Mini Fish Farm: Automatic Temperature Control

A MOTHER reader gives advice on automatic temperature control for a mini fish farm.

| March/April 1976

Wow. That's some title. But Richard Read did ask for help in finding an automatic temperature control for his mini-fish-farm (see MOTHER March/April 1975.) Maybe I can offer that assistance.

The simple thermostats used in the cooling systems of cars, trucks, and other vehicles (cost, about $2.00 each) can — with a little modification — automatically regulate the temperature of water flowing into such an aquatic food reserve. (The modification is necessary because these regulators are ordinarily set to open at around 160 degrees Fahrenheit — 80 degrees higher than the 80 degree temperature that Reed's tilapia find most comfortable. The alteration, however, can be easy so don't lot it frighten you.)

The smallest thermostats, and therefore the best ones for our purposes, are those made for the newer model Chevrolets. Almost any brand of new or replacement automobile water temperature regulator, though, can be made to work the way we want it to.

The easiest of these thermostats to adapt to our use are the ones with a small temperature-adjustment screw that's held at any desired setting with a dab of paint on its threads. If you can find one of these babies, grab it. Just by tightening or loosening that little screw, you'll be able to regulate the valve inside so that it passes only water which is the temperature you want.

If you're not lucky enough to run across a screw-adjusting thermostat, pick up one of the regulators built around a "gate" that operates like a swinging door. By bending up the sides of such a thermostat as shown in the accompanying drawing, testing the device, refining the bonds, testing again, etc., you can fine tune the thermostat until it opens at any temperature between 80 and 190 degrees. (Click on the "Image Gallery" to view the accompanying drawing.)

The testing part of this calibration, by the way, is quite easy. Just hold the regulator in a pan of water with a thermometer while the liquid is allowed to heat on a stove. Then simply note the temperature of the water at the time the thermostat opens. (it's important for accuracy's sake, of course, that neither the thermostat nor the thermometer touches the pan during one of these tests. Support them side by side or together in the water with a twist of wire, pair of long-handled pliers, or whatever while each calibration is being run.)

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