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kortniee

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Blog Entries posted by kortniee

  1. kortniee
    We get our new house in a month! Which means I need to get my butt moving on my sump so things are ready to go when we move. Luckily Petco came through finally with their dollar per gallon sale and I've got the tank for it now. But at the moment I'm working on some of the inner pieces.
    Today I made a drip tray for my sump. I chose as a base this very fine acrylic picture frame I bought at Michaels for a few dollars:

    The frame measures 11 by 14 inches, so it just fits within the plastic frame opening on the sump-tank (which is about 11 inches, though the tank itself is 12 inches wide). I think it's a very good size for this application. The first thing I did with it was mark with a sharpie in a one-inch grid on it. I made the grid kind of skewed diagonally because I like how it looks. I can't think of a real reason to do it that way, really. I marked a no-hole area in the middle because the bio-balls this tray will drip onto will be in two media baskets, and I don't want water just running down the sides of the baskets where they sit together in the middle. That seems not quite ideal.

    I already had a one-inch grid in my house in the form of a dry erase board we use to play Dungeons and Dragons, so I just stuck my picture frame on top of that and traced the grid. This drip tray has some geek cred. Here is how it looked after I made all the dots:

    After I did that, I mounted it to a piece of plywood for stability while drilling. Acrylic is notoriously hard to drill/cut, and I wanted to stack the deck as far in my favor as I could.

    For the actual drilling I used this lovely Dremel drill press I purchased. For my husband. Yeah, it totally was for him and not for me to steal for my own DIY projects. Why would you think that?

    Anyway, I like the Dremel because you can set the speed of it (I went very slow to minimize stress on the acrylic) and the drill press part made it awesomely easy to make perpendicular holes, and to do so in a gradual, slow, even way.
    Success! My first hole! No cracking!

    I managed to get through all the holes without cracking the acrylic once. Well, on account of the drill. I cracked the acrylic a bit when I screwed down the clamp a bit too tight. Oh well. I ended up drilling only every other hole, because it looked like a lot of holes to me. I can always drill more, but it's difficult to drill fewer. There is a little spot where I derped out a bit and forgot what I was doing, so there are a few extra holes. Again... oh well.

    So that's finished! I am super happy I managed to do it without totally ruining the picture frame. It's a weight off my mind and one step closer to having a finished sump.
    In other news, my light fixture came! Long light fixture is long. I am really looking forward to using this.

  2. kortniee
    I don't have the tank I want to use as a sump yet, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about how I am going to put it together once I get it. I've spent a lot of time looking at other people's sumps, but as with everything (it seems), I feel the need to tinker and make my own design.
    In this particular case, what I want is the ability to install my Aquaclear 50 hang-on-back filter on the sump itself. This will give me this ability to keep it cycled, in case I need to use a cycled filter in a QT tank. It also will assure me that the filter is still working; I have found that pumps have a tendency to stop pumping if left dry and unused for too long. Putting it on the sump and not on the main tank will keep it out of sight.
    This means I need an area of the sump where the water is close to the top of the tank. This is not a feature of most sumps, as you generally want a lot of extra room for the water that flows back down into the sump after you turn your pump off. So my area of high water, ideally, needs to be fairly small. This is what I came up with:

    (The design has a grid that's meant to be roughly 2-inch squares, but they are not exact. For instance, I probably won't have the water level a whole 4 inches down in the high-water bit; it will probably be more like 1.5-2 inches.)
    The water will flow down from the tank into a filter sock, which is made out of a fine material to catch all of the solid waste. Ideally, these are changed out very frequently (some people do it daily) to take the waste out of the tank before it turns into high nitrates. From here, the newly un-gunked water will flow through some ceramic filter media (I wrote biomax here because it's shorter; I haven't bought it yet and may well end up with a different brand), which functions better when it's fully submerged. After it does that, it will go back up and over a ledge into a drip tray, which will spread the water out and sprinkle it through a series of small holes over a basket filled with bio-balls, which are plastic spheres with ridges that give a lot of surface area. They work best when they are wet but not submerged (which is what the wet-dry in wet-dry filter refers to). I plan to have about 5 gallons of these. After the water makes it through the bioballs, it'll fall down into the bottom of the sump, where it will be pumped back into the tank by the pump I wrote about here.
    Here is a side view of the sump design, which shows where I will put my Aquaclear.

