like.

I made the background very durable. All foam pieces are held in place with 1.19 mm music wire in addition to silicone glue. After the foam structure, there is a 1/4 in thick layer of Quikrete built up over 5 coats. After this, I added 2 uncolored layers of Drylok just in case adding concrete pigments weakens the sealing properties. Then I added a brown layer of Drylok, followed by a layer of other colors to add more visual appeal.

Completed background, just before gluing into aquarium:


Water intake for one equipment chamber, currently doubles as a planter for some Anubias barteri:


Foam structure, shaped using knife, acetone, scrapper, and blowtorch:


Close-up of chamber inlet/anubias planter, pipes are hidden under gravel:


Drilled holes all the way through background and filled with concrete to weight it down:


First Quicrete coat of 5:


Gluing background in place:


Background during chemical detoxification and leak test stage, lots of drains and fills, sitting on table outside:


This was the most time-consuming part of the entire build, mostly because I did it during school when I had little time and waning motivation. I could have finished the shaping in a weekend and the concreting and sealing over a couple weeks, but it ended up taking 5 months.

----AUTOMATION----
The aquarium is not automated in the slightest at present (4/16/2014). I will be using an Arduino Mega as the brains of the whole operation and an Arduino Uno to control the human-machine interface (HMI) (lcd screen, buttons, indicator alarms and lights). I am no programming genius, so there will be an ungodly amount of debugging involved. The HMI code is about 30% complete and I have not started on the actual controller code.

Here is a list of features I plan on implementing:
-pH control using CO2
-High level CO2 alarm
-High level TDS alarm
-Intelligent temperature control
-Automatic water change (AWC)
-Automatic lighting control: day, high noon, night

For sensors, I am planning on using:
-Atlas Scientific pH Sensor to control pH level and CO2 injection
-Custom colorimeter/drop check to detect high CO2 levels
-Atlas Scientific TDS Sensor to detect high TDS and trigger AWC
-Atlas Scientific ENV-TMP Temperature Sensor
-Any good ideas for a compact float switch? The cheap ones seem unreliable and the expensive ones are too large.

That's all for now, I'm going to sleep.
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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-27-2014, 02:08 PM
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Looks awesome. I love the background, what plant and fish species are you keeping in there?

WHYARe youlooking at my signature?It's boring.
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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-27-2014, 02:56 PM
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I love that stand! How do you get water flow to your equipment behind the background? I'm assuming you have the heater, etc in there?
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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-27-2014, 07:34 PM
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Wow that background took some work.
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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-27-2014, 08:53 PM Thread Starter
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Just found my fish gasping for air at the top of the tank this morning
Never had that happen to me before. Not a lot of surface disturbance and no aeration probably did it. Got an emergence airstone running right now, might have to add an inline air diffuser so it doesn't push my CO2 out.

Quote:
Looks awesome. I love the background, what plant and fish species are you keeping in there?
Thanks! The background was probably the hardest part. I'm an engineer, not a sculptor

Right now I have 6 juvenile German blue rams and 20 Cardinal Tetras. I brought them, and a canister filter over from my temporary 29 gallon (now scrapped).


I currently have two different anubias species (I think one is A. barteri), Amazon swords (Echinodorus bleheri I think), Cryptocoryne wendtii 'red', a single tiny, lonley corkscrew val, and a smattering of hair algae waiting to happen. They are all old plants from my 29 and will probably be phased out later. The hair algae is because my 29 went through an algae bloom just before I moved the plants over

Quote:
I love that stand! How do you get water flow to your equipment behind the background? I'm assuming you have the heater, etc in there?
Thanks
The stand looks better from a distance; the molding a looks a little rough here and there due to my lack of woodworking experience. Learned a lot though, next stand is gonna be even better

I use my canister filter inlet and outlet to create water flow around my equipment. The equipment bay shown below has a few small holes in it that the water passes through to get to the tank. The other equipment bay has a more intricate design that I thought I might try; it is a set of pipes under a patch of gravel (my anubias sit on it since they don't care too much about substrate).

Left equipment bay:


Unlike most aquariums, my equipment is all on the sides of the tank. When it is finished there will be no wiring or plumbing behind the tank.

Quote:
Wow that background took some work.
Yup
It's not going to fall apart on me anytime soon though! I plan on keeping this tank for at least 10 years, so the background needs to last.
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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-28-2014, 12:30 AM
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Originally Posted by KhanQueso View Post
-Any good ideas for a compact float switch? The cheap ones seem unreliable and the expensive ones are too large.

You could try this: http://www.adafruit.com/products/464

It's a bit pricey, but you could have the Arduino accurately measure the depth of your water at all times, which is much more than you can do with a typical float switch.
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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-28-2014, 06:19 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
I have considered this sensor for the main tank, but it is definitely too expensive to use in all of my applications.

