Temp and water level alarms

Jack B

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Hi everyone,

I'm keen to avoid the following scenarios in what is my first tank (shrimp and fish):

1) My heater malfunctions and I don't notice in time to prevent casualties

2) The outflow leading to the sump gets blocked and the tank overflows. This could also happen if I get distracted when filling the tank of course

I've been looking around for solutions:

1) Plenty of digital thermometers come with alarms, but they look too tiny to make much noise...? What if the heater malfunctions in the night and I don't hear the alarm? Or would the temp not rise/fall quick enough to cause serious problems before morning?

2) King of DIY describes how to link a float switch to an old smoke alarm. I'm minded to go with this solution unless anyone knows of a better, relatively inexpensive alternative?

Thanks!
Jack
 

zozo

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Use 2 heaters.. :) if one fails the other takes over, set 1 heater a few °C lower and it will never engage as long the other works.

For the tank, flooding prevention then if you calculate the volume needed to flood it Volume 1 (V1) in the diagram below. Then you also know how much volume needs to be pumped from the sump to do so.

fp-jpg.jpg


Thus in your case, the sumps volume 3 (V3) in the above diagram is greater than the tanks V1. Then raise the pump on a platform from the bottom. This way you don't need to lower the volume of the sump. Elevating the pump does the same, elevate it high enough to make V3 less than V1 and it can never flood. :) Calculated from the sumps maximum level to the base of the pump.

Then if the water level in the sump is at the base of the pump it starts sucking in air and that noise is loud enough to catch your attention. This can go on for quite some hours before it becomes an issue, but most pumps have dry running protection (Thermo Fuse).
:thumbup:
 
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Jack B

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Result - I've got a spare heater already, and can raise the pump no problem. Thanks zozo
 

Jack B

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Oh, I have heard of heaters getting stuck 'on'...is that a common thing or a v unlikely exception?
 

Andrew Butler

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As ever, just my input and opinion.........
1) My heater malfunctions and I don't notice in time to prevent casualties
A deviation on what @zozo says but along the same path of having 2x heaters.
This is common practice in Marine systems as is using them on a controller. This is something you will find far more published knowledge on a Marine forum; ultimatereef.net I think is the best one, especially if you're in the UK.
Lookup names like 'Elitech' - I've used them on my aquariums for years now and they now even make them pre-wired for less than £20 which contain one heating and one cooling socket already wired, cased, probe and it maybe possible assuming you're competent with electrics to turn the cooling socket into another heating one and just terminate the cooling socket connectors (only needed if you want something like a fan). There are just have 4x screws holding the lid on the case, so I could probably pop them off to show you and see if you think a bit of wizardry (assuming it's possible) will cure most of your problems.
*There are many DIY builds for the Elitech controllers if you're after 2x heating sockets but again assuming you're competent with electrics.
I'm confident in saying that Schego Titanium heaters are the most reliable and long lasting BUT these do rely on a controller (such as a Elitech) and are unsafe to use without.
If you don't want to fork out then just put your current heaters a degree or 2 above where you set a controller.

The only thing now missing is an alarm. :banghead: Most of this style Elitech controllers fit the same size openings, use the same probe etc so you could consider just buying this pr-wired version and if you want an audible alarm replace the controller with something like the EK-3030 assuming it fits and you know what your doing - the additional cost of the unit is probably cheaper than buying the casing, sockets etc alone. I've no experience of any Elitech controllers with alarms so you'd have to research that if you wanted one with that audible notification, personally I'm unsure you'd need it if this all worked out and you're happy with it. ;)
2) The outflow leading to the sump gets blocked and the tank overflows. This could also happen if I get distracted when filling the tank of course
again @zozo is correct and everything he says about water levels and sumps.

Filling the tank is a different thing! :woot:
I'm unsure what your setup is or how you refill etc which could make a huge difference so maybe worth detailing and a few pictures?
Coming straight to my mind are float VALVES that you could somehow clamp over the top of your aquarium and just like in a toilet cistern or header tank would stop water once a certain height is reached, the sump could be blocked off whether that's at overflow or sump level so a few additional things to consider which maybe complicates things a little but if your weir/overflow allows then you could add an extension to the intake pipes that simply sticks above waterline or you could just pull a piece of pipe out if they're short add a longer one (USUALLY no need for glue with this) - there's other things you can do to stop flow travelling down to the weir but that depends on setup.

I'm a big fan of Hozelock type fittings and hose size which you can easily adapt to suit 1/2", 3/4" and 1" thread so suits UK plumbing fittings whichever way you fill or empty your aquarium.
 
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The thing to search for is “STC-1000” for temperature controllers. They’re made by various companies but are all essentially identical. I use an STC-1000 to guard against the stuck heater scenario. The STC-1000 regulates the temperature between 23.0°C to 23.3°C, and the heater’s own thermostat is set a little higher than that. I occasionally turn the heater’s thermostat knob to ensure that it’s not stuck on. The STC-1000 also drives a cooling circuit although I have nothing connected to it.
 

jaypeecee

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Oh, I have heard of heaters getting stuck 'on'...is that a common thing or a v unlikely exception?

