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More FAQs about Marine System Plumbing Troubleshooting & Repair

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Wouldn't you rather see a beautiful coral pic rather than a leaky pipe? Me too

Return Pump       7/7/16
Hello Crew,
Just a quick question. How long can my return pump that is plumbed externally from sump be turned off for so I can replace bulkhead and add new pump with PVC pipes.
<In terms of what? Avoiding anaerobic issues potentially? Depends on what it's all hooked up to, temp.... But less than an hour should be fine in a worst case scenario. Bob Fenner>

Silicone question for leaks     3/24/13
Hi crew,
I'm trying to seal up some PVC joints in hopes of sealing a leak somewhere in my plumbing to stop microbubbles from coming into my tank.
<Mmm... well, better by far to find such leaks, cut, re-solvent new fittings and pipe>
Your website talked about using silicone but when I bought the silicone waterproof sealant (Loctite) at the hardware store on the label it said not to use with PVC !
<Neither are for this application>
Is there a safe product you can recommend that you use that can hopefully seal in water and seal out air that is safe for use on PVC plumbing parts?
<See above... what is the nature of the leak/s? Where are they, relative to the pump if involved... how did you detect? Bob Fenner>

blockage in my plumbing   2/8/11
<Hello Gary.>
I have a strange problem I am really hoping you all can help with. I had build a custom system to distribute the water more evenly thru my tank. I have my return feeding into 1/2" pipe that goes down the two back sides of the tank then towards the front (pic attached). The pipes have dozens of small holes drilled in it along the way, more of them towards the end than the beginning. My goal was to have the return water circulate in dead spots as much as possible. (yes I did put in a vacuum break valve in case the power goes out so that I don't siphon backwards)
<Do not rely on these valves. They too acquire buildup and blockages in time, can and will fail.>
This has been setup for over 2 years now and worked great. In the last few months I have noticed the overflow has been gurgling a lot less. Water is still dumping down my overflow but at a really low rate now.
I took the pump off and tested it and it is working at full capacity so my guess is that one of the pipes has a blockage.
<Likely, both.>
Any guess on how to find the blockage short of removing the entire assembly? (like a plumbing snake)
<About the only option I can think of.>
The back of the tank is not as accessible is I would like. The return pump is on the other side of the wall so it is easy to get to.
Any advice?
<If you can find a long enough flexible brush I would start with this.
What happens with such "spray bars" (I know, it is not really spraying being submerged) is each individual hole plugs up quite quickly with calcareous material in marine tanks. Brushing it from the inside or out will help out. I suspect looking at the layout you really can't get at it from within the tank, which leaves within the pipe or removing it from the tank.>
Thanks again for any help,
<Welcome, Scott V.>

Re: blockage in my plumbing (Attn: Scott V)  2/8/11
First I wanted to thank you for your email.
<Happy to help, as little as I did!>
I thought of something to maybe avoid this in the future. I used to have a problem (before I put in an auto top off in a few months ago) with the sump running dry and 'spraying' air out every hole because the pump was sucking up air. Maybe this is why it never clogged before, it got a good cleanout weekly with air.
Now I fixed the running dry problem and the pipes never get cleaned anymore. I am going to dry running dry a few times to see if the air can clean out the blockage.
I will update you after a week or so.
<Could knock some loose, please do let us know how this works out. Could help other in the future!>
Thanks again for the help,
<Have a good one my friend, Scott V.>

