Alkatronic 101: Installation, Setup & Configuration

Arguably, Alkalinity is widely used as a way to gauge the overall stability of a reef tank.  If our alkalinity is within our desired range, it is safe to assume that most other elements like Calcium and Magnesium are within acceptable range as well.

There is a wide array of opinions as to how often someone should test Alkalinity.  Up until now, the testing frequency of Alkalinity was limited to the availability of the hobbyist to manually run the test, how complicated the test itself was and the cost of each test.

The Alkatronic is the ultimate in testing equipment that can accurately and precisely test your tank’s dKH automatically without any involvement from the Aquarist.  Not only that, it is capable of adding alkaline solution if your tank’s dKH dips below an acceptable range set by the hobbyist.

Before we start with the setup, installation and configuration of the Alkatronic, let’s make sure that everything is included, and nothing is missing from the box.

The box should include:

  • Alkatronic Unit with preinstalled pH probe
  • Power adapter
  • Concentrated reagent solution
  • pH Calibrating Solution
  • Calibration beakers
  • Testing beaker and magnetic mixing rod
  • Bluetooth outlet for optional use
  • USB cable
  • Medical grade adapters and microfilter
  • Mounting bracket
  • Silicon tubing

Creating Reagent Solution

The Alkatronic comes with a small bottle of concentrated reagent that must be diluted with RODI water.  For every part of concentrated reagent, you add 4 parts of RODI water.  To create 500ml of ready-to-use reagent, mix 100ml of Concentrated Reagent with 400ml of RODI water.

For increased accuracy, we recommend you weigh the solutions instead of using a calibrated beaker.

Creating Sodium Bicarbonate Solution

What makes the Alkatronic great is that its capable of making small adjustments to your tank’s Alkalinity if it is too low by adding Sodium Bicarbonate, Soda Ash or a combination of both.

To use Sodium Bicarbonate, mix 81 grams of dry baking soda such as Arm & Hammer with 1L of RODI water.

To use a combination of Sodium Bicarbonate and Sodium Carbonate (also known as soda ash), mix 66 grams of baking soda and 10 grams of soda ash with 1L of RODI water.

To use Soda Ash only, mix 52 grams of dry soda ash with 1L of RODI water.

Assembling and Installing the Alkatronic

Assembling the Alkatronic is straightforward and simple.

When assessing the optimal location for the Alkatronic you need to keep in mind the following important criteria:

  • The Alkatronic should be installed within 3 feet of your water source.
  • The Alkatronic must be placed in a flat and level surface or mounted on a sidewall using the included mounting bracket.
  • The Alkatronic is not waterproof and should never be mounted directly over water.

The unit comes with two sizes of silicon tubing. 

  • A 3.2mm that can be used for “Water In”, “Water Out”, “Alk In” and “Alk Out”. 
  • The thinner 1.6mm hose is dedicated for “Reagent In” only.
WARNING:

Both “Water In” and “Reagent In” lines should be cut as short as possible and must never exceed more than 3 feet in length.

 

Start by taking the 1.6mm line and connecting it to the “Reagent In” input on the side of the unit. Use the included adapter to ensure proper connection.  Attach the included 1.6mm pipe to the other end and insert it into your Reagent bottle.

Measure the distance from the unit to your tank water source and cut a section of the 3.2mm line to length. Remember to not exceed 3 feet in total length.  Attach the line to the “Water In” input using the included line adapter and attach the microfilter to the other end of the line.  Place the line in your sump and be sure to secure it in place.

Cut a new section of the 3.2mm line and attach it to the waste output labeled “Water Out”.  Place the line on a waste collector, drain, skimmer collection cup or it can go back to your tank. 

 

INFO:

The reagent is 100% safe and will not incur negative long -term effects.

 

Cut another section of the 3.2mm line and attach it to the “Alk In” input.  Insert the other end into your Alkaline solution bottle.

