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View Full Version : Which Controller? Help!


Reefs1
03/11/2011, 04:49 PM
With all the other front end decisions I have had to make to get this tank up and running properly I haven't had time to make heads or tails of Controllers-other than knowing I need one.

Was hoping my trusted Reefers could help. I have my eye on the RKL, but would most likely want the Plus, just not crazy about the price. Also looked at the Neptune Systems controllers. My questions are as follows:

Are there any I am leaving out in the sub $300 range?

What is the best Value in controllers out there for someone who wants to control-PH, Temp, Top Off, lights and have the option for Wavemaking.

Who is the best vendor to get a controller from?

I have to say Digital Aquatics support has been great with preliminary questions, just not sure I have vetted all the Controllers out there before I throw down $$.

James77
03/11/2011, 04:57 PM
Wavemaking with which pumps?

Reefs1
03/11/2011, 04:59 PM
good question...Would love a Vortec or two, but those are a longer term purchase..Korilas (sp.) maybe?

spooda420
03/11/2011, 08:23 PM
never had any issues with my neptune. takes a while to get used to the programing. but working just fine.

OregonReefer
03/11/2011, 08:39 PM
Someone just did a poll a week or so back... The Apex won 2 to 1.

From what I gathered from that thread the Apex comes with more features out of the box, is more expandable and is also more complex to program

From what I read from other reefers who have had both I decided, when I get one, it'll be an Apex

Reefs1
03/11/2011, 08:40 PM
Reef Angel looks intriguing too..In the end might not be plug and play enough, but you get alot for your $$ there.

fcmatt
03/11/2011, 09:07 PM
Reef Angel looks intriguing too..In the end might not be plug and play enough, but you get alot for your $$ there.

a fish tank takes up enough of my time plus i work in the IT industry.
i have no wish to dork around with an open source controller when i get enough
of that stuff at work.

unless you are that type of person who just happens to be in the mood to
dig in deeper.. i would not recommend it.

keep in mind i have never used it, only briefly read the website, but it is for
a certain type of person. also the price is not exactly cheap for what you get.

neptune all the way!

Reefs1
03/11/2011, 09:17 PM
a fish tank takes up enough of my time plus i work in the IT industry.
i have no wish to dork around with an open source controller when i get enough
of that stuff at work.

unless you are that type of person who just happens to be in the mood to
dig in deeper.. i would not recommend it.

keep in mind i have never used it, only briefly read the website, but it is for
a certain type of person. also the price is not exactly cheap for what you get.

neptune all the way!

I tend to agree here..I work in IT too and adopted the mantra long ago that sometimes technology just makes your life more difficult-for obvious reason. My main reason for getting a controller is for stability and to save time. I used to run marine tanks about 10 years ago. Now I am back (for some stupid reason) difference is now I have three kids under the age of 4 and the thought of spending time topping off, liquid testing, worrying about temp and pumps and timers etc literally makes me want to soil my pants.

In the past a controller was too rich for my blood, still is kind of, but I know from experience it's key to a enjoying and succeeding in this hobby. I am leaning Neptune bigtime at this point. Although, you don't get the PH probe with the basic package!

Reefs1
03/11/2011, 09:24 PM
They sell a Neptune Ajr kit that doesn't come with the outlets ($150). Why would anyone buy that? Can you use this thing without the outlets from Neptune?

jungliztkruger
03/11/2011, 09:33 PM
I bet the outlet-less unit is for a situation where someone is upgrading or replacing as you have to use the direct connects with it. The aquacontroller was great for me and it was easy to program as I used my iPod touch to do it. There was a free app for the controller and once connected it was cake, just label your outlets and definitely check out some other programming that people used.

Reefs1
03/11/2011, 09:36 PM
I bet the outlet-less unit is for a situation where someone is upgrading or replacing as you have to use the direct connects with it. The aquacontroller was great for me and it was easy to program as I used my iPod touch to do it. There was a free app for the controller and once connected it was cake, just label your outlets and definitely check out some other programming that people used.

I have a iPod touch! Nice! But how does it interface with it? Wirelessly?

rnelson
03/11/2011, 10:23 PM
Got a Neptune Apex about 6 months ago....love it!

rogerwilco357
03/11/2011, 10:35 PM
for the money and what you get for it ReefKeeper by Digital Aquatics has turned out to be A solid buy easy and simple.

Midnightsun
03/12/2011, 05:02 AM
Neptune has much better customer service. Reef Keeper initially costs less but costs much more as options are added compared to the Apex. Price difference between a RKL+ and a Apex lite is only $80 but you actually get soo much more including several standby modes as compared to only to only one on the RK. Built in ethernet which will cost you $100 more on the RK. And the capabilities of the RK Elite plus some as opposed to the RKL. Yes the Apex also has a wave maker function.

For a bare bones system on a tight budget the RKL basic is a good deal at $125 but you are already talking RKL+.

