If you own one of our Osmolator Auto Top-off systems then you’re probably already aware of its uncanny accuracy and rock-solid reliability. The Osmolator is generally regarded as the best of the best; it’s the device both professional and hobbyist aquarists turn to when defending against the constant onslaught of evaporation and its accompanying problems.
The sensor you see pictured above is the front line of the Osmolator’s comprehensive line of defense. It is a proprietary device, having been made in-house at our factory in Germany since 2000. The reason for its great reliability is that it is an infrared sensor. Unlike traditional float valves, it has no moving parts. It is not subject to friction and it is immune from mechanical wear. As far as water-level sensors go, this one leaves the competition high and dry.
The sensor has a resolution of roughly one millimeter. This extreme precision allows it to sense even the tiniest of level drops. This in turn allows it to top-off very small quantities of water- topping off smaller amounts with greater frequency. This is especially beneficial for reef aquariums where a stable salinity is required.
And this precision is all the more important for the increasingly popular nano aquariums. Smaller aquariums often have higher evaporation-to-volume ratios, making frequent top off a necessity for the proper care of salinity-sensitive invertebrates.
Alas, no sensor is an island entire of itself. The brains behind this sensor is the 5017 Water Level Controller to which it is attached. After the sensor tells the 5017 that the water level has dropped, the 5017 waits for five seconds to make sure the drop wasn’t due to a ripple on the water’s surface. If the sensor is still reporting low water after this duration, the 5017 then triggers the low-voltage pump to add some water.
The 5017 also adds an overfill of 10 seconds (about 1 cup or 230ml of water) to reduce the frequency of cycling. On units made after October 2011, the flow rate of the pump is adjustable to control how much water is added during this 10 second overfill; this is very important for nano aquariums. (And all Osmolators incorporate an independent float switch as an emergency shut off. And because we care about your floors as much as your aquarium, in the event all sensor systems should fail, the controller will only allow the pump to run for 10 minutes at a time.)
We’ll give you the full backstory on the 5017 in a future blog post. For today we just wanted to pay a little homage to this unsung hero of the never-ending struggle against evaporation. Questions, comments and ideas are, as always, welcome below.