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Old 01-08-2011, 12:21 AM   #1
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Automatic drip water change system


I am turning my garage into a fishroom. I am currently designing my automatic drip water changing system.

The intake water drip will be relatively simple:

I have already split off a T from my home cold water system, at a place before the water goes into the whole house water softener (my aquariums will receive unsoftened water.) I am bringing the water into the garage with standard 1/2" pex pipe. Upon entering the garage I will T the water to a sink and to a pressure regulator for irrigation. Once the pressure is reduced I will plumb the water into standard 1/2" irrigation line with 1/4" barbs and tubing leading to each aquarium and an adjustable drip emitter on the end. We are on well water, so there is no need to worry about chlorine and chloramines. The water is quite hard, but I am going to focus on species which thrive in hardwater; like rainbowfish. Since the water will be slowly dripping in, I won’t need to adjust the temperature before using it—it will come in slowly enough for the heater to maintain the desired temperature. I read this is a good way to do it.

My question is about how to plumb the drain. The easy way would be to drill each tank near the top and install a bulkhead with gravity fed drain pipe.

However, I read in the September 2010 edition of TFH in the column “Livebearers Unlimited” (pg. 34) about some other options. The author, Ted Coletti, says “There is a trend among newer hobbyists toward both bottom-drain and upper fill pipes…(which keep) the bottom cleaner.”

I am already planning to use “upper fill pipes" (the drip irrigation I described above.) I am curious about the bottom-drain option. Would this work with a constant drip or is this method intended for periodic large water changes? How would I safely match the input of water from the irrigation system to the drip out the bottom of the tank—I could imaging that any difference could result in flooding or empty tanks. Also, I am concerned about a small bottom drain line getting clogged with detritus.

I really like the idea of an easy way to keep the bottom clean. I don’t think a bottom drain will work for my continuous drip water change system, however, I could have separate bottom drains which could be periodically opened to clean the bottom (I don’t usually use gravel; but I do like to put leaves in my tanks.) That would require a much more complicated drainage system. I wonder if it is worth the extra effort?

If you have any input about the drainage system on a continuous drip water change system please share it. Thank you!

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Old 01-08-2011, 10:22 AM   #2
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I just looked at the article and it doesn't give any more detail than you did, so not very helpful. I can't really think of what he is talking about with a bottom drain.

I would think simpler is much better and to vacuum the bottom as needed. The last thing you want is something overcomplicated that fails.

If I was setting up a constant water change system I would have all the drains go into a tank or tub of some kind so that any fish or inverts that make it into the drains have a chance of being caught before going down the final drain of death.

I have well water so I wouldn't need to worry about chlorine or water bills, so I would have a higher flow rate for the fill to really get the benefits of constant water changes.

Are you on city water? If so how are you going to dechlorinate?

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Old 01-08-2011, 12:11 PM   #3
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Thanks for the response. I am on well water.
I agree, the article gives very little information. I think the drip system is simplest, because I don't need to worry about storing or changing the temperature of the new water.
I tend to agree with you about just using a siphon for keeping the bottom clean; but I thought someone might have some additional input.
This is a big project for me; and I hope my system will last for many years. This is why I'd like to get as much information as possible before I actually build it. Unfortunately, this is a subject upon which I can find little published information.
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Old 01-08-2011, 12:15 PM   #4
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I would think that you are adding a top off system, not a water change system. Your system is great for replacing evaporated water.

Years ago, when I had a FW tank, I used a 2 hose device that connected to a faucet. One hose drained water at the same rate the other added water. The water into the tank went through a nozzle that aerated the water (removing chlorine). It could be adjusted for 1 - 3 gallons per hour. The aerated water was like a jet stream into the tank. It was great for water changes as the heater could easily keep up with the water change. I would set it up and let it run for an hour or two on a 30 gallon tank. I haven't seen it on the market in years.

Something like that would be what you want for a water change system You need to match the inflow to the outflow to prevent draining or flooding.
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Old 01-08-2011, 12:51 PM   #5
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Ive never done this, but know someone who did this in a massive 300 gallon FW high-tech planted tank.

His setup used a drilled gravity drain line at the top of the tank, and he regulated his water feed to supply 7% per day. Why he chose 7, I have no idea, but that's what he did.

Naturally, some of the water went to topping off, rather than changing, but he was supply somewhere around 20g per day, so definately way more than was evaporating.

I don't recall, however, how his water source feed was setup (top or bottom), sorry.
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Old 01-09-2011, 09:31 PM   #6
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iv thought about this b4. i would think that adding drip water to the top and letting it overflo thru a bulkhead at the top also would work. your filter should mix the new clean water in with the other. in my eyes that would be the best full proof set up. i also wanted to put a line out the bottom to dump water fast for major water changes every few months
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Old 01-10-2011, 11:47 PM   #7
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I spoke to the guy at Jehmco today. He recommended putting the bulkhead on the side about half way up the glass. The preferred method is to use a threaded bulkhead and a steet L fitting and a standpipe. Then you just turn the street L fitting with the standpipe 180 degrees (from standing straight up to pointing down) if you want to drain the entire tank. The overflow standpipe will turn into a siphon to drain the tank as needed.
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Old 01-11-2011, 12:04 PM   #8
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Look pretty cool, I'm tagging along!

Heres my two cents:
In order to match the flow of the input and output you could do what the salties do and build overflows into the tanks. That way water would only drain when the tank gets to a certain level, and you don't have to match two water flows. Also this would allow you to be able to shut off you dripping system in case of maintenance or whatever other little glitches show up.
Also to make sure you aren't just topping off the tank I think you are going to need to have a faster drip, so maybe get out the calculator and figure out your drip rate to ensure you are actually changing the water at a rate that makes this worthwhile.

Goodluck, this looks really interesting!

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