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Related Articles: Plumbing Marine Systems, Myth of the One Inch Beast (Why Relying on One Inch Overflows... or Overflow! Is foolhardy) by Scott Vallembois, Plumbing Return Manifolds, Refugiums

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Can anyone guide me on a detailed, photograph rich diagram on how to drill a hole in the bottom of an acrylic tank, install a bulk head and perhaps a stand pipe or something similar?   <Hi Steve, I don't know of any photograph rich web pages illustrating this, but it is as simple as drilling a hole with a hole saw, installing the bulkhead and gluing/threading pvc pipe as the standpipe (as tall as the desired water level) and the plumbing from the bulkhead to sump. Make sure you put tape on both sides of the hole to avoid the acrylic chipping when the hole saw breaks through. Glue the fittings ahead of time so they have time to cure before you install them.> I'm having SERIOUS problems with my siphon overflows failing once power comes back on after a power failure.  They lose their prime, and then the tank overflows as the return pumps water into the main tank from the sump, with no way for the water to return back to the sump via the P.O.S j-tubes. <The other way to solve this is to put airline fittings in the top of your J-tubes (drill and glue) and connect them to venturi powerheads that will pull the air from the j-tube upon powering up after a power failure. This will restore the siphon and avoid floods. This is the second best way of doing this after drilling the overflows.> I'll be doing this job today, as it is my only day off. I'm in hell. Thanks, Steve <Hope this gets you to a cooler spot!  Craig>

- Overflow Setup - Anthony, <Hi Steve, it's JasonC again...> Thanks for all the great advice concerning my J-tube siphon problem. Today I went out and purchased an all glass aquarium (tired of the acrylic one due to scratches, as well as the ill designed j-tube siphon overflow). <Ahh... much better. Have owned this exact aquarium.> The aquarium I bought was pre drilled at it's base. I bought the kit with 1" overflow bulkhead and 3/4" return bulkhead.  The tank has an internal "skimmer/prefilter" that is in the left hand corner and runs from the top of the tank to the base, with a stand pipe and float design. <That is not a prefilter, that IS the overflow.> After getting robbed for the kit $60, I realized I could have purchased it's contents separately at Home Depot for under $25.  Bulkheads I would have had to get at a pluming supply place or another pet store, but they are about $10/pc.  The one thing in the kit that I don't think I would have thought to make or buy is the float contraption that sits in the stand pipe on top of a sponge filter.    I'm wondering........can I remove this sponge filter? a/k/a nitrate producer? <I wouldn't for two reasons... one, it's not a nitrate producer if you clean regularly. Two, without it you will be putting raw water into your sump... unless that is what you want.> Or should I keep it there to trap particles of food, etc, and just clean it every two days or so. <Once a week would suffice.> I have a trickle filter that also has the filter pads in it before heading down over a bucket of aragonite sand then into the main sump where water gets pumped into my refugium in an adjoining cabinet. Also, about a week ago I pulled out ALL the bio balls from the trickle filter, as I was tired of the high nitrate levels and felt those balls were the culprit. I currently have two 2 1/2 pint plastic containers that are about 7" high or so full of aragonite sand from Coralife.. "oolitic" it says on the bag. As it stands right now each container is about 3/4 full and I just let the water trickle over them.  Due to the sand being so very fine.....almost mud consistency. very compact, I find that I shouldn't pop any holes in these buckets for drainage as the sand will most definitely leak out then head to the sump pump and refugium.    Should I just leave the tubs 3/4 full with some holes near the top so just the water overflows?  I'm hoping to reap some of the "deep sand bed" type properties of developing anaerobic bacteria at/near the bottom of each container. What are your thoughts? <Hmm... surface area would help in this too... you'd almost be better off building a sump designed for this purpose. Sometimes a little of something - like two 1/2 pint containers of sand is not better than nothing at all. You would get better results with a true sand bed.> My refugium is a 10 gallon type with 3 1/2" high baffles and miracle mud substrate.  I've heard that the very same aragonite micro fine sand I purchased this evening at my LFS would work very well in a refugium, once detritivores are added, etc.  DO you have any substrate media that you prefer over others? <Nope.> I chose not to go with the Caulerpa macro algae on a 24/7 daylight schedule due to many stories I've read about toxicity to corals, fish, etc when the algae goes "sexual". <I've never had a problem with toxicity when the Caulerpa goes sexual...> I suppose due to poor husbandry on the part of the aquarist, one who lets his Caulerpas overgrow and doesn't use 24/7 lighting, etc is in for a big bad surprise. <Our experiences differ here methinks... > Right now I have Chaetomorpha in there and am planning to buy some detritivore "critters" shortly to make this ecosystem more developed and functional. <Might I suggest that you pose some of these issues on our forum: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk - where you can get a diverse range of opinions and experiences to round out some of this information you have.> Thanks for all your advice. Steve <Cheers, J -- >

Reef plumbing woes Anthony, OK... now what if drilling the tank is not an option.....I mean, my next tank can be drilled, and every one from here on out that will share my central sump theory, but I do nor have the means at this point to break this whole system down (after nearly three years of trying to get it right) and send the tank out to be drilled. <no worries here. You likely have a professional aquarium service company (installing and maintaining aquariums for offices, homes, etc) in the area that can do this chore in an afternoon at your home. It is the case for most big cities> Anyway, you asked what cities I was near. I am in Danielson, CT....20 miles west of Providence RI....20 miles south of Worcester, MA...& 40 miles east of Hartford, CT. <awesome... there are several big aquarium clubs regionally for you. In fact... although not exactly in your back yard, I will be in Boston this weekend with Eric Borneman for a coral reef aquarium symposium. Road trip if you like! See here: http://www.bostonreefers.org/meetings/archive/2003/01/18/   as far as other clubs and places to network... do consider regional trips to RI, NY and MA to visit their clubs and events... well worth the road trip and fellowship. At Boston this weekend... there are likely to be 200-250 fish nerds just like you and me to chat with <G>. Tank tours too to visit aquarists homes (best of the best in the city). We have links to various clubs here on WWM (follow "links" link from the home page)... also, seek clubs from listings on message boards like ReefCentral (they have a club forums page).> I could probably grasp a non-gravity/siphon concept if I saw it on paper, as well as in person. <I would not use a siphon (u- or J- tube) under any circumstance. I am only recommending gravity overflows bud. Flood and fir hazards otherwise> Or maybe even in print, if you could expound a little. <indeed... but it would be much easy for me to chat it to you or for you to see it at another aquarist or shops place... I regret that it would take too long to write at length> In any case, I would like to create a huge remote sump to run this, and other future tanks through. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. <there is a very good book on this and related topics called "Aquatic Systems Engineering" by Escobar. Do consult, my friend> I apologize for the Super hero comment, and although my mind had not gone to the "plum harboring" place that yours did...rest assured that the image is now burned indelibly in my mind. <heehee... you'll never look at a plum the same way again> Thanks, I think. Look forward to your words of wisdom, if you can find the time between washing your tights. <I'm thinking of shaving my legs and having colored tights tattooed on instead. Then I will only have to wear a thong. Ha! Just a little fodder for your next therapy session> peace.-Your (now in need of therapy) friend in CT.....Pat <best regards, Anthony>

Re: drilling acrylic tank/bulkhead & stand pipe Thank you very much Craig. <No problem Steve!> You and Anthony gave me excellent advice regarding the airline tube/venturi power head method of solving my J-tube siphon problem, however I ended up buying an all glass tank yesterday that was pre drilled at the base.  So I am currently in process of transferring everything over to it now.  I was up till 6 am doing this. <Egad, that's a lot of work, but it will be worth it.> The kit I purchased for the overflow consists of two bulk head fittings, a long PVC pipe for the return with a tiny hole drilled into the elbow at the top to help prevent siphoning in case of a power failure, and a regular standpipe with an odd float attachment that I've never seen before. I was wondering if these floats really work, before installing it.  Would I be better served building a Durso stand pipe?, or just use this contraption that came with the kit.  I'm off to Home Depot now for some tubing. Thank again. Steve <I don't know about the floats, but gravity is not going to fail, so I would use it and Durso pipes for the overflows. The hole in the return goes just below your desired water level (slightly above the overflow level). Most folks report finding the Durso pipes being quieter. Have a blast with the new tank!  Craig>

