Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
HOW TO: $12 Aquarium Auto Top Off (ATO) Automation

HOW TO: $12 Aquarium Auto Top Off (ATO) Automation


Hi, everybody Joey here again, and welcome back so in today’s video I’m going to show you how to build a float switch automated system now. These are most commonly used for auto top off however We’re [going] to build this for just a few dollars now the most basic Explanation as to how one of these works is actually quite simple a float switch automated system Is simply a device that will turn on or off another piece of equipment depending on the water level within your main aquarium? They essentially rely on a float switch to control the equipment meaning that depending on the position of the float switch If the water level rises or lowers it will turn on or off the piece of equipment [connected] to it for example if the water Level within your aquarium drops due to evaporation the float switch will signal a pump to turn on and refill the aquarium back to the point you have it set to first and Foremost though I want to address a common mistake A lot of [people] [think] that they can simply cut into your pumps wire and then why are the float [switch] to it which? Technically can work, but it’s really dangerous. I want you to understand that under no circumstances Do I recommend you doing that a? float switch by itself is simply not going to be able to handle the current the pump putting to it plus obviously you ruin the Pump and or whatever equipment you decide to hook it to when you cut the wire in this project I’m going to show you how to build a float switch Automated system safely which will not require you to cut the pump or whatever equipment you decide to hook this up to for supplies You’re obviously going to need a float switch You can actually find these on ebay for around $1 with free shipping a relay is also needed a 12 volt DC Relay is all you’re going to need and they’ll cost you about $5 on eBay You’ll also need a matching relay socket These are generally around three dollars the power of the relay you’ll also need a [Twelve] volt wall transformer This is just the basic Ac adapter chances Are you already have one perhaps you have an unused charger around the house or simply a power source that you’re no longer using Just cut off the end that goes into your piece of equipment and the rest is good if you don’t have one you can simply Find one on ebay as well for around [2] bucks You’ll also need an extension cord, but you only need a cheap one now This is what saves you from having to cut your quittance wire I grabbed one from the dollar store for a dollar [you’ll] also need some crimp caps to cap off the exposed wires and/or some electrical tape In total I invested 12 dollars now cost will actually vary slightly based on where you are and where you order from But $12 seems to be about the average price so before we move forward with putting everything together I want to explain what a few of these things actually are For starters, what is a float switch? well [a] float switch is actually a small device [that] senses water levels in the middle is a Buoyant Little cylinder They’re used to basically complete a circuit depending on which position the cylinder is in for example If it rises it can complete the circuit and if it lowers it breaks that circuit now what this means is that if we somehow? Connect this to a pump for example that pump will turn on or off depending On the position the cylinder is in an interesting thing about these cylinders though. Is that you can actually turn the cylinders around and Reverse what they do so for [example] as is if the cylinder drops It’s going to turn something off however if I take the cylinder off turn it around next time it drops It will actually turn something on for example to get any of that to happen we would have to splice into the main pump wire And connect this to the live wire Meaning that we’d cut the live wire in half and this would complete the connection But the problem with that is that these float switches can’t handle the current that the pumps are going to put through them So we need to run the float switch through something that can handle all of that extra power And that is why we use a relay relays our switches that open and [close] circuits Electromagnetically a relay can actually prevent damage [to] your equipment by detecting electrical problems including over current under current over Overloads and reverse currents so basically a relay ensures that the float switch simply doesn’t fail while a float switch actually doesn’t need power to work a Relay does so that’s why we need this 12 volt transformer to power the relay now Just using a float switch with the relay is enough to turn on not most equipment based on water levels in your aquarium so if the float switch signals to the relay to turn on or off the relay open or close a connection and be powered by the Transformer to be able to do so the connection that it opens or closes is the connection for other Equipment that is plugged into the relay that connection will power or shut off Equipment now that we have a basic idea on how these things work We’ll move on to the build and then come back and find out how it all works together Start off by plugging your relay into the socket then prepare [the] extension Cord We need to find the live wire [here] in an extension Cord like the one I’m using there’s going to be two sides One of the sides will [be] ripped the other side will be smooth [now] the smooth side is the live wire This is the one that carries [the] power once you get to the live wire Cut it in half and expose the inside wire Next connect the extension cord to the relay socket connect one wire to one side and the other wire to the exact opposite side on the bottom of the socket as you can see one wire is connected to the bottom left while the Opposite wire is connected on the opposite side why are together the Ac adapter [to] the float switch One wire of each to each other in which order you do It doesn’t actually matter simply twist the wires together and cap the connection off connect the two remaining wires from the float switch and the Adapter to the socket these get installed on the top of the sock at this time which side and order will not matter now you’re pretty much done however you’re going to want to test it first plug the extension cord into your power source plug the Ac adapter in as well now move the plastic cylinder on the float [switch] up and down if Everything is done. [correctly] you’ll hear a clicking noise coming from the relay That noise is the relay opening and closing which means it’s turning on and off the power If you don’t hear that clicking you probably wired it incorrectly so check your wiring if you still don’t hear the clicking then you cut into the wrong wire on the Extension cord go and get another cheap extension cord and cut the opposite wire this time your float switch Automated system is now complete the only thing left here is how you’re going to mount the float switch to your aquarium Sump or container and given that there’s so many uses in places that you can mount this the option Pretty much endless some popular mounts are made from strips of acrylic or Even PVC pipe though So research a little further and find the ones that works best for your application [to] make this a little bit safer I decided I place it inside of a container which will protect the exposed components now the way this works is simple when we plug the extension cord an AC adapter in the Relay is powered and ready to be [activated] by the float switch Power is cut off by the extension Cord until the float switch activates the relay every time the float switch Rises or falls it will tell the relay to allow power to the extension cord and whatever is plugged into that extension Cord So this means that we can plug in whatever we want into that extension Cord And it will be powered on or off by that float switch now That was a very basic layout though and you can add in Multiple float switches if you like a lot [of] people like to add in more than one float switches to act like a safety net Now most people will simply call this an auto top off however I don’t think that’s the only use for it these can be used to perform multiple Tasks obviously the most popular is an auto top off personally I like to flip the cylinder on the float switch around so that it shuts things off when the water level drops Like when you’re doing a big water change in you forgot to unplug everything This is a great safety net because it will do it for you anyways guys hope that you enjoyed today’s video I also want to thank you for watching and I’ll see you guys next Sunday for a new dual yourself project

