DIY Automated Water Change/Top off System

michealprater

Angelfish Nerd
Premium Member
Tired of lugging back breaking buckets of water to do RO/DI top off and water changes? I am too! That is why I am going to automate the entire process. I was pretty excited about it an thought I would share it with all of you guys. I tried to make the system as failsafe as possible, but if I missed anything, let me know in this thread. The goal is to make it as easy as possible to do this essential part of maintaining a saltwater tank.

Here is what you will need. You can buy from anyone, or use any brand you choose. I used these links as example so you would see what I am talking about.

2- Rubbermaid Brute Trash Cans
http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?acti...408&semkeyword=44+gallon+gray+brute+trash+can
1- RO/DI Float Top Off System
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...ksid=p3907.m29&_trkparms=algo=LVI&its=I&otn=1
1- JBJ Auto Top Off System
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=13959
4- MaxiJet 1200 Powerheads
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+4585+4609&pcatid=4609
4- ½” to ½” push to connect union fittings
http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/va..._name=26485&product_id=26291&variant_id=58296
8- ½” to ½” push to connect 90 degree fittings
http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/va..._name=26485&product_id=26296&variant_id=58260
A roll of ½” tubing.
http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/va...ory_name=120&product_id=7832&variant_id=58005
1- Disc Jockey Light Controller
http://www.pssl.com/!qkZjh3cE2Z1!2nzrERDioA!/American-DJ-4-Channel-Power-Center1

First we will deal with RO/DI top off.
Install the float top in the first brute container. Use the one you plan on storing your RO/DI water in. This will ensure that your RO system will refill the reservoir any time you pull water from it.
Second install the JBJ Auto Top off system in the sump, set the sensors to the desired level of water you wish to maintain. Install a maxijet pump in the RO reservoir but make sure you set it at a level where too much water will not go in your tank in case of a top off failure. If the top off were to get stuck on this way, only your predetermined maximum amount of water will go in the sump, then when the pump runs dry, the JBJ safety feature will shut it off. Plug the JBJ into the first channel of the DJ controller because you will want to be able to turn it off for water changes. Otherwise when you are draining water out for the water change, it will kick on and dump RO water in the sump rather than
saltwater. Label channel one as auto top off. Now run the plumbing, the ½” union will fit right on the spout of the Maxijet powerhead. Run your tubing to sump, use the two 90 fittings so you can make it hang on the edge of the sump. This should complete the safe auto top off system.

Next we need to fill the salt reservoir. Place a MaxiJet at the bottom of the RO reservoir, plumb it with hose, a union and 2- 90 degree fitting over to the second brute container that will be the saltwater reservoir. Plug the MaxiJet into channel 2 on the DJ light controller. Label channel to as RO to Salt.

Now you can plumb saltwater reservoir to the sump, pretty much the same as RO to Salt. Pump, hose, fittings, you know the drill. Now plug that into channel 3 on the DJ light controller. Label channel three Saltwater to Sump.

Lastly we do the exact same thing again, except this time we set a pump in the sump and plumb it to the drain. I plan on just running it into my utility sink, but if you have a floor drain, that will work too. Plug the pump into the fourth channel on DJ light controller. Label channel four sump to drain.

Now there is some setup you will have to do. For your first change, you will have to establish the amount of water you will change on a regular basis. I recommend just draining the tank with gallon or five gallon buckets down to the amount you usually change. Mark the sump or display with the water level that you will drain to from now on when you do a change. Make sure to dump the amount you take out into the salt reservoir so you can also mark this, that way you know the exact amount of saltwater to make in the reservoir from now on. In setup, I also recommend you put a heater and a powerhead in the salt reservoir so you can bring your premixed saltwater up to temperature and proper salinity.

Obviously if you want to change the order of the installation, and labels you use on the DJ light controller, that is fine. This is just more of a guide, rather than a step by step instructional.

Now to do a water change, it is this easy.
Step one- fill salt reservoir from the RO reservoir.
After saltwater has reached proper temp, PH and salinity.
Step two- turn off JBJ top off.
Step three- drain down to mark on sump or display.
Step four- refill tank.
Step five- turn top off back on.

That’s it, I hope you find it helpful! Can’t wait to hear your comments and suggestions. As I get further in the process, I will post some pics of my system.
 

reef-man_d-man

Premium Member
I didnt even read all of your post (I will I promise) but I can tell you it will fail at some point, Murphy's law says it will either overflow or shut off at the wrong time. BTW looks like you really have thought it out. We want pictures!!!
 

oldsaltman

New member
I hope this works for you I have been using mine for several years with no problems. Mine is all automated it changes out 1.5g per day every day with no mistakes. It is all DIY with simple timers and pumps. :smokin:
 

michealprater

Angelfish Nerd
Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14211164#post14211164 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by oldsaltman
I hope this works for you I have been using mine for several years with no problems. Mine is all automated it changes out 1.5g per day every day with no mistakes. It is all DIY with simple timers and pumps. :smokin:


Wow! never thought of incorporating timers!!!

Awesome.


And yes it does require human interaction. So sue me, its semi-automated. LOL.
 

michealprater

Angelfish Nerd
Premium Member
I posted that as one system you could use. I will have a few subtle differences in my actual setup. There will be no channel for sump to drain. I have a utility sink with a Python siphon system, so I will be using that. As far as the DJ light controller, I will be going 8 channel vs. 4. This way I can put my skimmer, and pumps on it also for feeding and whatnot.
 

bwilcox

New member
How far can those pumps push the water. Is your setup close to the tank or far away. I am wanting to do the same thing..
 

michealprater

Angelfish Nerd
Premium Member
I am sure you could upgrade pumps to any size to make it work. You may have to reconfigure some plumbing, but the general idea would be the same.

