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Old 06-02-2006, 08:18 PM   #1
Wasserpest
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Autodosing for Dummies


For planted tanks, especially those high-lit ones, a good regular supply of nutrients is one important part of success. Instead of daily mixing and applying, let's do some autodosing so you can enjoy your tank, and don't have to worry while on vacations either.

There are many ways to set up autodosing. I have described this method previously, but since it works so well and the original threads have been diluted by other discussions I thought I do a little step-by-step how-to write-up.

1) Materials we need (approx cost):

Water pump ($15)
Container ($1)
Tubing ($2)
Electronic Timer ($10)

2) Setup

Connect tubing to pump outlet. Having some scrap tubing pieces in different diameters sometimes helps to bridge pump outlet to tubing, or cut one of these. We need regular airline tubing, long enough to reach from the pump to the rim of the aquarium. Add some sort of nozzle to the end of the tubing. I use the little connectors for mini airline tubing, sold at pet stores (see second photo). This will roughly determine the amount of solution dosed each time.

Cut a slit and a hole into the plastic container so the power cable from the pump and the tubing can go out of the container while the lid is closed. To avoid cracking the plastic I use a heated knife to carve out the hole.

3) Adjust dispensed amount of solution

A) Decide dosing and refill frequency. For examply, I dose daily, and refill every two weeks. So I need to get 14 dosings out of the container.
B) The little nozzle on the end of the tubing (which goes into the tank) determines roughly how much liquid is dispensed each time.
Other factors that you can play with:
- power of pump (watts or gal/hour) - I use mostly 6W pumps that do ~160g/h
- position of setup relative to tank level - place it on the same level as tank, or below in stand
C) Fill the container with water, place it where it should go, put the tubing over the tank rim or into a container at exactly the same height as the tank, and do some 1-minute runs. With a marker, mark the respective levels of solution (water) which will later tell you how full you fill the container to have enough solution for (in my case) 14 dosings, and then every day be surprised how exact the doser doses!

4) Mix solution

Based on your current dosing, calculate how much fertilizer needs to go into the container. Say you are dosing 1/2 teaspoon of KNO3 every other day, that would be 3.5 teaspoons to cover two weeks. Decide if you want to dose macros and micros with two containers and pumps, or if you dose everything but phosphates together and do phosphates separately as needed.
For ex, for dosing my 100 gal lowish light tank, I mix
3 tsp KNO3
2 tsp K2SO4
1 tsp MgSO4
12 ml Flourish
12 ml Flourish Iron
which doses the tank for two weeks. Of course, every tank is different!

5) Program timer

You need an electronic timer that can switch one-minute intervals. I program mine to dose every day at 2pm for one minute. Why? Well, why not?

6) Gotchas

A) Siphon - make sure the end of the hosing is not submerged in tank water! Unless you use a really big container...
B) Level in container - might affect the amount of dosing, especially if the pump is too weak. Get a stronger pump...
C) Degrading solution - in my case, the micro solution starts growing stuff, and the macro solution starts smelling. For combined macro and micro dosing, after a couple of days the solution both grows stuff and smells. Not really a big issue, just keep the solution for 2 weeks max and clean container well before refilling. And the tubing and nozzle needs to be cleaned/replaced once in a while.



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Old 06-02-2006, 08:54 PM   #2
scolley
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Great thread - a service to the community on how easy, and inexpensively, you can set up something to greatly simplify this hobby!

One vote for sticky here.
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Last edited by scolley; 06-03-2006 at 02:33 AM..
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Old 06-02-2006, 09:46 PM   #3
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thanks alot wasserpest! this autodosing is going to be my next project especially since i just got some greg watson ferts to replace my seachem stuff. i've got a 10 gallon and a 20 gallon to do. ugh... MORE TIMERS.. you should SEE what the electrical stuff looks like under my stand! something along these lines only its much worse! dammit self stop complaining and just do it! ok fine!
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Old 06-03-2006, 12:39 AM   #4
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Great stuff.I am thinking you could use an air pump ,pumping into a sealed container,that has only 2 holes on the lid,one for the air pump line in,another hole for the outlet line .the pressure from the air pump pushing on the surface of the liquid inside the container and as a result the liquid has no place to go but up through the outlet line into the tank.
I have used this system on other projects and realized you really don't need a lot of air pressure to push on any liquid as long as the liquid is not too thick and also the container is not placed too far form the receiving tank.
So Wasserperst what do you think?
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Old 06-03-2006, 04:03 AM   #5
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I'd really love it if someone could come up with a way to dose dry ferts and have it connect to the filter so that there litterally would be only two tubes in your tank; both the filter's.

