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View Full Version : Aquatronica Touch Controller My First Year Review


RobbyG
04/17/2016, 05:33 PM
Time really flies, it's almost one year since I upgraded from using my Aquatronica ACQ110 to the Aquatronica Touch controller. This was not an easy choice for me to make, my old controller had been running for almost 10 years non stop and NEVER locked up or gave me any problems. So making a move when "it aint broke" was a very difficult choice to make.

I hesitated for around 3 years but finally I was compelled by the way the Touches feature list was growing with each update and that made it's already fantastic display and expanded capabilities more and more compelling with each new software release.

I thought I would do a thread about what I have experienced and the features that I Like and Dislike with the Aquatronica Touch.

First of all I realized during the first few weeks that Aquatronica stayed true to the way they made Aquatronica's previous models. They always make sure that the Core of the system is rock solid before adding new features, sometimes that is frustrating because you want more and more features but as we all know, reliability trumps features and with Aquatronica I know that eventually they do add every feature you could possibly want. With the Touch controller some of you may know the software is run on top of the Linux OS and as each new feature is added it is tested for an enormous amount of time before being released to the public.

Once I decided to make the plunge It was a no brainer for me to buy the Deluxe kit instead of just buying the controller head itself. I really Love how Aquatronica made sure that the New controller is just a drop in replacement for any of their previous models, so if you don't have the cash for a complete kit and already own an older Aquatronica system, you can just buy the new controller head alone. Unlike other controllers you don't need to buy new powerbars or probe modules or anything else, just Plug the Touch into your existing system and your good to go.

I Personally headed for the Deluxe system because I knew I would soon need to replace many of my probes and the deluxe kit comes pH, ORP and a Salinity Probes so with three probes plus a spare powerbar and gaining spare modules and float switches, temp probe etc made it a simple choice.

So enough Talking, let me start the first post with some pictures of the Home screen. So Far I have enough probes, plugs and other devices to use four whole screens. These can auto scroll at set time intervals or they can be manually changed. I set mine to manual and put the most critical parameters on the first screen.


http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/aquatronica/MainScreenP1.jpg

Each Icon or widget contains all my real time info which updates approximately once every 2 seconds. Each widget for each device also displays its programming control status. For example the Main Pump Widget has a small clock on it to show the Pump is on a Timer. It's on a constant 24hour timer but that is done for a reason that I will explain later.


http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/aquatronica/MainScreenP2.jpg

Screen number 2. As you can see you can change between screens manually by using the arrows on the bottom right of the screen. The Plug Widgets that Display "OFF" and also have the "HAND" next to them is the way the controller lets you know that this Plug is manually stopped and nothing can turn it on except you manually going in and putting it back in Auto or On mode.



http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/aquatronica/MainScreen3.jpg

This screen contains most of the extra plugs that I gained by hooking up the extra powerbar that came with the Deluxe package.


http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/aquatronica/MainScreenP4.jpg

My Fourth screen, the top half is dedicated to my Aquatronica LED system and the lower half to the Aquatronica Dosing Pump which controls my two part additives.


I am going to post more pictures and my opinions on certain items in the next couple of posts to this thread.


END OF PART 1
-----------------

RobbyG
04/19/2016, 11:23 PM
PART 2

So in part one I showed you how the different screens look when you are using the controller on a day to day basis. While I know some other controllers can display information on computers and tablets/phones in a similar manor, the one thing that sets the Aquatronica apart is the fact that you can see this same information on the beautiful color touch screen without a dependency on an external device. I really like that because while I do use my iPhone and PC's for doing emergency changes when I am away from my Aquarium I honestly do not like using it for anything other than emergencies. After all if a controller works properly and is programmed properly then you should be alerted if their is a problem. Personally I do not recommend doing anything remotely if it can be done while standing right beside the Aquarium. If you have been in the hobby long enough you know that what you want a controller to do during changes in programing does not always work the way you expect it to and it's always a good thing to have your eye's and ears monitoring changes and also to physically test those changes to make sure everything is working properly and also to make sure it's interaction with other programs on the controller is not a problem.
Also Direct entry of programs is much more reliable than doing it over the internet. With that said, anything you can do or see on the controller screen can be done remotely via the built in web server in the Aquatronica touch.


