May 12, 2007

May 2007 Meeting

The seventh meeting of the NJAGC was held on Saturday,
May 12, 2007.

It was hosted by Sergio Canabal and family at their home in Montclair, NJ.

In attendance were 11 people, 2 of which were first time attendees!
Sergio Canabal (sure hope so!)Mike FirrinciliJoseph HoetzlIngo SchobertGeorge Willms Hank SiegelJens RohloffGlenn McCreedy (briefly)Brian WaldbaumKate and her husband

Sergio set us up with nice refreshments, including stuffed mushrooms, chips and dip, drinks and more. (Still waiting for someone to serve fish with a salad and/or Pepperidge Farm Fish :-).

Mike kicked off the meeting with some brief business, went over the finances and then handed off the meeting to Sergio.

A few of us were at the meeting where we helped setup the tank, so it was nice to come back and see it 3 months later.

Since that initial setup, Sergio added all sorts of gadgets and more to the tank.

Sergio prepared a great presentation on how he automated the tank using X-10 technology, and his chemistry lab wizardry.

Don’t worry Mike, I won’t use that shot…

He began by explaining the components of the automation system, explaining how he had to run a rather long USB cable from where his PC is, to where the control box is. He did mention that attics get very warm, and recommended against running cables through there in warm weather.

Under cabinet

You need something to control all that!

Sergio proceeded into a detailed explanation of how X-10 technology works, why he chose it over other technology in the same arena.

Mike explaining about the lily pipes –
Glenn, Mike, Hand and George

He went on to explain the need to remove “local control” – a procedure that involved opening up the appliance modules and removing a lead, because various electrical devices cause the module to turn itself back on.

Activehome pro control box

X-10 Activehome Pro Control Module

x10 Appliance module

X-10 Appliance Module

So, with a few dozen modified appliance modules on everything that can be turned on and off, he uses Activehome Pro Software to control it all.

Activehome Pro Screen Shot

Activehome pro software overview

Just about every component of his aquarium can be controlled through this setup.

Inside door of cabinet

Three X-10 controllers and the little box on the right is a light activated switch to turn on the under cabinet light when the door opens…every component!

Using the system he has macros to run the water changes, fertilizer dosing, lights, filters and everything else you can imagine.

X10 Program example

Module settings/control example

Here is where some of the power of this system comes out. Macros let you chain events together. So, in order to dose 1ppm of KNO3, he can have a macro that runs the pump on the macro reservoir for a set time, and then stop it. Or, he has another macro for the micro fertilizer dosing, which kicks off a magnetic stirrer before the pump kicks in and delivers the dosing.

x10 macro example

Macro designer

Watch the macro dosing in action!

See Videos at the Bottom of this article

Beyond that, each module can be set up on its own timer, which can be programmed in increments of one minute. You can actually have the PC sync with the true sunrise/sunset times, send it to the control box, and then use them as triggers. Further, you can set a different timer for each day of the week, on each module.

X10 Timer design

Timer designer

Just before the water change demonstration, Sergio demonstrated how he has a “feeding” macro, which stops the filters for 20 minutes so that the blood worms he was feeding don’t wind up in the filter as much. So, with the press of a button, on either a remote control, or the various control units around his place, the filters go quiet, and, well, he still has to throw in the frozen food. I guess if he was feeding “dry” food, he could put that on a timer as well…no more Sergio!

Tank feeding - no filters on

Feeding the bloodworms with the filters off

After the explanation, it was time for the water change “live” demonstration. The entire 15% water change, which is performed daily, takes about an hour. Sergio handed out a printout of the water change macro so we could follow along, as each of the X-10 appliance modules clicked on and off.

Reviewing the water change macros

Ingo, Kate’s Husband, Brian, Hank, Glenn, Mike review the water change macro

Kicking off the “manual” water change

See Videos at the Bottom of this article

Sergio explaining

Sergio explaining to Kate about the water change while Kate’s husband wonders how much this is going to cost…

While the water change was going on, several other discussion came about. One of them was about overnight aeration using the lily pipes. The merits of the Cal Aqua ones vs. the ADA ones were discussed, with Sergio favoring the ADA ones for their surface tension breaking ability, mentioning that the Cal Aqua ones push water down, which brought up another point.

Since he isn’t siphoning for these water changes, he does have to occasionally go in and siphon off some “mulm” from the aquasoil and the sand foreground.

We then took a break, and enjoyed some of the refreshments, and just talked shop (water changes like this could be like watching water boil, but if that happened, Sergio would have a different problem on his hands).

Kate, Jens,Kate’s Husband, Mike, Brian

As the water change was nearing completion, Sergio mentioned that he switched out the RO feed lines (which he isn’t currently actually RO’ing) from 1/4″ hose to 3/8″ hose because the time it takes to fill the tank after the drain was taking too long, and the moss on the driftwood was drying out a little too much for his liking. While it doesn’t sound like a large leap in size, it certainly did the trick for him.

So, once the water filled up, Mike was doing some inspections and just couldn’t leave those 2 bits of algae alone. So out comes the ADA Nude scissors and in goes (not Ingo’s) Mike’s hand.

Headless horseman - AKA Mike

The headless trimmer (just an odd camera angle), and Mike has no head

Sergio looking at that algae

Sergio looking for more algae for Mike to nab while George looks on…

And, in the normal fashion, we finished up with a plant swap. A large batch of narrow leaf java fern, and a good assortment of plants were brought in by the members.

The plant swap table

Not an ideal photo, but the tank overview shot…

Ingo Portrait

And this ends the Ingo looking into a tank series…thanks for being a good sport about it!

Who will be the next…


And here are some pictures I didn’t work into the summary…

Anubias detail

Some Anubias

Close up of the emersed growth on the right back corner of the tank

Mike demonstrating how he uses hedge clippers in his tanks?

Lower mid-left side of the tank

Overhead shot of the back right side of the tank

Close up of the “works”

Closer up of the “works”

Thanks to Sergio and his family

for welcoming us into their home again!

Until next meeting,

Joseph Hoetzl



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