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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
By popular demand, this weeks discussion will be on Auto Top-Offs.

Let's talk about the different types and the benefits and possible downfalls of each.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I have had two different types myself. The current one on my 34g Solana is a very simple gravity fed system. Basically the back of my tank has three sections. The last section with the return pump has a small platform about 6" from the top. This platform has two holes in it to allow for placement of two bottles which are filled with RO/DI which are then inverted. When the water level drops to the bottom of the bottles, the water simply drips into the return section.

One advantage to this is I can also add anything that needs to be dosed into the tank into the bottles and it is slowly added. The biggest disadvantage I have seen in the month this tank has been up is that with MH lighting, my evaporation rate is rather high. With the two small bottles I have room for, I find myself having to refill them daily.
 

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spaceman spiff
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Right, Eric. So that kind of hints at one of the drawbacks of a reservoir, regardless of size. It's limited, and needs (in most cases) at least weekly attention. What are other benefits/drawbacks of reservoir based auto top-off systems?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
The reservoir type system can also be used to control the amount of water. By knowing how much water your system can hold you can limit the amount of water to just that much so there is no possibility of overflowing your tank or causing the salinity to drop too much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Let's keep in mind that you always want to use RO, RO/DI or lastly fresh tap water. You never want to top-off with saltwater unless your salinity is low. As your water evaporates the salt remains behind.

Also I'll add that skimming removes salt, so if you are skimming wet or your skimmer has suddenly taken more than normal out, you may need to use SW to top off. Checking your salinity weekly will help you with this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It is also a good idea with all systems to use at least 2 types of shut off on your top-off. Float valves are great for one, but have been known to failed if allowed to get dirty or salty. There are many other types of shut-offs as well. Some of those types are: electric switches, timers, manual, pressure switches. I'm sure there are more that are escaping me right this minute.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Eric did the Solana come with the ATO or did you add it? Any pics of how it's set up?
It was part of the Solana.

Pretty simple really. It consists of two bottles and a plate:


They assemble like this in the tank:




Installed:




Once the water level drops to the bottom of the inverted bottles, water drips into the tank.
 

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I have been using a very simple syphon fed drip using a I.V. line with a thumb control and a drip chaimber to control the flow. I use Ro/DI with KalK to top off. My 34g uses 3/4G/day and my 75 uses 2G/day. Pro: simple, cheap, no way to add more than the container holds, Ca and salinity fairly constant, and the corals are growing. Cons: Mixing and adding KalK to the drip resiviors daily, (I don't like having a bigger resivior bacause of the kalk) drip rate slows from time to time if Kalk gets some Ca percipitation in the line (If it was pure RO/DI I don't think this would be an issue).
I have been looking at other systems for auto top off and like the tunzie but what I have been using is the right price, functional and like I said the corals are growing.
 

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I also think the reservoir systems give some peole a sense of security for the reasons listed already. Also, it is a convenient way to add kalk to the system without having to have a reactor. The doenside is that you have to make sure the reservoir is working properly and stays filled.

I am one who has not used any automated top off systems as of yet. I have a gallon jug that I keep RO/DI water in next to the reef and my 32 gallon brute is almost always full of RO/DI for just in case. I top off manually each day, usually once in the morning and once at night. With 3 tanks it takes me less than 5 minutes, but I am not dosing Kalk either.
 

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I am evaporating about 8 gallons a day on a total volume of 240 gallons. At the moment I have the JBJ ATO and use a reservoir fed by a float valve with my RO/DI hoked to that. The float went out so I have to manually fill the reservoir daily till I get a new on. The JBJ has two floats that I run in the sump. One triggers the pump in the reservoir and the second, set higher in the sup (return section) turns the pump off and acts as a safety. The reservoir is a 24 qt waste basket. I want it small so that if something sticks on, there is only a set amount of water that will be added to the tank. 24 quarts wont devastate 240 gallons! When working correctly it is a great item, to have but I have had a few issues with it. Right after hook up it just quit turning the pump on. I opened it up to see if I could find a simple fix and there is a switch inside the controller. I flipped it to the ON position and now is works but there is a loud alarm when the pump is on. Being in the garage can deal with it. The other issue is that once in a while it just wont work at all and I have to turn it of and on then it will work again. The system itself i a good design and set up properly can avoid several disasters. The dependability is lacking though. I'm going to contact JBJ and see what they will do for me.
With the amount of money we sink into our tanks, I don't see how we can not use some type of ATO set up. Its just one more piece to the stability puzzle.
 

