Progress once again

We finally made progress on the stand. We’ve spent the last two Saturdays welding at Will’s house. We still have one more half-day of welding to go until it will be finished, but all that is left are the corner braces and the mount points for the plywood.

The stand is turning out to be quite a beast. One person may be able to lift it on their own, but it’s quite large, which makes it awkward.

Here’s a few pictures of the progress and a short video of Will laying a bead on one of the corners.

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Hope for the future

Assuming everything goes well, we should finally start welding up the stand on Saturday.

We won’t finish all the welding in one day, but we are hoping to have it finished by the 16th. If that happens, then I should be able to start the roughing-in for testing that afternoon.

The funny thing is, this is the first I’ve really thought about the tank since my last post. I have all this equipment lying around doing nothing. Most of the initial energy for the build has gone and a very small part of me wonders why I’m still moving forward with the build. I’m pretty sure once we get the stand finished, those doubts will disappear and I’ll be back into ‘crazy build mode’ again.

Looking through my notes and at the website has reminded me how much I still have left to do, but at the same time, I’m very happy I did as much design work up front as I have. It should make it much easier to pick up where I left off this weekend.

A second hail storm

Wow… This was nuts.

A little over a week after the first hail storm, a second hail storm struck. This second storm sent cantaloupe sized hail literally through our house. My daughter’s ceiling has a hole in it where you can see open sky all the way through the roof. Our entire neighborhood looks to have been hit. There are tarps on roofs everywhere.

Both cars are being totaled.

Luckily, most of our belongings in the house are fine and more importantly, all our family and neighbors are OK.

I don’t know when progress will be made on the tank at this point as most of our upstairs will now have to be remodelled.

No Progress

Sometimes life hits you and you just don’t get anything done…

We had a nasty hail storm two weeks ago that we’re still recovering from. Both cars and the house will need repairs, so we’ve been dealing with insurance lately.

That plus it being a nice pretty weekend, and I ended up spending time on other hobbies. We’re still waiting to get the stand built at this point, so there’s not much else I can work on.

Minimal Progress

It’s Easter weekend, which means time with family. It’s also gotten nice and warm, which makes some of my other hobbies more enjoyable.

The guy helping me with my stand has also been busy, so we haven’t had a chance to start welding the stand yet. Most of my other tasks I have left are reliant on the stand being finished, so until that happens progress has pretty much halted.

I will be working on trying to get the pH calibration code working, so look forward to updates on that.

Little Finishes

Finally got the rest of the steel pieces cut for the stand. 16 6″ angle braces to stiffen up the corners. I now have to grind and clean up all the edges on all the pieces. The next time Will and I get together, we will be finally welding.


I also managed to finish modding the CA reactor. The original design of the reactor had the return line from the re-circulation pump simply going to a hole at the top of the container. Most of the new reactors I see on the market have a PVC piece in the middle of the reactor that forces the water through the column of media. I decided it would be easy enough to make this change, so I did. I have one last mod to do on the reactor and that will be to add plumbing for the in-line pH probe.


Speaking of pH probes… I received my package from DFRobotics with my two professional grade probes in it. I was able to get them wired up and I put them into a test environment in the garage with the temp probe. You may have noticed the main page of the site now shows graphs for the last 24 hours. The Pi code has been updated to send the current stats to my web server every 5 minutes. I’m debating trying to write an Android app to pull down the raw data and format it into a pretty display for my phone.


Now that all of the electronics have been built, I can finish up the box housing the electronics and permanently wire a few things.

The new media for the RO/DI filter finally came in. I was able to get the filter mounted into an outside storage unit. Just need to add the tanks and plumb everything in now.


The live rock is still doing well in John’s tank. The bad thing is it looks like the rock does have some Aiptasia on it. I’ll have to deal with that after I get the tank cycled.


Lots of little changes

Made a lot of progress on little parts of the tank this weekend.

I started off the weekend by adding a closed loop to the communications on the electronics. The Arduino can now send the current state of any output as requested by the Pi. I added a new text label on the display that gives a color based representation of the current outputs. This display gets updated once a minute. The end goal is to have all this data pushed up to my website once every 5 minutes to be permanently stored in a database.

I also finally got around to color coding the ‘other’ outputs on the Pi. Lastly I added names to the outputs. All of the names are stored in the aquarium.ini file with the default states. I have one weird bug in the code where just 1 of the outputs is not turning on at startup even though the Pi shows it as being turned on. This may be something in the Arduino code, but if I manually turn the output on, it turns on.

After working on the code for a few hours, it was time to go work on the stand some more. We were able to get all except for the 6″ corner braces cut up. It should only be another hour or so of cutting and then we’ll be ready to weld.

I spent most of Sunday cleaning up the sump and reactors. Then I got to work on building the canopy. By the end of the day, I had the light finally working. I still need to build the rest of the canopy and wire in the relay, but at least I know the ballasts work.