Cut one last section of 3.2mm line and attach it to the “Alk Out” output and place the other end in your aquarium or sump.  Be sure to secure the line in place.

Open the front door of the unit and set the short testing beaker in place.  Drop the white magnetic mixing rod inside the beaker.

 

WARNING:

Do not install the pH probe at this time.  To ensure the probe does not go dry it should be installed last, once water has been pulled from the tank.

 

As you look at the inside of the unit, you will see a set of 4 dosing pumps vertically aligned.  Going from top to bottom, the first head is your reagent and we will call it Pump C. 

The second head is your “Water In” and we will call it Pump A. 

The third is your “Water Out” or waste pump and we will call that Pump B.

And finally, the bottom head is both your “Alk In” and “Alk Out” and we will call it Pump D.

The pipe coming from Pump A (your Water In) should be placed on the right side of the pipe holding bracket. Do not detach the rigid pipe from the silicon line.  Just push it into place and slide it down so that the edge of the silicone line touches the top of holding bracket. 

At the same time, you will see that the bottom tip of the rigid pipe is about 2mm off the bottom of the testing beaker.

The pipe coming from Pump C (your reagent) should be pushed into place to the left of Pump A pipe.

Insert the line coming from Pump B (your Water Out) to the left of the reagent pipe.  Make sure to slide the pipe all the way down until it makes contact with the bottom of the testing beaker.

Download the Alkatronic App from the App Store or Google Market

Make sure that your Bluetooth is enabled on your phone or tablet before running the app.

Now connect the included power adapter to the Alkatronic and connect to power to turn the unit ON.

Open the newly downloaded Alkatronic App and select “Add New Device”.

Enter the serial number that can be found on the back of your Alkatronic.  The serial number field is case sensitive.

Now you will be taken to the main screen.  Wait a few seconds until the dot to the right of the Alkatronic Logo goes from red to green. Green means that the Bluetooth and app are connected to the unit.

 

WARNING:

Your Bluetooth connection may be severed if your phone or tablet idles too long and the screen shuts down.  After you wake up your device and make your way back to the app, be sure to allow a few seconds for the device to reconnect to the Alkatronic and for the dot next to the logo to turn Green.  Otherwise, any changes made will not be saved.

 

Scroll down and click on Settings. 

Then go to the Wi-Fi section and type in your Wi-Fi SSID.  Make sure that you are connecting to a 2.4GHz network only as a 5GHz network will not work.  Type in your Wi-Fi password and then tap Save on the upper right-hand corner.

While Wi-Fi is not required to run the Alkatronic, it is necessary in order to access the Alkatronic from outside your home network via the cloud and get push notifications and alerts.

On the Alkatronic app, select “Prime Hose” from the main menu.  Again, make sure that the dot to the right of the logo is green.

Select pump A and press START.  On your Alkatronic unit, when you see solution start to fill the testing beaker, press STOP.  Repeat the priming process for pumps C and D. 

There is no need to prime pump B.

After priming, there will be some water in the testing beaker.  This is normal and there is no need to manually drain it.

Remove pump A pipe from the holding bracket and place the tip inside the larger of the two calibrating beakers.

Open the Alkatronic App and making sure that the dot next to the logo is green, select Calibrate from the main menu.

Now select Pump A and press Calibrate. 

Wait until the pump stops running and now place the beaker on a flat, level surface. Read the water line and type the number into the app.  Now hit Save. 

The Alkatronic’s display will show the number you entered to confirm that it saved properly. 

If the Alkatronic does not confirm your number, then most likely the Bluetooth connection has been lost.  Wait a few seconds for your mobile device to reconnect and then save again.

Take pump C pipe from the holding bracket and place the tip inside the smaller of the two calibrating beakers.

Now select Pump C and press Calibrate. 

When reading the water line, keep in mind that on the smaller beaker, each line corresponds to 0.5ml. 

Enter the number into the app and Save.  Make sure the Alkatronic confirms your number.

