The Dungeons and Dragons Aquarium

During the rebuild of the Colossus aquarium, a friend of mine asked if I wanted another fish tank.  It was free so I said yes.  Well it was actually two tanks, a 40 gallon, a 60 gallon tank and stand with all the filters, pumps, and some really nice aquarium decorations.  It was a great score.  Thanks Missy.

I had been toying with the idea of making a Dungeons and Dragons decorated tank and the accessories I got with the two tanks fit in with the them.  It was time to break out the razor blade, super glue, and a few gaming miniatures.   I cut the bases off the minis and glued them to the decorations.

After getting inspired by a couple of Youtube videos, I decided to experiment with this tank by growing plants out of it.  Sweet potatoes grow really well in an aquarium, filter nitrates out of the water, and produce wonderful colored leaves.  So I used some egg-crate lighting grid to hold the sweet potatoes suspended in the water.  Once the roots have fully come in, I will post a timelapse video of the roots growing.

New Plants For The Colossus Aquarium

I decided since I was redoing Colossus, it was time to heavily plant the tank  I found a starter bundle of live plants for 40-45 gallon aquariums on Amazon. I ordered two sets of them and each set included:

  • 1 LARGE Amazon Sword (Echinodorus argentinensis, 10-12 in
  • 1 RED Amazon Sword (Echinodorus RED RUBIN), 5-7 in
  • 1 LARGE Anubias (Anubias lanceolata) 10-12 in
  • 1 Anubias barteri 6-7 in
  • Jungle Vallisneria 15-20 in
  • 5 Elodea densa – 7-9 in
  • 3 Cryptocoryne petchii – 6-7 in
  • 1 Java Fern (Microsorium pteropus) 8-10 in
  • 1 starting portion of Java Moss (Vesicularia dubyana) – 1×1 inch
  • 3 stems of Green Temple Plant (Nomaphila siamensis) 7-8 in
  • 3 stems of (Cabomba aquatica) – 6-8 in
  • 3 RED Alternanthera (Alternanthera reineckii) – 5-7 in  – beautiful RED plant!
  • 5 stems of Narrow Leaf Hygrophila (Hygrophila angustifolia) – 7-8 in
  • 3 stems of RED Ludwigia (Ludwigia repens) – 6-7 in – beautiful RED color
  • 10 stems of Moneywort (Bacopa monnierii) – 10-12 in
  • 10 floating plants Water spangles
  • 5 floating plants Amazon Frogbit

I also ordered some plants individually.

And I replace the substrate with 80lbs of  CaribSea Eco-Complete.

New Equipment for Colossus

This was a good time to upgrade a few pieces of equipment on the aquarium.  Here is a list of the new equipment I purchased:

Glosso Factory Drop Checker Kit

AQUATEK CO2-Proof Tubing 

Fzone Dual Stage Aquarium CO2 Regulator

YOOTOP 18″ Aquarium Air Stone Bubble Wall Tube

ShineIn Plastic Non-return Check Valves 

Pawfly 20-Piece Aquarium Suction Cup Clips for Airlines

Top Fin® Underwater Garden & Riverbed Reversible Aquarium Background

Moving Colossus The Raspberry PI Aquarium

We talked about it extensively and finally we decided to move Colossus to another part of the office.  I setup a temporary 29 Gallon tank to hold my pitful plants and fish.  Next we started the teardown, cleaning and moving of this monster.  We did everything over a couple of days when we took a break from working.

We switched the wall that Colossus occupied and discovered that the tile on the floor wasn’t level.  I ended up sitting the tank 12 inches from the wall.  I personally don’t like it that far from the wall, so I got some palms to cover the gap.  I have since learned that it’s nice having space behind the tank to hook up sensors and power cords.

I finally bit the bullet and bought a Yueqing WYIN W01-20 CO2 regulator.  Quick trip to the welding supply store and I got a 5lb tank full of carbon dioxide.  I have put off this purchase for sometime but I know it was neccessary for the tank I want to create.  At $22 USD for a refill, it’s reasonable priced after the initial investment.

Colossus Rebuild

Okay it was time to stop neglecting the aquarium part of Colossus.  I have been putting off upgrades and serious tank maintenance for months now.  So it’s complete tear down of the tank.

There are several little glitches that I want to correct with Colossus.  They are as follows: lighting glitch caused from using a breadboard,  turning on UV relay causes other relays to turn off.

