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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 55 gallon reef tank made of glass and i want to set up a sump below my tank. What is the best way to get the water from the tank to the sump and then back to the tank. Obviously pumps would work but I am nervous if one pump were to malfunction or not be in perfect sink with the other it would drain one tank and flood the other. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Also how big would you make the refugium/sump?
 

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You use an overflow; you can make one yourself or buy an overflow. The point of it is only drains as fast as the return pump in your sump pumps it into the tank. If the pump stops the water stops flowing into the sump.
 

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You can make an overflow from pvc pipe.







plastic storage containers from wall mart can be used for sump and refugium

get the biggest you can fit. I put mine in long way fore and aft.

Then also use a smaller container for the sump with the larger for the refugium.

Adjust by testing power out to insure the sump does not overflow. and normal operation returns with power return.

then fail (break siphon, block) the overflow. and insure the sump runs dry before the display overflows. Then add as much water as you feel comfortable with to the sump. Restart the system to normal operation. and mark the sump water level.

then make sure you never fill water above the mark on the sump. Any water above that mark would probably cause a display flood should the overflow fail.


and feel free to keep asking questions.


my .02
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the help and Merry Christmas. I do have a few questions now the two blue air lines coming from the top of the pvc on the bottom pic going to the powerhead is that used to prime the siphon again say if there were a power outage? What is the line on the center pipe for? On the middle pic what is the gray tubing going between the two sides for?
 

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Thanks for the help and Merry Christmas. I do have a few questions now the two blue air lines coming from the top of the pvc on the bottom pic going to the powerhead is that used to prime the siphon again say if there were a power outage? What is the line on the center pipe for? On the middle pic what is the gray tubing going between the two sides for?
Very good questions. The usual one I get from the first pictures is wouldn't the overflow just drain the tank to the bottom of the in tank tube, break siphon then not restart.

All the small lines coming from the top of the overflows is to suck out any air. They are attached to diy venturies on the pump intakes. In the case of the last picture, the power heads. This sucks aout any air bubles coming down the overflow helping to maintain siphon.

The line on the center pipe and the grey tubing to both sides is to prime the water trap.

On the first picture I used 1" pvc and it ran nice and quiet. The other designs I increased the daimeter for safety but that meant the drain was running with less water and more air. Which did create a rushing water noise. But even that was muffled because the noise was inside the pipe.

In order to start these you:

1) have to have water in the water trap. (The outside the tank down and up again part is the water trap.) And for that matter water in the tank covering the in tank overflow pipe.

2) Suck the air out of the hob pipes to fill with water and create the siphon.

To do 1 is added the clear tubes to prime the trap. Then "teed" off the return line and added valves so that I could adjust the return between the tank and the water traps. Initially, I run the trap line full open and the tank return line fully closed with water in the tank.

2 is done through the venturies. So with the pump running full water trap, the venturies are sucking out the air. At some point the air has been removed so I then open the tank return line and close the water trap return line and wait awhile to insure it is all running normally, then readjust so that a little trickle is going to the water trap and most all is going to the tank. That way it should give a little measure of safety that the water trap will remain full of water.

Thanks for questions feel free to ask more.

my .02
 

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Also what size pvc and pump combo works well to keep an even flow going?
Over a certain size just about any. The first picture is running with a mag5 against a 4' head (height).

In order to get the maximum water flow from the pump you need to use the largest line you can. Mag5 pumps have a 1/2 connection but I use 1" to 1 /4" return pvc and that results in much greater flow throughout the system.

On the overflows I estimate 1 1/4" would work but use 1 1/2-2" which does create rushing water noise. With proper venting on the drain water flow is steady. Just noiser as the diameter increses.

my .02
 

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allow me.

the size of your return pump will be determined by 2 major factors.

overflow flow rate
pump head

with a PVC overflow, your flow rate is greatly determined by the diameter of the pipe. for example. using a standard PVC overflow

the Maximum Gravitational Vertical Flow of a 1" PVC pipe is 600gph, while a 1/2" will give you only 150gph and a 1.5" will give you 1350. i prefer to use two smaller overflows vs one large one. this gives you better circulation (depending on placement)

so it really depends on the size of the pipe you plan to use.
you want between 5 and 10x turnover on your tank. this will help you determine the size you need.

pump head, for the sake of easy explanation, is how far up the pump needs to push the water. if your sump is under your tank, and your stand is 4' tall, you need to factor in 4' of pump head.
a pump rated for 1000gph will only pump 600gph at 4' of pump head. so if you need a pump that pushes 100gph, you will need to buy the model that says 1500gph (or something like that)
most pumps will have a chart on the side that lets you know the flow rates based on different pump heads.
 

