Week 4: Planning a Safer Tank with Redundancy | 52 Weeks of Reefing


Today on the BRS 160 we are going share some
tips in the single most important topic related to maintaining a long term reef tank, redundancy. Hey guys my name is Ryan, welcome to another
week of the BRS 160 where every week we do our best to help you guys, members of the
reefing community enjoy your tanks and find new ways to explore the hobby. We do that
by following the set up and progression of this one hundred and sixty gallon reef tank.
This week we are going we are going to explore system redundancy which we need understand
before we start installing any equipment. For our purposes redundancy means both backup
systems and equipment but also safety fail safes such as shut offs, alarms and notifications.
Most of us tend to live in a world where we just expect things to work and often have
a misguided impression that it will work indefinitely or we when it fails there will be limited
impact we can deal with when it does fail. However with a reef tank we are setting up
an ocean ecosystem in our living rooms with a variety of equipment that provides life
support to the things living inside of it. Some of that equipment can fail and not be
a big deal but other equipment is so critical that being off or malfunctioning for hours
can have some pretty serious impacts to that ecosystem you are taking care of. We also have to consider we have a giant box
of water in our living rooms and we want to make sure the water stays inside that box
and not on our floors where it could result in some costly repairs. This episode is really about brainstorming
all the things we need to consider and looking at the options for planning a tank like this.
We will show the actual installation of our redundancy solutions when we install the equipment
in future weeks. Keep in mind we are going to cover a best
case scenario that would be difficult for anyone to implement entirely day one so just
apply what you learn to your current time and budget availability. Adding things in
as time goes on is part of the hobby and what makes it fun for many of us. Implementing
many of these elements at least at their basic level is often the difference between a one
to two year successful reef ecosystem and a five to ten year epic reef tank. Today we are going to cover the top ten major
systems your reef ecosystem relies on in order of the most common equipment failures and
most likely to cause catastrophic consequences. We will go over why they are issues as well
as present some solutions. The number one biggest failure point on any
aquarium and often the most catastrophic is by far is temperature related with heaters
being the biggest culprit. No way around it typical aquarium heaters are just not very
high quality and the most likely piece of equipment to fail on your tank. When they fail they can simply stop turning
on which means your tank is going to get cold over the next few hours or days depending
on your homes temperature. Eventually your fish and corals will die from this stress
but they can often survive a while in a cooler tank. Other than putting your hand in the
tank there really is no way of knowing your heater broke and the tank is getting colder.
You likely won’t notice until things start to die which often causes a chain reaction
type event where many things die all at once. However much worse than that is when the heat
breaks and gets stuck in the on position. Many of you may have never even considered
this as an option but it happens a lot. So what happens when a heater gets stuck on?
Well the tank gets hot and gets hot fast. Depending on the size heater you have you
likely have a few to several hours before the tank overheats, the tanks inhabitants
do not have the same tolerance for heat as they do cold so things go south fast. One of the best solutions I have heard for
either situation is just replace your heaters every year before they hit the window where
they are likely to break. This isn’t fool proof but it’s a great preventative measure. In specific relation failing off the best
solution is to run multiple heaters so if one fails there is another to back it up.
You can have both heaters but set to the same temperature where they turn on and off together
but since they are cycling on and off an equal amount of times and receiving the same amount
of wear they are also likely to fail around the same time. Many reefers prefer to set the second heater
as a backup which is one to two degrees lower and positions it as a true back up with very
limited use. That limited use means it is more likely to be functional when your primary
heater fails and you are relying on this one as your redundancy option for maintaining
the temperature of your reef ecosystem. In relation to failing in the on position
make sure your heater is suited to your size tank and not three times as big as you need,
In that same thought process if you run multiple heaters make sure they don’t add up to a
ridiculous level of heating power. This will give your more time to do something about
it if there is a failure where they get stuck on. The best solution to all this is to stop relying
on the fifteen cent thermostats inside many heaters and move on to something much more