Oceanic RR Overflow Question'¦Stopping Seepage -- 02/06/09 Hi All, <<Howdy Drew>> As always, I thank everyone at WWM for their valued opinion! <<Quite welcome mate>> Just a quick-hit question today, so I'll try to make this painless. I recently upgraded my 90 gal bowfront, undrilled tank to an Ultimate 120 with the dual MegaFlows. <<Ah yes'¦the 1' misnomer>> I'm SOOOO happy to no longer have to worry about the CPR external overflow losing its siphon! I know the general sentiment with these MegaFlows, but the 1" drains work well for me and I supplement with additional high flow by other means, so I really can't complain much. <<Mmm, not so much a problem with the 1' drains themselves'¦as you state, water flow can be supplemented in other ways and personally, I prefer to limit the volume of water pushed through a sump to simplify plumbing and noise hassles'¦I just wish the company wouldn't advertise to the uninitiated a 'safe' gravity flow rate of 300gph as 'MegaFlow'> The tank came with the stock overflow kits, with Durso-style standpipes. They run quietly and I'm actually quite happy with them. <<Excellent>> Now, on to my question. When I cut power to the tank, I get a slight amount of leakage from the drain lines into the sump. Obviously, a tad amount is leaking from between the standpipe and the bulkhead on both sides. <<Easily rectified>> It's not much, but it does trickle out. This makes me wonder: the overflow draws water from the bottom, middle and top - so in an extended power outage, what's to prevent the whole tank from draining to the bottom slats of the overflow? <<Indeed'¦given enough time as you imply>> I don't want to glue the standpipes into the bulkheads, but I'm wondering what I can do to minimize any risk of draining the tank during an outage. <<No need to 'glue''¦ Remove the standpipes and smear some Silicone adhesive on the threads and replace the standpipe. The Silicone will not 'glue' the standpipe to the bulkhead'¦but if allowed to cure before replacing the water in the tank, it will create a seal that will stop that annoying seepage at the bulkhead junction>> I'm running with RO water now and about to start building it up, but I'd like to get this resolved before proceeding. Thoughts? <<As indicated'¦ Drain the tank'¦seal the standpipe/bulkhead threads with Silicone'¦let cure'¦refill the tank>> Hopefully this made sense! <<Hopefully I did too!>> Thanks again, Drew <<Happy to assist. EricR>>