I just have this thing about dry ferts since I've always done it that way. It's just less hassle for me (and I don't have to worry about weird stuff growing in the mix). At the moment, I pre-measure my doses and put them in small finger paint containers that are then stored in a little plastic box, so when I dose I just pick one out and dump it in. I can't imagine having to measure every other day.
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Old 06-03-2006, 04:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by distrbd
Great stuff.I am thinking you could use an air pump ,pumping into a sealed container,that has only 2 holes on the lid,one for the air pump line in,another hole for the outlet line .the pressure from the air pump pushing on the surface of the liquid inside the container and as a result the liquid has no place to go but up through the outlet line into the tank.
I have used this system on other projects and realized you really don't need a lot of air pressure to push on any liquid as long as the liquid is not too thick and also the container is not placed too far form the receiving tank.
So Wasserperst what do you think?
I think that has been described first by Mr. Magicmagnihere and then I sort of repeated it here. It works very well too, but is a little bit harder to adjust. Note that I removed the drippers and control the pump output via airline valves - much simpler.
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Old 06-03-2006, 04:25 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by valleyvampiress
I'd really love it if someone could come up with a way to dose dry ferts and have it connect to the filter so that there litterally would be only two tubes in your tank; both the filter's.
A clear piece of airline is almost invisible...
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Old 06-21-2006, 11:18 AM   #8
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My 1st post and not sure how to ask this question but...Once you figure out how much fert to use for a given time you want to autodose, say 1 week, and then you test your pump and determine the amount of liquid dispensed for 1 minute so that you can fill your container enough that it wont run out of liquid, wont you always have to leave enough liquid in the container to keep the pump submerged? And wont the pump stop pumping (I am using an old powerhead) once the liquid level gets to a certain point? Then..(finally getting to my point ) how do you adjust the strength of your solution to compensate for the liquid that will never make it into the tank each week?

The answer is probably simple...

ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND THAT THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT MENTALLY CAPABLE OF DOSING DRY FERTS DIRECTLY INTO THEIR TANK AND I MAY BE ONE OF THEM.

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Old 06-21-2006, 03:47 PM   #9
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After months I have finally figured this out (I'm slow, but I'm good !)

Say you want 14 days worth of ferts. You add together the doses for 2 weeks. That's how much dry stuff you need. You take your pump and figure out how much water it dispenses in say, 1 minute (or 2 minutes, or 3 minutes, however much) when it's set up exactly as it will be with the fertilizer solution. Say that's a half a pint (one cup). Mix 14 cups of water and the 14 days worth of ferts in your container, set your pump for that time where it will dispense one cup a day and you've got it. Of course, that is just for 14 days. You'd probably either want to mix up a couple of extra days to take care of that problem you're talking about, or change it out when it's getting low (say at 12 days instead of the 14 day mark.) I know there's some pumps that say they'll pump in something like a half inch of liquid, although I don't know if I'd really want to test that or not!

Just happened to think, alternatively what Wasserpest has done I think is to fill up his container with water, run the pump for a minute, make a mark, run it for another minute, make a mark, etc., etc. If the container is tapered the marks will be at different heights. It'll give you the same measurements sort of. After you have all the marks you'd know to fill it up to the 14th mark and add your two weeks worth of ferts. Same thing.
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Old 06-21-2006, 04:52 PM   #10
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Dave, welcome to The Planted Tank, thanks for asking this question.

You are right, there is always a little bit of solution left over that can not be pumped into the tank.

This amount can be minimized by using a pump that sucks the water from its bottom (like the Hydor Pico) or lay the pump on its side so the impeller compartment is on the bottom (make sure the water can still circulate though).

You could also use the leftover bit of solution to "gap dose" after a water change, if you do the water change and fertilizer refill on the same day.

I usually end up fertilizing my house plants with whatever is left in the containers.