    I'm not sure how close to this my sump will actually end up being. My projects have a way of changing while I am making them. But this is what I'm shooting for.
  3. kortniee
    So... it's been a while since I posted anything to this blog. Because it's been a while since I did anything with my giant tank. But it was moved to my new house this past Tuesday, so I figured it was definitely time to get moving on putting it all together.
    I carefully assembled all the pieces. Then we measured for and installed some plant hooks, which I will use to suspend the light fixture. Oh, it looked so good. Like this:

    Then I filled it with water! That was exciting, and nerve-wracking.
    A picture of my nail-biting anticipation:

    That part went fine. And then the water reached the overflow level, and began pouring down into the sump. And that was fine. So I waited till the sump was fairly full, then stopped filling. And then I turned on the pump that returns water back to the tank...
    And it worked fine! Hooray!
    But, since none of the whole system was tested, I needed to make some adjustments. And here is where I found the heartbreaker of the night. We were draining some water out of the sump to give ourselves a little water-wiggle-room, so I could take one of my standpipes out and drain the overflow chamber. Well, when I did that, the water flowed down into the sump... and the whole thing fell apart on the inside!
    This is what it looks like right now:

    As a reminder, here is what it used to look like:

    For some reason, the sump was fine while I was filling the tank with water, and while the pump was running, but when I stopped the pump, and then drained more water into it, 2 of the 3 baffles failed. I siliconed the bejeesus out of those suckers, too!
    So... I gotta fix this somehow. I basically have two options.
    1. Completely rebuild the sump. I am not positive this would work, since I did everything I know how to do the first time around already. I don't know how to do it better. I am sure I could do it better; I am just not sure how to go about that.
    2. Abandon the sump and get a couple of canister filters. The overflow system would work fine with these, and I could keep all of the plumbing parts actually in the tank already, but replace what's under the tank in the stand with canister parts. I could repurpose my pump for draining my aquarium during water changes.
    Right now, I am leaning toward option 2. This is kind of sad, as I've put a lot of time and money and thought into the sump, and I really like the idea of designing my filtration exactly how I want it. But, I am a little worried that I will rebuild it, only to have it fail again. I know that a canister would work fine in this situation--many people use them with built-in-overflow aquariums with lots of success. In some ways, they are better, because they cannot overflow like a sump can under certain circumstances (though there are tons of things you can do to prevent this; I don't want to scare anyone), and they tend to be loads quieter than the rushing waters of a sump.
    I think if I were to get canisters, two Fluval 306s would probably be good. That would put me at about 6.7x turnover with the pumps. This would be expensive, but more or less guaranteed to be alright.
    Anyone have any thoughts on the matter?
  4. kortniee
    Here are some pictures of the finished product:


    The water flows down through the filter sock, then will go through bags of ceramic media that I will rest on the platform in the bottom left. The water will then flow up and over the baffle into the drip tray and down over the baskets of bio-balls. The bottom area in the middle and right is where my heaters and my return pump will live.
    The only thing I added here that I haven't already documented is a piece of tubing that i made a slit in to create a long c-shape. This will help guide the water up and over the baffle and into the drip tray, hopefully shepherding the water so little of it goes down between the baffle and the drip tray.


    Not much more to do! Hopefully we'll be all set up soon.
  5. kortniee
    Today I worked on my first actual plumbing project for my new tank: the standpipes!
    Standpipes are, well, pipes. And they sit in the overflow box and act as intakes for the flow down into the sump. There are lots of reasons to use standpipes, but for me, there are basically two: I want better control over the amount of water that can flow down into the sump in the event of a power outage or just turning off the pump, and also I want to limit the amount of waterfall/flushing noise generated by my overflow.
    It's possible to set up a tank like mine without standpipes at all. I could just put an intake strainer much like that found on any number of filters over the drain holes in the overflow, and leave it at that. But if I did that, then I would lose the two benefits of standpipes I listed above. If the power went out or if I turned off the pump, the entire volume of the overflow box would drain down into my sump, and it's a pretty big overflow box. I am going to leave room in my sump for the extra water that happens in these cases (and if you make a sump, that is a must do), but I still would like to limit this fluctuation if I can. In addition, without a pipe that drains from near the top of the overflow box, the water level could be anywhere in the box depending on flow rates and other factors. This means the water could be falling over a foot to get to the water level of the overflow box, which could be rather loud. And also, sometimes this kind of setup can lead to flushing/draining noises that are separate from the noise of the water falling into the box.
    So... standpipes. They're a good thing. The ones I decided to make are called Durso standpipes, after a smart dude named Durso. I based my pipes off of the instructions found here. I really like the fact that while this guy sells his standpipes, he also gives you good instructions for building them yourself if you want to. The neat thing about a Durso standpipe is that the pipe itself curves back downward at the top, so the water intake is always below the water level in the overflow box. This makes for a very quiet overflow!
    Here is my pile of supplies for this venture. I need two standpipes because I have two drains in my overflow:

