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Tcox
08/16/2015, 11:38 AM
Hi all,

First let me explain where I'm sitting:

In about 4 months I plan to take a 10 day vacation. I'm looking for a way to keep my investments safe and healthy in my 75 gallon mixed reef. It appears that I'm going to have to invest in a method of: feeding, appropriate lighting schedule, and water parameters.

I do have reliable friends and family that could help but
1) I feel like its a lot to as of a friend to make at least two appearances to my tank per day for 10 days, and
2) I do not have any friends in this hobby

Looking at equipment, it appears that apex is at the top of the line. I like being able to monitor salinity, temp, oh, and control lighting, etc.
without doubt, there is no way that I can spend $500 or more on a controller setup right now. Without spending that much, it doesn't appear that I will be able to monitor salinity or af few other majors.

Timers are an option for my dual kessil's, invest in a good ATO, and an auto feeder. (Any other options?

RC, I need help on organizing the best way to take a vacation and afford the nessicary equipment.

Any input would help greatly!

Bent
08/16/2015, 12:00 PM
Here's my suggestion if you have the dough.

Set up a simple gravity ATO.
Prepare all your food and organize it to dailys. (Them pill containers for old people work good.)
Buy an apex if you want so you can keep tabs. But simpler and cheaper option would be a couple web cams.
Wire up a ranco with a couple heaters.
Buy a UPS for your return pump.
Timers for the lights. (If you don't buy the apex)

You can get fancy and buy wifi controllers for the lights. That way you can control them from the net.

shifty51008
08/16/2015, 01:08 PM
I let my tank go without looking at parameters for months and never hesitate to leave for vacation. I don't have a fancy controller but do have timers for my lights, aquahub ATO, eheim auto fish feeder, and ranco temp controller. simple yet effective.

n2585722
08/16/2015, 01:29 PM
I would suggest it is a little too late to get a controller set it up and test it in time to be 100% sure of the programming before being gone that long. I have a controller and would not change anything within a couple of weeks of leaving for that amount of time. This is to make sure there are no side effects to any changes made. To get a new comtroller and learn to program and set it up within 4 months would be cutting it close. If you do choose to get one then only control things that it would not hurt until a friend can get there to take care of any issue that might occur.

Vinny Kreyling
08/16/2015, 01:39 PM
Fish can be fed every other day or every 3rd day for 2 weeks without any consequences.
As suggested use a separate container for each feeding.
Ranco for the heater(s), timers for the lights.
A good ATO is recommended.
This not only cuts visits down but gives security and the ability to have someone look things over.
Leave an emergency # - just in case.

tharkins
08/16/2015, 07:07 PM
I would suggest it is a little too late to get a controller set it up and test it in time to be 100% sure of the programming before being gone that long. I have a controller and would not change anything within a couple of weeks of leaving for that amount of time. This is to make sure there are no side effects to any changes made. To get a new comtroller and learn to program and set it up within 4 months would be cutting it close. If you do choose to get one then only control things that it would not hurt until a friend can get there to take care of any issue that might occur.


I think 4 months is more than enough time to test and get familiar with an apex. It took me about 3-4 weeks to get 100% comfortable and the afs feeder is great while on vacation. The added redundancy the apex provides for everything from floods to power/heaters to temp etc is priceless IMO.

Once you have it you will kick yourself for not buying it sooner lol.

n2585722
08/16/2015, 07:32 PM
I think 4 months is more than enough time to test and get familiar with an apex. It took me about 3-4 weeks to get 100% comfortable and the afs feeder is great while on vacation. The added redundancy the apex provides for everything from floods to power/heaters to temp etc is priceless IMO.

Once you have it you will kick yourself for not buying it sooner lol.

I am not knocking a controller but not everybody can pickup on them that quickly. It sounds like the OP has never had one. If it were me I would not want to take the chance on adding complexity to what they have. Wait until you have time to teach your freinds on the controller so they know enough to help when there is an issue. I do think controllers are very useful tool when setup and the user has gained experience with sad controller.

dkeller_nc
08/16/2015, 07:48 PM
Of the equipment you list, an ATO and timers for the lights are absolute "musts".

You can set up a quick and dirty ATO for about $75, but I'd highly recommend against it. A much better option is a Tunze Universal Osmolator - damn near bulletproof and it's essentially impossible for it to cause a tank flood. Because it uses an optical sensor, there's also very little possibility of biofouling/snail intrusion trashing your tank and killing your livestock.

Indymann99
08/16/2015, 09:18 PM
So, I understand you think you cant spend $500 on a controller... what if that $500 controller, could run your ATO (with addition of $15 pump and $30 in floats), be the timer for your lights, AND let you monitor your tank via the internet (ie peace of mind) while you are on vac?

I would start searching for an APEX with an EB8 and breakout box.
Add a $39 Ehiem feeder and you are good for 10 days easy.