Re: was... Micro Bubbles, now... new ozone reactor reaction to cycling   7/10/07 Hi! <Howzit?> Ok, I think I found the leak. The side in question gets a little wet if the pipe is bumped. It is coming from the bulkhead somewhere. Also, when the pipe is bumped the bubbles increase in spurts. <Oops! Ah ha!> So I have a new bulkhead on the way to take care of that. If you don't mind, I have another problem. My tank is about 6 months old and water was staying pretty good (ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates under 5ppm) Ph is a consistent 8, alk 8 dKH and calcium at 380 to 400. I added a sander ozonizer about 2 weeks ago. <Good units> I have a 100mg unit hooked to an ORP controller. ORP has never gone above 350. Now I am getting ammonia 0, nitrites at .75ppm and nitrate at 20ppm. <Mmm, likely the microbes that do that voodoo that they do so well with nitrogenous cycling are taking a hit from the higher O3 effects...> I have a 125 gallon tank, a 50 gallon refugium and a 25 gallon sump. Aquac EV120 skimmer, 2 GENX PCX70 pumps. Korallin C1502 calcium reactor. 120 pounds of live rock, 4 to 5 inches of sugar sized aragonite in refugium and tank. Stock is 1 Naso tang 5 inches, 2 1 inch ocellaris clowns, 4 Chromis (1 inch or less) 1 lawnmower blenny 4 inches, 1 Kole tang 4 inches, 1 coral beauty angel 3 inches. Would the addition of the ozonizer make it go through another cycle? <Mmm, yes, could...> Is there anything you would recommend doing? <Being careful re feeding till all re-settles> Thank you very much for your time, David Matza <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Is Silicone the Savior for Sealing?  ...Mmm, Depends On the Application - 04/27/07 Hi Guys, Jason here from Manila. <<Greetings Jason...Eric here from warm and muggy South Carolina>> I've read your FAQs and noted how you guys like to use just silicone on threaded PVC to make a nice seal. <<Many do, yes...but I prefer Teflon tape for this>> And it can be undone, unlike PVC solvent. <<Yes...but then, it doesn't make any sense to me to use threaded fittings if you plan to use solvent glue>> I'm making my closed-loop circulation, and I've used PVC solvent on the slip joints. <<As you should...>> If I find a leak in one of the joints, can I seal it with a dab of silicone, or must I start over and recreate everything. <<If a solvent-welded joint begins to leak you are better off cutting it out/replacing the joint altogether.  The silicone does not really "adhere" to the PVC and even though it may stop the leak temporarily...it will eventually fail>> I've got to recreate everything, because I can't just "undo" PVC solvent. <<Correct>> Also, can I use just silicone on PVC slip joints, out of water? <<Nope...need to be solvent welded>> My other question involves bulkheads.  My buddy here uses bulkheads from the local hardware store, female and male joint.  No gaskets, just silicone smeared on the joints, and on both sides of the glass to provide as the gasket. <<I see>> Is this a good sealed joint, or do you guys suggest gaskets? <<I prefer to use a gasket (provided with the bulkheads I purchase)>> If so, what kind, and on both sides? <<An EPDM rubber or neoprene gasket should suffice.  I place the single gasket under the flange on the wet side of the bulkhead and use a smear of silicone on the dry side to seat the nut>> Thanks! Jason <<A pleasure to share.  Eric Russell>> Leaking Return Line, Hose Clamps are Your Friends   2/20/07 Dear WWM Crew- <Hi Gina, Mich with you tonight.> I've tried to find the answer to my problem but I still have a couple of questions. <Alrighty!> I have a 75 gallon marine aquarium that was my husband's project. It has been left in my care and have some knowledge regarding the plumbing but I'm not 100% confident that I know what I'm doing.  Last night I was trying to remove the flexible tubing from the return pump so I could clean it. Well I couldn't and gave up. When I turned everything back on I noticed the leak on the other end of the flexible tubing hooked directly to the aquarium. <Figures!?!> I tried to tighten it but it didn't help. I went ahead and bought some new flexible tubing identical to what I have at Lowe's. My question is do I need to use some kind of plumber's tape ( the white stuff) when hooking on the new tubing? The end hooked to the pump appears to have it but the opposite end that's leaking, I don't see any. <Stainless steel or plastic hose clamps, even zip ties are most helpful here.  See the image for stainless steel and plastic hose clamps on this page: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl= http://www.drsfostersmith.com/images/Categoryimages/largefeatured/1_13152_fs13630s. jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/NavResults.cfm%3FN%3D62728%2B113833&h=206&w=260&sz=8&hl=en&start=3&tbnid=AJFrzpOlHfvmAM:&tbnh=89&t bnw=112&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dplastic%2Bhose%2Bclamps%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3 Den%26safe%3Doff%26client%3Dsafari%26rls%3Den%26sa%3DG You local hardware store should carry these and are cheap enough to keep on hand.>   Also can you walk me through the process so that I don't end up with water all over the place. I simply just want to be prepared as I start disconnecting stuff. Lucky me I've requested the help of the roommate's fiancé'.  We've never done this before and what I've read so far doesn't really go into detail.  The pump is a mag-drive model of some sort, it sits in the sump submerged in water. There's a valve hooked to the pump & then the tubing is hooked to it. Any helpful info would be appreciated. <If it were me, I would leave everything as is and simply add the clamp.  These little projects often lead to very big projects, and may become all day events.  I've learned to leave well enough alone.  It's hard to tell you exactly what to do without seeing the set up.  But generally, If you do decide to go ahead, gather some towels, hose clamps, zip ties and plumbing tape.  If you have at least four hands you can lift the Mag drive from the water and allow if it to blow air through the lines.  You do not want to allow it to run dry for long, but long enough to rid the line of water.  Then turn off the pump, and remove the return line from the tank.  Be careful of back siphoning, which hopefully will be avoid if the line are filled with air.  Switch out the tubing and keep your fingers crossed that there are no leaks.  You may have to run the flexible tubing under hot water to make it, well, flexible enough to replace.  The clamps may help solve potential leaking issues, just be careful not to over tighten. Sometime two hose clamps placed a small distance apart are needed to ensure a water tight seal.  Good luck!>     Thank You! -Gina <You're welcome, -Mich>