- A 'brief question - Pre filter/skimmer J-tubes losing prime <Greetings, JasonC here...> Hello and thank you so very much for providing the time to answer so many repetitive questions for all of us reef lovers  :-) I'll try to make this brief so we can get right to the meat of my problem. <I looked ahead... it's not exactly what I would call brief ;-) > I have a 55 gallon acrylic fish/live rock/coral salt water aquarium with wet-dry sump (minus bio balls as this was causing a nitrate' fest so I pulled em out). The sump has a Berlin turbo skimmer and a few power heads for circulation and one leading to a 10 gallon refugium I have set up in the adjoining cabinet about 3 feet away with a gravity fed return to the main sump.  The refugium is on a reverse daylight schedule and houses Chaetomorpha macro algae, as I am not a big fan of Caulerpa and all of the toxic headaches it has caused so many others in the hobby-addiction :-P Anyway, my problem is this.... I have the "dreaded" hang on the back prefilter box with two "J"-tubes as suction, leading down two 1 1/4" drain hoses into my trickle filter in the sump. Problem is, ........POWER FAILURES Ughhhh!!! What happens is that the J-tubes seem to lose their prime when the power goes out, and the tubes partially empty, or sometimes fully empty. <That is the nature of the beast.> Then when the power comes back on, the return sump pump begins pumping water into the main tank and the tank overflows all 10-15 gallons of sump water all over my wood floor. Yes, ...that's what I love the most...warped wood. Anyway, I'm just not up to draining the main tank completely and drilling a bulk head fitting with a stand pipe and some form of internal filter box siliconed to the inside of the tank.  I just cant do it. <Then instead perhaps you'll enjoy replacing the floors more so...> So, I am asking your professional opinion on how I can remedy this situation of the J-tubes losing their prime in the hang on back prefilter/skimmer. <You can't...> It's a typical setup that comes with most pre made wet/dry systems. you know...comes complete with the twin black drain hoses, etc. If you don't think you can come up with some type of reconfiguration of the J-tubes and housing, then perhaps I'll have to resort to the disgusting method of rigging a power head from the main tank via a tube into the sump, so that when power returns, at least the tank will have water "pumped" back into the sump. That's VERY unsightly and am hoping to get around having to do that. <You could always drill the tank ;-) > Please help if you can. <I think you already have a good grasp on how you can help yourself.> Warmest regards, and thank you again for providing assistance to those of us in need. Steve <Cheers, J -- >

Re: Reef Plumbing Hi guys, this one will be quick. Thanks Anthony for helping me w/ the pump selection (Iwaki & Dolphin Amp).   <quite welcome> Anthony, you wrote that I could use a "teed bleeder w/ gate valve for extra overall flow and oxygenation" into my sump. Would you clarify for me...for some reason I don't follow. (what do you mean "teed bleeder"?)   <instead of running the return from the sump pump directly up to the display... have a PVC tee coming off the pump with a gate valve that bleeds water vigorously back into the sump. Thus, instead of throttling back a direct drive pump with a gate valve on a straight return to the display (bad for direct drive pumps but OK for mag drives), you will instead simply bleed off any excess water flow that the overflows above cannot handle. Less back pressure on the pump and extra water moving through the sump> I am running 2 separate 1.5" pipe from the back of my tank's 1.5" bulkheads into the sump.  How would what you described work on my current setup?   <see these elements in this illustration: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plumbingmarart.htm > Last thing, I have my sump and my return pump under/in my stand.  In order for me to run a return line up the back of tank I have to run elbows 90 and/or 45's, off of the pump (to get the pipe out from under my stand).  I would like to eliminate as many unneeded turns as possible to get as much out of my pump as I can.   <they make flexible PVC pipe (reinforced flex) for this bud. Very helpful to reduce resistance on the pump>> SO. my sump has a 1" bulkhead plumbed to my return pump.  I was wondering, would it be possible to plumb from my sump out of the bulkhead to my pump (switching to Iwaki rated at 1200gph @ 4') with a flex pvc or some flexible tubing, <Ahha!> and run this first tubing about 1 to 1.5' to the area behind my stand (between stand and wall), to where I will place my return pump so that way I can just have a straight shot from the pump to the tank.   <excellent idea> The flex tubing will be bending a little to get to the pump, but no turns or elbows.  Sorry for poor explanation, hope you can follow.   <very clear and agreed my friend.> Thanks Bryan<best regards, Anthony>

Stock Plumbing Hello, Bob <Greetings, it's JasonC this time.> I really need your help. I bought my tank a couple of months ago, I decided I wasn't going to do anything till I was well read and studied everything I could get my hands on. Being new to this hobby. Of course the first thing I read was to get the biggest tank I could. So I did. 135 gallon oceanic reef ready tank. Two corner boxes installed, Now I realize this was my first mistake. You guessed it. <No, I didn't.> It came with standard 1'' drains and 3/4 returns. <What's wrong with that?> Here in lies my dilemma!! <I'm not sure I see what the dilemma is.> I am planning to go with Live sand, live rock, soft corals, and LPS, some small fish and critters. Should I try and get it re-drilled? <Why?> If so what size drain holes and returns? The problem here is the glass store will not be responsible if it cracks. My warranty will be void also. <That's right.> The other option would be a water manifold atop the aquarium. Could I use the 4 drilled holes that are in it now as drain holes only, and run one large pump from the sump and plumb up the back of the aquarium into the manifold, for a closed loop system? <You have many, many options - is really more of a question of budget.> When you said welcome to the quagmire called reef keeping how right you were my friend!!!! But I am hooked on it. If you tell me to use the water manifold method is there a web site I could go to, to see a picture or diagram of it. <I would post this question on our forum, where you'd likely run into several people with similar systems.> All most forgot, would this be a draw back for the loop system, I have a piece of top glass about 17'' across that is stationary in the middle top of the aquarium. Would this be in the way of the manifold? <No.> What about the corner boxes would they be in the way? <No.> I can feel my hair turning grey as I type this. <Just breathe deeply... this really isn't a big deal at all.> Or should I just leave it the way it is and put in power heads? <Huzah! Now we're talking. See... you knew what to do all along.> Have been reading your book, If the earth had more people with your heart and soul what a better world it would be. Charlie newbie <Cheers, J -- >

Reef plumbing woes Anthony, (Or of course, any of you other aquatic super heroes) <ughhh... I wish you hadn't said that. I just got a mental picture of all of us dressed in undersized WWM spandex superhero costumes... looking like we are trying to smuggle plums. Alas, it will be some time I suspect before I can bring myself to eat a plum again. Thanks <G>> OK, it's been a while, but no news is definitely good news. Very happy critters living long healthy lives. (well, at least for the past year or so, since I've been heeding your guru-esque advice) A couple of things have been keeping me up at night. <I can imagine... especially if you had that same mental picture as I did as per above> My system... (150gal tank, 150lbs live rock, then in-line...overflow box - wet-dry - extra skimming chamber w/ LOTS of carbon - 50gal sump w/ Turboflotor T-1000 skimmer - Rio 1000 gph return pump) Problem # 1....when I lose power due to storms etc...the system starts back feeding down the return line, and depending how full or empty the sump is at the time, usually dumps a fair amount of water on my floor. (2nd floor I might add). <this is a simple matter. The return lines above are submerged under water and they should not be at all. Placement of returns is best right at or slightly above the surface. If not, then you simply need a bugger sump. You can test the safe running level by having an empty sump, filling the tank until is just slightly overflow into the sump. When no more overflows... fill the sump the rest of the way, then turn the pump on. Wherever the water level drop s to after that moment... you mark on the sump as the maximum fill line. If that line is too low for normal running conditions... then your sump is too small by design> Then, due to the primitive and homemade nature of my equipment (some of which being an elaborate maze of Tupperware and gaggles of loose or dangling siphon hoses) Is a ROYAL pain in the sponge to restart. (This is mostly due to the fact that the only concept I was able to grasp quickly, was the fact that with the return pump being the only powered driving force, the rest is gravity, and is thus self regulating.) Is there any advice you can give to stepping up to a more modern and failsafe plumbing system? <absolutely... never ever use a siphon overflow... always a drilled hole. Else and overhead refugium for the skimmer and use the display as a sump> Perhaps a site with some plans and concepts, or even a modular product that is available for purchase? <the tank just needs drilled, bud> Quandary # 2 Thinking along these lines, I would love to start a 2nd, 3rd, and so on, tanks...and would like to go with a large remote sump, and all tanks would share the same water. <very cool and economical> This is obviously taking my first question  to another (down the road) level, but is still the core question...how would the sends and returns be able to be timed, without using my simple gravity method, and not over time, overflow or empty the tank? (I hope I asked that correctly, as even I am confused by my own wording) Anyway, I trust you know <understood... this is question best answered by you seeing a running system. What big city do you live near? Perhaps I can put you in touch with a friend or local aquarium society to help this all make sense by phone or with a visit?> more about what I am trying to say than I do, as in your field, this is probably a common and frequently asked question. Thanks and I look forward to stepping into the 21st century. Pat <best regards, Anthony>

