DIY Kalk Controller

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Sisterlimonpot

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For about the last 4 months, I've been tinkering with a controller that will adjust the effluent through a kalk reactor based on input from a pH probe inside the tank.

It all started as a conversation about pH being the parameter that we need to be focusing on instead of DKH. At the time I wasn't quite convinced that maintaining a stable pH throughout out a 24h period was going to make much difference, and because you're using calcium hydroxide to raise pH, you're also elevating calcium carbonate.

Over the last few months I started finding videos on this very subject, and it certainly seems Chris Meckley has been beating the drum for this concept. He certainly has had time to experiment with various methods and has had great success with hydroxides to raise and maintain the pH in his tanks. I was also surprised to hear that he had DKH in excess of 13+ without negative effects on his corals. Of course, if anyone is familiar with his methods, he seems to prefer mixing calcium hydroxide to saturation in a large container and then dose that into his tanks. And he has sworn off kalk reactors because it's difficult to get and maintain 12.4pH inside the reactor.

After thinking about it, I concluded that his approach made dosing calcium hydroxide to maintain pH unattainable for people that don't have room for large storage containers. You would have to compromise and have a small container that you'd have to mix [to saturation] and fill almost daily.

My approach to this hobby is less work makes for a more enjoyable experience. I view mundane daily chores as 'butts to wipe'. And when you're overwhelmed with more time wiping ass and less time enjoying the fruits of your labor, it's no longer fun!

Because I wanted to explore stable pH and wanting to limit the number of butts to wipe, I decided to challenge this approach and team up with a software guy to make a controller that will work with a kalk reactor so that you can load up kalk powder in a reactor and get the benefits of a large 50g storage container in the small footprint of a kalk reactor.

Although I stated that a small footprint is ideal, I personally have the realestate to make an over the top reactor, because if you know me, then you know I like making things. But the idea of this project is that anyone can use their current kalk reactor and add this controller to their system.

I don't want to gloss over the fact that none of this would've been possible without the help of a guy that has become a friend of mine that is an awesome programmer. If it wasn't for him, none of this would've been possible. It definitely had to be difficult to take my outrageous requests and put it into code. There have been a lot of compromises thus far but with his vast knowledge in the world of arduino coding, he has made this project better than I could've imagined.

Here is a short video of the 5' tall Nilsen (Kalk) Reactor and the first version of the controller.


This next video explains in a little more detail how the controller works. I tried to keep it simple but went off into the weeds a couple times. But hopefully you get the gist of how it works.



As I work out the bugs the goal here is to provide everything needed for folks that want to make one of these for themselves. I'm going to put together a BOM, all the stl files for the base and command center, and step by step easy to follow instructions to upload the code as well as putting it altogether.

With that being said, if there are people out there familiar with circuit board design, I would love to integrate an easier solution to all the components that make up the entire project to limit all the soldering and make plugging things in easier.
 

Sisterlimonpot

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And as a reference you can see how despite all my tinkering and fine tuning, the 0.15 difference between day and night. And hopefully with more work, I'll get the sine wave even tighter.

Screenshot_20220919-153343_APEX Fusion.jpg
 

Pot8Os

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For about the last 4 months, I've been tinkering with a controller that will adjust the effluent through a kalk reactor based on input from a pH probe inside the tank.

It all started as a conversation about pH being the parameter that we need to be focusing on instead of DKH. At the time I wasn't quite convinced that maintaining a stable pH throughout out a 24h period was going to make much difference, and because you're using calcium hydroxide to raise pH, you're also elevating calcium carbonate.

Over the last few months I started finding videos on this very subject, and it certainly seems Chris Meckley has been beating the drum for this concept. He certainly has had time to experiment with various methods and has had great success with hydroxides to raise and maintain the pH in his tanks. I was also surprised to hear that he had DKH in excess of 13+ without negative effects on his corals. Of course, if anyone is familiar with his methods, he seems to prefer mixing calcium hydroxide to saturation in a large container and then dose that into his tanks. And he has sworn off kalk reactors because it's difficult to get and maintain 12.4pH inside the reactor.