Leaking PVC Connection   11/6/06 Hello WWM Folks,    <Scott>   I have a small problem with a newly set-up 135 gallon saltwater system that I was hoping you might be able to help me with.    <Will try>   The aquarium is a 135 gallon acrylic, with two 1-1/2 " overflows feeding an Ecosystem mud sump.       The system ran with no leaks for several days so I thought I was in good shape. Then I had to pull on the Durso standpipe for some minor adjustments. Since then I have a very slow (say one or two drips a minute) leak coming off the threaded connection from the 1-1/2" bulkhead to the PVC connection attached to the drain line. The drops are falling into a makeshift catch basin so I don't have an emergency but I would like to resolve the leak.    <I think I can picture the site... a slow leak at the threaded junction, but no real way of tightening this because the attached pipe is solvented>   The overflows are tied together and I am concerned that by cutting out and replacing the leaking bulkhead I may cause more damage and produce a leak somewhere else. Also I am concerned about the toxicity of the PVC "blue-glue" to my aquarium inhabitants.    <Is fine if allowed to cure for a few hours>   Have you folks had any experience with some type of external patch to remedy this type of problem? <All sorts... of... sometimes, allowing the site/area to dry out and using a very thin/low viscosity solvent (clear) will "do it" here... as well as Christy's might. Extension and replacement couplers require cutting...> I did some checking on the internet and found a material called "Plug-n-Patch Marine Putty" that can be applied externally on wet or dry surfaces. <Mmmm, nah!> I am inclined to give this a try before replacing the bulkhead but thought I might see if you folks had any other suggestions.     Thanks again for the help you all provide for novices like myself. I can honestly say I could never have built this system without countless hours spent reviewing your website.      Scott <I'd turn the pump off... try either the clear or landscape (colored) solvents idea here first. Bob Fenner>

Leaking plumbing questions WetWebMedia Crew I was wondering is this was received by you guys or not last Friday? << Not sure, but I'll do my best to answer this now. >> I have an update to the below, I decided to switch overflow boxes anyway and have bought 2 Amiracle hang on overflows (not the 1 piece type, I had that already).  I wanted to put them in but the o rings don't seem to stop weeping water (from the bottom).  I don't know if they are too loose or too tight, it seems no combination will make it stop weeping when water is added to the operating height.  They are new O rings too! I know from reading that I'm not to use any Vaseline on these, but should I use 100% Silicone aquarium sealant?  If so where? << I would, on both sides of the seal.  Also, I'd use Teflon tape or pvc glue as well. >> Does pipe thread tape help?  Any ideas? << Yes, a good way to go. >> By the way, I'll have to get new glass cut, but they all ended up just fitting on that same side, so I don't have to re-route the overflow or return pipes to the other side (left) of the tank. << Great. >> Thanks in advance! <<  Blundell  >> - Plumbing Problem - Hi, I have a couple of questions about a plumbing problem I have found.  I have a sump I am trying to plumb the return pump.  If you were facing the tank stand, I have the sump all the way against right wall of the sump.  On the left side, I have the bulkhead, a 3/4" ball valve and a PVC quick-disconnect union (this ball valve and union is only to shut off the water supply and disconnect the pump if it needs to be serviced... <Smart thinking.> I have another ball valve on the outlet side of the pump to control water flow).  Between the end of that union and the left wall of the stand, I do not have enough room to set my external pump (a Gen-X MAK IV).  I don't know what to do so I have a couple of questions on alternatives: 1.  Can I move the ball valve and connect it to the bulkhead on the inside of the sump? <You could.> Then I would have only the union on the outside of the sump connecting to the external pump. 2.  If I have to scrap this idea and go with a submersible pump, is there a bulkhead-type fitting with a cap so I can close the hole? <Just use your typical PVC caps. How about a 90 turn after the union?> Thank you very much for your time.  I appreciate it. Paul <Cheers, J -- >

