View Full Version : Is a Reef Keeper Worth the $$$?


SJ Miller Guy
01-23-2009, 3:57 PM
I've been doing some research about RK2's and other similar products. My 90 gallon is pretty basic compared to a lot of ARC members setups. Would this actually be worth the money or should I just pick up a ph probe and spend the money elsewhere?

Just curious as to what all the benefits of this product are besides the obvious like light timing, feeding cycles, etc.

washowi
01-23-2009, 4:05 PM
Not worth it in my opinion.....you will find those that think otherwise...

My system is not basic in fact quite elaborate... Had one then sat down and said what I am going to hook to it? no what...nothing....maybe the heater but that is controlled by my skimmer...so waste of money. buy a good $20 timer at HD and buy some coral and fish with the rest

That's my go at it.

mojo
01-23-2009, 4:11 PM
I say "yes, absolutely." It's 100x easier than trying to manage even two timers on a power strip. It may not be much more than a glorified timer, but with things like auto-cutoff for lights after a certain temp, it definitely has it's advantages.

parsonsaj
01-23-2009, 4:14 PM
I *love* my RK2, and don't regret buying it, but.... the main limitation is that it will only control 8 switchable devices. I have managed to cheat this limitation somewhat by adding cube taps or pigtails and plugging multiple things into a single outlet, but 12 or 16 would have been a much more palatable limitation than 8...

I guess their answer would be for me to buy the RK Elite or whatever the new variant is called, but that was a good bit more $$$ that I didn't want to spend at the time...

Amici
01-23-2009, 4:18 PM
Not worth it in my opinion.....you will find those that think otherwise...

My system is not basic in fact quite elaborate... Had one then sat down and said what I am going to hook to it? no what...nothing....maybe the heater but that is controlled by my skimmer...so waste of money. buy a good $20 timer at HD and buy some coral and fish with the rest

That's my go at it.

I agree completely. I have owned a RKII and ACjr. They are great for a few features like sure on and the fact everything is there to be controlled. But when one thing goes wrong, its a domino effect.

ksauerb322
01-23-2009, 4:28 PM
My reefkeeper was probably the best investment I've made since I've started this hobby. My temperature doesn't budge anymore, since it controls my canopy fan, chiller, and heaters. And if something ever did malfunction, the alarm I set, would turn off the lights and heater until the temp stabilized. I also have an alarm set for the backup switch just in case my auto top-off fails, the pump that supplies the topoff water is disabled.

Mine controls my lights on 2 tanks, moonlights, canopy fan, heater/chiller, auto top-off, ph alarms for my calcium reactor, standby mode to turn the pumps off for feeding, fuge light, and soon to have salinity monitoring and internet alarms.

It has given me a good peace of mind when I'm on vacation, or even away at work for long hours. Even if you have a "basic" setup, I'd still invest in the models with less functions, and add on later. I only wish they would make a dog-keeper funcion that would feed/let me dog out I'd really be set!

ares
01-23-2009, 4:30 PM
I have an ACIII, had an ACJR.

heres what I do with it...

I have my lighting of course. 4 seperate light items plus a moonlight, the lights stagger on in the morning and off at night. moonlight comes on for 2 hours after they are off at night. in addition to this its tied to the temperature, and if it reaches a high point, it will start turning off my metal halides.

it also controls my fuge lighting, though nothing fancy there.

right there I would need 6 timers to accompish this though, 20$ each, yeah, I could accomplish this with 3 timers, but whatever :p.

so other stuff, it runs my calcium reactor, PH up and down, I have 2 probes, 1 in the tank, other in the reactor, if the tank PH goes out of line, it will shut down the CO2 feed, and of course it actively controls the solenoid on the calcium reactor as well. a PH monitor capable of this is atleast 100$ by itself, and will only do 1 probe.

I also monitor my ORP, control my Ozone from that reading.

temp does my heaters, I have 2 temp probes for fail safe reading on it.

