The computerized fishtank project

So, my fishtank at home is a bit of a complicated beast.

I have four big hot lights, two timers, six fans, four water pumps, one 150 gallon tank, one 50 gallon tank, a UV sterilizer, and a protein skimmer.

There’s also three heaters in the sump that automatically turn on as necessary from a remote thermostat.

Keeping track of everything that’s going on is kind of a pain. I want to monitor ph, temperature, and have different systems adjust as necessary to keep those items at an appropriate level. It would also be great to have something that can track and show me the trends of what’s been going on.

For all the people with this problem and excess money, they buy one of the high end Neptune Systems controllers. There’s a bunch of things I don’t like about those starting with the cost – about $800 for the base unit without any of the probes or automated power switches. They’re also limited in their scripting and you don’t have much control over the display.

So, I decided to start looking into alternatives. I was actually really suprised there wasn’t any functional open source projects out there that seem to do this. But I did find one commerical offering that didn’t look too horrible – Dr. Aquarium.

It’s not the opensource system that I’d like – but it does have some basic functionality. It can track and show charts, and it can turn different items on and off via X-10 appliance modules.

Dr. Aquarium uses the Dr. DAQ parallel port module for polling the temp/php/and other stuff, and the wife was kind enough to give me one of these for my birthday.

When I got it, the first thing I thought was what all these nice little exposed electronic pieces would look like after a month of sitting in a high salt-water humidity room. Basically, it would be massively corroded and dead.

So, I ordered a Pelican case. Specifically the 1010 since it looked about the right size. Actually, I ordered two because you never can tell the next goofy project I’ll be doing where I’ll need one of these. I think I got them both for $20 after shipping.

Tonight I spent about an hour and used a dremel and drill to compromise the integrity of this case and allow the parallel cable and probes to go into it. There’s still a nice rubber gasket that should keep any general spray out.

Right now, I’m installing a new version of Windows XP on an old Dell P3/700 that Jason gave to me. In an hour or two, I should have my first charts up.
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5 Responses to The computerized fishtank project

  1. Evil_bastard says:

    Is the Ghost Knife still in the house?

  2. zinger says:

    Ghost knife is the only of the originals still kicking at work.

  3. Evil_bastard says:


  4. dayspring03 says:

    I am dazzled by the thoroughness with which you consider and implement safeguards for the environment as well as conceiving a sophisticated sensor design to measure various related parameters. The thought occurs to me that one could do this within a house to get more efficient and comfortable environmental control. Some of the sensors could even be outside of the house to guage external factors such temp, humid, wind, overcast, etc. It is a classy concept.

  5. zinger says:

    Thanks Chief. There’s actually a lot of projects out for home automation. Check out this sourceforge link.

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