The most universally useful system design, as mentioned in chapter 5, "Nuts and Bolts," employs a sump underneath the tank. Other devices can be used, especially on smaller tanks, but none is as satisfactory. For most of the model designs presented later, I assume this system is used. Otherwise, I will make a specific recommendation.
Manufacturers produce many tank sizes "reef ready." Drilling the drain and installing the standpipe takes place at the factory. Surrounding the standpipe, a plastic "prefilter" hides the plumbing and allows only surface water into the drain. Narrow slots at the top prevent large objects from entering. In some designs, the return pipe passes through a second hole in the tank bottom and extends up to the top of the prefilter, paralleling the standpipe. In other designs, the return pipe passes through the tank bottom at some distance from the drain. In still others, a return hose simply loops over the rim of the tank to discharge water just below the surface. The first option is my preference. Not only does the prefilter box hide the return pipe, it also protects the pipe from being bumped. Striking the pipe with a piece of coral rock as you are aquascaping, for example, can crack the glass around the hole at the bottom as the pipe is deflected to one side.
A plastic part known as a bulkhead fitting provides a waterproof seal around the holes in the tank bottom. It consists of three components: a threaded pipe with a flange on one end, a ring nut, and a gasket. The pipe goes through the hole with the flange inside the tank. The gasket slips over the threads, followed by the ring nut. Hand tighten the ring nut until the gasket is slightly compressed against the tank. The inside of the flange has a female thread to which a standpipe or return pipe can be connected using a threaded adapter. Under the tank, the portion of the fitting extending past the ring nut has a male pipe thread to which additional pipes or hoses can be connected to transport water. All of these parts, along with instructions, come with the sump, or your dealer can advise you on the correct ones to select for the system you are assembling.
The sump tank is placed underneath the display aquarium. Water from the standpipe drains into the sump. To minimize salt creep, the sump may have a lid through which the drain hose passes. ("Salt creep" refers to the accumulation of salt crystals wherever droplets of seawater evaporate. Although it is difficult to avoid the problem completely, preventing the escape of seawater whenever possible is a good idea.) If the sump is part of a wet/dry filter, a separate box of filter medium sits on top of the sump. Water from the drain line passes over the medium before it reaches the sump. A rotating spray bar or a perforated tray distributes water evenly over the filter medium. Talk to your dealer about the pros and cons of the designs he stocks. Minireef aquariums with live rock do not require this system component. A bulkhead fitting goes through the opposite end of the sump, near the bottom. The intake of the pump connects to this fitting. The pump discharge reenters the tank via a pipe or hose that connects to the return bulkhead fitting in the tank bottom.
Next, install the protein skimmer either in the sump or adjacent to it. Locate the skimmer where it will be easily accessible for inspection and cleaning. Follow the manufacturer's directions regarding installation.
If you are using a submersible heater, install it in the sump. Place it near the bottom, where it will not be left high and dry if the water level in the sump should drop. If you are using a chiller, it will be installed in the return line between the pump and the tank. Install the chiller's thermostat sensor in the sump.
Basic Setup Procedures 99
It is a good idea to lay out the equipment arrangement on paper before you proceed with installation. You will want to make sure everything can be hidden underneath the tank while remaining accessible for maintenance.
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