Plumbing Help Craig, Thanks for great insight.  Between you and David I think I can probably get this thing figured out. With regards to the MAG 18, I read on some forum that the gph for the MAG is only with 1.5" pipe, I have 3/4" intake/outlet adapted to 1" pipe.  So sounds like I need to go bigger, at least 1.5" return pipe.  Let me ask you Craig, how and what are you using for the return line off of your MAG 24.  I thought of using flexible tubing to limit the elbows that are sometimes needed with hard plumbed returns. Used flex pvc but it doesn't bend very well. <My Mag drive is submerged, so I have no inlet bulkhead. The pump outlet is 1". I used a 1" to 2" adapter, ran 2" into a slip fitting (so I can remove the pump for cleaning, etc.) and from the 2" slip fitting. 2" pvc up to the manifold which is 2" across the tank with three separate 3/4" returns with plastic ball valves for adjusting the return flow rate/pressure.> Another question, how are you taking the 1" outlet and going to 2" return pipe?  I just received a response from WWM about the same issue but a different email, and they thought my problem is going from the 3/4" to 1" off the pump outlet, was losing me pressure. Yes, because you then are 1" pipe and it's flow rate, not 1.5" as suggested by Mag-drive. Going to a larger size like you did is great, you just need to go bigger than 1" as per the owner's manual.> The 1" bulkhead is good at increasing pressure to the pump.   <No, it can't increase it, but it won't restrict it if it's bigger. 1" is less restrictive than 3/4", so this is good, at least for the pump intake. This is entirely different for the outlet/pressure side!> So they suggested going with 3/4" return pipe to a 1/2" manifold to help increase the pressure.  I then had read that there may be a friction factor with smaller pipe.  I am so confused right now and tired of messing with the return. <No, the pressure can't increase beyond the output of the pump. Smaller pipe moves less water no matter what you do and the pressure is determined by the output of the pump, the restriction of the plumbing, and the height you are pushing the water to. Reducing the pipe size will not increase flow or pressure, quite the opposite. You want the largest practical pipe size running to your manifold, step down to reasonably good size pipe with valves for the returns, and adjust *down* from your increased capacity with valve.  Make sure you drill siphon breaks in the manifold returns just below water level so they suck air instead of water in a power outage. 3/4" pvc should be fine for the manifold itself.> This is the second time I have plumbed it with a different pump. Last real thing, everyone writes, or tells me to limit or do away with the elbows that I have on my return pipe going up and into my tank.  I have looked at many site w/ pics of tanks and can not find how to do away with these.  Please explain what people are doing to get away from using say..90 degree elbows off the return line to get the pipe into the tank.  This is driving me crazy trying to figure it out. (maybe it's the whole, give someone a fish and feed them for a day, but teach them how to catch a fish and you feed them for a lifetime thing). I appreciate all your help.  Thanks Bryan <Ha! Would that be something like, "Give a person a fish tank and they will provide their own frustration for life?"   There is no way to eliminate the ells and tee's necessary to make all the twists and turns, don't worry about them except to minimize them. Larger plumbing will solve your problems as long as the pump is rated for the flow you want at the height you are pumping the water.  Let us know if you need any more help! Craig>

Pump David thanks for the response, your advice was very helpful.  With the MAG 18, I'll try keeping the 1" bulkhead in the sump and the exit from the pump staying with 3/4" then down to 1/2" in the manifold. Probably try using a flex type tube to help with decreasing the amount of elbows and turns in the return line.  I'll let you know how it turns out.  Thanks Bryan. <I don't think the turns are the biggest concern but it will improve your situation...maybe even significantly. I predict your plan will be successful. If not, get that larger pump with the 1" fitting! David Dowless>

Sump Overflow Problem Hi Guys ! Ok here goes... I have a 50 gallon sump underneath my 300 gallon display tank and a 50 gallon refugium sitting on a bench in the bathroom directly behind my display tank.  The sump works in the usual gravity flow mode, and the main pump returns water back to aquarium.  My 2 overflows drain into the sump via two 1.5 inch vinyl hoses connected from the back of the display tank to the sump below. An Iwaki MD100RLT pumps the water back to the main display tank via one 1" return hose through the top back of the tank. Also, teed off of the return is a 1/2 inch pipe that travels from the main pump up through my ceiling into my garage, down to the floor thru a chiller, then back up, through the ceiling and finally returns the water to a 50 gallon refugium, that drains into the sump. In order to prevent sump overflowing during a power outage, the maximum level of the water in the sump has to be kept at or below the 1/2 way filled point of the sump.  This translates to less than 25 gallons of increased water volume since the sump container is tapered from top to bottom. Since I already have a refugium, and since I STILL HAVE FLOODS, and given that I have no room under my display tank for a bigger sump I am thinking that I will either remove the sump and replace it with a 2" return manifold (that will accommodate water flow for my main tank drains, protein skimmer drain, and refugium drain) and/or move the sump to the garage.   I see three options: 1.  Control the normal operational water level in my existing sump to be even lower than it is now so that it will accommodate main tank drainage during a power outage.  Then plumb in an emergency drain at the top of the sump and run it either to my house's water drain pipe or outdoors.  This would be the easiest option, but I could lose water in a power outage.  It would also reduce the total water volume of the system, although my existing sump is so small it probably wouldn't matter much. 2.  Remove the sump and replace it with the manifold....No more sump overflows!!!! However, I would incur even greater decreased total system water volume and I would need to re-plumb skimmer, calcium reactor water quality instrumentation/probes, Kalkreactor, etc. 3. Re-locate the sump to the garage.  This seems less doable since I cannot run the 1.5" drain hoses to the garage. I would have to instead, install the manifold as in choice 2 above and then pump only a fraction of the water into the garage, thru the 1/2 inch chiller pipe circuit, where it would drain into the sump....The problem is now I would have an open system instead of the existing closed system, and also one which is not gravity fed.  Also, the water flow rate would be limited by the thin pipe but I have two Iwaki MD1000RLTs providing opposing water flow rates of 1000 gph each which translates to around 7 tank turnovers per hour plus another 3 tank turnovers per hour from my skimmer circuit.  I guess I would also have to rig up a float switch to a return pump to keep a constant level in the sump.  The advantages are passive cooling thru the cement floor, a potentially HUGE sump, and the feasibility to include an emergency overflow drain that would run thru my garage wall and empty outside my house, although since the sump could be greatly oversized this drain may not be needed.   Can you give me your views on these options given my space/pipe sizing/constraints ?   Any other options or combos/mod.s thereof that you can think of would gladly be appreciated. Regards, Chuck Spyropulos <Hi Chuck, You have to appreciate Bob's sense of humor and my latest adventures to understand why I'm answering your e-mail. I just vacuumed up 45 gallons of new water from my basement floor which siphoned from my new 200 gallon vat. Haste makes waste and I used plastic hose without a siphon break.....bad me! So, my advice is first, drill holes in the return lines for each tank *just* below the water level so they will suck a little air when the power goes out and stop siphoning the water from your higher elevation systems into the lower ones and ending in the sump. To solve your limited sump problem beyond this, add the overflow at the top of the sump and run it into a closed plastic container in the garage (or where ever) which is able to handle the overflow.  You can then pump the overflowed water back into the system if the power goes out and it overflows the sump. (after heating if needed of course).  If I read this right this turns into a simple drain and say, a 55 gallon plastic food quality drum (sometimes free depending on where you are located) in the garage or where ever it would fit.  I would try to keep it as simple as possible while retaining the water volume.  Stay dry! Craig

Plumbing, marine Hi guys, I have a problem.  Just finished plumbing my tank and have a return flow problem...75 gallon tank. 2 1.5" bulkheads going to a sump under the tank.  MAG 18 pump, in-line going up to the return which is a manifold like Anthony describes in his book.  The pump is 3/4" threaded, my return pipe is 1" and the bulkhead from the sump to the pump is 1".  At the pump exit, I have taken the 3/4" up to 1 " pipe.  The manifold then goes to 3/4" before the elbow that goes to the tank( hope you follow) I have 4 nozzles (teed outlets.  2 on the back and 2 on the sides in the manifold.  Filled the tank with water and turned on the pump on and....... HARDLY any water pressure out of the outlets, I messed with them and the pump but nothing worked.  I capped the 2 outlets on the sides and the remaining outlets had more pressure.  What do I need to do to make this work better or at all. Different size pvc, different pump?  The pump should have sufficient flow right? Please help Bryan <Hi Bryan, there are several areas to question. The pump size may be correct depending on head height, it may not. The plumbing should be the minimum size asked for in the Mag-drive manual. I don't know the Mag 18, but I just plumbed a Mag 24 and I oversized the required 1 1/2" pipe with 2".  The pump outlet is 1". The next place is the intake bulkhead for the pump, which although sold as a pump that can be run this way, is best used submerged. The next spot is the elbow before the manifold which restricts the rest of the manifold to the output of a 3/4" pipe. No matter how big the manifold is, this restricts it to 3/4". It all needs to be bigger my friend! Use oversized pipe and valves to control the overcapacity.  And don't forget to factor in the head height for the pump. 10X turnover won't feel like much....you may want much more. Don't forget the overflow capacities and siphon breaks on your returns.  Craig>