    These are the supplies for my standpipes. A variety of fittings, some pipe, some PVC cement and primer, and some PVC cutters.
    The first thing I did was cut connecting pieces of PVC so I could put all of my fittings together. After I did that, I had an assortment of parts that looked like this: (gloves are an awesome idea for PVC cement & primer)

    One set from top to bottom includes:
    A 1 1/4" PVC Cap
    A small bit of connecting 1 1/4" PVC
    A 1 1/4" Street Elbow and Tee
    Space for the long pipe
    A 1 1/4" Coupling
    A 1 1/4" to 1" Reducer Bushing
    A small bit of connecting 1" PVC
    The standpipes glue together in three parts. There is the base and the pipe itself (in this picture I had not yet cut them to the height I wanted):

    Then there is the top intake assembly, including the elbow and the tee:

    And then the caps go on top. The three pieces are separate because it allows for easier adjustment and maintenance. Here's what they look like together!

    And finally, this is what they look like installed in my overflow box. (My apologies for the darkness.)

    This is awesome progress, but they're not done yet! Tune in soon to see the exciting conclusion of this story, including the drilling of many holes and the application of camouflage! Also, find out what the heck that cap is for!
    An interesting thing I learned while completing this project: The dimensions you buy PVC under (the diameter measurements) sometimes have only a little to do with the actual measured dimensions of the piece. Some of them are just approximations. Neat. Kinda. Just don't assume an inch is an inch is an inch. Everything is bigger than you'd think.
  6. kortniee
    Bio-balls are kind of like eggs, right?
    So, continuing on with the work on my sump, I made a whole bunch of stuff out of egg crate. Egg crate is a plastic grid that's actually meant to be installed under a fluorescent light to diffuse the light around the room, but which is actually beloved the world over by DIY aquarium enthusiasts.
    The first things I made are a couple of media baskets to hold my bio-balls. Two, in fact. Why two? Well, bio-balls have a bad reputation for being "nitrate factories." This is kind of misleading, because you and I know that a plastic bio-ball could not generate anywhere near as much poo as even a baby goldfish, even if it tried. But the reason the bio-balls have this reputation is that without precautions, the large surface area can attract and hold a lot of decaying matter, which eventually does end up as nitrates. I am primarily preventing this through the use of a micron filter sock as the first thing through which my water passes as it enters the sump, but I overbuild things and like backups. So I am dividing up my bio-balls into two baskets, so if I need to, I can take one out and clean the bejeesus out of it without disrupting the cycle too much.
    So on to the construction! I used the plastic picture frame that I made into a drip tray as a guide, and cut my pieces up.

    I put the pieces together with zip ties. One of the finished products looks something like this:

    Two finished products with a drip tray on top look something like this!

    You may notice that I need more bio-balls. I carefully calculated the volume I would have available for media, and ordered 4 gallons of bio-balls to fit. Well, here is a crappy picture of my 4 gallons of bio-balls, in a 5 gallon bucket.

    It's probably more like 2.5 gallons. I have ordered more, from a different retailer. They should be here soon, and then I should be set.
    While I was working with egg crate (which is a pain to cut, by the way), I made a few more things for the inside of my sump. The first is a holder for the micron filter sock I mentioned above. Basically, I cut enough egg crate to rest across the top of the tank on the inner rim like a glass canopy or hood would, then cut a hole in the egg crate just big enough for the filter sock to sit inside with the rim resting on top of the egg crate. As I was making this, I realized I needed to modify my drain plumbing a bit to make everything fit together correctly, so I cut some of it off. After that, it all looked good! (I should point out, in case it's not obvious, that a good glass of iced tea is completely necessary for an endeavor like this. A husband is a reasonable idea, too, if you have one lying around.)

    The last thing I made is a little platform to rest MORE bio-media on, this time in the form of ceramic cylinders. They will just be plopped on top in media bags. Here's what everything I made looks like in my sump tank!

    The media baskets will be several inches off the floor of the sump, but I need to install the acrylic baffles before I can install their supports. So for now they are on the bottom of the sump. But you can get a good general idea.
    Basically all I need to do to finish this is to get those baffles installed. That's my next project, which should be done in the next week or so. It's lookin' like a real sump now!
  7. kortniee
    So, after a minor setback of sump implosion, I am back into planning and implementing the setup of my big rimless tank.
    This time, I decided to go with canisters as the filtration. I've been moving house of late and almost all of my energy is going into doing things to the new house, so I decided it might be better to just go premade for the moment.
    Of course, this required a lot of new plumbing bits. I'm not gonna lie, putting together plumbing connectors has been my favorite part of all this. They're like wet legos or something to me. Which is awesome! Because man, did I need so many connectors to make the canister fit the tank.
    So, what I had already were these guys:

    On the left, the drain: one inch male threaded PVC. On the right, the return: 3/4 inch hose barb.
    As it turns out, 5/8 tubing fits on a Fluval 306 (which is what I got!) and it also, with a lot of encouragement, will fit on a 3/4 inch hose barb. So that part was good. But I needed to get the drain to do the same thing. Which required..... a lot of plumbing bits!

