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  • Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
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    Thread: Help me design the perfect "no-maintenance" aquarium!

    1. #1
      GoldieGirl's Avatar
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      Help me design the perfect "no-maintenance" aquarium!

      I have the go-ahead from DH on an indoor tank, and I have had these ideas kicking around my head for years. I want to design a fish tank using koi pond principles for a system as close to self maintaining as possible. I would like input on my ideas, as well as useful suggestions.
      It will be a large-ish tank (between 150 and 200g) that I am willing to have custom fabricated and drilled. It will serve as a room divider between my dining room and living room. In this location it will sit across the joists in the floor and there is also a heavy beam held up with posts under those joists in the 4' crawlspace below. I am willing to put pipes through the floor and keep a sump/filtration in the crawlspace. I can access it fairly well, and have water and drain capabilities close by.

      I am thinking about keeping discus, and the reason (as if one is needed!) is because my source water is very soft and low Ph (6.4 ish). It is plentiful and has only low levels of chlorine added - no chloramines. My original thought on this tank was to simply have either a constant trickle flow thorough with an overflow plumbed into the tank or with daily timed influxes of water amounting to whatever percent water exchange I decide on. With fish that prefer soft water, I would not have to make adjustments. I would use a house carbon/chlorine remover at the tap. With a large enough daily exchange I don't believe I would need biological filtration - thoughts?

      However, I would like to also incorporate a means of sweeping the bottom of waste and removing it regularly - discus need pristine conditions and this will also contribute to the un-necessity of a filter.
      Below is a picture of a 125g goldfish tank I used to have that came drilled with two drains in the bottom.
      I used some upside down glass plates with little silicone feet on them as bottom drain covers. They are hard to see in the picture but the two crypt plants in pots are sitting on top of them:



      Shown here are two canister filters pulling directly from the bottom drains:



      This method worked very well! There were a few spots in the tank that still accumulated waste, like under and behind the slates that the driftwood was attached to, so I still had to do some vacuuming. For my new discus tank (bare bottom of course), I would solve this by having potted plants or any decor up on feet letting waste travel from all corners. I like the modern, minimal look, so that's no problem.
      The actual problem is that I don't want canister filters so I'm trying to think of other options for how to plumb the drains and what to plumb them to.

      One option I came up with is very similar to what I have on my pond - a cone shaped tank as a settling chamber with timed automatic flushes to clean out the bottom of the cone. I think this can be set up in the crawl space, like a sump, with a pump in the upper part of the vortex tank sending water back up to the aquarium.
      I can also place an inline heater and a UV on this circuit.

      Plumbing the aquarium for a system like this is where it gets tricky for me. I obviously can't run bottom drains straight down to a sump - they will just empty the fish tank. So I would need to run the pipes under the tank to a side, then up to water level, then down to the sump, so when the power cuts the tank would only drain an inch or so, like this picture, correct?



      Then I think to myself, could I just have the holes drilled near the top and have "retro drains"? Pros would be less of a disaster if they leaked or failed than bulkheads on the bottom. Cons would be more visible pipeage in the tank with retro drains, and less efficient for the waste having to be sucked up instead of being pulled down into the pipe - sort of like in a pond?
      If I had the holes near the top of the tank could I have a black overflow box or wall to hide the pipes and bulkheads but with the gap at the bottom to pull waste in, rather than the usual gap at the top for skimming - and just run the pipes down to the bottom as a retro drain substitute? Like this (the blue area is an added wall the doesn't quite go all the way to the bottom). Or it can even be the whole length of the long wall of the tank.



      These are my ideas so far. I have other technical questions about the setup, but for now, I would greatly appreciate some input, especially from those who are familiar with sumps, overflows etc. Plus opinions on how effective this whole system might be, what I may have forgotten, or maybe ways it could be done better. This is a project that I will start on at the beginning of next year, so I have plenty of time to solidify a plan.
      Thanks for your thoughts!
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