75 comments on “HOW TO: $12 Aquarium Auto Top Off (ATO) Automation

  1. I bought this relay from ebay
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/172040057268

    I had to spend hole day and then by looking at the circuit diagram i figured that the extension cable chord has to connect on the top screw locations and vice versa.

  2. How could i set up a system for my reef tank to keep the salinity constant that doesn't depend on the water level? I want something that drips RODI water at different rates depending on the salinity of the water. The reason I want this is because I would want to add saltwater constantly and have it overflow through a separate skimmer having a constant wet skimmed water change.

  3. Jonathan Olivero that's easy to add a second switch for a backup, just wire them in series. Take one wire from each switch and twist them together and put a wire nut or a butt conector on it. And then use the other two wires like it is one switch.

  4. I really love your videos but i think you left out some info:
    1) What is the rating of your Relay in terms of Contact Capacity?
    This is because there are so many Relays on Amazon with different ratings for contact capacity and idk if too high contact capacity will ruin the pump.

    Thanks so much!

  5. I've made the ATO in this video and am very impressed with the results thusfar. I was wondering if it was also possible to do with a 3 prong device, such as a larger pump. Could this still work? What kind of cord would I need then?

  6. great video once again joey. a couple questions though
    1. I want to use this in a sump to prevent water levels from getting to high. will the pump get damaged if it's turned on an off so frequently?

    2. ideally what I would like is a system that will completely empty the sump when the levels get to a certain high, then shut off when it gets low enough and turn back on again when it gets too high and empties the sump. kinda like an auto flood/ drain system. any ideas on how I can do this? thanks a mill buddy

  7. Is fun to do but I think is not a good idea to diy on something involve with electricity (ato) especially dealing with electricity in the water.

  8. Hey what if I don't want to use the extension cord just float switch and 12v D.C. Wall plug? P.s my pump already has its wire stripped

  9. hmmm. I wanted to get the hydor auto top off system but don't really feel like laying out the cash right this moment. I may have to give this a try as it could be a good temporary solution at the least.

  10. Does anyone know how to wire one of these with two floats: one to turn on and one to turn it off if water gets too high?

  11. great video joey, just whipped one up. little frustrating;) note to people from the states. ribbed side is live and terminals reversed as well hahah

  12. I got the relay to work but the extension has no power.. should it have power if the relay works? I hope not because ive already black taped the entire device lol

  13. so I'm trying to find these parts. my problem is the floats I find can only take 1 amp I found I think the relay he uses but it puts out 2 amps and I don't want to burn up the sensor

  14. Do not use a relay!!! well at least instruct your viewers to use a relay with a built in shunt diode. Crazy voltages will shoot back through that float switch when the inductive flux collapses!!!