    From top to bottom: the drain I already had, 1 inch thread/slip coupling, 1 inch to 3/4 inch reducer bushing, a bit of 3/4 inch PVC as a connector, a 3/4 inch slip/thread coupling, and a 3/4 inch thread/barb coupling. Hooboy! There is probably a better way to do this out there but this is what I found at my local hardware store.
    Here is what they look like all together and under my sump. Quite lengthy:

    But it works out fine! Because my canisters are quite a bit shorter than my sump was. Here is a picture of the whole family together:

    I put the canisters into a plastic container box thing for easier handling.
    Also related: on the intake inside the overflow box, I sadly have to ditch the very fine standpipes that I made. Instead, I will just have regular drain holes. I didn't really like the idea of just having open holes back there, though, so I siliconed the intake strainer that was intended for the end of the canister tubing onto some 1 inch PVC. The fit was close enough that it works quite well!

    The tank is currently filling with water, which takes more or less forever. I will let you all know what happens when it gets full and we turn these guy on! Hopefully nothing as eventful as last time...
  8. kortniee
    Today I started work on the plumbing below the tank going into the sump--the parts that the standpipes I just built will drain down into. I had a great plan for this! I decided I wanted to use union connectors immediately under my tank, so that I could disconnect my drain pipes if I need to clean or maintain them. A union connector is three pieces that look like this:

    They go together like this:

    Union connectors allow you to join your plumbing parts together in a way that allows you to unfasten them if you need to. They work pretty much like attaching a garden hose to the outside faucet; the big ring is the part you twist to join the two smaller pieces together.
    The problem with these is that they are pretty big. So once I attach the top piece to my bulkhead, there's no way I'm getting the bulkhead through the hole drilled into my tank, or getting the nut that fastens the bulkhead to the tank over the union pieces.
    [i should back up here a second and explain that PVC plumbing can be connected in one of two ways. There are slip connections, where you just insert one piece into another. To make slip connections watertight, you glue them together with PVC glue. The connections in my standpipes are all slip connections. There are also threaded connections, which, as you can imagine, are threaded and screw together. To make these watertight, you use teflon tape, which is not permanent.]
    My drain bulkheads are slip on both the top and the bottom, so anything I attach to them (on the bottom, at least, where watertightness is important) will have to be glued in. This is fine, but if what I glue into them is larger than the bulkhead nut or the hole I need to put the bulkhead into, I have some problems. The only way to work this is to glue it in after the bulkhead is installed. There is no way to unglue the connection, so it would be permanent. Plenty of people do this, but I want my plumbing to be removable, just in case.
    The plan I came up with for this problem involved this:

    I would put a small bit of PVC into my bulkhead, then attach a slip to thread adapter, and screw that into the (threaded) top of the union. (You can also get slip unions, but mine are threaded.) This is an awesome plan! The adapter is WAY smaller than the union, so it should work, right?
    Nope.
    I first discovered that the adapter did not fit through the hole. It almost did, but not quite. But the adapter had these little ridges on it, and I don't need those, so I took them off.

    Not the prettiest fix, but it's alright I suppose. Except it didn't work. It fit through the hole drilled in the aquarium fine. But I couldn't get the bulkhead nut over it, even after shaving off the ridges. But I am stubborn! So, after 45 minutes and coating everything including myself with about 2 inches of PVC shavings, I ended up with this:

    I basically sanded down the outside of the adapter with a dremel until the nut fit over the outside of it. It's ugly, and a bit of a kludge, but it works. (Note: I would not recommend doing this for any kind of pressure application. This part of my plumbing will be a gravity drain, so the adapter will not be under any pressure. So having thinner walls is not a big deal in this case, but it might be in other cases. I don't know for sure.)
    Success! I ran to install it in my tank, so I could show the holes who's boss:

    Oooooooo. Neat! Hey, let's put the unions on too!