I can monitor my tank, status of everything and all parameters over the internet through its own webserver, or I can access it through a very slick Iphone application. it logs the data, nice to see trends and possible issues that I wasnt around for. it can also send an email to me if anything goes outside of my range.

you can also get floor water sensors, great with the email alert, though I dont have it, and ATO systems, which I dont use either.

washowi
01-23-2009, 5:07 PM
OMG.....me a dawgdude AGREE on something finally!!!!!!! Write this date down..

Sorry $350 for a timer!!! No way. Home Depot for me.

jmaneyapanda
01-23-2009, 5:18 PM
If all your using it for is a timer, then it is rather a waste of money. They do SO much more. Temp control and reaction. pH control and reaction. Feed timers. Wavemaker. Metal halide delay restart. NEVER having to reset a stupid analog timer after a power outage.

I am not techno savvy enough to get involved in the RKE or ACIII, but the RK2 is absolutely ideal for me. Even if I were using it for a timer- it is 8 timers in the space of 1 power strip. Not 8 clunky large boxes. But to each, their own.

jhutto
01-23-2009, 5:39 PM
I love my RK2 and just purchased the new Reef Keeper Lite. Its about what Jeremy, Chris and ksauerb322 said....They do much more than a timer. Its all in what you want to spend your money for...

rostato
01-23-2009, 5:55 PM
Simple answer YES! Best investment I made second to a better skimmer.

mred
01-23-2009, 6:45 PM
I too think it was well worth the money for me. It saved me bucks for a controller for my CA reactor and a pH controller in additon to the reduced clutter from eliminating all of the timers for the lights and powerheads. (I had two for halides, one for fluorescents, one for moon lights, and three for power heads.) The wavemaker option is very effective.

However, if you don't have a CA reactor and don't need to monitor pH to turn on and off the reactor, then it is an expensive timer!

Skriz
01-23-2009, 6:54 PM
Well worth it IF you are going to use it. It will shut down your lights if your temp spikes-which can be huge!

The best money I've spent on this hobby by far.

Schwaggs
01-23-2009, 7:51 PM
I can't comment on the RK2 or RK lite, never had one however, they seem a little limited in the programming and output area. I have been running an Aquacontroller for about 10 years now and I couldn't live without it.

My ACIII controls heaters, chillers and fans in various stages to keep my tank temp stable. It cuts the Halides one at a time if the temp climbs too far over the set point.

It maintains a consistant pH in my CA reactor which makes dialing that thing in a snap. It also cuts the feed pump if by chance the tank pH drops too low.

I use the feed timer to turn off the skimmer during feeding and automatiaclly back on after an hour.

I have one of the switch inputs on a float switch in my skimmer effluent container. It turns off my skimmer when it fills up so it never overflows (again).

I have it turn on my Actinics an hour before "dawn" and turn on my 3 halides, one at a time, 30 minutes apart, east to west and turns them off in reverse order.

It turns on my frag tank and refugium lights on a reverse light cycle to the display.

It turns on a variable brightness moon light (incandesent) according the the actual phases of the moon.

I varies the tank temperature (75-80) and lighting photoperiod (8-12 hours) based on seasons.

It sends me an email and sounds an audible alarm if any parameters get out of line.

My next project is to setup some relays to monitor the 3 circuits coming into my fish room and send me an email when one of the circuits gets cut (GFCI or circuit breaker trips).

If you are a gadget guy and like the idea of automating some things on your system, it is money well spent. If you can't figure out how to program your furnace thermostat, or just are not that interested in gadgets and automation, maybe you should skip it... :)

washowi
01-23-2009, 8:44 PM
Let me ask the one that like it......Say, the thing shuts down, power outage, the thing just dies, who knows. It's electronic, something will happen sometime.....

what then? Is everything then basically shut down for you? no ph control, temp control, whatever you have in the thing....what will happen to your tanks?

Just askin...cause I see it that you are relying on ONE item to control your tank....No redundancy.....Too me that's a bad idea..maybe? maybe not?

Sorta like diving, you have redundancy built in....Airplanes have more than one engine, you know what I mean....