I plan on using float switches as low level sensors in my automatic water change and fertilizer reservoirs, as well as high level sensors in my waste water reservoir (no drain unfortunately) and main tank. That totals six sensors, about $240, which is more than I can afford with all of the other expensive sensors I'm going to need.

I'm hoping to fork out $100 or less for all six sensors.
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-28-2014, 01:25 PM
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Can you go into some detail on how you plan to set up the auto water change? I'm looking into completely automating my tank as well.

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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-28-2014, 10:06 PM
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You could easily design an automatic water change system with a DPDT relay and two cheap cheap cheap float switches...they are actually very reliable if used correctly...while thing for $30 ( and $25 is from buying the relay new)

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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-28-2014, 10:17 PM
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Been thinking of doing something similar to the automation system you've envisioned. Yours sounds much more intricate. Good luck!
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post #11 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-29-2014, 02:19 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Can you go into some detail on how you plan to set up the auto water change?
At the basic level, I will add supply (new) water in on one side of the tank and excess (old) water will drain out the other side (using an overflow similar to a sump).

I plan on using an Arduino microcontroller as the brains for the auto water change (AWC).

The AWC will be triggered by a timer or high total dissolved solids alarm. Ideally, it will do 2.5% - 5% four times a day.

Once triggered, the Arduino will turn off filter and any circulation pumps (all on/off switching uses SPST relays). This is to prevent mixing during the water change. I don't want much of the new water to drain out with the old water.

Next, the water change pump will be turned on and run for a fixed amount of time (long enough to do a 2.5% - 5% water change) before turning off. The pump supplies new water to the tank.

During this time the excess water overflows into a waste water reservoir (5 gallon bucket, I don't have access to a drain).

Once the pump is off the Arduino will restart the filter and circulation pumps. The AWC is complete.

I will have a float switch in the supply water reservoir to determine if there is enough water to do a water change. Another switch will be in the waste water reservoir to make sure it doesn't overflow. Finally, I want another switch in the main tank to make sure it doesn't flood if the siphon breaks in the overflow.

The supply water will be reverse osmosis, reconstituted with Seachem Equilibrium and Alkaline Buffer (possibly some Acid Buffer too, but most likely not).

This is not nearly as cheap as Optix's method.
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post #12 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-29-2014, 02:36 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
You could easily design an automatic water change system with a DPDT relay and two cheap cheap cheap float switches...they are actually very reliable if used correctly...while thing for $30 ( and $25 is from buying the relay new)
Good to hear that the switches are reliable.

I'm not sure how you would accomplish an AWC with a DPDT relay and two float switches.

I'm assuming one switch is the drain limit and the other is the fill limit. From there you would use the relay to control a drain pump and a fill pump. Beyond this, I'm not sure how it would function without the float switches running on 120V, which I'm trying to avoid for safety reasons.

I'm all ears for a cheaper method if you care to explain
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post #13 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-30-2014, 11:52 AM
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Sorry...didnt realize I had a question (tapatalk usually notifies you if youre quoted)

Anyway...I was thinking of an auto top off...but you could still do a very reliable, very easy, very SAFE auto drain stop fill stop auto top off sequence with 2 dpdt relays and 3 float switches (you would either need 1 pump 1 solenoid or 2 pumps to accomplish it tho) ...Im sure there is an easier way but this just came to mind first

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Last edited by Optix; 04-30-2014 at 04:53 PM.
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post #14 of 33 (permalink) Old 04-30-2014, 04:15 PM
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Good looking setup you got going there!
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post #15 of 33 (permalink) Old 05-01-2014, 08:37 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Sorry...didnt realize I had a question (tapatalk usually notifies you if youre quoted)

Anyway...I was thinking of an auto top off...but you could still do a very reliable, very easy, very SAFE auto drain stop fill stop auto top off sequence with 2 dpdt relays and 3 float switches (you would either need 1 pump 1 solenoid or 2 pumps to accomplish it tho) ...Im sure there is an easier way but this just came to mind first
No problem, time isn't a constraint right now. I'm waiting for my next paycheck before I do anymore purchasing anyway. Aquariums soak up money faster than my college-student budget will allow

2 DPDTs make more sense than 1. You had me drawing up circuit diagrams trying to figure it out

In the process of writing this post I figured out my plan for eliminating automatic top off (ATO) will not work, so now I also have to factor that into my auto water change (AWC) system as well. Right now I am thinking that ATO and AWC will be from the same source (RO water) and the reconstituting agents normally added to AWC ahead of time will be dosed like fertilizer instead.

Quote:
Good looking setup you got going there!
Thanks!
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