Hot Tips: Automation Tips

A selection of useful tidbits of information for the aquarist. Readers are encouraged to send their tips to or to post them to our Hot Tips sticky in the General Reefkeeping Discussion forum for possible publication. Next month’s Hot Tip theme will be “Aquarium Photography Tips “.


Automation Tips

There are many X10-based automations, but since pretty all the equip. are in one location, I usually use relays instead. There are cons and pros of each type, but IMO, it is easier to trouble shoot.

The most common item on reef tank to be automated is light. For this, I just use regular applicance timer. Those that are into astronmical timing (moonlight simulation) may use more sophicated timer, but I am not a big fan of it.


Another item is topoff. This topic is a whole field by itself. I prefer to use electric solenoid-based automation because of the reliability compare to mechanical valves, such as floats.

— Reef Box Etc

Lights: Appliance timers

Top off: Can’t beat a litermeter. After years in this hobby, I ahve read dozens of posts about tank crahses after a float valve failed or how the RO/DI unit kept going, etc. I have read only one bad story with a litermeter failing. Even that one I think it was a lie LOL…………

CaCO3: Oversized kalk reactor. Pays for itself over time.

Huge CaCO3 demands: Large Ca reactor. You thank god someone invented this stuff.

Testing: Probes and probes. pH, temp, salinity

Water changes: Large water container connected via a pump to your sump, so a water change becomes turning 4 valves in 5 minutes.


I have found over time that the best automation tool is actually common sense. If you take 5 seconds to looks at your equipment daily, you will avoid 99% of the problems others have.

— dgasmd

I use a SWCD as a surge device for an above tank refugium. The intermittent surge created by the SWCD allows for a more realistic wave-action as the refugium ebbs and flows into the display area. The other end of the SWCD is just piped into the main tank as additional flow.

While I’ve seen some other cool surge setups here I think the SWCD is a very simple and useful device for creating more naturalistic wave/surge action for those DIY-challenged (like myself). It’s sorta automation.

I’ve found my corals/livestock respond better to the intermittment flows (waves) than a constant flow (streams/river), regardless of respective flow rates. I’ve also found that my plankton tend to flow better (thru a drain) with a varying surge rather than a constant trickle/flow. I guess the water’s surface tension affects the buildup of scum/crappie at the drain. This is for the typical gravity-output refugium. It just tends to get clogged over time.

— rcsjeng

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