nature aquarium

Hello, I am an avionics technician in the aviation field so I have some understanding of electrical circuits and theory but I am new to programming. Since discovering arduino I have come up with the idea of a nature aquarium. The idea of this aquarium would be to mimic, as closely as possible, a biotope of my choosing. I am currently in the process of researching the Amazonian waters and their fluctuations. I am interested in simulating all the seasons and relative water chemistry. Interaction with the aquarium would be very minimal. The following are the things I hope to accomplish:

Real time keeping

Multicolored LEDs on top and sides to mimic Sun and moon cycle. Interested in warm white and blue lighting to traverse across the aquarium on a 24 hr cycle as the sun and moon would

Ph meter

Rain simulator to agitate the water surface

Dissolved oxygen meter

Temperature control to mimic different times of day and year

The objective being to observe more natural behavior in aquarium fishes. Would love to hear your ideas and advice. Thanks in advance!

Start by doing some searching in the forum. There have been plenty of "aquarium controller" topics posted so you should be able to find a good starting point to build from. I don't recall dissolved oxygen meter, that may be a new feature. Rain simulator, that sounds unique as well. Rest seems somewhat typical.

Depending on how big this aquarium is, i would suggest using neopixels. They are RGB so that covers all color options you would ever need. Diffusor paper could be used to soften the light and more evenly distribute the glow.

Thank you guys!! I Will certainly look into neopixels. I have researched arduino aquarium projects and haven't seen Whatcom looking for. Most project entail a controller of some type where the user can change it monitor settings at their leisure. What i would Like to do would be to preset what everyday of the year would be like without having a controller. Every day would have a preset amount of "rain". Temperature would fluctuate between days and nights. Dissolved oxygen would be controlled to mimic the effect of rain waters as well as PH balance. My research indicates that it must have 448 gallons of "rain " a year, which if done correctly would eliminate water changes. I would also like to sync my lights to the coming Rain, making it darker in the aquarium. Iam definitely interested if something like this has been done.

With the lights, it depends on what you want to have in there. Neopixels are great for getting colors, but they suck for getting photosynthesis. You have to look at a number called PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) if you want to grow plants, corals, or other photosynthetic organisms. Fish themselves don't care. For just fish the neopixels would be just fine.

Look up something called the "reef angel controller". It's built for saltwater reef tanks, but does most of the stuff you want and people have modified it to include things like rain storms and even lightning.

I have come up with the idea of a nature aquarium. The idea of this aquarium would be to mimic, as closely as possible, a biotope of my choosing. I am currently in the process of researching the Amazonian waters and their fluctuations.

Have you ever operated an aquarium?
If yes: For how long? Which size?

And have you ever thought about, that every aquarium containing fishes cannot be “natural” or a “biotope” because of too many fish in too little water?

In a natural river like the Amazonas there are so huge amounts of water, that maybe one single little fish of 5cm length has an amount if 1 or 10 or 100 square meters (1000 litres to 100000 litres) of water for himself in average.

So if you want to keep more than one single 5cm fish in a 1000 litre (250 gallon) aquarium, it never can be “natural” or a “biotope”, it will be overcrowded by fish instead, when compared to mother nature. In a typical fish tank of 200 litres (50 gallons) in size the typical “natural” fish concentration is most likely at “zero” fish.

This “fish overcrowding” in aquariums leads to lack of food:
The aquarium itself cannot provide enough food for the fishes living in it.

The fact that every fish aquarium is overcrowded when comparing to a natural river, leads to three conclusions:

  • the fishes in an aquarium need feeding
  • the water in an aquarium needs filtering
  • the water in an aquarium needs water exchange to remove additional nutrients provided by feeding
    So this is for the fishes.

Besides of the fact, that a fish aquarium cannot be a natural biotope, and that the fishes in the aquarium therefore needs feeding while the water needs filtering and part of water exchange from time to time, I also prefer “natural looking” aquariums, so what I like is: Growing many plants in an aquarium.

