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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Another reason to love the Neptune Systems Apex

An aquarium controller can be considered as an expensive luxury when it comes to the aquarium hobby.

But for someone who is a self confessed gadget lover and control freak, it ticks many boxes for me.

Yet sometimes, the simplest of things happen and it all suddenly pays dividends.

Take the past Friday as an example:

As per most people in the morning, the moment i wake up, the the first thing i go for is my phone. As per most people, i know and work with people all over the world and for a company that operates 24 hours a day. It’s not uncommon that i may have some messages or emails ready for me when i wake up. I tend to scan these messages before hopping out of bed and reading them properly over breakfast.

This particular morning i had an extra surprise in my inbox, several messages from my Neptune Systems Apex and from Apex Fusion. All of these messages directing me to a temperature issue with one of my aquariums.

Ok, sometimes i get a false alarm from perhaps the pH or Conductivity probes if they get soiled or a bubble has somehow become trapped in the tubes, but temperature is an unusual one to false alarm, so i duly investigated.

A check of the temperature output showed the temperature of the water was indeed below the threshold of what i call ideal in this particular aquarium, and checking the Fusion graphs i noted what looked like a very erratic temperature control and slowly declining, when i know my Apex keeps the water perfect to within 0.2 of a degree.

Apex Fusion Graph 1

First i went to check the temperature probe, but was shocked (literally) to find i felt the electrical tingle of a malfunctioning electrical item.

This could only point to one thing… the heater.

So i powered down and went to lift the heater out of the slot in the rear of the filter box (particular tank is a Juwel Lido 120) only to pull the plastic cap off the top off the glass tube...

Damaged Juwel Heater

Not good!

I can only assume the glue/sealer around the cap has perished/failed and the cap has come loose, allowing moisture ingress, causing the shorting and control problems.

Of course I’m now in a bit of a predicement at 6:30am in the morning, no shops are open and i don’t have a suitable backup heater, so i start by covering and insulting the tank as much as possible and set the house heating controls to try and maintain a safe ambient temperature.

I crossed my fingers and headed off to work for the day, now regularly checking Fusion to see if it’s getting well out of the comfort zone.

Apex Fusion Graph 2

Over the course of the day i lost around another 1.5degC of heat from the tank, not ideal for a prolonged period, but survivable short term.

Next stop on the way home was of course via the LFS for a new heater.

As this shop doesn’t keep Juwel items in stock i went with a Hydor item, that kicks out an additional 50watts (150w total) up 50% on the original Juwel item (100w), and its slightly shorter and still fits in the slot at the back of the Juwel filter box.

Hydor Heater New

Hydor Heater

Installed and powered up, the tanks back up to temperature and stable within a few hours.

Apex Fusion Graph 3

All tank inhabitants looked a bit grumpy at first as they had been getting cooled off, but by the time the temperature had stabilised everything looked as happy as ever, swimming and looking healthy.

A big relief!

So would i have noticed this issue had there been no Apex controller connected to the tank?

I would be inclined to say no… i don’t tend to look at my tanks first thing in a morning on a work day as i am generally getting ready to leave and the tanks are in darkness until 10am when the lights start to ramp up. However, i do always check my messages and emails so couldn’t fail to miss the warning messages the system had been sending to me.

If i hadn’t caught it so early, one can speculate on the possible outcomes...

Would the tank have suffered and the temperature dropped to dangerous levels?
Could the malfunctioning heater have shorted and tripped the circuit breaker, knocking off the whole system (including the filters) and taking downing other tanks at the same time?
Worse… could it have caused a short and a fire?

The last outcome is perhaps a little extreme but hindsight can be a wonderful thing.

Also, i expend a lot of investment, time and effort into my aquariums and I’m responsible for the lively hood of the aquatic animals i choose to keep in there, to come home and find it cooked, frozen or dead… wouldn’t be a good day!

Personally, i wouldn’t have a tank without a controller. Even if it were a 50l nano tank.

If you are on the fence on investing in a controller, take this as an example of covering some of those ‘what if’ scenarios!