The bottom line is, lugging buckets of water is a real bummer.
 

oldsaltman

New member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14214227#post14214227 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by bwilcox
How far can those pumps push the water. Is your setup close to the tank or far away. I am wanting to do the same thing..

I use very small powerheads that I mounted inside my holding tanks and they push the water out through a small bulkhead. They have been working for over two years. :smokin:
 

michealprater

Angelfish Nerd
Premium Member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=14211164#post14211164 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by oldsaltman
I hope this works for you I have been using mine for several years with no problems. Mine is all automated it changes out 1.5g per day every day with no mistakes. It is all DIY with simple timers and pumps. :smokin:

Your smiley has a smoking problem LOL!

Can you list how you determined the precise time so the desired amount exchanges? Also share the sequence you use.

Thanks!
 

oldsaltman

New member
OK, you ask for it. Here is something I sent to several people that ask the same things before. It is kind of long sorry.
115850Paint_ATO.jpg


This is the waste container.

115850IMG_0210.JPG


This is how it works.

I changed out the two Aqualifters that are in the photo in the saltwater tank and freshwater (top off) for small powerheads. The design does not depend on the timers to remove water based on flow rate or drippers it works by removing a set amount of water from the sump. In one photo you will see the waste container which uses a float valve to determine how much water is removed. Under normal operations the system is controlled by a relay and two float switches in the sump to keep it full (ATO). The relay is a simple DPDT from Radioshack. There are two float switches which are wired in series. The reason for two float switches is simply for safety. Both switches must be working for the system to run. If either switch fails or sticks then nothing happens and the system will not operate. One side of the DPDT relay is wired to the timer that controls the normal ATO/pump. The other side of that same relay is wired to the timer that controls the Saltwater tank/pump. When the float switch drops in the sump the 12v relay comes on and tells either the ATO or Saltwater/pump to supply water to the sump. The timers help control the ATO and Saltwater/pump so the correct water is flowing at the right time. Most ATOs don’t have a need for a timer.
Timer #1 controls the 12v power supply, relay and float switches for both systems and stays on until 6pm and turns off. (OFF 6pm â€"œ ON 6:35)
Timer #2 controls the powerhead in the freshwater top off and it also turns off at 6pm, so there is no danger of refilling with fresh water during the water change. (OFF 6pm â€"œ ON 7pm)
Timer #3 controls the sump aqualifter which stays off until 6:05pm and then turns on. It runs for about 25 minutes pumping into the waste container and then turns off at 6:30pm. The float valve in the waste container controls how much water is removed from the sump. (ON 6:05pm â€"œ OFF 6:30pm)
Timer#1 comes back on at 6:35 to allow the 12v float switch and relay to work so the saltwater refills the sump to the same level as it normally contains.
Timer # 4 also comes on at 6:35pm to allow the powerhead in the saltwater tank to refill the sump. The float switch will turn it off when the sump refills. It turns off at 7pm and timer #2 turns back on to allow for the normal ATO to work. (ON 6:35pm â€"œ OFF 7:00pm)
I think I have actually readjusted all my timers and allow about 5 minutes in between each event. That was just to make sure if either of the timers were to get 2-3 minutes off the right time then there would there would not be any problem. Actually I don’t think when you are just dealing with 1 or 2 gal in a large tank that it would make any difference anyway. Hope this helps.
The “Control Center” is nothing but a box with the timers/relay in the same box. Two timers that control the two water fill pumps are wired to the 12v relay for control.
:cool:
 

michealprater

Angelfish Nerd
Premium Member
That is a pretty cool system. Considering I am dealing with 400 gallons of water volume, I am not sure I could make it work. None the less, very cool.
 

ReefingBuddha

New member
The system I use is a little more basic then both of yours and closer to your water volume. I can do a 100g water change (which I do every 2 weeks) with only turning 2 ball valves and emptying half a bucket of salt.

I use a external container which is used as extra water volume for most of the time. It is fed and can be isolated via a manifold from my chiller feed. I have a eheim 1262 for recirculation, 2 heats on a separate controller from the main system, and 2 air stones for aeration inside. My ro/di is fed directly into this container from the unit and is controlled via 2 solenoids with float switches set in the sump (1 is simply for redundancy). The container is about 105 gallons.
Steps:
1) Turn 1 ball valve to isolate container from the system
2) Turn another ball valve to drain required value from container straight to storm drain. (I leave enough room for the heaters and pump to stay submerged so about 90g are drained)
3) Wait for RO/DI to kick on and fill the container. As the container overflows into the sump it will trigger the float switch and cut off automatically once it fills the container
4) Add salt, test and let it do its thing for 24 hours
5) Turn ball valve and reintroduce container into the system.

The main benefit in my opinion is that the water takes a few hours to thoroughly mix with the system water so the change is more gradual. By only turning the ball valve 1/2 to 1/4 turn it can take an estimated 2 days to fully mix.

Relatively simple and easy and you only have to worry about human error. :D Which in my case is very worrisome.

I do like the idea of a fancy continuous water change system though, very tempting.

And what's a post without some pictures

Manifold:
DSC_0010-4.jpg


Mixing container/extra water volume (RO lead and air feeds on the top, main drain at the bottom)
DSC_0006-3.jpg
 
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oldsaltman

New member
All I have to remember is to empty the waste container! If I forget that then nothing happens so nothing bad will happen either just no water change that day. I am putting a drain in the floor of my fishroom so I can do that automatically too. :cool:
 

ReefingBuddha

New member
Nice!

I've been thinking of keeping that container isolated and using a double headed dosing pump to simultaneously drain OSW and replace NSW during the day and keep the container for when I have to do big water changes. Continuous water changes seem like a great idea.

This is working so far for me though so I have other things on my list that are working perfectly fine that I'm going to screw up before I get to that. :D
 
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