Adding Devices:

With the Aquatronica line of controllers it is so easy to add new devices. You just connect the probe to its matching module (if needed) and then plug the USB cable from the module to any free USB port on a Powerbar or Hub. The controller will detect the device within about 10 seconds and then allow you to Name it with any name you choose and that's it. You can now add it to your main screen which I will show in Part 3 and you can also use the device in any program that you create. If you don't like the name you can edit it at any time.



My observations from day to day use are as follows:

All the Probes Plugs and sensors work perfectly, I have not seen any issues with them over the one year period. I am really impressed with the Powerbars, Salinity Probe and the Temperature sensor.

Temperature Probe:
I am still using the same completely submerged temperature probes from 10 years ago and they are still working perfectly. I experience absolutely no drift with them and they never need to be calibrated. Even straight out of the box it was within 0.3F Deg reading versus my FLUKE 87 V meter with temp probe. Testing it on an annual interval has always shown it to be dead on and it never oscillates or changes or behaves in any unexpected way. Aquatronica says it does not really need to be calibrated and I have found that to be true.

Here is a picture of the Graph Screen From the Aquatronica touch showing my tank temperature over a half day period while being cooled by my chiller.

http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/aquatronica/GraphTemp.jpg

You set the desired temperature as well as the Hysteresis Up and Down and also a time out interval so that if lets say you do not want your chillers compressor to come on any sooner than 5 minutes after it was shut off last, you can set that to save your compressor. You also have the ability to set maximum run time before a device gets turned off and locked out. That's not needed in this case but is useful for other items.


Salinity Probe:
The Aquatronica Salinity probe is probably the crown jewel of salinity probes in the aquarium market. While Aquatronica does recommend calibrating it every few months I have found that just cleaning it in some RO water and removing any film growth always brings it back to almost an exact reading.

In a real test I left the probe for almost 8 months in a dark area (all your probes should be in a low flow dark area) after the 8 months it was reading the salinity at 1.037 and after a cleaning and calibration it read 1.041. I tried calibration at 3 month intervals but found it was dead on and was a waste of time, so now I do it every 6 months. After about 2 to 2.5 years the probe just wears out, it gives you a lower and lower salinity reading over a period of a week or two and you will definitely know its reaching its end as this happens. So Far I have gone through about 3 probes since the new ones came on the market and each one has been totally accurate when compared to my Refractometer. What I do now is just set an "AGENDA" reminder in the controller to alert me after two years that its time to get a new probe. More on Agenda programming later in the review.

pH Probe:
The pH probe that comes with the unit is Aquatronica branded but a Pinpoint probe or whatever works just as well. The calibration is the standard two point calibration and I use Hanna calibration pouches of 7.01 and 10.01 pH to do it. You can use any values you want but I suggest that you use small pouch based ones and don't use big bottles of calibration fluid, as they always get contaminated or they tend to drift with time or just expire long before you get your moneys worth out of them.

When hooked to the Touches pH module the probe is very stable and does not bounce up and down for unexplained reasons, you can easily see the night time drops in pH and they are recorded in your graphs. just like the one I showed for Temperature except its a smooth curve from night to day.

All in all it works fine, but like all pH probes they do require monthly calibration as they start to read slightly higher as the weeks pass. A cleaning alone will get it back down a bit but calibration is really needed.


ORP Probe:
Well it works perfectly but like all ORP probes I am not really sure if I put much stock in them for use in just reading the Aquarium water. They are useful for things like Biodenitrators and controlling Ozone but most people don't use either of those and while I do have both on my system I don't use Ozone very often, I have it set on a timer to come on sparingly to just polish the water a bit every couple of days. The unit comes with an Aquatronic Branded probe but any brand seems to work just fine.

Oxygen Probe:
This is something that I plan on purchasing very soon, so I cant say much about it other than I have heard that it is also like the Salinity probe and requires very little maintenance. I am planning to use this with my Sulfur Biodenitrator as it seems to make a lot more sense to me to read the Oxygen level in the reactor rather than the ORP.