- Plumbing Problem, Follow-up -  Hi,  Just a follow up. I was going to do the 90 after the union but found an outlet on the internet that sold a union/ball valve as one unit. That combination reduced the length to where I was able to put the pump in line like I originally wanted to do. <Excellent... should have suggested the same.>  I do have one other question. Of course, the bulkhead hole wasn't drilled at the exact right height and the plumbing coming out of sump is a couple of inches higher than the inlet on the pump when it is just sitting on the floor of the stand. I can't imagine that this is unique. <Nope, have done this to myself both intentionally and by accident.> What do other aquarists do to level the pump with the plumbing? <I actually put this space in these days on purpose - shim the pump with high-density foam rubber to stop vibrations from becoming resonance in the stand.> Do they put the pump on a block of wood, a brick, or does anyone make a little stand with telescoping legs so you can adjust the height? <Sometimes a block of wood will suffice.> Just wondered if you might know how others have done it.  Thanks for everything,  Paul  <Cheers, J -- >

- Plumbing Problem, More Follow-up - Thanks a lot for the dense foam idea. <My pleasure.> That's a great idea... especially to keep the noise down! Depending on the thickness of the foam I find, I can start out with a 2x4 and still have room for a small piece of foam. <Would be fine.> depending on how thick the foam is, I may just be able to use it by itself. <That too... Cheers, J -- >

My new reef tank overflow problems 7/1/04 Hi Again. Thank you again for your prompt reply on my dilemma about the overflow drilled too small. I Currently have two 4x4" corner overflow with a stand pipe of 2" in each corner. As I was saying, water could not drain fast enough to feed the refugium. So I drilled the back of the tank for two 1 1/2" bulk head with screens. I have two Dolphin pumps: an Amp Master 2100 g/h and a 3000 g/h. The tank itself  about 180gal. <the total amount of water flow is very fine for a reef tank this size... but did you refer to the mfg specs on safe running levels for their bulkheads (about half the max) to see if they could handle the 5000+ gph being pushed? It seems like a lot of water for four holes/drains> The sump/refugium measures 32x28x16" with a 12" partition at 8" from the left. with those measurements this gives me about 46 gal. total and 34 gal. in the bigger section. <is the smaller section the sump proper? if so, this is tiny for a 180 gallon tank. Even the 46 gall in general is small considering the water flow> Each pump pushes water through a manifold containing 6 and 7 tees respectively. Even with the new drains I still cant' run both pumps without sucking the sump dry especially the 3000. I cannot fill up the sump with any more water for fear it will overflow when pumps are turned off. <understood> What is the problem here? Still too little overflow or sump is too small? <the principal concern here is the inadequate drainage (not enough holes or large enough... this we can figure out by the numbers). The sump ultimately is way too small... especially if the non-refugium side is a mere 12 gallons> Is it true the sump must be close to half the size of the main tank? <larger sumps are safer... but the only rule is that it should be able to handle all overflow water in the event of a power outage and not overflow itself> When we are talking about turning the water over 20 times, does that include the main display and the sump combined? <just the flow in the display my friend... and its not written in stone. Ultimately, its the specific invertebrates you choose that will dictate how much or how little flow is needed> Can I cut more teeth out from  the top of the overflow to help it? <no mate... the problem is the drain size, not the overflow teeth> Thanks a bunch. Stephan <at this point my friend... all you can do is bleed water off the return pump with a tee and put it back into the sump (or restrict the pump return some other way/valve). Anthony>

