The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged MP10

It’s Monday, June 21st, and the power is out as I write this.  Thankfully, Friday June 17th, I had just installed a pair of APC Battery Backups I had picked up on a gift card from Best Buy (a 5 year anniversary gift from work – thanks guys).

APC Smart Battery Backup under the Lightning Maroon's Tank

Of course, I had looked into generators, but Best Buy doesn’t sell them.  So an uninterrupted power supply, or UPS, aka battery backup, was the route I needed to go.  Of course, the Apex controller can actually be set up to detect a power outage using a separate power supply as well as the power supplied through the EnergyBar 8.  You put the EnergyBar on the backup, and you plug the other 12 volt converter into a regular GCFI & Surge Protected outlet.  If power to the converter is lost, the Apex can detect it and trigger an alarm condition, which can take appropriate actions.

In my case, the intended programming would shut off power to the MP10wES (which has it’s own 30 hour battery backup it would run off of separately).  It would also shut off power to all the lights (although some folks will suggest that the lights are actually better at providing O2 than running the tank dark with a Skimmer for example).  I was going to keep power running to the skimmer and the main water pump.  The heater would be on, but I’m thinking I could program it to us a different temperature range when on backup, allowing perhaps a couple degrees drop before the heater would try to kick in.

The plan was to use one battery backup in the office to drive the router and the cable modem.  Our laptops all have built in batteries these days, which meant the backup wouldn’t be necessary for that.  The practical upshot here is that the internet, provided by cable, is presumably independent of the main power to the house.  In other words, power could go out, but internet could be on.  Keeping the router and modem up and running would theoretically keep the internet connection live.  THIS, in turn, would potentially permit the emailing of a power outage alert, as triggered by the Apex.

Of course, this scenario created one other issue – keeping internet on at the Apex.  I had initially used a powerline adapter to provide internet, but based on manufacturer specifications, these cannot be run on even a simple outlet strip, let alone a GCFI or surge protector.  And DEFINITELY not through a battery backup.  At least one person commented here (or somewhere else) about the additional risk to the Apex by having it’s internet coming in over the powerline.  So the powerline internet had to go, and in it’s place, a Netgear WiFi Range Extender was set up.  This range extender provides internet to the Apex over an Ethernet cable, while also being able to run on a battery backup.

So the other backup would drive the Lightning Maroon’s tank, including the skimmer, the pump, the possible use of the heater, the Apex itself, and the wireless bridge / range extender.  Through this seemingly convoluted series of steps, I could detect a power outage, trigger an alert to be emailed out, and I could adust the Apex settings to maximize the length of time that the aquarium could run on only essential equipment.

After doing some reading and research, I discovered that our aquarium pumps present a peculiar problem when used on a battery backup.  Without getting too technical, an inexpensive battery backup produces a square waveform of electrical current, and this can fry out our aquarium pumps.  In order to run our water moving pumps on a battery backup, it requires a much more advanced “true sine wave” battery backup.  Of course, these types of backups aren’t so often used for home use, and they are considerably more expensive.

I have to say now, APC’s online customer support was freakin’ OUTSTANDING.  I have never been shown such in-depth customer service before from such a large company.  A 1 business day turnaround seemed standard, but the level of detail they went into in trying to help me find the right products for my needs went above and beyond.  They took a very long detailed explanation of the situation, even asked me to help them come up with some power consumption estimates, and then directed me to a line of scalable products that I could use and showed me how long things should run.  It almost sucks that they did all the sales work and Best Buy just collected the profits!

In the end, my router and cable modem got a Cyberpower 425VA APC UPS – the standard “run of the mill” type battery backup.  The Lightning Maroon’s setup got a APC Smart-UPS 750VA Battery Backup.  While not the running time I had hoped for, and not scalable like the ones APC suggested, it was the one I could afford with my Best Buy cash.

