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Old 08-25-2014, 02:01 PM   #1
Crimson
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Apex Controller what it can do for you


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:

Fallback OFF
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.

Thanks,

Paul

Last edited by Crimson; 08-25-2014 at 02:12 PM.. Reason: fixes
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Old 08-25-2014, 02:11 PM   #2
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Nice write up Paul. I have an Apex and agree, it's great to have if you can afford the luxury.

I notice you're still using the old webpage for it though. Have you tried the new Apex Fusion? It makes creating programs and using the system so much nicer and enjoyable. Also, you won't need DDNS anymore either.

Here's a shot of my dashboard on Fusion.

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Old 08-25-2014, 02:33 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsantucci View Post
Nice write up Paul. I have an Apex and agree, it's great to have if you can afford the luxury.

I notice you're still using the old webpage for it though. Have you tried the new Apex Fusion? It makes creating programs and using the system so much nicer and enjoyable. Also, you won't need DDNS anymore either.

Here's a shot of my dashboard on Fusion.

I do have FUSION enabled and I was also in their open beta program. I am just rather use to the old school methods. Even RussM who is a mod on the forums will tell you it's good practice to know both.
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Old 08-25-2014, 02:43 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crimson View Post
I do have FUSION enabled and I was also in their open beta program. I am just rather use to the old school methods. Even RussM who is a mod on the forums will tell you it's good practice to know both.
I don't disagree, just wasn't sure if you were aware. I came up using the old interface so I'm familiar with using that and building my own programs, but just wanted to point this out. It could definitely benefit others, and I find using that interface on my cell phone is great for a remote controller, especially since it was built for touch interfaces.
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Old 08-25-2014, 04:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsantucci View Post
I don't disagree, just wasn't sure if you were aware. I came up using the old interface so I'm familiar with using that and building my own programs, but just wanted to point this out. It could definitely benefit others, and I find using that interface on my cell phone is great for a remote controller, especially since it was built for touch interfaces.
Agreed

I haven't tried fusion on my phone yet. TBH, I don't think many who own a planted tank would consider an apex but you never know.
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Old 08-25-2014, 05:16 PM   #6
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Fun alternative for the daring..
http://ferduino.com/about/



Board is $175..
currently only hard wireable.. AFAICT
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Old 08-26-2014, 12:17 PM   #7
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I can't get FUSION to work to save my life! I get a huge amount of errors.
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Old 08-26-2014, 12:22 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by ConfidentBlue View Post
I can't get FUSION to work to save my life! I get a huge amount of errors.
Do you have all firmware updated?

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Old 08-26-2014, 01:04 PM   #9
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Nah I haven't had the time. I had the firmware updated before and was still disconnecting so I'm not sure what the deal was. I know I need to update it tho
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Old 08-26-2014, 01:07 PM   #10
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Definitely update to the latest and greatest and issue a new token to yourself. It should work after I would think.
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Old 08-26-2014, 06:13 PM   #11
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If you use LED's and are into it, then running the lighting is a key aspect that is useful for a general controller.

Ph, no.
Temp, not really.

pH is addressed very a good CO2 reg and needle valve.
And it's not really pH, rather, CO2, pH is just an indirect aspect of CO2 additions/removal.

KH/ bicarbonate alkalinity will move around due to tap water and frequency of water changes, CO2 etc. Many folks have non carbonate alkalinity and use this for their water changes, reefers often use RO and really monitor their KH a lot more generally. So if the KH changes, then the CO2 rate will change also if you rely on a pH controller. If you miss this change in KH, then you add too much CO2(dead fish) or too little(algae blooms).

Now you can track and monitor pH, and use that as a relative semi automated measure, but a pH meter, say an American Marine pinpoint will do the same job.

ATO's or automated water changes are great for planted tanked tanks. But a simple timer and a simple design can avoid any need for a controller function requirements.

Temp? Most heaters have those. So dimming lighting and ramp up/down, really the biggest thing.