- Cycled, Leaking, and Dying - Greetings crew, Thanks for the input long ago on my plumbing design. It has worked out superbly. I have excellent flow even with 1 MD40RLXT, I can't wait for the second one in a few months. The 180 gallon tank and 30 gallon sump have cycled. I have 70 pounds of live rock and 350 pounds of sand which gives me a 4.25 inch deep sand bed. The salinity reads at 1.021, Nitrite at o, nitrate at 0, ammonia at 0 and pH at 8.2, all reading are via a Salifert kit. The temp is a constant 79.9-80.1 degrees depending on day or night. My photoperiod is 11 hours and I have a white moon light controlled by a Solar L2 controller. The controller drives two icecap 660's which drive 4 72" URI VHO bulbs: 2 actinic blue, 1 AquaSun and one 50/50 bulb. My skimmer is a Prizm Pro in the sump which is giving me good skimmate output. The life forms consist of 1 yellow tang, 1 maroon clown (had to get Nemo look alike for my sons), 2 yellow tail damsels, 2 blue damsels, 1 striped damsel, 1 banded coral shrimp, 1 Atlantic blue leg crab, 5 hermit crabs, 2 feather dusters that I inherited on a piece of rock, 1 chocolate chip star, 3 turbo snails, and 1 margarita snail. The tank just fully cycled two weeks ago and most of the rock has brown algae which some of it's turning into beautiful coralline greens, purples, reds and other colors. My current issues which I haven't been able to resolve follow: The four snails are not doing anything. I added them by floating for 30 minutes and adding 4 oz of tank water every ten minutes for one hour. I then picked them out of the bag and placed them on the rock and sand. They started to clean right away for about 45 minutes and then stopped. They now just lay around as if on a siesta for the past week. I picked them up and they don't pull into their shells but they do move very slowly when placed upside down. I haven't been able to figure out why they are acting like this. All of the other critters are OK. I've looked around in the faq's and found some stuff about copper poisoning. The rock was obtained from an LFS that was going under and he advised that copper was never used in his systems. I don't have the funds to buy a test kit for copper right now and I figured that the crabs and shrimp were all doing well so that probably wasn't it. <It's very rare to get copper from nowhere, I wouldn't be too concerned about that or the snails. Just give them some time - it's not like they move fast on a regular day anyway.> My next problems is with a leaky connection. I have two 3/4" bullheads at the sand line in the tank. These are for the sand line returns and there are 4 3/4" water line returns. One of the bottom returns is leaking at the bulkhead to union joint. I used 5 wraps of pipe tape on all of my connections and ran the system for a week without salt to ensure that all was well. I didn't notice the leak until the system was two weeks into cycling, it's very slow, 2-3 drops a day. I am currently catching the drips in a paint tray but I would like to fix the drip. There is a valve between the pump manifold and the leak so I have no problem there but the bulkhead is at the bottom of the tank and against the wall so I have no real access to this area except for a long arm stretch. I've tried to tighten the connection but it as already tight and only moved a 1/4 inch. I was thinking about placing a plastic plug into the tank side of the bulkhead, letting everything dry for about a month and trying to place some CA glue on the threads to see if that will help, hopefully I will get some capillary action into the threads. If the leak doesn't stop I'll just leave the plug in the bulkhead and rely on my other returns for current. <Uhh.. I'm not sure I follow - is it the bulkhead itself that is leaking? If so, there's no easy way to address this leak without draining the tank. When I assemble bulkheads, I always put a little bit of silicone (sealant, like for making glass tanks) on the gasket that comes with the bulkhead - that way you have some extra insurance. If the leak is in the fitting between the bulkhead and a treaded union, then I would do you described - plug the bulkhead from inside the tank and remove the threaded union, put silicone on those threads and reassemble. I would not try the CA glue trick.> Any suggestions for these two problems are welcome. Thanks for the excellent site, books and good information. Jeremy Pratt <Cheers, J -- >

- Gas Bubble Disease? Restocking after Tragedy - Howdy y'all! I recently lost a 5" Saddleback Butterfly, 3" Coral Beauty Angel, 4" Lyretail Anthias, and a 3" Firefish Goby. <I'm sorry to hear of your losses.> I moved about a month ago and went from a 55g that had been running for a year to a 125g. The move went rather well, and I managed to have the 125 running for a week prior and moved all the water from the 55g into the new tank along with LR and the inhabitants. All the critters were doing super UNTIL last week when  I started running a sump I created using an old 50g with acrylic dividers that created a sump and refugium area. From the start my tank was filled with micro-bubbles. I spent all that day attempting to correct the problem, and did to a certain degree I thought by the time the lights turned off. Low and behold the next day the bubbles were back with such a fury there was barely 6" of visibility in the tank. After another day of trying to correct the problem I succeeded, but I believe it was too late. Within 5 days I lost 4 fish with the Butterfly holding out the longest. All fish showed rapid gill movement, frayed fins and a slight bloating of their entire bodies. I am assuming this was GBD and not poisoning from something in the sump, as both my shrimp survived and molted a week later (it was due) and my Bar Goby also made it through and seems to be doing fine although a little shy lately. <For GBD you should also see actual bubbles that look as if stuck to the fish, these are actually gas bubbles under the skin.> I let all the PVC cure over 24 hours and rinsed it thoroughly...any ideas? <My guess is combined stress along with perhaps too much 'air' in the form of bubbles complicated things in the tank, in a way rarifying the water making it difficult to breath, but perhaps not the actual gas bubble disease.> While still in mourning I have begun to plan the restocking of the tank and would either a Passer Angel or Maculosus Angel as the centerpiece. I'm really at a loss for what other medium/small species I should be considering. <Many choices.> It's a 125g with Tunze skimmer, 75lbs of LR, 50g sump contains mechanical/chemical filtration and 25g fuge with 4" DSB and various algae. No wet/dry or other biological at this time. Was considering adding another 50lbs of LR or getting some type of wet/dry system within the next few months. What might you recommend? <Go for the live rock, skip the wet/dry.> Thank you very much for your time, you guys are such a tremendous help! E <Cheers, J -- >

