I fill my 5g salt mixing bucket as well as my top-off container directly from my RODI unit… I added a 50′ hose to the output so i can just bring it directly to the tank rather than hauling buckets around the house…
Now if you are like me.. and get distracted easily you have have ‘forgotten’ about your water running and come back to a damp floor.. yes i admit it happened 4-5 times now over the past year or two… so i finally wised up and purchased some float valves.
I installed a valve on the top off bucket and will do another on my 5g mixing bucket… This way if i ever forget the water on … the valve will kill flow and prevent another wet floor.
Evaporation and increased salinity levels is one of the fastest ways to crash your tank.. An ATO, auto top off or technically an osmolator will automatically add freshwater back in to your tank to keep the water level constant and compensate for evaporation.
Since a fancy auto top off can cost 100-200$ I decided to make my own extremely accurate version for a fraction of the cost.
Rather than using just a standard float valve (which can fail) I went with an optical water level sensor, which is very accurate and detects when water touches the top of the sensor. I also added a float valve as a backup.
The microprocessor will only activate the pump of both sensors are not detecting water. If either one senses water the filling sequence is skipped
I also added a Hold switch to the box. When this switch is hit the arduino goes into a loop of blinking the LED as a reminder to turn it back on. This Hold mode will be useful when doing water changes.
I may add a third safety of only running the pumps for so many second per fill. But this is dependant on if I do micro topoffs 24h/day or hair have the ATO check every few hours or at times I’m not around.
I need some form of a 6 pin connector but came up short and decided to go with a DB9 connector as they are cheap and readily available.
Once i soldered the sensors on to my wire i covered the last half of the wire all the way down to the sensors in heat shrink to seal it up and have a nice black wire to blend in with the back of the tank.
Motor on the left, 12V power in the bottom right. DB9 connector for the sensors and USB in case i want to adjust the programming at a future date.
I found a thin acrylic rube which was about the size of an airline. This allowed me to use an airline holder as my mount. The beauty of this method is i can very easily raise and lower it to set my water level.
Once i fill the tank ill trim the rod to about the level of the tank. to clean things up. I do love the simplicity and adjust-ability of this method of mounting it.
Side view of the sensors in the tank. I plan on keeping the water level slightly below this overflow into the pump chamber. This should minimize nose 🙂
Water changes seems to be the hardest or most time consuming part of keeping an aquarium.. So why not automate it? In a previous write up i build an automated dosing system i called the Arduino auto doser. I plan on using the same concept to build an automated water change system with a bit of a twist.
Most water changers simply drain water out than add water back in. Since my nano reef is a 12G Fluval edge this system would create air bubbles in the top of the tank taking away from its clean aesthetics. In this system I plan to take out water as the same time i add it. This should keep the water at a consistent level having less impact on the tank while maintaining that elegant look.
For this project I will being using a triple head dosing pump. For now we are only going to use 2 of the heads.. however a third may be useful down the road if i ever decide to do a frag tank. and fill it with water taken from the main nano.
The pump I decided on an industrial Watson marlow pump which i picked up off ebay for about $55. I originally order some cheaper ones from over seas but worried about how precise they were.. this made me lean towards a higher end pump.
The pump head ever has an adjuster to fine tune the output. This should allow me to calibrate each line to push an identical amount of water.
The pump was previously used for what looks like ink so all hoses will be replaced.
Once calibrated you could automate this with a simple digital wall timer.. however I tend to like safety precautions so I plan on using arduino as my timer with a sensor to kill power to the pump if the water level gets to high.
The fluval edge only has a small collar to work with so everything must be precisely calibrated.
I’m still waiting for the pump to show up in the mail.. So check back often or sign up to our email list at the top of the page as this project will be updated once i receive the goods 🙂
The pump and my optical sensor finally showed up. So far so good for the initial testing.
The ensure for the pump side is complete. Not the prettiest but it eo do the job. It’s enclosed to keep it quiet and prevent and possible leak!
I made a water level sensor holder only to realize my aftermarket led light hits the wires!! Rats. I’ll have to make a second one and hold a sensor on each side of the aquaclear to get around this. Tomorrows project!
March 20 Update.
I moved this tank into a Nuvo 24 and no longer had access to a water line. I convertered this into two projects. The first is an auto top off (link to come) and an auto water change that works with Buckets. Tank water is pumped into an empty bucket at the same time as water is pumped in from a bucket of fresh water.