We hope to get the rest of the pieces cut out one evening this week and then maybe get it welded up on Saturday. Were crossing our fingers things go as planned.

I did get a response from about the overflow design I want built. he sent me a picture showing me that it looks like my design will work. Now its just a matter of paying him and getting them built and delivered.


I did ask him to make one final change… I saw on reefcentral that someone had built this with all three overflow holes in the middle of the box. After seeing that and thinking about it, I decided it would work better that way. Looking at the picture it looks like he already cut the holes, so I don’t think he’d be willing to re-cut the bottom plate for me. I can still use it this way, and it is the way I originally designed it anyways. I can’t wait to see the final product.

Slow Progress

Not a lot of work got done on the tank this weekend. I think my garage is even dirtier than when I started this process with more piles of ‘parts’ everywhere. I’ve been slowly acquiring PVC parts as I design various phases of the setup.

I received the perfboard for the Arduino and started soldering up the connections. I only got a few done.

We made more progress on the stand. We worked for about 2.5 hours. We got the rest of the legs cut and we got the pieces for the shelf cut. We had to reconfigure the bandsaw for the 45 degree cuts. We found that it took almost a good 10 minutes to setup, cut, teardown each 45 degree cut. I think we’re looking at almost another full day’s worth of work to finish cutting the rest of the pieces.

I took the kids to Lowe’s on Saturday to do their ‘Build and Grow’ workshop. The kids had a blast. Afterwards we walked over to the Acrylic section and I found that they had .22″ Acrylic in 2’x4′ pieces. I bought one and we managed to cram it into the backseat of the car with the kids. Once home, I started working on cutting the pieces for an inner and outerbox for the BeanAnimal overflow. I don’t have any Weldon 4, so I had to order that before I can finish gluing up the box.

Sunday was spent working on the pool, so no progress was made on the tank.

Can’t wait for some of these many little projects to start accumulating into one beautiful display.

Here’s some quick pics of the minor progress that was made this weekend.


Busy Weekend Controller Work

I managed to get a lot done on the aquarium controller this weekend.

Saturday was mostly spent doing an overhaul of the Pi and Arduino code. My initial code was all very static which made it difficult to add new inputs/outputs. I spent a fair amount of time converting these values into arrays and making their associated functions more generic. I still need to modify the code some so that I can name the outputs using the ini file, but for the most part, I think it’s done.

I was able to get the main relay box built. It’s working well and I’m quite proud of myself for squeezing the relay board and all the wiring into such a small box.

Next I got the temperature probe working. I’m using a DS18B20 1-wire temperature probe. The Arduino is configured to take a measurement every 4 seconds, although I only make adjustments every 10. The idea is to have most of the Arduino’s time spent communicating with the Pi and only making IO changes every so often.

Lastly, I started building the box for the Controller to live in. I mounted the face plates for the IO to the back of the box and I have the two controller boards mounted to a sub-floor. The last task will be to put the sides on the box and a cover. I haven’t decided if I’m going to use plywood for the cover, or acrylic. I’m not sure if I want to be able to see all the flashing lights inside the box.

My son woke up from his nap and wanted to help. I put him in the supervisor role and provided him the proper FATHERĀ approved ear protection.


Design Phase

I’m only 3 days into this build and it’s already been somewhat overwhelming. I have plenty equipment to choose from, but making it all fit in the stand is proving to be interesting. It looks like I’ll end up having to stack my two main pumps with one of them being on a shelf above the other. Hopefully this doesn’t put too much vibrations into the stand and cause extra noise.

I got a price quote for the steel for the stand. $1.20/ft. That’s cheaper than I initially predicted. The coworker helping me build the stand wants to add more braces. Since the braces are 6″ each, that means each one only costs me 60 cents.

My other problem is the lighting. I have 2 different lighting setups at my disposal; neither of which are perfect. I have an IceCap 660-09 ballast with VHO endcaps, but those tend to run hot. I also have 2 very large 8 bulb T5 lights, but they’re 48″ long with the higher wattage ballasts. I only need 24″ T5’s.

I’m currently leaning towards tearing apart one of the T5 fixtures and seeing if I can replace the ballasts with 24″/24w ones. If I can do that, then I can build my own hood with the much shorter bulbs. I should be able to reuse all the end caps and reflectors from the current light housings.

The tank is still holding water in the back yard. It looks like all the seals are still good. It also looks like PetCO currently has their Aragonite sand on sale for nearly half off. I’m tempted to go ahead and go purchase it. If I did the math right, I need 187lbs to fill a 30″x30″ cube 4″ deep.

So far, I’ve only bought a few plumbing supplies to help with the equipment design. Eventually I’ll have to start buying the small bits and pieces to finish the design. I also need to replace a few parts from some of the equipment I have like the RO/DI filters and the PH probe.

Until the next update: Keep your fish swimming!