Plants in an aquarium are a bit different. But you can easily have fishes and plants in one aquarium together. Keeping and growing underwater plants in an aquarium requires to meet the conditions for plant growth, especially the main nutrients. The two most essential nutrients for plants are:

  1. Light
  2. Carbon
    Plants take their carbon from carbon dioxide soluted in the water, they then do some assimilation with the help of light (photosynthesis) and the result is plant growth and oxygen.

Of course, plants need more than the two nutrients “light” and “carbon dioxide”, but there are aquarium plant fertilizer products available.

I have never thought about using an Arduino for operating my aquarium.

I’m just operationg my aquarium like that:

  1. Filtering (24 hours per day, EHEIM filter)
  2. Lighting (12 hours per day switched by a timer switch)
  3. Maintenance (part of water exchange, use fertilizer each 6 weeks, clean pump each 3 months)

An aquarium cannot be operated as a natural biotope for years and years. It needs technical assistance with regard to filtering (24h/day), lighting (12h/day) and additional maintenance (fish feeding, part water exchange, plant fertilizing, cleaning filter pump).


Ph meter

Dissolved oxygen meter

Will be your biggest purchase, they are not cheap and you will have to shop around.

They are both submerged sensors, hence expensive.

Tom.... :slight_smile:

Have you ever operated an aquarium?
If yes: For how long? Which size?

Thank you for your replies! I have in fact operated freshwater aquariums for the last fifteen years. I have worked with aquariums ranging anywhere from 2.5 to 2500 gallon and have experience working with CO2, lighting, filter media, water testing, disease control, and general practices of fish and aquatic plant keeping. I am well aware of the maintenance involved in aquariums and I assure you that I will not disregard the well being of animals in my care. This project is in a planning stage and I have been doing lots of research to mimic as closely as possible the water parameters found in Amazonian tributary waters. I apologize for any confusion caused by using the word “biotope”. Biotope is a word in common usage in the aquarium hobby to describe any aquarium where the builder has taken the care to identify and use only substrate, hardscape, flora and fauna found in the body of water he/she is attempting to bring into the home. My attempt will be only to approximate the conditions found in an amazon tributary and do so by doing more than just making it look pleasing to the eye. The tank in question will likely be a 125g and have a 55g sump filtration. I am considering using my “rain” feature to introduce between 450-950 gallons/year of fresh water into the system. I would need a feature to dispose of the same amount of waste water and accomplish a years worth of 10-20% bi-weekly water changes! Please feel free to suggest any ideas or concerns regarding this project!!

I would need a feature to dispose of the same amount of waste water

The simplest solution is a big hole in the bottom of the aquarium.

Then the hole is used to mount a fixed 2 inch or so standpipe, which upper edge reaches exactly to the top level of water you want in the aquarium.

Now you can let it rain or pump fresh water into the aquarium, and when the water is at top level, all additional water will spill over and flow down the standpipe. In the best case the standpipe is connected to the drain of your house.

That way with a spillover standpipe, you just have to control how much water you put into the aquarium. And too much water will always flow away automatically.

Or, since said standpipe would have to be in the sump, put the hole in the side and plumb it to come out through the side of the sump tank right at your normal water level in the return section.

Or look at the double head Reef-Filler pumps. It has dual diaphragm heads that are both driven by a single pumping action, so water in is guaranteed to equal water out. This is really really important in saltwater systems where an in-out imbalance could cause issues with salinity.

In a freshwater system I wouldn't go that far. I'd put a float switch in the return section of the sump right at the desired level. Then pump out old water and then pump in the new water until the switch makes again. Unless you don't have enough give between the normal water level and the level where the return pump starts sucking air, in which case you'd reverse that. Pump in the new water and then pump out until the switch goes open again.

That method would have the added benefit of also serving as an auto-top-off to replace evaporated water. Or, if you already have such a system, could even work using the same set of float switches.

use ping ultrasonic sensor to detect level