Plumbing for water changes Thanks for the info. Yes I am using flexible pvc from the pump to the T. I will be using a MAG 7 for the return. I thought with a ball valve I would be able to regulate the water going into the bucket? <That is plausible. Should work okay> Anyway I will do like you said and try it with the pump on and off. And yes the Prizm Sucks, I already bought it. <Sell it on EBay! David Dowless>

New tank planning/plumbing Hello Gage or Anthony, Here is the word doc that I forgot to send earlier.  I would like your opinion.  I would like to rid my tank of unsightly pvc and powerheads.  Unless I run clear pvc down the corners and under the sand and then up again in those same three spots to have circulation the method in the diagram seems the only other way.  I want to have good circulation on the tank floor, so no debris settles.  I thank you in advance for your opinion. Dan <Hey Dan, it sounds like a cool idea, but you run the risk of coming home to a very wet floor.  Chances are, if something can go wrong it will.  I would not rely on a check valve in this situation.  I checked with Anthony as well, his opinion is that it would be better to redirect flow to the bottom strategically with a well designed manifold and landscape to work around.  Best Regards, Gage>

- More on Setup - J, <Hello again.> Thanks for replying. You wrote: "Hmmm, dangerous to be pumping water out of the main tank into anything that is below the main tank - if the pump fails, you would still have a siphon which would drain the tank into the refugium and sump. With what you are describing, you'd be better off to place the refugium above the main tank and outflow directly back into the main tank." I think you may have misunderstood what I meant by my having a pump in the Main tank's sump that will pump water to the refugium, then a gravity fed return back to the sump. <Yes, it does sound like I misunderstood.> The "Main Tank's Sump"  is below the main tank.  The sump currently has it's own 800gph pump in it that returns water to the main tank. I am planning on adding an additional pump to this sump and pumping water "up" about 2 feet or so into the 10 gallon refugium that sits a few feet to the right of the main tank (and below it). I am NOT pumping water from the MAIN TANK itself into the refugium (going from high to low), because in the event of a power failure, unless there's a check valve inline, I'd have one hell of a mess. <Indeed.> A recap: The refugium will be receiving water from a pump located about 2 feet below and to the left of it, in the tank's main sump.  The refugium will return the water via gravity back into the tank's main sump. So are you in agreement that this setup is "sound"? <Yes, I think so.> It's fairly late at night here. about 1:20am and all the lights are off in the tank, but I'm going to grab a water sample from the sump to see if my nitrites or ammonia levels have increased due to taking 90% of the bio balls out of the sump. I also took the liberty of adding some "salt water BioZyme" powder into the water...a double dose actually, hoping that ANY increase in ammonia *gasp* or nitrite may be reduced by these bacteria. <I personally don't have much faith in such elixirs.> The live rock in the tank has been there for about 2 years, so I am praying it takes over the bio-load. <It will eventually.> The only reason I removed all the bio balls at once was because I read on the FAQ section, Bob Fenner said it'd be ok to do so if your tank has been established for a long time, and I thought mine was. <Hmm, well... what you get from me is my opinion and not rote recitation of Bob-speak. It's my opinion that especially in a well-established system, you would want to take out the bio balls in small batches. But enough of that... we're talking about spilt milk at this point, yes?> The bio balls were, in effect, fertilizing the tank's water with nitrate, and my live rock began growing unsightly bubble algae and other types of green algae. <That's a bit of an oversimplification, the bio balls were also breaking down the other nitrogenous wastes INTO nitrite.> I'm hoping that just removing the bio balls will greatly reduce the levels of nitrate in my system, after the initial nitrite or ammonia spike is over from my disturbing the filter. <Yes, over the longer term this is true, but you might find the ammonia and nitrate spikes to be higher and longer than your livestock can tolerate.> I really hope I didn't do a major blunder in removing all the balls at one time. <Time will tell.> Do you recommend I continue to add saltwater bio-zyme for a few more days to help replenish the Nitrobacter bacteria, et al ? <Again, I don't have any faith in such additives, so no... I don't think that will help.> Also, I will take your advice and have a 1 - 1 1/4" inside diameter hole drilled into my 10 gallon refugium tank, as well as a 1 - 1 1/4" inside diameter hole for where the water enters the refugium from the main sump?? <We're talking about the inflow here? 0.75 inch would suffice. But it may be cheaper for you to have two holes drilled the same size, so 1.25" would be fine.>   I guess I'll be using a small powerhead in the main tank's sump to direct water up 2 feet to the refugium. I'm also guessing that the diameter of the hole on that powerhead is a heck of a lot smaller than 1 - 1 1/4", so I suppose I'll have to use flexible tubing from the pump all the way up to the bulk head on the refugium, then get all kinds of fittings from Home Depot to reduce from the bulkhead to this flexible tubing. <You are correct, sir.> The refugium will be on a 24/7 light schedule and I've read all kinds of things. differing opinions on what type of bulbs to use, etc. Bob Fenner says "any type of pure white bulb will do, as Caulerpa isn't picky when it comes to the quality of light needed" I was thinking about getting some "Lights of America" compact fluorescents from Home Depot.  I just don't know if it's true that I wouldn't need a 6500K bulb and an actinic bulb like I've read elsewhere. <From my own experience, the Lights of America lamp will work just fine on Caulerpa.> Please share your thoughts Thanks again, Steve <Cheers, J -- >

Plumbing Parts Hi guys, I have a couple questions about plumbing.  This may be a little different type of question.  I am wondering about the black flexible ball-socket joint tubing that I got from marine Depot.   <understood... its very popular in a wide variety of industrial applications as well as the aquarium hobby> I am plumbing a manifold around the top of my tank (like Anthony describes in his book) and using the 3/4" black flexible tubing off of the pvc.  Question is...How do I connect/attach the flexible tubing to the pvc "T"?   <there is a coupling to do this... big mail order companies like That Fish Place... perhaps Custom Aquatic... and many others, stock this part> Do I just push and shove the tubing to the pvc or do I want to glue the 2 pieces together (never worked w/ the flexible tubing b/f).   <nope... not reliable> This brings me to another question.  I have a 75 gal tank, around the top I am putting the manifold for return flow , but...I usually have the glass top/s that sit on the tank, with the manifold it won't work. <Hmmm... not true... the manifold will sit right at or all right above the water surface to reduce salt creep. On commercial tanks, people use the plastic lip of the trip of the tank to drill small holes to fish cable ties through to hand the narrow piped manifold by. All below the canopy> So something needs to give, the glass top or manifold.   <you can have your cake and eat it too> I see a lot of tanks with an open top and was wondering if it is a good idea.   <dramatically improves amount of light penetrating water for your corals> What are the Pos/Neg of the top open.   <few negatives beyond jumping fish and extra salt creep> I am going with a reef tank with mainly soft corals.  I do have an oak canopy that sits on top of the tank.  Last bit of info, I have a>JBJ PC fixture that sits on top of tank.  Should I do anything different with the light if I go with the top open above the water, or just sit it like b/f?   <fluorescent lights MUST be no further than 3" off water surface to be effective. Take heed... and wipe the dust and debris off your lamps weekly for best light> Sorry for lengthy question.  Always appreciate the wonderful info/advice and the time you guys take to answer all of our questions.  Thanks as always Bryan.   <kind regards, Anthony>

Plumbing Parts II Anthony, thanks for quick response and great info. <a pleasure> So to clarify about the manifold.  As is now I just have it plumbed (literally around/sitting on the top of the black plastic on my tank)   <OK... not a problem. But if not glued yet (or easily modified) I would make it so that it sits just under and inside the top of the tank (plastic trip drilled with holes to suspend the manifold with plastic ties) for aesthetics and ease of maintenance if nothing else> So what I need to do is when I come off the initial "T" from my sump return to the manifold is use a pvc 45 or 90 elbow to angle the pipe so that the manifold now runs under the black plastic edge, or low enough so that I can still use the glass tops?  Thanks Bryan <sure... anything convenient... a short length of flex pipe acting like a U-tub would work... or 2- 90 degree elbows... whatever it takes but. Since it is a closed loop, the water flow will be mediated (resistance) through however many outlets you add. No worries... you are doing fine :) Anthony>