O2 would be nice, few hobbyists measure it, I might be one of the 1/2 dozen I know of in the last 20 years that has measured it.

TDS I suppose.

Power heads and random control functions with those and the lighting perhaps. Ecotech does this with the Radion and the vortechs. I use those for my reef.

I guess there's just a lot more demand for Reef folks than planted for such techy based controller and IT based integration, not so much in the planted groups. If ADA came out with one, then every obsequious fan boy would immediately buy one and tell everyone else how great they are

I need some degree of practical rational to buy something and need it to be fairly user friendly. Having to learn all about something else and maintain that......... is another hobby unto itself. Once you do, then it's fine, but.......if have not, many will not take that step.

High tech and low tech tends to refer to CO2 gas addition, or not for planted tanks. The great divide. Which is generally why Reef/marine folks do not make such distinctions.
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Old 08-26-2014, 06:28 PM   #12
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I don't disagree with most of your writing, but the heater I'm a much bigger fan of controlling with the apex since I have it. The apex's probe is much more precise and I have it set to turn off power when it reaches a certain temp. This makes sure I can't cook my fish with a malfunction.

I don't regulate my co2 with the ph controller, but I do use it as a rough gauge to see how much it drops like you said. I find that very helpful to see the same peaks and valleys on the chart to make sure it's consistent, which we all know is key.

Lighting is by far the biggest use of it as mentioned. I find random uses / ideas for this each day when I think more about it. Agreed though, way more function for reefers, but still has a place here if it's affordable to the user and they have a willingness to learn.
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Old 08-26-2014, 06:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crimson View Post
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.

Thanks,

Paul
I will go ahead and quote myself at the end of my mini write up. I fully agree that if I already did not own one from my reef tank I would probably not drop $525 for one. In the reefing world the apex can control cal reactors, power heads (in my case Tunze), skimmers, ato, lights ect where in planted world no so much.

Tell you this much no more heading to the LFS to pick up 50 gallon buckets of salt is a nice thing. However, I still wonder if I should of just downsized my reef. Part of me has some regret and the other part of me knows I will go back to it some day just not now.
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Old 08-26-2014, 07:09 PM   #14
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I'm pretty sure that for many people the technology and toys are half the fun of a reef tank.

If I had a larger tank I'd totally put a bunch of sensors in just to see the graphs. Once you hit a critical mass of automation such as lighting, auto dosing, and auto waterchanges, the cost of an Apex unit pretty much nets out to zero and you can control everything from a single location.
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Old 08-26-2014, 08:56 PM   #15
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Very slick. I love the web integration.

But for planted tanks, I'd agree, not worth the $500+.

OTOH, if you're willing to roll up your sleeves and do some soldering and wiring yourself, I'm absolutely riveted by AnotherHobby's "iAqua" Arduino-based controller project. The only areas that it's lacking against the Apex is web integration (a big one, admittedly... but this could come in the future) and the ph meter (which is very cool, don't get me wrong, but as PlantedBrain pointed out, not entirely necessary with decent hardware).

But you CAN fully control your lighting, your temps (complete with audible and visual alarms), AND automate EI dosing, which is huge. Not to mention a whole slew of other things. (I'm especially fond of the "Feeding mode" which switches the lighting to a good level for feeding, turns off your pumps, co2 and inline heaters so the food doesn't get blown all over the tank or sucked into an intake, and then brings it all back to normal after x minutes) And some form of basic co2 monitoring is in the process. (mostly via large pressure fluctuations, but this could stop end of tank dumping and give you a better indication of co2 status, for those who are a little more hands off with their tanks)

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=677265

Not for the faint of heart, but as long as you work slow, and have some basic soldering skills, all the hard work is done, so this could be put together without any other special skills needed, for perhaps $200, all in.

And frankly, IMO the always on (this is also adjustable, of course) touchscreen interface blows away the Apex interface, even if it's not web-connected.
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