Hi @Jack B

There are essentially two types of temperature-controlled aquarium heater. Firstly, the bimetallic strip variety. This is a mechanical device. I would expect these to be the type that may get stuck in the ON position. When contacts move apart and are carrying current at the same time, an arc can be produced. And arcs (just like arc welding) are hot enough to melt some metals. Thus, the two contacts may weld together. The contacts have to be plated with a metal that has a very high melting point to prevent this happening. I have heard of several instances where heaters have stuck in the ON position.

The second type of heater is controlled by an electronic circuit but these could potentially still fail in the ON position. I don't have any reliability statistics available on this type of heater. But, I use them in several tanks without further over-temperature protection*. I once bred German Blue Rams and, at one time, had no less than 41 fry to raise. This was the cue to purchase an InkBird ITC-308 Controller to do all that was economcally-viable to prevent overheating. There is a bit of a learning curve when first setting it up - but it was a good investment.

* Some heaters do have over-temperature protection that come into operation when, for example, a heater is inadvertently removed from the tank water.

JPC
 

Jack B

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Thanks everyone - this is useful and interesting.

Re details, it's a 90x45x45cm tank:

IMG-20200322-WA0019.jpg


The pump flow is too much for the outflow to cope with, so I've temporarily added a hook and tube to run an extra siphon down to the sump
IMG-20200405-WA0001.jpg

And I am now researching controllers on Youtube and ultimatereef.net (if I can figure out the latter's search facility!)

The STC-1000 looks good Mike - though am I right that I need something which can link to two heaters if I want to guard against both the 'stuck on' and 'stuck off' scenarios...? If so It seems strange that no-one makes one! I'm not scared of a soldering iron Andrew but need to get properly clued up on how these things work first

I'm not yet clear on how STC/Ellitech controllers link to the mains, and to my heaters. I think my heaters are what JPC calls 'bimetallic heaters', and I can see that JPC's Inkbird would link to one of them through a three pin socket. Am less clear on whether this can happen with STC/Ellitech, or would I need different heaters?

..............

Re avoiding a flood due to outflow blockage, I think zozo's pump-raising strategy should work.

Re avoiding a flood when getting distracted during a water change...perhaps the King of DIY's float switch / smoke alarm system could be the way to go then. I think I could mount the switch in a way that didn't look too ugly...

Right now my flatmate fills the tank through a Python tube direct from the mixer tap. We empty it with a small Eheim pump (can't siphon - we're on the 8th floor)...
 

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Jack B

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(
Hi @Jack B

If the heating indicator on the heater glows an orangey rid colour, chances are that it's the bimetallic variety. On the other hand, if this indicator glows a brighter true red, chances are that it's the electronic temperature-controlled variety.

JPC
Thanks JPC. I'm living at my girlfriend's place during lockdown so my flatmate is tank sitting...will ask him to check. I think it's an orangy glow...
 

Andrew Butler

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I am now researching controllers on Youtube and ultimatereef.net (if I can figure out the latter's search facility!)
I got told this by someone on here but if you put the words you want to search between quotation marks then the website afterwards it will carry out a search including shorter word and be more thorough so for example:
"dual heating controller" ultimatereef.net

The STC-1000 looks good Mike - though am I right that I need something which can link to two heaters if I want to guard against both the 'stuck on' and 'stuck off' scenarios...? If so it seems strange that no-one makes one! I'm not scared of a soldering iron Andrew but need to get properly clued up on how these things work first
At risk of confusing you further so won't try and explain how wiring them works..........
The type of controller I suggested would provide only 1 on/off switch on the heating channel, so either both heaters would be on or none and in hindsight is something I didn't really think through and not ideal, however if you just wanted to use one heater then would work just fine without you needing to solder anything, as would the Inkbird that @jaypeecee put forward.
The stc-1000 was the original model quite some years ago but along with being a widely recognised model number has since been upgraded, deviated and adapted for different uses by various companies and as I mention now Elitech even offer one pre-wired with the 1x heating channel and 1x cooling channel with sockets for each on already. (photo below - socket for heating one side/cooling on the other and lid unscrews to give you access should you need it.)
This was the cue to purchase an InkBird ITC-308 Controller to do all that was economcally-viable to prevent overheating. There is a bit of a learning curve when first setting it up - but it was a good investment.
Is the ITC-308 both heating channels Jay or one heating, one cooling? - a little confusing (as always) looking at 'official' info and it then contradicting what retailers say for then their photo illustrations to further contradict things!
I think it would be the InkBird ITC-306T needed to give you 2 separate heating channels which is what I would want IF I was to be using 2x heaters at the same time.