reliable like an external temperature controller to regulate the tank temperature. Ranco makes
a great industrial one a lot of reefers used to use and there are some aquarium specific
ones which are super easy to use as well. That said complete aquarium controllers have
become so inexpensive these days and come with so many additional advantages that just
makes sense to spend a few more bucks and get something that is going to do a whole
lot for more your tank than just manage temperature. For just over a hundred bucks you can get
a reef keeper from digital aquatics. The reef keeper will manage the temperature but controlling
power to your heater, set off alarms any time the temp is outside of the desired range as
well as a whole host of other features related to PH, ORP, timers, lights, pumps, you name
it. Another controller option which is a bit more
expensive is the Neptune apex which will do the same things but also has a cloud based
application to set it up and it’s pretty easy to get the apex to send email or text
message alarms if something is wrong with the tank which is ideal. The second most common system failure which
can have some pretty catastrophic results is related to your calcium and alkalinity
solution. If you have an automated two part system it could overdose chemicals, if you
have a calcium reactor it could over dose effluent or the PH of the effluent could be
too low, there are all kinds of issues with automated overdosing of kalkwasser. While really high calcium levels could potentially
cause serious issues our number one concern here is really alkalinity or PH related issues
associated with these methods of maintaining calcium and alkalinity. One way to limit the
impact 2 part of kalk can have on the tank is to just use smaller containers for each
solutions which inherently limits how much can be added to the tank but also means you
have to fill them much more frequently. The real solution for all three is a PH controller
which will turn off your dosing pumps or kalk dosing system if the PH ever gets too high
as well as turn off your calcium reactor’s feed pump if the PH ever gets too low. Same thing applies here, pinpoint and Milwaukee
make some really solid stand-alone PH controllers which are ultra-easy to use. However many
of you might elect to invest in a more complete aquarium controller like the Apex and Reef
Keeper. The number three most common system failure
is auto top off related failures. Auto top offs range from a bucket of water and a level
sensing device connect to a pump to directly hooking up the water supply from your RO/DI
system. What differs TO failures from other system failures is if this one goes wrong
it can overflow the tank which is bad for your fish and corals as salinity is lowered
but also can seriously damage your stand and home if it goes uncontrolled for long. If you use kalkwasser in your auto top off
your best bet is to use a controller to turn the auto top off if the PH of the tank ever
gets too high. If you are dosing just fresh RO/DI water there are a few solutions. One
is cheap moisture sensors which can detect water spills and set off and alarm. Similar
to that there are some capable of also shutting off a valve as well. Many aquarium controllers also have the ability
to measure salinity or have leak detector systems which can not only turn off equipment
if they detect lowering salinity or water spills but this is where the email or text
notifications really can be the most valuable. This is especially true if you risked hooking
up your RO/DI system directly to your aquarium with a never ending water supply. No matter how much planning and redundancy
you implement something can still happen. For instance not that long ago someone told
me they planned for everything but never considered his cat was going to chew through the RO/DI
line. A valve that turns off the water supply base on moisture and an audible, email or
text notification that this happened is going to the difference between cleaning up a mess
and serious damage. Outside of all that when you are considering
buying an auto top off get a decent one that has a track record of success rather than
the newest gadget out there. Read the reviews. In my opinion the best budget one I have seen
is the JBJ and the most trusted one out there is easily the Tunze Osmolator and what I use
in almost every case. Number four system failure is return pump
failure. These pumps have a limited lifespan and depending on the brand or type I would
expect around two to five years from them in a saltwater environment. However they can
also last two weeks if your system is designed in a way that a snail, rock, sand or big chunk
of algae can get sucked into the pump and brake the impeller. The biggest issue associated with this is
your heaters and other life support is typically in the sump so if the return pump breaks completely
you have a real issue. No one is going to like this answer but your best bet is to have
a spare pump on hand at all times. Again this is where most of us think we will just get
one when we need it but if a local store doesn’t have it or isn’t open when yours breaks it
is going to be a pain to find a solution. You won’t like spending money buying the
spare but you sure will be happy to have it when you need it. The number five type of system failure is
