I came to understand that two classes exist in the planted tank world. High tech and low tech. In the reefing world those terms really do not exist. For those interested in the "high tech" continue reading.
The apex controller is from Neptune Sytems (http://www.neptunesystems.com/
). This device can help you control and automate your tank and all the devices attached. I originally purchased my apex for my 105 gallon reef tank which of course is the target audience. When tearing down my reef I was going to sell it and create a planted tank by KISS or Keep It Simple Stupid method. I though otherwise being in IT field and since I can never keep things simple.
The apex controller comes with a temp probe, ph probe, DB8 (smart power strip) and the controller. You can also purchase other add-on modules but more on that later.
Here is a snapshot of my apex screen
I also have mine configured using DDNS so I can control my tank anywhere I have internet. The apex will also email me if parameters are no longer in acceptable range such as ph or temp. Example I use a inline hydor heater, but after reading some mixed reviews I use the apex to control the heater.
The Apex is powered via usb from DB8 or a 12v dc adapter (not included). This is a great feature because if you use a battery backup like I do you can configure the 12v DC to act as a probe. In other words when I lose power the apex will detect power loss from the 12v and start to shut off all devices except the air-stone and filter which will continue to run on battery backup.
Configuring can be tricky but plenty of help can be found online. Here is an example of my ATO (Automatic Top Off). I use a float switch when water evaporates the tank will be auto filled when I am home. I also own a electric solenoid between the water line and the rodi which attaches to a EB8 outlet. This also requires the "break out box" module purchased separately to attach the float switch.
An Example config:
If ATO_LV OPEN Then ON
If Time 16:00 to 22:00 Then ON
If Time 22:00 to 16:00 Then OFF
If ATO_LV CLOSED Then OFF
If Outlet PumpShutOff = ON Then OFF
Defer 002:00 Then ON
Min Time 120:00 Then OFF
If Power Apex Off 000 Then OFF
To translate the above,
Fallback off- if apex goes offline keep the device OFF
If the time is between 4pm to 11pm you can turn ON
If the time is between 11pm to 4pm you must stay OFF
ATO closed= water level is good ATO = Open = water level low
In terms of apex OPEN = Needs ACTION or bad while Closed = OK
Defer statement is to wait for action to change. this way it does not turn on and off the float switch by water turbulence such as place your arm in the tank. In this case wait 2min.
Min Time 120:00 Then OFF means the ato can not turn on again for another 120min after you turned on.
If Power Apex Off 000 Then OFF if I lose power I don't want it to turn on.
I could turn into a 10 page article but if you google apex controller you will find plenty of reviews and how-to.
Is this worth $500 to you? Depends. If you have a 10 gallon planted tank then most likely no. If you have a larger tank possibly. If your heater went crazy high temp and killed everything in your tank while not at home how would you react?
For me, I find it worth every penny. However, I still find it more valuable for a reef than a planted tank though. When I owned two rare pintail cf wrasse pair plus several other rare saltwater fish and several hundreds in coral it made sense. I wanted to make sure a system failure would not cause the demise of my reef inhabitants.
Thanks for reading and if you decided on buying one please feel free to pm me if you need help.