Question: Day/Night cycles

JAK

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As I work towards assembling my habitat I find questions as often of as answers, the latest deals with the importance of natural day/night periods and how best to maintain them. I've already got the light figured out but I'm not sure about the best way to control it. I could just do it manually but with my erratic schedule that's going to be rather inconsistent. Logically some type of programmable timer is in order. I do wonder though if it would be better to use a 12 on 12 off period or an astronomic timer that matches the natural sunrise/sunset times depending on the date. I'm going to be housing adult Eastern Newts, but I'd be curious to know the type of lightning controls and periods others have found successful. What do you use to light your habitat and how do you control it?

Posted from the newt-phone!
 

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I always control day length with cheap plug in time switches. For the species i've kept I pretty much keep to a summer or winter day length and that's been good enough, along with appropriate temps to induce breeding.
I do think it's important is to have a dawn/dusk period, especially for species that are crepuscular by nature. I have a dimmer function on the lighting I have now, but before that I just made sure I turned the room lights on an hour or so before the aquarium lights came on. I hate to see dazzled newts recoiling or swimming for cover when the lights come on in one hit!
 

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I use a cheap timer too, but I adjust the time every month.

This can give you sunrise/sunset times for anywhere in the world:
Sun or Moon Rise/Set Table for One Year

I've previously used devices to detect whether it's light outside, and turn the newts' lights on, but never found them very reliable.

I'm in the process of building an Arduino-based device to control lights and temperature- this will know what day of the year it is, and calculate the daylength and temperature appropriately. It uses a clock chip that has battery backup, so it'll recover correctly after a power cut.
 

JAK

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I considered putting something together on a prototype board and a trying to cobble together a working timer from parts I have lying around but I haven't done anything that complicated before and doubt my current supply of PICAXE bits and bobs would be enough to get anything useful going. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable working with that much current anyway, it'd be neat to see your Arduino based controller if you get it all worked out tough. Part of me is surprised more people don't roll their own lighting controls considering how much some of the fancy commercial ones can cost.

I ended up just buying a ready made Programmable/Astronomical timer. It's an Intermatic Model DT620 (if anyone is interested) and I've got it set up to turn the lights on at dawn and off at dusk. After programing in the current time, date, and my location it will automatically update the sunrise/sunset times based on that. Because I don't have any newts yet, I set it up with a desk lamp a few minutes ago to test it out, can't wait to see if it comes on at the right time tomorrow!
 

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it'd be neat to see your Arduino based controller if you get it all worked out tough.

Finally got it finished, finally got round to taking a photo, should be attached. It's an Arduino Duemilanove, with a DS3231 clock board, a 10A 2-channel relay board, and an HD44780 LCD display. It has three buttons for changing the display/adjusting time/maximum photoperiod etc.

Everything is automatic- it estimates photoperiod using a sine function, and even adjusts for daylight saving. It has an 'always on' time, so that I can set a time I can guarantee the lights will be on every day.

Maximum photoperiod and 'always on' time are saved in the alarm registers on the DS3231, so they'll persist if there's a power cut.

The Arduino's USB connection is exposed so it can be reprogrammed in-place, and there's a manual override switch so this can be done with the lights still on.

One of the relay channels controls the lights- the other is unused at the moment, but I'm intending to use this for day/night temperature control. There's a DS18B20 temperature sensor plugged into the socket on the front panel, at the moment it just shows the temperature on the LCD.
 

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Photo seems to have disappeared, should be here now.
 

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caleb

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After a couple of months the light relay failed, refusing to switch off.

I cut it open to have a look, and the contacts had welded themselves together.

I think the electronic ballasts for my fluorescent lights are momentarily pulling a high current when switched on, so I've replaced the relay with one rated for high inrush currents (16A continuous, 100A inrush).
 
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    Hi, Im fairly new to keeping axolotls. I have to lil buddies that I got a few months back. They were doing fine, up until a month ago when one got fungus in his gills. Took him out to fridge him, then the other guy got it too. I'm currently fridging both and doing salt baths for one (not enough fridge space to keep that much pretreated water for both at the same time). Its been hard to tell if its helping or not and then about a week and half ago one of my axies had a bunch of weird white goop in the water. I immediately changed it, happened a tiny bit again, then seemed to be okay. I had returned him to the tank, but it happened again. Back to the fridge but wanted hear from people who knew more
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    I have pictures. Tried looking through other peoples questions, but couldnt find the same white goop.
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    @Kailynom My cousin (who i got my baby axies from) had the same problem. She developed an allergy to the bloodworms she was feeding them and it got really bad. To the point where her throat would close up just being around the bloodworms. Happened within a few months. Be safe :)
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  • madcaplaughs:
    @MadamePirateOwl Fridging is best left to life-or-death situations, and salt baths are unnecessarily harsh, stressful, and abrasive. I'd suggest doing tea baths instead (using caffeinated black tea, where the only ingredient is black tea).
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    so no idea what the goop is?
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  • madcaplaughs:
    Hard to tell without a photo, but might be algae or fungus floating. Water changes will take care of that.
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    It definitely came from the axolotl. Looked to be mixed into poo the first time. Can I post the photos here?
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    Im not actually sure how i would post it. It seems to want a link
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    Its fairly thick and chunky
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    (Also thanks for your patience and help!)
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  • madcaplaughs:
    You could always upload the photo to imgur and link it back here
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    The second image was how it looked the first time, it was mixed with some other poop like stuff. after that its been small and without the poopy stuff
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  • madcaplaughs:
    The second photo looks reminiscent of partially-digested worms, though I've never seen anything like that. Have you checked your parameters lately?
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    Right now theyre in smaller tubs that i do daily water changes in
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    I'll admit Ive bought test strips but they havent come in yet
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    I use Prime to dechlorinate the water, which was recommend by the girl I got them from
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  • madcaplaughs:
    I'd also recommend ordering a liquid test kit such as the API Freshwater Master Test Kit since strips are generally unreliable and inaccurate.
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  • MadamePirateOwl:
    Okay, thank you for your help and advice :)
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    k.em: anybody growing tylototriton? +2
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