For my 10gal tank, I use a different method with an airpump pushing the solution into the tank, and there it will be used to the last drop.

Regarding adjusting the strength... I don't think this needs to be THAT precise. After two weeks of dosing, only a small amount remains in the containers, I guess you could slightly increase your fertilizer portion, I figure it doesn't matter.

Let me know if there is anything that should be explained in more detail. Like Rex says, dosing fertilizers can be a challenge, sure.
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Old 06-22-2006, 01:55 AM   #11
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Thanks Rosehawke and Wasserpest.

I was thinking of making enough solution (volume and strength) to cover a week and a half and then dose for the week. I can use the leftover, as you say, for a gap dose. Great idea and great plans. Will be implimenting on Monday!

Thanks for your great posts and for the welcome.
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Old 06-22-2006, 02:07 AM   #12
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Actually that's a great idea using the leftovers for watering the houseplants (or hanging planters in my case.) Although I have a philodendron that's about ready to "go Cleopatra" on me now! It's the only true houseplant I've not managed to kill. Usually 'cause I tend to forget that they're not silk .
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Old 06-24-2006, 12:21 AM   #13
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Interesting idea, can you give more specifics about the pump you used and volume of the container etc.

I recently tried something similar that didn't work very well. I used a 1 gallon jug that had two holes drilled in the cap which were fitted with airline bulkheads. To one of the connectors I attached a rigid airline tube to the inside of the cap and a hose that ran to the tank on the other side of the cap. To the second bulkhead I attached a hose that ran to an air pump. I figured when the air pump was on it would basically blow the liquid from the bottle into the tank. The problem was that it was very inconsistant with the dosing. It required much more time to send the same amount of fluid as the water level in my bottle dropped. This was probably due to the change in back pressure caused by the increasing height the liquid needed to be pumped.

I have been considering trying a gravity feed, and using a soleniod valve connected to a timer to turn it on and off. Just havent looked into the solenoid valves yet. I figure if this works it should provide a very consistant rate of flow.
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Old 06-24-2006, 03:14 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vidiots
Interesting idea, can you give more specifics about the pump you used and volume of the container etc.
I think pretty much any pump will work, but if you put the container underneath the tank, it needs to be strong enough to lift up the water. My favorite little pump is the AS MiniJet 606, not only for this application, it is reliable, silent, strong, and fairly inexpensive. I have also used a Hydor Pico which sucks water from the bottom and empties the container well.

The containers I am using are prolly half a gallon. What I would do is to use this as a top off as well. So if your tank is losing about a gallon per week, use a larger container. For a 10 gal tank, you probably want to scale things back.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vidiots
I recently tried something similar that didn't work very well. I used a 1 gallon jug that had two holes drilled in the cap which were fitted with airline bulkheads. To one of the connectors I attached a rigid airline tube to the inside of the cap and a hose that ran to the tank on the other side of the cap. To the second bulkhead I attached a hose that ran to an air pump. I figured when the air pump was on it would basically blow the liquid from the bottle into the tank. The problem was that it was very inconsistant with the dosing. It required much more time to send the same amount of fluid as the water level in my bottle dropped. This was probably due to the change in back pressure caused by the increasing height the liquid needed to be pumped.
I think you hit the famous nail on its famous head with your observation. For a container as large as a gallon, the pump method like I described works better. I am using 16oz or 24oz or so Gatorade bottles the way you described, and place them on the same level as my 10 gal tank, and that works great. One key for success is NOT to restrict the outflow (which will pressurize the bottle and therefore give you very different results with full and empty bottles), but to control the airflow into the bottles.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vidiots
I have been considering trying a gravity feed, and using a soleniod valve connected to a timer to turn it on and off. Just havent looked into the solenoid valves yet. I figure if this works it should provide a very consistant rate of flow.
Please share if you find a working method. There are many ways to do inexpensive fert dosing (Water pump, air pump, aqualifter, oral syringe, automatic feeder are a few that come to mind) but sure there are more. Just keep track of cost... using solenoids and valves can add up quickly.
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Old 06-25-2006, 08:46 PM   #15
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Wasserpest, I am going to try your dosing idea this week, but before I start is there anything that you now would do differently or dont like about this system
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