Product Review: GHL DOSER 2.1
For many years, we had leveraged our Apex to control BRS dosing pumps in our main 800 gallon grow out system. This had served us well using both Reef Grow’s 9 dosing strategy as well as Triton’s Core 7. That was until the fall of 2016 when our Apex decided to lock up and turn all our dosing outlets “On”… Thank goodness that we were onsite when this happened and were able to keep the alkalinity spike to a minimum, but still ended up losing several thousand dollars in corals. Neptune had a firmware update that fixed the issue literally the next day, but this did get us thinking about breaking out our dosing into a separate system. After all, we run 80 plus outlets on our Apex which is a lot of eggs in one software basket.
We started to look around at some of the standalone dosing units that were on the market and also spoke to a few respected folks in our local Chicago reefing community. GHL’s name kept coming up so we decided to do some research as well as reach out to Vinny, Marco, and Cristina over at GHL’s US operations. After a few calls and learning that Marco & Christina were based in Florida where we would be traveling for the Christmas holiday, we decided to meet up when we were down there. They were kind enough to meet a couple days before Christmas and I got a great look at the build quality and powerful features that the Doser 2.1 offered.
We purchased a unit to take home with us and after a few uneasy minutes of explaining what this device was to a skeptical TSA employee, we brought it back to Chicago and got it setup between the Christmas and New Year’s Holidays. Fast forward 8+ months and our Doser 2.1 is running great, easy to program, and we are contemplating a second unit for something we are about to change in our system, but more about that later.
GHL Doser 2.1 Product Summary and Setup
The GHL Doser 2.1 is the latest generation dosing pump from GHL that lets you control via USB/WEB/APP all aspects of your reef tanks’ dosing regimen. It comes in a 2, 3, or 4 dosing pump Master or Slave unit. The color options are white or black and the units have an LED signaling system built in which allows you to easily and visually see if the unit is dosing or alarming for some reason without having to check the app. The 2.1SA offers the flexibility to convert an SA doser into a slave unit with just the press of a button. Connect to GHL Control Center (GCC) and set doser to “Slave” mode, save settings. Perfect for those who may be interested in the ProfiLux 4 controller down the road. There are also 4 inputs on the back that you can use to connect the GHL dosing containers that have stirrers in them to keep your liquids well mixed.
Setting up the Doser 2.1 was a very straightforward process beginning with the power connection and USB cable connection. The 2.1 also has network connectivity through Wi-Fi or the built-in LAN port so it is easy to connect to it over your network as well which is what we prefer.. Once connected, you can setup the Doser 2.1 using GHL’s standalone program that works over the USB or network connection and provides an easy way to interface the doser.
Once you connect to the unit and log in to program the doser you will find that GHL has provided a myriad of simple ways to setup your dosing. There are a few options for setting up how much is dosed at each interval so you can microdose something like say amino acids with one pump, but then dose something at a higher rate on another like say Kalkwasser or Top Off Water.
GHL has also included an alarm to alert you when your dosing containers are running low. You simply input your containers volume and then as you refill it over time, you just input the amount you are adding and it stays dialed in. This is a great improvement to assisting us with our normal maintenance routines. We have had this alarm function alert us many a time when our elements are running low.
There is also a handy reverse option that can be used after a dosing occurs to “pull back” any unused amount stored in the dosing tube if you are for example dosing live plankton that is stored in a refrigerator. Once the dosing is calculated and finished, the pump runs in reverse to pull back the plankton so that it is all stored in the fridge. We haven’t tried using this yet in our application but perhaps in the future when our reef setups get even more out of control!
What was in our box?
- GHL Doser 2.1 SA Unit 4 pump unit
- 24V power supply
- 8x Plastic tubing adapters
- 6ft USB cable
So how do we use the GHL Doser 2.1 here at ReefNation?
The use case for us here at ReefNation currently has the Doser 2.1 doing our 4 part Triton Core 7 dosing on a coral grow out system of approximately 600 gallons. The 4 Triton elements are pulled from 4L BRS slim line dosing containers and dosed accordingly. Our preference on programming our doser has been to use the web browser and adjust the number of doses per day depending on what our daily alkalinity reading shows. Since first starting to use the Triton Core 7 through our Doser 2.1, we have ramped up usage as our corals’ alkalinity consuming biomass has increased in that system and shot past the 150 limit of doses the unit can do in a day. The math on this was 150 1ml doses for the day for a total of 150ml.
Have no fear! Once we reached that 150 dose maximum, we then simply adjusted to 75 doses at 2ml which has allowed us to continue keeping up with our dosing demands. This combination of amount dosed and number of doses really allows for an unlimited number of configuration possibilities and allows us to customize the 2.1 to suit whatever we are dosing in the future. We love this logical approach and it makes adjusting very easy as well as it spreads out the doses throughout the day.
The ability to connect in a browser, mobile app, or program makes the setup of the Doser 2.1 customizable to whatever you are most comfortable with, making programming a breeze. There is almost endless programmability in the 2.1, but they also make setting your dosing schedule easy and intuitive. We love the ability to add dosing units later on to expand your dosing capabilities, yet still manage all your dosing parameters from a single interface. Refill and low level alerting make this standalone component of your reef tank solid and reliable.
While overall, we love our doser, there are a couple challenges we have had that are worth mentioning both for future product enhancements, as well as for all of you to propose workarounds.
First up, the connectors from the dosing containers’ tubes to the Doser 2.1 need some improvement. We use the same ¼’ tubing we had used with BRS dosers for years and also tried airline tubing, but neither stays on well if you are in and around the doser and might brush up against them.
There have been many times when we are refilling our dosing containers that the inlet or outlet tubes have just popped off with the slightest brush of our arm. This undermines the very reason we went to this setup and I would love to find a better work around that trying to zip tie each on given their small size. I’m sure one exists so we can halfway chalk this up to maybe user error.
The only other room for improvement item is the desktop standalone app. I have a technical background and having Marco remote in to help me made it easy to get the idea of how to connect and navigate around in the program, but it honestly reminded me of some of the old FTP apps of the early 2000’s. That being said, 99% of the time we use the web login which is a bit slower response but makes programming an absolute breeze. We highly recommend this route or the mobile app for anyone that is less technical. Being able to update firmware from the web/app would be a nice addition at some point as well.
Whether you are home working on your reef or traveling on the road, GHL’s Doser 2.1 is a great way to keep an eye on your reef tanks’ dosing schedule, dosing container levels, and make easy adjustments. We have been using a 4 pump version of the 2.1 on our main grow out system for over 8 months now without any issues whatsoever. Support via GHL has been really outstanding. As mentioned, they even jumped on a screen share with us on the initial setup to look over our settings and made sure we had the programming setup properly. This unit once again is a great reminder to reef hobbyists that you get what you pay for. We are excited to see the recent announcement of the Doser 2.1’s integration into the GHL alkalinity monitoring strategy and look forward to meeting with their team in New Orleans @ MACNA 2017. Based on this, the GHL Doser 2.1 gets a “thumbs up” from Reefnation.
Currently we are at 192ml of Triton Core 7 per day on this system which is becoming quite costly. I mention this as we are contemplating a partial shift to using a calcium reactor for the base of our system’s demand and we would love to use the controllability of the Doser 2.1 to regulate the effluent. We will come back and update this section at a later date as we make changes.