So how did it all work out?  Well, I have yet to get the 12 volt power supply from Neptune Systems – only ordered it last night.  When the power went out this morning, I had to manually pull the plug on the MP10.  Having there router still powered via their backup, I was able to log into the Apex through my laptop and adjust heater settings, turn off certain items, and overall manage things pretty well.   The power was out for 80 minutes, and when it came back on, the backup was at 23% remaining power.  Interestingly however, I want to say that fairly quickly after the power went out, the battery was only at 80%.  I wonder if the heater had been running – that’s a big 100 watt draw right there.  Still, for that length of time, the tank ran, unaffected by the lack of normal power coming in.  In other words, it was like the power outage never happened.  That, to me, is a big win for this setup, and is money well spent.  Even if this UPS only buys me 2 hours of pump time, it’s still 2 hours I otherwise wouldn’t have had.  And remember, I still have roughly 30 hours on the MP10 as well.

It’s no generator, but today, all these backup systems performed admirably.  Money, or in this case gift card, well-spent.

I got some feedback on my writeup of troubles with communications between my server and the Apex and it got me thinking.  The short – I’m already using to create a virtual domain name that points to my dynamic IP address – it uses an updater that runs on my computer to check and update the IP address as needed.  Could this service also take an incoming request over port 80, and redirect it to a different port, i.e. 3500, while also directing the request to my dynamic IP?  It turns out I can.

You create a free “Web Hop”, i.e., which in turn points to  Then, you use on a “Host” service to point to the dynamic IP.  Since the redirect tags on the port information, it’s carried through on the dynamic IP handling.  It works brilliantly in the browser.  I thought, after 2 months of being stumped, I had a solution.  Of course, my server still fails to grab the content properly from my Apex – I assume it realizes or gets hung up either on the port redirection, or it has to do with carrying the authentication credentials through the webhop and host settings at  Oh, and I found out it’s going to cost me $25, or $155 a month, to change my host so I can make a request over a port other than port 80.  Or I have to find a different hosting provider altogether.  This singular aspect of accessing the data on my Apex controller from a webserver is enough to drive me insane.

The other bit of news – we had 2 back-to-back power outages today.  The first one I wasn’t awake for…noticed the clocks blinking when I woke up.  The second one lasted just under 2 hours.  During that time, the MP10 on the battery backup performed admirably.  Chances are the tank would’ve been fine either way – it wasn’t a long time to be without power.  Still, as I watch the Lightning Maroon swim around this evening, I’m feeling like I’m getting my money’s worth.  First power outage we’ve had since we moved to Duluth almost 2 years ago.  Feeling pretty smart that I invested in the MP10w ES + Battery Backup!

So it’s been a while since I wrote about the additions I’ve made to the stock Ecoxotic 25 gallon LED Aquarium System that houses the Lightning Maroon Clownfish.  I alluded to them before, but it’s high time I fill you all in.

Two Little Fishies NanoMag™

First up is one of my favorite new add ons – the Nano Magnetic Algae Scraper from Two Little Fishies.  I used to be a big fan of the Aquarium Systems Twister scrapers for a simple reason – low profile on the inside of the tank.  I could have rockwork as close as 0.5″ and still scrape.  Well the scaper design from Two Little Fishies has an even lower profile…I don’t think, all said, it would require even 0.25″ of clearance.  Maybe even half that!  And yet this scraper is STRONG magnetically speaking – I can scrape very fast and the internal portion doesn’t get “detatched” and flutter off into the crevices of my tank.  Bar none, for a magnetic algae scraper, this NanoMag™ is the best I’ve used to date for smalles tanks!

Two Little Fishies PhosBan Reactor 150™

Inexpensive when combined with a small pump, and known to be highly effective as a media reactor, I tried a PhosBan Reactor 150™ on this tank.  My installation options were limited – I wound up pumping out of the middle chamber, and cutting off a corner of the “floor” in the third chamber to allow the filters water to drain into the pump chamber.  The only realistic spot for this reactor was to hang on the back of the tank.  My main use for this reactor was to house carbon.