Do you have it?

Schwaggs
01-23-2009, 10:02 PM
There is always that risk with any control or electronic system. You treat it the same way you do any critical component. You keep spare parts on hand for the components that are cheap or notoriously unreliable. If a critical component fails that you don't have a spare, you revert back to the old fasioned way until a replacemet arrives.

That being said, I have found the Aquacontroller to be very reliable. It is only a simple microcontoller running a few basic electronic components after all. It takes all of 10 seconds to start up in the case of a reset or power outage.

Power outages are no big deal, there are no lights or heaters or chillers to control when the power is out... :)

johnr2604
01-23-2009, 10:22 PM
Being as though I dont have calcium reactors or anything I picked up a cheap original reefkeeper. So I basically use it for a glorified timer but I didn't pay alot. I also use it to provide redundancy. It controls my heaters plus the heaters have a thermastat. I also find it much easier to maintain everything from the unit. No fiddling with timers.

Would I have dished out the money for a newer one? probably not at the moment but if I start running a reactor then I see it being a good investment.

jmaneyapanda
01-24-2009, 8:23 AM
There is always that risk with any control or electronic system. You treat it the same way you do any critical component. You keep spare parts on hand for the components that are cheap or notoriously unreliable. If a critical component fails that you don't have a spare, you revert back to the old fasioned way until a replacemet arrives.

That being said, I have found the Aquacontroller to be very reliable. It is only a simple microcontoller running a few basic electronic components after all. It takes all of 10 seconds to start up in the case of a reset or power outage.

Power outages are no big deal, there are no lights or heaters or chillers to control when the power is out... :)

I understand Todd, but the same goes for your Home depot timers and power strips. Lets just say of the 5 dollar timers busts, and the analog switch stops turning the dial. Lights on constantly, or off constantly. He is the MAJOR benefit in having them all in one. If the RK2 goes down- its visibly obvious. The lights are off, the sump return is off, the wavemaker is off,- EVERYTHING is off. If everything is independant, and the heater outlet goes out on the power strip, then there is no way to know until the water is very cold, or the animasl start dying.

Skriz
01-24-2009, 8:36 AM
Another way of looking at the redundancy aspect: let's say your chiller goes out, or it's just a morbidly hot day, and your tank temp goes up. With old school timers, the temp continues to climb. With a controller, the lights are shut down at a certain setpoint, saving your tank from overheating.

Also, my return pump is not controlled, so if the RK2 went out completely, I still have circulation to keep everything alive; I don't need lights, calc reactor, skimmer etc. for that.

ares
01-24-2009, 1:11 PM
I dont run my pumps off my controller. though the DC8 stays in whatever setting it was in if signal is lost. generally thats a good thing...

if any of them were prone to failure, youd hear about it. only thing Ive heard is the AC temp probes, which is why I run 2, they have to agree before heaters go on. Im not worried about heaters failing off. Id have an email about it anyway.

washowi
01-24-2009, 1:26 PM
As long as your covered....then great, nothing worse than the keeper fails...your in Idaho, trying to tell your neighbor how to hook up stuff.

Been there done that....short of a total power failure, (am I have a generator) not one thing failing by itself would cause the tank to crash.

I hope......knocking on wood all around me.

FutureInterest
01-24-2009, 3:09 PM
I'm a huge fan of the RKII or any decent controller... like most in this thread as well. As long as you are able to use its other abilities aside from timing you will find that its well worth the investment. I use it to backup my ph controllers and my ranco temp controller. It gives you some peace of mind that even if one component fails, which is unlikely, there is another system in place to prevent harm.

I'm pretty much being redundant here as others have said the same thing but that's what these systems are for. Redundancy rocks! :).

Mockery
01-24-2009, 6:18 PM
What is ya'll opinion on the RKL Lv 2? Would it be worth it if i'm running a CA reactor, heaters, and lights?

SJ Miller Guy
01-25-2009, 10:34 AM
Thanks for the all the great input and opinions.