  15. CAUTION – The extension cord isn't wired to the relay correctly – a relay is a double pole, double throw switch – this means that it can switch two circuits to two positions – household ac has a hot (the smooth side of the extension cord – or the black wire in side of an outlet box) with the other being the neutral – for proper safety the neutral needs to be hooked up to the relay as well (it runs parallel to the hot wire – i.e. it hooks up the same way but using the other terminals hence why the load terminals are paired) – i'll try to email joey with the proper corrections to ensure saftey

  16. If you do this and you use a relay like Joey with the exposed prongs, PLEASE PLEASE cover the prongs with liquid electrical tape and put it in a conduit box or find a diffrent relay! That is 120 ac exposed! It will hurt.

  17. Have you thought about using arduino/raspberry pi for any of your builds? You could almost automate and monitor just about everything.

  18. Hey Joey. Awesome videos bro! Do you know if it has to be a 12 volt transformed to power the relay or will a 5.4 volt supply do?

  19. I'm surprised I haven't seen a recommended video yet of someone using the fill valve and float assembly from a toilette. Sure, you'd need a decent sized aquarium to use one, but it'd be a way of having an auto top off with no power or pump needed.

  20. Funny thing is that I was going to make one of these for topping off the sap in my maple syrup operation. I just had not researched the detailsyet when I stumbled on this video while going through all of your vids.

  21. I had a hell of a time putting this together. For some reason the relay would not close. Turns out two of the five switches from Amazon were duds. Now it works like a charm, and I can go away for the weekend without having to worry about large swings in my salinity. Thanks Joey!!

  22. Some help please I tried to do it with a MY2N relay and i could not duplicate it. Thanks for the feed back

  23. If this fails is there a chance it can over flow the tank ? Im planing on making this just need to be sure of any problems-before hand

  24. When you build this, you should invest in quality float switches and more than one float switch in a series to have redundancy in your design. also, insulate all of those exposed terminals. 120V AC is not fun to touch

  25. You'd never under any circumstances recommend running a float switch directly to the water pumps wiring. My water pump runs off 5v DC. So, you would recommend running 12v through the switch because it would be safer than running 5v through the switch?

  26. I know this was posted awhile ago but I'm hoping someone is still looking at comments. This is a great video! I started looking for the parts online and found a relay switch and socket combo. It's the Uxcell a11063000ux0053 DPDT HH52P Coil 8 Pin General Purpose Relay with PYF08A Socket, DC 12V. I'm assuming a combo is OK instead of buying them separately. Can someone confirm? The specs are: 12VDC, Contact Capacity 5A, 240VAC, 5A, 28VDC:5A, 28VDC.

    My second question is regarding the 240VAC as noted in the specs. Is this European? I'm in Canada so should I be looking for the exact same thing but with 120VAC? I also found some float switches that are also 220VAC. I'm assuming I would also need to find one rated for 120VAC? Or am I'm completely wrong? I'm a newbie to DIYing electronics. I understand how to wire this up and can read things like circuit diagrams but I'm still learning about getting the correct parts. Especially when you can order online and the parts can come from anywhere in the world and won't necessarily work in North America. Thanks for any help.

  27. You could also use a MOSFET to control the relay, with a flyback diode, for larger relays, as a relay coil could be pretty hard on the float switch.

  28. I would really like to know how to wire two float switches where the pump turns on on a high level and turns off on a low level.

  29. I was thinking this would be useful in a sump so that if the water level gets too low for some reason, the pump can turn off so it doesn't burn out.

  30. The one negative of this type of build is no failure prevention if the float switch gets stuck on. It will just top off forever. Most ATO systems have that built in to kill power after being on about a minute. I did a DIY build with an arduino and a solid state relay to program my own failure logic. It doesnt increase the cost much at all, just a learning curve.

  31. hi guys, im a noob, can someone help me. Im in California, should i get the 12V DC or the 100V AC relay? or it depends on my wall adapter? ( the phone charger will lower my current from 110 AC to 12v DC?) mannnn

  32. Would highly recommend to solder the connectors instead of using twistconnectors. Much more safe and rugged. When you are done put some tape over it or go with shrinkable tubes

  33. guys anyone got a long success with this process, no point of making it if some part failure every 2 3 months. Did anyone used it for over a year?

  34. and why do I use relay socket, TMC v2 ATO don't use any relay and ATO works perfectly fine without any issues. Please let me know. Thank you.

  35. I have the 3 cord wire in which 1 is live 1 is neutral and 1 is earth, my question which can I connect the earth or I can just ignore the earth wire?

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