Float or Level Sensors:
Aquatronica makes their own sensors and they can be fully submerged for years, so far all of mine are fine after 10 years underwater. When you buy one You get the sensor along with a clear snail cover and two lengths of clear acrylic tube to hold the sensor, a joiner for those tall sumps or tanks that need both pieces and you get a glass rim holder and the attachment to hold the sensor. The touch controller allows you to give each float switch a nice long name and it allows you to pick from about 6 options as to what how you want Up or Down to be displayed.
For example (High/Low) (Ok/Low) (High/OK) Etc. As you can see from my first picture in Part One my Sump Water Level is using OK/LOW as the values. The float sensor plugs into the one of the two ports on the powerbar and each powerbar can handle two of them. If you want more you can buy a USB module that gives two additional ports.



Leak Detectors
Aquatronica also makes their own leak detectors. These require a module and the module can handle two detectors and that's pretty much what most aquarium owners would need. I have had mine for about 7 years and have had no problems with them. They are plugged into their module and then detected and named like any other device. Once that's done programs can then be created that act on them. For example the one behind my Aquarium is set to shut off the main pump if water is detected and it also triggers an audible alarm and sends me an SMS message.

About my only gripe with them is that they have about 40 Pins on the bottom that go around the edge, if water touches any two pins it sets the alarm off, so it is in effect very sensitive to any amount of water on the floor. The problem is that once they get wet from a major spill it can take a fair amount of time to dry off the water around each Pin. The water tends to seep up the pin and make contact with the next pin on the header, so you need to use a paper towel and dry them thoroughly at the top header edge before the Alarm will turn off. You can of course manually disable the alarm and you can also set the SMS or email to only notify you once every X amount of minutes or hours.


PowerBars:
Aquatronica makes power bars in to work in several different countries with varying voltages and plug types. The USA bar is an 8 plug unit with 6 USB ports and two level/temperature ports and a legacy port to plug in the older controller plus it has a master override switch that manually turns on all outlets. The touch controller simply plugs into a USB port.
I have had my two original Powerbars running for over ten years and they have given me no problems at all. The thing I love about these power bars are that they have their own built in intelligence that is independent of the controller. If you use the controller and program a powerbars timer to turn on a plug at 8am and to turn it off at 6pm and if for some reason the controller gets disconnected or dies the powerbar will continue to do it's task as programmed independently of the controller being connected. That also works for complex On and Off powerhead intervals.

Another important item I would like to mention is this that the powerbars case is made of very thick and tough Plastic that almost feels indestructible, (unless you take a hammer to it). I have heard mention that it's better to have metal as a casing due to the possibility of an electrical short by water getting in it and a possible fire risk :confused:

First of all your powerbars on any controller should not be anywhere near water. Secondly if for some reason someone does put it near water and it gets water in it, would you rather touch one with a metal case and feel the full brunt of the electrical shock or pick up one that is insulated? This is why modern UPS systems and commercial plug bars are almost always made from Flame proof Plastic.

My only complaint with the Aquatronica powerbars are that the plugs are spaced a bit tight and if your planning to plug wall warts into the power bar you will only be able to use the outlets at the ends, if not you may cover over one of the plugs. This can be overcome by using short 1 foot power cables but I wish they had given the plugs a bit of extra space.

Additionally Aquatronica also makes USB Hubs that allow you to expand one USB port into 6 more. They make Temperature/Level modules so that if you need more than the two ports on each powerbar you can add as many as you want. I have 5 level sensors on my Tank and two Temperature probes.

Anyway more to come in Part 3

RobbyG
04/25/2016, 09:47 PM
PART 3

When you first start up your AQ touch and plug in all your new devices they are detected and put on the screen in the order they are plugged in.
As each screen fills with widgets a new screen is generated for new devices. After everything is plugged in you will end up with several screens in a layout that may not be optimal for you, so you will want to group sensors and plugs in a way that best suits your needs. Fortunately Aquatronica created the "Home Setup Tool" so that you can set the layout of things exactly as you want them. As you can see in my first post I put the most critical things I needed to know on Page One.