    Fancy. I decided to stop there, because that was far more complicated than I was thinking it would be. Hopefully the rest of my plumbing will be uneventful.
    (A postscript: You may be wondering, "Courtney, if you're going to screw the union onto the PVC anyway, why not use skip the union and screw your plumbing straight on to the adapter?" That is a fine and astute question! I was wondering that myself, but then I realized that on the other end of the union will be some large and fairly cumbersome pipes--not the kind of thing you can go rotating 360 degrees all willy-nilly. Unfortunately, that won't work. But that's why I have unions!)
  9. kortniee
    After a lot of thought, I've decided to put my dream tank project on hold somewhat indefinitely. I am going to sell the tank I have now and get a largeish, normal one in its place. I am thinking 75 gallon, which has a very similar footprint to the current one so I know it will look great in the spot I have picked out.
    This was a really hard decision to make, as I've put a lot of time, effort, and money into this, but it's gotten to the point where it's overwhelming and no longer fun. I did know that this would be quite a process--I didn't name my blog what I did for nothing. And I tried my best to mitigate the demands on my time by getting as much as I could finished before I bought a house. But there were some things I did not take into account. I didn't realize just how many ongoing battles I would have to fight just to get it set up, and I didn't realize how much effort I would actually want to put into doing things to my new house, taking time away from the aquarium. Both of these are things I could have planned better for. But also I've had a lot of family obligations lately, which of course are most important, and I find that I just don't have the time or energy that I thought I would have for this project.
    In addition, because this whole project has become so overwhelming, I'm not enjoying it anymore. I really liked putting together all the DIY parts that I was going to put into the tank, but I've reached a point where I work and work and don't really see results, and it's very discouraging. I've entertained the thought of giving up on the hobby altogether at points in this process, but I know that's not actually what I want. I just want a nice big tank I can sit back and relax and enjoy, and that's nowhere in sight with this current setup, sadly.
    I didn't permanently modify any of the parts of the canisters I have already bought, so I can just reconfigure those as normal and they will be more than up to this job. And the light I already have will work great, also. So this should be a fairly easy transition. I will lose out on almost everything else I've put into this, but it's a learning experience and I have learned quite a bit! And maybe someday I will have tons of time to put into a dream tank again.
  10. kortniee
    There's not much point to this post other than to exclaim about how excited I am that my return pump has arrived!
    It's a Danner Supreme Mag Drive 9.5. The 9.5 is how many hundreds of gallons per hour it pushes, in theory. At about 5 feet of head (the distance it needs to push the water upwards) it should be more like 685 gph, according to the manufacturer's website. I will probably lose a few more gphs when I tee the return off into two different lines, and when it goes up and around the return spout plumbing, etc. But I should be right about in the ballpark of where I am hoping to be when all is said and done, which is between 4-6x gph for the best biological filtration.
    Anyway, here it is! Check out the fancy packaging!

    The contents of the box, arranged for your viewing pleasure:

    On the left is the giant sponge prefilter, which is supposed to stop little bits of things from getting in the pump. The little bit of plastic to the upper right of the sponge is the filter intake cage thing, which pretty much just gives the sponge something to attach to, as far as I can tell. And then on the right is the pump itself!
    It's huge. I weighed it. It weighs five pounds. Here it is in my hand, for scale purposes:

    Now Petco just needs to get on having their dollar/gallon sale so I can make a sump to put this in.
  11. kortniee
    Ever since I first joined Kokos a fairly large handful of years ago, I've wanted a big aquarium. I drooled over large setups in LFSs for years... but it was never the right time for such a purchase. At first, I was a poor college kid so it was a purely theoretical exercise. Then I was in a series of fairly temporary housing situations, so having a tank at all was somewhat difficult. Eventually, after looking and looking and looking I decided that if I was going to go, I should go all out and get exactly what I wanted.
    So I started saving up. Then I found yet another reason to put off buying a tank--I'm going to buy a house this summer. So I should probably wait until I move to set up anything substantial. So I got my one goldfish in my one small 20 long, and I started waiting.
    A few weeks ago, though, I was in a local LFS and started talking about this tank I really liked with the owner. And after speaking for a bit about the price on it, I decided it was worth it to make the jump. The tank is exactly the size I want. And it has exactly the features I want. So I bought it. And here it is:

    I am so excited about this tank! It's a rimless aquarium, drilled with overflow. It measures 48 inches long, 24 inches wide, and 21 inches deep on the outside. It's sold as a 105 gallon aquarium based on these dimensions, but the actual capacity should be closer to around 90 gallons. It has really thick glass, and it's not meant to be filled all the way to the top.
    I will have a lot to build and learn, so I've made my tank a blog. There are lots of new experiences for me here: the sheer size of the thing, the plumbing, and the fact that I want to use a sump and will design my whole filtration sytem myself, for a few examples. And I'm really enthusiastic about documenting projects. So that is what I will do here.
    Hopefully you like it.
  12. kortniee
    So I made some standpipes, in Part One of this adventure. Up till this point, I followed exactly the directions I found for making them. But being myself, I can't help but try to tinker with something, so I had a few deviations from the design that I wanted to make.
    The first adjustment I made involved the cap on the top of the standpipe. I didn't talk about this cap in the first entry on these standpipes, but the cap is a very important part of this particular design. If the standpipe had just a u-bend going back down into the water, what we'd have is a siphon. Siphons move a LOT of water, very very fast. Particularly with large pipes. This can be dangerous, because the siphon will continue draining water until something breaks the siphon. But in this particular design, it would be more annoying than dangerous--the pipe would siphon the water in the overflow out very quickly until the water dipped below the intake hole on the standpipe. Then it would suck air and make a horrible gargling noise. Not super fun.
    So the cap has a hole drilled in it, to break the siphon. This allows the introduction of air into the flow of water, and means that the flow of water down the pipe simply happens because of gravity. Which is what we want here. Here's what the Durso website has to say on the subject of how to adjust the hole in the cap:
    On the spectrum of all flow rates people might use with a Durso standpipe, mine will be fairly low. So according to this, I will need a reasonably large hole. But how large? I don't know, because I won't be able to set the whole thing up and test it for a while--at least not until I have all the pieces of the system in place. So I could've just left it without the hole, I guess, and worked on that part later. But then I read this, regarding using two standpipes in a single overflow box:
    Well, okay. But this is how my tank is set up. So I am going to try it anyway! But not without a little tinkering. I decided to figure out a way to make it easier to tinker with the hole size on the standpipes, and this is what I came up with:



    I drilled a large number of holes of increasing size around the small joining piece under the cap, and then drilled the largest-sized hole in the cap itself. This way, I can just line up the hole in the cap with a range of holes underneath, and play around with which size works best for me. And if it doesn't work, well, like Mr. Durso said, the caps are not too expensive. I can go back to the drawing board if I have to.
    The second modification I made is much, much more simple. The original reason I wanted a rimless tank with an overflow is because I wanted the clean look of nothing hanging over the edge of the tank. I am planning on hanging my lights, and everything else will be taken care of through the holes drilled in the tank bottom. So with all this work to make a clean look for the top of the tank, I didn't want my standpipes to be the first thing you see when you look at my tank, particularly if you're a little tall (which I am definitely not).
    The solution to this is fairly easy: paint! I don't want to hide the fact that I have standpipes; I just want to make sure they aren't the first thing you notice. Goldfish are beautiful, so you should be looking at them! Krylon Fusion spray paint is used by many aquarists for in-water painting applications, and that is what I used to paint my standpipes. I decided to just paint the caps and the tee assemblies, because the bits below that will be well out of sight farther down in my overflow.
    Here the parts are post-paint:

    And here is what they look like in my overflow, from the back. This is a view no one will have once I have my tank set up, because that side will be against a wall.

    And finally, this is a somewhat top-down view, showing how well they blend in now. I am very satisfied with this result!

    So, at least for now, this part of the project is completed. I'm excited to have two whole pieces finished! Now to move on to the under-tank plumbing...
  13. kortniee
    I have finally gotten almost all of my return plumbing done! For the plumbing from the sump back to the tank, I decided to use flexible clear tubing, which has been an adventure. I think I might almost prefer working in PVC. Anyway, I now have tubing that goes up from the pump:

    Out of the sump:

    And then splits to return to the tank.

    Only half of it is completely shoved together, because I want to be able to take it all apart to move it. As you can kiiiiinda see in that last picture, I decided to go with plastic hose clamps rather than metal ones. I did this because about half of them will be underwater, and metal hose clamps underwater are a really bad idea. I've never worked with these before, though. Whereas metal clamps have a screw you use to tighten them, these have a series of teeth that are reasonably easy to push together but impossible to pull apart. These are the right size for the hose I used according to where I bought them, but I could only get them to click like maybe 2-3 clicks together once I put them around the hose assemblies, even after pressing them together with just about all my weight. Has anyone else used them before? Is that normal? I guess I'll find out how well they clamp when I test the whole system.
    Anyway, I also made the hose returns that go up through my overflow box. Here is what those look like now:

    You can see on the left that I have a tube that goes up and over the overflow, then ends in a little output nozzle. This is a pretty neat piece of plumbing, I think. Here is another picture of that particular piece:

    On the right side of the first overflow box picture, you can see where I will attach a spray bar. I have to make that, though, and I haven't even gotten supplies for it yet. So that's another day and another post. Should be fun. After I finish that, I think I'll be done with the plumbing for this tank. Whoa.
    Also something I might do: I'm thinking I'll get a ball valve for the left side tubing after the tee in the third picture--the side where the water just goes straight through. This should let me change the balance of water between the two branches, so I can get more water going to the right branch, if I want to. Just another way to let me fine-tune things, which is something I'll always vote for.
  14. kortniee
    I am finished with my PVC plumbing now! Hooray! After my adventure with the unions, the only thing left to do was get the draining water from the unions down into my sump.
    Some background: my tank is 48 inches long, but my sump will be only 30 inches long. The drain and return holes are in the middle of the tank. Originally, my plan was to put my sump all the way to the left in the bottom of the stand, and have the drains pull the water over to the left, while it went more or less straight back up into the tank from the pump. I somewhat arbitrarily decided to do this because the less distance the water from the return has to travel, the fewer gallons per hour I will lose on the way up.
    But it didn't work out that way. By the time I had the unions installed, I had dropped my drain plumbing down far enough that the only way to get it over to the left would be to move it all that distance horizontally with hard right angles on either end. This is not a very good way to do a gravity drain, because the water encounters a lot of not-flow-friendly situations that way. So I decided to put the sump all the way over to the right side of the bottom of the stand, instead. This let me drain the water more or less straight down into the sump. The return piping will have to do more curving around, but it will be flexible tubing and hopefully fairly amenable to doing so.
    I thought about having two separate drains all the way down into the sump. There are people who claim this is the most effective way to drain a tank, if you have two drain holes. But the problem is they are close together, and draining right down into the sump made them get in each other's way like whoa. So I decided to combine them into one drain, then dump that into the sump.
    Because PVC is a relatively inflexible material, this presented two challenges: 1) Making sure the two branches of drain were exactly as far apart as the drain holes, and 2) Making sure the two branches of drain where exactly the same length before combining into one.
    I decided to focus on these one at a time. The immediate area where the two branches were combined consisted basically of two 45-degree elbows and a tee. When I put all the pieces I was planning to use together, I discovered that my branches were a little bit too far apart. I solved this by cutting down one of my 45-degree elbows so that it didn't span quite so far away from the tee I was using to combine them. Kind of hard to picture, huh? This is what that all looked like together:

    You can see how the left piece is just a bit shorter than the right one. This got me to my target distance between branches. (If you're interested, the connecting pieces on each side here are 1" 45-degree elbow, small piece of 1" PVC pipe, 1 1/4" to 1" Reducing Bushing, and a 1 1/4" Tee. Right before I combined the pipes, I stepped them up a size to accomodate the extra water.)
    Now I just needed to get them to be the same length. To do this, I just made the PVC connector pipe between the 45-degree elbows and the next piece, a slip-thread adapter, slightly longer on the side that needed more length. After I did that, I screwed on the bottom halves of my unions to both sides, and, hooray, they were the same length!

    After I did that, I installed them under my tank to make double sure everything fit and was happy. It did, and it was!

    The only thing that remained was to add a little bit more PVC to direct the water to where I want it to enter the sump. After I did this, I was all finished!

    I have a tank there for measurement purposes, but it's not the one I will use for my sump. It's the same size as I plan to use (29 gallons) but this particular one has had some gerbil residents in the past and is no longer fit for fishies. It is very useful for planning plumbing, though!
  15. kortniee
    I got my first shipment of plumbing parts today, so I got to get started (barely) on setting up the plumbing for my new tank. The first step was to turn my tank around so the back is facing the front, to make it easier to work on. Man, that tank is heavy. Anyway, it has some holes in it, you see, and they look like this:

    The two outer ones measure 1.5 inches in diameter, and the two inner ones measure 1.75 inches in diameter. These holes are where the water in the tank drains out into the filter below the tank, as well as where the water is pushed back up into the tank after being filtered. But in order to set up that plumbing, I needed to get some bulkheads.
    Bulkheads are basically the part you put into the holes in the tank that makes a seal between the tank and your plumbing, so the water doesn't leak out except where you tell it to do so. The hole measurements I have mean I needed 1 inch and 3/4 inch bulkheads, respectively. This measurement is the diameter of the hole through the middle of the bulkhead. Here they are!

    The larger ones will be my drains, and the smaller ones will be my returns. I also ordered some adapters that screw into the smaller ones, so that I can attach flexible hose. I have decided to do hard PVC plumbing for the drains but flexible tubing for the return.
    I screwed everything into place gently to make sure everything fit and looked good. I think it does!