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That's one fancy overflow. If you bring you tank to a glass store they will drill holes for you, or you can do it yourself with a diamond bit. I drill them at the top corners of the tank (just make sure it's not tempered, it will break). Then get a couple of bulkheads and you're good to go. It's much safer then an overflow. Two 1" bulkheads will easily handle a mag-5. Generally 1" bulkheads need about a 1 3/4" hole. Make sure you put screens on so your fish don't fall in the pipes!
 

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according to who? you?
HAHAHA
people across the world have been using overflows for years with no such issue. it all depends on building it right. while you might not be willing to accept that, it does not change the facts at all. or maybe you just have a poor understanding of the overflow system.

with a drilled tank, you can crack the glass easily while drilling or installing the bulkhead fitting. if a strainer is not used, or not the right size your drain pipe can get clogged by fish or debris. accumulating algae growth in the drain pipes can slow the flow of the drain ultimately causing your "drilled" overflow to move slower than your return pump, flooding your tank. just to name a few of the possibilities of your "much safer" system.

the only thing you have established is exactly what ive already stated. it depends solely on doing the job right the first time. in either system, improper set up can lead to equipment failure. however, when built correctly, a PVC overflow is just as effective and safe as drilling the tank. and with the cost of the diamond tipped hole saw, or having someone drill the tank for you (plus all the plumbing you still need to do beyond that) the DIY route is not only just as "safe", but quite a bit less costly.

if youd like me to demonstrate a shut down/ start-up of a DIY PVC overflow (power outage simulation), id be more than happy to educate you with exactly how "safe" these are.
i shut my systems down REGULARLY for cleaning and maintenece, and have NEVER lost siphon.
 

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I have a very good understanding of how an overflow works. I've set up dozens of tanks with commercially built overflow boxes, and have constructed my own. Drilling tanks in the long run is much more economical. I have paid for my diamond bits and drill tripod dozens of times over drilling tanks for other aquarists. I haven't broken a tank yet. Powerheads can become clogged or fail and not remove the air that gets in to the overflow pipe and the tank could easily overflow. Drilled tanks require much less maintenance. A removable strainer is much easier to clean then a power head. And the small tubing that removes the air will easily become clogged and needs to be replaced along with check valves that you should have on the air tubing. Drilled tanks = less water on the floor. That being said nothing beats a scupper box or built in overflow box with durso pipes (much quieter), which I have also constructed on a few reef tanks over 1500 gallons with 6" drains. You can't do that with an external box, or pipe hanging over the tank. Not to mention asthetics.
 

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So again, all you have said is that it depends on set up and maintenance. While you may be confident in your ability to drill a tank, that does not make it true for everyone.
Regardless of they system you use, there is ALWAYS a chance of something failing. To claim that drilling is "safer" is a foolish and uneducated statement. And the idea that "drilled tanks = less water on the floor" is completely ridiculous. I know people on other boards who have been rubbing their PVC overflows for over 10 years without a drop spilled. So how exactly does this theory pan out?
However I agree that is aesthetically more pleasing.

And so you're better informed, you absolutely could build 6" PVC overflows if you wanted to. Though for a tank that's only 1500g, its ridiculous to even try. Effective filtration can be reached with much smaller plumbing.
 

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I had to run the pipe 60 feet away to a filtration room. Just thought six inch would be easier then 4 or 5 2" pipes. I always use a larger pipe diameter in reef tanks. Pipes become filled with filter feeders after 10 or 12 years. I have overflow boxes on the tanks with eggcrate strainers around the top. I haven't cleaned anything in two years! The tanks have 2 - 1.5 hp pumps on each. I needed the diameter for flow. You bring up good points, but I still can't trust them with 120 gpm. I've seen several external boxes overflow a tank reguardless of maintenance.
 
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