From what I gather, I should just start with the most basic model and go from there. I don't have a CA reactor, or many other things that a lot of you with larger tanks have just because I either don't yet have the need for them or don't have the money for them. Mostly the money.


Here's another question...do they carry a good warranty from the manufacturer?

sailfish
01-25-2009, 11:13 AM
I don't have one and I am not a gadget guy who likes to contoll everything. I don't care if I can turn my power head off and on threw the Internet when I am 5hrs away from home.

I do like that they can and will turn my lights off if the tank gets too hot and this is the only reason I will buy one. That and I want one that will email me while I am out of town. I think there are 2 major fail points one everything thats plugged into it will be cut of if the unit trips a breaker and the same thing can happen if the unit breaks. Now I have never used one so who knows I may change my mind after I have one. IF it were me I would make sure I have a good skimmer, automatic 2 part dose or calcium reactor before I spent the money on a controller. It seems every month there are at least 2 post of these things braking just on this site.

Joe

wmboots
01-25-2009, 1:02 PM
Todd, I agree cheapy H.D. timers are the trick and you don't even need to spend $20 a pop you can get them for $12 and their digital too. As for my case being an electrical contractor with years of controls experience I can put together my own system to do the monitoring needed for a fraction of the cost of an RK2. As for a timer bursting been using digital timers from H.D. for years without a problem and who says the RK2 unit won't malfuntion. Buy the cheap timers spend the rest on stock for your tank and maybe consider a UPS in case you lose power

ares
01-25-2009, 1:10 PM
if you can engineer something to do all that a controller can do for less, I would be shocked. much of the cost just cant be gotten around, you cant build a PH probe, its 100$ just for a PH monitor. 50$ for the probe.

youd also be the only one on this forum that could do it, if you could.

dont see what all the hate is on controllers.

Id have to again point the way to the RC TOTM, you'll find years and years of tanks, and just about every one runs a controller. argue what you will, but large tanks that run successfully for a long time do so with the help of a controller.

wmboots
01-25-2009, 2:37 PM
not any hate for controllers on my part just saying unless you are running a very large system WHY spend the dollars it costs for the controller that for the most and I do say most part can be done with a $12 timer.

ares
01-25-2009, 2:47 PM
if that is the intention of the controller, by all means, I agree. even for the temp protection aspect of it for a timer, not worth it. I mean, how often does ones tank actually reach the temp that the lights would shut off? save for the AC dieing in the middle of a hot ga summer day... theres no way your tank should be getting up to some outlandish temp unless the heaters are on the fritz, and they are already controlled by the controller... which means the controller temp probe went bad, reading low, the heater thermostats are also broken, and it wont help you with the lights either at that point because it doesnt know its hot.

ect ect ect.

you either need to want the simplicity of a single timer for staggared lighting without multiple timers clogging up the works, OR you need the other features. ACjr can be had for like 280$, add up some timers, ranco thermostat, and a PH controller and now your where it makes sense.

FutureInterest
01-25-2009, 7:14 PM
I've had my controller save my tank on two occasions that simple timers woulda been useless for.

The first occasion was when both my float valves in my sump got stuck on. The ro/di with kalk was being poured into the tank. The controller shut the top off pump once the ph reached 8.4 thereby averting what could of been a total tank wipe out.

The second occasion was when my fancy 10 dollar "chiller" which is a cheap fan was encrusted with salt and stopped working. To aggravate matters my canopy fans also stopped working... The temperature must've gotten up to 84 as the tank lights shut off. When I got home the lights were off and the temperature was 82.

Sure a controller isn't going to save your *** in every situation. It's not there for that but its a handy backup and its useful if used correctly. I personally would never run any reef tank without one. It's a lil bit of peace of mind and a lil bit of save your but on occasion. It's paid for itself many times over imo. Noone said it can't fail btw, every component will fail eventually. Hopefully you have enough redundancy such that they won't all fail at the same time :). Everyone that only wants a timer... GET A TIMER and as Brian said, stop the controller hatin!