Increased flow rate Hi, I have a question about my plumbing. I increased my flow rate recently because it was less then what it should have been, and I started to get a problem which is a lot of fine bubbles. Now I know that too fine bubbles are not good for the fish, and frankly it doesn't look nice either because it kind of clouds the water if you know what I mean. I know it's not an air leak because I've gone over every connection. <Try using a piece of tubing against your ear... with the other end placed along all the joints in your plumbing (including the volute to the pump... this is generally the problem area), and/or a spray bottle of just water... you may well see "bubbling" of air/water at the problem junction> What I think is causing it, and tell me if I'm wrong is this. I have an overflow built in to my tank that drains through the bottom into my sump/wet/dry. My tank is 30" high, and I think with the increased water flow there is more churning of the water at the bottom of the overflow. <Maybe... have you considered inserting a slotted pipe, wrapping it in coarse batting material (from the yardage or fish store), securing same with rubber bands or zip ties? This would allow bubbles to coalesce...> I've added a small airline tubing into the drain of the overflow to help with the noise reduction ( the air being sucked in with the water). I can see lots of the little bubbles coming from the overflow pipe exit in my sump yet I can't see them as they travel through the tubing on it's way back to the tank ( a lot of my lines are clear soft tubing because my pump is in the basement, and it's easier to snake through the obstacles going through the floor). Or is it that I can't see the bubbles in the lines because it's just traveling through too fast to see? <Maybe> I don't want to start stuffing baffle, or anything inline in the overflow pipe to break up the bubbles because I don't want to start restricting the flow (buildup of stuff pulled in by the filter). I was told by someone I know that because the bottom of the overflow is at the bottom of the tank instead of being built up higher in the overflow part itself that this is causing a waterfall effect resulting in the churning. I can't start rebuilding the overflow because the tank is already stocked, and running. Do you have any ideas as to what to do. <A bunch... though hard to elaborate over the net... have you been to OzReef site yet for ideas? http://www.ozreef.org/> Is the airline tube I stuck down the overflow pipe a good idea ( I would like to leave it because it cuts down the noise of the water a lot), or is this helping to cause the problem?  <A good idea... likely not the cause of the trouble... As stated... would look to batting material to solve this bubbliness. Bob Fenner> I hope you have an answer for this! Greg N.