Here are the mysql stats from Colossus v1.

I copied the database, and using phpmyadmin, deleted existing records so that the Record-ID number would keep the current record number and not reset to zero.


More build pictures

Here’s some more photos from the final stretch of this project.  We decided to  adjust the center trim piece which sadly means some more painting.  lol

Final Canopy Build Stage

Paintbrushes, screwdrivers, and drills.  Yup, we have moved into the final stages of building the canopy.  We are installing the mirrored plexiglass, putting on the trim pieces, and performing cable management where needed.

Colossus WordPress plugin is now GPL

That’s right.  Code commit 715b677  officially made the Colossus WordPress plugin 100% GPL liscensed.  Here at we LOVE free and open source software.

“Colossus Aquarium Plugin” Copyright (C) 2017

This file is part of Colossus WordPress Plugin for WordPress.

Colossus WordPress Plugin is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
(at your option) any later version.

Colossus WordPress Plugin is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
along with Contact Form to Database Extension.
If not, see

Relay Status Display

Growing up as a kid, I was obsessed with all things space.  TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers , Space 1999, and others just helped to fuel that obsession.  As a kid, I knew that stuff I saw on TV wasn’t real.  For the real stuff you needed to pay attention to NASA.

S-IB Networks control panel. This panel monitored the state of the electrical bus communications within the Apollo S-IB rocket. Photo credit: Jonathan H. Ward

Rockets and spacewalks are cool, but the earliest impression of NASA that I have is Mission Control.  The rows of consoles with the CRT screens and status panels filled with blinking lights really stuck with me.  As such, I’ve always enjoyed a good control panel.

My original idea for Colossus was to have a section of the canopy to display relay status in this fashion. One of the MCP23017 I2C chips is reserved for driving an LED status panel.  Since we expanded Colossus and added a second Raspberry Pi (Guardian), we decided to do a virtual control panel instead.

Following the design inspirations of NASA, we created the following Relay Power Status Panel.

Relay Power Status Panel

This relay status panel displays highlighted status for powered on devices along with a spinning gear icon.  Relays that are off are not highlighted and display a power button icon.  Clicking a relay status will run the script and toggle the relay state off and on.  We are still working on the final color scheme.  On our wish list is replacing one of the 17″ LCD displays with a touchscreen.    We can dream.

How it works


This shortcode works by calling the script with the webstatus option.  The webstatus option returns a single line of status output in a comma separated key/value list.  Key value pairs consist of command name, and relay power status.  Example output is listed below.


The shortcode reads this output,  sorts the key/values alphabetically and generates the status panel display.  There is no hard coding of commands or relay names in the plug.  All commands are passed to the shortcode from the  Changes to channel command or gpio pin numbers will not affect the functionality of this shortcode.


This script uses PHP’s exec and system functions to run the script. Certain aspects of the colossus control script require it to be run as root. In order to function properly, Apache must have root privileges. This creates MAJOR security holes. Our aquarium is not publicly accessible from the internet, otherwise we would not have done it. WE DO NOT ADVISE RUNNING APACHE AS ROOT!  DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Colossus WordPress Plugin

We are big fans of WordPress, so it’s no surprise that we are using it for Colossus.  While designing the web based control panel, I decided that it would be easier if I just incorporated all the individual scripts into a plugin.  I used Michael Simpson’s excellent WordPress Plugin Template to get started, and the Colossus Aquarium Plugin was born.    You can get git the code  at our BItBucket repository.

Important Note

For the on/off feature of the relay status panel to work, you must create docommand.php and install in Colossus’ www folder.  Please see this link for more details.


The following shortcodes are available:

[colossus-tank-status] • Display Tank Info
[colossus-relay-status] • Display Relay Status
[colossus-temperature-status] • Display Temperature
[colossus-display-last-event] • Display Last Event from database
[colossus-display-last-ph] • Display Last pH reading from database
[colossus-display-last-waterchange] • Display Last Waterchange from database
[colossus-graph-water-change] • Display graph of water changes
[colossus-graph-temperature] • Display graph of temperature readings at 12:00pm
[colossus-graph-ph] • Display graph of pH readings
[colossus-show-camera] • Display RelOptic Camera Feed
[colossus-filterchange-add] • Data entry for filter media change
[colossus-] • 
[colossus-] •