Welcome To the World of Versatility!
By Joshua McMillen
It seems to me that
in this hobby there are few guarantees, and perhaps that is for the better.
We will never be short on methods to improve or problems to solve. I
believe that aside from the beauty of that which we keep, this is one of its
In this regard, we
must be able to change, expand or adapt our systems to keep up lest our ideas be
placed on a shelf until we can afford to implement them. I would not be
surprised to find this as a leading cause in the lack of improvements being made
with our home systems. As long as we brood on ideas, and we do brood, we
can only hold onto so many before they are replaced by the constant influx of
new ones. In this article I hope to make at least one aspect of system
design a little easier to implement, as well as completely rearrange at our
In system planning
and setup, I feel there is but one major limiting factor toward this end:
Plumbing. More specifically, sumps. Upgrading our sump related equipment,
integrating refugia, and any other number of desired changes to them is limited
by the much needed system of baffles we employ.
Baffles, as we
know, are the wall construction within the sump that moderate and direct the
flow of water so as to force air bubbles to the surface, and form a pathway
through the desired filtration on its way to the return pump. Once fixed
in place, however, we must either make changes as their construction allows, or
remove them completely and recreate them. Neither of these can be
considered at our leisure.
these baffles are siliconed in place, presenting two problems. First, we
must match the materials being used (acrylic to acrylic, glass to glass, Etc.)
and of course the obvious, once installed they cannot be moved. As an
alternative, I propose a pressure locked/slip fit baffle system, which when
properly installed is as effective as a fixed installation, while providing easy
manipulation to incorporate a larger skimmer, refugium, pump, Etc.
For ease of
explanation here, I am going to use an old glass aquarium as the sump vessel.
Though these can be installed in virtually any vessel that we use, it would
change their construction slightly with the shape of each as you will soon
Materials and Tools Needed
1 sheet of ¼” Lucite (or any brand of acrylic
sheet) measuring 24”x48”. Try your local home improvement
warehouse or check the yellow pages under "Plastic Sheet, Rod and Tube".
2 rolls of Marine/Outdoor EPDM foam rubber weather
stripping. Be sure to choose EPDM. Other materials may
deteriorate in water.
1 sump. Standard glass aquariums work great
and every tried and true fish geek has at least one to spare!
Power saw. A saber saw is used in this
article, but table saws are even better.
Screwdriver, chisel or scraper and sandpaper.
The materials listed above are enough for
approximately 6-8 baffles, depending on size.
Step 1: Measure
|In measuring for the width of your baffles,
it is important to remember that you will be measuring the inside width
of your sump. This is key as the pressure lock depends on it. Once you
have your inside measure (for our example 11 3/4”), you will simply need
to subtract ¼” to obtain the baffle width (thus 11 ½”). This leaves a
clearance of 1/8” on either side of the baffle. Next, you will need to
determine the height of the baffle. There is no hard set rule on this
as the entire operation of this system is open to alteration and
adjustment. Again, for ease of explanation, we are merely taming flow
in this example. When determining the height, measure from the bottom
of the sump (yes, even for the “under flows”) as this will serve an
important safety precaution during operation.
The baffle in the picture has been
properly measured and cut. The space shown will be filled by the
Step 2: Cut
Above Left: Although table and
panel saws are necessary for all-acrylic fabrication, a saber saw does a
fine job for this type of project. Above Right: Fine tooth
blades tend to overheat and melt the Lucite, sometimes actually welding
the two pieces back together. Be sure to wear safety glasses!
Below Left: An "underflow"
baffle with center cut out to leave supporting legs on each side.
Below Right: Cleaning up the cut edge with a scredriver and then
Cutting the Lucite will likely take some experimenting so be sure to take a few
practice runs on a scrap section. Though the label states to use a fine
tooth blade, I found it to be much easier with rough, wood cutting blades.
This seemed to cut wide enough to prevent the edges from melting back together
as the blade passed. The cutting of the baffles is fairly straight forward
with one exception; the under flows. Once the initial rectangle has been
cut, it will be necessary to cut an additional 1”x9” section (centered) out of
the bottom edge. This opening serves two functions. It, of course,
forces water to pass under the baffle, while the resultant “legs” on each side
provide support. This ensures that directional flow is always maintained,
since the baffle cannot inadvertently drop or be pressed into the bottom of the
Step 3: Apply
Left: Carefully applying the
EPDM strip to the edge of the baffle. Right: A bottom
sealing baffle and under-flow baffle are shown.
This is the final
step in construction of the baffle itself. Simply put, it’s like using a
sticker. For the over flow walls you will be covering three sides; left,
right and bottom. The left and right sides should be covered from top to
bottom and the excess cut flush at these edges. The bottom should be
covered from left to right, extended beyond the baffle, and cut off flush with
the outside edge of the side strips. This creates a full seal across the
bottom eliminating any gaps at the corners. The under flow walls only need to be
covered on the left and right sides, in the same manner. The EPDM strips
will add a ¼” to each side of the baffle making them wider than the sump vessel.
When installing the baffle, the compression against these will create the
pressure lock. This will insure hold and create a water-tight seal for proper
Step 4: Install and
is a snap. Using a small amount of water, wet the inside surface of the
sump as well as the EPDM strips. Left: Angle the baffle into the
desired position. While holding one end stationary, simply tap the
other end into place. Right: Baffles in place!
Now my friends, you
are finished. What you are left with is a fully functional yet extremely
versatile system of baffles. Make it what you will, removal and adjustment
take only minutes. Wonder if a refugium might be useful? Try it! Want that
bigger skimmer you’ve been drooling over? Buy it! It is now truly up to
A completed baffle system that can be easily rearranged anytime the owner desires!
|Sumps, Refugiums on WWM
Baffle FAQs &
FAQs 3, FAQs
4, FAQs 5, FAQs
6, FAQs 7, FAQs
Converting a Hagen Aquaclear 500 Power Filter into a Hang-on Refugium
(or How to Promote the Peace in a Fish Household) By Steven Pro,
FAQs 4, FAQs
FAQs 8, FAQs
FAQs 10, FAQs
Refugium Designs 2,
Refugium Designs 3,
Refugium Designs 4, Refugium
Refugium Design 6,
Refugium Pumps/Circulation 2,
Refugium Algae 2,
Refugium Operation/Maintenance 2,