    Here you can see what it looks like in the bottom of my stand. I have very elegant holes in my stand for the plumbing to go through.

    I also bought parts today to make my standpipes, so keep an eye out for a post on that coming soon!
    (Also a note: I bought these plumbing bits from glass-holes.com, and they were a pretty awesome retailer to buy from. They shipped my parts very quickly and when the parts got here, I saw they'd included a small package of strawberry flavored Nerds as well. Awesome! So if you need bulkheads or other pieces of aquarium plumbing in the US, look them up.)
  16. kortniee
    It's been a long time since I've updated y'all on the progress of my big tank. I haven't done much lately; I've been busy finding a house to put the big tank in! I did manage to put together the spray bar, the last piece of the plumbing, this week.
    This is how the spray bar sits in the return hole in the top of the overflow. I started by just kind of doing a mockup of it to make sure I had good lengths for everything and it all fit. This part fits surprisingly snugly, which is kind of nice.

    Here is more or less how it will sit in the tank:

    Once I got my spray bar to the right length and my pieces all adjusted to the right angles and such, I glued together some of the PVC pieces that I am not planning on taking apart. The glued pieces are like this:

    I left the joint between the spray bar itself and the angles unglued, for cleaning and also so I can adjust the angle of the spray. After I did this, I drilled the holes in the spray bar. I made 7 holes, because the spacing looked good at that number. I ended up trying to drill them so that the area of all the holes combined was roughly the same as the area of the inside of the spray bar pipe itself. I don't have any actual evidence/information that this is the right thing to do, but it seems to make sense to me. We shall see how that goes. I also screwed the white elbow into the gray elbow for good at this point; it's threaded and teflon-taped.

    Next up was painting! I used Krylon Fusion for this just like I did on the stand pipes. Here's the whole assembly, freshly painted, the rest still coated in the stuff I used to protect the bits I didn't want to paint:

    I painted the spray bar assembled and then pulled it apart when it was dry. This way, I don't have any added paint on the part that inserts into the angled pipes, to make it harder to take the spray bar apart or adjust the angle of the holes. It comes apart beautifully:

    Next up is making a sump. The Petco dollar per gallon sale is nearly upon is, so I will pick up a 29 gallon and get crackin'! I also bought some egg crate for making bio-ball baskets. The end is in sight now! Can't wait to get this all set up and running.
  17. kortniee
    The last and arguably most important piece of plumbing is upon us: the creation of the sump. You can read about my plans here. I created the insides of the sump earlier, and wrote about it here and here.
    Today I siliconed the acrylic baffles into my sump! I was sort of lax on taking pictures, but I'll show you what I've got. Maybe it'll be better to see the process pictures and then read what I did.


    Basically, what I did was this:
    Mark with a dry-erase marker on the outside of the tank about where I wanted the acrylic pieces to go, and then cut acrylic pieces to fit the lengths I wanted. I wish I'd taken pictures of this but completely forgot. Cutting acrylic is a huge pain in the butt. I chose to do thinner acrylic for the first and third baffles, but thicker acrylic for the middle one because it actually has to hold the weight of some water.
    Drill holes in the acrylic to accommodate the supports for the media baskets.
    Lay the sump aquarium upright on its end, and stack dvds (poor man's spacers) to approximately the height I wanted the first baffle to be. Add the appropriate acrylic piece on top. Erase the first estimative marks, and draw in marks on the outside of the tank to reflect the actual position and length of the acrylic pieces. Repeat for all baffles, using one of the actual media baskets as a spacer for the media basket chamber, and then remove dvds, baffles, and basket.
    Tape next to lines, to give the silicone a good border. Be careful to make the tape lines fairly even and reasonable looking.
    Starting at the bottom, run a line of silicone just under the marker line on the outside of the tank for the first baffle. Replace the first stack of dvd spacers, and then add the acrylic piece on top. Add a bead of silicone on top of this piece of acrylic, and smooth both the upper and lower silicone with a gloved finger.
    Repeat for remaining baffles. Leave the bottom alone for now because it's darn near impossible to reach it.
    Remove tape, and wait for silicone to set up (a few hours).
    Remove dvd spacers, turn tank back on its bottom, and silicone the one baffle part that touches the bottom of the tank.
    Add the media basket supports, which are just plastic nuts and bolts. Run some silicone around the nuts of the supports in the "water-bearing" wall.

    Hey look! This is what I ended up with!

    Gosh I hope that makes any sense. Feel free to ask questions if it didn't.
    After the silicone has had a few days to cure, I will add in all the innards and take some pictures of the whole thing for y'all.
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