A short synopsis of a round about plan / chasing waterfalls.

Just to catch up:
Been kind of absent lately. I had a little trouble with my server – I think they’re kind of skeezy and running a racket, anyway – I had to jump through all these hoops to appease them and I didn’t want to do too much here as the possibility of having to start from scratch if I couldn’t figure out my server issues was a real scenario. Then all the holiday stuff and short art school retreat/vacation etc – anyway, we’re back.

What I want to do in this post is just outline a couple aspects of this project and where they stand in terms of progress, change of direction, new ideas etc. Like a kind of a train-of-thought working list.

  1. Operation DEAL BREAKER: Deal Breaker is the name of the arduino set-up and program files I wrote to monitor aspects of the Paludarium. My original plan was to build the entire thing and then add wifi connectivity to the project with the assumption that adding this functionality would be as easy as adding a new sensor or switch ( I didn’t think that it was that easy, but it was definitely humbling to realize that despite Arduino’s impressive modularity, this wasn’t really included – or at least the way I had thought about it).

    After trying for a while to add an ESP8266 chip to my MEGA2560, I eventually came to the point that it wasn’t possible the way I had thought.  After posting a few questions on Reddit, I purchased a Lolin32 ESP32 dev board for 16.50CAD from Amazon and decided that I would slowly start migrating the project over to this board. It has something along the lines of 36 GPIO pins, so not quite as expansive as the Mega, but because they can operate in a mesh network, I could theoretically split the project up and just have different aspects of it communicate.

    The other twist in this part of the project is that I’ve decided recently to begin the process of learning Python, and while doing so I am also going to practice Micro Python (a version of python designed specifically for use on Microcontrollers). So, while I am going to leave the main ‘brain’ of the tank controller intact as is (and in Arduino code), I am going to start trying to write new aspects of the project in Micropython and designed to be IoT capable.

  2. This leads me to the second big change. Lights!
    Hopefully in the next week I will be posting a build guide to making a high powered DIY LED lighting system. It will be made using 5 colours of 3W LEDs mounted on an aluminum frame and controlled by the ESP32 with Micropython. So far, I think the supplies have run me about $140 or so.
  3. Website: So I was really enjoying this blog. I know that I stopped writing for a little while, but as I explained above, I had some shit to do and a couple haters standing in my righteous path. Anyway – one thing I was experimenting with was replacing this blog with a ‘personal’ wiki instead.

    My thought was that I could use it much more thoroughly as a research and development repository as well as an archive. Things like data sheets for specific parts, coding examples and other resources could be catalogued for future use and what not. I also like the very low key and austere graphics of the wiki format. Its like the internet from 1997.

  4. DIY-ish Co2 is in.
    The only problem is that it doesn’t really work. I am doing something wrong, I know that much. It keeps working through the solutions much too fast – like the longest I’ve got it to work for is roughly 20 hours – and barely that.
    I don’t really understand the mechanics of the device yet, so its hard to tweak it as I can’t identify the variables at play. I’m kind of being lazy about it, but I’m hoping I can get it up and running shortly. If not, I’ll have to start looking at getting a something a little more conventional – like a paintball gun co2 setup.
  5. Motorized Valves.
    I am still very much pursuing this, but will be slow walking the entire thing. Like most things that I start, I stupidly have to teach myself a bunch of new stuff in order to do the project, so this has to be a lower priority for now. But, I have been actively trying to find cheap Stepper Motors on Bunz and Aliexpress. I’m also going to start figuring out how to use the 3D printing labs that the Toronto Public Library offer. Eventually, this project will be implemented, but it just doesn’t make sense to drop a bunch of work that contributes to the core functionality of the project to focus on this (admittedly super awesome) aspect of the automation.
  6. A good example of something that I don’t want to drop to pursue some super sexy motorized valves is the automated refill system. This wasn’t super high on my priorities list, but then I went away for a week and was absolutely wracked by fear of my water levels. There are like three problems here: 1) The heaters are all in the sump, so if the water drops too low and can’t complete the plumbing loop, the paludarium temp will start dropping and fish, plants & bacteria might die. 2) The motor might burn out 3) The motor makes a lot of noise (which is annoying for my housemates) when the water drops below the threshold.

    My idea is to install a soil moisture sensor into the reservoir/pump chamber of the sump and basically program it as a yes/no switch. I believe these sensors measure the capacitance of the medium they are in, so if they are completely out of the water, I should be able to trigger a pump from backup reservoir to turn on for say 20 seconds or something. The second stage of this is adding a second capacitance sensor near the rim of the sump that either stops the pump or begins to close the outflow valves to avoid a flood.

  7. I will also be order 2 sheets of PolyCarbonate plastic soon to cover the paludarium display tank. I got them priced out and I think its about 60 bucks for both sheets (my tank has a brace in it..) Hoping this addresses the insane amount of evaporation, mitigates the noise from the moving water, and makes it easier to bring down the pH (if I don’t have refill the tank as frequently, I can more easily use distill water to do it and combat the accumulation of hard water agents.)

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