Yay! 3 weeks alone...

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by sjbro, Jan 7, 2016.

  1. sjbro

    sjbro Supporting Member

    I was out of country, in Europe, for 3 weeks over the holiday break. to make things worse, before this trip I had very little time, so I prepared the tank for my absence in a super rush.

    I got lucky and most of the equipment ran fine. The corals & fish did great. not only that I didn't loose any, but I can see obvious growth on them.

    What do you guys do when you have to leave the tanks alone for extended periods of time?

    Here is what went down in my case :)
    - the house was empty for 3 weeks, from Dec 16 rto Jan 6.
    - a friend had the house key, he planned to stop by 3 times to check the house and water the inside plants. He doesn't know much about reef tanks. In the end, he had to come by one extra time because of a heater failure that I'll explain below.
    - I have a Reef Keeper that controls the lights, ATO & heater. I can access the RK software over the internet.
    - I installed a security cam to see the tank. I can also access the cam stream over internet.
    - I installed an auto feeder for the fish a few weeks in advance and made sure it doesn't overfeed them. I didn't setup any feeder for corals.
    - I added a 20G box with RO + Kalk water, and used my secondary RK, a float valve and a small pump to be able to feed the main ATO tank from this 20G box as the main one empties. The main ATO tank also holds 20G of water. So combined they had 40G of water, which is enough for 4+ weeks.
    - I prepared 15G of RO water for my friend with the instructions to fill up the 20G box if it gets near the bottom 5G mark. So that would extend my ATO with another 2 weeks.
    - I added an acclimation container and hook it to the skimmer's overflow tube. When the skimmer's cup would get too full, the waste will overfill in that container. To prevent an accidental flooding of the floors, the container was hooked on the inside wall of the sump - if it overflows, it would just dump nasty stuff into the sump, probably affecting the tank, but sparing the house.
    - I left the house heater on 71F just in case. And this might have saved me from that heater failure.
    - I cleaned the all the pumps and powerheads.

    Beside the ATO and the skimmer, my tank only has a sump with macro-algae+mangroves refugium and a bio-pellets reactor. Both don't require any often maintenance.

    Beside the fish auto-feeder, I did most of the work the night & morning before my trip started. You can see my improvisations in the pics :).

    The only failure over these 3 weeks was the heater! Actually, this was the 3rd heater that burned out in my setup in a short period of time, and now I have a strong hunch that my RK outlets are to blame. I had 2 failures with the heaters in Oct-Nov, they were both connected on the RK outlet. So this 3rd heater was connected on a separate outlet initially, it worked fine for weeks, but the day before leaving I switched to my usual RK port that is setup as a temp controller being afraid not to have an overheating situation. The heater was set to 76F and the RK controller was set to shut down the power on that outlet at 79F.

    Well, about one week in my trip. I get an alert that my tank's temperature is 72F. I saw the email late, when I checked the RK logs, I saw that the temp dropped from 76F 72F for almost 2 days. Then it took a day more until my friend was able to go to the house and fix the problem. Since he had no knowledge, we did an online "session". He was working on the tank while I was seeing him on the security cam & talking with him over skype :). He unplugged the heater, found my spare heater in the garage, plugged it into the standalone outlet and set it up at 76F (in the future I need to make sure that my spares are preset - this was a digital Finnex and it took my friend a bit of time to figure out how to adjust the target temp even though I was giving him verbal directions).

    Attached Files:

  2. Flagg37

    Flagg37 Officer at large

    Seems like you were lucky.

    When ever I have to leave I have a house sitter and leave very specific instructions. I don't have any automation to speak of though.
  3. Enderturtle

    Enderturtle Volunteer

    Hooray for friends! I need to find a tank buddy near san mateo.

    Congrats on your tank doing good for your vacation.

    Doesn't it seem like the worst unusual things always happen when we go on vacation?

    Yeah having a controller definitely helps but I do think most of us need to have the following back-up equipment:

    Return Pump

    These are basic essentials in most reef tanks that we should all have on hand. I'll need to pick these up.....when my wallet recovers from christmas shopping!
  4. sjbro

    sjbro Supporting Member

    Yeah. It helps have knowledgeable friends close by. Although, I won't dare to ask any friend to stop by my house more than once-twice a week. So I rely on automation, monitoring, spare parts & lots of luck.

    Beside the burn-out heater, the one piece of equipment that "misbehaved" during the 3 weeks was the skimmer. I have an Reef Octopus skimmer. It runs fine and pulls a lot of stuff out, but only if I clean it's collection cup regularly. Once the cups fils about 1 inch and the up tube gets covered with the brown yucky stuff, the skimmer doesn't produce much skimmate anymore. I can see it making foam, but there is not much overflowing into the cup. Over the 3 weeks I was out, It produced only the equivalent of about one week skimmate. I probably need to adjust its water level higher...
  5. humu

    humu Guest

    I kinda also suspect that RK might lead to premature heater failure. I notice mine is constantly turning heater on and off, I can actually hear it turn on and off...

    Consider yourself very lucky. I went away this Christmas and New Years for 2 (3-day) weekends. In one weekend, the battery for my house thermostat died and my tank chilled to 68-72. Killing my clam and elegance. And in the other weekend my Kessil died, killing my last elegance and a couple of montis. And I found my RBTA moved to the very top of the tank....
  6. Flagg37

    Flagg37 Officer at large

    That's so sad. Sorry to hear it.
  7. humu

    humu Guest

    Thanks! But it could have been worse, so I am thankful the casualty was not worse. Its just so weird, how the least expected things happen when you are away....
  8. sjbro

    sjbro Supporting Member

    @humu, sorry to hear about your experience.

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