short term power outages. Short term to me means less than twelve hours which are fairly
common and typically the result of an average storm, car accident, municipal repairs or
brownouts from an overloaded municipal electrical system. With a short term outage the biggest issue
is gas exchange and keeping the tank well oxygenated so the fish can breathe. Heat,
skimmers and filters are less critical. Promoting gas exchange is pretty easy; we just need
to keep the water moving and the surface of the water breaking. Cheapest way to do that is with a battery
operated bubbler like this, depending on your size tank you might need a few. They come
in two options. One that you turn on manually and one that detects the power outage and
turns on automatically. Since most power outages are going to happen when you are at work or
sleeping the automatic options is obviously better. Both Tunze and EcoTech DC controllable powerheads
also have a battery backup option which will keep the pumps running for an extremely long
time and also switch to battery power automatically during an outage. Contrary to what many people
think keeping the water flowing like this and breaking the surface of the water is much
better at keeping the water oxygenated than air stones. Another option is pick up a twenty to thirty
dollar inverter which allows you to hook up a couple pumps to run off a car battery. You
can find an inverter at most hardware, camping, automotive stores or related departments in
large retail stores. Some reefers also use battery backups for
computers which also keep power supplied during power outages. However the inverters in these
typically are not very efficient at operating very low consumption items like a powerhead
so you might not be very happy with how long they run the pump during an outage it could
be as little as a couple hours unless you get a giant sized one which would be prohibitively
expensive. Number six is aquarium controller failures.
Just like anything else in this world an aquarium controller can fail as well. Power surges,
water splashed on them, your cat or dog chews through a wire, your kids pull a wire out,
all kinds of silly things. Luckily this is much less common than other
system issues and most controllers have fail safes for this. More or less you just tell
assign the outlet a default on or off position. If the outlets ever become disconnected from
the main system will switch to that state. For instance id set my lights to off. If the
system was ever disconnected it would be better than they were permanently off rather than
on. Same goes for your heater, ozone unit or top off. However I would want things like
my return pump, powerheads and skimmer to default to on in most cases Number seven is plumbing redundancy. this
less common these days with most reefers setting up a herby overflow which has a an emergency
back up or a bean animal which basically has two emergency overflows but without that a
big chuck of algae, a fish or even bunch of snails could easily clog your overflows which
will cause the tank to flood over the edges . This not only cuts your tank off from important
life support elements but also could damage your home. At this point some variation of
the bean animal overflow system is the only type of overflow design I would even consider
and I feel ultra-safe with the dual redundant overflows. You could one up that with these
leak alarms and leak sensors that go with your apex controller. I guess I’d do that
for sure if I had some ten thousand dollar Brazilian hardwood floors the tank was sitting
on. Number eight is long term power outages. These
are outages that are going to last anywhere from 12 hours to many days. While this is
a gigantic pain in the butt most of us have only had power out this long a couple times
in our lives. However if this happens we need to start worrying about a long term flow solution
as well as heat solution. Maybe even lights if it is long enough. Typically the only time power will be out
that long is when a major storm come through your neighborhood and wipes out large portions
of the power grid with tons of downed trees and other issues. In my opinion the only viable
option is a generator. Considering how expensive a generator is and
how rare long term power outages are and this thing is going to require maintenance so it
works when you need it … I just don’t think I’d recommend buying one in advance unless
you know your grid goes down a lot or you want one for other reasons. I’d just buy
one when I need it. That said everyone in the city is going to be buying generators
in this case so be prepared to be the first one in line or willing to drive pretty far
out of town to get it. The ultimate option really is a whole house
generator hooked up to your homes natural gas. It’s not cheap but beyond your fish
tank your family will never have to worry about power outages again. Nice thing about
these is they typically start automatically so your tank is protected when you are sleeping,
at work or even on vacation for weeks. Number nine most common system failure is
related to something most people never consider which is your homes heating and cooling system.
If your air conditioner breaks on a nice sunny day your home can get hot fast and your tank
