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Hello and general questions
#1
Hi. Getting back into doing a salt water aquarium after 30+ years, a lot has changed so am doing my homework better than when I was in school.  K05163 

While doing internet searches for controller systems I stumbled onto Robo-Tank. Wow simple and affordable. However while looking thru this forum I am wondering a lot of things.  Is RT still up and running? Seems like there is a lot of internet pages that never come down.

How much of an electronics and/or software junkie do I need to be to put this together to do similar things to an Apex? Electronics and software programming are not in my wheelhouse but simple assembly and scheduling would be.

I am assuming the deluxe version would support a skimmer, ATO, return pump, multiple lights, circulation pumps and various sensors and probes without having to add additional hardware?

I saw a post on here about adding a touchscreen I would like to do that as I plan to have a master control station as part of my DIY stand but the PI compatible screens all appear to have exposed circuit boards. Is that an issue being inside the stand even if in a different compartment away from the sump?

I probably have more questions but will be looking thru the forum often.

Randy
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#2
Hi Randy, welcome! I bet things have changed some, one things for sure, a lot more toys to spend your money on.

I do need to clean up the forum and should have done it long ago. Robo-Tank is still here but has undergone a change this year.

All the posts except for the ones found in the reef-pi forum are all in reference to the original controller, anything showing the graphical interface is no longer available. That was an Arduino based controller and had very limited web access, the display was the only way to navigate it. It was cool but having a slow loading display made it feel outdated and everyone wants full web access. It was more hardware involved so also cost more and there was very little interest mainly due to the cost but these other reasons definitely didn't help.

So I made the decision to park it and after some discussion with the developer of reef-pi I started selling hardware for it. reef-pi is an open source program that's been in development for the last few years. I'm also currently developing my own open source web app so hope to have an alternative at some point in the future, still too early for a possible release date but coming along. That's what's been going on around here.

I personally haven't used an Apex so not sure how easy it is but I would guess this could be a little more involved. The hardware isn't usually too difficult to connect, you can plug in all your AC devices and use sensors or timers to control and if you have any DC equipment they can be connected fairly easy. Sensors are fairly easy to add although there's a good chance at some point your need to cut and extend wires and add the screw terminal connectors. Using crimp connectors or the like you can avoid soldering. You can setup one or multiple ATOs. Currently you can only monitor pH, no salinity at this time.

The software does have a bit of a learning curve but isn't too difficult either. I do have some manuals explaining things and when you install reef-pi on your Raspberry Pi I have a script you can run that will setup a lot of reef-pi for the controller so you won't need to.

https://www.robo-tank.ca/reef-pi_Related_User_Manuals

reef-pi is a web app that runs in most browsers so you can access with most devices, using a compatible Pi touch screen won't work so well. Most people usually dedicate a cheap laptop or tablet and access it that way over wifi connection.

Hope this helps some, when you have more questions don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks
Rob
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#3
Hi Rob and thanks for the quick reply. Am I correctly assuming you are RobsWorld78 on R2R Forum and the developer you referenced in your response is Ranjib also of R2R? If so I have read about the first 25 and last 15 pages of his build forum since last night. Very interesting to say the least.

Can I assume that most of what comes with the Robo tank deluxe is all the early build stuff Ranjib worked through and there won’t be the need to do much in the way of soldering electronics?  Once the Raspberry Pi is installed there seems to be some setup coding that would need to be done primarily to name equipment and outlets etc.? How difficult is it to understand and learn this? My skill level is BASIC about 35 years ago. How often does this system get “glitchy”? Or are the more current threads based on new expansion?

I am seriously considering this if it isn’t to difficult to learn. Architect by trade with a good working knowledge of lumber hammers and saws but not so much with tiny wires and soldering irons. Look forward to your reply when you are able.

BTW cold as heck here in Wisconsin today. How are things in your neck of the woods?

Randy
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#4
Hey Randy, yeah I'm robsworld78 and Ranjib is the developer of reef-pi and that is one long thread.

You can get away with no soldering, there are no components or circuits to build as the controller has what reef-pi supports. Lights can be the most difficult to connect as a lot don't have an input for external controllers and the ones that do get expensive. If you go through the 3 pages on this BulkReef search you can some that will work without too much difficulty as they have a jack you can plug into.

https://aquarium.bulkreefsupply.com/reefing/0--10v

There isn't any coding as such but you do need to have an understanding of the connectors feature in reef-pi or it can get confusing. Basically connectors allow you to define if a port is a specific type of input or output, it gives the software a lot of flexibility but can make things confusing until understood. Many have had to reformat card and start fresh as things get too messed up so there is that learning curve. When you install reef-pi using the script I made it will copy a database that I already setup as I see fit for most users so to begin you don't need to setup the connectors as this will be done but at some point you may want a port to do something different and connector would need changed. Here's a link to the section in the manual that goes over them.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uFP4...=h.44sinio

Here's the manual to setup the Raspberry Pi.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1t9ma...o3woZ/edit

After connectors are defined you then just define what ports on controller you want to use and give them a custom name. I did say there was no programming but timers are unix based and call cron jobs so they are defined a little different. Here's how they work.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uFP4...=h.2p2csry

The last manual is the main manual for reef-pi and as you can see its quite long so it's definitely not the easiest to use.

For hardware I've tried to make things as plug and play as possible but there will usually be a time when you need to mess with wires or do a little soldering. The kit includes a sensor extension that comes set default for optical sensors, this eliminates the need to cut any wires and you can extend up to 50' using standard USB cables but if you wanted to plug in a non-contact sensor (they use same connector but wired different) you need to either cut a few solder pads on the extension board and solder some jumpers or cut the connector off the sensor and manually extend and use a port on controller that doesn't require soldering jumpers. So it's always one or the other. If you know ahead of time what sensors you need I can set the controller to match.

It won't be as easy to use as an Apex as they have all kinds of modules and cables to match factory equipment.

Sadly summer is over here too, this week has been good but won't be long till I dread starting the car, days are getting short quick.
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