BUILD UP OF MATERIAL IN WATER RETURN LINES My reef tank has been set up for about 10 months. I have been noticing an accumulation of a white substance in my water return lines from the filter system. If I move or hit the water return lines, the white substance runs through the lines into the tank. I was wondering if you have any ideas what might be causing this to occur and whether there is a method to either eliminate this substance or filter it out prior to the water being released into the tank. <Likely "just dust" from your substrate, additive precipitants... living matter tends to "stick" more in captive settings. Likely no problem, but unsightly... would add more mechanical/particulate filtration. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/marmechf.htm> One of my thoughts is to increase the flow of water back to the tank. I am now using a RIO 2100 pump with a 4 foot lift. Under ideal conditions, I should be seeing a flow rate of about 390 GPH. However, once the water leaves the filter/pump, the water flow is split with 50% of the water running through a UV sterilizer and 50% running through a chiller, thus further reducing the flow rate. <Yes... I would run the water through a canister filter to your UV and let the rest of the water go through the chiller with the Rio> To give you more information about my tank, I have about 60 pounds of live rock. The substrate is crushed coral which is about 1.5 inches deep.  <This is likely the "powder" source> On top of the substrate, I have added 10 pounds of GARF grunge. <This too... an old guy with a hammer, bad live rock...> I have a CPR biological filter with protein skimmer. I use a UV sterilizer. I have 2 small power heads mounted in the tank to increase circulation. A 10 gallon water change is performed every 3 weeks. Nitrate, nitrite, ammonia and phosphates are near zero. Specific gravity is 1.022 and PH is 8.2. Water temperature is controlled with a chiller/heater at 78.5 degrees. For lighting, I have four 96 watt compact florescent lights. Two of the bulbs are blue and two are 6700K white. I run the lighting 10 hours per day. The fish in my tank include a small damsel, scooter blenny, purple tang, flame Hawkfish, clownfish and 2 Banggai Cardinalfish. I will not we adding anymore fish to the tank. I have 2 cleaner shrimp and a mixture of snails and crabs. I have about 8 pieces of soft coral and leather corals and plan to add more coral over time. <Sounds very nice> Any suggestions you might have would be appreciated. Regards, Jim <Just to add the canister... for redundancy's sake... and to provide steady flow through your other mechanicals (with dedicated pumping)... a few other reasons... removal of particulates will help both the chiller and UV...> P.S. I just ordered your book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" and look forward to reading it. <You will enjoy, benefit by its perusal. Bob Fenner>

New Pump Plumbing Question Hi Bob, I've had a frustrating day (and evening) installing a new pump, and I desperately could use some wise guidance. Here's the deal: I have a Mag 12 pump on my 300 gallon reef tank. The flow rate for the tank is obviously too low, so I went ahead a picked up an Iwaki pump. (MD100RLT). I hooked up the Iwaki, and I find the flow rate to be ridiculously low . . . and I mean looooooow . . . as in my dog drinks water faster. So, I hooked the Mag back up in the interim, and I am seeking a little guidance. Maybe you know the answer right off? ;-) <Mmm, don't even know the questions yet> Here is the plumbing situation: The Mag 12 has 3/4" fittings. It is immersed in my sump, sucks water up, pushes it through a "T" connector, and pumps the water up each side of the tank. It uses 1" OD / 3/4" ID tubing. The flow rate, while certainly not optimal, is not all that bad. <Okay> The Iwaki has 1" fittings. Being an outside pump, I added a 1" bulkhead <Outside diameter I'll trust/assume... one does NOT want to bush down intake fittings> fitting in the sump. I made sure not to reduce the 1" inflow into the pump, as I've heard doing so can give flow-rate problems.  <Oh! Yes> It then pumps through a 1" check valve.  <Why a check valve here? Your sump won't accommodate the volume that might drain back if the pump, power failed? What type of check valve? Spring, ball types are trouble (compared to swing)... some coverage on these on WWM, under pond plumbing.> I then use a constrictor to reduce to use the already-there-for-the-Mag 1" OD / 3/4" ID tubing. I am thinking perhaps I should just rip out the small tubing and keep the whole setup from Iwaki-to-tank at 1". I don't want to rip out the old stuff unless I know that is the problem, however. <... ah... and all this on a three hundred gallon system...> Bob, what's my problem? Why is that Iwaki pumping so slooooooooooooooooow? <A few things... but most all having to do with the plumbing arrangement... "T's" are trouble with pumps that are engineered for flow versus pressure... as are restrictions/induced drag in small diameter conduits... But, skipping ahead... do re-design your plumbing and consider getting/using a direct drive pump... like an RK2 product instead... Maybe make up a diagram of what you have in mind plumbing wise, and we'll chat this up. Bob Fenner> Thanks a million! Dale.

Re: New Pump Plumbing Question Bob, Thanks for the advice . . . It was the check valve. Dale.
<Ah... suspected as much. Bob Fenner>

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