box serves two functions. One is to allow for removal of can lose siphon and thereby shut down the flow through surface water from the tank and to direct water into a sump the system. (Devotees of these systems swear they can op-
below the tank. The other is to trap large debris in a spot erate for years without loss of siphon; others just swear at from which it can be conveniently removed and discarded. these systems as being disaster-prone.) Another drawback is
Some aquarists use the overflow box itself as a debris trap, the necessity for several inches of clearance between the while others let the water flow unimpeded through the over- tank and the wall behind or to the side to allow room for the flow and catch the waste in the sump. (See diagram at left external overflow box. While an external overflow may be for a typical design with overflow box and simple sump.)
the only option for some aquarium owners, it is one to be
If the tank is not predrilled, any competent aquarium avoided if there is any other choice.
The Sump with power tools. But glass tanks should always be drilled by Water leaving the aquarium via either type of over-
the manufacturer lest the warranty be voided. Even profes- flow drains into a sump, or reservoir, located in the cabinet sional glass-cutting shops will refuse to assume responsi- below the tank. The sump is drained by the main system bility when asked to drill an aquarium. Letting the pump, which returns water to the tank. As the pump raises manufacturer do the job will mean waiting a couple of ex- the water level in the tank, water passes over the top of the tra weeks for the tank, but it will avoid a costly disaster.
overflow box and into the sump again. This is the basic flow
Installation of the overflow box must be done carefully cycle for any aquarium system, to insure that the seams will not leak, which would allow the tank to drain completely In most tanks, a standpipe centered in the overflow box is screwed into a bulkhead fitting that passes through a drain hole drilled in the bottom of the tank. The standpipe is perforated to admit air and prevent the slurping sound that the water makes as it descends. Some designs have a second hole in the bottom of the overflow box to facilitate installation of the return plumbing. This is a good idea, as nearly all of the pipes are thus hidden from view. The overflow box should be easily accessible for service, as it should be cleaned about once a week if it contains any mechanism or media to trap debris.
Another method of getting water out of the tank involves an over-the-side overflow installed on the outside of the tank. Such a device is used to remove surface water and to provide a drain when drilling the tank is not an option. State-of-the-art ETS acrylic sump designed by Gary Lohr to There are potential problems with this arrangement, as it be the water-handling center of a sophisticated reef system m wm "tû
Besides being an integral part of the plumbing, the a sump holding 25 gallons is really a 100-gallon system.
sump provides a convenient place to install additional
For small tanks, the sump can be dispensed with, al-
equipment that may be needed. Commonly, a heater, if though having one is a nice attribute. In its place, one can used, is placed in the sump. Activated carbon, an optional rnougn navmg one is a nice arrrioure. in its place, one car install a hang-on-the-back outside power filter that incor-
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Pumps & Plumbing filtration medium that will be discussed in more detail later, porates a protein skimmer. This arrangement, which I first can simply be put in a mesh bag and placed in the sump. A described many years ago in Marine Fish Monthly (Tullock, protein skimmer may draw water from, and return it to, the 1989), accomplishes two things at once. The protein skim-sump, as might a chiller. Probes for electronic measurement mer is moved outside the tank, and neither it nor an over-ofpH and temperature, if placed in the sump, will be slower flow box is seen inside the display. Second, good water to accumulate a coating of algae, being hidden away in the movement can be achieved in tanks of up to about 30 gal-dark of the cabinet. Carefully consider the size of the sump Ions by using the largest possible outside filter unit. Plac-in relation to that of the display tank. The sump must not ing a powerhead at a right angle to the water flow from the overflow if power is shut off to the pump and all plumbing main filter helps to create chaotic water movement, or tur-is allowed to drain into it. A prudent design will allow for bulence. In larger systems, the primary source of directional plenty of sump capacity. One of the silliest mistakes I have water movement is the main system pump, augmented by seen repeated over the years is the installation of a sump additional small pumps or powerheads. too small for the system. The number one resulting problem is the overflow of seawater onto the surrounding floor when the electricity is interrupted. This always seems to happen when the family is away, maximizing the potential for dam- Selection of a main system pump will be predicated age to the floor finish and furnishings. A large sump also on three factors: the desired flow rate, the amount of head effectively increases the capacity of the system by provid- pressure, and the cost/performance specifications for the ing additional water volume. A 75-gallon display tank with particular brand of pump being evaluated. The main pump should deliver at least five times the system's water volume per hour at the point of discharge into the display tank. Most pumps are rated in gallons per hour at 1 foot of head pressure. Head pressure is the distance from the inlet of the pump to the discharge point in the display tank. For most home aquarium systems, this will be about 4 feet. However, other factors affect working head pressure. Each
A good aquarium pump should be reliable, quiet, energy efficient, and have the 90-degree bend in the plumbing will capacity to turn over the entire volume of system water at least five times each hour. add about a foot of head because of
done carefully and correctly. I recommend testing the com
the friction of the water moving around the bend. Also as a be carried to extremes in aquarium plumbing: every 90-de-result of friction, each 10-foot horizontal run of pipe will gree elbow in a plumbing loop will significantly slow water add a foot of head pressure. If part of the pump discharge flow and can reduce needed pressure dramatically. In many is shunted off, to a protein skimmer for example, this will instances, less elegant sweeps of tubing may be superior to also rob the display tank of flow. Once all of these effects a series of tight bends.) The plumbing is one part of the are totaled up, one needs only to choose a pump that will de- system that needs to be done only once and so should be liver the required flow, or more, at the calculated head pressure for the system. Finding a pump to meet these pleted plumbing connections by filling the tank with fresh-specifications is simple — inspect the manufacturer's liter- water and running the system for a few days before adding ature on the pump to find the information. Selecting a seawater mix. This will afford a chance to check that every-pump on the basis of its cost/performance ratio, however, thing is working properly and that there are no leaks. Also, is more difficult. Among several brands of pumps meeting flushing the system with freshwater will remove dust and the basic specifications, one may cost much more than the dirt that may be present, others. Presumably, this is a better pump. But is it worth it? Good pumps cost more than poor-quality ones, of course, but one can only be assured of a particular brand's performance through direct testing. This is one area where the You must install additional equipment to create experience of other aquarists or a trusted retail dealer can water movement in the display aquarium. Such movement be invaluable. The best advice I can offer is this: Even if is important to sessile species that must rely on moving wa-you are on a very tight budget, do not scrimp on the pump. ter to bring them food and dissolved gases and to carry away This is the most important component of the system, and its wastes and reproductive cells. Fish also benefit from the
Water Movement failure can spell disaster.
exercise they get swimming against the currents. There are
The plumbing necessary to connect the overflow box devices available that will allow automatic switching be-to the sump, and the pump to the tank, must be carefully designed. A sketch of the plumbing, showing the location of bends, valves, etc., is essential. Using graph paper, prepare a scale drawing, taking measurements from the aquarium, sump, and cabinet. Inexperienced plumbers should seek the advice of a friend, professional plumber, or qualified aquarium system dealer when designing and installing the plumbing. Schedule 40 PVC pipe, flexible vinyl hose or a combination of these, with appropriate fittings, is most often used for aquarium installations. While the tools required are simple and the techniques for assembly of these materials are not difficult, neat, professional-looking work can Wavemakers provide constant, random switching of power-only be achieved with practice. (Be aware that neatness can heads to create the water turbulence required by reef life.
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