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Neptune Apex Aquarium Control


Streetwise
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Aquarium automation and monitoring is very popular in reef aquariums, but less common in freshwater. While I run very low-drama organic soil tanks, I got an Apex system because technology is my jam.

There are not a lot of resources for using the Apex in freshwater, so I wanted to make a thread.

There are two main versions, the Apex and Apex EL. The system is modular, so you can add features later. Is it worth it to get the full Apex vs the cheaper EL model?

They both come with an eight-outlet power strip (in North America), and you can add more. The control units are slightly different in port choices. The Apex EL has Ethernet, Aux Power, IO, Temp, pH, 2 x Aquabus. The full Apex also has four channels of 0-10V DC dimming/power control, salinity, and ORP, but with a catch.

You cannot calibrate ORP for freshwater unless you add the PM2 module!

All the 0-10V DC control stuff was more powerful than I would need for my tanks, and I don't need salinity, so I picked the Apex EL.

While I had grand plans about controlling lights, wave-makers, etc., I found value in the following ways.

1. Insurance: The power strip is connected to my UPS, with the Aux Power connected to non-UPS power. It can notify me when the power goes out, and I can choose what to power during the downtime of UPS battery power. I also purchased a leak detection kit, so water on the floor will trigger an alert and relevant programming.

2. Feed Mode and Filter Control: Via the web interface or app, I have four feed modes to turn off power to various outlets for different time periods on every tank plugged into the power strip. This could be actual feeding, or it could be more time to clean sponges or filters. I also use some programming to provide alternating water flow in one tank by running one internal filter on one schedule, and another filter on a different schedule.

3. Probe Monitoring and Control: Currently, I just monitor pH and temperature in one tank, and I have simple code to limit heaters to a specific range. I like seeing how pH and temperature change with my lighting schedule in my organic soil tanks. In the future, I might use pH to control a solenoid for a CO2 regulator.

There are tons of other things you can do with monitoring, water control, and dosing, but I'm not working at that scale.

Is anyone else here using the Apex, or other systems for monitoring and aquarium control? Please share!

Cheers,

Jason

Edited by Streetwise
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I'm running a Digital Aquatics Reefkeeper Lite on my planted tank. I use it to control the heaters, lights and to monitor ph. I could use it to control my CO2 but I would need to get another controllable outlet. I think controllers are pretty handy to use even for freshwater tanks. It's too bad someone doesn't make a cheaper option. Digital Aquatics isn't in business anymore so once this stops working I'll probably switch to wifi outlets. Hopefully BRS and Apex release their cheaper collaboration package again, I regret not picking one up now. 

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I agree, some more tech monitoring for fresh water would be great. I've been toying with the idea of getting an apex system, admittedly I have not looked into it seriously but think every time I see it, hrmmm.... my tech consists of a great amazon power strip with wifi outlets, which is handy. I did just get a new co2 system that had the Milwaukee ph/orp controller. It's not installed yet, this week hopefully! I'll be watching this thread! Thanks

- Logan

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Like @Streetwise I got an Apex system because technology like this definitely adds fun to this hobby.

Thanks Jason for starting this topic. This technology is amazingly versatile and I don't use 10% of what this system can do. This shows the value of this forum as I know who to ask if I want to try something new or if I want what see what another freshwater user is doing.

I have the full Apex Classic that I purchased in 2015. At that time I was trying to breed Heckel discus and needed the PM2 module to monitor conductivity. It would be easy to get water into the Power Bar so I mounted everything to a board. This also allowed for better cable management.

20200717_1307.JPG.6bf53e7eed2f68364d714f2cbd9a34fe.JPG


It is also pretty cool that the Energy Bar 8 measures and displays power consumption.

As far as calibrating ORP for freshwater, I don't care about the precise value. I am really just monitoring ranges, trends and large variances from those trends.

Back in 2015, the Apex system was useful for controlling lights, but now lights have their own controls so I don't use it for that anymore.

20200717_1295.JPG.0eb8b93a559670beac1e8f8fc638fdfb.JPG
 

My most used probes are pH and temperature. I have 2 of each. One set is permanent stationed in a magnetic probe rack in my baby discus tank and the other set I move around to other tanks within reach of the probe cables. Like @Streetwise I also limit heaters to a specific range.