APEX lets me monitor tank vitals, runs ATO, lights, heaters, etc, and best of all I can check on the tank while on vacation so I can relax.

http://i300.photobucket.com/albums/nn10/Indymann99/APEXFusionDashboard_zpsf252cabf.jpg (http://s300.photobucket.com/user/Indymann99/media/APEXFusionDashboard_zpsf252cabf.jpg.html)

my 0.02.

kurt_n
08/16/2015, 11:09 PM
I would suggest it is a little too late to get a controller set it up and test it in time to be 100% sure of the programming before being gone that long. I have a controller and would not change anything within a couple of weeks of leaving for that amount of time. This is to make sure there are no side effects to any changes made. To get a new comtroller and learn to program and set it up within 4 months would be cutting it close. If you do choose to get one then only control things that it would not hurt until a friend can get there to take care of any issue that might occur.

This.

As an owner of an Apex for many years, I agree that you could set one up and more than likely leave in 4 months with no issues... but I wouldn't advise it if you're adding float switches and the associated logic. My cut off is normally 4-6 weeks as far as making changes and leaving.

But do you need a controller? No... probably not. It's good peace of mind, but with a friend you trust that's willing to swing by your place every other day, you'll be fine.

You mention feeding twice a day, and I'm sure your fish enjoy that, but they won't die if you cut that to once every other day for a few of those days. Same goes with top off. ATOs are great and all, but they can and will fail when you least want them to. A friend that has instructions to "fill with fresh water to this line" rarely fails... unless you've chosen the wrong friend! Even with my controller, top off is something I've never automated and never intend to.

Don't get me wrong... I love my Apex and highly recommend it. When you consider how much $$ you have invested in your tank, $600 or so is kind of peanuts. My Apex allows me to check in on my tank (did my tank sitter *really* feed the tank tonight?) while I'm gone, and allows it to let me know if something's amiss. That, coupled with a trustworthy neighbor/friend/housesitter, really allows you to put the tank on autopilot.

Tcox
08/17/2015, 08:36 AM
I appreciate everyone's reply.

I feel like the apex hands down would be the most ideal way to go here. Agreed that an apex, in comparison with what I've spent already, is not shooting the starts but it is still not a possibility financially prior to vacation (cop salary :hammer::hammer: )Yes, I could go with the jr. Setup but I feel that I would regret not getting a higher model that can monitor more.

It sounds like I need to pick up a tunze osculator, a timer for my lights, and an auto feeder. I think I could educate my friend and have him come by even every 3 days and give him a minor checklist.

Indymann99
08/17/2015, 02:45 PM
Tcox, sounds like a good approach.

Also thank you for your service as an Officer.

CaminDFW2
08/17/2015, 02:56 PM
May I also recommend a wireless webcam like a Samsung or Nest Cam... When I had people looking after my tank who weren't in the hobby; I was able to see what was going on and tell them over the phone what to do. I have also had times were I forgot to fill my ATO and I look at work and see bubbles.. I know I need to go home at lunch..

dkeller_nc
08/17/2015, 04:56 PM
Also thank you for your service as an Officer.

Seconded. You have a tough job, many thanks to those that are willing to do it.

With respect to the Tunze Osmolator, keep up with websites, particularly Bulk Reef Supply. They often put it on sale, as do others. The Universal Osmolator is the one to get because it includes the primary optical sensor and a back-up, independent float switch as a safety.

However, anyone that's been in this hobby for any length of time recognizes the concept of budgetary constraints. To that end, Tunze makes an "osmolator junior" that costs about $100 (they call it the Osmolator Nano). It still includes the pump, and the head unit with the software safety features (such as shutting off the pump if it doesn't "make" in 10 seconds). The compromise is that it includes a single float switch, albeit magnetically mounted and guarded.

spieszak
08/17/2015, 05:02 PM
Your LFS doesn't offer maintenance?

BuzzPion
08/17/2015, 05:11 PM
You can get an ATO, Timer, and auto feeder for less than $125.

http://autotopoff.com/ $60

http://www.amazon.com/Aquarium-Lifter-3-5gph-inches-height/dp/B001BOD9JI/ref=sr_1_1?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1439849451&sr=1-1&keywords=aqua+lifter+pump $15

http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Timer-Programmable-Lights-Outlets/dp/B0026PZQHY $13

http://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Feeder-Programmable-Automatic-Dispenser/dp/B001F2117I $25

nuxx
08/17/2015, 05:26 PM
We've gone on a few trips around 10 days over the past two years.

Basically have an ATO setup on both tanks and also have an automatic water change system setup on the big tank.

Just make sure all the reservoirs are full.

I have cameras on both tanks and can monitor what's going on.

I check my APEX a few times a day on my phone anyway, so I do that as well.

I have all the food put in small Dixie cups for each of the two feedings per day. Also rubber band nori onto to 2" PVC caps that can be dropped in the tank. I don't want hands going in the tank.

Also have vodka poured into Dixie cups for each day.

My parents or my wife's stay at our house for the dogs, so they just take over tank duty.

We're gone at least 6-7 times a year, so far so good.

Just make sure you don't have anything running that you haven't tested for at least 2-3 weeks before you leave.