For an example of this I will use one of my previous pages and show you how easy it is to customize things the way you want it.

My Fourth Page looks like this:


http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/aquatronica/MainScreenP4.jpg



I Created it in the Layout Tool which looks like this:

http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/aquatronica/Layout.jpg


Here is a Breakdown of what the various controls do.

http://www.aquariumcontrollers.com/aquatronica/Layout_labeled.jpg

The upper Left Grid represents the current page which is being edited, you can change the page using Screen Panel Selection Left and right arrows. So in this example I have page 4 highlighted so I can add my Dosing Pumps to it.

To add the ALK Dosing pump I use the Device selection type and Tap the purple "PD" icon for Pump Devices. The screen will then show me all available pumps in the bottom section.

I Tap the ALK Pump Widget and then TAP the Grid square I want it in and lastly Tap the "Add Selected Device Widget. The Previously blank white box that looked like the three on the right will turn purple to let you know the dosing pump was added.

That all you need to do, you can now add your next pump or change the Device Type to a Plug outlet (UP) or Dimable Light (DL) etc. and then add one of those to the page.

The Other Icon with the minus sign to the Left of (ADD Selected device) is for removing a widget. Just Tap on the widget you want to remove and it will be highlighted and then Tap the remove widget Icon and it will be removed.

Above the ADD and REMOVE Icons are the Add and Remove whole pages.

At the Bottom Left of the page you also see a Left and Right arrow and a selected page in the middle. That is so you can see what Widgets are already set on various other pages.

So far I have found no problems with the way they designed this system. It works perfectly and is very simple to use. About my only complaint is that once you remove a widgets that you don't want on a particular screen it is no longer visible except in the layout menu and in programming. So you need to make sure that you check to see that all your plugs and devices are set to be on a screen. In my case with three powerbars and therefore 24 Plugs I had to diligently make sure that my unused plugs where put on a separate screen.


Next Part 4: Basic and Complex programming

RobbyG
05/24/2016, 03:11 AM
Sorry folks for the delay with releasing the next part on programming.
Since it came to my attention that a new firmware version would be released after the Interzoo exhibition on May 26 I just decided it was better to wait and make a review/tutorial on the new firmware rather than use one that will be outdated in just a matter of weeks.

roosterchef
05/26/2016, 06:52 PM
This is real helpful RobbyG, thanks. I'm trying to make a controller system decision now, and (almost) everyone recommends Apex, there are a few Profilux fans, but those both are real $$$. Aquatronica isn't cheap, but it is cheaper by a fair bit.

I'm looking forward to reading your review on programming.

roosterchef
05/30/2016, 11:03 AM
Did they release the new firmware? I haven't seen any announcements.

RobbyG
05/30/2016, 10:09 PM
Hi Jim
No they have not released it yet. I shot off an email to the distributor for North America and he says they just got back yesterday form Interzoo and they need a couple of days to deal with back logged orders. I should get an update as to what is happening by Wednesday.

RobbyG
06/30/2016, 01:00 PM
Still waiting on the firmware update so I can review the latest version. I have been told it is just about complete.

mtlreeffreak
08/01/2016, 10:28 PM
any update?

RobbyG
08/03/2016, 05:46 PM
Still waiting on them to release the new firmware. (See my other post on review comments)

Rogger Castells
09/14/2016, 09:42 PM
Nice, A lot of great info here. Thank you!

RobbyG
10/05/2016, 04:48 PM
I am going to be adding some programming info shortly. I think I will do it in lots of smaller posts. Each post will deal with one topic.

Jgoal55
03/24/2017, 02:01 AM
Great info. Tagging along after seeing Rogger's in person.

butrflynlambie
03/30/2017, 09:10 PM
I will setup my tank and controller in the next month. Waiting for carpet.. I was looking at the unit and thought that I could use the water level to trigger to do the top off.

Is there a way to do this or do I need to buy an ATO?

If yes, is there a recommended pump?

Rogger Castells
03/30/2017, 09:12 PM
Yes you can use the level switch for an ATO, any small pump will work


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