 

Edited by Daniel
spelling and a bad cut and paste
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I have been running an apex in my fish room for a long time.   I started my aquarium journey in saltwater.  I am running an old Apex Jr.  which I use mostly to automate lighting and auto water change.   I do some temperature and PH monitoring as well.   I also use the Neptune Auto Top Off System for my clownfish breeding set up as well.  I am converting some of it to Amazon alexa plugs for the voice control but I am still playing keeping the apex running as well.   

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1 hour ago, FishTankBarn said:

 I am converting some of it to Amazon alexa plugs for the voice control but I am still playing keeping the apex running as well.   

Apparently Amazon Alexa can directly control the Apex controller now. I haven't tried it yet, as it seemed like gilding the lily so to speak.

Me: "Alexa! Raised the temperature in the baby discus tank to 90 degrees Fahrenheit!"

Alexa: "Raising the temperature in the baby discus tank to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, starting now."

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I work for a Engineering/Consulting/System Integration firm, we primarily do water / wastewater systems, we've done a few fish hatcheries as well.  I've collected some AB PLC hardware and a Maple Systems HMI and am going to tinker with it on my breeding rack.  Will post more detail as the "project" progresses.  If it comes together nicely I may even drop in a SCADA system (overkill).  Yeah like I need another project!

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When I got my leak detection kit used from another hobbyist, I also picked up a different accessory just for fun, the Lunar Simulator Module. It comes with a strip of a few single LEDs, and it will automatically follow the lunar schedule and provide a gentle moonlight glow. I am not using it for any practical reasons, but just to have some indirect ambient light in the background.

Edited by Streetwise
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  • 3 weeks later...

I move my pH and Temperature probes around my tanks periodically. They are currently in my 7.5 gallon, which is where I want to test one of my new Co-Op sponge filters. However, the probes would be directly above the nano sponge filter. Would this affect my readings, and will air collect in the bottom of the pH probe?

Edit: Never mind, the output is higher than the bottom of the probes.

Edited by Streetwise
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It looks like there is a new product line in this sector. They talk about open source, which is encouraging. It measures pH, Ammonia, temperature, water level, LUX, kelvin and PAR. The site indicates a fall release. It was mentioned on a stream tonight so I had to look it up.

WWW.FELIXSMART.COM

Felix Smart is a smart aquarium controller, monitor and camera for freshwater aquariums and salt water aquariums. Helps you schedule and...

 

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Oh yes, I might be getting that underwater remote controlled submarine 4k camera that would swim in my aquarium and stream the results back to my phone for Christmas this year after all!

Looks like this has been in the development pipeline for at least a couple of years:

But even with a Felix, I don't think I will ever be as cool* as these stylish Euro-dude aquarium guys. I don't know if it is the hair or the accent, but I have a lot of work to do on both.

Edited by Daniel
* and the tatoos
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This is all very interesting! I've been thinking about getting a pH controller for my high tech tank, almost pulled the trigger on the Milwaukee MC122 too...but the specs said it's accurate to plus or minus .2 pH. In my tank, that could be a swing of 10-15 ppm of co2, so that put me off.

Now it's back to square one, and now this thread about controllers. Very intriguing indeed! 

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CoralVue is working on something too, the Hydros Control. It is also listed for this fall.

 

control4_top.jpg
WWW.CORALVUE.COM

HYDROS Control 4 is a larger, more powerful device with all the capabilities of the HYDROS Control 2 plus additional ports to monitor, control, and...

 

Edited by Streetwise
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I noticed that Felix seems to use a seneye component. I am still doing more research on these products.

Cory's 2018 video illustrates how long product development takes, compared to marketing. I hope we have a bunch of competition in the aquarium automation and monitoring sector. I want better programming, more interoperability, and better networking. I would love to have little wireless probe hubs that you just plug into power or USB-C chargers.

Edited by Streetwise
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4 hours ago, Streetwise said:

I noticed that Felix seems to use a seneye component. I am still doing more research on these products.