After thinking about it, I concluded that his approach made dosing calcium hydroxide to maintain pH unattainable for people that don't have room for large storage containers. You would have to compromise and have a small container that you'd have to mix [to saturation] and fill almost daily.

My approach to this hobby is less work makes for a more enjoyable experience. I view mundane daily chores as 'butts to wipe'. And when you're overwhelmed with more time wiping ass and less time enjoying the fruits of your labor, it's no longer fun!

Because I wanted to explore stable pH and wanting to limit the number of butts to wipe, I decided to challenge this approach and team up with a software guy to make a controller that will work with a kalk reactor so that you can load up kalk powder in a reactor and get the benefits of a large 50g storage container in the small footprint of a kalk reactor.

Although I stated that a small footprint is ideal, I personally have the realestate to make an over the top reactor, because if you know me, then you know I like making things. But the idea of this project is that anyone can use their current kalk reactor and add this controller to their system.

I don't want to gloss over the fact that none of this would've been possible without the help of a guy that has become a friend of mine that is an awesome programmer. If it wasn't for him, none of this would've been possible. It definitely had to be difficult to take my outrageous requests and put it into code. There have been a lot of compromises thus far but with his vast knowledge in the world of arduino coding, he has made this project better than I could've imagined.

Here is a short video of the 5' tall Nilsen (Kalk) Reactor and the first version of the controller.


This next video explains in a little more detail how the controller works. I tried to keep it simple but went off into the weeds a couple times. But hopefully you get the gist of how it works.



As I work out the bugs the goal here is to provide everything needed for folks that want to make one of these for themselves. I'm going to put together a BOM, all the stl files for the base and command center, and step by step easy to follow instructions to upload the code as well as putting it altogether.

With that being said, if there are people out there familiar with circuit board design, I would love to integrate an easier solution to all the components that make up the entire project to limit all the soldering and make plugging things in easier.
Thank you for sharing, your DIY skills are super impressive! I’d love to see a video tour of the equipment room.
 

Sisterlimonpot

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Wow, this is so Damm cool!!
Thank you for sharing!!
Thank you for sharing, your DIY skills are super impressive!
The goal for this one is to make it a project that anyone with the desire can make it themselves. The idea is to make it compatible with GHL and Apex. As well as making it a standalone unit.

20220919_183706.jpg


I’d love to see a video tour of the equipment room.
I can probably do something like that. I hosted this months meeting at my house, and am burned out talking about my set up... hehe
 
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Bugeater281

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The goal for this one is to make it a project that anyone with the desire can make it themselves. The idea is to make it compatible with GHL and Apex. As well as making it a standalone unit.

View attachment 79086


I can probably do something like that. I hosted this months meeting at my house, and am burned out talking about my set up... hehe

We’re the stl’s? My printer is just waiting!
 

Bugeater281

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Maybe @Humblefish can make a somewhat private forum for prototyping building. Anyone can join, but would allow discussion and idea sharing without the public questions and comments until it’s at a functional stage(not that I have issues with these, but it makes it easier to stay on subject and make progress) I would love to help out where I can with these projects.
 

eel_river_coral

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Maybe @Humblefish can make a somewhat private forum for prototyping building. Anyone can join, but would allow discussion and idea sharing without the public questions and comments until it’s at a functional stage(not that I have issues with these, but it makes it easier to stay on subject and make progress) I would love to help out where I can with these projects.
Maybe a github page would make sense for that purpose? I think the nature of github would keep away anyone not actually trying to tinker and develop.
 

Sisterlimonpot

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I'm definitely not against the idea, however people have to understand that this is far from being ready for prime time. Which means the current stls, hardware and software will more than likely be completely different from its current form. Which will require wasting a lot of plastic to make new 18-24 hour prints, tossing out hardware for new and rewiring everything. Unless we decide to change what processor is being used... updating the software would be the only easy thing, but it is being updated almost daily.