is going to get hot with it. We also need to remind members of our family the importance
of not messing with the ac controls. If you turn it off one do to get some fresh air it
is important to make sure it gets turned back on. Best solution here is again an aquarium controller
which can turn on a fan if the tank is getting too hot, still too hot turn off your lights,
then non-essential equipment like UV sterilizers, skimmers, media reactors and of course if
you have a chiller turn that on as well. Even better something like the apex can email or
text message you there is a problem so you can do something about it. Opposite is true in the winter with your furnace
but things happen a bit slower in that direction and most of us have heaters in the tank which
can keep up long enough to get your furnace fixed. Notification from the controller is
nice in this case as well and it’s always a good idea to save some old heaters around
for this instance if you live in a winter state. Number ten most common system failure is lighting.
To be honest I see a lot of people get pretty freaked out about this when their lighting
goes out but lighting is probably one of the most forgiving components of the life support
system you have on this ecosystem. You are trying to emulate the sun with your
lighting so remember that there are stormy weeks on reefs all the time. So I don’t plan
on a lot of redundancy for my lighting. If something goes out I identify the issue and
replace it quickly. For instance most of you can get a replacement bulb or lighting fixture
from us in one to three business days for five bucks which is more than fast enough
and it isn’t really worth purchasing back up lighting options but you could save your
old lighting or bulbs for this if you wanted. We talked about aquarium controllers several
times in this week’s episode, specifically the Reef Keeper and Neptune Apex. I wouldn’t
say you have to have one to be successful reefing because that isn’t true but you can
see how they can be an important of maintaining redundancy, stability and notifying you if
something is wrong. As to which one is right for you, they really
serve two completely different markets so it is pretty easy to give advice. The reef
keeper lite will provide ninety percent of the redundancies we talked about today, programmable
on an easy to use computer interface or on the control panel and incredibly affordable
starting at just over a hundred bucks. This is a great option for newer to mid-level reefers
who don’t want these redundancies but want something a pretty easy on the wallet. The apex serves a different market and comes
at a different price point but has some pretty cool features. Biggest one is their fusion
interface. You can do most of the programing on the control panel but the fusion interface
allows you to set up and control your tank from basically any internet device that has
a browser like a home computer, laptop, tablet, phone or even something simple like a chrome
box. This makes it super easy and convenient to do. Biggest advantage is the apex fusions email
and text message alarm system is easy to use which means you can get those real time notifications
when something is wrong with the tank. The apex also has a pretty long list of available
accessories including an automatic feeder, par meter, EcoTech and AI modules, leak sensors,
dissolved oxygen , dosing containers and variety of other things, they even have their own
powerheads in development. This is basically no limit the amount of things you can hook
up and control with the apex. The apex also has a really robust user community developed
which is eager to help each other and share programing which is nice. In this series we are going to install use
the individual control options with separate, PH, ORP and temperature controllers because
they are the easiest to set up and understand. Towards the end of this series we are going
to replace all that and install a complete controller with a complete set up guide based
on all the equipment we added. Should be fun. Something pretty exciting happened here at
BRS in the last week and we completely overhauled all of our shipping offers with a focus both
cheaper and faster. We dropped our free shipping threshold seventy five bucks but even more
fun than that we implemented a new four ninety nine fast rate service. Which means for less
than five bucks you can get your order in one to three days to the contiguous US. We
also slashed second day and overnight services by more than half. I think overnight is close
to sixty five percent off UPS retail rates. I am personally super excited to see us improve
not just cost but also speed and quality of service. Big thanks to all of the viewers
here, customers and members of the BRS community who helped us grow to a point that this is
even possible for us to implement. Next week we have week five and we are going
to start plumbing this tank. We are going to talk about all the different techniques
and then get this thing plumbed and ready for water, you don’t want to miss it so start
jamming on that subscribe button. If you are interested in any of the companies or products
we talked about today hit this link, check them out and even read a few of your fellow
reefers reviews. See you next week with the next episode of the BRS 160 PLUMBING!