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Yes Robert, there is a tremendous difference between my evaporating perhaps 2 gallons per day over 3 tanks and yours using 8 gallons per day. If that were my case then I would be looking for an ATO solution very quickly. ;)
hehehe, yeah, thats a bit more water! When I had this tank on a stand with a DIY 38g sump I think I went through about 10g a week. I had a coralview (I think) top off that worked basically the same except it didnt have the second float. It never gave me a lick of problem. I had a 10g tank in the stand for a reservoir that I fille manualy. Of course I didnt have Mh or two 55gs to aid in evap with three fans on them!. My 55 was all manual nd I would forget quite frequently. Life is just o much easier with one. ATO fed by an RO/DI will be built into each one of my future designs for clients. Make life easier for us all.
What I would like o know more about is topping off with Kalk. I have a CR-2 reactor for the day I need a more automated calcium control but have seriously considered the kalk top off.
 

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As we all know, running your ro/di straight into your sump with just a float valve is a recipe for disaster. Here is a simple way to add some insurance to your system. A simple hose timer can be installed on the water supply side and will allow you to control how often the ro/di unit is supplied with water. Since mine is hooked up to the washing machine cold water supply with a y valve, it is a simple matter a screwing it onto the spigot and hooking up my ro/di's supply line. If you have your ro/di hooked up with a vampire tap, it wouldn't be too hard to adapt both sides of the timer down to the right connections.

Another benefit of using a timer is preventing tds creep. With only a float valve hooked up the ro/di is cycled constantly on and off. The timer will allow a little more water to evaporate before turning on the ro/di unit at the scheduled intervals. The float valve will stop the flow when full but just in case it fails, the timer with shut off the water supply after a preset time.

This timer can be set to run 3 times a day for a duration of 15 minutes to a few hours. Keeping the on time close enough to just exceed the needed amout of water will prevent any flooding.

http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=62056-1029-MLWT-ELEC&lpage=none
 

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The ATO's I'm running now, work on the same principal as Scruffy's, just on a larger scale.

The large inverted pipe on the right side is my ATO. It holds about 5gl of kalk.
The next pic is the bottom of the ATO. The 1/2 inch pipe extends a few inches up inside the 6 inch pipe to keep from picking up the precipitat off the bottom of the ATO. The valve is only there to shut off the flow while refilling the container. The hole in the very bottom of the pipe, at the water level, is only 3/16 of an inch in diameter. This causes it to despence a very small amount of kalk at one time.

The only draw back to this type of system is the same as any batch style ATO. You have to refill it every weekend. When I set up my 300gl system, I will be going with a direct fed, float switch type ATO. Even though I don't trust float switches.
 

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EC, I like the designe, how do you and how often do you flush the bottom out? Is it dripping directly into the sump? What type of valve, gate? Thanks for sharing, I'll be building one soon I think 6G will give me 3 days and if it fails should not cause big probs.
 

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EC, I like the designe, Thanks.:Dhow do you and how often do you flush the bottom out? About every other weekend, when it's empty, I take it outside and wash it out with the hose. Is it dripping directly into the sump? It doesn't really drip like a standard drip type ATO. It only dispenses kalk when the sump level drops. When the water level of the sump drops below the small hole in the bottom of the pipe it allows a tiny air bubble to enter and it dispenses an equal amount of kalk. Which blocks the hole again. What type of valve, gate? It doesn't really matter what type of valve you use. A cheap ball valve would work fine. There are no adjustments to be made. You only need the valve so that when you remove the top to refill it, it doesn't empty its contents into the tank. if you didn't have the valve the kalk would just flow straight through to the sump as you tried to fill it. You also need to turn the valve off during water changes. Any time the sump level drops it will dispense kalk. Like when you remove a rock from the tank. It will dispense enough kalk to fill the area that the rock was taking up. Thanks for sharing, I'll be building one soon I think 6G will give me 3 days and if it fails should not cause big probs. It probably wouldn't cause any real problems, but filling it every 3 days would become a pain. Especially if you are as lazy as I am. I hate filling mine every weekend.:arg: I guess if you weren't mixing kalk to fill it, it wouldn't be to bad. [/quote]
 

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EC, I understand now, how did you seal the top so the air does not leak in alowing it to free flow? Liking it evem more with the built in regulation via water hight in the sump. I don't have much room under the tank so I 3G would need 14G for 1/week top off. but 1x/3days is better than 2x/day now.
 

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spaceman spiff
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So Jadinop started to point out ways to more "safely" configure an auto top-off device that hooks the RO/DI unit up to the tank. The recommendation was a timer on the water supply to limit the amount of flow. A great start, but my years of space flight safety tell me that's only 1 fault tolerant on what I'd considered a catstrophic failure. I'd want at least one more control to start to feel comfortable with doing this. How can we achieve that?
 

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Actually, if you count the float valve that is two safeguards. Either the float valve or the timer will shut off the water. A relay actuated valve and an electric float switch set at a high point in the sump could also be added as a third backup.
 
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