Place the end of the “Alk Out” line inside the small beaker.  Select Pump D on the app and press Calibrate.  Read the water line, type the number into the app and save.

NOW GRAB the pH probe and remove the transport cup. 

Rinse the probe with RO water, pat dry and then place it inside the included pH7 calibration fluid.  Swirl it around to purge any trapped air bubbles.

Go to the Alkatronic App and from the main menu, select Calibrate. 

Then select “pH Electrode” and tap on “pH7.” 

On the Alkatronic screen you will see a message to wait 2 minutes for the probe to stabilize. 

 

IMPORTANT:

Do not allow your mobile device to turn off. 

 

After 2 minutes the Alkatronic will display “Calibration 7.0 OK”

Rinse the pH probe with RO water, pat dry and then place inside the pH4 calibration fluid.  Go to the Alkatronic App and Select pH4. 

Follow the instructions on the Alkatronic screen.  After 2 minutes the Alkatronic will display “Calibration 4.0 OK”

Rinse the probe with RO water and place it within the holding bracket above the testing beaker and slide the probe down until it is 2-3cm from the bottom of the beaker and then secure in place using the the O-ring that came with the probe’s transport bottle.

Do not push the probe down too low as it must never touch the white stirring rod.

Since we are installing the machine for the first time, the testing beaker will be empty.  Go into the Alkatronic App and from the main menu, select “Test Pump Accuracy”. 

Now select Pump A and push START. 

The machine will automatically fill the testing beaker with 50ml of water.  This will ensure that the tip of the probe is fully submerged in tank water.

Open the Alkatronic App and select Settings from the main menu.  As always, be sure the dot next to the logo is green.  Scroll down and find Unit.  Select Gallons or Liters.

Scroll up to the top and find Aquarium Volume.  Type in your tanks total volume so the Alkatronic can compute the amount of Alkaline solution the machine needs to supplement in case your Alkalinity level is too low.  Let’s not forget to Save.

Find the Measuring Interval section and program your Alkatronics automatic testing interval.  It can be set to test as often as every two hours or as little as twice a day.  Make sure you save your changes.

Now, find the Reference Value Section.  This is the range you want to keep your alkalinity at.  Since corals are living organisms, consumption varies from day to day and even from day to night.  With that said it is impossible and unreasonable to expect any machine to keep your tank’s Alkalinity fixed at a stable non-moving level all the time.

For this reason, the Alkatronic allows you to set a range in which your Alkalinity will be kept. The low reference value is the lowest your Alkalinity should be at and the high reference value is the highest the Alkalinity should reach.  Anything in between is acceptable.  We recommend you set the two values 0.5dKH apart.  And as always, Don’t forget to save your changes.

Now let’s find Action Mode. When this setting is enabled, your Alkatronic will function as a controller and will administer Alkaline solution into the tank if your Alkalinity level is too low.  If disabled, the Alkatronic is strictly a monitor only machine.

Next let’s talk about Wash Out Mode.  Even though the Alkatronic is extremely accurate, there is a possibility that the unit may test incorrectly.  When Wash Out Mode is enabled, the machine will run a second Alkalinity test if there is a discrepancy of more than 0.2dKH between the test just concluded and the earlier test.  We recommend you set Wash Out Mode to enabled.  Don’t forget to save your changes!

Lets scroll to the Alert Section.  When dKH High and dKH Low are enabled, your Alkatronic will send push notifications to your mobile device if your aquariums alkalinity falls out of the specified reference range.  You will not receive a push notification if your Alkalinity is within Range.  Don’t forget to save your changes.

Finally, scroll down and find the System Section.  Here make sure that Upload Mode and Auto Update Mode are enabled.  This setting allows the Alkatronic to connect to the cloud and upload testing history as well as automatically download firmware updates.  And .. save any changes.