Shard
03/12/2011, 06:18 AM
I own the RK2, RKL, RKE, and the Apex. The Apex is the best of the lot, and there are many others who feel the same way as well.

It has superior hardware, superior firmware, it is more expandable, it cost less to expand, you get more features for the price, and the customer service is much better than that of Digital Aquatics.

I originally started with the RKE on most of my systems, but after all the problems I had with it, I dumped it for an Apex. I have been 100% satisfied with that decision as well.

I feel that general group consensus, and facts, have more weight than an individual opinion. So in that vein of thought, I should mention that I have seen well over 20 people (probably closer to 30 now) who have switched from the RKE to the Apex, as I have. The inverse of this is I have only seen 1 individual go the other way. That says quite a lot about the determination of those people, because it is no cheap task to completely change out your controller system.

Also, here is a link to a post I made with about 8 threads or posts of interest for you. Various issues and comparisons covered in the links from this post. There is even some coverage of the ReefAngel there as well.

http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?p=18432916#post18432916

Now for some stuff more directed at your situation specifically.......

I see you mention Vortechs... currently between all the medium price range controllers, the Apex is the only one to have Vortech control. Digital Aquatics did announce a APC (Advanced Pump Controller) back in September of 2009, but still has gone into production yet and it is 2011. They made a post in their forum about there not being any announcement about adding Vortech control. If you look at the threads and posts I provide above, you will see DA has some serious issues with timeline consistency for many products/features/addons, and since it has been 18 months from announcement for Tunze control, and still no product, that does not bode well for a Vortech control module anytime soon for the RKE.

Now, between the Apex and the Apex Lite, for you I would suggest the Apex Lite. If you have no immediate need for ORP or 0-10V control lines(for Tunzes or dimming ballasts), then save some extra and get the Lite. You can always add a PM1 module later to make it the same as the regular Apex. I recently saw a Apex Lite online for $360 with pH probe. Just as mentioned above, it only a little bit more than the RKL Plus, but you get a lot more features for that small increase.

In spite of my negative experience with DA and firm belief the Apex is a superior product, the RKL can be the most effective package for some, as the $120 package that comes with 4 outlets and a temp probe is good for someone who just needs a few basic things. For you though, it would appear you have it in your mind to expand, and it is there that the Apex line far outstretches the RK line with value for your money, and lower expansion costs.

Hope this helps,
Landon

Reefs1
03/12/2011, 11:17 AM
Thanks Shard, very helpful..I have been scouring here and come across a few of those posts you mention. The time and effort you have spent on this topic is very helpful for some re-entering into the hobby from ten years ago. Thank you.

The front end price on the Apex really turns me off, but yes money no factor it's already on a UPS truck. Doesn't mean I won't still keep in my line up of controllers I consider, because the functionality of it is superb by comparison. Question though, does the Software work with a MAC?

The fear I also have with buying too much technology for future expansion is that I never in fact use it and then waste my money. I think in the end the Aquacontroller jr is my best choice. But I love the idea of going wireless and having apps to see how the tank is doing. Awesome for travel and vacations!

Sadly, this decision is driving me batty and I just about ready throw in the towel and order a Coralife Digital timer strip. :eek1:

Shard
03/12/2011, 11:26 AM
I just about ready throw in the towel and order a Coralife Digital timer strip. :eek1:

Haha. I started out with Coralife digital timer strips years ago.


does the Software work with a MAC?

Well, I guess I would say yes, but the Apex is OS independent. You program it and check the status by using a web interface, so it will work with any computer/phone/etc with a web browser.

Now to update the firmware you use a small exe, but you can actually run that from a MAC using mono. The zip package with the updater even includes instructions of how to run it from OSX.

As for the RKE/RKL, the myReef 2.0 software (and therefore firmware upgrading) is Windows only, and will always be that way, because it was heavily coded in Microsoft Visual Studio using the .NET framework I think.

Hope this helps,
Landon

goofball310
03/12/2011, 11:45 AM
Here's an answer I wrote on another thread:

The RKL is a good controller as an entry level controller. As you start expanding and wanting more it is really easy to max out its capabilities dues to the limited amount of modules you can connect. I had an RKL for about 3 weeks before I sold it and upgraded to an RKE.

The RKL is limited to 4 modules and just to give you an idea of how easy it is to max out:

2 x PC4 (gives your 8 controllable plugs) = lights (3+ plugs), heater (1 plug), powerheads (2+ plugs), main pump (1 plug), skimmer (1 plug)

1 x NET (network module)

1 x SL1 (ORP, TEMP, PH)

Shard
03/12/2011, 04:22 PM
The problem is, to upgrade an RKL, you either need to spend $150-200 to buy just the RKE headunit, or sell your RKL and start over. Why not just start with an Apex or Apex Lite, which is a superior product for less?

If you can get by with a basic RKL package, or maybe even just 1 or 2 extra modules, then it is a good entry level controller, but if you need all four module spaces filled on an RKL, or even more with an RKE, why not just go ahead and get the better product that costs less?

