Raspberry Pi Aquarium Build Update

We started connecting all the individual pieces today.  We upgraded the unit to handle an additional Raspberry Pi.  That’s right!  Dual Raspberry Pi(s).  We also added a 4-port network switch so the the Colossus and Guardian could talk to one another.  Next step was to connect the aquarium light relays to the main electronics board, followed by hooking up the LCDs.

After running a few tests, we used masking tape and cardboard to mask out the areas of light coming from around the LCDs.  Once the plexiglass is in place, the tape won’t show.  The plexiglass will hold the LCDs firmly in place.

The canopy base got several coats of black latex and once it’s dry,  it’ll be installed around the aquarium.

Controlling the aquarium light with a Raspberry Pi

In this post, we are going to talk about controlling the aquarium light with a Raspberry Pi.   The light we are going to modify is the Odyssea T5 Quad Timer Aquarium Light.  We chose this light for it’s mod-ability.  The aluminum channel allows for easy access to the ballast and wiring.

Our initial plans for this light was to bypass the built in timer, and control the light with the pi by using relays to turn on each of the three sets of lights.  We also knew that we would require an additional cooling fan due to the way we are mounting the light.  We have also had to move the power cord due to canopy restraints.

The first step was to open up the light and remove the timer.  After removing the end cap, we slid out the small front panel piece to access the main wiring.

I drilled a set of holes into the casing and used led holders to protect the wires.  I also added one hole in the center of the unit for a fan.

Using disconnect pairs connectors to hook into the existing wiring, we ran the wires up through the led holders and into the power box.  We recycled an old seagate hard drive enclosure to house the relay and power connections for the aquarium light.  We used Cat-5 cable to connect to the Raspberry Pi.


Got mood lighting? Yup!

Spent a little time this after noon stringing multi-colored Christmas lights around the ceiling of the office.  No, we are not celebrating Christmas in July.

A couple of strands of lights brings a really nice low wattage light and atmosphere to the office.  I will eventually tie them into the motion detector at our office door.  When motion is detected, flash the lights.  Functional mood lighting for those times you don’t want to sit in absolute darkness. 🙂

I’ll post better videos later once we fix all the droppy spots and clean the office.

The Colossus Control Panel Part 1

Cool computers have cool control panels, am i right? Colossus will not be any different, and since we had already cut the plexiglass to size, it was time to move to the next step – applying the mirrored window tint.

We are undecided whether we want to go with a silver mirror or a smoky black mirror.   Since we are going to test several control panel ideas,  and have a roll of Gila Silver Mirror Adhesive Window Film, I cut off a 4 foot section to apply to the plexiglass.

This was my second attempt at applying the window film.  A word of advice, don’t try to apply a large piece of film by yourself.  It was an epic fail and we will never mention it again.

Ignoring my own advice, I decided to be a little smarter this time while applying the film.  After cutting the film, I peeled back the liner an inch on each corner and secured it to the counter with scotch tape.  I removed the rest of the liner and applied the adhesive spray to the film.  Next, I simply laid the plexiglass down on top of the film and trimmed to size.

Flipping the control panel over, I proceeded to smooth out the film per the instructions on the box.  The results are a little rough, but exactly what I expected.  I applied the mirror film directly to protective cover on the plexiglass, so I could easily remove it and not ruin another sheet of plexiglass.

Overall this was a successful test and very educational.


I need to call our vinyl graphics guy and see what options are available and have it decal wrapped like a car.  It would be the most professional looking solution.

Motion Sensor added to Colossus

Being a couple of home-office based geeks means that we work strange hours.  It’s not uncommon for one or both of us to be working in the early morning hours.  Those hours are peaceful and you don’t always want to turn on a bright light.  You know how geeks avoid the light.  lol.

We added a passive infrared sensor (PIR) to Colossus for night time lighting operations.  In addition to the other lighting modes we have planned, this feature will run from midnight to 6 am.  During these hours, if Colossus detects motion in the office, it will turn on it’s floor lighting for 15 minutes at a time.

The final floor lighting will most likely be LED strip lighting, but for the current time we are using Christmas lights.

Colossus now speaks

We added the espeak python module to the Colossus Control Software.  This gives Colossus the ability to verbally communicate status messages as well as emergency aquarium alerts like overheating and etc.

Relay Testing and Party Ball Mode

It was time to actually hook up Colossus to actual aquarium devices for a test run.   While we were testing, I took a little time to write the Party Ball Mode script.

Let me explain about Party Ball Mode.  We work in a nice finished basement office.  We have two windows and other than the overhead fluorescent lighting, it’s kinda dark.  When you stare at computer screens in a dark office, it’s really easy to get lost in your work.  We have a habit of working right past 5 o’clock without realizing it.  So that’s where we got the idea of Party Ball Mode.

Every day at 5, Colossus will start playing Jimmy Buffett, and the party ball light will come on for an hour.   It will be a nice reminder that it’s time to get up and leave the computers alone.

Here is a quick video of the Party Ball Mode test.