    2. #2
      bkillen is offline Senior Member
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      I have a 125g reef with overflow and sump. I drilled the tank and built my overflow. I have spilled plenty of water through overflow and other accidents and learned from it. I will try to help you not make those mistakes. I have never done discus. I have hard water so I do African cichlids instead and use RO/DO for the salt tank. In a saltwater tank you can use large amounts of flow to keep detritus suspended until it goes over the overflow. I am guessing discus don't appreciate that much flow. I think your idea of creating an "overflow" box pulling from the bottom might work but inside it you will need a standpipe inside. This will exit the bottom and be open on top to draw in water. I would also think in terms of velocity just like a bottom drain. if this overflow box is small it can lift solids easier with less flow, just like a 3" BD will keep solids moving with less ghp flow than a 4" BD line. Unless you scale down a RDF you will still need mechanical filtration. Give me a bit and I will try to draw something up.
      currently working on plans and budget for my next build.
      http://www.koiphen.com/forums/showth...ign-amp-review

    3. #3
      bkillen is offline Senior Member
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      The standpipe exits from the bottom of the tank and the top is just below the water surface. If a pump stops, it stops filling tank, this stops water going into standpipe. The way you drew it it will act as a siphon and overflow your sump (I know this firsthand). Next if your return pipe goes over the edge to fill the tank it needs a small hole in it just below the water line, this is a siphon break too.
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      currently working on plans and budget for my next build.
      http://www.koiphen.com/forums/showth...ign-amp-review

    4. #4
      GoldieGirl's Avatar
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      But will the standpipe as you show it draw the heavy solids up from the bottom, is the question.

      What would be the advantages of plumbing a bottom hole this way rather than the way I have it in my first diagram?

      Yes, discus don't care for high flow, but it is an idea to have the returns maybe as a spray bar on the bottom to keep it stirred and then use a standard skimmer box, instead of a bottom drain.

      I was figuring that the vortex tank would be the mechanical filter functioning as a settling chamber, just as my two ponds are set up. Perhaps a matala or foam prefilter before the pump, but if it will settle enough without something to rinse off, all the better. I was thinking of a 60g cone shaped tank with less than 200gph flowing - a nice long dwell time.

      I have so much to learn about tank plumbing! It's a whole different world from gravity flow ponds. Thanks for your help.
      Last edited by GoldieGirl; 08-06-2015 at 11:47 PM.
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


    5. #5
      bkillen is offline Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by GoldieGirl View Post
      But will the standpipe as you show it draw the heavy solids up from the bottom, is the question.

      What would be the advantages of plumbing a bottom hole this way rather than the way I have it in my first diagram?
      as you have it in the first drawing the pipe will act as a siphon. This will work with a canister filter. It is a closed system under vacuum or pressure similar to a bead filter. the primary difference with a sump is it behaves as if a settling chamber were below the pond level. any power loss or pump failure will cause water to siphon from upper chamber to lower chamber then overflow.

      Quote Originally Posted by GoldieGirl View Post
      Yes, discus don't care for high flow, but it is an idea to have the returns maybe as a spray bar on the bottom to keep it stirred and then use a standard skimmer box, instead of a bottom drain.
      good idea there. most commercial skimmer boxes will consist of 2 walls, the 1st wall goes to the bottom, stops short at the top. The overflow pipe is on this side. The 2nd wall is towards the fish and has only 1/2" gap between, This small gap keeps water velocity high to lift solids. it will have slots at the top and bottom to draw waste from both areas.

      Quote Originally Posted by GoldieGirl View Post
      I was figuring that the vortex tank would be the mechanical filter functioning as a settling chamber, just as my two ponds are set up. Perhaps a matala or foam prefilter before the pump, but if it will settle enough without something to rinse off, all the better. I was thinking of a 60g cone shaped tank with less than 200gph flowing - a nice long dwell time.

      I have so much to learn about tank plumbing! It's a whole different world from gravity flow ponds. Thanks for your help.
      Here is a commercial overflow kit, quicker than me sketching it. The actual unit has mid-water pickup too. I Photoshopped it out to illustrate. But if you lower the bottom intake you are getting there. The standpipe cannot be higher than the top of the tank because you want overflow not siphon controlling flow.Name:  allglassoverflowkit_6956.jpg
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      currently working on plans and budget for my next build.
      http://www.koiphen.com/forums/showth...ign-amp-review

    6. #6
      GoldieGirl's Avatar
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      I see. This is similar to the Herbie design, but I guess with the Herbie you have the failsafe of the second overflow pipe, plus absolute silent operation.