Swivel tee's ? Hey Gang, How you doin'? (Insert New York accent here for  Anthony!)   <whassup> I read & spend amazing amounts of time on this web site. I thank you, for the help y'all give to the hobby. <our great pleasure> Does Steven Pro run an on-line store? <none of the crew members has an online store or service short of some of us being writers that have authored books/articles. Steve has a fine aquarium service/consultation business in Pittsburgh PA [Pro Aquatics]> I would surely support it if that's the case, He was a lot of help when I first set my tank up. <very good to hear... will be sure to pass this along <G>> To the question, Anthony has mentioned some plumbing methods incorporating "swivel" tee's,  I can't seem to find these types of plumbing parts here in Denver. <just try keyword searches fro an online supplier or look through the business links of this and other industry sites. Perhaps the US plastic corp. has them (specialized plastic company in Lima OH)> Is there a diagram of these types of return flow systems in Sir Anthony's books? (I know, "buy one and see"!)   <nope... I'm not that shameless <G>> Some of the plumbing is diagrammed in the first volume, more is slated for the second volume. What is your specific request to see/hear?> I've got a 70 gal. 48"x18"x20" and a new Mag drive 9.5. I can picture a flexible return line from the sump, leading to the pvc plumbing running from the rear left (top) to the front, across the front of tank to top right corner, then the homestretch to the rear right, with the swivel tee's in place (2 on the left, 2 on the right sides). <Hmmm.. some confusion or a better way here. For an even distribution of water flow, a closed loop tapped with tees would be better. This loop can be fed by a single line from the sump and tapped in anywhere convenient up top. The closed loop of PVC runs the inside perimeter of the tank just at or slightly above the water surface. Tap as many additional tees pointing down into the tank as you like> The pump flow rate requires 1 1/2" id plumbing for maximum flow, shouldn't the in tank plumbing be a smaller diameter to increase pressure output at the swivel tees? <if you prefer a greater velocity, yes> I clearly spend to much time "pondering" this & other ideas/articles I've read on this site! (have a great time doin' it as well). <excellent, my friend!? Have a great day, and thanks for your time.  Scott in Denver <best regards, Anthony>

Refugium, plumbing Dear WWM, I have a f/u plumbing question or two...I plan to pump the water from my sump to the display tank via 1.5" PVC and then "T" it off to a closed loop arrangement.  I am assuming it is best to "T" the return line outside the display tank, but as close to the drilled holes as I can get them. <Yes> For the closed loop return system should I go from 1.5" PVC return to a "T" which reduces the 1.5 " to two 1" PVC pipes that then each enter the tank through drilled holes to build the closed loop around the perimeter of the display tank? The 1" loop will then be fitted with .5" "T's" to creates the nozzles for the water to flow back into the tank.  I plan to have a pump that can handle all the head pressure.  Are the diameters of the PVC from the 1.5" main return pipe to the closed loop in the display tank correct? <Should be fine... in fact, considering "probable, practical matters" I would size the discharge piping (from the pump to the main tank) no larger diameter than the volute (likely just 1" or 3/4" MPT... and reduce it in turn (to the 3/4" or even 1/2" discharge sizes inside the tank. Bob Fenner> Thanks again for your help. Cary

Marine plumbing Here's a drawing of the proposed tank layout.  The overflow box is approx 8 x 8-1/2 deep for a single 1-1/2 drain.  I am targeting about 1500 GPH through this drain (although this may be hard to fine tune since my pump will be in the basement).  Any thoughts as to whether the drain should be 2" rather than 1 1/2"?   <You won't regret going larger, especially if you decide you want more than 1500 gph later.  Will also help with "sucking" sounds from drawing air.> The plan contemplates the use of a Stockman standpipe.  (I noticed that R. Gibson asked whether the Stockman was better than the Durso.  Were there any conclusions drawn from his query?)  The 1" returns on each side of the box will be powered by a single pump with an actuated or motorized ball valve. To me it depends on what fits best. They are both designed to draw air to displace the vacuum which develops at the bulkheads which pulls in air and makes noise.> I like tall vents with end caps drilled with a 1/4" hole.  This draws plenty of air and reduces noise through the drain vent.> On each side of the tank is a 1" return and 1 1/2" drain which all be plumbed together as a closed loop powered by a single pump with an actuated or motorized ball valve.  I will target about 2000 GPH through this closed loop. <Better up the size of the plumbing/bulkhead to handle 2000 gph. If 1 1/2" is borderline for 1500 gph, this 1 1/2" bulkhead won't handle it either. I would go 2" myself.> I have taken to heart your suggestions about have a second circulation loop from the sump, but there doesn't seem to be an obviously good place for the additional returns and drains. <There never is! Remember, placement of bulkheads just needs to be well below the desired water level, ells and threaded fittings can make the water level adjustable.> Wishing you a healthy and happy new year. <Our best wishes to you as well!  Craig>

Plumbing for water changes I am plumbing a new tank with a sump. I was wondering what would be the easiest way to set it up to do water changes. Can I add a T with a ball valve off the return line so I can just open the ball valve and let water go into a bucket and shut it off when finished? <Turn the pump off and get the water from the back siphon> Then I would just add water back into the sump. I should be able to do this without turning off any power and not effect anything (I think). <Maybe...> I will be changing about 2gal a week. <Great sketch! Let me state that I personally don't use a water change device of this nature. However, I did research this type of idea when I set up my tank. I assume that you are planning on using flexible PVC for your lines. It would certainly be the easiest material to manipulate. My concern for your proposal is the pressure that the water will be under as it is leaving the return line and entering the bucket. You will be drawing water very close from the return pump and this water may splash around and spray a lot more than you want. Since I don't know how large your return pump is it's hard to make an accurate estimate of the pressure involved. If the pump only moves a couple of hundred gallons or so, you may be fine. If the pump is large say over 300 or 400GPH the pressure may be strong.  I don't know for sure the repercussions but the above statements are my initial assessment. Consider this: I assume your return line is releasing water in the main tank under the tank water level. As an option you could plumb the tank exactly the way that you have planned...If the pressure is too great, you can always shut off your return pump and let the back siphon water flow through your "T" and into the bucket! From your drawing it looks like this "T" is also a shutoff valve which is exactly what you will need.  If your pump is submersible realize it may heat up your water. Be sure to plumb shutoff valves after your pump so that it may be removed entirely from the system if the need arises. If your pump is external you need shutoffs before and after the pump. Lastly, Prizm skimmers have a poor reputation among hobbyists. Complaints include too much noise and inefficiency. David Dowless> Shaun Nelson

- Is this sorry Charlie? - Charlie newbie here. <Hello, JasonC at your service.> I am all most afraid to ask this but here goes. <No worries.> I bought a Oceanic 135 gal. reef ready tank. Two corner boxes installed, drilled. The two drain holes are an 1 inch an 8th. The two returns are 3 /4 of an inch. Will this limit the selection of corals I can have? <I don't think so... this will be a fine tank.> It was advertised as reef ready. <I'm not sure what that really means, but your purchase of a tank with internal overflow was a wise choice.> Was this my first mistake? <Not in the least.> Please don't ever shut this site down. <We will do our best... cheers, J -- >

Plumbing Happy New Year! I bought some flexible black rubber hose from home depot to plumb my tank. It is heater hose used for dishwasher. Is this safe for my fish? It just looks like thick rubber hose but I am not sure if it can become toxic to the fish. <Mmm, me neither. But I do know that the vinyl hose/tubing that they also sell is not toxic. I would return, trade-in the dishwasher line and get the vinyl. Bob Fenner>