Keep in mind that you can also get them at lower prices. I got mine through ARC group buys a year or two ago and saved a bunch.

mojo
01-25-2009, 8:09 PM
Interesting to see people on both sides of the fence. I can see the arguments on both sides. I still think that people that say that they'd rather have a bunch of home depot timers would change their mind after just a week of using an RKII. It's like any other piece of equipment- it makes life easier, not foolproof.

Any piece of equipment can fail - anyone in this hobby long enough can tell you that. But you might as well pick pieces of equipment that keep things clean and make things easier, and this is one of them, IMO.

washowi
01-26-2009, 9:04 AM
Why Chris?

I have Pinpoint Monitor for Ph..I have a Monitor for my Ca Reactor, My temperture/heater is plugged into my Chiller.....

What can I possibly do with that that I don't already do? Like I said, I had one...and even had the expansion module. Simon and look at my set up, we stared at each other...said "what can we hook up ?" We looked at each other and said nothing needs this controller that I am not already controlling. :)

Tossed it back in the box.....gave it to Doug for Reeftanklighting.

So yeah, I can say...I don't really need that :)

As for maybe SPACE savings? I don't have that issue..My basement wide open..

Just my thoughts.....especially if your new to reefing...stay simple, understand your system and it works, etc...

maybe after years and if your bored and want to spent $400 on something...but even then, I would rather a huge mother coral colony.

mojo
01-26-2009, 9:11 AM
I didn't use it for controlling pH for anything, but have used it for multiple level of light controls, heater control, fan control, and power head timers. The last feature is only moderately useful, but the others are pretty nice for a $250 device - a dual stage thermostat will run you $100, and three $20 HD timers will run you another sixty bucks. Add in a pH controller and some other stuff, and you might as well get it all self contained in one unit.

I see the RK2 as simpler and easier than dealing with a bunch of timers - especially when the power goes out and you have to re-set all your timers. To each his own, I suppose.

ares
01-26-2009, 9:11 AM
eh PH monitor cost you probably 150$. so thats a long way to it. the chiller controlling you heater is an option, though few of us have that option. you may have purchased a different chiller if you didnt need that option, add in all your timers, had you gotten an ACjr earlier you wouldnt have needed that PH monitor, or the controller on the chiller. might have paid for itself in the end, and streamlined your setup.

or maybe not.

there is no alternative equipment that could do what I have mine doing, for any amount of money though.

Xyzpdq0121
01-26-2009, 9:15 AM
I have to agree with everyone here BUT Todd! ;) I love my two RKIIs and would never run a tank without one again. My reef life can be measured as the time before controller (BC) and the time "after dealing with it" (AD). The AD time is so much better! ;)

On a better note, I am breaking down one of my systems, so when I get it done, I will have a RKII for sale! ;)

washowi
01-26-2009, 9:32 AM
Maybe in a life were I did not spend so much money on controllers before something like that came along.....but when I already owned controllers and timers and they all work great controlling what they are controlling..it's just a silly waste of $ in my opinion only that's all.....never let it be said that I am in the majority with opinions here :)..

As for timers going out with power....well I have 2 timers...so it the power goes out, so what the lights come on X hours later and off Y hours later..Deal with it once I know about it..

You telling me the corals know what time of the day it is now? :)

Amici
01-26-2009, 10:44 AM
I am still with Todd. After two crashes (one total system loss nearly) I have given up on controllers as doing the major functions of a tank. I will use it for my lights and few other select things but that is only because I already forked over the money for the unit. I will never trust a RKII or any other computer controlled unit to control my temp or any reactor that play with ph because BOTH parts of my RKII have gone wacko on my more than once. DA has since fixed the issues with it but I just dont trust it.

mojo
01-26-2009, 10:53 AM
You telling me the corals know what time of the day it is now? :)

Actually, yes- they start closing up and extending polyps about 30 mins before the light goes out. Photoperiods for plants and animals have long been established. However, to your point, I don't think it'll hurt anything if things are on later once or twice- it's just a pain to reset everything.