Plus the risk to your tanks. Some would consider me an idiot to risk all my high end acros to an experiment such as this one... Currently my alk is above 13 dkh. and that makes me very uneasy. The only thing that allows me to dredge on is that local friends have had similar experiences without negative effects. That and the testimonial from Chris Meckley.

Let me discuss it with my buddy and get his thoughts on opening this up via a github or something... I'll get back with you.
 

Bugeater281

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I'm definitely not against the idea, however people have to understand that this is far from being ready for prime time. Which means the current stls, hardware and software will more than likely be completely different from its current form. Which will require wasting a lot of plastic to make new 18-24 hour prints, tossing out hardware for new and rewiring everything. Unless we decide to change what processor is being used... updating the software would be the only easy thing, but it is being updated almost daily.

Plus the risk to your tanks. Some would consider me an idiot to risk all my high end acros to an experiment such as this one... Currently my alk is above 13 dkh. and that makes me very uneasy. The only thing that allows me to dredge on is that local friends have had similar experiences without negative effects. That and the testimonial from Chris Meckley.

Let me discuss it with my buddy and get his thoughts on opening this up via a github or something... I'll get back with you.

We have quite a few tinkerers on here. I also think a lot of us would love to make the hobby more diy and cheaper. Plus there a lot to learn from this.

I also have idea for a alk tester, along with a way to make a cheaper accurate dosing pump. Which I would love to share with you if it makes this project more economical and reliable for everyone. I’ve personally never really messed around with GitHub, except for printer software.

If you want someone to bounce ideas of of let me know. I love problem solving.
 

Sisterlimonpot

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I like the idea of that propeller on the magnetic stir bar! Makes me think we could 3D print one that a stir bar would fit into...
Most definitely, there are 2 buddies local that use the avast marine kalk reactor and want a better designed paddle that will create a better cloud at the same RPM.

I'm sure all it takes if for me to get my hands on one and take some measurements, then I can play with various designs to see which one is best.
 

Sisterlimonpot

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I was so hesitant to talk about this until I had good news. After posting this thread and making it public, I lost my hard drive and with it, all te files for this project. Desperate, I turned to the experts and took the hard drive to a place that specializes in retrieving data from a damaged drive. They were able to recover almost everything I had for this project, so I'm elated to be made [almost] whole. It was an expensive service that set me back almost $1k. In hindsight of course having everything backed up is the way to go, but I was glad to give the money to the professionals to fix my screw up.

With that being said, a lot has been achieved on the software side. He's made it so you can input your daily average evaporation and based on that number, the software tracks what has been dosed and when it suspects the current effluent rate is set to go over the total evaporation for the day the software slows down the effluent to prevent that from happening.

He also added flag warnings for that as well as when the kalk pH gets too low and needs to be refilled. That will send a signal to the apex i/o so that you can receive a push notification. And I want to also mention that we plan to have a way to communicate with GHL as well.
 

Sisterlimonpot

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I've been working diligently on this project. Refining calibration procedures, squashing bugs in the software, and 2 big ones that I'm proud of.

1st is that some of you that have been reading the thread know that this controller piggybacks off of apex to read the tank pH (It was decided that this would save the cost of another pH probe and circuitry involved). I was able to borrow a profilux 4 so that I can wrap my mind around its user interface and figure out how to tap into the pH reading as well. I'm happy to say that we can now read from both Apex or GHL.

The 2nd is that I asked if anyone was willing to lend a hand on creating a custom printed circuit board, and no one chimed in. Which led me to look into the process.

Turns out, it's a lot of work. Luckily there are great step by step instructions online. I was able to download the software and fumble my way through understanding the cad. It took about a week to go from concept to having the gerber files to send to a fab house. But I happy to report that the custom PCBs are already on their way. Here are some photos of what they should look like.


Screenshot_20221005-072854_Outlook.jpg


Screenshot_20221005-072838_Outlook.jpg


Once that gets here, I will have everything I need to solder all the components on and test out how well I designed the pcb. Turns out that first runs always have some flaw that was overlooked. It's rare to get one that works the way it was intended. And with this being my first go at it, I'm not optimistic to think this one will be flawless.
 
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