Re: New tank planning/plumbing Hello, I am the owner of a 55g tank with sump, skimmer, live rock, live sand, fish, and invertebrate.  I have numerous powerheads and pvc in my tank in order to have adequate circulation and no dead spots.  I am trying to plan ahead for a larger acrylic tank.  I tried some suggestion from Anthony about a manifold, but I could get the flow balanced between my tank and sump.  My sump would always run dry or when I used a smaller pump the flow into my tank was almost nil.  Maybe I used the wrong size pvc.  I don't know.  I am planning ahead for when I get a 125g or larger tank.  I want to set it up right from the beginning.  I have attached a word document with a layout plan for increasing circulation on my tank floor without a lot of ugly pumps and pvc.  Could you please give me your thoughts on the idea.  Also, I remember someone at WWM talking about putting bulkheads in the tank for overflow.  They didn't like overflow boxes.  Are 2-inch bulkheads on the top back wall adequate or do you suggest corner bottom hole overflows.  I guess I was thinking that corner overflows take away your aquarium space.  My 55g has 3 one-inch bulkheads that go to my sump, but they only give me about a 600gph flow.  Any suggestions for my 125g on getting water to my sump.  I am going to turn my 55g tank into a sump when I get the 125g. Thanks, Dan <Hey Dan, the word doc did not come through, please resend it.  So with 3 1in bulkheads on the 55 your sump was running dry?, or was that because of the manifold do-wacky?  What size return pump do you have on the 55? A few bulkheads should work well, I would go with these over the corner overflow.  They should provide a straight shot for the surface scum to the skimmer (in the first section of your sump without any media in between?).  I look forward to checking out the word doc, best regards, Gage>

What's that annoying sound? We recently acquired an established 90g reef tank (TruVu with center overflow) . After moving it in to the new digs and getting all the fish and critters settled in we noticed an annoying sound coming from the j tube that goes into the sump. <Doh!!! A j-tube... I wouldn't sleep well in that house. Siphon overflow tubes all fail in time. Most in less than a year... some within months, other years... but all put water on your floor in time. Do seriously consider having the tank drilled for holes with proper bulkheads and sleep well instead> About once every minute there is a large air bubble that erupts. We have tried readjusting the J tube to no avail. Is there something we are overlooking? <the j-tube is too small or the return pump flow is too high> The LFS thought the overflow on the tank might be sucking air but didn't think it could be the filter in the overflow.  Any thoughts? <if it sucks air it will break siphon but the pump won't know it and you will have an overflow of a lot of water onto your floor. J-tubes are ancient technology and simply unsafe> Also, we moved ALL the water with the tank (quite the task, that god for LARGE commercial garbage cans with wheels) and we are wondering how long before we can start adding a couple new fish. There are currently 15 swimming residents...some damsels, an Anemonefish, domino damsel.   <at least one month and do test full water quality to be sure (pH over 8.2, zero ammonia, nitrite, etc)> Should I wait a couple weeks and does the "1 inch of fish for each gallon of water" rule work for salt water as it does for freshwater? <Yikes... not even close. one half that amount may be too much for marines. Please consider buying a good book like Bob Fenner's Conscientious Marine Aquarist> The tank was donated to the non profit agency where I work. I am used to dealing with freshwater but this saltwater stuff is new to me. Is there any retraining I should be aware of?   <indeed... many new and wonderful things to be aware of... do seek a good book or two> When the salt water fish gets the porcelain funeral is there a different prayer to be recited??  ;) <we may have to smack you :) Anthony>

Overflows and Refugium Hello, I have a 120 gal tank with one overflow going to a sump with a mag drive 500gph. My question is can I add another overflow to go to a 10 gal refugium with a smaller pump or will it overflow. <its not clear what you mean here? A second drilled hole overflowing to the refugium  but still draining to the main sump? If so, yes... will be fine. You mention another pump though? Does this mean a second pump returning the water back to the display from the refugium which acts instead like a second sump. If that's the case... no way, a danger. You best bet is to simply tap a refugium inline on the way down to the sump (or atop above the display and the refugium will overflow back in> Also would a 36watt pc 50/50 be sufficient for a refugium with macro algae, live rock, polyps, and mushrooms? <if said vessel was very shallow (12" or less). Anthony>

Overflow Design In some of the FAQ's that talk about overflow's, Anthony mentions having holes drilled from the back as opposed to the bottom for water going to the sump.   <correct> Was I misreading this ( it was pretty late and there are INFINITE faq's! ) or is there a reason why this would be better?   <yes, my friend. Beyond aesthetics (taking up far less space than those awful noisy and inferior overflow towers with holes drilled in the floor)... there is the advantage/option of building an internal Horizontal overflow box that contains the holes drilled in the back wall. This will skim far more concentrated protein-rich surface water than the same holes fed by a vertical/tower overflow or standpipe. This will improve the performance of you skimmer miraculously and lead to much better water quality. There are diagrams of this in my Book of Coral Propagation. I haven't had updated scans made yet (brother-in-law will draft them for me in AutoCAD soon, I suppose). In the meantime I can fax you some scrappy hand-drawn pics to spare you from buying my book :) > As for a pump used for circulation on a closed loop ( I am assuming the closed loop reference is from tank through pump back to tank ), <exactly correct... a fairly effective and necessary evil for some tanks with SPS corals in particular> if pulling water from the overflow box area poses the problem of too many microbubbles, is it better to just have some intakes drilled in the back about halfway down to the bottom? <it works but that isn't my preference... I have no problems with microbubbles on a well designed system: a diffusive skimmer box or partition in the sump breaks incoming bubbles, baffles before sump pump deflect most others, and all remaining can be off gassed in a small upstream refugium (the best placement IMO) before overflowing to the main tank>> Will there be too much suction there at the entry points, possibly pulling in snails, etc (it would be covered  of course)?.   <yes... quite dangerous. Requires a course mesh/screen that is accessible> In the faq's, I read something about a 1" hole producing about 300 gph in the overflow.   <correct... a realistically quiet and safe volume... although at a noisy and precarious rate (suction) they may actually do over 500GPH> If I want to have a pump that can handle about 1000 gph on the return, what can I do?   <that would be four 1" holes bub> Most of the pumps I have seen talk of fittings for 1" PVC.  Can I make a larger hole in the overflow from the tank, like 2" that eventually sizes down to 1".  Will this help or do I lose the benefits of the bigger hole at the 1" fitting. <correct> Or could I have multiple holes, although the overflow box may not be big enough for this. <Ahah! Exactly the problem with those crappy commercial aquariums with internal overflow towers that claim to be "reef ready"! It's one of my common rants here on the daily FAQs. Hence one of the advantages to a horizontal overflow on the back of the tank. It is explained concisely, I think <G>, in the book passage... fairly obvious in the sketch> I hope I haven't filled my questions quota, <not at all... I really wasn't paying attention as I typed anyway <G> as evidenced by misspellings and clumsy skills as a typist> but I want to make sure the next tank I plan to get is done RIGHT, or at least as close a possible.  I have spent a fortune on errors! Thank you. Paul T <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Sand and Tank Setup Question Well Anthony, I would not say "spare me from buying my book", since I have it, #3143!  It is well worth the money, my thanks to you for all the great information in it!   <Yikes! Thank you :)  > I have seen the drawing you speak of and I would like to go that route...I am wondering if the guys at SeaClear will make me an overflow like that?   <perhaps... but if you have the slightest DIY inclination you can build the interior damn yourself and save a lot of money. Just have the tank drilled in advance... bulleted with as many holes as you like/need up as high as is safe (mfg choice)> Regardless, what would be the measurements for it for a 90 gallon 48x18x24?   <the length is really up to you. The longer you make it for the same X number of holes, then the thinner you will be stretching (and improving/concentrating) the overflowing water. It can literally be a long shallow damn the length of the back wall (almost 48")> How far down should the shelf be placed ( just enough for the bulkhead size or more)?   <exactly my friend... just wide and deep enough to house the bulkheads and for you to get a fist in comfortably for cleaning/servicing. Some people like to extend the floor beyond the vertical wall to make a short shelf upon which to grow corals that will encrust and hide the overflow wall> How far out from the back wall does the small vertical wall need to be?   <roughly 4 to 6 " wide and deep... then as long as you can afford to make it.> Does it have groves/teeth cut into it (can't think of the proper term at the moment!) or is it just a wall that water flows over. <more the latter... a spillway. Nothing else needed if the bulkheads will have their course screen inserts in to prevent snails and fishes from sailing. Else, simply use coarse mesh (like rain gutter guard-plastic) on the overflow edge> Do I go with the 4 1" holes or 2 2" holes?  The plan ( based on all I have been reading so far ) is to have the from 2 or 4 bulkheads drop into a chamber in a DIY 30 gallon sump <likely 4 to play it safe and for flow volume and noise> (should the 2 or 4 pipes coming from the bulkheads connect to each other or just have 2 or 4 pipes all drop into the same chamber in the sump).   <aieee! Never join together... always drop freely and separately> A baffle will divide the first section of the sump where all the water enters from the next section which will have a protein skimmer in it ( Euro Reef, Aqua C, Turboflotor (still deciding) ) <my preference is in the literal order you have listed... and the skimmer should definitely be placed in the first chamber with raw water and a standing overflow level into the next section that is your variable (evaporating) sump> which will have its return in the same chamber, then a final baffle to a third chamber to the return pump which will probably be a Iwaki MD30RLXT (960 gph).  Does this seem fine?   <as per above... no need for three chambers... just a first chamber reservoir overflowing into the sump proper. You may have a baffle just before the pump to diffuse bubbles> I have decided to go with two 3/4 Sea Swirls for the return, <awesome> drilled in from the top corners.  For the overflow box, the drawing shows 90 degree elbows. Will air get trapped in here, <little or no worry at all here if you have enough holes. Simple to modify if not (tapped hard airline to off gas)> and am I getting much less flow since it is not a straight drop down?   <not at all... no different than the inevitable bends, turns and impedances of run of most any other application, and certainly with less noise than a straight drop> Could you use a t here with a cap and a hole in it, like the Durso concept, or does it have to be elbows?   <you are correct on the modification> Also, I guess I can put the bulkhead for the closed loop in the overflow as well, avoiding the problem of sucking in any adventurous critters ( I guess they could still get it, but it will be tougher at least ).   <agreed and yes, possible. But do have a low water shut off switch in the overflow box for the closed loop pump intake in case a hiccup or failure of the sump pump runs the overflow dry (fear of burning out the closed loop pump)> I would put two more holes in the top (opposite from the sea swirls ) for the closed loop, but I will have 4 outlets on the top, nothing on the bottom, even thought they can all be pointed downward and towards the center. I suppose I can drill the back bottom corners and add some more outlets for the closed loop, there should be no danger of overflow with the closed loop.  I might need bigger pump than the one be used for the return though.... Does this all seem to be a workable plan, <agreed and yes> I am almost ready to make my purchases here, just have to make sure my plan is sound.  And finally, that dang Southdown/Yardright Tropical Play Sand seems impossible to get here in California.   <very sorry my friend. We pay about 7 cents per pound out here. I wonder if your local aquarium club couldn't make a big enough order that is would be worth the consolidated freight? I can't imagine that it would cost much. When I got the sand for my coral farm (48,000lbs... full dump freight) the freight was only $500 from New Jersey to Pennsylvania (8-10 hour drive). Extrapolating and all things considered, I can't see a single pallet coming from the Midwest to Cali costing much if you are willing to wait a few days for it> Home Depots don't seem to be able to order it, something about diff. vendors than the Home Depots on the east coast... <then look into the freight on a  big order from an East coast HD! Heck... maybe buy the whole pallet yourself and resell it :)  > oh well, I might have to pay the premium for the same product with a fancier name from a LFS! <indeed, it would be easier just the same> Thanks for your time, your help ( book and website ) is greatly appreciated! Paul T <my great pleasure. Kindly, Anthony>