To Charlie's point- I don't allow any critical system to be controlled by one computer- either I have redundant controllers or I have some manual control. I typically try to setup my controllers as a passive alerts instead of active controls, except for heat and cooling, but I have separate controllers for those. Controllers are a tool, and like any tool, they can only be expected to work within certain limits.

Amici
01-26-2009, 11:19 AM
Yeah I have a list of "Things I will not do again" in my head and one of which is rely on a computer controlled unit for any complete part of a lighting, temperature control or water circulation system.

sailfish
01-26-2009, 11:55 AM
I just want to hate on controllers some more and say they suck. Thats for you Jin.:)

Joe

ares
01-26-2009, 12:00 PM
Yeah I have a list of "Things I will not do again" in my head and one of which is rely on a computer controlled unit for any complete part of a lighting, temperature control or water circulation system.

I considered plugging my tunze and return into my AC, I then decided that it was not worth it. but the tunze are already on their own controller, and have their own feed timer which suits me just fine.

lights can fail, fine, heaters can fail, no big deal, long as circulation keeps on rolling, its all good, plugged straight to outlets on 2 different breakers :) wouldnt have it any other way.

mojo
01-26-2009, 12:08 PM
lights can fail, fine, heaters can fail, no big deal, long as circulation keeps on rolling, its all good, plugged straight to outlets on 2 different breakers :) wouldnt have it any other way.

Same here! :up: I use 4 different circuits, and a tunze from each of the tanks is plugged directly into my pure sine wave UPS. You can't have too much redundancy, although a automatic backup generator would be really nice...

RedEDGE2k1
01-26-2009, 12:46 PM
I love my Aquacontroller....I've never used a ReefKeeper.

For all the reasons people have already mentioned, I would never run my reef tank without it.

FutureInterest
01-26-2009, 12:55 PM
I just want to hate on controllers some more and say they suck. Thats for you Jin.:)

Joe

LOL thanks Joe. They hate you too :).



Anyways...

Noone here said you have to have one to reef successfully. You certainly can get by without one. You don't even need a ph monitor really to do this hobby right. Darren for example comes to mind as that guy doesn't use any monitors or controllers or even an ATO but still has an uber tank. Automation can be the devil if you don't know what you're doing either. I remember I misprogrammed my AC Jr when I first got it and two components were fighting each other... it was hilarious the lights kept turning on then off all day.

The main point though that has yet to be contended here AT ALL is that an allin one controller can be used for redundancy at a fair cost to keep your system running properly. Sure you can get 2 Ph controllers and then 2 temp controllers and a bunch of timers but that's more expensive than getting an allinone to backup your primary controllers and the allinone still has additional saftey features like the temp/light cutoff that no timer can replicate. Many people will use an allinone as their primary controller as well, which is fine but that's not something I advocate. That is all.

glxtrix
01-26-2009, 2:38 PM
I started off with the "I'll never get a RK" mode of thinking, did the whole timer thing...and yes it was bulky (for me) it did work and just fine. However I did have many of those timers go out on me (cheap and expensive) that equaled to be more of a pain (for me). Then one day I bought a used RK and plugged in what I found necessary. It has on 2 occasions saved my tank from heat issues. I also have a ranco for a back up. It has also saved my tank due to kalk over dose. Yeah it's expensive, yes it's a glorified timer (but with more options than a timer can give you) but for me...it's awesome. Yeah sure some people like them, some don't ....if what ever works for you, don't change it. I'll recommend them, but wont push it on people to get them.

mojo
01-26-2009, 2:41 PM
I'll recommend them, but wont push it on people to get them.

Well said! :up:

FutureInterest
01-26-2009, 3:15 PM
Ditto. There goes my commission :sad:.

Mockery
01-26-2009, 3:35 PM
ok so any of ya'll got connections for a Reefkeeper light?

jhutto
01-26-2009, 4:45 PM
Reefkeeper lites start shipping in February. You can order from DA's website or Marine Depot on a pre order basis. I am sure Sam and other sponsors will have shortly.