As of two days ago, I took this reactor off the tank.  I can’t say for certain, but it seemed that once I installed this reactor, certain corals in my tank started to go downhill, primarily Favids and other LPS.  The growth on my Hulk Clove Polyps trailed off too.  My working theory, and it’s just a theory, is that this reactor was so effective that it was “overdoing it” and helping carbon strip the water clean of everything, including possible beneficial elements.  Afterall, this is a reactor designed for a much larger tank.  So, for now I’ve removed the reactor to see if things come back.  I can always return to the less efficient carbon in a bag methodology if I feel a need to run carbon (most all my tanks DO).

Vortech Ecotech MP10w ES with Battery Backup

With the stock water pump pushing 400 gallons per hour through the Ecoxotic tank, I questioned the need for additional water circulation.  Afterall, when all that water was run through a single outlet, it was enough to move the sand substrate around the tank.  Still, the notion of a pump on a dedicated battery backup had me intrigued from a emergency live support standpoint.  When some money from speaking and articles piled up and deal on Vortech Pumps was going on, I had to bite the bullet in the interest of the fish.

The battery backup is big and heavy.  There really wasn’t very much in the way of instructions on how to hook it up either, but eventually I figured out that the controller has a small secondary input for power on the bottom.  Easy enough.  The pump’s instructions were much more thorough, and once I got the hang of it, setup of the pump was easy.

And thus, when I set the pump on my tank and fired it up, I was FLOORED by how much debris and waste it instantly churned up out of the substrate and rockwork.  That was all it took to tell me that yes, more flow would not be a bad thing.  I rearranged the filter’s return outlets to blow across the back wall of the tank, with the Vortech on the upper back left side panel of the aquarium, blowing water in a direction opposite the pump returns.  I did this for a simple reason – when the MP10 is running on minimal settings, I get a nice counter-clockwise flow of water through the tank.  When the MP10 is at maximum, it has more than enough power to overcome the main circulation pump and create a clockwise flow pattern.  Plus you do get the “turbulence” of two flows colliding when the MP10 is running at moderate levels of flow.

The net result is that all my corals are now benefiting from increased flow but it’s not TOO MUCH for the tank to handle.  I’ve set up a “standing wave” in the tank using the short pulse wave mode after clearing this with Ecoxotic (Vortech’s recommendation is to check with a tank manufacturer before making a wave, as some tanks aren’t strong enough to hold the shifting water mass).  I now normally run the MP10 in “Reef Crest” mode with the range set to maximum, but will sometimes engage in “Nutrient Transport Mode”.  It seems like if I keep it in NTM for too long, the corals don’t open as much, so RC is my default setting.

The battery backup works without a hitch and with the single MP10 can supposedly keep water moving for over 24 hours.  If I had to be critical, I’d say I wished that I had finer control over the wave settings of the single MP10 – I can’t get quite the right waving timing on this little tank.  I also wish that the MP10w ES had a truly random mode where it would shuffle through ALL the various modes.  That said, there is a way to accomplish that feat, if I want to by an add-on component for my other main addition…

Neptune Systems Apex Lite Aquarium Controller

In all my years as a saltwater enthusiast, I had never used an aquarium controller.  It seems to me that controllers are often better suited for larger, complex systems that have a lot going on, a lot that could go wrong, and sensitive / delicate processes (like ozone usage) that are far better managed through constant monitoring.

Well, my interest in a controller for the Lightning Maroon’s tank was first sparked by Jay, my SPS guru who’s helping me with the coral care. I did my homework and in the end, I opted for a Neptune for a very simple reason – I sent an email asking for a phone call, and I got it in 20 minutes.  The other controller companies out there…nope.  Maybe a generic email back.  Let that be a lesson to anyone with a business who’s reading this.  During business hours, most people expect a pretty timely response to an online inquiry…customer service can still earn your business.  It earned mine.

As I looked into it deeper, all sorts of benefits came up.  You have a fallback on your heater, so if your heater’s thermostat fails in the on position, the controller can shut it off.  You get better temperature monitoring in general too without batteries to replace.  What really opened up my eyes to the true potential of a modern controller is it’s ability to connect to the internet, and to send email alerts should something be on the fritz based on the parameters you set.  As it turns out, with the Neptune controller, if you set it up right it could, in theory, even email you in the event of a power outage (assuming your internet connection isn’t affected as well).  For a guy who goes on the road a lot to speak about aquariums, this certainly had my interest.  Of course, the REAL kicker for me was the ability to expose real time data over the internet.  My ultimate and yet frivolous main goal?  Put the Lightning Maroon’s tank specs on the website in real time.