Tiny Bubbles.... Greetings and well wishes... more importantly a heartfelt thank you to each and everyone of you for your patience and assistance to us novices. <Thanks for the "props"! We're so glad to be here for you! Scott F. here today> My BakPak2 has been running for about 24 hours.  But I am still getting a lot of tiny bubbles from the Bio Chamber into the tank.  I am assuming this probably has some negative effect on the damsels and shrimp.  What negative effects?  How soon?   <well, generally, the negative effects of tiny bubbles are the possible irritation that they can cause to corals and sessile inverts. I would not get overly worried about the bubbles as far as their effect on fishes. I had hoped that it would clear up after 24 hours - no luck.  I have adjusted the air valve (even to the point of removing it).  I have tried the piece of sponge provided by CPR Aquatics in every conceivable orientation/position.  I have supplemented the provided sponge with additional pieces of polyester filter material.  I can slow the bubbles down but I can't stop them.   <CPR does make a "bubble trap" specifically for the BakPak skimmers. These gadgets do work, and cost less than 20 bucks. You may want to purchase one for your unit> I did do a 10% water change before introducing the skimmer and adding the Eheim ECCO 2233 filter.  The specific gravity is at 1.022.  The make up water had been aerated for over 72 hours.  I did add a small amount of Stress Coat during the water change.  My understanding is that the bubbles should have cleared up after 24 hours.  I am considering compressing the bio-bale media into a more compact mass.  Good idea in your opinion?  Any other ideas? <Personally, I wouldn't use the bio-bale myself. I definitely would not compact it, because I think this could create potential "dead spots" within the filter due to impeded flow through the medium. Doe try the "bubble trap" as mentioned above.> Possibly something from the Eheim filter pads is messing with the surface tension?  Possibly the inexperienced aquarium owner has overlooked something? <A possibility could be that there is a loose connection somewhere in your plumbing, allowing some air in. Do re-check all hose fittings, connectors, etc. just to be sure. Don't get too discouraged; you'll eventually get rid of these tiny bubbles!> Over the last couple of months all of the crew has been especially helpful - I and my aquatic pets are most grateful. Rex Merrill <Always glad to be of help, Rex! Feel free to contact us any time! Good luck in your "bubble battle"! Regards, Scott F>

Re: overflow question Hello Crew- <cheers, mate> I am writing because I read tonight's daily questions and answers and learned a lot about building my own overflows. I have a 55 gallon tank that I would like to have drilled. My question is if I am drilling the back top of the tank do I have to make a dam or box to cover it? <not necessary... just an enhancement. It concentrates proteins by stretching the overflowing water collected (proteins concentrate in the surface-most layer of water)> Can I just have the tank drilled and the hole covered with screen? <absolutely! You will not even notice or appreciate the difference/benefit of an internal horizontal overflow if your tank load is very light or you can otherwise aggressively control nutrient levels (wicked skimmer, large water changes, careful feeding, etc)> I guess I just want to know if the only reason I would need to build a dam would be to keep fish or coral sucked up into it. Can it be done without safely? <either way is fine... the course screen cones on the bulkheads are good for deflecting macro-organisms> Thanks! Your site rocks and I have Bob's and Anthony's books. I have learned a lot. Josh <thanks kindly. Rock on my brother :) Anthony>

The plan using motorized ball valves (marine plumbing) With respect to the closed loop on a motorized ball valve, you stated as follows: <Mid level and also use two intakes as well as two returns to diffuse the pressure of the suction.> Why two intakes?  The returns are alternating flow so it's really like only one return.  Or why not use a single intake but make it bigger? <All things else being equal, it's better to have more than one, to "spread out" the area being filtered, and just in case one of the intakes gets "clogged" by something (like an organism). Bob Fenner>

Re: Plumbing I am starting to plumb my sump. I am going to be using flex pvc with some ball valves. Do you prefer threaded or slip joints? <Threaded for the purpose you mention below, or slip (inserting the flexible if sized to fit), and true-union couplers to take apart later.> If I use slip do I need a special glue or will the standard pvc joint work? <You need to find, use flexible PVC pipe solvent when using flexible PVC pipe> I prefer threaded so I can take it apart if needed but I don't want any air bubbles entering the sump. <Put a small smear of silicone sealant (the same as is used for building all-glass aquariums) on the threads before assembling. This will seal the area, but allow you to un-thread the joint later if desired. Bob Fenner> Shaun Nelson

Re: Plumbing Thanks for the reply. You mentioned to use silicone for building all-glass aquariums. I used 100% silicone from Home Depot that is usually used to seal windows and doors. As far as I can tell it is pure silicone with no additives. I hope this is ok. <Yes, absolutely. I have stated this a bunch of times, but 100% is 100%... this is the source I generally use. Bob Fenner>

Making the Hole Bigger I have an empty 58 gallon Oceanic "reef ready" tank with a corner overflow that has a 1.5" hole and a 1.75" hole. When installing standard bulkheads, I get an inner diameter of 1" (for my drain) and .75" for my return. From what I read, this will give me less turnover than I want. Is there any tool or way that I can enlarge the holes (there's ample glass/distance around the edge of the holes to enlarge them by .5")? <It would be far easier to make both holes drains and plumb the return over the back of the tank. That way you would not void a warranty either.> Also, does anybody make a bulkhead fitting that doesn't take up so much "inner diameter" (turning a 1.75" hole into 1" of actual water flow)? <I think these are pretty standard.> I've looked through a lot of the plumbing FAQ's and am still trying to figure out what valves if any do I need in my return line - should I have a check valve (or something to prevent reverse water flow)? <I would just plan on the back siphon because check valves can and will fail.> Should I have something to reduce water flow (in case my pump is over-sized) - if so what do you recommend? <You can T off your return line and install a gate valve to bleed off excess water if you need to.> or is just a straight pipe from pump to return the best bet? <Full on is best.> Thanks and have a great holiday. - Mark <You too! -Steven Pro>