      Last edited by GoldieGirl; 08-07-2015 at 10:10 AM.
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


    7. #7
      GoldieGirl's Avatar
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      I'm also looking at the Beananimal overflow because I still have a hesitation with holes in the bottom of the tank (so does the husband). I'm wondering if the intakes on this configuration could be lowered to the bottom of the tank to suck up debris. Maybe drill holes in each pipe higher up to prevent syphoning?

      http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1310585

      I haven't made it all the way through the thread, but I don't suspect any one will ask - nobody in the reef community wants to sweep a barebottom tank!

      Last edited by GoldieGirl; 08-07-2015 at 10:13 AM.
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


    8. #8
      bkillen is offline Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by GoldieGirl View Post
      I'm also looking at the Beananimal overflow because I still have a hesitation with holes in the bottom of the tank (so does the husband). I'm wondering if the intakes on this configuration could be lowered to the bottom of the tank to suck up debris. Maybe drill holes in each pipe higher up to prevent syphoning?
      I actually have a barebottom tank but I sweep it with wavemakers. The beananimal is exactly what I built. I like the safety of the third pipe. In a reef you want to pull the proteins from the top and send them to the protein skimmer. If you can mix the idea of the bean animal with a bottom pickup you may have a winner. I am at work and don't have time to sketch but I have an idea. . if you drill holes in the pipes just underwater yes it will help.
      currently working on plans and budget for my next build.
      http://www.koiphen.com/forums/showth...ign-amp-review

    9. #9
      GoldieGirl's Avatar
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      I joined Reef Central, so after I slog through beananimals thread, I'll post my design ideas and see if he has an opinion.
      Do you have pictures of your overflows you can share?
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


    10. #10
      bkillen is offline Senior Member
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      I'll try to get pics when I get home.
      currently working on plans and budget for my next build.
      http://www.koiphen.com/forums/showth...ign-amp-review

    11. #11
      catfish whiskers's Avatar
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      Here's some ideas I've been thinking of for a large goldfish aquarium, based on some of Our pond systems.

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      It's a Gravity flow overflow system, what goes in from pump, must come out.
      If You place an open T at the top, it will not create a siphon, and only overflow water continue on to the filter. It is safe,will not accidently drain the aquarium, and doesn't need to be primed.
      And it doesn't matter where the intake opening is, anywhere below water level will work.
      If You place the intakes on the bottom, they will easilly pick up solids.

      The overflow pipes would be valved to control flow ,or shut off, and continue on to filter.
      The overflow water would flow to a sump/wet dry style tank under the aquarium.
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      Water would flow by gravity over a small piece of wedge wire sieve screen.
      Then into a removable distribution tray with filter matting on top. Bottom of tray with many drilled holes.
      Water then flows over shower media in small basket. Basket has legs to keep shower media just above sump water level . Sub pump or external pump then pumps water back to aquarium through spray bar.
      A valve in the return line could direct water to flush the sieve screen,then empty waste through a valved waste line.

    12. #12
      bkillen is offline Senior Member
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      OK I just whipped this up on my lunch break. Catfish whiskers has a pretty good idea there too. I actually have T's in my overflow but they are capped with just a small hole to quiet things down.
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      currently working on plans and budget for my next build.
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    13. #13
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      Quote Originally Posted by bkillen View Post
      I actually have T's in my overflow but they are capped with just a small hole to quiet things down.
      Great tip on the caps with small holes .

      Some additions I thought I would add to My design......
      A small reservoir and weir at the top of the wedgewire screen to distribute water evenly over the screen.
      An additional valved intake running from the pump intake ,to the bottom of the aquarium. This would aid in doing water changes, since the overflow pipes would not allow the aquarium to be drained below the overflow level. This intake could also be used to supply pump fed water to flush the wedgewire screen.

    14. #14
      GoldieGirl's Avatar
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      Nice, simple design, catfish. What sets the tank water level- the height of the drilled holes or how much you valve back? It's the valves, right?
      And will this method create noise from water going past the open tee? Silence is very important to my DH.

      Are you thinking of just strainers on the intake ends as opposed to a retro BD type thing?