Of course, it’s that last goal that failed miserably for a few reasons.  First, on the Neptune’s side of things, the data feeds are password protected.  That’s not a terrible problem in itself, but it does seem excessive to lock down this generic readout data with password protection.  The actual problem is that the credentials you use to access the data feeds are the same credentials you use to access the rest of the controller.  So for someone who wants to do one of those 3rd party signature generators, you actually have to provide them with your full credentials in order for them to pull data from your Neptune controller.  That’s a HUGE security issue in my book as you’re trusting a 3rd party to a) not meddle with your controller and b) keep your credential information secure and protected so that yet another party doesn’t come along and hack it.  I find this current system of password protection unnecessary and a big security risk given what most hobbyists will want to do with a data feed from a controller.  I’ve strongly, adamantly suggested that in the next firmware update, either these data feeds be made public, or they utilize separate credentials from the rest of the controller’s capabilities.  Either one circumvents the problem of giving the keys to a stranger.

All of that said, I’m an internet guy and I figured I’d be running this on my own server anyways.  That meant credentials wouldn’t be an issue.  Ah, but get ready for this one.  Your average home ISP likely blocks incomming traffic over most or all ports.  So even if you use a dynamic domain service to handle IP address changes, it doesn’t solve the entire problem.  You still need to find a port you can enter through.  In my case, the standard port 80 is blocked, as are most other ports.  I did find one that worked…up in the 4 digit range.  “Almost there”.

Of course, nope.  Because my hosting provider only allows me to request data over port 80, the very same port that my ISP blocks.  So while I can access my data feeds through a browser from another city over a port like 4500, my server won’t.  The solutions are simple and mind blowingly aggravating.  I either change my home ISP package to become a business customer ($60 more per month) at which point I can have port 80 traffic, or I migrate ALL my websites from one hosting package to another (again paying more)…which I have to manually do apparently.  The last solution is to go back to one of those 3rd party signature generators offered to aquarists, but then I have to risk having my controller’s credentials in 3rd party hands.  I simply can’t take that risk when the controller handles the life support for the only Lightning Maroon Clown in captivity.

In the end, the controller is great at handling things like my light timing.  The alarms work like a charm.  When I get things configured properly, it will even tell me when the power goes out.  The feed modes are very useful.  There is even a module that will control my Vortech MP10w ES if I want, which would give me the random or programmatic switching between modes I wanted but can’t get through the Vortech itself.  It would also allow me to dail-down the MP10 when I run my “water change” feed timer that currently shuts everything off  (Vortech when off runs off the battery backup instead, which I don’t want to wear out and overuse if I don’t really need to).  I probably won’t tap into the seasonal capabilities although in other circumstances I could find them very useful.  Probe calibration was pretty easy.

I did have problems with small water pumps not turning off when the power was shut off to their outlet, but I found out that is a known issue with the power bar and if you use the right TYPE of outlet on the power bar, it’ll work.  That certainly could use improvement.  Still, the biggest FAIL is that the data-rich features I wanted to tap into wound up being a bust, and I’m terribly frustrated in that regard.  No one tells you any of this up front, so know now that you need to know how to set and configure your router, as well as all this other stuff, and even when you do it perfectly, it may not work.  Now, none of that is Neptune’s fault parsay, but a whole slew of features I want to utilize are off limits unless I want to pay through the nose for hosting or internet.

Eshopps Magnetic Probe Holder

Considering that controller probes really aren’t supposed to be completely submerged, simply hanging them in the tank isn’t a good route to go.  Enter the Eshopps magnetic probe holder, which happens to fit almost perfectly in the middle chamber of the Ecoxotic’s filtration system.

Being magnetic, I can move it up or down if need be.  Of course, once in place, the probes are held in by a screw, which can easily be loosened to take out the probes for servicing.