Comments 51

  • do u have ship in india ?

  • I've had a heater malfunction and nuke my tank. That is why I still do not use a heater on my tank since that incident. I learned that high quality heaters can force you to experience the same type of problems a cheap and inexpensive one will.

  • really good video, but now im scared

  • I guess that's one bonus to living on the other side of the pond…

    No blackouts!

    Sounds scary as all hell to go through that with multiple tanks about the house.

    I get terrified when the mains short out and I lose power for 5 minutes!

  • Great video series!  I am really looking forward to next week's "plumbing" episode since I feel that's my weakest area.  I also look forward to seeing what type of lighting you choose (T5 or LED – I haven't had much luck with my Kessil 360 in terms of growth) and seeing that tank get wet! 🙂

  • Fluval E-series heaters have the highest warranty in the industry for a reason.  I'd look into them as a viable alternative in your store.

  • Thanks guys! 😀

  • amazing! very informative! [more than usual] 😀

  • One safe thing you can do with the central controllers. Use heaters with thermostats.
    If the controller has a problem turning off the high limit you can set that on the heaters and will save you. Also after YEARS of using plain heater elements. They just do not last, but many thermostat heaters do. Some have life warranty for very little money. I use two on my tank driven off the ReefKeeper lite.

  • Congrats for having FUN from reef keeping $) Its just like having a newly-born baby :)

  • I need money! Lol

  • I had my saltwater tank now for about a month and the water is still really murky and cloudy I did research to see what can I do to remove it but I didn't get a lot of suggestions. My filters are used are used and I have one filter on each side of my 75 gallon tank. Any suggestions for clearing the murky water? Thanks if you do manage to respond.

  • Great in depth video on a subject I hadn't really given much thought to as a new reefer. Definitely will be using this advice to inform some of the decisions I'll be making as I start looking at setting up my first tank! Awesome videos. Can't wait for the next one!

  • I need BRS stickers!! you guys said by the end of the month! =)

  • Whats the best 300w heater ? Thanks

  • Now this is the series I've been looking for. Can't wait for the controller part.

  • Can't even tell you how much this video stresses me out.. I watched it last night and had a nightmare that all of the things we are trying to prevent, happened in one night to my tank.. I woke up screaming

  • Reminds me, I need to take advantage of these features on my Apex Jr. Another great video guys!

  • Ryan   I want to thank you for all the work and effort that is going into this new series.  I only wish that I had this when I first started reefing.

  • I had reef feet tank home brown alage prblm irreted me i run phosgurd in mess bags 250 gm in sump still not seen any recovery in my tank plz help me out

  • 13:00 you forgot to mention upgrading to a Tesla PowerWall system and solar!  That will fix any issue without backup generators et al

  • Is there a BRS APP for the IPhone, my phone probably sucks but sometimes I find it hard to scroll through your website.

  • Wish you would have mentioned the reefkeepers' upgradability via adding on modules or even the reefkeeper elite or now archon

  • Is it safe to use vinegar to clean aquarium heaters?

  • i didnt even know there was battery air pumps that detect power outages. thanks alot im gunna search for them now 🙂

  • That generator advice if awful. Buy one in advance! Do not wait until you need it. Here in Bellevue, WA the power rarely goes out but if it does you will have no chance of finding one for weeks at the minimum if not months. I lost mine for two days this week and was so happy to have my generator. The peace of mind and luxury of having a generator is well worth it.

  • Far and away, your site is the most informative and cordial when responding to questions! Bought from you many times and I'll continue to be a customer. Great site!
    I do have two questions:
    1. I have a fan overhead keeping my 225 (24x29x72) at a constant temp. I also have this tank plumbed through my wall to my garage where the sump is located. It is a 55L. Being in the garage, I have it completely surrounded by Pink insulating foam board. Would I be better ok with moving the fan from the aquarium to the sump to achieve the same cooling?
    2. I have two Eheim 1262's as return pumps. Both are operating all of the time. Should I consider only using one and using the other as a backup?

  • Hi there, fantastic reefing series. I live in the UK but really appreciate the wealth of advise available from BRS.

  • Another option which you alluded to a bit for top off is salinity monitoring/controlling. I have a Profilux controller (a bit pricer than most admittedly) which has a conductance electrode. You can infer salinity from conductance. I use this capability to switch on a dosing pump which tops off the tank. It's been working great for the last 6 years. Just be sure to stay on top of the conductance electrode calibrations… every 6 months is generally good as they will drift a bit. Dosing rate is very slow so it's difficult to affect big changes should the pump stick on for some reason.