This video is meant to help you get your Alkatronic installed and running quickly.  If you want more detailed information about other functions listed, please refer to the Alkatronic User Manual which can be downloaded from our website at coralvue.com.

Now your Alkatronic is installed, calibrated, configured and ready to start testing!

FAQ File

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions…

Can the Alkatronic sustain the full alkalinity needs of a system?

Yes to some extent. The Alkatronic is meant to make small precise adjustment and not supplement alkalinity in bulk.  So, while the Alkatronic may be sufficient for a small 60 gal system depending on demand, it will not be enough to maintain the needs of larger systems with high demand.  In this case, you will need connect your Calcium Reactor’s CO2 Regulator or Dosing pump to the optional Bluetooth Outlet and allow the Alkatronic to control them for you.

Does the Alkatronic replace my current supplementing setup?

Not necessarily.  You can still continue to use your current setup such as 2-part or Calcium Reactor and use the Alkatronic to fine tune your levels.  The Alkatronic will allow you to view Alkaline consumption over time. 

This information will make it much easier for you to adjust your 2-part dosing and keep your Alkalinity stable and within a reference range.  If for some reason your tank begins to intake more alkalinity than normal, the Alkatronic will supplement Alkaline solution as needed until you make adjustments to make up for the increased demand.

How often should I calibrate and replace the pH probe?

We recommend you calibrate every 8 months and replace it once every 24 to 36 months.

How often should I calibrate the dosing pumps?

In order to maintain high accuracy, we recommend calibrating once a month.  The App will send you push notifications when it is time to recalibrate.

My Alkatronic is testing every 2 hours and completely disregarding the testing schedule I programmed.  What is wrong with it?

One of the great features of the Alkatronic is that it tries to keep the Alkalinity of your tank as stable as possible.  If your tank alkalinity dips below the reference range, the Alkatronic will dose Alkaline solution and then test two hours later to ensure that the Alkalinity is back to normal.  If it isn’t, the Alkatronic will make another adjustment and then test again 2 hours later. The process will repeat until the Alkalinity is within acceptable range.  Once the Alkalinity is ok, the Alkatronic will revert back to the programmed testing schedule.

My Alkatronic test results are off.  They do not match my other Alkalinity test kits.  What is wrong with it?

All test kits available on the market have some degree of inaccuracy.  Also, since the tests are not conducted in a controlled environment such as a lab, there are many variables that can affect the results.

With that said, even though the Alkatronic is highly accurate, there are situations where its accuracy can be compromised.  To ensure accuracy we must make sure the dosing pumps and pH probe are properly calibrated and have the reagent solution mixed correctly.  We recommend that you weigh the solutions instead of using a calibrated beaker.  A small kitchen scale is rather inexpensive and will do the job.

If after recalibrating and checking the reagent mix, the Alkatronic is still off, then it may need to be calibrated via the App.  Open the Alkatronic app and select Settings under the main menu.  Scroll down to the Reference Value section and look for Baseline Calibration.  Enable it and you will be prompted for two values.  The first is the dKH value obtained by your Alkatronic and the second is the dKH value obtained by your other Alkalinity test kit.  Click OK and then Save your changes.  Run an alkalinity test again and the results should now match your other Alkalinity test kit.

On the App’s history graph, I see blue, black, white plot points as well as an asterisk next to the dKH value.  What do they mean?

Blue points mean that your Alkalinity tested above your preferred range.  Red points mean that your Alkalinity tested below your preferred range.  Black points indicate “Wash Out Mode”. If you see an asterisk next to the dKH results, it means that the value was adjusted by the Baseline Calibration function we previously explained.

Conclusion

If you have any questions or issues with the product, don’t hesitate to visit our support portal at coralvue.com/support.  Our friendly support reps are eager to help you with any questions or issues you may have.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up to date on all our latest products reviews and tutorial videos. You can also follow us on twitter @Coralvue and give us a like on Facebook at Facebook.com/coralvueaquariumproducts.

 

Author: Carlos

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