Powerheads v. Closed Loop This is in reference to 180 gallon reef tank with sump in the basement. Possibilities for moving water include: 1.) Two pumps in the basement returning water to the tank and running in series (or parallel?) 2.) One pump in the basement returning water from the sump to the tank, and 4 powerheads in the tank (maybe with a wavemaker) 3.) One pump in the basement returning water from the sump to the tank, and a closed loop (circulation only) with the pump sitting upstairs underneath the tank. I don't see the advantage to option #1, i.e., having two pumps downstairs pulling water from the sump and running in series. By "in series" (or parallel?), I understand this to mean that if one pump goes out the other one would still carry the job (pulling water through the sump and the skimmer), albeit at reduced capacity. But why do it in series? <I prefer separate runs.> If you're that concerned about the pump failing, it would probably be more efficient and cheaper in the long run just to have a spare pump. <I am an aquarium maintenance professional that works out of his home, so I see things from that perspective. While for you and your own tank, you maybe perfectly happy with a spare pump sitting unused in the house. I don't want any more stuff than I already have to have around and I doubt any of my customers would want one either. I try to consider every possible catastrophe and design systems so that no matter what goes wrong they will continue to function and not flood. It is a liability issue for me. Also, if a pump were to fail, with two pumps, I can get to replacing the broken one when I have time. If there is only one main pump, I would have to drop every to fix it immediately.> Option #3 seems better than #2. <Much better!> I perceive the advantages to using a closed loop as follow: Aesthetics (no unsightly equipment in tank). And less heat in the tank. In favor of using powerhead, I saw the following idea to conceal equipment in the tank: do not make the rear center overflow flush with the back of the tank, rather set it forward 6" or so and hide the equipment behind the overflow. This also has the benefit of flow coming into the overflow from all four sides. Your thoughts on the above issue would be most appreciated. Aryeh L. Benjamin <While closed loop circulation is very popular, I routinely hear of individuals with a mobile invertebrate (anemones and snails are the most common) being turned into chowder enough that I won't use one. I prefer to get my 10-20 times turnover through overflows and return pumps. -Steven Pro>

Re: drilled overflow tanks & flow - FOLLOW UP So, you don't like overflow boxes. What do you mean? <The standard ones are generally inadequate for my desired flow rates, they hog up space, they are small and difficult to work inside, etc.> If you drill to your own specs, don't you still need an overflow box? <No, but it is helpful. You can merely use an elbow and strained off of the bulkhead and drain from there, but this does not provide for a very thin surface skimming.> Do you then stick you own overflow, like buying a kit? <I have built a glass overflow box, similar to Anthony's CAD drawing found here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plumbingmarart.htm There is a PDF or larger GIF file for better viewing.> Are you referring to dislike of prefab tanks? <Prefab overflows. They are like anything that is one size fits all.> And the 1200gph you mention; is that for a single 1" hole? <I assume so, but am waiting to hear from Ralph for confirmation. -Steven Pro>

Re: drilled overflow tanks & flow Hey guys/gals and groovy people: After much research and many questions, (including previous discussion below) I am researching an upgrade from my 55 gallon All-Glass standard tank to a drilled overflow in a 55, 75 or 90 (thanks to an unexpected Christmas Bonus!). <Congratulation!> I searched the web and the number of hits is crazy. So a few (hopefully good) questions: 1. Can you please point me in a good direction for tank/stand? <They are all reasonably good. I will say I don't like overflow boxes. I much prefer to drill the tank to my specifications.> 2. Does a 1" overflow allow for 600 gph? <A reader, Ralph Gibson, has done some experiments and reported the results to us. I found one reference in my quick search where Ralph reported an All-Glass overflow as being able to handle 1200 gph. Perhaps, Ralph will see this email on the daily page and respond with the specifics, but really we could use him to write an article on his experiments for us to refer others to (hint, hint)!> Is there a mathematical equation for this? <There likely is, but I don't know it.> 4. If not, how many overflow holes do I need for the 55, 75, 90 sizes, assuming I want the maximum (20x?) flow for the future? <A 55 is only going to come with one overflow box. The 75 and 90 may come with two if you specify. These should be ok.> 5. What size holes for the least possible noise? <The standard is 1" bulkheads in any overflow box.> Thank you very much.  Without you (and you, and you), I wouldn't be able to advance with so much confidence! Regards, Rich <Have a great weekend! -Steven Pro>

- Flow Dynamics - <Hi, Bill, JasonC again...> Hi guys a couple things that don't make sense to me in your return E-mail to me. I asked you how many overflow pipes you thought I would need to get around 4000 GPH from the overflow box to the sump your statement was <<How about this: for schedule 40 PVC 1.5" will give you 60 GPM, 2" will give you 150 GPM - you might want to consider 2" or larger for this application.>> What I don't get is you say a 2" will give me 150 GPM and a1.5" will give me 60 GPM. So that is saying that one 2"(150 GPM) will give me more than two 1.5" (60 GPM + 60 GPM = 120 GPM) What I'm thinking if I had 2-1.5" pipes that would be like having one 3" pipe. <It's really true - without digressing into a long discussion of physics and geometry, it has to do with induced drag and the actual area of the inside of that pipe... but it is in fact true - one 2" pipe can flow more water that two 1.5" pipes.> Something is not adding up right here. Could you explain to me how I will get more flow out of one 2" then I would get out of two 1.5"? <Not in this email - if you are really dying to know the answer, pick up the book Aquatic Systems Engineering by Pedro Ramon Escobar - the answers are all there.> Also how did you derive at these numbers now this is siphon only no pressure (2"=150GPM &1.5" 60GPM) is there a formula or a chart (on siphon flow) that you got these numbers from?. <Those numbers reflect maximum flow, most likely under pressure which is going to be about as much as you can push through there. Again, pick up that book - it has all the math and related formulae in there.> You also state that I should go with a 2" or larger a 2"@150 GPM = 9000 GPH  I only need 4000 GPH. <More is better for this application. And really, the tank isn't going to overflow more than you are pumping in, with multiple 2" pipes you are just creating a margin for error.> Would I be better off going with a 1.5" and a 3/4" (1.5"@60GPM & 3/4" I'm guessing about 30 GPM=90 GPM=5400 GPH. <No, it doesn't make any sense to try and size things exactly - no room for mistakes.> Man ya need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out! <Not exactly.> You also stated(>In fact, the volume of your tank is large enough that overflow boxes would be unwise.>) (WHY did you make this statement?) Isn't there thousands of people out there using overflow boxes. <On tanks much smaller, yes... and they still have large problems, which means with 650 gallons, your problems can/will be even larger.> I'm sure they all can't be having these problems with siphon tubes getting air in the tube and causing a disaster. Or am I just going about it the wrong way?<I think so, but this is my "opinion" - you're not obliged to listen to my advice at all.> The glass is bullet proof glass I was told I would be taking a big chance in drilling it some even told me it can't be drilled. If you think it is too risky for me to run a overflow box with a sump (believe me I don't want any floods she'll have me sleeping in the shed) <Oh, no doubt... as well as a potential insurance cancellation - no thanks.> I really want to get rid of this pain in the *** canister filter and fluidized bed filters. I'm also unable to use a Protein skimmer because the top of tank is to high off the floor 65" this is where a sump would come in handy. Do you know any other way I can make a better filtration system on this tank seeing you think my idea of a overflow box and sump is to risky? <Again, I would query around with knowledgeable glass people - many tanks of this size are drilled, and there is a good chance your glass is drillable too... probably not with the run-of-the-mill glass cutting kit, but it can be done. It will probably take a day or more, and you'll probably have to drain the tank, and house everyone elsewhere temporarily.> I hate to keep bugging ya about this but I sure could use your help. <No worries.>     Thanks again guys.  Bill <Cheers, J -- >

- More on the Dynamics of Overflow Boxes - Jason Bill here again <Hi.> I promise I won't bug you again on this overflow deal could you please go to this site (http://atlas.csd.net/~cgadd/aqua/overflow.htm according to the plans on this overflow box if built and installed it correct way you should never have any problems with air getting in the overflow tubes or creating a siphon brake. Could you please take a look and let me know what you think. <Well, personally, I try not to use the word "never" - it's very final, and quite all inclusive. Will the person who designed this overflow buy you new carpet should the design that 'never fails', fail? All overflow boxes have a similar problem: the siphon tube. Likewise, it's not that overflow boxes don't work at all, but rather that they are prone to failure, and because Murphy's law will always reign supreme, it will happen when you aren't home. Personally, I don't trust overflow boxes of any type. If you are set on this solution, install double the number you think you might need as a redundancy measure so that if one or more fail, you'd still have some others to keep you from sleeping in the shed, and also keep the insurance wolves from your door.> I do very much value your opinion. Thanks Bill <Cheers, J -- >

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