Midnightsun
03/12/2011, 04:42 PM
The problem is, to upgrade an RKL, you either need to spend $150-200 to buy just the RKE headunit, or sell your RKL and start over. Why not just start with an Apex or Apex Lite, which is a superior product for less?

If you can get by with a basic RKL package, or maybe even just 1 or 2 extra modules, then it is a good entry level controller, but if you need all four module spaces filled on an RKL, or even more with an RKE, why not just go ahead and get the better product that costs less?

You forgot to mention you need to add another hundred to any of the RK products if you want internet capabilities. It's built into the Apex unit. Hands down Apex.

So lets do the math

RKL+ at 290
Upgrade later to elite at $150

add net module at $100

We are at $540 and still do not have all the capabilities of the Apex.

sbabs
03/13/2011, 10:09 PM
You can get a ReefKeeper lite with the pH probe SL1, and PC4 w/ temp probe and cables at marinedepot.com for 180 right now. They have a sale ending this month but I just got mine in the mail last week. I don't plan on expanding too far, but when and if I get crazy, the RKs have great resale, as do the Apex's.


With all the other front end decisions I have had to make to get this tank up and running properly I haven't had time to make heads or tails of Controllers-other than knowing I need one.

Was hoping my trusted Reefers could help. I have my eye on the RKL, but would most likely want the Plus, just not crazy about the price. Also looked at the Neptune Systems controllers. My questions are as follows:

Are there any I am leaving out in the sub $300 range?

What is the best Value in controllers out there for someone who wants to control-PH, Temp, Top Off, lights and have the option for Wavemaking.

Who is the best vendor to get a controller from?

I have to say Digital Aquatics support has been great with preliminary questions, just not sure I have vetted all the Controllers out there before I throw down $$.

fishguy597
03/14/2011, 09:06 AM
da has wireless capabilities does the apex? my tank is so far away from my motom. i dont want to run a cord across my house a can't put a jack in for it. if i am to get one the phone app is a huge plus.

The Grim Reefer
03/14/2011, 12:20 PM
You can read my signature and see what I think of Digital Aquatics. Have a Apex on the way to replace the reefkeeper elite.

goofball310
03/14/2011, 02:17 PM
You can read my signature and see what I think of Digital Aquatics. Have a Apex on the way to replace the reefkeeper elite.

--The Reefkeeper Elite was the worst reefing purchase I made since crushed coral and power compact lamps.



BWAHAHAHA.... do you have a complaint thread that you'd like to share?

The Grim Reefer
03/14/2011, 03:27 PM
BWAHAHAHA.... do you have a complaint thread that you'd like to share?

Go to DA's vendor forum here and look at the blue screen thread I posted. A DA rep could stop in over a week after I posted the thread but rather than deal with my problem asked me about the e-mail that went unanswered from their website and then didn't even respond to the answer to my questions. I am hearing stories from other people who have experienced the same level of "unparalleled customer service" from them :lol:

fishguy597
03/14/2011, 04:20 PM
still didnt answer my question.does apex have wireless? id like to go with apex but not sure and didnt see anything on the specs for it either.

The Grim Reefer
03/14/2011, 04:35 PM
You have to add an expansion module for the wireless.

My bad, thats for the Vortech pumps. I suppose you could just hook a wireless dongle into the Ethernet port if you cant hardwire it.

Shard
03/16/2011, 11:27 PM
da has wireless capabilities does the apex? my tank is so far away from my motom. i dont want to run a cord across my house a can't put a jack in for it. if i am to get one the phone app is a huge plus.

No, DA does not have 'wireless capabilities' built into the controller. The RKM-NET module has an ethernet port that you can use a wireless game adapter on. The Apex has an ethernet port that you can do the same with as well.

As for phone apps, the iPhone Aquanotes for Apex smokes the simple monitoring iReef app for the RKE. You can change your programming and setup with Aquanotes for iPhone. With the RKE iReef you can just monitor, because there are no remote programming capabilities with the RKE.

If you happen to have an android phone like me, then the same applies to the apps for each on android. Programming/setup/monitor via Apex app, only monitor via RKE app.

Take it from me as well. I started with the RKE and still have it, but have phased it out on most of my system in favor of two Apex units I use now. The Apex is a superior product, go with it.

Landon

NyReefNoob
03/17/2011, 04:15 PM
absolutely love my 6 year old ac jr, never any issue's replaced the temp probe once and 2 ph probes in 6 years, does what i need it to do, i dont need email notifications as i couldnt leave work anyways. but you also can set the ac jr with the emails with additional parts

sea of cortez
03/17/2011, 05:16 PM
I just ordered the RKL plus from BRS it was the price that made me choose this route

Lynnmw1208
03/17/2011, 05:42 PM
I did the poll a little bit ago. Apex won by a landslide. here's the link
http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1986819