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Tank photos - Finally!


Dec 22, 2004
Here are some pictures of my 75 gallon setup! I apologize for the poor quality on some of these, I'm using a borrowed camera.

This is an overview of the display tank. You can see two important features here, the external overflow siliconed to the right side, and the spray bar in the upper left. These two modifications mean that there's no plumbing going between the tank and the lid.


Here's a side view showing the spray bar connected through a bulkhead to the flex return line. Two 45 degree elbows in the spray bar bring the openings higher than the bulkhead to minimize backflow when the pump stops. Also notice the DJ power strip. Right now three switches are illuminated: light, return pump and skimmer pump. Not lit are the auto-topoff and the auto-topoff relay. There are three plugs not currently used, one will soon be used for the refugium light (note the chaetomorphia is in the display right now).


Close up of the spray bar. All the black PVC in the pictures are painted with Krylon Fusion spray which is formulated to stick to plastic. I let it dry for a week and I'm not the first person to use it in a saltwater tank. I don't think its any more dangerous than the PVC cement is.

Note the fiberglass window screen wrapped around the spray bar and secured with zip-ties. Sometimes sand from the refugium will make its way up and get caught in the screen, requiring it to be cleaned.


Now here's what all of you have been waiting for: the external overflow. There are 25 slots each approximately 1/4" x 3/4" spanning about 13" at the waterline. This involved about 8 1/2 hours with the Dremel and some upset neighbors. The box is 1/4" glass with two bulkheads in the bottom. In this first photo you can see the two standpipes that drain it: on the right is a modified Stockman (without an air vent) that takes most of the flow and goes through the biofilter. On the left is a modified Durso that handles a little bit of excess flow and is capable of handling all the flow in the event the primary drain is blocked. The Durso drains directly to the sump.


Here's a view from the top front. You can see water cascading down.


Here's a close-up of some slots. If we have any fluid dynamicists out there you know the Froude Number of the flow out of the slots.

Notice the window screen ziptied in place. A small and determined octopus would be able to get underneath it (I have a problem with Stomatella snails doing so) which I'll rectify by adding more zipties or a bead of silicone around the perimeter of the screen.


Here's the plumbing between the overflow and the biofilter. A piece of filter floss prevents most detritus (and Stomatella sp.) from making it into the bioballs. I change them weekly, and as you can see from the color its about due.


Here's the biofilter and the auto-topoff reservoir. The biofilter is drained by a bulkhead in its base. The auto-topoff is powered by a 3 gph Aqualifter pump. I wanted a pump slow enough to help mitigate an accident in case of a solenoid failure.


Here's what it looks like downstairs. What a mess. Sump chamber on the right, refugium on the left. The second figure should help elucidate some of the plumbing. The main line is the red one. Most of the flow goes through it and then the orange one into the skimmer. Excess goes directly into the sump. The blue line is the backup line from the Durso. The purple line is part of my water change system: I put a bucket in front of the sump, flip two ball valves and out comes water!



Obligatory skimmer photo. Turboflotor 1000 with an Ocean Runner pump. The skimmer/pump plumbing has been mod'ed to let them sit side by side because the OR2700 is so big.


...and finally a view of the refugium chamber, including the two float-valves that control the auto-topoff solenoid. They're wired in series so the lower one is the workhorse and the upper one is a standby in case the lower one fails open. The lower one is in a tiny plastic jar with holes in it in a meek attempt to dissuade snails from climbing on it.


The pump is in this chamber and is currently a Mag-7. Note the replacement nylon screws :)

Despite all the crazy plumbing, the pump is by far with loudest part of the setup. It will soon be repaced by an Eheim so we can hear ourselves think.

ah, noise is just one of those things that can go hand in hand with a sump, i was actually in one guy's house and it sounded like a toilet being flushed... 24 hours a day. Oh, and i have seen far messier sumps too LOL

great set up, lets get a ceph in it :)

Excellent Job!
I love seeing the setup and flow of custom filtration systems, especially well thought out ones like this. Easy to maintain, many options for flow if problems occur, solidly constructed. Hats off to you - Dan! :thumbsup:

4 questions:
1) I am mostly familiar with external pumps and powerheads, do submersible pumps like the Mag have problems with sand in the seals? I noticed yours is sitting on sand. I got a Dolphin pump, and they stress prefilters on the pump if there is ANY chance of marine sand getting near it - and that is with the heavy duty seal. That was their problem before-the seals, do Mags have any impeller wear or seals to be concerned about?

2) Is the sand actually doing anything without a plenum or underflow? I know they must have slower flow in the refugium, but doesn't water have to pass through sand to activate a deep sand bed and eliminate anaerobic pockets? I am new to refugiums - never had one (yet) - this is only from reading.

3) How high does the water raise to with the pump off? You have it high on the glass for the pump and the skimmer, but doesn't the biofilter have some excess water in it along with the overflow excess? Looks like it is running fine, so you must have figured it out already.

4) Can a single overflow handle the pump needs? When you close the ball valve on the blue pipe and open on the purple to do a water change - after you fill your bucket and close the purple valve, will the red pipe keep the system running?

Did you use plans from the internet to do you auto top-off system?

Just to give you fair warning- I plan on copying as much as I can for my system. :wink2:
Thanks for all the feedback:

Colin said:
great set up, lets get a ceph in it :)

Yeah, if I can find one!

Illithid said:
4 questions:

1) Most submersible pumps, particularly Mag drives are pretty robust. On an external pump the seals are a lot more critical because if they get some sand in them they can leak. If my pump housing leaks in my sump, big whoop :) Sand does get through and I made some changes in the last few weeks to minimize it--not as much for the sake of the pump but for convenience (when sand got in it would find its way on top of the live rock under the spray bar). I take the pump apart once a month or so and clean out the grains that find their way into the magnet area.

Mag drives are solid pumps, but the steel screws will rust if not replaced with nylon and they can be pretty loud.

2) The point of the refugium is just to have a happy place for the macroalgae. Its also a place where the amphipods can be fruitful and multiply. By not having a prefilter on the pump, many of these amphipods will be "exported" to the main tank. This isn't that important in this system because only young octos will eat amphipods, but I still like having them around.

I don't have a deep sand bed in this system. I believe in the concept for reef systems but I don't think they're a good fit with the boom & bust lifestyle of a ceph tank. The sand in my 'fuge is just to make the amphipods happy.

3) There's maybe 2 or 3 inches of water at the base of the biofilter. When the power goes off that goes into the sump as well as most of the overflow water and between 1/2 and 3/4" of display water. This puts me darn close to the rim of the sump but thankfully not over. I sleep fine at night but I would like a larger margin of error. I'm can do two things: 1) larger plumbing coming out of the biofilter so there's no standing water in it and 2) lowering the float switch that controls the water level in the refugium.

4) I stop draining water by opening the blue valve before closing the purple one to prevent any backup--the red line is purposefully restricted and cannot handle all of the flow (if it did handle all the flow I could never get water out of the blue line).

Instructions and components for a good auto-topoff system can be found at www.aquahub.com (which used to be floatswitches.net).

Copy as much as you'd like :)


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