Weekend Update

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Short and sweet, after being gone for almost a week, and preparing to transfer in a mate this weekend, I thought I should take a quick snapshot of my water quality.

pH – 8.2
Alkalinity – 4.25 meq/L
Calcium – 420 ppm
Magnesium – 1170 ppm
Nitrate – approximately 2.5-5 ppm.

I’m continuing to dose C-Balance 2 part, although for a few days while I was gone I asked Frank to suspend the doses as I was getting emails about the pH being to high (via the Apex Lite controller…yes, insurance policy equipment added on before my vacation – more on that later).  I’ve since resumed 2-3 doses per day and haven’t seen the pH getting excessively high – the big difference is I’m dosing late at night and in the morning before the lights go on.  Given the slightly lower Magnesium reading, I dosed the tank with Seachem Magnesium tonight.

There’s been an explosion of baby Stomatella snails in the tank – I witnessed them spawning the day I added on the Vortech MP10w ES circulation pump (another of several equipment-related posts I still need to find the time to write up!).  Coral colors are restoring (I had some bleaching going on) although the Astralomussas I have remain bleached out but not dead (so there IS hope I suppose) – Jay thinks it was my getting the lights on a timer and lowering the photoperiod (the main LEDs are now on for 11 hours – I may cut to 10 soon).   Overall, corals are growing and doing well – the biggest problem is the Turbo snails knocking everything over even when it’s glued down or buried.  I’m looking forward to soon being able to remove these snails from the tank, as the hair algae crisis seems to have been solved.

Oh and that “damage” I thought I’d have to live with on the Lightning Maroon – it’s healing up.

Apparently the Lightning Maroon thinks it is a better decorator than me.  With the help of its three Turbo snail buddies, every frag in the tank is getting tossed around, overturned, and generally abused.  The Lightning has taken a shining to an Aussie Green Goniopora frag, but frankly this Goniopora isn’t big enough to host a Maroon Clown just yet!  Everything in a 5″ radius of the Goniopora is fair game to be moved..and I mean picked up and carried.  I haven’t seen it in the act yet, but I know it’s going on.

Pairing – yes, I have NOT paired this fish yet.  The reasons are simple.  #1.  I’m really wanting to let the fish heal as fully as possible from the damage it suffered while I was away at Next Wave and #2. Since next wave I’ve worked every day except one (when I had a big local club event I organized to manage) and I’ve been working on average 14 hours per day.  So no time to tackle any big projects let alone pay close attention to a new pairing.  It will happen.  Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

Have been having some unhappy corals…maybe a bit of bleaching going on, so I took a water test.  The results don’t lend me any help:

pH (Seachem) – 8.2
Total Alkalinity (Seachem) – 4 meq/L
Calcium (Salifert) – 420 ppm
Magnesium (Salifert) – 1230 ppm
Nitrate (Salifert) – undetectable

I’m guessing any nitrates and phosphates are being sucked up by the algae bloom, which has died back a bit.  I also should mention that in an earlier post I may have doubted my Salifert Nitrate test given it is 3 years out of date according to the sticker on the box.  Well, all I can say is that I tested another tank I knew would have high nitrate levels and sure enough, it did…25 ppm.  My take – the kit probably still works just fine.

I owe you guys pictures.  Lots of them.   I owe you updates too.  I’ll let you know I added on a Ecotech Vortech MP10w ES with the Vortech Battery Backup – sold a used MP20 to pay for the MP10 basically – the battery backup, well you can partially thank DFWMAS and Next Wave for that.  They also helped indirectly finance a Neptune Systems Aquacontroller Apex Lite (the majority of that coming from the rest of my birthday funds – thank you wonderfully generous family members!).  The controller is not hooked up yet..I just haven’t had the time and I think I’m going to need a wireless bridge in the long run for what I want to do.  All of these accessory additions are being done not because the Ecoxotic tank needs them (it’s awesome all on it’s own!), but to do what many people have criticized me in the past for not doing – having some “insurance” policies in place for a one of a kind marine fish.  Message heard, investments made.  More on those in future installments.

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