I'm sure I've confused you further so if @jaypeecee doesn't answer about the Inkbird model then just ask about the other bits and can get a photo of the Elitech prewired version I have although there are others that look just like the Inkbird; depends if you want 1 or 2 heaters in my opinion. ;)

elitech.jpg
 
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The STC-1000 looks good Mike - though am I right that I need something which can link to two heaters if I want to guard against both the 'stuck on' and 'stuck off' scenarios...?
The STC-1000 that I bought comes as a “bare bones” device with screw terminals for you to connect whatever you want. So you could indeed connect two heaters, either by taking the plugs off both and wiring them both into the STC-1000’s terminals, or by wiring a twin socket into it and plugging your heaters into that. What I’ve done is modify a twin socket so that each socket is powered by a separate live, then I took a four-core cable and used two of the cores as separate live feeds - one powered by the heat demand and the other powered by the cooling demand. Of course it would have been much simpler to simply use two separate single sockets! :)

The bare-bones nature of my STC-1000 means that there are exposed live terminals, so it needs to be housed in something. I used a plastic “project box”, and the STC-1000 comes with clips that enable you to attach it to a suitably-sized hole in your box (picture below).

All of that said, it looks like things have moved on and the device Andrew is suggesting looks a bit more plug-and-play.

CF1A3C6C-C9B7-4F68-8D54-48104375F3BA.jpeg
 

Andrew Butler

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Remember; all just my opinion and views.
I'm also not the best at trying to explain things :lol:

I'll just jump in on what @Dr Mike Oxgreen has said quickly; although this STC-1000 type (and ATC-1550) powers 1x heater (or more providing it's within limits of the controller and wired as such) it will only control 1 channel on/off so either all heating on or all heating off. If the only worry is a heater 'overheating' then providing the 1x heater is powerful enough and this is the only concern then why bother with 2x heaters if you have the power with 1?
*Heater failure is a different thing so then maybe add 2, whether that's using the one channel type or one that has 2 separately controllable ones would be your choice.
All of that said, it looks like things have moved on
Exactly, I've been the bare bones route before but for £20 you have the box with 2 sockets already in place
Ok, 1 is heating and the other cooling as standard but I know they could be easily adapted given the knowledge and ensuring things were done in a safe manner, meeting regulations and specifications. You couldn't buy the bare bones parts for that, I'm sure. ;)

The pump flow is too much for the outflow to cope with, so I've temporarily added a hook and tube to run an extra siphon down to the sump
So, onto the sump side of things we go..........the photo helps a lot as we can now see that there isn't a weir/overflow but just a drilled inlet/outlet so the photo helps a lot. :)
Unsure how big your sump is but your display is somewhere around about 180 Litres.

A quick side note; I might suggest looking to get something over the end of the extra siphon as a temporary measure even if it's a course piece of sponge and rinse it daily, just to stop fish etc getting sucked in so easily, read on for possible resolutions to the pump/flow issues.

I can see ways around this but are mainly influenced by how you'd like to proceed, have a think and ask any questions you might have. Remember I'm
Do you really want a sump or would you be happy with an external filter or 2? - No wrong answer. ;)

Some options below overlap either directly or in a fashion as to staying with a sump or changing to external canister type filter(s).
-Easy way to resolve the issue with pump power is to look at a smaller and/or one with an adjustable flow rate - I think the Jecod DCP-2500 might be worth considering as an excellent, value for money pump with electronically adjustable flow, range from 750-2500 LPH although I'm unsure what you have at the moment so also assumes this alone would resolve things. @Geoffrey Rea will likely support this product also.
-lookup Geoff's build where he uses an external weir/overflow box to possibly give your sump more flow in and 2 returns which is easily enough done.
-Depending on bulkhead fitting/ hole size drilled in glass etc you maybe able to just add a simple 90 degree with a drilled piece of pipe like a more conventional filter inlet, you could probably plumb both an inlet and outlet into the holes, again probably depends on sizes drilled in aquarium to a degree. (sump/no sump)
-If you wanted to run 2 filters or use both intakes for the sump then you could use both holes for inlets (hole size drilled) and you could assemble a long spraybar which looped over the top and spread the width of the tank in between the intakes.

I'll assume you're now very confused? o_O - Just ask if you want any more input or better explanations. ;)
 

jaypeecee

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Hi @Andrew Butler

Although my link above will take you to the ITC-308, I've just noticed that the illustration shows what appears like USA sockets! Furthermore, the actual unit that I have only carries a serial number but not a product number. However, the instruction leaflet that was provided with my unit carries the model number 'ITC-308'. I seem to recall that I bought mine from Amazon UK so you should not have any problem with being sent a unit with the wrong mains sockets.

JPC
 

jaypeecee

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Hi @Jack B

With reference to water level, if all you want is an alarm as per the title of your thread, then there are plenty to choose from. Again, I would suggest looking on Amazon UK (no, I'm not on commission!).

JPC
 

dino21

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Hi,

You would think with the size of the whole home aquarium market someone would have marketed a basic controller that does a few other things , not just termperature, but say atu, external alarm light timer and even dosers for around the £99 mark.
Not everyone wants the complexity or can afford the real fancy ones like the Apex or has the ability to construct something like Zeus's PLC system.

Seems the Reptile market have some very fancy controllers for quiet low costs.
 

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