    As for controller redundancy, I also like the Seneye. It's relatively cheap and will provide pH, NH3 and Temp all through your smartphone anywhere. It recently saved me from making a long trip back home. I had a power surge on Christmas Eve which took the Profilux controller offline. It would not reboot. This happened just as we were off to see family of course so I had to switch lighting and pumps to manual mode. I was most concerned about temperature despite having a lot of water volume ~500g and a conditioned fishroom. Fortunately, I was able to watch temp on my iPhone thanks to the Seneye and it only moved half a deg C while I was gone. The Profilux magically rebooted when I got home for the night. So while the chance of a controller going down is low, this proves it does happen and it is wise to have some form of back-up!

    Personally, I could not sleep at night without a generator. I've had to use mine twice in 6 years due to unexpected power outages. There are a couple good inexpensive options available through Harbor Freight. Just be sure to run them every 3 months or so as the carbs gum up/gaskets dry out and leak.

  • What do you guys think of the hydor? I'm setting up a new 10 gallon nano and had a bad experience with hydor. The thing would always over heat. I would have to to set to a much much lower temp than what I would want it to heat to. Can you give me a recommendation for one that DOES get the temp right?

  • The attention to detail and lack of bias is stunning.
    A beautiful example of quality YouTube content

  • hey there! where do you have your Kh and Calcium dripping into on the 160?

  • this souds so them expensive

  • I love your show. I've learned a lot with saltwater, it's just so incredible I thought it was going to be easy and I'm learning that it's going to be a little difficult than what I expected I am a first-time saltwater reef, but I'm learning as I go. I have a 10 gallon tank for a beginner like me. Now I'm just going for the 20 gallon instead. wish me luck. I'm sticking with you all the way

  • I have a 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe at the top of my tank (with a filter to prevent fish from getting through) which is normally about 4 inches above water level, and if the water level gets too high it will drain through the pipe into my basement sump pump. Which then gets pumped out of the house.

  • I feel like BRS just really introduces & advertises products as well as theirs… A lot of what they talk about, seems to apply to the experienced reefers etc.

  • what kind of fish is that at 0:53 at the top middle of the screen?

  • Yup thAnk you

  • For a moderately extended power outage, i successfully kept my 16 gallon aquarium oxygenated and alive using a fish saver brand bait pump from a tackle shop for $25 hooked to a fully charged car battery i removed and brought inside my house. Just suction cup the pump to the side, adjust spout to tank level, and attach the clamps to the battery. My battery lasted 3 days before i changes to another battery and was the pump honestly overkill for my small tank, would have easily done a 25-30 gallon tank. Just another cheap option for those who live in hurricane zones and have a small relatively simple nano reef and dont like spending mucho dolares.

  • Can you run a battery backup on the hydor korailla 3rd gen power heads? If not what's another option other than airstones?

  • How do you get montipora capricornus to grow in a curl like at 1:05?

  • 7:06 do you still have that product?

  • Amazing videos as ever guys. Have to say the term is "contingency" not "redundancy" though. Redundancy would be putting superfluous measures in place that don't help anything!

  • Haha O to be the employee that got to play the part of "Ah shocked i got an emergency text message" lol

  • It turns out that I have redundancy by accident. Part of my spray bar faces the overflow.

  • My first ever adventure into saltwater saw my heater get stuck. I was maybe 12-14 at the time. went to school and everything was fine. Got home and the whole house stank. my poor dwarf puffers were cooked. Given my lack of education on the subject at the time it's honestly surprising they died from a mechanical malfunction rather than my ignorance. I was definitely in over my head and didn't even know it.

  • why dont you ship to Philippines?

  • 2:45 I keep a thermometer in my tank and check it often.

  • Great videos as always thank you for these. Can you you help with a link to more information about the poor reasons behind the inverters used in the UPS's for PC's, i would like to understand this with my electrician friend as we were really shocked but have found by accident its true 🙂

  • A good way to solve the heater overheating problem is use 3 small heaters (equally sized). 1 runs pretty much continuously(79-80)… 1 runs as a backup(78-80) … 1 runs as emergency (77-80) this will do two things… alert you when the tank is getting cold. but more importantly.. if one does stick on.. its ok.. because the tank is basically designed to have one always on. getting them sized right will take some trial and error.. This works well to solve both problems of one breaking (emergency heaters is on alert) and one sticking on (alerted that the wrong one is running all the time). Good luck!

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