I want to go to there:

Seneye.PNG.1e6fbe16a945647595f1945072ffdc2a.PNG

✓ pH

✓ Nitrate

✓ Nitrite

✓ Dissolved Oxygen

✓ Par

✓ Lux

✓ Kelvins

✓ Works in freshwater

Will any of this improve my fish keeping? Absolutely not! Will I buy this, maybe (but don't tell my wife). Who needs retirements savings? Just last week I tried some of my cat's catfood and it tasted surprisingly good.

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I am currently working on this DIY controller: 

REEF-PI.GITHUB.IO

reef-pi - An opensource reef tank controller based on Raspberry Pi

It was initially created for reef tanks, however I believe that it will adapt for freshwater just fine. Now that I think of it, I should probably start a thread and post my progress updates there.

Automation for the win! 😄

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/12/2020 at 10:16 AM, Byte said:

I am currently working on this DIY controller: 

REEF-PI.GITHUB.IO

reef-pi - An opensource reef tank controller based on Raspberry Pi

It was initially created for reef tanks, however I believe that it will adapt for freshwater just fine. Now that I think of it, I should probably start a thread and post my progress updates there.

Automation for the win! 😄

I definitely plan on building one to cover the main safety shut off functionality that the Felix controller has (kill thermometer, leak detection, and C02 for when I add that in the future). Right now I want temp / leak detection for 4 tanks. The Felix controller has 8 outlets which is perfect, but I want sensors from 4 tanks going into one controller. I'd need to buy 4 Felix controllers for that and don't want to spend $1800. I also differentiate between level detection and leak detection--level going down slow is a warning (or could be used on auto water change systems), but I'm mainly interested in immediate shutoff of the canister filter if water hits the sensor.  I was unclear which they supported. 

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  • 1 month later...

I was digging around the settings in my Apex because I want to ask @Daniel what data sampling frequency he is using, and I found this Advanced setting for the pH probe:

1904563336_TemperatureCompensation.png.7f771a185b06212a1f4f012a72a4f87f.png

I was thinking of enabling it, but I only have pH 7.00 calibration fluid. My 10.00 solution either spilled or evaporated.

I found the Data Log setting, and I have it set to 2 minutes.

Edited by Streetwise
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  • 1 month later...

Interesting thread. I'm in the electronics field so this scratches a few itches. With a raspi it should be relatively simple to have it control heaters, pumps, CO2, and control a custom light on a regular schedule. Breaking that schedule for a routine item like maintenance or feeding isn't too bad either with the addition of a couple buttons.

There are two things that make this hard.

Sensors, and the user interface. Sensors are hard because it's difficult to find a sensor that's reliable accurate and cheap. Also some sensors aren't meant to exist in the things that they measure. Moisture probes for the garden, corrode in the presence of moisture...

The UI is difficult because you have to dumb down the code, so that you can finger through it. With code you can control anything and everything to the finest degree. I can set up my light to exactly mimic the weather conditions seen on Lake Tanganyika that day or a specific day in 2018 if I can find the weather logs online and parse the info to the code. But making it so that the lights fade in at 3 in the afternoon and reach peak at 6pm and take on a bluish glow by 9pm. Using dials or graphs or buttons is a nightmare, to me. I applaud those who write code for UIs.

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Clever gizmo! I’ve been tempted to knock together a conductivity probe and sender to feed back into my home automation controller, since I record pre/post/clean water tds every week anyway.

I personally do all my automation through Home Assistant and Alexa, including on off on all devices and a SmartThings leak sensor. Works well. I added a vibration sensor recently on the air pump just in case. 

I wrote an Alexa skill to let me record water readings as I took them, but never really used it. Was a fun software project at least, and I use voice routines for control a lot. I also have voice routines which in theory will wake me up if something lets go at night, and sends push notifications if I’m not at home.

I remember seeing RPi builds years ago on plantedtank.net, and even bought the bits, but it was a little fiddly at the time. Neat stuff though. If I needed something now I’d probably take the time to learn enough Python to write an extension for HA: https://www.home-assistant.io

Edited by AdamTill
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