      This is almost like the beananimal design except his are closed to create syphons on purpose - because a syhponing pipe can flow more volume than an open pipe, but that is not a concern of mine, as my flow will be fairly low for the tank size. But he also claims absolute silence ... so I guess that's my question. Do you have to have syphons for silence or is a valved open pipe filled with water silent as well?
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


    15. #15
      GoldieGirl's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by bkillen View Post
      OK I just whipped this up on my lunch break. Catfish whiskers has a pretty good idea there too. I actually have T's in my overflow but they are capped with just a small hole to quiet things down.
      Thanks for posting those for me! I see how this can work, but I think I would rather find a way to pick up directly from the bottom and avoid having an extra pump to keep waste from settling - without any mech. other than an SC, I think this method would create too many suspended fines for me.

      So I guess that with a hole in the cap being quieter, it means that without the cap it was noisy?
      Last edited by GoldieGirl; 08-07-2015 at 04:44 PM.
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


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      bkillen is offline Senior Member
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      Quote Originally Posted by GoldieGirl View Post
      Nice, simple design, catfish. What sets the tank water level- the height of the drilled holes or how much you valve back? It's the valves, right?
      Level shouldn't go lower than the hole height but shutting down valves too much can cause it to go up. I use a gate valve rather than a ball valve, less touchy for adjustment.
      Quote Originally Posted by GoldieGirl View Post
      This is almost like the beananimal design except his are closed to create syphons on purpose - because a syhponing pipe can flow more volume than an open pipe, but that is not a concern of mine, as my flow will be fairly low for the tank size. But he also claims absolute silence ... so I guess that's my question. Do you have to have syphons for silence or is a valved open pipe filled with water silent as well?
      My beananimal clone is usually silent. I have 2 lines closed for siphon and one capped with a small vent hole. the small hole makes no noise. On occasion mine will make some noise and that's an indicator something needs cleaned or adjusted.
      currently working on plans and budget for my next build.
      http://www.koiphen.com/forums/showth...ign-amp-review

    17. #17
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      Minimum water level would be at the bottom of the bulkhead, or cross of T.
      When the pump is off, water will reach that level and stop.
      Gravity overflow is safer than a siphon, sized properly, they will run without ever needing attention.

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      Running level will be slightly above minimum level , determined by size of overflow pipe and pump flow.
      The valves can be used to fine tune the level.
      Cap covers with small holes on the T will quiet the system.

      Yes, intake screens on the bottom of intake pipes.
      I like these
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    18. #18
      GoldieGirl's Avatar
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      Have you built this tank yet, catfish, or just planning at this point? If not, could you hurry up and build it so you can report on how quiet and effective it is?

      I do like the idea of emergency/redundancy overflows - I think whatever configuration I go with I will have a third hole drilled for an elbow at a slightly higher level outlet (right under the rim) in case the other two get blocked. I think I'm getting sold on not drilling holes in the bottom - it looks like there are reasonable options for sweeping the bottom while having the bulkheads near the top.
      ________________________________________
      Cheers,
      Ci


    19. #19
      catfish whiskers's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by GoldieGirl View Post
      Have you built this tank yet, catfish, or just planning at this point? If not, could you hurry up and build it so you can report on how quiet and effective it is?

      I do like the idea of emergency/redundancy overflows - I think whatever configuration I go with I will have a third hole drilled for an elbow at a slightly higher level outlet (right under the rim) in case the other two get blocked. I think I'm getting sold on not drilling holes in the bottom - it looks like there are reasonable options for sweeping the bottom while having the bulkheads near the top.
      No , not yet
      My five aquariums all have the biggest Aquaclear hang on back filters, as many as can fit on each.
      I just counted , and have 12 of them
      The amount of maintenance for all these is why I want to build something better.
      Yes, an extra bulkhead overflow sounds like a great idea.
      I think an easy way to test these ideas before drilling a tank,would be to get 2 cheap plastic totes, a pump with Your choice GPH in one, and bulkheads flowing from one to the other. See how many and what size bulkheads will handle the flow.

    20. #20
      bkillen is offline Senior Member
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      A little late but pics as promised. The tank is so close to the wall I can't get a very good angle on the plumbing. The overflow was all but invisible until I had a clown fish go on an adventure like Nemo. over the overflow box and into the plumbing, not to appear in the sump for 2 weeks. After that I added the white "egg crate" grating. Catfish Whiskers solution is more graceful, more affordable and solves the problem without introducing more complexity.
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      currently working on plans and budget for my next build.
      http://www.koiphen.com/forums/showth...ign-amp-review

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